For Nigeria in 2010…..

Dear Lord,<o:p></o:p>

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I do not come to you today as an ungrateful child….I’m not unmindful of how You have remained faithful to your word to me throughout 2009…inspite of my own unfaithfulness.<o:p></o:p>

Aduro gboin gboin l’eyin olododo…..and yet I am anything but righteous.<o:p></o:p>

I know you’ve had my back this year….I see the evidence all around me everyday. <o:p></o:p>

My being alive alone is a testament to the fact that you are not yet done with me….even if I had a thousand tongues, I could never fully tell of the unmerited favour you’ve sent my way in 2009…the brand new mercies I obtain every morning without a charge….your steadfast love which never ceases even when I act the fool…for never holding my stupidity against me….for the increase from grace to amazing grace….these are things which I will never even be capable of saying thank you for, never mind attempting recompense.<o:p></o:p>

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But with everything inside of me that has life; I thank you for 2009.<o:p></o:p>

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Standing on the cusp of 2010, Father Lord please indulge me a few requests.<o:p></o:p>

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All my life you have blessed me through my mother, my father, my brothers and sister, my friends, my church and even through the British government. You’ve blessed me with a wife and son to die for…..by their presence in my life, you’ve daily loaded me with benefits.<o:p></o:p>

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But Dear Lord, in 2010 I come to claim the blessings available to me through my country. I want you to bless me because I’m a Nigerian and for you to channel those blessings to me through Nigeria.<o:p></o:p>

You do not mistakes and there must be a reason why you created me and another 150 million men and women as Nigerians…..you could have put us anywhere else on earth.<o:p></o:p>

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As it is in your nature never to sleep or slumber, Father Lord you would have noticed the madness going on in Nigeria. <o:p></o:p>

I have come to report them to you…the men and women who have constituted themselves as a roadblock to that nation’s progress…..who put themselves and their interests over and above those of every other Nigerian. They carry on as though they are a god unto themselves.<o:p></o:p>

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I only ask that you stand up and they will be scattered. <o:p></o:p>

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I bring in petition before you, the men and women who congregate inside the marquee of madness..under the banner of banality….their sole purpose being to perpetuate their selfish interests over every other Nigerian’s. <o:p></o:p>

They have no right to do this…..sow confusion among them and bring down the marquees on their very heads.<o:p></o:p>

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They are actively working to set back Nigeria by 11 years….they do not mind the sacrifices that have been made to even get us to this point….these people deserve no mercy and Nigeria will be a far better place without them. In 2010, Dear Lord take them out of the equation…. Let them cease to be a cog in the wheel of Nigeria’s progress.<o:p></o:p>

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They insist that a man who is not in control of his own health is the best man to lead Nigeria….they ignore the voice of the majority of Nigerians who beg to differ…they tell us it’s their way or the highway. <o:p></o:p>

It goes against all natural laws that a vibrant nation of 150 million people with energy to burn will be presided over by a man confined to a sick bed.<o:p></o:p>

I do not wish the President evil…but Father Lord do not spare those who actively want this situation to continue.<o:p></o:p>

Let them have a taste of their own medicine….if they insist that Yar’Adua is the best man for Nigeria inspite of all evidence to the contrary, then it must be good enough for them to take instructions in running their own homes from their own children.<o:p></o:p>

Let it be so. Let all those who participated in foisting him on the nation never be able to wash his blood off their hands. <o:p></o:p>

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They insist that their mediocrity is the best for Nigeria and in so doing infect the rest of the populace with this very disease…..the only thing that unleashes their creativity is when they want to outdo themselves in the buffoonery stakes. <o:p></o:p>

Father Lord, in 2010 at the snap of your fingers put them out of their collective misery.<o:p></o:p>

Let the process of power transfer from the current mob to men and women who will wear their country on their sleeves begin. Let good men and women who have been silenced in this madness find their voices again….and let their words…the words you give them…let those words carry weight in Nigeria.<o:p></o:p>

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They buy Justice at the Federal Low Court with the money they looted from Nigerians by the bucketloads…and they have the gall to raise their hands in a black power salute to celebrate their ‘victory’. <o:p></o:p>

Dear God, In 2010 if any such person raises their hands in such a salute to celebrate their odiousness, I ask that you grab such a hand from above them and instantly pull them up into your presence…let them try their luck standing face to face with you.<o:p></o:p>

In the process of taking back Nigeria for those whom you created it for, I ask that you do not spare such people….let them become testimonies to the truth that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’.<o:p></o:p>

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They stick their hands in the treasury and make it an extension of their personal bank accounts….they think nothing of appropriating to themselves the money that belongs to millions of people. <o:p></o:p>

In 2010 let them not know sleep…..let them lie awake at night counting their money…for the rest of their lives. <o:p></o:p>

Let it become a shame in Nigeria to parade around with the trappings of stolen money….give us as Nigerians a new spirit like that….that we will call a thief a thief as opposed to massaging their egos with chieftaincy titles and political office.<o:p></o:p>

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They line up severally…rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of getting their hands on the wealth of the nation when it is their ‘turn’ in the 2011 elections. Father Lord, I ask that you prepare a nasty surprise for all such politicians starting with the elections in Anambra on February 6th, 2010….let their best laid plans unravel before their very eyes.<o:p></o:p>

For those who have ‘godfathered’ up in the false belief that the actual elections are a mere formality to rubber stamp them into office; Lord slap them down with a slap of reality from your right hand of righteousness….a slap so hard it will ring from generation to generation in the ears of all who bear their name.<o:p></o:p>

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In 2010, I lay claim to the blessings due me by being a citizen of Nigeria. The individual selfish end is best met when the common good is advanced….if you bless Nigeria, you also bless me. <o:p></o:p>

Give every Nigerian something to shout about again….let there be some pride in being a Nigerian.<o:p></o:p>

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In 2010, I ask for an outbreak of the epidemic of straight talk….help us to above all things be true to ourselves, so that we might correctly assess where we are and begin the process of rebuilding.<o:p></o:p>

Help us to stop lying to ourselves…for there is no greater deceit a man can perpetuate than when he lies to himself.<o:p></o:p>

Give us a tolerance for common sense….even increase our appetite for it…..and let us give it pride of place in our country.<o:p></o:p>

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For my brothers and sisters who call themselves your children and continue to believe that it will be well with them even if all around them is crumbling….Lord give them a fresh anointing of common sense….let them know that it is in their selfish interests to pray for their own country.<o:p></o:p>

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To those to whom you have given a burden and vision for Nigeria; I boldly ask that you increase their burden and expand their vision. You are afterall not a God to give a vision without a commensurate provision. <o:p></o:p>

Specially anoint and mark those who have a positive vision for Nigeria…let them be the new anointed that no one will be able to touch…. Let their visions not die inside of them…. Let any attempt to frustrate their vision meet with frustration itself. <o:p></o:p>

Stir up a restlessness in the hearts of Nigerians who have a passion for Nigeria…that their passion and optimism for the country will be so infectious to the point where the remnant reaches a critical mass and becomes the new majority.<o:p></o:p>

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To all those whom you have given a gift or a calling that can be useful for Nigeria…let them find their way to the place where those gifts will flourish in the service of Nigeria. For your word says that your gifts and callings are without repentance….let them be such a shining light for you that all men will see their good works and ascribe all the glory to you.<o:p></o:p>

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The problems are so deep seated and wide ranging that one does not even know where to begin from. So I am asking that you do that which only you can do. Our problems are all man made and were brought upon us by ourselves…but I ask for mercy still….that you turn around the fortunes of Nigeria in the way that only you can….fire up our economy and everything else that will make us a proud nation once again….let industries spring up that will recycle generators in Nigeria…Father Lord in 2010 make generator recycling a BIG business and a new growth area of the economy…let the electricity come on and never go out again.<o:p></o:p>

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As implausible as it might seem to the naysayers [including myself], pour out national pride over the nation…let it flow over every part of the nation from Potiskum to Port Harcourt…awaken that thing inside every Nigerian that has been dead for so long….that we might not just be a nation that constantly frustrates and kills it’s best talents…..rebrand us from the inside..one Nigerian at a time…give us a new slogan that will be spontaneous and will flow from the mouths of the people…..we will borrow ‘God’s own country’ from the Americans if we need to.<o:p></o:p>

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In all things I know to allow for your sovereignty…..if it is your will that the country does not carry on as presently constituted, then let your will be done….but please Lord make it as painless as possible.<o:p></o:p>

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I ask all these things in the incomparable name of your Son Jesus Christ…whose blood was shed as a propitiation of the sins of all mankind…including 150 million Nigerians.<o:p></o:p>

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Thank you Lord because I know you answer my prayers….I have evidence that you do….I have seen your hand move before…in my time, my generation will witness your hand move in Nigeria again.<o:p></o:p>

I am guaranteed a blessing in 2010…because you will bless Nigeria.<o:p></o:p>

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Your Son, <o:p></o:p>

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FF<o:p></o:p>

The Word On The Streets…..

Disclaimer:These are mainly anecdotes I picked up during my stay in Lagos. Feel free to fact check where appropriate.

In any case, it was never my intention to report what you can find on the pages of newspapers.

1. Of all the medical systems in the world to model ours on, it appears Nigeria is slowly but surely moving towards the American system. Before I left for Nigeria I was amazed to hear that Satya Capital was investing $18m in a HMO called Hygeia Nigeria Ltd. 

Healthcare is an essential social service and is practically inaccesible to the vast majority of Nigerians already. If the only investment going into our healthcare system is from the likes of Satya Capital, it can only end in tears. Simply put, private equity companies do not invest on a charity basis. They are in it for the money. I may be wrong though.

2. Staying with healthcare, I was at a wedding with a group of medical doctors and final year medical students. All the doctors I spoke to were all moving away from the profession either as soon as they finished their studying or their house jobs. One doctor wants to go into catering while I know at least 4 who are either currently doing MBAs or have plans to do so once they finish med school…with a view to moving into business.

It didnt take me long to figure out what the problem was; When a doctor is doing their house job they get paid N140k/month [soon to rise to N180k/month]. Regardless of what you think, this is a decent living wage. The problem starts once the house job is over.

A doctor can expect his/her pay to promptly drop to around N40k/month after the house job! A friend of mine who has never had to resit an examination since he started studying medicine in 2002 will graduate sometime in the middle of next year.

So to recap; you spend between 7 and 8 years studying to become a doctor and then after your house job, you get a job paying N40k/month. Nigeria will pay for the way it currently treats it’s junior doctors….sooner or later.

3. When it comes to FIERCE loyalty, the Hitler Youth have got nothing on Ibori’s Boys. James Onanefe Ibori is apparently a very generous man when it comes to his hangers on [or lau lau to use the Naija term]. This generosity buys plenty of patronage and blind loyalty.

I hate to say this but the dude is rather popular among quite a few people at least in his home state. 

I had a chat with an Ibori Boy and he offered the following in his Oga’s defence

‘He created the largest number of billionaires in the history of Delta State’ [bear with me, this is apparently a dividend of democracy]……’Asaba is the only place in Nigeria where you can smoothly drive a Ferrari because the roads are so good’ [What can I say]….He didnt steal Delta State money, he made his money from lifting the oil directly from the ground @ $11/barrel and selling it on for whatever the market price was’ [presumably the land where he got the oil from is his personal property]…..‘Even if he stole Delta State money, didnt Saminu Turaki also steal N35bn from Jigawa?’ [the argument here is that poor James is being picked on by Ribadu et al]…..’When OBJ was President, they were only 7 people with licences to lift oil from the ground in Nigeria, today there are 27 of them! Who are they?? [Nigerians need to chill out…there are more Iboris in the making out there who will also create more billionaires like Ibori did. Dont make too much noise, it will soon be your turn]…etc etc

In a rather funny story, he told me one of Ibori’s billionaire boys is getting married very soon and to add ‘efizzi’ to the wedding, the dude hired one of Nigeria’s most popular musicians [who has a habit of fathering children all over the place] to be his best man! The guy had is not friends with the said musician and has probably never even met him before, but he hired him as a best man regardless. Presumably he would perform a song or 2 at the ceremony.

I kept making the argument that if James Ibori had remained a Godfather in Delta State with all that money, I might not want to shoot him square in the forehead. The problem is that the man is now a vampire squid on the face of Nigeria and MUST be stopped….controlling the AGF and perhaps the President. I mean, WTF?

Regarding the now infamous decision by Justice Marcel Awokulehin [or is it Owokulehin?], I understand that when the EFCC initially brought the 170 charges against him, he stood in court for 4 hours and contested every single one of the charges. He refused to enter a plea for anyone of them arguing that doing so would imply that he accepted the charges.

He then went to his boy Marcel in Asaba [A judge who has 3 cases of misconduct pending against him at the Nigerian Judicial Council and who was installed by Ibori while in office] and applied for a motion to quash the charges.

From then on, it became a simple matter of waiting for the right moment to deliver the verdict. Indeed a couple of days before the verdict was given, Ibori’s Boys were apparently sending texts to people saying it was a done deal.

4. Staying with Godfathers; there is no doubt whatsoever that all is not well in Lagos state at the moment between Godfather and protege. There is a hell of a lot of interference going on and no prizes for guessing who’s getting really irritated by it all.

One of the more interesting stories I heard that sums up the above goes as follows. The governor, who is a stickler for time, calls a meeting for 10am in the morning with his commissioners and other government officials. As soon as it’s 10am, he shuts the door and starts the meeting.

Commissioner X arrives late say around 11am and finds himself locked out of the meeting. Commissioner X then calls the Godfather and explains the situation to him. The Godfather picks up the phone and calls the Governor who’s inside the meeting. The Governor takes the call and is told by the Godfather that ‘Commissioner X wa ni ita, jo ba mi si ilekun fun‘ [Commissioner X is outside, please open the door for him].

The governor can be irritated all day long but he’s got to open the door and disrupt his meeting.

One interesting thing about politics in Nigeria I’ve found is that, you cannot play politics and run an effective government at the same time. It’s just not possible. This was the undoing of the Godfather when he was in office and and the current strength of the Governor….seeing as he’s never been a politician per se.

Let me make a bold prediction; sometime between now and 2011, the Governor of Lagos State will make the transformation from effective administrator to politician. They’ll teach him.

5. Even with all the encomiums that have been poured on Babatunde Raji Fashola in his time as Governor of Lagos State, he is not immune to making the same inane decisions that have bedevilled governance in Nigeria from time immemorial.

You should see the lavishness of the christmas light decorations all over Lagos…the contract for which was awarded to Ibidun Ajayi-Ighodalo trading as Elizabeth R Nig Ltd. Credit to the girl, she at least put a lot of time, effort and hard work into the job. In that sense, it’s not your typical non-performing govt contract.

But let me illustrate the foolishness of it all; along Ikorodu Road and the Magodo end of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway there are some pyramid shaped christmas trees made with plenty of lights and soft iron spaced out at intervals of around 100 metres. I kid you not, under EACH one of these lights is a home-size generator chained to the ground to power the christmas light.

It gets better; apparently there’s someone whose job it is to hang around there till night-time when it’s time to turn on the lights. Presumably, at the appointed hour, this person then goes from ‘gen’ to ‘gen’ turning on each one and voila, the city is lit up. Never mind the darkness in the surrounding areas…those lights must come on.

Dear Lord, why are we so crazy? 

T.W.O.T.S [The Word On The Streets] is that the christmas light contract was in excess of N200m. 

I am also obliged to inform you that someone who is apparently a good friend of Mrs Ighodalo told me that she is yet to be paid anything by the LASG for the work she has done. Is this true? I dont know but I do try to be balanced.

6. It’s no news that Nigeria is a Federal Republic powered by generators. It’s the new normal. I wont bore you with tales of how quite a few people have 2 generators, one for the day and one for the night.

But I did hear one story that broke my heart when I paid a visit to my Uncle in Isolo. After telling me of how they had only had electricity for 3 hours in the last 7 days, he then told that me that the residents had decided at their last meeting that everyone in the area must turn off their generators at 12midnight everyday regardless of whether Power Has Come Now [PHCN] or not.

As I type, I feel my heartstrings tugging at the choices that people are being forced to make. In this case, they had to make a choice between spending the night in utter discomfort when there’s no light or losing their minds from the crazy racket from the generators all working at the same time.

In the end, they decided that sleeping in the darkness and heat was the lesser of the 2 evils. 

Meh….

7. Speaking of heat, there’s no doubt that Lagos is definitely getting hotter. I am no tree hugger but Lagos state is a real example of climate change. 6 years ago when I left Nigeria, it was almost impossible to find air-conditioned taxis anywhere. Today they are all the rage. 

The other day I had so many runs to make so I decided to spare my mate the hassle of driving me around and just using a cab [I have vowed not to touch a steering wheel in Lagos till further notice]. So I went to change money at a local bureau de change and was waiting to hail a cab.

The first cab with an AC I saw said he wasnt going to turn on the AC for me as he had no fuel to burn like that. But he wont mind charging me an ‘AC fare’. I did mind and sent him on his merry way. 

After waiting a few minutes with no AC cab in sight, I started getting apprehensive carrying a rucksack with some chocolates and other stuff I was going to give some people and all my money in my back pocket. So I walked to the nearby taxi rank and took the first available taxi. Sadly non air conditioned.

Anyway we get to Marina area and run into some crazy standstill traffic. I literarily start to fry inside my clothes. So I roll down the windows and carry on chatting on blackberry messenger with my friend. Next thing I hear a hoarse, drug addled voice telling me to hand over my phone and other valuables. I look up to find the faces of 2 weather beaten thugs, one staring through the driver’s window and the other sticking his head through my window.

They start sticking their hands under their clothes making to bring out a gun and threatening to shoot me in the legs if I dont hand over my phone. I look at my phone and think of all the information I have stored in there and blurted out ‘mi o le fun e ni phone yi men’. The guy by my side looks at me incredulously and makes more threats to shoot me with a gun which had yet to materialise.

I tell them I will give them money but not my phone and they should name their price. Bizarrely the guy asks me to bring N2300. Presumably he was going to pay the N300 as tax to the Lagos state govt. I am quite ready to cough up but my money was in right back pocket and the guy was beside me sticking his head in the window, so I tell him to go round to the driver’s side to join his friend and I will hand over the money there [I didnt want to pull out the money while he was standing so close]. They go ballistic at the thought that I’m giving them orders but I stood my ground. I was quite prepared to give them N1000 in any case and take it from there. So the guy makes to walk round to the other side of the car as instructed….only for him and his friend to walk away to the next car behind us in the traffic!

There and then I knew; God loves me…inspite of myself.

To further prove the above theory of God’s love, another London friend of mine told me how he came out of an event somewhere on the Island and as he was walking to his car he was accosted by some touts who promptly grabbed his trousers and told him to pay up. He then offered to give them N1000.

One of the touts told him ‘Oloun bless e pelu iru moto bayi, o wa’n fun wa ni N1000? So ro pe ebi pa wa ni? [God has blessed you with this kind of car and you are giving us N1000? Do you think we are hungry?…LOL!!!!]

8. Do Nigerians have an alcohol dependency problem? I dont have the answer to that question. What I can tell you is that the dude who runs a bar/beer parlour a few blocks from where I stayed in Surulere did say he sells 20 cartons of Star Lager every Friday night. He didnt give the numbers for Guiness Stout [which probably sells more] and other drinks.

Bear in mind that this guy does not operate a monopoly…there are several other beer parlours scattered in the area so his numbers are interesting to say the least.

9. “You know these National Security Agency guys or whatever they call themselves….they have a budget of maybe something like N400m every year to fight kidnapping. They are just chopping the money. So when you go there and tell them you want to sell them equipment that can help them reduce kidnapping, they wont listen to you because in their mind they are thinking that if kidnapping stops, that money will dry up for them”

The above was told to me by a businessman I met in Lagos who’s trying to do what he mentioned. If this surprises you, then you havent fully grasped the way the Nigerian mind works when it spots a crisis. Everything is a money making opportunity.

10. Speaking of money, you cannot begin to imagine how much money politicians in Nigeria have access to. It’s mind boggling I tell you. People are just looting all day long.

As an example I was told of a member of a state house of assembly in a Southern state whose houseboy recently bolted with just under $90k cash belonging to his Oga.

Nuff said.

11. While waiting for my bags on arrival in Lagos, one of the 2 conveyor belts suddenly stopped working. While we were waiting for it to restart, I overheard the following conversation between 2 men standing behind me

Man 1: They have probably embezzled the money they allocated to repair the thing. Look, when I was working in Central Office, there was this Pastor who was stealing money to fund his church. You know Herbert Macaulay Road in Yaba? That’s where the church was…the name was Glorious Assembly or something like that. The man used the money to import everything for the church….their drumsets, choir robes…everything was imported. It wasnt until another staff member went to report him that he was investigated and suspended. The church was also closed down.

Man 2: So what did they do to the person who reported it? Did they promote him?

Man 1: Promote ke? He was posted to Minna to go and rot there…that was his reward!

And so life goes on in Nigeria….

12. The Murtala Mohammed Int’l Airport Lagos is now no longer fit for purpose. The place is such an eyesore. All sorts of people hanging around creating work for themselves. My passport got checked 5 times before I eventually boarded the plane.

If you are going to Nigeria anytime soon, I must warn you about the down escalators as you approach customs at the airport. The last 3 times I’ve been in Lagos, there has been an accident at the bottom of the escalator. Why? The escalator ends about 1 metre from a set of doors which are never fully opened for some strange reason. As the escalator brings people down faster than they can go through customs, bedlam naturally ensues as a result of people piling up at the door. Once this happens, without fail, a customs official ambles over in a perfunctory swagger to open the second door…clearly upset at having to do some work. Why the door is closed in the 1st place is beyond me…but this mild drama has played out exactly the same way the last 3 times I’ve been.

The local airport down the road from the international airport used to be a similar shambles until it got burnt down a few years ago and in it’s place was built the much better and modern airport currently sitting there. 

So maybe…..Oh Feyi you must stop thinking these evil thoughts!

13. Aliko Dangote controls Nigeri’s sugar market.

Alike Dangote also makes Dansa fruit juice. Perhaps to save on transportation costs, the sugar factory is probably sited next door to the fruit juice factory.

Last time I drank one of the Dansa juices, I had images of bare chested men tipping bags of sugar into the fruit juice mix before packing them in cartons.

The amount of sugar in them juices would be criminal in any other country apart from Nigeria.

14. So myself and a couple of friends are heading out to Ibadan the other day when we notice a filling station with only one car in front of the gate. And fuel was being sold at the pumps. Unable to believe our eyes [this was in the middle of some serious fuel scarcity] we hit the brakes and reverse the car…oncoming traffic be damned.

There were all sorts of touts hanging around hawking various sizes of jerry cans filled with petrol….black market if you prefer that term. This seemed odd to say the least because the whole idea of the black market fuel is that it’s more expensive than the official N65/litre at the pumps. If there was only a small queue at the station and fuel was being sold, what was the point of the touts selling their petrol [which has a 70% chance of being mixed with kerosene or something else] there?

Looking around I quickly hazarded a guess as to what was going on. Some soldiers were there to buy fuel and perhaps the owner of the station had been busted hoarding fuel so had to begin selling at short notice. Meanwhile, the filling stations have a habit of selling their petrol to the touts in the dead of night in jerry cans for much higher than N65….and then pretend to have run out of fuel once the morning comes.

In this particular instance, arbitrage had perhaps gone wrong and the touts found themselves carrying a quickly depreciating ‘asset’. 

But give a street urchin a piece of thread and he’d make you a suit. The touts then decided to lock the gates to the filling station with their own padlock and chain. They then made sure to stay away from the gate but hung around holding the key.

When it got to our turn to enter into the station, the spokesperson for the touts came to our window and told us we would have to pay to get in. After we exchanged a few ‘pleasantries’ with him we gave him N100 and another tout brandishing the keys appeared from nowhere in particular to unlock the gates..making sure to lock it and then dissappear as soon as we entered the forecourt.

The ubiquitous touts, who never make a loss on anything, had literarily snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. By charging a ‘gate fee’ they were simply making up the lost value of their ‘stock’ occassioned by the filling station disrupting their market.

Yes, there are millions of people all over Lagos who wake up everyday and live by nothing other than their wits. 

15. There are now distinctly 2 different Lagoses, the mainland and the Island, with each requiring a different type of swagger to navigate successfully. 

To state the obvious, your paper needs to be long to live on the Island…even expatriates now complain about how expensive Lagos is. For the returnee Nigerians, it’s possible to live on the Island and to a certain extent replicate the lifestyle you’ve been used to abroad. This obviously sounds odd and it probably is but seeing as we have no identity of our own to be proud of, this is to be expected. 

Indeed there are people I know who never leave the Island for anything. They work, live and socialise on the Island.

The mainland is more ‘Lagosey’ if you permit me the word and is a better reflection of the true state of affairs in Nigeria.

So if you are thinking of moving back to Nigeria, best to listen to people from both ends of the spectrum before making a decision. If you take advice from someone who lives in Lekki and works on the Island, you might get a nasty surprise when you do get there.

16. I spent one week in Lagos and I estimate that I spent at least one full day of that stuck in traffic. 

I know a guy who recently sold on his 7 year old car [equivalent of 35yrs old in England]. I was surprised at how quickly he was able to find a buyer and the buyer was clearly going to carry on using it despite the grief it had caused my friend.

There lies your answer to the growing menace of traffic in Lagos; cars never get taken off the road…they are simply recycled back into the system. Then try to imagine the number of cars that are being brought into Lagos everyday to add to the existing ones.

Some people think building new roads or widening existing ones is the solution. Good luck to them. But a civil engineer once told me that research has shown that whenever a road is widened to ease an existing traffic problem, the traffic simply grows to fill up the new road within 1-2 years.

They are currently widening the Victoria Island end of the Lekki-Epe expressway where the 1st roundabout used to be.

I stand to be corrected on this, but I could not find one single piece of sustainable development going on in Lagos state. 

17. A few months ago the staff of Virgin Nigeria [now Nigerian Eagle Airlines] discovered that their salaries had not been paid on the day it was meant to be. There had been no advance warning…they simply werent paid. Eventually they got paid that month’s salary 1 full month later and have been in arrears ever since.

As I type, they are awaiting their November salaries.

This note will never end if I carrying on talking about everything I saw in my 1 week out there.

Here’s wishing you a very prosperous 2010….especially to all of my friends , who through no fault of their own, have been turned into hustlers in the madness and chaos of Lagos. God bless you.

FF

There’s A Method To Our Madness

A certain Mr Yomi Okusanya left a comment on a link I shared on my page recently and it really got me thinking. Sometimes the thing that causes you to embark on a dangerous and life risking journey to Sokoto state could easily have been found in your very own sokoto trouser.

Here’s what he said unedited.

“I’ll just like to add my views to this debate and to the original article which i might add i find very interesting. The main reason we have been producing the kind of leaders we have in nigeria is due to APATHY of citizens to the political process going on in Nigeria at the moment and why its is important for us all to participate in it to bring about the kind of nigeria we want . You dont necessarily have to seek elective posts but you should parcitipate in bringing about credible pple seeking elective positions. I’ll tell you my reasons. I happen to know how the process works because i have seen it first hand.
I’ill let u in on it so u can see why we are where we at 

This is currently how the process works from the ward level to the national level . Every Nigerian citizen can join any political party of their choice at the ward level . 
Each ward from the local govt level have meetings every week or fortnightly, this is normally held at the homes of self appointed leaders who is not stupid as he’s making a very good investment, which is where the problems start, He buys us ‘cabin ‘ biscuits and a bottle of soft drink is assured for every attendee and we even get paid transport allowance ranging from 200 to 500naira. I’ll remind you at this point that anyone from that ward can attend this meetings . Nothing tangible or remotely progressive are discussed at these meetings because of course the meetings are attended by unemployed people , area boys, few artisans and mostly poverty stricken people who come for their share of the’ cake’ 

This meetings are where executive members of the party are selected by the benefactor and his cohorts, The aggregate of the various wards then select the local govt exco’s as they are called who in turn select the senatorial exco’s and on it goes to the state and the national level. They are now able to deliver wards , lg’sl , senatorial, state to the latest money bag in town who wants to become the councillor, lg chairman, senator or whatever they choose to become all from ‘cabin’ biscuits and soft drinks and few wads of naira. OBJ attended my ward meetings before he became president to meet the ‘ward’ members
So my people this is how the process goes. The citizens are only called to vote for the selected people and they even fight amongst themselves about this as you all witness.
Therefore when people like you go to this meetings we can maybe start choosing credible candidates, This is the sacrifice we all have to start making if area boys can find time to attend this meetings so can you till then manna aint going to fall from heaven . That brings me full circle to that word APATHY. The Ibori’s , Tinubu’s , Bode George’s , know how this work and they exploit the apathy of the educated nigerians to the political process to the max after all politics is a dirty game we say YUCK .
So we can all be blowing all the grammer on FB it aint going to change nothing until we all start getting our clean hands dirty .
Ladies and gentleman THAT is what NIGERIA requires from us and thats what generations unborn deserves. It aint rocket science and believe me it is that simple to wrest power from this people we just have to make the sacrifice.
NIGERIA belongs to all of us. 
Thank you”

I underlined the word ‘deliver’ in Mr Okusanya’s quote. For me that’s the key word.

If it’s possible to have an epiphany after reading a comment, I certainly had one after reading the above. It struck me that Nigeria in fact has a well developed and entrenched political system that in fact WORKS!. It absolutely works.

Years ago before I left Nigeria, I had a neighbour who lived across the road from me. A certain Mr Cardoso or Engineer as he was called. He was an AD man [before it morphed into what is now known as AC…in 2011 it will become AB] through and through and his house was the venue for the party’s weekly meetings.

One of those times when ASUU condemned me to sitting at home twiddling my thumbs, I got into the habit of sitting with my mechanics [I’m a man of the people you see] who had a shed close to Mr Cardoso’s house and just generally gisting. They’d soon tell me who was having an affair with who in the area and who was the 419 guy driving fancy cars but with no known source of income.

On a few occassions, I’d sit with them while the AD meetings were going on in Mr Cardoso’s house and would sometimes hear loud arguments or generally people talking absolute nonsense…and I would laugh with my mechanics at the sheer stupidity of it all.

I never once strayed into Mr Cardoso’s compound even to see what in the world was going on there. It never even crossed my mind.

There was a lady who lived in the area whose husband was living in England at the time. We became close when he would send money or stuff to his wife and kids through a member of my family coming to Nigeria…that kind of stuff. At some point the man and the woman must have had a serious row leading to the man perhaps not sending money home for a while….or maybe the man fell on hard times here in London.

The woman never worked all the while I knew her…..she survived and took care of the children with the money the man sent home. 

Anyway around the time she had issues with her husband, I noticed she was attending the AD meetings in Mr Cardoso’s compound regularly. I was surprised at this as she was one of the people I had railed against the establishment with….generally insulting the political system as being corrupt..the whole nine.

I remember the first time I saw her coming out of Mr Cardoso’s house and our eyes met, she looked away perhaps feeling slightly embarrassed.

Finally one day I called her and asked in Yoruba ‘what is it you go to do in that place?’. She replied in Yoruba ‘Dont look at it like that o….they give people money there’.

In 2003 I was a registered election monitor for the National Conscience Party in my ward and I can confirm that the AD handed the NCP and every other party that contested the area a proper and comprehensive beating.

On the day I looked at some of the guys who I had tried to canvass and watched helplessly as they openly voted for the AD….no hard feelings of course.

I repeat; Nigeria has a well developed political system that works perfectly. For those who have benefited from this system, there is absolutely no incentive for them to reinvent the wheel. They are happy with the current arrangement and they will fight tooth and nail to keep it so.

Warren Buffett once said ‘those who understand compound interest are destined to collect it…those who dont, are destined to pay it’. Indeed….substitute compound interest for the Nigerian political system and you see what I’m getting at.

If you need evidence that our political system is working, just take a look at our Governors, Reps, Senators and other elected officials…the result is absolutely consistent; they are practically all rubbish.

But you cant knock their hustle….’good’ people dont take part in the process because it’s simply too dirty for them. Nature of course abhors a vacuum. 

Nigeria is today under a tyranny of mediocrity. It starts from Mr Cardoso’s house….and each step of the way it gets more powerful but doing so quietly. By the time the ‘elite’ manage to take notice, the monster of mediocrity can no longer be dislodged and rightly thinks it has earned it’s right of passage.

In the UK they call it hustings…in America they call it stumping. I dont know what they call it in Nigeria but it’s much more effective than the UK or US version.

We must begin to understand that there is a strong system in place designed to produce a certain type of political outcome. And the only way to unravel or perhaps influence this system is to start from the roots. 

One of the biggest mistakes of the elite in Nigeria is that it tries to get in at the top where the air is cleaner perhaps and they are less likely to get their hands dirty. You dont need me to tell you what’s wrong with that approach.

The current system works for the politician because he can get into office for a minimal outlay and then recoup his money in a few months in office. This is part of why our politicians prefer a ‘selection’ process instead of an election. There really isnt any point allowing the people to vote freely. Imagine you had been attending meetings in Mr Cardoso’s house for 2 years and come election time you were made a candidate to run for LG Chairman, wouldnt you prefer if only the people who had been attending meetings with you voted? Why bother with people like me who never came to a meeting?  In any case what could I possibly want from the political system as I clearly had food to eat.

The system also works for the area boys and the army of the unemployed [Nigeria’s biggest voting bloc] because it meets their short term needs. Hungry people have no long term needs….they simply dont think that far. 

In the task of nation building, people who have had no food to eat are notoriously unreliable. You can only hold their attention for so long…and even then you have to continue placating them…just enough to get them to election day, after which you dont need to worry about them for another 4 years. Hungry people are not deep thinkers and they really couldnt care less about corruption in so far as it favours them.

The only way left for the ‘elite’ is often by appointment. But the problem with this is that even then you are answering to man who has a completely different mindset from you. And he could possibly fire you on a whim. 

This is the reason why good people are always outnumbered and always outgunned in Nigeria; they dont understand the system and even when they do they are unwilling to get involved in it. They are on a hiding to nothing.

Now you might think Mr Okusanya’s explanation above is overly simplistic but I assure you it doesnt get more complex than that.

There’s no magic in 2011 that is going to produce a wonderful President that brings change to Nigeria in a blaze of glory. The system is not set up in a way to allow good people get that far. Once in a while they might sneak in but it’s always the exception rather than the norm.

I find myself wondering now; what if I had strayed into Mr Cardoso’s compound one day and just sat in on one of the meetings? What if I had made friends with a few area boys and some of the local champions? What if I joined their arguments and managed to elevate the debates they had to some level? 

Isnt it perhaps possible that today I might be in a position to influence policy in my local govt? As opposed to watching helplessly while a band of thugs take decisions that affect my life.

What is the benefit in not getting involved? And can change come in any other way other than from the ground up? 

So when the ‘results’ of the elections are announced in 2011 and someone you know to be no more than a petty criminal has found his way into the Federal House of Representatives, just remember that the system is working.

The genius of it all is in it’s simplicity.

We need more good Mr Cardoso’s who are motivated by a desire to advance the common good as opposed to ‘delivering’ their ward to the highest bidder. 

Let’s never forget that a certain Barack Obama started his life in politics as a community organiser or the Mr Cardoso of Chicago’s South Side.

Finally, using South West Nigeria as an example; in 2007 The System(c) produced Gbenga Daniel, Babatunde Fashola, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Olusegun Agagu, Segun Oni, Adebayo Alao-Akala [fine boy no pimples] as governors of the South West states.

From the list above, we can conclude that it’s very difficult to buck The System(c). With the exception of an outlier in Lagos state, The System(c) delivered the results it was set up to do. Even the outlier was a product of The Sytem(c) and perhaps the biggest beneficiary as no one had a clue who he was before he was imposed on Lagosians.

If you think the people who hold Nigeria by the delicates are going to give up without a fight, then you probably believe there’s an underground railway system currently working in Lagos State.