Monday, November 29, 2010

What must be done

So the CBN governor Sanusi has let the cat out of the bag with regards the worst kept secret in Nigeria. Our hedonistic legislators are sucking the juices out of our country and doing it with an alarming disdain for the opinions of those of us who (on paper at least) voted them in.

Being that they know that we don't like them, they are also making moves to make sure that they remain in office by hook, crook or brook. From what I hear, a lot of Nigerians attended today's public hearing in Abuja to let them know that the proposed amendment to Section 87 of the 2010 Electoral Act does not fly.


Riddle me this: how for fuck's sake can only 469 individuals be responsible for 25% of the expenses of a country of 150 millions?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The tipping point

Is there much to say on this?

Yes there is, and it cannot be nearly enough.

The rogues that populate our National Assembly, knowing fully well that they will not win a free and fair election in their individual homes are looking to perpetuate themselves in office through the back door.

The obnoxious clause that they want to put in the Electoral Act will make each Representative and Senator a member of the individual's party's National Executive Committee, essentially giving each person the power to do and undo within his party. Is there a need to expatiate on what this means?

The question becomes directed to us the people of Nigeria. Where is the tipping point? At what point will we stop making noise and actually take action, sustained action?

I am exhausted.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Letter to Paul Adefarasin

“Do not vote for a Muslim President...there are about 100million Christians in Nigeria who must determine who becomes the President of their country...Muslims have ruled the country for long...Nigerians used to be the most educated people in the world until the likes of Abacha and Murtala Muhammed scattered our educational system to slow down the South so that the North can catch up, instead of speeding up the North.”

The above statement was credited to the senior pastor of the House on the Rock church, Paul Adefarasin. It is said that he made that statement last Sunday, 14 November. I have my doubts about the veracity of that statement, but if true, Mr. Adefarasin has unleashed a very dangerous demon into the Nigerian political space.

The truth though is that religion has always been used by the Nigerian elite, especially those in the northern part of the country as a means of achieving their ends, and not bettering the lives of their people. But in a situation were this country is trying very hard to turn round the corner, listening to a respected pastor such as Adefarasin who has a large following utter such rubbish is not only alarming, it is deeply disappointing.

Let's look at what he has said point by point.

1 – Do not vote for a Muslim President.

I wonder where the religion of a man ever determined his ability to govern. One of the most progressive leaders in the entire twentieth century was a fellow called Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern day Turkey. He was a Muslim, but early on he recognised the need for the separation of religion and state. Conversely, some of the most repressive rulers to straddle the same century, and in my mind I have a certain Stalin, actually had religious training in a Christian seminary!

2 – 100million Christians

Where did we get 100million Christians from? If memory serves me correct, Nigeria has about 150 million people, almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims in the vast majority, then a small percentage who practice traditional religions. If one wants to be pedantic, then the census figures actually indicate that our Muslim population is closer to 50% while the Christian population is closer to 40% of the total. That would mean that we have more like 60million Christians in the country. Where did Mr. Adefarasin get the remaining 40millions from?

3 – Muslims have ruled the country for long

I can't argue with that one, it is true.

4 – Nigerians used to be the most educated people in the world

Err, rain check here sir. Nigerians have NEVER been the most educated people in the world, and the way things are going now, will never be. The statistics are there for the entire planet to see. At the time the colonial rulers left us in 1960, Nigeria had a single digit literacy rate. Today it is at the 68% mark. How in the name of all that is good and holy did we then become the most educated people in the world? That is ignorance speaking, and the most dangerous kind of ignorance, the kind that people listen to, and act on. For the sake of clarity, Nigeria's educational growth actually began to get retarded under the leadership of Yakubu Gowon, a Christian. Afterall, it was his regime that in 1974 authorised the take over of all missionary schools by the government, and that was when standards began to plummet.

You see dear Pastor Paul, a man in your position should not be misleading the gullible and dimwitted with statements that distort historical facts. A man in your position should tell people the right thing to do. The right thing to do in Nigeria's special case is for all of us to take a critical look at the people who have offered themselves up for election, decide which one of them is the least bad one (yes, they are almost all bad), vote for that least bad person, then make sure that our votes count. The mantra dear Paul should be Register-Select-Vote-Protect, not Muslim-No-Christian-Yes. What I am saying to you in a nutshell, dear Paul is very simple. It doesn't matter what version of God a man worships and what he chooses to call the Most High, be it Allah, Bog or Chukwu. What matters is the man himself, and what he is capable of achieving.

The honest truth is this, given the antecedents of Christians such as Orji Uzor Kalu, Gbenga Daniel, Lucky Igbinedion and Peter Odili, I would rather vote for Diokpa Kene Chukwurah in my village who up until this day worships Amadioha as our forefathers did. At least I know for a fact that he is an honest man.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Okada and waste

Imagine having to move from point A to B, and all you get around you are flies buzzing at you and dogging your every movement. Very annoying oi? Well, that is the feeling that I get every time I get into my car and have to face the numerous motorcycle-taxis (okada) that afflict this city of Lagos. What makes it more pronounced for me is that whenever I go to other places such as Abuja, Owerri, Accra, and more recently, Port Harcourt, and I see the lack of okada in those places, and the stunning difference their absence makes, I wonder why this city I call home is so afflicted.

Another problem of the okada is the sheer risk that accompanies the act of getting on one and taking a ride in traffic. You see, the unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of okada riders in Lagos have absolutely no concept of safety as a term, let alone traffic rules. Many of these guys are also stark illiterates, so they are more likely to take risks that are injurious to the healths of them and their passengers. This is compounded by the fact that the average Lagos driver is a very impatient animal, and is thus very likely to get into a mechanical altercation with an okada. In such conversations, the okada is always the loser, and sometimes, in a big way!

Yet, I use okada almost everyday. This makes me a hypocrite.

I am not happy that I have to do that, but given my sometimes very busy schedule, I find that I almost always do not have a choice, if I must make up all the appointments that exist on my scheduler. You see, Lagos has a poor road network, and to compound that, the city has poor road infrastructure with most roads pock-marked by pot holes in benign cases, to outright gullies in routine cases. The Abeokuta Expressway is a very good example of a road full of gullies, and this is a major road that extends from Oshodi, through Ikeja, through Egbeda, through Iyana-Ipaja, through Agege to the boundary with Ogun State! Imagine the number of people who live along that axis, then imagine the amount of time wasted in traffic there.

What our leaders never seem to do is to put an economic cost to some of these things, and I think that it is important for that to be put so we can see how the daily traffic grind in this city affects our lives. The average Lagosian worker spends 3 to 6 hours each day in traffic depending on where he lives. That comes to limits of 12.5% to a full 25% of his time in traffic. In economic terms, and assuming a state GDP of N3.86 trillion (2008 figures), it simply means that somewhere in the region of N482.5 billion to N965 billion a year is wasted in traffic! I agree that the Naira is not the most valuable currency, so at the current rate (US$1 = N150), let us see how much Lagos loses to traffic each year: somewhere in the region of US$3.22 to US$6.43 billion a year!

Then we wonder why despite the restrictions on okada in Lagos, they appear to be making a come-back?

By the way, how much would it cost in US$ terms to get a proper light-rail service up and running in this city in one year? How much would it cost to kick-start the ferry services since Lagos is situated on a lot of water bodies?

I'll attempt to answer that for light-rail: at the moment, the cost of Light-rail is in the region of US$35 million per mile. Using Oshodi as a central hub (think London Victoria), the distance between Oshodi and Agege is 4.63 miles, the distance between Oshodi and Badagry is 33.42 miles, the distance between Oshodi and Obalende is 8.98 miles, the distance between Oshodi and Ikorodu is 10.76 miles. Laying tracks between each of these points would pretty much cover the whole of Lagos (except for the Lekki peninsula). 4.63+33.42+8.98+10.76=57.79 miles of track. Multiply that by US$35 million, and we get a figure of US$2.02 billion. Which is less than what we waste in traffic each year, lower or upper limit!

When are we going to wake up?