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And They Die Slowly

He woke up at 330 am to get ready for another day. By 430 am, he was out of his house in a God-forsaken part of Mowe to navigate his way onto the main road that will take him to his workplace in Apapa.

There were few vehicles on that inner road in the wee hours of the day. Nevertheless, what should ordinarily be a 15-minute drive from his house to the main road would take the better part of 45 minutes.
Years of government (both state and local) neglect have given birth to treacherous inner roads, worse than the terrain off-road vehicle manufacturers put their products through, to test endurance and stability.
Yet, he and most folks in such Nigerian neighbourhoods can only afford cars meant for paved roads.

As we commenced our journey, I winced in pain, not for myself suffering the slamming and dunking of being thrown up and down within the vehicle, but for the saloon car he was driving, which was constantly taking a battering on its underside from the unforgiving terrain.

Eventually, at about 515 am, we found ourselves on the main road. Traffic was already built up. The second hurdle of a regular day began for him, with the hope that it would be one of those lucky days when traffic would be forgiving enough for him to get to his office by 8 am. A journey that should be less than an hour has routinely turned into a minimum of 3 hours.

The same infrastructure meant 40 years ago for a population of less than 3 million, now caters for over 25 million people. The money that ought to have gone into new infrastructure to cope with the increase in population has found its way into pockets of individuals – looted and embezzled.
Five days a week, apart from the stress of his work, he endures the harshness of commuting for 3.5 hours in the morning and between 4 to 6 hours in the evening.

The day he is lucky enough, he gets back home at 930 pm. When he is unlucky, it could be 11 pm or 1 am. That is when he would have dinner, catch a few hours of sleep, to wake up again at 330am, set for another iteration of what late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called “suffering and smiling”.

Families of many contemporaries of his, have one day received the news that their breadwinner slumped: was rushed into a hospital where for many days, in ignorance and incompetency, leprosy was left to treat eczema; and sadly passed away before attaining the young age of 40.

This is the tragedy of living and working in Nigeria for most of those who call Lagos and its’ environ their home.

This is Nigeria, where self-centred, looting, and cursed leaders have made death at a young age, ten-a-kobo for the citizens they are meant to cater for.

Do Not Gloat

In 2008, I took some time from employment to finish writing up my doctoral thesis. During this period, I was a frequent visitor to a cousin’s office in London. One of those days, there was an ongoing discussion between the company’s staff, who were all Nigerians, about applying for land allocation in the Federal Capital Territory.

I was asked if I had an interest. I inquired about the process, and the explanation was like this:

  • We fill an application form,
  • Pay some processing fee that came to about £250 per plot,
  • The FCT administration would process the application,
  • If the application is approved, a letter of allocation/allotment will be issued, and
  • Full payment for the plot would be made.

I responded that I was interested. My brother and I completed the forms, and I gave my cousin’s partner, who was facilitating the process, the sum of £500 as a processing fee for the two plots.

About two months later, I was in my cousin’s office when his partner informed me our allocation letters had been sent to him. He gave me the letters for our two plots and demanded that we make available full payment for the plots within a week.

My official engagement before the period included instructing barristers to act on behalf of my employer. This entailed scrutinising regulations, legal documents as well as providing advisory opinions.

When I was handed the allocation letters, my cap as a certified paralegal went on.

At the first read, I could not find anything untoward in the content of the letters. However, with a second review, I noticed that the date on the allocation letter was many years before 2008.

When I asked about the anomaly, I was told that is the way the system works, and I should not worry about the date since the letter had our names on it.

I was uncomfortable. I went home and slept over the issue. By the time I woke up in the morning, I was convinced my parents would count their years of sending me to school wasted if I agree to continue the process of land allocation with a letter dated 199* issued to me in 2008.

So, I called my cousin’s partner, told him my brother and I were no longer interested in the FCT land application.

The guy was furious. I was the only one, out of many applicants he was facilitating the process for, who raised an eyebrow regarding the date on the letter. He called me all sort of names, including too educated to know how things work in Nigeria. He told me I would not get my £500 processing fee back.

I have put this story in the public domain to show that the rots in Nigerian society go deeper than anyone can imagine.

You apply for your Nigerian passport but end up paying up to N30,000 to uniformed immigration officials in their office before issuance. You go to the FRSC for licence renewal and end up paying N25,000 for something that officially is N9,000. You import a used car into the country and pay N2.5m as a clearing fee to customs, but the official documents you get issued show a total sum of N1.3m going to the government’s coffers.

When you gloat over Kemi Adeosun’s resignation, remember any of us can be caught inadvertently in the web of corruption that pervades the Nigerian society from the bottom to the top.

From The Archives – Standard Newspaper Jos

I was pruning my digital archives and found this picture of where my life as an employee started.

It was 1988. Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife students had an unforgettable altercation with the federal government. As a result, the university was shut down for 3 months. By the time we were allowed to resume studies, our originally scheduled final examination dates had passed and we were no longer able to join the September batch of National Youth Corp Service (NYSC) for the year 1988/89.

Consequently, we proceeded as ‘spill-over’ corps to orientation in December 1988. I was posted to Plateau State with Simeon Babasola, Abdulsabur Bello, Kunle Alabi, Nnamdi Ojei, and a host of others. By the time we completed orientation, it became apparent that there was a dearth of places for corps members to observe the compulsory one year national service. Most of us needed to search for prospective employers that would officially allow us work for them exclusive of their obligation to provide accommodation and other conveniences.

As Kunle, Nnamdi and I began to rationalise what to do that would align with our educational backgrounds, Nnamdi remembered  that in 1985, the Department of International Relations at the University of Ife had a youth corps member that he was reliably informed works for Standard Newspaper Jos. In a jiffy, we were off in search of him.

We got to Standard Newspapers and luckily found the man we were looking for. He made us understand that the organisation had no vacancies for extra youth corps members because accommodation and extra allowance provisions had already been soaked up by the September batch. We told him we would find our own accommodation, take care of ourselves from the NYSC allowances of N250 per month. All we begged for was ‘a place to lay our national service heads’ for the one year duration. With this plea, further discussion was held with the management and we found ourselves absorbed to observe the national youth service at Standard Newspapers.

I enjoyed my stay in Jos surrounded by other wonderful youth corps members. Jos was peaceful. As strangers in the land, we had no concern for safety at that time, wandering around from one friend’s place to the other at 1am.

Within a short period of time, not only did management felt we deserved to be given accommodation and paid some stipend, I was tasked with setting up and manning a regular weekly column for Foreign Affairs. Kunle Alabi in his own right ended with a weekly Arts column through which we met many lovely folks including the cast of the famous soap ‘Cock Crow At Dawn’. The day late MacArthur Fom (Nosa in the soap) came visiting the two of us in the office is etched in my memory forever. Staff members could not contain their bewilderment at two young southern chaps who not only shake hands with the bosses that they were unable to look in the eyes, but got a celebrity of Nosa’s status to come down just to say hello.

Significantly, I do not know what my bosses saw in me. Assignments that usually would be given to trained and tested hands in journalism started being handed to me. I hope to write about some of those experiences another day.

I cannot forget Senator Solomon Ewuga (former Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State and former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory) who was the General Manager of PPC. He took me like a younger brother with a standing instruction to his secretary that I must be allowed to see him whenever I stepped into his office.

I am grateful to Senator Joshua Dariye (former Governor of Plateau State) who was then the Chief Accountant of PPC without whose financial authorisation I would not have been able to carry out the assignments entrusted to me. He had confidence in my ability to deliver quality projects every time apart from accountability on how funds allocated were spent.

I am eternally grateful to Rima Shawulu Kwewum (member of the House of Representative) for what he did for us in getting us a place at Standard Newspapers / Plateau Publishing Company (PPC) Jos to observe the NYSC assignment in 1988. He was the one that further took me under his wings in the features department where he was Editor, and gave me the foreign affairs column assignment.

When those close to me marvel at how I approach tasks and assignments for which I have little training or not enough time to prepare for, yet making good success of them, I owe the foundation of that daredevil confidence to my Standard Newspaper years and the three people acknowledged above.

The Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70: My Selected Bibliography

Yesterday, I made a promise to someone on Facebook to provide a selected  bibliography on the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70. Since then, I have had other private requests for a copy, as a result of which I took the decision to make it available publicly.

As with any historical event, there are countless books, academic papers/articles, newspaper reports, personal opinions as well as social media write-ups on what is known as the Biafran War.

The selected texts below are by no means all the fictional or non-fictional accounts of the war that are available. They are the texts (books) I have found useful in the course of my own delve into the darkest part of the history of a promising nation.

For those who may wonder, I have read each of the items below, apart from having a hard-copy library of a significant number of the texts.

AUTHOR YEAR TITLE PUBLISHER
Achebe C 2013 There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra London: Penguin Books
Achuzia J O G 1986 Requiem Biafra Enugu: Fourth Dimensions Publishers
Achebe C 1973 Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems New York: Doubleday
Adekunle B 2004 The Nigeria Biafra War Letters: A Soldier’s Story Phoenix Pub Group
Adichie C N 2006 Half of a Yellow Sun London: Fourth Estate
Affia G B 1970 Nigerian Crisis 1967-1970: A Preliminary Bibliography Lagos: University of Lagos
Aguolu C C 1973 Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970: An Annotated Bibliography Boston: G. K. Hall
Ajibola W 1978 Foreign Policy and Public Opinion: A Case Study of British Foreign Policy over the Nigerian Civil War Ibadan: Ibadan University Press
Akinyemi B 1979 The British Press and the Nigerian Civil War: the Godfather Complex Ibadan: University Press
Akpan N 1972 The Struggle for Secession: A Personal Account of the Nigerian Civil War London: Frank Cass
Alabi-Isama G 2013 The Tragedy of Victory: On-the-spot Account of the Nigeria-Biafra War in the Atlantic Theatre Ibadan: Spectrum Books Limited
Amadi E 1973 Sunset in Biafra: A Civil War Diary London: Heinemann
Aneke L N 2007 The Untold Story of the Nigeria-Biafra War New York: Triumph Publishing
Anwunah P A 2007 The Nigeria-Biafra War 1967-1970: My Memoirs Ibadan: Spectrum Books Limited
Asika U ? No Victors No Vanquished Enugu: East-Central State Information Service
Awolowo O 1981 Awo on the Nigerian Civil War Ikeja: John West Publications
Azikwe N 1969 Origins of the Nigerian Civil War Apapa: Nigerian National Press
Azikwe N 1969 Peace Proposals for Ending the Nigerian Civil War London: Colusco
Balogun O 1973 The Tragic Years: Nigeria in Crisis 1966-1970 Benin City: Ethiope Publishing Company
Birch G 1968 Biafra: The Case for Independence London: Britain-Biafra Association
Brewin A and MacDonald D 1970 Canada and the Biafran Tragedy Toronto: James Lewis and Samuel
Cervenka Z 1971 The Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970: History of the War Selected Bibliography and Documents Frankfurt am Main: Bernard & Graefe
Clarke J D 1987 Yakubu Gowon: Faith in a United Nigeria London: Cass
Collis R 1970 Nigeria in Conflict London: Secker & Warburg
De St Jorre J 1972 The Nigerian Civil War London: Hodder and Stoughton
Draper M J 1999 Shadows: Airlift and Airwar in Biafra and Nigeria 1967 – 1970 Aldershot: Hikoki Publications Limited
Eastern Nigeria 1966 The Nigerian Crisis Enugu: Government Printer
Ejike B 2003 Weapons of Biafra: A Child’s Account of the Nigerian Civil War Lagos: Gik Publishers Limited
Ekwe-Ekwe H 1991 The Biafra War: Nigeria and the Aftermath Lewiston: Edwin Mellen
Ekwe-Ekwe H 2006 Biafra Revisited Dakar: African Renaissance
Ekwensi C O D 1980 Divided We Stand: A Novel of the Nigerian Civil War Enugu: Fourth Dimension
Emecheta B 1982 Destination Biafra: A Novel London: Allison & Busby
Essien J M 1987 In the Shadow of Death: Personal Recollections of Events during the Nigerian Civil War Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books
Federal Ministry of Information 1970 Lt Col Effiong Declares that Biafra has Ceased to Exist Lagos: Federal Ministry of Information
Federal Ministry of Information 1970 Broadcast to the Nation by the Head of the Federal Military Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Major-General Yakubu Gowon Lagos: Federal Ministry of Information
Forsyth F 1977 The Biafra Story: The Making of An African Legend 2nd Ed New York: Penguin Books
Gbulie B 1989 The Fall of Biafra Enugu: Benlie
Gowon Y and Effiong P 2001 The Nigerian Civil War And Its Aftermath: Views From Within Ibadan: John Archers Limited
Graham-Douglas N B 1968 Ojukwu’s Rebellion and World Opinion London: Galitzine Chant Russell & Partners
Idahosa P E 1989 Truth and Tragedy: A Fighting Man’s Memoirs of the Nigerian Civil War Ibadan: Heinemann
Ige B 1995 People Politics and Politicians of Nigeria (1940 – 1979) Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books
Iguh O T 1977 Last Days of Biafra Lagos: O T Iguh
Ike V C 1976 Sunset at Dawn: A Novel about Biafra London: Collins & Harvill Press
Ikpe S 2013 Red Belt: Biafra Rising London: Bygfut Media Limited
Iroh E 1979 Toads of War London: Heinemann
Kirk-Greene A 1975 The Genesis of the Nigerian Civil War and the Theory of Fear Uppsala: The Scandinavian Institute of African Studies
Kirk-Greene A H M 1971 Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria: A Documentary Sourcebook 1966 – 1969 Vol 1 January 1966-July 1967 London: Oxford University Press
Kirk-Greene A H M 1971 Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria: A Documentary Sourcebook 1966 – 1970 Vol 2 July 1967–January 1970 London: Oxford University Press
Korieh C J (ed) 2012 The Nigeria-Biafra War: Genocide and the Politics of Memory Cambria Press
Madiebo A 1980 The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers
Mbanefo A 1984 A Psychological Analysis of the Nigerian Civil War: Future Implications for Unity and Nationhood in The Civil War Years: Proceedings of the National Conference on Nigeria Since Independence Zaria March 1983 Vol III Zaria: Gaskiya Corporation Ltd
Mezu S O 1971 Behind the Rising Sun London: Heinemann
Muffett D J M 1982 Let Truth Be Told Zaria: Hudahuda Pub Co
Nafziger E W 1982 The Economics of Political Instability: The Nigerian-Biafran War Boulder Colorado: Westview Press
Niven R 1970 The War of Nigerian Unity Ibadan: Evans Brothers Nigeria Publishers
Njoku H 1987 A Tragedy Without Heroes: The Nigeria Biafra War Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishing Company
Nwankwo A 1972 Nigeria: The Challenge of Biafra 3rd edn Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers
Nwankwo A A and Ifejika S U 1969 The Making of a Nation: Biafra London: C Hurst
Nwapa F 1975 Never Again Enugu: Nwamife Publishers
Nweke G A 1976 External Intervention in African Conflicts: France and French-Speaking West Africa in the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970 Boston Boston University: African Studies Centre
Nyerere J K 1969 The Nigeria-Biafra Crisis Dar es Salaam: Government Printer
Nzimiro I 1982 Nigerian Civil War: A Study in Class Conflict Enugu: Frontline Publishing Company
Obasanjo O 1980 My Command: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970 Ibadan: Heinemann
Obikeze D S and Ada A M 1985 Children and the Nigerian Civil War: A Study of the Rehabilitation Programme for War-Displaced Children Nsukka: University of Nigeria Press
Obiozor G 1993 The United States and the Nigerian Civil War: an American Dilemma in Africa 1966-1970 Lagos: NIIA
Odogwu B 1985 No Place to Hide: Crises and Conflicts inside Biafra Enugu: Fourth Dimensions Publishers
Ogali O A 1982 The Return of Ojukwu and Why Biafra Lost The War Nigeria: Ogali A Ogali
Ogbemudia S 1991 Years of Challenge Ibadan: Heinemann
Ojukwu C O 1969 Biafra: Selected Speeches with Journals of Events New York: Harper & Row
Ojukwu C O 1969 Ahiara Declaration: The Principles of the Biafran Revolution Cambridge Mass: Biafra Review
Ojukwu E 1989 Because I Am Involved Ibadan: Spectrum Books
Okpaku J (ed) 1972 Nigeria: Dilemma of Nationhood: An African Analysis of the Biafran Conflict New York: Third Press
Okpi K 1982 Biafra Testament Oxford: Macmillan
Okpoko J 1986 The Biafran Nightmare: The Controversial Role of International Relief Agencies in a War of Genocide Enugu: Delta of Nigeria
Oluleye J 1999 Military Operations: The Planning and the Conduct during the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970 Abuja: National War College
Onyegbula G A 2005 Memoirs of the Nigerian-Biafran Bureaucrat: An Account of Life in Biafra and Within Nigeria Ibadan: Spectrum Books
Opiah E A 1972 Why Biafra?: Aburi Prelude to Biafran Tragedy San Rafael Calif: Leswing Press
Orewa G O 1977 We Are All Guilty – The Nigerian Crisis Ibadan: Spectrum Books
Osaghae E E, Onwudiwe E and Suberu R T (eds) 2002 The Nigerian Civil War And Its Aftermath Ibadan: John Archers Limited
Ottah N 1981 Rebels Against Rebels Devon: Arthur H Stockwell Ltd
Oyewole F 1975 Reluctant Rebel London: Rex Collins
Oyeweso S (ed) 1992 Perspectives on the Nigerian Civil War Lagos: Campus Press Ltd
Panther-Brick S K (ed) 1970 Nigerian Politics and Military Rule: Prelude to the Civil War London: The Athlone Press
Parise G 1968 Biafra Milano: Libreria Feltrinelli
Saro-Wiwa K 1989 On a Darkling Plain: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War London: Saros
Schabowska H and Himmelstrand U 1978 African Reports on the Nigerian Crisis News Attitudes and Background Information: A Study of Press Performance Government Attitude to Biafra and Ethno-Political Integration Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies
Stremlau J 1977 The International Politics of the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970 Princeton: Princeton University Press
Sullivan J R 1969 Breadless Biafra Dayton Ohio: Pflaum Press
**** ? The Aburi Report Enugu: Government Printer
Thompson J 1990 American Policy and African Famine: the Nigerian-Biafran War 1967-1970 New York: Greenwood Press
Ugobelu E 1992 Biafra War Revisited: A Concise Account of Events that led to the Nigerian Civil War Atlanta GA: ProPrints of Atlanta
Uku S R 1978 The Pan-African Movement and the Nigerian Civil War New York: Vantage
Usman Y B and Kwanashie G A (eds) 1995 Inside Nigerian History 1950-1970: Events Issues and Sources Zaria: Ahmadu Bello University Press
Uwechue R 1971 Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War: Facing the Future New York: Africana Publications
Waugh A and Cronje S 1969 Biafra: Britain’s Shame London: Joseph

 

You and Your Vulcanizer Could Be Your Killer

(Vulcanizer is the Nigerian name for the man that is ‘equipped’ to replace the wheel on a vehicle)

My driving lessons, from a very young age, began with watching my father look after his vehicle. This was followed with being partaker in washing the inside and outside of the vehicle, topping up the radiator, checking the engine oil level and tyre pressures, and helping to find big stones that served as anti-rolling wedges during a wheel change.

Transition into sitting directly behind the wheel of a vehicle started with a studious examination of a book my father had bought in the 1960s when he was about to purchase his first car. The book covered virtually all aspects of a vehicle, the difference between a manual and automatic transmission, the technical layout of the gears and the process of shifting through them, the safety regime to follow when driving including manual signalling when your indicators fail for any reason, and above all, how to ensure your vehicle is kept safe for operation through regular maintenance as well as check-ups.

I have since had the privilege of driving for the last 37 years. The first 12 years were spent driving extensively on Nigerian soil, while the remainder has been spent driving mainly in Europe and North America apart from the occasional foray into other countries for conferences or vacations. Whilst I do not consider myself an A+ driver, I am sure many of those close to me will not fault a modest acclamation of being an A driver. It is on this basis that I write today on why you and your vulcanizer – that man that changes the wheel on your vehicle for you, can be your killer because of ignorance/lack of knowledge. Before I come to you, let me start with the third party.

The Vulcanizer

(1) You have just bought a brand new tyre and asked him to fix it on a wheel. Since he lacks the right equipment to do the job, he brings out a long flat steel and a huge sledge hammer, he begins to hit the side of the tyre all the way round to force the edges of the tyre inside the rim. When he finishes on one side, he turns the tyre over to start on the other side. Are you aware that the walls of the tyre contributes to its structural integrity and consequently its safety? By hitting the walls forcefully to get the edges of the tyre into the rim, not only has he weakened the structural integrity of the tyre, he has also accelerated the potential for the tyre to fail during normal (to talk less of abnormal) usage.

(2) After some huffing and panting, he got the new tyre on the rim. Thereafter, he inflated the tyre and having no pressure gauge, employed his fingers to constantly poke the hardness of the tyre wall as a good measure of deciding when the air inside the tyre is enough for the valve to be capped.

(3) Most concerning, he has no clue as to what the pressure for your make and model of car should be. So, you find a vehicle that should have a pressure of 32psi on the front wheels and 30 psi on the rear wheels having a mismatch of pressures ranging from 28 to 50 psi on the four wheels. Disaster already created.

You

You is inter-changeable for the owner, the driver or the owner-driver.

(1) When you were buying the new tyre, did you ask for a tyre with an expiry date at least four or five years from the date of purchase since all things being equal, a typical regularly used vehicle in Nigeria would need to have a tyre change every 3 years on an average? I am sure you did not, since you have no idea that tyres have expiration dates.

(2) Do you even know what the numbers inscribed on the walls of the tyre you have bought signify? Okay, you know that 165/55R15 91T indicates the tyre that will fit the rim of your car because that is what was fitted and you are replacing. For a second-hand car, you do not have a clue if that is the recommended manufacturer size. As such, if the previous owner has changed the tyre size to a non-recommended one in ignorance and stupidity, you also in bliss inherit the ignorance and stupidity. God have mercy.

(3) You are a speed maniac, who likes to do 170km per hour regardless of the condition of the vehicle, the condition of the roads as well as the speed regulations governing the roads/areas being travelled in. Sadly, since you have no knowledge of what the inscriptions on the tyre indicate, you have no clue that a tyre that has the inscription 205/65R15 95T is different from the one with 205/65R15 95H or 205/65R15 95V (I will be surprised if the tyre seller himself knows the difference apart from the selling price). Since the latter ratings are more expensive, you went for the cheaper one, the one that restricts your maximum speed to 120km/h than the one that provides for a top speed of 210km/h if the tyre is in good condition and with the right pressure inside it.

(4) The small gadget called a tyre pressure gauge costs less than what you spend on a bottle of Orijin in a week. Have you ever invested a small amount of your money on one? If you did, when last did you carry out a check to ensure the pressure inside your tyres are in compliance with what the vehicle and tyre manufacturers recommended, particularly after visiting your lovely, ignorant in bliss and lacking-equipment vulcanizer?

(5) I have been told I had no hair on my head when I was born. That baldness is the state you will find a significant amount of tyres on vehicles on Nigerian roads today. The threading on the tyres are not just worn to the recommended point where new ones ought to be fitted, they are worn far beyond the point where the tyres can have any meaningful grip on any road surface.

My dear friends, do you see how lack of knowledge, ignorance and sometimes outright stupidity are killing Nigerians in droves on our roads? You trust in God to keep you safe, but you constantly play a love-game with the deadly combination of an extremely hot climatic condition, over-inflated as well as bald tyres, over-speeding, poorly maintained roads, lack of driving training and/or road etiquettes, and you blame God when disaster occurs?

If this post has made you angry enough to wonder who the writer think he is to offer you advice on driving as well as maintaining your vehicle, I hope it prompts you to change your ways as we still need you (and others your action/inaction may untimely kill) on this side of humanity.

Now Is The Time For Action

I was born into and grew up in The Apostolic Church (TAC). Whilst I have been to and attended a number of other denominations in my few years, I am yet to come across any like the TAC that bombarded my life from its infancy to adulthood with praying for the nation and the leaders of Nigeria.
Every church service, every prayer session (as a church or in individual families) always had an element of prayer for the nation. So, at least twice a day, for over 30 years, I was praying (like numerous others) for a country and its leaders that refused to get better, rather getting worse.

Please note that I believe in the efficacy of prayer. However, I am not ignorant like some Christians. I acknowledge that the Bible says faith (prayer) without works (action) is DEAD (DEATH). If you have faith or pray tirelessly but do not back up your faith/prayers with Godly and legitimate activities that will transform your faith/prayers into reality, it is a waste of time.
Just imagine, when the Israelites were told to march around the walls of Jericho 7 times in a certain manner, if they did not follow the instruction to details, I am certain they would not have witnessed the spectacle of Jericho’s wall falling flat.

That is why I chuckle to myself when I see students who have not studied one bit, but are asked by some marketers/419ers masquerading as pastors to sow a seed in order to get 7 As in an examination. They forget that the Bible says God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth so he shall reap.
As Ebenezer Obey sang, “Eni r’owo he l’oju ala to ndunnu, e ni ko t’epa mo’se e nitori ebi”. That is to say, you sow laziness and indolence, you shall reap failure (straight F9s) and poverty.

Even though the Israelites did not engage in war to gain access into Jericho, they still had to manually/physically exert themselves in singing as well as marching around the city seven times with a thunderous shout at the end for the city’s wall to fall down.

As such, I do not subscribe to the mentality that prayer is the only key to resolve the challenges Nigeria has faced and the crisis it is now facing in all spheres of human endeavour. I am convinced that Nigeria has had more than enough prayers in the last 50 years.

My point therefore is that there is a place for faith/prayer and there is a place for human action. Both are complementary. They are not exclusive of each other.

Now is the time for action by every Nigerian including our leaders to ensure this nation does not completely fall into ruin.

Yeah Mon: Jamaica – Small Island, Friendly People, Great Place

I have decided to write this short, reflective travel blog or article against the background of 3 key Nigerian issues which were highlighted recently by write-ups from Okey Ndibe, Pius Adesanmi and Simon Kolawole. These include: the state of Nigerian airports, the unprofessional and sometimes utterly unfriendly attitude of Nigerian service providers, and the insecurity of lives as well as properties.

Beyond being hooked on reggae music like a number of people with whom I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, my years of sojourn in the United Kingdom afforded me the opportunity to forge an enduring relationship with folks from some of the Caribbean Islands. Over the years, these friends have tried unsuccessfully to get me on the plane to visit their beautiful countries with them. The result of such failures on my part are yet to be drunk bottles and bottles of rum/gin in my bags in the UK.

In view of the above, I am grateful to God and to my dear friend as well as brother, Johnson Babalola for affording me the opportunity early this year to fulfil a decade old desire to put my feet on Jamaican soil.

Montego Bay Airport

Even from the air, as your plane is descending from the sky and the pilot is aligning the big bird for landing, Sangster International Airport looked small, orderly, maintained and clean in comparison to Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos. This first impression is reinforced on your entrance into an effectively cooled and well lit terminal. The cleanliness of the terminal interior as well as the conveniences effectively competes with the standard you will expect from any international airport worth its salt.

As we approached the immigration desks, we were met with friendly professional officers telling us what we needed to do to get through immigration quickly. Landing forms were checked to ensure they had been filled as required and mistakes were highlighted for correction as appropriate. There were more than 6 (six) staffed desks each with an individual to check traveling and landing documents in comparison to Nigeria’s usual two/three desks staffed with two officials inefficiently passing your documents between themselves with endless waiting in a very hot and humid airport devoid of any effective cooling system.

Passing through immigration at Sangster was like a breeze for us, but given our large group, we waited for others to clear immigration before heading to the luggage area to collect our checked-in items. Well placed directions guided us to the luggage collection area where I sighted at least two working conveyor belts. As I approached the one designated for our flight and discovered that it was practically empty of any bag more than 45 minutes after we had landed, alarm bells started ringing in my head.

I did not need to worry. Airport staff at the luggage area, tired of waiting for our group of travellers to show up and collect their personal effects, had taken all our bags and suitcases off the conveyor belt.  Apart from taking them off the belt, the bags were carefully put aside and grouped together where they could match surnames and flight origin. Furthermore, in a number of cases, such grouped bags where already put on trolleys waiting for the family members to appear and whisk their items out of the airport.

Beyond those officials that needed to attend to us as part of our entrance into Jamaica, not once did any other person approach us to talk less of harassment or being asked “Oga, wetin you bring for us”. We did not have to pay for a trolley, there was no Jamaican with his/her eyes “extra-bright” waiting to ruffle through your bags to see if he/she could extort some dollars from you, and definitely no loiters or touts within and outside the terminal buildings.
For a black nation, one that is not classified as “developed”, the closest I have experienced in terms of such a dutiful, friendly courteous and effective airport service was during my trip to Ghana a few years back.

Friendly Customer Service Attitude

I believe there is a difference between friendliness and impeccable customer service. When you experience a combination of friendliness and impeccable customer service, it is delightful. My personal opinion is that most British service providers emphasise and diligently work towards impeccable customer service while most of their staff tend to be unfriendly. Most Canadian service providers possess friendly staff but lack customer service orientation. Nigerian service providers? They completely lack both. As I forewarned, this is my personal opinion.

In Montego Bay, it was a sublime experience. My very good friend, Andy Azike with whom I shared a room and spent most of my time throughout the trip does not suffer fools gladly. Like two kids having an adventure of a time with some bit of mischievousness, our numerous attempts to rattle the courteous temperament of the Jamaicans that attended to us during the trip were unsuccessful. At the end of our trip, we could not but give a very high score to the impeccable friendly customer service we got throughout our stay.

Security

As a traveller, a migrant and a student of international politics with special interest in migration and the African Diaspora, I know that every race, ethnic group and nation has its own pocket of “ugliness”. However, for a large number of people, hasty generalisations about a country or/and its people are more often than not drawn from just a single encounter with this pocket of ugliness, more so against the background of stereotyping by most Western press.

Quite a few people in our holiday group expected a certain level of insecurity in Jamaica based on the “little” they have heard about the country as well as their “Nigerian experiences”. I cannot fully judge this expectation on the basis of a few days. However, as we went on sightseeing driving through some of the Jamaican parishes and going to shop, I did not see buildings with high fences, massively intimidating security gates, or terrorising security wires.

Our hotel rooms (just like any decent hotel rooms anywhere in the world) had provisions for a safe to lock away items, but they could only take small items like jewelleries, payment cards, currencies, and traveling documents. In any case, I have never seen the need for making use of them simply because: my cash and card always fit perfectly in my wallet, my card holds the barest minimum credit thus limiting my loss in case it gets into the wrong hand; and practically, I always carry my travel documents on me in case there is a need to “take flight” (not because of anything sinister on my part) at any point in time.

Throughout our stay, we had no cause to be worried about our personal safety or the security of our possessions. Most of us had too much technology that we could not practically lug about every minute and these were left in the hotel room. It was not strange to find in a single room at least two laptops, two cameras, an iPad if not two or more, many smartphones, etc. all lying around with the occupants away. Yet, no one complained of losing anything. Even, when a member of our group decided to give one of the hotel maids an item she had bought which did not meet her need, the hotel maid refused to accept the gift unless the giver signed a document to show that the item was freely given and not stolen. The children had a time of their lives doing their own thing with practically little adult supervision and no parental cause to worry about abduction, molestation, etc.

The only blight for me (and I guess for everyone on the Jamaican trip) happened some minutes before we left Montego Bay. In between clearing security and the boarding gate of our flight, JB’s wife lost her iPad. Since a number of us in the group were Apple junkies carrying a combination of iPhones, iPods, iPads and Macs, the first question I asked when I was told of the loss was if she had “Find My iPad” set up on the gadget so that we could locate the item whilst in the airport. Unfortunately, she did not.

In spite of all frantic efforts, we could not find the iPad. Although, glad of our holiday experience and already resolved to work very hard to save and go back, we left Jamaica a little bit on a sour note because of the lost iPad.

Guess what my dear friends? 13 days after our return from Montego Bay, I received an email from JB that his wife’s iPad has returned home breathing in the freezing cold air of Canada. Montego Bay airport security staff found and returned the iPad by FEDEX. I know Nigeria still has good, honest, trustworthy and sincere people as Pius Adesanmi as well as Azuka Onwuka attested to. But in a nation where it seems pockets of honest citizens have been greatly overwhelmed by a large retinue of evil minded human beings, would that iPad ever see Canadian daylight again if it was lost in Nigeria, more so not being found on the spot and the owner already departed from the shores of the country from which they were both parted? Your guess is as good as mine.

Jamaica and Montego Bay in my mind

In as much as over 40% of the Jamaican population are of African descent, and specifically of Nigerian Igbo origin, I felt naturally at home especially in the midst of people who knew more than I about Nollywood, its actors and actresses. I cannot but laugh when I remember the scene where AA and I were thought to be part of the Nigerian movie industry because he looked like one of the Igbo actors and I was carrying around a telephoto camera.Jamaica

However, as a Nigerian, I was ashamed the day we got into Montego Bay (and as we got into the coach taking us to our hotel) when the young Jamaican chap who was giving us guidance boasted that at least 95% of the island’s residents had treated pipe borne water, and that we do not need to worry about diarrhoea, wasting our money on bottled water because the Jamaican tap water is safe and drinkable.

The little road network I saw in Montego Bay was not fanciful – mostly paved single lane carriageways  with no pot holes. Our tour guide had warned us of CJ’s, not Chief Justice in Nigerian parlance but Crazy Jamaicans [drivers] who execute dangerous driving manoeuvres in unexpected places. After highlighting three of such experiences, I laughed to myself that the Jamaicans were just students in the art of crazy driving who are in need of visiting Nigeria to learn from the Masters.

Overall, what did Montego Bay reminded and still reminds me of?

Montego Bay of 2013 reminded me of Nigeria in the early 1970s – paved and well maintained roads, uninterrupted electric supply, ever flowing treated pipe borne water, houses with no or low fences, and a naturally endowed serene and beautiful environment. Above all, it reminded me of a friendly and courteous people engaged in their labour providing goods/services with smile, dignity and pride.

Jamaica reminds me of a country with no vast mineral endowment (unlike Nigeria) but natural beauty and tourist endowments (like Nigeria). It showed me how a nation without oil and other mineral deposits can thrive and be economically viable on the basis of developing its tourism and arts industry as foreign exchange earners (unlike Nigeria where our tourism potentials – Yankari Games Reserve, Ikogosi Warm Water Spring, Olumo Rocks, etc – have been deliberately killed). Until now when the Ministry of Tourism is promoting investment in our tourism sector, and in Ikogosi’s case, Dr Kayode Fayemi’s government saw the importance of the warm spring as an effective means of employing the teeming masses of Ekiti Youths whilst boosting the internally generated revenue (IGR) of the state.

My Jamaican trip taught me a lesson in management. That a business is dead-from-the-start the moment you employ managers who do not have a sense of prioritising tasks that would enable the enterprise to grow and achieve its objectives. That when a country has at the helms of affairs managers who can only identify schemes that will run the nation’s finances aground (whilst benefiting a few), that country is in the fast lane on a highway headed for doom.

Jamaica highlights to me the bliss Nigeria and Nigerians should be enjoying had it been we managed well all the natural, mineral, cultural as well as human resources God endowed us with.

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The Rot Signified By The Ikeja Police College Expose On Channels TV

In the course of my doctoral field work in Nigeria about 6 years ago, I became privy to information that made me to start pitying a Nigerian Policeman as one of the oppressed rather than an oppressor. Ever since, I had intended to, but never did write, about the rot in regards to policing and the police in Nigeria until the recent brouhaha about the state of the Ikeja Police College made me put pen to paper.

This is a picture of the hostel of the trainees at the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) Training College in Ikeja, Lagos.

President Jonathan at the Ikeja Police College (Picture courtesy of Sahara Reporters)

Will you put your dog in a room like this? I am sure the emphatic answer is No.

My initial thoughts were to opine that the blame for the rot in the NPF cannot be put at the doorstep of the Goodluck Ebele Azikwe Jonathan’s administration – albeit every buck stops at GEJ’s desk as our current President. As late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti would say, the decay (a minute reflection of the putrefaction in the larger Nigerian society) started “long, long, long, long time ago” even before the days of Tafa Balogun’s acclaimed looting of police funds. I was going to pontificate that GEJ should only be held responsible if he does not reverse the de-humanising trend as well as bringing to book all those that contributed to man’s inhumanity to man in our police training system.

Not until I heard President Jonathan castigate the press as purposely out to embarrass his administration through the feature report on Ikeja Police College. I became speechless (or writeless if there is such a word). Oro Pesi Je.
Did those words really come out of the mouth of the President and C-in-C of Nigeria?

How many Nigerians know that the clothes they see on the ubiquitous policeman (especially from the rank of Inspector downwards) are more often than not bought and sewed from the individual officer’s meager salary?
When you see a policeman on official duty, uniform tattered and patched in many places, wearing not a boot but slippers made from disused vehicle tyres, have you ever wondered what happened to the annually budgeted millions that was meant to professionally clothe him as a respected image of law enforcement in Nigeria?
Have you ever visited a police barrack? What is your impression of the living condition of the officers and their family squashed into tiny little places?

As a “not too brilliant” student of Dipo Fasina aka Jingo’s course on logic, is President Jonathan saying that he was part of the mess that the Police College became? If not, why would he feel embarrassed by the expose of a situation he is not responsible for?

President Jonathan should go to the British Police Training College in Hendon which I had the privilege of knowing about 17 years ago. I am sure the condition there has not only been maintained but facilities made even better to make trainees the envy of the “bloody civilians” in the main society.
If our policemen are being trained in an environment like the one depicted in the picture above and the Channels TV expose, do Nigerians have any justification for complaining about police inhumanity and brutality? It is impossible for someone who has been dehumanised and brutalised to behave in a contrary manner especially when in control of a gun (a weapon of terror).

If Nigeria really is a sane country, some people both past and present should by now be cooling their heels in some equally God forsaken jail in Nigeria similar to the Ikeja Police College room in the picture above.
Yet, my dear President neither raised the questions nor dealt with the critical concern in regards to all those who have had responsibility for Police Affairs in Nigeria for the last couple of years – Ministers and IGs. To what extent did they preside over the rot, and what efforts (if any) did they make to reverse the trend of events if not contributing to it?

President Jonathan is not God and is unable, in a sweeping glance, to see the length and breadth of Aso Rock to talk less of the whole of Nigeria.
As such, for one who professes to have a transformation agenda, one would expect gladness (and not sadness) that there are independent individuals and groups in Nigeria that would tell him the true front-line situation in contrast to all the sycophants surrounding him in government.

If we do not currently have learned people remarkably doing well in the political administration of Nigeria (people like Babatunde Raji Fasola SAN, Kayode Fayemi PhD, etc), I would have done a double retake on this fixation of ours that academic intellect translates to political leadership and diplomatic/administrative prowess.
Did I make a mistake in 2011 thinking a man with a PhD who has the antecedent of growing up without a shoe would become the beacon of light to a nation in darkness?

Did I lose or is someone else losing the plot?
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Nigerian Foreign Missions – A Place To Run Away From?

I am hoping HE GEAJ can do something about our missions abroad.

Please, explain to me why submitting an application for the issuance of an e-passport in replacement of the current one (including electronic capturing of bio-data) should take 7 (seven) hours to achieve at the Nigerian High Commission? For a nation spending a fortune to celebrate 50 years of independence, this is scandalous. As far as all the Nigerians I met at the high commission are concerned, Nigeria is celebrating massive failure in all areas of endeavor.

The behaviour of some high commission officials is downright rude and arrogant, and they lack every form of customer service training and attitude of care. They forget that we are not getting the passport for free, we are also paying them £20 a piece for what they call a processing fee.

If I am spending £10 of my hard earned money in a restaurant, the staff have to be of the best behaviour at all times. So, why not the high commission officials whose salary is being paid for by our taxes and our fees?
No wonder Nigeria does not know how many of its citizens are outside because no one wants to have anything to do with most of the staff in the missions.

I know years of misrule cannot be wiped away in a short day, but please, our embassies should be APPROPRIATELY equipped in terms of resources, both human and material.

We cannot expect foreigners to accord us an iota of respect and dignity if our own people who should look after us outside the shores of the nation, snarl like animals at us given every opportunity that comes their way.

The Diaspora “Slave” and Security in Nigeria: In Response to Adeleke Otunuga

Adeleke Otunuga’s article of September 1, 2004 is a welcomed and opposing response to my article of August 19 2004. I am glad that Otunuga accepts that the stories revealed in my article are “sad as they are reminders of the tales of calamities that abound back home”. He however got the wrong end of the stick by his assumption that my conclusions “were as sporadic as they were hasty”.
I do not live in the United States, and even though I have visited the country countless times, I will refrain from commenting about every day life in America. In view of this, I will advise Otunuga not to examine crime and race relations in the United Kingdom from a newspaper reader or television news watcher perspective. However, I wish to respond to some of the points raised by Otunuga in his article as follows.

It is true that crime abounds in the advanced nations, and each country has its own peculiarities. The fact in the advanced nations is that there is no communal living. You may not say a single word to your neighbour for the next five years, and as such no one has a sense of responsibility for the other. It is in this kind of lax society that paedophiles abound and operate, and therefore you are unable to allow your children out of your sight for one second. On the other hand, in Nigeria especially in a small town environment where everyone knows each other, it is relatively easier to allow your children to run around freely without “too much” close watch. I say too much because we all know that children are preyed upon and kidnapped in Nigeria for various diabolical means. As such, Nigeria is not “kidnapped” free as Otunuga will want us to believe.

Damilola Taylor’s tragic death and the collapse of the prosecution reflect the intricacies of the British society and legal system. However, the truth remains that justice was sought, and the Taylors had the opportunity to pursue it regardless of the end result. Thus, in the UK, you can expect a greater probability of investigation, prosecution, conviction and justice when a crime is committed in contrast to Nigeria where money buys every thing.

Racism, and the negative image already created by a few bad eggs, is what gets you pulled over by a white cop in a white neighbourhood. In Nigeria where they share the same colour with the inhabitants who are supposed to be their countrymen, Yorubas and Igbos have to look over their shoulder whilst daily living in the Northern part. It is sheer stupidity therefore to think that you will be accepted on equal footing in a foreign land, where your colour, and years of prejudice already sets you apart and condemns you as an “inferior” human being.

Ten years ago, most Nigerians in the UK would run and scamper away when they are not in the wrong, just because they have no papers. In view of this, the “Jamos” took advantage and saw every Nigerian as a soft touch. With settlement papers came more liberty, and ability to fight for and claim one’s right. Thus, today’s Nigerian-Jamo relation in the UK is different from that of ten years ago which the writer painted in his article. I can assure him that I have run retail shops in “Jamo” occupied areas, and mutual respect took over when it was realised that this Nigerian is not to be pushed over or around. Mr Otunuga’s friend that abandoned his car at the scene of an accident in the UK “and dared not pursue the matter” must have told him a half truth as to what happened. The UK system may be institutionally racist to a large extent, but if the friend was not in the wrong, and had nothing to hide, justice would have taken its course.

As far as I am aware, the Neighbourhood Watch in the UK is not subscription based, and it is a local community based effort to keep an eye out for events within the local community such that if crime is ever committed, there will be enough information from local residents to help the law enforcement agencies in their enquiries and prosecution. In contrast, MASSOB and OPC are ethnically based organisations that have metamorphosed into unofficial security outfits. The question to the writer then is where is the like to like comparison of MASSOB and OPC with the Neighbourhood Watch?

Therefore, when we talk of absolute security, I agree it “is a mirage even in the so-called advanced nations” my “UK inclusive”. However, I am talking of relative security, a comparison of security in Nigeria with what obtains in Diaspora. And the point is that while every day, the advanced world is thinking of and devising new crime combating strategies, Nigerian leaders are busy worrying about their individual pockets and egos. This is why our senators will go on “strike”, an indication that they do not see themselves as occupying their positions by the mandate of the people. In such a circumstance, how far off the track is El Rufai?

In conclusion, and for the benefit of other readers, I wish to disabuse Otunuga’s mind from the notion that I aimed in my article to charge Nigerians in Diaspora to stay away from home. The article apart from being a satire had two main aims. Firstly, to make Nigerians who have slaved in foreign lands to become what they are, to think twice before losing all their life’s work by ignoring the reality of living and investing in Nigeria.
Secondly and more importantly, to highlight to our leaders that a lot of Nigerians are willing to come home and help to develop the country, only (and if only) government can and will provide an enabling, secured environment. It was this environment that the Malaysian and Japanese governments provided, and this is why both countries are a success story today.

Until an enabling secured environment is evident in Nigeria, I am afraid that the choice of a greater majority of Nigerians in the UK will remain “I love my country, I no go lie, but outside am, I will live and …”