Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two good ones...

Henry Okelue tells us that it is time for us to take sides. "Now the elections themselves are upon us. Let us all troop out en-masse, let every Nigerian above the age of 18 go out and vote, let our numbers send a signal to the politicians that it is going to be a different ball game this time around."

Yemi Soneye asks if the opposition is ready to step in if we throw out the PDP next month, in his view, they are not, and removing the PDP might prove to be a disaster. "In all sincerity, none of the present opposition parties in Nigeria have made herself a desirable and worthy successor to the ruling PDP."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lessons learned from living in the USA

Parents report son driving without meds. Cops kill him

The lessons:

Try your hardest to minimize your contact with law enforcement, a.k.a police. This can be done in several ways but the ones that work best are:

1. Minimize your driving. If you can bus, train or cab it, do so with immediate alacrity.

2. Minimize contact with emotional, highly-strung or overly dramatic people. These people will definitely bring the police and your dear self in close contact sooner or later.

3. Lastly, never ever call the police to your residence. This would seem obvious in light of what I have written above, but I will write it anyway. The police are not your friend.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The 53 suitcases

1984: Muhammadu Buhari was the Head of State, his sidekick was the military hardliner Tunde Idiagabon. The government decided to change the currency, in an effort to revamp the economy which had been in freefall since 1981. They also wanted to force the politicains they had deposed to come back with their stolen loot. In those days, the Naira was trading at N1.50 to GB£1, and 85 kobos to US$1. (Yes, this was the exchange rate in those days!!!! If you can lay your hands on a copy of Punch, Daily Times or Punch newspapers from 1985, you can check these facts out for yourself).

As part of the currency conversion excercise nobody was allowed to take any money outside Nigeria's borders. Lo and behold it was reported that the Emir of Gwandu successfully smuggled out 53 suitcases of naira notes, presumably to change into foreign currency abroad before it became worthless.

The press and social critics raised a lot of dust about this, but nothing concrete was done about it. Nevetheless, the credibility of the Buhari regime suffered terribly as a result of this.

The story which eventually became the accepted true-version was that he took the suitcases to the airport, but the customs officer on duty, a certain Alhaji Abubakar Atiku wanted them confiscated and reported to the military government. However, the Emir came to the airport with some army officers, two Colonels who insisted that the Emir must fly out with his Naira laden luggage. In case you were wondering, yes, the customs boss in question is no other than Alhaji Atiku, who would eventually become Vice President.

What happened really was this: Atiku was alleged to have waived all formality to let the Emir and his entourage through without even searching one suitcase. Most customs officers at the scene were shocked and appalled. It was also later alleged that many of the suitcases were filled with money. This incident incensed the then Head of State, General Buhari and his Deputy, Brig. Tunde Idiagbon, who ordered an immediate and thorough investigation into the matter, to the chargrin of the Head of State's then ADC, Maj. Mustafa Jokolo, who was also the Emir's first son.

The Finance Minister at the time, Onaolapo Soleye and another young but influential Army Officer, Col. Chris Alli, tried in vain to plead Atiku's case before Buhari and Idiagbon. Fate conspired in Abubakar's favour just as his trial was all set to go ahead: General Ibrahim Babangida, in an alleged effort to save his own skin, overthrew the Buhari regime. This worked perfectly well for Atiku Abubakar, who was eventually eased out of office (effectively sacked).

...and that, despite the trash being bandied around today, is the true story of the 53 suitcases. Class dismissed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The debate, my thoughts

To be up front, I am NOT going to be voting for any PDP candidate in the coming elections. I am of the opinion that their party has done a lot of damage to Nigeria in the last decade.

However, watching last Friday's NN24 Presidential debate, I was reminded that democracy is all about choice. The debate itself was excellently moderated by 234NEXT's Kadaria Ahmed, my former boss, and it left me wondering about my earlier criticisms of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) candidate, Ibrahim Shekarau. At the start of the debate, I was disappointed in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate's response to the first question thrown at him, about his relationship with the party's head-honcho, Bola Tinubu. But to his credit, Nuhu Ribadu recovered quite well. General Muhammadu Buhari is not as articulate as either of the other two debaters, but you could see that he has a passion on a level that neither of the other two have. And maybe in a democracy that is not good.

You see, democracy by its very nature involves some horse-trading, something I do no think that Buhari is quite capable of. But then I digress...

I must throw in what Timothy Igbinosun, a childhood friend of mine remarked. He said, "Try not to ask the questions in a perfect circle. You will keep catching the first person unawares giving the opponent time to think, analyse the question and jot down responses. Buhari answered majority of questions on impulse (besides the fact that he is not such a good public speaker.) Ribadu picks the rebound from the General's stutter, and Shekarau buries the case smoothly (on top of being a great orator!) So for each question, start with someone new and alternate accordingly."

Very wise words.

I was quite impressed by Mr. Shekarau's performance. My earlier crticisms of him stemmed from his handling of the vaccination issue in Kano some years ago, the very question which Kadaria asked him, and boy, did she corner him. However, the man composed himself well, even though his answer to my cynical mind was a lot of political crap. That aside, Mr. Shekarau appears to have a good understanding of the issues facing Nigerians. I am going to dig into his record as Kano state governor better, and get back to you with my opinion before the elections.

Ribadu also performed well. He is passionate. He also tended to break the rules governing the length of time the speakers were allowed. To less discerning people, he would appear arrogant, but I would call him supremely confident. I think his best response was with regards the question on hospitals. Nigeria NEEDS functioning hospitals in the country.

Frankly, the General's performance was below expectation. However, I blame it on the fact that he is not as articulate as the other two. My biggest disappointment in the debate though, is that no one dwelt on the issue of transportation long enough. Kadaria only gave them 30 seconds or so each on that critical sector.

Ultimately, what came out of yesterday's debate is that there is not much to choose between the candidates, and we still have a long way to go. However, and in my not-so-humble opinion, any one of these three candidates is a better choice than the current President. Especially after the President's slap-in-the-face-to-all-of-us of not turning up. Kadaria was always going to ask the relevant questions, it is obvious that GEJ did not want to face those questions, hence his accepting to be 'interviewed' by a musician the day before.

What is unfortunate is that (and I know that I sound very elitist here) members of the proletariat I spoke to yesterday (two taxi drivers) were so impressed with GEJ's 'humility' in accepting to be interviewed by Kokomaster. That is probably an indicator of direction the coming elections will take. Our people have been so miseducated, that they can no longer tell the difference between shit and roses. The people who had access to yesterday's debate were mainly the elite. The proletariat saw GEJ and his musical performance of the day before, and were impressed by it. The proletariat outnumber the elite almost by 90 to 1.

That, is probably the true tragedy of our existence.