NIGERIA @ 51: THE WOUND OF A NATION
Prof Felix M. Edoho
At 51, Nigeria is over a century old. Unfortunately, Nigeria has a very stubborn wound that refuses to heal with age. In fact the older Nigeria grows, the more deeply entrenched the wound becomes. That wound is the sheer absence of leadership. Sometimes ago, a survey indicated that Nigerians were the happiest people in the world. To that must be added that Nigerians are the most patient citizens in the world. When one understands what leaderlessness has done to the psyche of the country and yet citizens remain happy and patient, then, one is compelled to conclude that Nigerians are a unique group of homo sapien.
On the one hand, one might reason that Nigerians’ happiness and patience (read complacency) have contributed in no small measure to the leaderlessness of the nation. On the other, it is also plausible that Nigerians have triumphed over all odds and are doing well in all aspects of life in spite of leaderlessness. However, if Nigeria is doing as well as it has been doing without a leader, one can only imagine where Nigeria would be today with able and visionary leadership. Everywhere one looks in Nigeria, there are holes that need to be filled–holes in political arrangements; holes in economic system; and holes in our ethno-social relations. In terms of political arrangements, we are yet to figure out how best to select our leaders and what should be their tenure in office. While the present design that allows two terms of four years each is barely thirteen years old, our so-called leaders are already talking about constitutional amendments. This goes to illustrate the common understanding that constitution is never the problem, but the people who operate it. Although Nigeria is floating on petrodollar, Nigerian citizens remains unconscionably pauperized. Even as all the ethnic groups have been amalgamated as a nation for 51 odd years, no one actually knows what it is to be a Nigerian?
For most Nigerians, they had never seen a group of politicians so selfish, so greedy, and so ungodly than what they have had the misfortune to witness during the past 13 years. Stupendous amount of money is budgeted every year for works and transportation. However, Nigeria has the worst roads in Africa. Politicians loot the money meant for road construction. If they can steal the money and buy private jets, why build roads? Billions of Naira are allocated every year for health sector. Yet our hospitals have no equipment and drugs. It would amount to gross irrationality to build hospitals and equip them if they can easily pocket the money without impunity. So, they can misappropriate the money meant for health-care and go or send their relatives overseas for medical treatment. Our president almost died abroad. Our two first ladies, one former and the other then current, both died in foreign hospitals! And why would politicians use the money meant for education equip schools properly when they can steal the money and send their children to schools abroad?
The leaderlessness of Nigeria is legendary! Nigeria drills over 2.3 million barrel of oil per day. This figure places Nigeria as the sixth oil producer in the world, next to Kuwait. Yet, Nigeria does not have a functional refinery. Nobody asks whose interest it is for Nigeria to depend purely on imported oil to fuel its economy. Estimates are that Nigeria has vast gas reserves and that it ought to be more of gas than oil producer. Yet, Nigeria’s gas is flared by oil transnational corporations with impunity even when there are laws against oil flaring. At 51 years of age, Nigeria cannot of boast constant and uninterrupted electricity supply for its citizens.
May the next 51 years be more eventful for Nigeria than the previous one gone by. May the holes in our national live and collective existence be filled. And may we have purposeful leaders who will be more interested in leaving legacies in Nigeria than edifices in foreign lands.
Long Live Nigeria @ 51!
Edoho writes from Jefferson City, MO (USA
LETTER TO THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION
Mr. Labaran Maku
Federal Ministry of Information and Communication
NEW NATIONAL ID CARD EXERCISE
Thank you for your continued effort towards making Nigeria a better place.
Sir, we read with surprise the announcement that the Federal Executive Council Meeting approved, on Wednesday, September 28, 2011, a fresh national identity card exercise that will cost us ‘over N30 billion’.
Honourable Minister, noting that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) spent N87.7B to gather biometric (and additional) data of 73,528,040 Nigerians during the April 2011 voter registration exercise, and that theNigerian Communications Commission, with another N6.1B, has just completed the registration of over 60 million Nigerians through another collection of biometric data for the SIM card registration exercise, it is surprising that ANOTHER exercise – that could have been built on the earlier efforts – has now been approved.
Sir, we wish to remind you of the promise of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure efficient proper management of the nation’s meagre resources that have been kept in your trust. We write as concerned citizens who have been assured by experts that this huge waste of unavailable national resource can be avoided by utilising existing data.
In this regard, sir, we request that you use your good offices to ask Mr. President, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian economy, to consider the revocation of this recently approved national identity card exercise or provide convincing technical justification why such enormous national resources should be committed to an apparent duplication of efforts by the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Nigerian Communications Commission.
Sir, if this request is not met with adequate attention, we will not hesitate to mobilise the citizenry to boycott the proposed national identity card exercise in order to drive home the point that Nigeria must not spend tomorrow’s resources to plug today’s waste.
We thank you for the kind attention, and trust you to do the needful.
Concerned Citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
COOPERATIVE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS
Farouk Martins Aresa
We are all appalled by the way standards of our schools from primary to tertiary have fallen off the cliff. In order to get into “good” schools these days, parents have to pay a great deal of money or be able to dish out foreign currencies locally or for education
abroad. We have Nigerians also sending their children to schools in Ghana, Sierra Leone and other African countries not as rich or endowed but with cheaper quality schools. We also have some Africans sending their children, if they can afford it, to schools in Nigeria.
A solid Primary School foundation is paramount for children to excel in secondary and in tertiary education. Realizing Africans of all works of life for seek education, some rich people have taken over the schools and they are making good, reaping real profit out of it by providing very little in return. We had noted the recruitment of some unqualified expatriates and the homeless from abroad to become primary and secondary school teachers. Though these schools attract students especially from rich parents, their graduates can hardly read and write well while their English and American slangs are mimics at best.
If we start at the primary schools, in place of these exotic or glorified babysitting schools, we may be able to create our own Cooperative Community School. This is not new in Nigeria. We still remember Jakande schools that some hated so much but those that benefited most from it are unwilling to defend. It got to a point where Lagosians could not find house boys and girls anymore because Jakande provided poorly equipped schools everywhere, even on the water and swamps. The glass was either half full or half empty. We can all agree that primary education must reach greater heights.
Well, Cooperative School can be different from Jakande schools. It will borrow from the old lesson teachers of those days that supplemented those good schools during good times in Nigeria. We still have individual evening lessons like the good old days but the focus these days is in making money not penchant for teaching. Full time teachers in many of our schools are either not getting paid or underpaid. We may not be surprised that even in the exotic schools, homeless recruits from overseas get better paid than locals. The profit is sucked away from the most important contributors and poorly trained students.
The bottom line here is that we are not short of those critical components for the takeoff of Cooperative Community School in your own localities. We also have many retired or pensioned folks whose uses in the communities have been discarded. Some are teachers but so are accountants, lawyers, doctors, farmers, traders whose skills are still sharp. Some are willing to volunteer their time for little or no stipend to get the opportunity to pass on their skills and help our children; so that providers and receivers can be useful.
We also need a land where the Cooperative Community schools can be situated. If we have a land, we can start under the tree like the old days lesson, then to Jakande building and progress to adequate facility. Remember that most of the old evening teachers started that way until the number of their students increased. If you are wondering who is going to give land for primary school, it has to come as donations from the communities, the local government and the good philanthropists that are willing out of dedication and generosity. Dedicating their time can be as precious.
It may seem simple on paper but this is no small task. Each community effort is what will make the difference. There is no good school anywhere in the world, except those the community participates in and make good. Community participation is more important than money. Indeed, the more we rely on donations in materials and skills, the higher the chances of success. As soon as we focus on money, it will override community donation in skills and materials. People still remember how houses were built with individual and community effort. Believe it or not, the best houses in middle class neighborhood in the US are those of carpenter and plumbers as they help one another out to reduce expenses.
In a nonprofit organization like Cooperative Community School, administrative cost must never exceed ten percent and in this case administrators will get paid in credits and with donations in materials and stipend for their skills like teachers, janitors, cooks, builders, carpenters, plumbers and other that will build and teach in the schools. This is no small endeavor but it must start small and individually localized to attract donations in material, skills and talents. They must be able to learn from one another to improve strategies.
There is no way we can get up one day and start our projects without the approval of our local governments. We need them to also donate land while we recruit teachers and other workers. If we are good enough like those Jakande schools that people mistook in those days for private schools, we may be able to take over many of the school in disrepute today. But it must not be our mission to take over schools since there are rooms for many more good schools. How we deemphasize cash and rely mostly on exchange credits will have to be worked out. But credit must be given and shared equally regardless of skills.
The most challenging part of this project is how donation of skills and materials will be calculated into credits and how those credits can be used to enroll their children in Cooperative Community schools. As long as we understand that the schools are not free, parents have to contribute something into Cooperative Community School to be eligible. Each of us donates according to his or her means or talent. No service is too small or too big in terms of credits gained from our donation. A retired accountant with grown kids may donate his credit to the less privileged that wants to attend a Cooperative Community School.
We cannot over emphasize that the success of each project of Cooperative Community School depends on what is put in and taking focus away from money as the basis of founding. Once looter realize money is not there for them to make, the project will be left to dedicated individuals. What may look good on paper may turn out to be useless if it is not properly implemented. The advantage is that this is not brand new; it is revitalization of the good old days when education belonged to dedicated people only.
God created each and every one of us with a talent; there must be a useful need for each parent in each of these schools. If you cannot be a teacher, you can be a janitor, a sowing mistress, okada, a trader or market lady. If you are rich enough, you can donate a highly skill needed teacher but salary will be negotiated between the teacher and the donor. If you cannot donate anything because you are disabled, others can donate their credits to your child. We must try as much as we possibly can to eliminate or reduce our favorable dispositions.
Ideas are just that until it is implemented. If you know willing participants in your communities, please pass this along. You never know who is going to own it and turn it into reality. Sometimes it is what one, two or many people are thinking about and what others can run with. It can be modified, improved on, rectified but the goal is to provide local quality education for our children with full community participation devoid of greed. It will allow us to focus on the need of the children and the culture of the communities since we will have limited resources.
AGENTS OF THE RICH FLEECING DEAR COUNTRY TO DEATH
Africans have many ways of communications one of which is the Yoruba proverb that caution against the fleecing of dog that ends up killing both the dog and the flea. Ipa npa re, olohun npa aja. Before a revolution, we always witness celebration of greed in the high places while the working class is admonished for being poor because they are stupid and lazy. Indeed, many poor people spend so much of their time working two or three jobs, they hardly have time to think about how to milk the system. Yet, politicians and their agents demand more sacrifice from us.
They want to bring recurrent expenditure down by one hundred basis points per year in four years. In other words, by 4% in four years, just don\’t get the rich mad. Ebele, if that is the radical change you promised for our future, you have started on the wrong foot. There are people like Nigerian trained Obiageli Ezekwesili ready to rock the boat you promised in Nigeria. Politicians may not agree with her echoing our voices on governors diverting local government allocation or Lamido Sanusi on jumbo salaries of politicians. We are waiting for Africa super-rich especially in Nigeria where billions are known stolen every day to hit them radically where it hurts, not hit the poor again and again.
Nigeria paid billions of dollars to Paris Club in interest and penalty that dwarf a loan the Country hardly needed then or now. In spite of OXFAM, Church of England, members of United States Congress and many respectable local and foreign economists crying out against powerful and rich countries taking such enormous amount from a poor African country, accomplices in World Bank worked out a deal, their greatest accomplishment, that made Nigeria paid more than we ever paid since the days of slavery.
We are in the days of greed is good because it is motivating and it is built on economic principle that has demonstrated the superiority of capitalist system of government. In order to be as successful, they must preach to Africa countries to move into the new millennium or perish. A fraction of their profit is calculated as foreign aid, development assistance, arms, genetically modified agricultural seed that can only be reproduced by big international corporations and foreign expatriates also bring them back huge profit. The suckers of these foreign aids see it as a welcomed development for Africa. None of all the aids combined to Africa is up to a billion of all the billions they took from Nigeria.
These same accomplices worked for World Bank, IMF and other International Thief Thief when they asked African countries to devalue our money. Africa middle-class has never recovered while IMF regretted, the accomplices, enemy within, kept quiet. There is a big complex in Africa that if you worked for international companies you must be better than those local economists from African universities; they will never listen to anyway. It does not mean all local economists are pure since we still remember respectable Mr. Ani, head of Peat Marwick that taught Abacha how to hide his loot. Another Nigerian President looking for foreign miracle, called one of the accomplices back again for encore, asking poor Nigerians for more sacrifice. What about shared sacrifice?
Segun Aganga and Okonjo-Iweala never emulate super rich billionaires in United States of America led by Warren Buffet that came out with conscience asking President Obama to ignore the no tax mongers because they are ready to share the sacrifices with the middle and working-class. The L\’Oreal heiress Lillian Bettencourt of France also led her super rich colleagues declaring their willingness to pay a special contribution. More of the super-rich in other countries may follow. Of course there are people that will say the smart ones amongst the super-rich are being proactive before revolution starts, so that the unruly angry mobs will know which of the rich volunteered to pay more and which of them are scrooges. If foreign accomplices asking only the poor for sacrifice worked “miracles” for Obasanjo, it must work “miracles” for Ebele, abi no be so?
African leaders, politicians and business men and women always chose the rich outside the Continent to copy even when they leave their people in abject poverty. So it is not unlike them to compare their profit, salaries and loot to others as if they live and make their money there. Recently, Tea party politicians have made a name for themselves as selfish extremists willing to do anything to make a buck including bringing the Country down; hidden as tax breaks when tax is the lowest in generation in US. Watch World Bank, IMF and other International Thief Thief economists following the US Tea Party. Don\’t get the rich mad. It is only the poor that can be asked to sacrifice.
Every country has law against aiding and abetting and receiving stolen property. But many banks in developed countries specialized in it while the law enforcements turn a blind eye to such crime even when they know enormous amount of money is coming from poor developing countries. While it is true that the super major international companies and rich also establish headquarters outside their countries to beat the tax system; poor countries suffer most from such practice. No accomplice researched that?
Rich people made countries poor by shedding their responsibilities for shared sacrifice. In Greece people do business under the table to avoid tax and the rich hide their money. While it is true that younger generation supporting the older generation social security and healthcare ratio calls for some creative modification, the developing countries have more than enough young population that are left uncared for. The only similarity is the greed of the politicians using that excuse to deny services in order to launder money.
Jobs creation is not a slogan, 100 basis points cannot create jobs. There is no choice, it is either massive job creation or another recession that will dislocate political parties, families and countries never seen since the depression. This is beyond ethnic ideology or political leaning except those deceiving themselves ready to kill a country with their greed as long as they gain power to allocate more financial resources to their pockets. By creating jobs either by government or business, demand for products and services is increased and more taxes are collected to take care of the young and old that spend all.
Greed is back in a big way. As the income gap between the rich and the poor widens, those fortunate enough to be born to the right parents, places and time think their achievement is through hard work, while others are losers that would not pull up themselves by their bootstraps. Never mind those without straps or boots. So the saying goes like if you work hard, no matter where your area code, zip code, postal code, postcode or location, you can make it. But we know quality of life depends on location.
Anyone that discourages hard work is a fool but a bigger fool is the one born with a silver spoon that derides those born with wooden spoon in their mouth. Sometimes the rich forget where they make their profit. If they do not increase middle-class, purchasing power and sell to the working-class in great numbers, they do not have demand and if there is no demand, they cannot make a profit. Even the rich that make money by trading in money and other creative financial transaction need the invested pension, savings, banking credit cards, loans and mortgages of the working–class. If they fleece dear country to death, there is nothing to go after but one another.
Source: Farouk Martins Aresa
OBAMA GETS OFF ROPE-A-DOPE
Written By Farouk Martins Aresa
Poor Obama, he does not even have a golden foot in his mouth but they beat him black and blue anyway. Each shellacking he got was like a pin on those that still believe in him. There are still some of those left. They claim Obama was on Rope-A-Dope so that they can knock themselves out. Well, another version of what late Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen said about Kennedy to Dan Quale: We know Mohammed Ali. Mohammed Ali is our friend. Mr. President, you are not Mohammed Ali. Politics is different from boxing.
It got to a point, people were asking for Hilary Clinton. Anytime Obama is in trouble, we want to know if Hilary Clinton is still available. The fact is, the Republicans cannot wait to get their hands on Hilary. They wore the “Right Wing Conspiracy” she called them as an honor. These days, they have even moved further to the Right. If nobody wished them on Bill Clinton during that saga, why would we want them on poor Hilary?
Nevertheless, Obama took so much abuse, Republicans even gloat that they had him good and got away with more than ninety-eight percent of what they wanted. It makes people wonder if Obama is really a Chicago politician or it is the compromise he said is in his genes that overcame him. Chicago politicians are known for rough play and are proud of it. Obama also did some rough play in Chicago. Not this time as a President.
Needless to say, it makes liberals mad like hell. The man is just ready to submit before negotiation starts. By trying to place himself at the center as expected, Obama has been dragged to the Right leaving Democrats panting with anger. They say he is craving for Independents votes like Clinton did. When Jimmy Carter danced too much to the Right, Edward Kennedy challenged him in the primary. Though Carter joked that he whooped his ass, they lost the big fight to Ronald Reagan. Democrats may have learned from it.
The fact that everyone in the economic circles worldwide, is afraid to call tax by its name, including Ms. Lagarde of IMF call for caution, demonstrate how far conservatives have captured the political ideology in their favor. They call it all kinds of names but not taxes. They call it income tax reform, revenue enhancement, fees or balanced approach to deficit. The conservatives are revolting because their claim is paying too much tax when in actual fact, they are paying less than they have ever paid in the United States.
Canada suddenly came up as a country where businesses pay lower taxes. This is the same Canada they trash its Healthcare, where their social services have been compared to that of socialist Europe. These cherry picks must not go on without adequate answer from Obama if he wants to be reelected. They talk about Germany as if it is not part of the same socialist Europe where the Union is strong compared to Republican governors trying to break Union because Unions have increased number of middleclass in America.
Warren Buffet could not hold it in any longer. He begged the tax dodgers to please not cuddle the rich to death. Most of the rich people switched their income to dividends so that they can pay less or no payroll taxes that is lower than all the countries they cry about. Some of the American companies made their headquarters offshore as far as Belgium, another socialist Europe since they could not hide in Bermuda anymore. The only problem is that they still need America for their life style and to sell their products.
Looking at Obama potential challengers from the Republican Party, we see the latest from Texas. They are not hard to spot by starting with their prayers asking us to close our eyes so that they can clean us out. The same prayer they used to bless the slaves, serfs and working class that their reward is in heaven, that bless us before going to wars, and condemn gays for bringing aids to themselves, abortions of any issue so that the children can be deprived of nutrition and education. Their God is not our God.
Texas has now become the miracle state even when Massachusetts, New York, New Mexico, Vermont and Montana have lower unemployment. Massachusetts, Vermont and New York Unions, social and health services have not brought the governments down. Texas took first backwards in percentage of population uninsured and last in percentage of low income population covered by Medicaid, lowest employer based health insurance and per capita spending on Medicaid and mental health. They have the most minimum wagers .Yet they have a governor that want to showcase the state.
Governor Perry of Texas need not pity African Americans and Hispanics with higher unemployment in America. You better watch out if you are one of those, your chance of being criminalized is highest in Texas. It is the number one execution capital and one of the highest dropout rates for juveniles; with the greatest number incarcerated in adult prisons. But good business for oil companies with big Federal corporate welfare and Texas also comes first in the number of inmates shipped to private for-profit prisons. This will be a good deterrent for those walking on the part of crime, not for those innocent until proven guilty or wayward children that should be rehabilitated.
The old Obama with a fighting spirit is missed and he needs to come out swinging back like Mohammed Ali and stinging Republicans like a bee. The independent voters both parties are after also like a fighting spirit and someone they can rely on his stand. As USA get closer to 2012 Election, Obama has to come up with a Job Bill by making the rich and the tax dodgers pay more as shared sacrifice. Every respectable economist has called for it. Otherwise another recession will kill Obama’s chances for second term.
Obama must take at least $5 billion from money paid back from stimulus for new hiring of at least 250,000 or more low-income Americans that will spend it on needs quickly and additional money from anywhere to repair infrastructure and increase demand in the jobless economy. It will be far better than the minimum wage economy created for migrants in Texas without giving them social or healthcare as their children drop out of school into the criminal system. All the stimulus big business got, they still sit on it and refuse to lend to small business or hire people. It does not prevent fat salary though.
If we think taxes on the rich and powerful especially those that use money to make money without producing any tangible products, is sacred. Then we are calling for and inviting another recession. Of course they will blame it on Obama. They held the world economy hostage with debt ceiling and blame it on Obama. The financial market was brought to its knees, by lack of overdue reform, they blame Obama. Now they want to kill the same financial and other regulations after fighting to weaken it.