Friday, December 31, 2010

Chxta's Wall: 2010 Honours List

Today is the last day of the year 2010. For me, this year was one that began with promises, went on to lows, but is ending on a high. In this year, I left a job that I loved in order to stand on my own, and as things are panning out, it may not have been a bad decision, the year ahead will tell me better, but eventually, only time can tell. The coming year, 2011 is going to be a pivotal year for me, my country and all who inhabit it. I really hope things turn out well, you see, much as I am not very optimistic that the General Elections would pass us by peacefully and orderly, I must acknowledge that I have to do my bit in building this 'ere space I call home.

I'd like to extend my appreciation to the following people who helped make 2010 tick for me. I hope I haven't left anyone out of this list, if I have, no vex. I don dey old, so brain no too dey retain like that again. Let's see if we can in 2011, reach for the stars...

Abidemi Dairo
Abiodun Martins Adeniran
Abraham Oghobase
Ada Nwanguma
Ada Oriaku
Adams Gbolahan
Adaobi Nwaubani
Adebola Williams
Adegboyega Laniyan
Aderinsola Ajao
Adewolu Adene
Afam Nnaji
Aisha Yolah
Akachi Okoro
Akintayo Abodunrin
Akin Akintayo
Akpan Utande
Alex Yangs
Allwell Okpi
Amaka Okafor
Amaka Okwudiafor
Amaka Uraih
Amara Nwankpa
Ameen Kamaldeen
Amma Ogan
Aniedi Udo-Obong
Andrew Enenmoh
Anthony Smart
Anino Serrano
Anita Wikina
Anne Ariawhorai
Arit Erete
Arit Serki
Asmau Suleiman
Atom Lim
Austin Aghenta
Awwal Abubakar
Awele Ogeah
Ayo Bolaji
Ayo Okulaja
Azubuike Emordi
Azubuike Onianwa
Bade Iriabho
Baffa Saleh
Balkiss Adesokan
Barbara Rednak
Bayo Anjorin
Bayo Olotu
Bayo Omisore
Bayo Oyewole
Ben Egwuatu
Benjamin Ezeamalu
Bhola Durosawo
Bibi Bakare-Yusuf
Bisola Edun
Blaze Otokpa
Bola Odepe
Bola Sonola
Boma Graham-Douglas
Boma Harrison
Bruno Ozordi
Buba Magaji
Bubay Omordia
Buki Animashaun
Bunmi Nwanze
Bunmi Sowande
Caroline Duffield
Charles Eboka
Charles Ifinedo
Chichi Opurum
Chichi Uraih
Chiedu Mokogwu
Chiedu Onyido
Chiedu Uraih
Chif Umejei
Chika Ihejimba
Chike Chukwumah
Chikodili Emelumadu
Chima Onwe
Chimezie Okoye
Chinedu Iroche
Chinelo Onwualu
Chineze Chukwumah
Chinwe Obinwanne
Chinwe Mpi
Chioma Chuka
Chiweta Uraih
Chizoba Onuchukwu
Chris Ihidero
Chris Newsom
Christian Edigin
Chude Jideonwo
Chuks Anakudo
Chuks Ochonogor
Chuma Uraih
Chychy Nwanze
Cynthia Mosunmola
Cosanna Preston
Damilola Oyedele
Damola Owoseye
Daniel Momoh
Daniel Osunkoya
Dapo Olorunyomi
Darlo Uyi
David Ajikobi
David Omene
David Sancha
Davou Rwang
Dawn Idiodi
Dayo Adedayo
Debbie Ikenebomeh
Debe Nwanze
Debo Olatunde
Debra Mamorsky
Deji Ishmael
Deji Oguntade
Dele Momodu
Dele Nedd
Dele Olojede
Demola Sadiq
Dennis Ikhile
Deshola Komolafe
Doris Anakudo
Dubem Maka
Ebere Nwankpa
Ebi Bozimo
Ebose Khan
Efe Egborge
Ehidiamen Anao
Ehi Uraih
Ehima Eluem
Ehis Aiwerioghene
Ehis Asibor
Elisha Bala-Gbogbo
Elisha Sulai
Eloho Omofuman
Eloho Om'Iniabohs
Elor Nkereuwem
Emilia Asim-Ita
Emma Nwanze
Emeka Anugom
Emeka Ogboh
Emeka Onyekonwu
Emmy Otakpor
Eseosa Williams
Eyinmisan Nikatsekpe
Fadakemi Akinfaderin
Fatimah Ibrahim
Femi Adebesin-Kuti
Femi Imoru
Ferdinand Adimefe
Fiammari Zoaka
Fidelis Anosike
Fisayo Olanrewaju
Florida Chime
Francesca Uriri
Francis Nwandison
Fred Oghumu
Funke Hassan
Funmi Ajala
Gbenga Olorunpomi
Gbenga Sesan
Gbenro Adeoye
Glory Edozien
Grace Mang
Graham Bae
Habeeb Fashinro
Habiba Balogun
Hadiza Mohammed
Hauwa Mukan
Henry Okelue
Idemudia Abaku
Idris Akinbajo
Ifeanyi Alika
Ifeanyi Okonkwo
Ifeanyi Uraih
Ifedayo Adebayo
Ify Ihekunna
Ihechukwu Ibeji
Ijeoma Amadiobi
Ijeoma Ezeokeke
Ike Chukwumah
Ike Igboanugo
Ikenna Ivenso
Iolanda Muoguilim
Ire Oyegbami
Ireti Bakare-Yusuf
Isiaka Gbodiyan
Isoken Afe
Iwedi Ojinmah
James O'Brien
Jane Okonkwo
Jayne Usen-Auguoye
Jennifer Fairfield
Jeremy Weate
Jide Alaka
John Membu
John Okosun
John Osadebe
Joseph Ewah
Joy Imanyi
Juba Aderemi
Jude Ezue
Jude Okala
June Okafor
Julum Nwanze
Jumoke Aruleba
Kadaria Ahmed
Kaidi Obiakor
Kayode Aruleba
Kayode Babalola
Kayode Ogunbunmi
Kayode Ogundamisi
Kayode Olanipekun
Kayode Soile
Kayode Thomas
Kemdi Alika
Ken Nwanze
Kendall Ananyi
Kirk Anthony
KK Ogu
Kofo Awonuga
Kola Lawal Bakare
Kola Osinowo
Kola Munis
Koribo Harrison
Kris Nwokolo
Kuso Ashiofu
Kuso Elue
Kuso Uraih
Lala Akindoju
Lanre Badmus
Lao Sarunmi
Lawrence Ijezie
Lilyan Kiyyali
Lola Masha
Lola Okusami
Lucky Idedia
Lynda Mordi
Mamoke Gbemudu
Mandy Brown-Ojugbana
Manny Phillips
Matilda Sola
Martin Matsumiak
Mary Ajayi
Mary Odigbo
Mary Uraih
Mayowa Adekoya
Melissa Skorka
Michael Rosenberg
Michaela Moye
Mohammed Ahmed
Mohammed Mustafa
Mohammed Tukur
Molara Wood
Muhammadu Buhari
Muhtar Bakare
Nadeem Bhutta
Nasir El-Rufai
Ndidi Ibeachum
Ngozi Iyasele
Ngozi Ugbebor
Ngozi Uraih
Nicholas Ibekwe
Nkechi Ogeah
Nkem Ifejika
Nkem Uraih
Nkiru Nwafor
Nkiru Uraih
Nnamdi Chukwumah
Nnamdi Iroaganachi
Nnamdi Okosieme
Nnaziri Ihejirika
Nneka Chukwumah
Nneka Halim
Noel Anosike
Nomso Eze
Nonso Nwanze
Nsitie Obot
Nuhu Ribadu
Oah Ejakhegbe
Obi Mordi
Obiageli Ayalogu
Obidike Okafor
Obinna Ike
Obinna Nwankwo
Obiorah Okafor
Obla Enenmoh
Ochuko Opute
Odinma Uraih
Ofunne Gwam
Oghale Ariawhorai
Oghale Om'Iniabohs
Ohimai Amaize
Ojiaku Uraih
Oje Pogoson
Oje Uadia
Okechi Emuchay
Okechukwu Nnodim
Olaitan Hamza
Olamide Akanbi
Olisa Chiedozi
Olise Wakwe
Olly Owen
Olu Jacob
Omena Abenabe
Omena Daniels
Omo Ehigebolo
Omolola Sotomi
Omotola Jalade
Onome Ariawhorai
Onyeka Nwelue
Onyinye Muomah
Oria Iyayi
Osa Palmer
Osaigbovo Omorogbe
Osita Nwoye
Oti Samuel
Paul Ategie
Paul Ikenebomeh
Paula Morsemde
Peace Fiberesima
Peter Essien
Peter Ikenebomeh
Peter Nkanga
Phil Fletcher
Piers Sanderson
Prosper Oramalu
Queen Martins
Ralph Okeke
Rami Taibah
Regina Ofoegbu-Okonkwo
Richard Essien
Rimini Makama
Ronke Adebanjo
Rume Auguoye
Ruth Nwaru
Sa'adetu Yahaya
Sade Ladipo
Saidu Garba
Sally Obayiuwana
Sam Eke
Sandra Williams
Schola Ijekeye
Scott Igbene
Segun Balogun
Segun Demuren
Seun Lawal
Seyi Bangudu
Sijuwade Salami
Sim Shagaya
Simon Ejembi
Simon Gusah
Singto Saro-Wiwa
Sokari Harrison
Sola Fagade
Sola Odebunmi
Sola Babarinsa
Sola Oludaiye
Solomon Sydelle
Soluzo Nwanze
Somnazu Nwanze
Stella Anywanwu
Subomi Plumptre
Sylva Ifedigbo
Sylvia Ofili
Taiwo Serki
Taj Onigbanjo
Tayo John
Tayo Kehinde
Terfa Tilley-Gyado
Theresa Odion
Thomas de Douhert
Thomas Lemeire
Thomas Momoh
Timothy Igbinosun
Timothy Obaseki
Tobi Oluwatola
Tochukwu Ezeokafor
Tola Oloruntobi
Tolu Akinbo
Tolu Garuba
Tolu Njoku
Tolu Ogunlesi
Tony Chukwumah
Tony Ejimofor
Tony Omereife
Tony Nwabuzor
Tony Nwalor
Tope Animashaun
Toyosi Oshodi
Tracy Lawal
Tunde Eludini
Ubaka Onyechi
Uche Chibututu
Uche Chuta
Uche Ezenna
Uche Nwagboso
Uche Obieme
Udoka Obi
Uju Okafor
Uju Uraih
Usifo Agenmomen
Uso Uraih
Uwa Obayuwana
Uyoyu Onwah
Uzo Orumilade
Vera Ezimora
Victor Dongo
Victor Ehikhamenor
Victor Nwabueze
Victor Uraih
Victoria Nwanze
Vincent Osara
Voke Egborge
Wale Fatade
Wana Udobang
Will Cunningham
Yemi Ademolekun
Yemi Aliu Salami
Yemi Olus
Yomi Omogbeja
Zainab Mohammed
Zino Asalor
Zino Ofoh

Friday, December 24, 2010

A lack of education

After yesterday's Freshly Pressed, someone pointed out to me that the government is doing the exact opposite of what I recommended in an article for NEXT well over a year ago.

While I am not arrogant enough to genuinely believe that I'm the only one with the solutions to Nigeria's myriad of problems, some of these things are simple common sense. You do not sort out a problem of an inadequate educational system by opening more schools. Fix those currently in existence first.

Unfortunately, we don't have people in office that think.

Find below my article from 4 August 2009. Enjoy reading, and merry Christmas.

Where they burn books, ultimately they will burn people.

In 1821 a German writer, Heinrich Heine wrote a play, Almansor where he uttered those famous words. It is quite remarkable that 112 years later, the Nazis burned the original work in a raid on Berlin's Institute of Sex Research. What is even more remarkable is that the people who burned those books in the name of purity in thinking, eventually went on to unleash what is generally acknowledged to be history's greatest show of man's inhumanity to man.

I just watched the video again, of a man dying. It is said that the man in the video was Muhammad Yusuf, and he was executed in cold blood by members of the Nigeria Police Force in Maiduguri, Nigeria as part of their fight against the Boko Haram sect whose actions had for a few days unleashed terror on the populace of five states in the North-East quadrant of Nigeria.

For the records, my feelings about the actions of the men of the police are ambivalent at best. It must be made clear that as far as I am concerned, people like the late Mr. Yusuf (Allah forgive him his sins) are better removed from the mass of humanity for the benefit of all mankind.

However, what must also be made clear here, is that extra-judicial killing is horribly wrong, and the people involved in this must be brought to justice, ranging from the person who pulled the trigger, all the way to the person in Abuja/Maiduguri who gave the order for the execution. Make no mistakes, this writer is dead certain that someone, somewhere, is trying to cover up something messy, and there was the possibility that the late Mr. Yusuf would have squealed, and squealed loud and clear, so he had to be removed from the way.

However, the unfortunate death of Mr. Yusuf is not the focus of this article, too many of the excellent writers for NEXT have written about his demise and the allied events for my views to add much more to the discussion. I can bet that the policemen who were responsible for Mr. Yusuf's murder will not be able to justify under any circumstances what they have done. That is a lack of critical thinking...

The policeman who wielded the gun that killed Mr. Yusuf, and his colleagues who encouraged him are like the majority of the Nigeria Police Force, and sadly the majority of Nigerians born after 1973 (myself included), the victims of an incomplete education.

I can think of a hundred phrases to describe Nigerian education, none of which can appear on a website such as this. It is only a system of education such as that which we practice here in Nigeria that can produce policemen who have absolutely no clue of what their constitutional rights towards felons are. AND IT IS THE FAULT OF SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENTS.

For too long lip service has been played to the education sector in this country, and we are beginning to, starting from our security services, see the effects of that criminal act. Of course it has spread to our political scene, more than half our 'elected' officials are literate only in the sense that they can put the letters of the English alphabet together to form words, and make sense of those words, but those same people lack the capacity for critical thinking. Ultimately, this lack of proper education will affect all sectors of Nigerian society.

During colonial times, and extending into the First Republic, Nigerian education was of good standard. At the secondary level, the government controlled a handful of government colleges, which were used as the standard that all other schools must meet to remain in business. A lot of the other schools were run by the Christian missionaries, and their standards were at par with the standards of the government colleges.

For example, a child attending Christ the King College, Onitsha or Queen of the Rosary College, also in Onitsha, missed nothing that his or her contemporary who attended Government College, Umuahia gained. Neither did he or she gain anything that the chap in Umuahia missed. Inspectors from the Directorate (later Ministry) of Education went out on a regular basis to access what these private schools were doing, and if standards were found to be slipping, the school was given a warning, then shut down if the slide continued.

The Nigerian state also funded as at 1970, six universities at Ibadan, Zaria, Nsukka, Lagos, Ile-Ife and Benin. The standard of these institutions of higher learning were at the time comparable with anything to be found anywhere, and the Nigerian graduate who decided to proceed for more research abroad after his Bachelor's degree did so on an equal footing with his peers from other parts of the world, and did so simply because the best supervisors for graduate research (as a result of a longer period of academic tradition) were in the great learning centres of Europe and America.

Somewhere along the line the standard fell, and as things now stand, primary and secondary education in Nigeria are in a mess. The standards of our universities is such that to get a more rounded educational experience, the average Nigerian student needs to go for a Masters degree in the West in what has essentially become a finishing school system.

Why did standards fall so?

Government intervention is solely to blame in this writer's view. At some point in the 1970s, an 'indigenisation' decree was introduced, and all private schools in the country (which were mainly mission schools) were seized from the missionaries. Then a rash of universities were established. The government had abdicated its role as standards regulator, and had become an active player in the sector.

With the way all things Nigerian are quite unfortunately run, no consideration was given to the need to properly plan for this rapid expansion, neither was any consideration given to proper citing of institutions of higher learning. Instead they were established in the home-towns of whosoever happened to be in power at the time of establishment (Ekpoma is an example of this), and when such a person was swept away from office, either the institution was abandoned to fend for itself (Ago-Iwoye as an example), or a satellite campus was hurriedly established (Abraka as an example).

Many teachers who at the same time were civil servants, were abandoned just like the rest of the Civil Service, and of course being human, had to do other things to keep body and soul together. This led to drastically plummeting standards as teachers essentially abandoned the classrooms for more lucrative side ventures. Meanwhile, funds that were meant for schools were diverted to the pockets of politicians and soldiers. Buildings collapsed, infrastructure deteriorated, and student numbers multiplied.

At the same time, the Nigerian demand for paper qualification meant that more and more students in their desperation for the jobs that would lead them out of poverty became less and less averse to cheating their way through qualification examinations. A lot of times with the active connivance of their parents, and in many cases with the help of teachers who were simply out to make a buck.

Apparently to one and all, government's direct participation in education has been nothing short of a disaster, and those who can afford it are doing the only logical thing. They are voting with their feet and leaving in large numbers. Despite the recession in the West, flights from Nigeria will be filled to capacity next month with another batch of students going to begin finishing school (sorry Masters degrees). Some will come back home after a year, most will stay for longer, and Nigeria will be the poorer for it.

What is the way forward then?

The first thing that should happen is that the government should pull out almost completely from running education in Nigeria. We can ill-afford several under-funded and improperly run institutions all over the place. We must return to the model of having a few well funded, institutions which act as a standard for others to follow. Autonomy has to be the watch word, especially in the research centres.

Personally I would suggest that only the six first generation universities in Nigeria - Ibadan, Zaria, Nsukka, Lagos, Ile-Ife and Benin remain under government control to be massively funded. There is no reason why the Electrical Engineering department at Ife for example cannot be given a grant of a hundred million Naira to use and try and come up with a permanent solution for our power problem. Neither is there any reason why the Legal faculties of Zaria and Benin cannot put heads together to rewrite the Nigerian constitution.

The universities which are turned over from government control should be privatised or closed. Not turned over to the state governments because they would only become glorified secondary schools. Those schools that are successfully privatised should be set against each other and against the remaining federal institutions in rigorous academic competition. Let prospective students vote with their applications.

School fees should be increased as this would also force quality up. The best who cannot afford the fees should be granted scholarships in a competitive and transparent manner so that only the best get places.

Central examinations such as JAMB should be sent to where they belong, the garbage bin. The only central examination worth its salt is the secondary school leaving examination, and that should not be used as an entrance examination for the universities, as that defeats the purpose. Then again, there should be a de-emphasis on university education and an emphasis placed on apprenticeships. Of course there should be proper remuneration for blue collar workers, but that is outside the scope of this piece.

We must not forget the quality of our academics. Frankly, a good number of them are (insert inflective here), and that is fact. Many of them need to go find other jobs where their talents (or lack of) would be put to better use. Unions such as ASUU need to be banned for good. Why should teachers be spending time unionising?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why are we so tame?

A few days ago, the President of my country took the liberty of going to a religious convention where almost a million Nigerians were gathered. In full view of the public and watching cameras, the President was called out to the podium after asking the gathered crowd to pray for him, he knelt down before the leader of the church for prayers. The congregation was impressed, and most with whom I have interacted afterwards are singing high praises of the President and his 'humility'.

Remember the outcry that greeted Barack Obama when he bowed to the Emperor of Japan?

What my countrymen have failed to realise are two things: the current occupier of the office has actually devalued the office of President, Federal Republic of Nigeria (again refer to Obama's experience), and he has just pulled of a cynical political stunt which had achieved its aim of hoodwinking people into believing that he is a very pious man (remember that Obasanjo when he was looking for votes went to this same place). At the same time, the President has pushed out of the window, the lesson that can be learned from Matthew 6:5 which for the records states, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."

The meaning of that verse is as unambiguous as the statement, "the sky is blue".

As if to prove me right in saying that his actions at the Redeemed Camp last Friday were a cynical political stunt, Goodluck Jonathan and his convoy of bumbling idiots last night caused what can only be described as traffic hell. They closed down the 3rd Mainland Bridge. All because a book of the President's Facebook quotes was being launched.

The President's Facebook quotes!

I don't want to go into the argument about the value of a compilation of Facebook quotes, but I must ask what they will add to the body of knowledge, and why the launch of such a book should attract such a humongous event?

For the records, 3rd Mainland Bridge at 12km is the longest bridge on the continent. Because of the number of areas in Lagos that can be accessed through that bridge, it services over a million people each day. The traffic on that bridge has actually gone up slightly since the road-works at the Orile axis began. Driving at a constant 100km/h on that bridge will take you across it in 12 minutes. Now imagine the hell that people went through yesterday simply because of a political gimmick?

My anger however is not directed at Goodluck Jonathan. In my view, this event shows that he is absolutely no different from the politicians around him, and the vast majority of those who came before him. My anger is directed at Nigerians.

Why are we so tame?

When I complained about this incident on the internet, a friend of mine admonished me that since he is President it is his right to close down traffic. That did I not grow up in Nigeria? Which leader has not done this before? Good question. My reply to that friend would be, the fact that previous Nigerian leaders (most of them military dictators) did it, does not make it right. Why do we as a people have this really annoying tendency of defending what is wrong simply because other people are doing it or have done it before?

Being that this friend of mine lived in the UK for some years, I would point him to the outcry that followed Tony Blair. When returning from a trip to the US in 2006, Mr. Blair's driver decided to avoid traffic by driving on a bus lane! People screamed, Mr. Blair paid the fine and it did not happen again. That my people is a leader who (at least on the surface), panders to the wishes of the electorate who voted him in.

Again, why are we so tame?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Obituary


Anthony Enahoro died this morning.

Born in 1923 in Uromi, present day Edo state, he was the eldest of twelve children. He was edicated at Government College, Uromi, Government School, Owo, and King's College, Lagos and by age 21 had become Nigeria's youngest editor when he joined the Southern Nigerian Defender, Nnamdi Azikiwe's paper which was based in Ibadan. He was to follow Azikiwe to the Comet and then the West African Pilot before becoming Editor-in-Chief at the Morning Star between 1950 and 1953.

He joined the Action Group, and was in the Federal House of Representatives by 1951. It was there that arguably his most famous moment occured when in 1953 he moved the motion for Nigeria's independence. Although the motion did not carry at the time, Nigeria got independence seven years later, and Enahoro remained in the House of Representatives as an opposition member until 1962.

During the Western region crisis of '62, Enahoro was accused of treason. He escaped to the UK in 1963, but was extradited and faced trial along with Obafemi Awolowo. He was sentenced to 10 years. However, after the coup of 1966, he was released, and served as Minister for Information and Labour in Yakubu Gowon's regime from 1967 to 1974. During the Second Republic (1979 - '83) he was a member of the National Party of Nigeria.

Enahoro was the chairman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) during the Abacha years. His public visibility had dwindled in recent years due to failing health. He leaves behind a wife Helen and five children.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Dear Shell staff

How do you feel working for a company that is quite deliberately undermining our (stupid) government?

I'm not asking any of you to leave Shell, because, quite frankly, the reality is that the Nigerian situation is such a harsh one, and as I have learned the hard way, Nigerian employers do not take staff welfare seriously. However, and this applies to all of you who work in multi-nationals, you owe it as a duty to your children (if not yourselves), to take a cold, hard look at the damage you might inadvertently be doing to their futures in the course of your official assignments.

You see, we must understand that the world is a constant battle. That is something that the Asians appear to have understood, hence the Japanese maxim, "business is war".

Multi-nationals are not in our country to make a better life for our people, they are in our country to make a profit, and people like y'all are 'collateral damage' because they cannot make that profit without the aid of some of the locals, you. What your duty is now, is to make sure that in the course of you do not spoil things for all of us, yourselves included, because the day things go belly-up, they will pack up and leave, while you will remain here to suffer the consequences with the rest of us.

I can give a good example: one of the biggest multi-nationals in Nigeria would be the company Schlumberger. Guess what? All of their 'property' in the country are rented. If push comes to shove, they will be off in a minute, and it would be like they were never here.

Speaking of Shell, I was privileged to work in an office just down the road from their global headquarters at Waterloo. I used to pass in front of it every morning. Never once, did a soldier ask me, sorry, bark at me, to keep moving. Same as their offices at Aberdeen. But try standing in front of their offices in Port Harcourt and see the difference. Mobil's Aberdeen office is so nondescript that I still cannot believe that is where I was.

The question is why the double standards?

It is easy to say that we brought this on ourselves given the rather daft 'militancy' that is happening among other things, but the militancy did not begin until 2000. Oloibiri was sunk in 1956. I was there earlier this year, and for the first time since I began to read about the oil matter, I was almost moved to tears. That is what has happened to us. The treatment is different...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wasting our youth

In the last month I have moved from being a full-time employee in a media organisation to being an independent IT consultant. Last week I was in Abuja to meet with a politician looking for help to improve his web presence for his campaign. We had what appeared to be a fruitful discussion until the issue of remuneration came about.


Politician: How old are you?


...My first impulse was to ask him what my age had to do with the price of fish, but in my almost two years back home, I have discovered that you have to be almost subservient when dealing with an older person...


Chxta: I am thirty.

Politician: You are thirty and you are demanding this much money?

Chxta: With all due respect Sir, the price I am asking for is hardly up-market because you already have a functioning website. I am only going to revamp it for you.
Politician: But that price is too much.


...For the sake of clarity, the man wants his website revamped, then run until the elections are over, which essentially is four months of work...


Chxta: Sir, considering what you want, I think the price of (less than the equivalent of US$3 000) is not only fair, but actually quite cheap. I am only coming in at such a low price because I need to build up my profile before I can actually start charging market rates.

Politician: This boy, you have a lot to learn about life. You are too young to be handling that kind of money.


It was at that point that I shut down my tablet, and walked away.


There is no gainsaying that Nigerian employers almost as a rule do not pay staff well. While I was in Abuja, the announcement came that the Federal Government had approved N18,000 as the monthly minimum wage and people celebrated.


Now consider this: NGN18,000 at the current exchange rate is US$120. Take someone in Lagos who is earning that figure, and consider just his NEEDS, forget about his WANTS. Assuming the cheapest possible combo at the nearest Mama Put, he would spend nothing less than NGN100 per meal. Which translates to NGN300 a day for feeding alone, which in turn translates to NGN9,000 a month.

Let us assume that this NGN18,000 earner has decided to cut his coat according to his size, and accordingly is renting just a room in Ijesha. The going rates for such conveniences are NGN6,000 per month. That already totals to NGN15,000. We have not included the cost of transportation, and the cost of maintaining a partner (or casual sex if he does not have a partner). Then some of these people probably have children.


Also note that we assumed that his NGN18,000 earning was tax independent, which it is not!

Just feeding and shelter alone have cost the man 83% of his income. Leaving him savings of NGN3,000 (US$20) for an entire month to do other things. Then God-forbid, he falls sick...


The second thing that came out of this meeting of mine with the politician is our attitude towards young people. This man genuinely believed that because I have spent only three decades on this planet, that I should not handle a certain amount of money. I can almost bet that he would give his kids, who are no doubt younger than I am, much more without blinking if they wanted to throw a party.


The point however, is that as a country we waste our youth, and this waste starts from the day they finish secondary school. Up until that point, Nigeria generally follows the world's pattern of rounding off secondary education at the 16-18-age range. Then we insist that our children all go to the university. Rain check here, university education is not meant for everyone. What happens, is that the majority of Nigerian youths spend on the average two years waiting to get into the university, and that translates to two years of active life wasted.

So our youth gets into the university at age 20, for a four-year course, expecting to graduate at age 24.


Then the Academic Staff (ASUU) and the Federal Government have another altercation, and our friend has to spend a combined total of eighteen months at home. This raises his graduation age to 26. Finally he finishes his university education, and has to sit at home for anything from six months to one year before he goes to start jumping through ropes at the NYSC camp. This takes away one year of his life. He is finally done with NYSC at the ripe old age of 28!


This is the true average age of the unemployed graduate roaming our streets. Now consider the case in other, more advanced countries.

A child finishes secondary school at 18. In some countries he immediately goes for military service, in others he goes off to the university or starts working. His undergraduate studies last for three years, and by age 21 he is ready to be absorbed into the labour force: seven full years before his Nigerian counterpart.

Is there really more to add to this but the question: do you really need a university degree to work in an MTN Call Centre?