Photos By Obafemi Iwaeni
I am writing an essay on how Nigeria became a terrorist country which I intend to post on this blog in a few days.
I have tried to stay away from terror discussions but the fact that it is now part and parcel of Nigeria means that I can no longer pretend that Nigeria is not a terrorist country.
When AbdulMuttalab became the Christmas Day bomber, I was among the first to scream Nigeria is not a terrorist country!
Since then things have changed and Nigeria is now playing a frontline role as a key terrorist country.
I hope the essay will be done in a few days and I can re-post this entry in full.
Oil remains a curse to Nigeria, there are no doubts about that.
Norway has oil and is rated as one of the most developed countries in the world. Norway is a prosperous country. How did Norway and some other countries succeed with oil while Nigeria failed woefully? Before the unrest in Libya, Libyans were living a fairly good life!
On paper, Nigeria is a prosperous country but in reality the masses are suffering despite the oil wealth of Nigeria.
Nigerians including the poor masses living in the Niger Delta where Dr. Jonathan was born are rated among the poorest people in the world.
Northern Nigerians, especially the women are rated among the least educated people in the world.
What a tragedy!
Why is a blessed country like Nigeria home to some of the poorest people in the world?
This is because of poor management, bad rulership, and outright looting of the Nigerian treasury by greedy men and women who have pretended to be serving the country since 1960.
There is an ongoing trial in Nigeria where the immediate past speaker looted billions of naira.
Imagine what will happen to the European economy as a whole if 1 billion dollars is unaccounted for?
Has anyone imagine what will become of Greece or Spain if 1 billion dollars suddenly grew legs?
Even Sweden will suffer as a country if 1 billion dollars suddenly disappeared.
But in Nigeria, several trillion of dollars have disappeared since 1960 and the thieves and looters are free people, mostly.
Some have died and their children have inherited the stolen monies.
Then we complain that our economy is bad, that our living conditions are terrible and about all the anomalies that we put up with.
If all the looters living in Nigeria can return the monies that they have looted, Nigeria will pay off her debts in a matter of seconds and there will be plenty of money to resuscitate the rotten infrastructure and to build new ones.
There will be free education and possibilities to provide basic needs of life like food, water and electricity.
Nigeria does not deserve a debt pardon, aids or grants.
Nothing close to those is among our needs.
What we need is to join hands, surround all the looters and force them to cough out stolen loots.
Then we should start serving out serious consequences to those who are still looting or that will be looting in the future.
When all these have been done, we must not forget to re-diversify our economy. We must go back to agriculture. The groundnuts from the north and the cocoa from the west can feed the world again.
We have pretended to be working on our natural deposits but we have deceived ourselves for too long in that aspect.
We should seek genuine efforts to do real work and sustain and spread the prosperity of Nigeria.
THE COST OF KEROSENE
Assuming that all is well with Nigeria, we should have moved away from using kerosene as the source of cooking in our kitchens.
There are over 90m Nigerians living in poverty, so kerosene remains the number one source of energy for cooking. In reality this is still a dangerous way to cook food as explosions are common due to counterfeit kerosene products and poor kitchen habits relating to safety and precautions.
If all was well in Nigeria, a product like kerosene should be provided free of charge for families that still prefer this out-dated method of cooking using of kerosene stove.
But instead a keg of kerosene, usually about 4 liters went up to about N1 500 in the scarcity that we have seen in recent days.
In the absence of scarcity this product cost about N500. That is a lot of money for poor people.
ABSENCE OF ELECTRICITY
I have written several times about the sad state of electricity in Nigeria. Electricity supplies in several places are close to zero percent!
Businesses are grinding to a permanent halt in many places because of the lack of electricity.
In the computer village in Lagos, it has become so bad that small scale businessmen and women are on generators 24-7.
Do they have a choice?
These people are crying inside. They are tired, worn out and living with hope of a better day.
The choices of good men in Nigeria are too limited. It’s as if politics especially at the top has been forever left to men of questionable characters, ex-rogues and gangsters.
Nigerians really hoped on Goodluck Jonathan but some of us did not. I respect the right of Jonathan concerning his aspirations but it is sad that Nigerians did not see that Jonathan is a PDP representative and that the PDP has no good plans for Nigeria.
The evidence since 1999 are there for all of us to see but Nigerians decided to differentiate Jonathan from the PDP.
The consequences are here with us.
The counter arguments are going to be rife. Nigerians will forget that the morning shows the day and that the hopes that they have in Jonathan are the same that they had in Obasanjo in 1999. Today, 12 years into the reign of the PDP, the standard of living has dropped sharply, and the percentage of unemployed Nigerians have increased. More people have dropped below the poverty level. Only a very negligible percentage of Nigerians have joined the (rich) middle class.
There is no hate over our arguments, time will tell. But I can add that 4 years from now the arguments will take known dimensions-a man cannot fix Nigeria in 4 years!
Nigerians will come to realize someday that with a PDP government and the current Nigerian mentality of service provision and lack of true patriotism, we may end up even worse in 2015.
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, there are reasons to step up anticorruption activities. There are urgent needs to invoke national debates on the way forward or backward for the various segments or nations within Nigeria. There is a need to discuss true federalism and what each region wants to contribute or take away from the national treasury.
The present structure is suicidal. There is a serious need to discuss wealth creation and distribution. With the threats of secession, growing terrorism, civil unrest and religious intolerance there has never been greater need than now to discuss about the entity called Nigeria.
Delay is dangerous!
I have written about June 12 1993 or I have mentioned it in several essays before.
It is very important that we keep writing about it so that the story does not get distorted.
It’s been 18 years since Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida destroyed the hopes and dreams of a better Nigeria.
Nigeria and Nigerians lost the opportunity of being led by MKO Abiola.
It is sad because no one knows if Nigeria would have become a better place today or even one of the greatest countries on earth. We will never know what we missed or did not miss by the presidential mandate that was stolen in broad day light.
What happened on June 12 1993?
On June 12 1993, millions of Nigerians voted in the best election ever conducted in the history of Nigeria.
The elections itself had been planned along two party system. Social Democratic Party’s candidate was Chief MKO Abiola while Alhaji Bashir Tofa was the candidate of the National Republical Convention.
Nigerians voted massively in favour of Moshood Abiola.
Bashir Tofa (the opponent) was said to have sent him congratulatory messages.
As the results were announced, the prices of goods and services were falling.
There was happiness all over Nigeria. There was hope that a new dawn has come.
There was a tailor who refused to be paid for the services he had rendered. He was so overjoyed that “at last” hope has come to the people.
Bus conductor and drivers were offering free rides. You didn’t have to pay anything.
That was the spirit and mood until Nigerians received a rude shock from the military gangsters led by one notorious Ibrahim Babangida. He announced the annulment of the results of the elections without reasons.
There were many hypotheses trying to explain or justify the annulment including that Abiola was a creditor of the federal government, or that a few idiots would not like to see him be president of Nigeria.
Some people said it was because of what he did when he was in NPN that he betrayed or opposed Awolowo, a fellow Yoruba politician. He is also alleged to have sponsored military coups in Nigeria.
No form of arguments would justify the annulment of the June 12 1993 peaceful presidential elections.
The fundamental thing about June 12 was that an election held and Abiola won.
By cancelling the decisions made by Nigerians in a democratic process, treasonable felony was committed by Babangida and those around him including the late Abacha.
Babangida should be arrested and tried not only for corruption but for treason and crimes against humanity. Why is Babangida still a free man in Nigeria?
Are some people above the law in Jonny’s country?
The annulment was resisted by many true democrats, some were killed and many went into exile.
Many innocent Nigerians died in the failed struggle to actualize the annulled mandate.
Many Nigerian politicians sold their souls for porridge because they could not stand on the June 12 mandate. Political prostitution is an old business in Nigeria.
Baba Gana Kingibe was a prince of the game of political prostitution long before Atiku Abubakar.
Nigerian traditional rulers who could have pressurized the silly Babangida kept mute. They loved bribes because their prosperity is built on them.
Those whom we thought were leaders became rulers and accomplices to the crime. Obasanjo said Abiola was not the messiah. I don’t remember MKO claiming to be one.
Abiola died without realizing his dreams and without claiming the mandate he got from millions of Nigerians in the most peaceful and fairest election ever in the history of Nigeria.
The circumstances surrounding Abiola’s death remains controversial. He died in the arms of American visitors sent by Bill Clinton. He was poisoned in the presence of the American delegation. It has become one of the several conspiracy theories that he was killed by the Nigerian military government with the assistance of the Americans.
Abiola’s nephew told me how the issue of repatriation seriously pursued by Abiola became one of his likely undoing.
Those who are too young to understand the June 12 story should continue to discern what they read because lies will be told. Many things have been said against Abiola. Some of them may be true but nothing said can take away the fact that he won the election and that Babangida is a living criminal.
How the laws work in Nigeria is still a mystery. How can someone commit treason and be free?
The 2011 elections are by no means close to the peaceful and fair elections of June 12 1993.
And for those who are superstitious it appears that until something is done to make amends for the devilish errors of
June 12 1993, Nigeria may never make progress. Living conditions have become worse since then.
When Obasanjo was imposed on Nigerians in 1999 politicians thought they have made amends for June 12 1993. That was an error of judgment. Obasanjo was anti-June 12, so it doesn’t count in the superstitious world. In fact it may have added salt to the injury.
Since 1999 the standard of living has dropped and gotten worse. More people have become poorer and lives have been lost in several conflicts.
I do know that the Nigerian government also stupidly adopted May 29 as democracy day in Nigeria.
Sometimes I wondered how Nigerians allow the useless government to impose things that are evil on them.
It would have been better, to honour those who gave their lives for democracy that June 12 be made the national democracy day.
Or we just don’t have any democracy day and still honour these unsung heroes on October 1st every year.
Rather what we do is to decorate accomplished political looters and thieves with national honours.
It appears to me that for as long as we continue to deny the truth about the significance of June 12 and its role in the establishment of our struggling democratic process that we may not make any real progress in this country.
During the presidential debate in 1993 Abiola spoke to Nigerians and answered their questions on what his plans are and how he will help Nigeria to become great.
June 12 came with a manifesto and programs of hope. That is why it is sad that we didn’t experience the reign of Abiola.
A mandate similar to what Abiola got in 1993 and the hopes and confidence that came with it are necessary ingredients for growth and development of Nigeria.
I don’t think anybody can rule Nigeria successfully without a mandate similar to that which Abiola obtained in 1993.
It cut across religion, regions and tribes. It was a universal mandate, made in Nigeria.
It will also be impossible for anyone to lead Nigeria and make meaningful progress without a manifesto of hope and programs that are well planned and thought through.
The positive impacts of Abiola’s victory lasted a few hours; they are part of the most memorable hours of my life. For the first time in my life, then in 1993, I saw hope on the faces of Nigerians. As a country we saw light at the end of the tunnel but the light faded away, very quickly.
In 2011 we remain in the tunnel.
I believe that the problems facing education, in terms of both infrastructure and the quality of it, should never be relegated in the ongoing rejuvenation of Lagos State. The resuscitation of Lagos state public schools should now be on top of the scale of preference of both Governor Fashola and the Commissioner for Education
In the first report I made about Festac Grammar School I had stated that I will continue to write about Festac Grammar School (FGS) until something is done to salvage the school. It is my alma mater and I take this cause very seriously. In a way it will serve as a point of reference for the general decay and expose the degree of negligence that schools have suffered under successive irresponsible governments in Lagos State.
The legacy of free and quality education in Western Nigeria under Late Awolowo and former governor Jakande suffered violent extinction with the advent of military rule. It is unimaginable that public education in Lagos State especially at the primary and secondary levels will remain redundant more than 10 years into civilian rule. This is more than a shame. It is a scandal.
The Festac Grammar School Alumni Projects’ Management Group-FGSAPMG was formed in 2011 and the team is now fully integrated into the main stream Alumni group. Our goals are clear. We have set out not only complain about the near-death state of our alma mater but also to seek ways to solve the problems.
Writing from a personal note I think that corruption is the root cause of the negligence. I won’t be totally wrong to state that the person or group that were supposed to implement the reconstruction of Festac Grammar School from the Jakande temporary structures to permanent school structures in the mid-80s stole the money earmarked for the project. Governor Fashola can start by looking at the records, fishing out the culprits and marching them to the prosecutors.
In addition if funds have been provided directly to the leadership of the school then we will like to know when and how much was provided. As we seek accountability from the state government, we also need her help in providing details of financial assistance to the school. If any individual among the school leadership is guilty of embezzlement, let him or her be brought to justice.
Some members of FGSAPMG recently visited the school. Babatunde Adebisi, Dare Olaosebikan, Raphael Omorogbe, Omozele Unuakhalu and Obichie Joseph Ndubuisi met with the school principal Mrs. Olowu and the VP Academics Mrs. Efetie.
Some of their findings are:
• No Library in the School
• No Electricity in the Junior School
• Electricity in the senior School has been disconnected by PHCN
• No functional Toilet for Teachers and students
• Scrappy furniture in the staff room
• Crowded classes in the Junior School (between 70-75 pupil in a class)
• Dilapidated Buildings and damaged class room floors
The alumni representatives noted with dismay the near complete absence of government assistance to the school or misappropriation of funds earmarked for it. One of the projects that the government has executed was the so-called ECO project for a Computer room with about 30 computers. The government also provided a generator set. A prototype toilet was never completed.
It is sad how Lagos State officials have become chronic liars. Representatives of the Ministry of Education in Lagos State have visited FGS on several occasions. They have been doing so even before I graduated in 1989. They could not even keep to their promises of renovating the only storey building in the school.
The task is not just to renovate the storey building. The present conditions of a school like Festac Grammar School is a disgrace to Festac Town, a disgrace to Amuwo Odofin Local Government, a disgrace to Lagos State Ministry of Education and despite all he has done a disgrace to Governor Fashola.
Nigerians should start making authentic demands from their rulers or leaders. I have stated that this is my contribution to the ongoing process whereby the alumni association is trying all possible means to sensitize the Lagos State government on the need to rebuild Festac Grammar School. Some of the most brilliant minds in Lagos and Nigeria have emerged from this school. For the sake of the children in Festac Town and its environs, an outstanding citadel like FGS must be kept running, functional and up to acceptable standards.
Government should be responsive to its obligation without being pushed or tipped. We (as representatives of FGS) don’t need to know someone in the inner chamber of the Lagos State government before we can get this job done. The notion of using people in government to fast track the execution of government work/project is an anomaly. It does work but it shouldn’t be our prime focus.
It has been stated that the Lagos State Government will not approve the renovation of its property in the school by the Alumni Group. Therefore the focus of the Alumni Group is tilted towards the execution of projects or rendering of assistances within our capabilities and the frame of the law.
In the coming days all these issues will be fine-tuned. We will continue with our deliberations and come up with a dynamic blue-print on the way forward.
Obviously it is asking too much of us if we think that we can rebuild two Lagos State public schools simultaneously. I support the opinion that the government must live up to its responsibilities and obligations.
Education is the right of every child and it must once again become a priority. The infrastructure and the equipment needed to facilitate this right must also be provided by the state.
In spite of the harsh learning conditions and the negligence of the education authority the Academic standard in FGS remains remarkable. It is still a tradition that the teaching and administrative staffs remain committed to programs that have sustained the academic excellence of the school.
In a recent baseline assessment conducted by the Ministry of education, FGS (the only poultry school in Amuwo Odofin Local Government) came 1st in Amuwo Odofin Local Government, 4th in the district and 19th in Lagos state. We used to be among the first in Lagos State.
In the meantime, for the sake of the school, The Project Management Group will definitely look into some of immediate needs of the schools which include:
Provision of furniture for teachers’ staff room
Re-establishment of the school library
Career counseling and general reward system for students
Outstanding PHCN bill of =N=40,000.00
Provision of office equipment like Photocopier, Computers and Printers
Dr. Steve Onyewuchi Eke, an alumnus of FGS called in to the last meeting from his base in Atlanta and promised to pay the PHCN bill.
We continue to look forward to the visible presence and concrete action of the state government in our alma mater. We will not relent in all the possible ways we have set upon ourselves to achieve these noble objectives.
When the deed is done, the FGS-APMG will be quick to help out the school on the lessons of maintenance culture. We will stand by our school from now on.
Acknowledgement: This version of my monthly essay on FGS contains some of the information submitted by Ralph Omorogbe on behalf of the members of the School Visitation Committee. Their names are already in the essay.
ONE of my earliest articles in a Nigerian print media was published in the Nigerian Guardian of September 11 2001. It was titled Why Politicians Steal.
Nigerian politicians and public officials steal because they are all birds of the same feather, from the presidency to the last man in the local government. Their reason for joining politics was never to serve. The main reason is because they see politics as the shortest cut to wealth. It remains so because only a countable size of them have been punished and mildly too by the law enforcement agents and the short arm of the Nigerian law.
Nigeria is a very abnormal country in terms of the game of politics. No Nigerian author or critic can argue that corruption does not exist in other countries of the world. Instead what we have noted is that whereas glaring corruption is condemned in other places it is encouraged and rewarded in Nigeria.
It is also a power game in Nigeria. It depends so much not on any institution or department but on the individuals who have seized power either by rigged /manipulated ballots or violence through guns/uniform.
Dimeji Bankole for example could dare to steal so much as he has done because he may have someone like Ibrahim Babangida or David Mark or even Mrs. Patience Jonathan as his role models. No one can rule out the possibility of Bankole’s arrogance being hinged on the fallibility of Mrs. Waziri who has also been charged with corruption at different times. It’s as if all Nigerian government officials are thieves, but to different degrees.
Here was a young man to which much was given. He rubbed his family’s name in mud like there is no tomorrow. Yet he was given all the time he needed to resist arrest by the Nigerian Police and men of the SSS. His eventual arrest may have been catalyzed by the forthcoming visit of Dr. Jonathan to the US. Jonathan cannot leave Nigeria on a suspicion of aiding one of their own.
Going by his likely mentors, Dimeji could have thought this way: why would anyone worry about how much I steal if Babangida and his co-travellers are still living in Nigeria without giving account of the money that Nigeria made during the gulf war?
He may also have thought of the several things he got away with while serving as the big-mouthed speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Where should we start? The N2.3b he misappropriated or the N9b that tore the house apart resulting in a free for all fight exactly a year ago? He is even alleged to have kept allowances of some house members to himself.
How many cases of corruption and stolen funds by other thieves could have been reference points for Dimeji?
Was he possibly thinking of how Ribadu provided a shield for Mrs. Jonathan and her famous money laundering cases? Was he thinking of how Generals Obansanjo and Abdulsalam were never even interrogated for the Power Funds up to the tune of N16b?
What about the Atikus, the Anenihs and the whole loads and lots of them who have looted Nigeria over the years?
Was Dimeji thinking about the billions of dollars that have been awarded to monarchs to fix the Benin-Ore road without any progress or prosecution?
Was Dimeji thinking about Dora and how she got away with the NTA corruption saga? What about the money wasted on rebranding? We need to dig deeper perhaps? What was on the mind of the well-educated young man who decided to become Nigeria’s biggest thief?
He may be thinking about Bode George. Bode got 2 years and can now enjoy his loot forever more. Dimeji may be thinking of getting 6 months like Tafa Balogun or even a plea bargain like Igbinedion.
In 2010 Dr. Jonathan wasted over N20b on celebrating 50 years of failure. Most of the funds were never accounted for. Was Dimeji hoping that his N10b loan was a chicken change considering the prodigal spending of Dr. Jonathan that has depleted the external reserves and plunge Nigeria into debt?
The young man is now talking. He said they shared the money. A bunch of thieves who called themselves legislators, who are already the highest paid politicians in the world, having the guts to add N10b on their already over bloated sums while more than 100m Nigerians live desperately on less than 1 dollar a day.
In an outburst of anger one of my facebook friends quickly recommended death sentences for all corrupt Nigerian politicians. It was an outburst emanating from a frustrated Nigerian student who sees a bleak future ahead of him as men and women entrusted with our national wealth continue to siphon billions of dollars into their private accounts and wasteful expenditures.
The arrest of Dimeji Bankole is a good effort but I can’t give it up for EFCC yet. Let him be taken before the prosecutors as soon as possible so that he can be proven guilty or innocent before the law. I am not satisfied with the arrest of Dimeji without corresponding hunts for all the living barawos in Nigeria.
I don’t like an EFCC built on individual ego. I want to see an institution that could, if necessary, try its own boss and bring him or her down for acts related to corruption. For example if Ribadu or Waziri are both guilty of acts of corruption then they have no business pretending to be serving Nigeria.
Why was Dimeji arrested when there are thousands of thieves and looters walking free in Nigeria? What about the governors who have lost their immunities? Are thieves and looters free because they are friends of the Jonathans?
Are looters free because they stole in the 1980s or 1990s?
Nigerian politicians will continue to steal and loot because the fight against corruption is too limited and selective. They will also continue to steal because they have not been severely punished. Dimeji for example, if found guilty, should be looking ahead to 20 years imprisonment or more but in Nigeria he may even be unlucky to get 2 years. Usually they get plea bargaining or 6months.
Worse still they keep a substantial part of the money, huge enough to launch another political campaign or a new political party in the future.
My tolerance to looting is zero. My opinion on immunity clause is that it has no role to play in a society where democracy, probity and accountability will thrive. Dimeji should have been removed since the N2.3b saga if there was no immunity clause. In a sane society, he and his co-thieves would not have survived the N9b saga that tore the House apart in June 2010.
He would not have had the possibility to loot further.
Nigerian politicians will continue to steal, loot and bribe their ways ahead because even members of the society think that these are normal things. Politicians have families and friends who see government jobs as an opportunity to loot the national cake. It’s an aberration but we see it in good light and accept it as the way to go.
Politics must be made what it is-a way to serve mankind. In Nigeria it is a way to get rich with the huge salary and excessive inexplicable take-home remunerations plus all the loop holes that make it possible to inflate, manipulate and forge contracts across all tiers of governance.
What I wrote about in 2002 is still true today. There are no genuine anti-corruption agencies to wipe out corruption fairly and squarely. I learnt since 1984 that nearly does not catch a bird and that what was worth doing at all is worth doing well. These are my takes on the fight against corruption.