09 April 2016


It is unpardonably hot in Lagos. There is hardly electricity. Fuel is scarce too. This unholy triad of heatwave, lack of electricity and no fuel means that life, at the moment, is unbearably difficult for most Nigerians. The queue at petrol stations can be miles long making traffic impossible everywhere. Electricity would have mitigated against heat, the same way availability of fuel would have lessen the burden of lack of electricity. Sadly, we only get one or two hours of electricity in a day if we are lucky.

Apart from the above issues, economic activity is at a record low nationwide. Companies are laying off staff left, right and centre. Many who still have their jobs have not been paid for months, including some government employees and pensioners. I know of two companies that have not paid their staff for more than one year. The naira is in free-fall translating to expensive imports. Given that we import most things, the effect on the average man on the street is monumental.

You will expect that with all these multifaceted problems, our government and its agencies would be busy devising strategies to make life a little bit easier for people. Not so in Nigeria. A responsible government should for example be advising its citizens on how to handle the heatwave - what to wear, how to keep hydrated, perhaps even sending out water tanks to assist in cooling people on the streets. Not so in Nigeria.

It is at this hard and uncertain time that the Nigerian Police Force suddenly realised that tinted window permit issued to motorists needed updating. Although they came out with the usual nonsensical security reasons behind this, everyone knew that it's yet another extortion strategy for the police and its sister evil agencies – the FRSC and VIO. To obtain this new permit, which is ostensibly free, you need to have your biometrics taken. Guess what! This can only be done in one centre in Lagos, a city of over 10 million people. If this sounds like a joke to you, wake up! It isn't. The reality of Nigeria is that practically every public agency including the police, the passport office, FRSC, the civil service, conspires to daily frustrate Nigerians. And the government stands idly by. Our government and its agencies appear to be crudely but determinedly contemptuous of the people.

This is not the first time Nigerians are witnessing this type of shadow chasing and criminal injustice. A few years ago, I watched the then head of FRSC, Osita Chidoka argued on television that migrating to a new number plates system for the second time in three years will reduce road accidents by 5000 a year. I felt he was having a laugh, but the suckers at the national assembly fell for it. Everyone else knew the change was an outlet to enrich his pockets and those of his powerful sponsors at the expense of hapless citizens.  After all, this is Nigeria.

There are so many questions that begs for answers about the new tinted permit exercise:

·       Why is there any need for tinted window permits in the first place? The argument could be made for totally blacked out vehicles (tinted windscreen and front windows), but not for factory fitted tint on back seat windows. 
·       Why does the permit have to be renewed once it has been issued? The only plausible answer is that this is a money making exercise for some people at the top.
·       Why is there a need to capture biometrics for this type of permit?  In any case, the FRSC, INEC, passport office, banks, mobile phone companies have already captured our biometrics. Is there no way all these agencies can talk to each other? What about the security implications of having peoples data everywhere?
·       Why is it that we have to renew our driving licence every three years? By the time you go through FRSC process and eventually obtain the licence, it is usually only valid for a maximum of two years.
·       Similarly, Why do we have to renew our passports every five years when it is 10 for most countries? Again an opportunity for corruption at the detriment of poor citizens.
·       Why is our government indifferent to all of these state-sanctioned extortions and corruption?
·       Why do our so-called representatives at local, state and federal levels allow these agencies of government to terrorise citizens?
·       Why are our churches, religious bodies, obas, emirs and igwes silent at the predicament of poor Nigerians?

I have a sneaky feeling that nothing will happen and that the police and the FRSC will get away with this exercise. The story of Nigerian is one of disappointment and betrayal. There is a conspiracy of silence from the media, politicians, the church and civil society. It isn't an organised conspiracy but often that of indifference and ignorance. Like every other Nigerian, I suspect that, in grappling with the challenges of the country, it may not even cross the minds of these groups that they have a duty of care. For some, it is a conspiracy of survival. They do not want to be labeled so they close their eyes to the suffering of the people. Others benefit from the chaos, so why change it. In our inefficient system, some people get their fuel, driving licence and passport delivered to them at home. Why bother about everyone else? I have observed that Nigeria turns people into heartless creatures. It is hardly surprising therefore that most Nigerians distrust and detest every agency of government.

This is my own attempt at shouting for an intervention from those in authority. Please act! Not just regarding the permit, but also on the wider matters raised above. These things do not make sense. Help us to build trust in our public agencies and institutions. We are in such a difficult situation that people are losing faith in Nigeria. I have never observed this widespread despair and hopelessness in people. I was surprised today when the pastor of my church who usually was an advocate for staying and building Nigeria changed tune. He said, he is grateful he had no options. If he did, he would not hesitate to leave the country immediately. I understood him.

Finally, I do not believe that the president should have to resolve all problems, but in this case, I have no alternative than to say, Mr President, can you please have a look.

28 March 2015


Your vote is the rare opportunity you have to determine, to some extent, your destiny and those of your children. So before you vote, these are some of the questions you should ask yourself:
  • Is your life better today than four years ago?
  • Are the lives of Nigerian children better today than four years ago?
  • If there were to be a medical emergency in the middle of the night, would you or your family member be able to call an ambulance to get you to a hospital where you will be guaranteed quality treatment that is also free at the point of need?
  • Do you know the federal government's policy on education or health?
  • Do you feel that the President, the Governor of your state, your constituency senator, your constituency’s member of the House of Representative or your local member of the House of Assembly represent your interest?
  • Apart from during national elections, do you have any means or opportunity of holding any of these people to account?
  • Do you believe that any of the above people have never been involved in corruption or shady activities that would have led to their resignation or perhaps landed them in jail in other societies?
  • Do you believe any of the above people i.e. President, Governor etc see themselves as servants of the people or behave as such?
  • Do you think any of them are consumed by the passion to fight for your cause and for the poor and weak in our society?
  • Do any old people in your family who have never worked for any government body, agency, school or civil service receive pension from the government?
  • Do you feel the police protect you from criminals and uphold justice?
  • Have you found it easy to renew a passport, obtain a drivers’ license or any other benefits of citizenship in the past four years?
  • Has your Senator, member of the House of Representative, or House of Assembly member campaigned for the funding of the hospital in your local area?
  • Has he/she vigorously fought for a new hospital to be built in your ward or city?
  • Have new primary and secondary schools been built in your locality as a direct result of the effort of any of the above politicians?
  • Has your representative helped to improve the transport situation in your area? 
  • Can you mention one policy or issue that your constituency’s Senator, member of the House of Representative or House of Assembly member has helped to bring to the statute book? 

If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘No’, then use your vote to get rid of them in this elections irrespective of the party they may belong or sentiments such as ethnicity or religion. This way, the next lot would learn to better represent you.

17 March 2015


A few Sundays ago, we had just left church. Rather than go home, we made a short detour to one of the side streets where assorted fruits and other food items are varied and cheaper than what obtains where we lived. Our children were sound asleep in the back of the car oblivious to their parents’ shenanigans. Everyone on the street appeared to be haemorrhaging sweat as the scorching sun unrepentantly rained down its heat. My wife alighted from the car to buy fruits at one of the stalls. I drove a bit further to make a U-turn.

Then I saw her. She looked worried and unkept. She had a baby on her back held with a tiny ifunja. Just like the mother, the baby whose sex I could not make out looked rather unkept too.  In Lagos, there are many people who are destitute and poor, however, this lady stood out to me. She looked at me as she approached. I felt awkward and she walked away. My car was bang in the middle of the road at a T-Junction. I summoned up courage and hooted to get her attention, she glanced back, I hooted again and beckoned to her to come. As she approached, she began to cry, I offered her money, and she thanked and prayed for me, ending with the customary name of Jesus. After she left, I felt I should have done more, perhaps ask about her general well-being and possibly take her number. I didn't. I regret not doing so.

There are many people in the same situation of this woman and her child. Our governments – local, state and national have no strategy for them. None at all. This is why I am a bit vacant about the 2015 elections and the brouhaha it has generated. Everyone appears to be talking about it. The discussions may appear unintelligent, lame and parochial at times, however, Nigerians deserve an Oscar for being consumed by the elections.

What gets me worried is that our governments have no strategy for anyone who has the misfortune of developing cancer or any other serious diseases in our country. How our politicians sleep at night is a marvel to me. In 2015, Nigeria still has no nationwide emergency telephone line. So in the event of a fatal accident, many of the casualties bleed to death. In the last month alone, two young people in their twenties have received the distressing news that their eye problem is inoperable because of the prolonged damage to it. Both have had no recourse to medical help until a charity with which I am involved intervened. Our politicians on the other hand, think nothing of going abroad for medical attention and flaunting it before the people. Of course, they know that Nigerians cannot fight back. Having experienced prolonged oppression; the people are incapable of knowing they have rights let alone fight for these rights. Most Nigerians are battling to survive and eat, fending off death on the road, in the hands of armed robbers, ‘one-chance’ agents and ritualists and from every other issue with which they are confronted. They have little or no strength left to know that the government owes them a duty of care for good roads, drinkable water, electricity, and security.

Everyone knows this too, from church leaders to traditional kings, the intelligentsia and journalists. We all know that our governments are evil and are only interested in their personal well-being. However, all of these people too – journalist, church leaders, traditional rulers - are fighting for their mouths and survival. In other countries, the media are on the side of the public and they hold the government to account on every front. In Nigeria, Reuben Abati, probably the most prolific Nigerian  columnist joins a corrupt and visionless government and turns native.

Last month, Bishops of the Church of England published a 52 page open pastoral letter calling for political parties to come up with “a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be” before the general elections in May. Their letter touched on such issues as ‘education, ‘who is my neighbour’, ‘political neutrality’, ‘what voters should ask of candidates’, ‘the role of the state’, ‘role of family’, ‘the economy’, ‘poverty and inequality’, ‘unemployment’, ‘health’, ‘welfare reform’, ‘immigration’, ‘environment’ and many other issues. In Nigeria, like little children meeting Father Christmas, our church leaders become excited whenever the president and other politicians visit their churches to canvass for votes. Some of them believe that a politician’s visit is a measure of their success in ministry.  

In other countries, voters take their politicians to task on the issues they are passionate about. In Nigeria, the electorate are mostly illiterates (including those who have a degree) and do not have the intellectual capacity to take a politician to task. Instead they fawn over politicians when they meet them. The Nigerian electorate have developed a Stockholm syndrome loyalty to the politicians that colonise and encage them. Don't take my word for it, watch any of the rare occasions our politicians meet electorates on TV or read any of the political threads online. What you hear from the electorates are “your excellency sir”, “ride on my president”, “we are with you”. You will also see commentators throwing abusive words against each other along ethnic or religious lines. Typically, the important issues are neglected. Anyone that brings them up is shut down with a pseudo-religious abuse.

As election 2015 approaches, our politicians have been gracing our television and our streets in over the top clothes and laughable postures to ask for our votes. They are distributing rice and cooking oil to poor people and hosting community parties. Some are buying votes for 5000 naira. The politicians know that poor people are not bothered about the future, they are concerned about what they will eat today. This is the way politics have been played and our politicians are in no mood to change the status quo. It suits them perfectly.

The election posters show how little regard the politicians have for the electorates. Many of them have no serious policy agenda. They must believe the way to win an election is by looking good in pictures or posing in white jackets and massive geles. Instead of serious policies, Mrs Tinubu’s campaign slogan is “Restoration 2015, prosperity for all.” What this means is beyond me. She knows she doesn’t really have to campaign, the people are gullible. She would win. Goodluck Jonathan has hired every space on the Internet with GEJITES, TAN, etc. to convince us of how many first he has notched as Nigerian president including the first president to have a Facebook page etc. Unfortunately we can hardly see any of the so-called achievements though we open our eyes wide. The person who is almost certainly going to win in my senatorial district looks like a mafia boss in his campaign poster. I have been informed that he really is.

So what are the real issues?

Health - Why do we regularly see on the pages of our newspaper appeals by individuals for funding to have a kidney transplant in India? Is there no government in Nigeria? I am not advocating for governments to rise up and fund such individual cases, the fact that the people concerned are forced to seek help through the media shows a fundamental failure of our health system. What is the strategy of the minister and commissioners for health for comprehensive health care for every Nigerian?

Education – How many ministers and politicians send their children to school in Nigeria. Why are our politicians mortgaging the future of this country by neglecting education and allowing it to slide over the years? We have no technological basis, our university students live in ghetto hostels, their lecturers are not well paid and unappreciated so they do the barest minimum. Last month, I was at Yaba College of Technology where a generator on the second floor of one of their buildings spewed out noise and fume. No one can learn a thing in an environment like that.

What does the Minister of Education really do?

Welfare – What is the government’s strategy for the likes of the woman I saw that Sunday afternoon and for her child. This is not a federal affair only, What is Lagos State doing? There are several of those women in the country, some begging for money on the roads, some married to an abusive husband if only for protection and provision, some are supported by family, some slave away for 10,000 a month cleaning toilets and offices. Nigerians must think carefully before they vote.

Employment – The federal government’s strategy towards unemployment is a joke. Goodluck Jonathan set up SURE-P to get young people to paint the side of our highways green white and green. He still hasn't sacked Abba Moro, his Minister for Interiors who last year, caused the deaths of several young people through a bogus employment drive. Who is holding the president to account? Not the press, not the so-called ministers of God whose god is their belly.

For me the greater issue is not even the presidential and gubernatorial elections. I feel every Nigerian should be more involved in who represents them at the state and federal assemblies. The test is very simple. If you have never seen the member of your state house of assembly, house of representative or senator, whoever they may be, vote them out this election. The next lot will learn to represent you better.

So rather than get animated about the elections, I wish we all can ask these questions and use our vote to determine the future of our children’s children.

I urge you to do so.

18 February 2015

'& co' - A Distinctive Nigerian Dress Style

Calm down, the above title is not a programming error.

People have sought for my opinion on the Nigerian elections and its postponement. The expectation from some quarters  is that I should have written about it well before now. I suppose it is safe to assume that I have deliberately refrained from commenting, as I am not excited one bit about the elections. The manipulated postponement justifies my position. I hopefully may publish an opinion before the revised date of the elections. For now, I have chosen to publish a short article I wrote in January 2013 which I hope would give readers another perspective of the Nigerian experience.

There are many Nigerian slang that is difficult to explain to a non-native. One of these is the title of this article ‘And co’ or ‘& co’.

In Nigeria, when two or more people wear the same fabric, they are said to do ‘& co’. I think have a fair idea of how this concept came about, but I would leave that for now so that I can quickly get into the meat of my writing.

‘And co’ is slightly different from the more popular aso-ebi phenomenon which is when several people wear the same fabric for an event such as weddings, funerals and increasingly birthdays. ‘And co’ is typically between a husband and wife, or between siblings at Christmas and other celebrations.

I remember as a young boy doing ‘and co’ with my younger brother to celebrate the New Year. As I was totally dependent on my parents at the time, I did not have much choice over what I wore, how they were tailored, or whether I was interested in the concept of ‘and co’ with my younger brother in the first place. All these were the preserve of my parents and I either like it or lump it. On one occasion, my trousers were so long that I had to roll up the edges. Of course my parents’ strategy was to ensure that I could grow into the trousers and wear them for as long as possible. They are great people, my parents, and sacrificed much with little means, I must say.

Nowadays it is of the utmost interest to me to see people doing ‘& co’ particularly a husband and wife and on some occasions with their children. It leaves me wondering whose idea it was. Was it the wife’s? If so, is it a way of laying claim to the husband? If it were the husband’s idea, why? Was it a case of putting his label of ownership on the wife? Is she happy with it? Or as it was for me as a young boy, was it a like it or lump it situation? If I have the time, I look for tell-tale signs to prove or disprove my hypothesis. I have nothing against those who do ‘& co’ with their spouses, I have done so probably three times with my wife, once shortly before we got married, then on our wedding day and once shortly afterwards. 

I do admire couples that do, and I have come to acknowledge that in most cases, particularly when it is a monogamous relationship, it is a show of love, oneness and commitment to each other. This I believe should be celebrated.

Photo credit - The Ebeyes