The Word On The Streets IV

We humans are creatures of habit and it is now my habit to write ‘something’ everytime I come back from Nigeria. My previous TWOTS are herehere and here. I dont imagine you will want to read them though. 

1. I hate to rant or complain about things in Nigeria and how they dont work…if I can help it. Particularly I dont think it makes any sense to complain about stuff in Nigeria by comparing them to what’s obtainable in the west.

But indulge me just this once as I have a bone to pick with MTN. You will recall that for the year ended December 31, 2010, MTN generated around $5bn in revenues from Nigeria of which about 63% of that was EBITDA. 

Maybe I am just xenophobic, but the quality of ‘service’ I got from MTN had me pulling my hair out. Oh I could make and receive calls quite alright, the problem was the internet ‘service’ I paid for. It totally did not work. As in, I couldnt get on the internet. So I would attempt to open a page and it would make like it was loading for about 3 – 5 minutes before finally breaking down in sheer exhaustion at trying to connect to a non-existent internet. 

I’ve used a Glo SIM the last few times I’ve been back home and I dont recall ever having problems like this. I somehow managed to forget my SIM card back in London so I thought I’d give MTN a try this time around. Apalling does not begin to describe what I am talking to you about.

2. Getting a new SIM card now involves going through a process that is identical to what we had in the January voters registration exercise. The only difference is that you are not issued with a laminated card for your troubles after registering your SIM.

So maybe INEC should speak to the phone networks and get them involved in the continous update of the voters register. As opposed to a situation where in 4 years time, we will go through another N80bn+inflation exercise again. As soon as you turn 18, just head to the nearest telco store and register your details which will then be verified against the national register and confirm you as a registered voter.

Those of us who have already registered will not need to go through the process again.

This is just me thinking aloud.

3. I spent a day in the Ijebu part of Ogun state and managed to speak to many different people about the presidential elections. Everyone seems to have voted for Goodluck Jonathan. My Uncle told me he was won over when Mr Jonathan campaigned there and said to them ‘vote for me, and not my party…vote for me as a person’…or something along those lines. Amazing.

Now it wont surprise you to hear that my political sympathies are with the ACN. I am also half Ijebu so the politics of Ogun state is one that I try to pay as much attention as I can to. Now I will confess that while the ACN was the party of my heart, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka or Ologini of the PPN as many are wont to call him was the candidate of my head. 

Speaking to so many people revealed the deep contempt with which the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo is held. His vindictiveness is of course legendary but his habit of cutting off his nose to spite his face would be laughable if it werent so tragic. Remember the 2007 episode he engineered in Imo state against Ararume? This time around he apparently accused the outgoing governor, Gbenga Daniel, of siting the air and sea port in the Ijebu part of Ogun state with a view to giving an Ijebu state a headstart whenever it was created. 

Now given that the brilliant Mr Isiaka (An Awori man) was Mr Daniel’s protege, Mr Obasanjo decided to split the Yewa/Awori vote (the Yewa/Awori have never produced an Ogun state governor and Mr Daniel had done the equitable thing by fielding Mr Isiaka to replace him) by springing General Tunji Olurin (also Awori). 

The rest is history. 

On the streets of Ogun state, not much is expected of the new governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun in terms of him exceeding whatever Mr Daniel achieved in office.

I hope he at least proves his doubters wrong.

4. Nigeria is full of all kinds of opportunities. I met quite a few fish farmers doing their thing and profiting from the work of their hands. It’s an interesting business and I was humbled by the knowledge these men and women had acquired simply by stumbling upon answers to their problems. 

It is somewhat tragic as a lot of trouble might be saved with proper education and exposure of the farmers, but they seemed happy to learn from their mistakes. One fish farmer told me how he couldnt figure out one time why his fishes were dying. The gentleman doubles as a pastor so he said he took it to the Lord in prayer, as you do, and one fine day he discovered that the water flowing into his pond was passing through a small gutter and then literarily poisoning the fish when it finally reached the pond. He ran a water bypass and immediately the fishes were fine. Fish farmer is now smiling.

Another chap I was told about recently bought a new car which he apparently came to dedicate in church. The man had planted carrots and water melon and so great was the harvest that he was able to fund the car purchase from the proceeds. 

So you want a new car? Get planting would be my advice.

5. Most people remember the gusto with which Governor Fashola tackled the job of Lagos governor as soon as he was elected in 2007. I sat down with someone I respect a lot and he told me a side of the story I had never really paid attention to.

The story of how Mr Obasanjo denied Asiwaju Bola Tinubu funds meant for Lagos state when Mr Tinubu was governor does not need retelling. Mr Tinubu was apparently funding the LGs in the state using IGR in this time with the proviso that the money was a loan which would be repaid to the state whenever their funds were released by the FG. 

In comes President Yar’Adua in 2007 and he promptly decides to release all the money owed to Lagos state. Now Lagos state will typically receive somewhere in the region of N8bn every month from the FG as its allocation all things being equal. So how much was the arrears that was apparently released to Mr Fashola in one go in 2007? N51bn. 

Buoyed by this, Mr Fashola was absolutely able to hit the ground running in the first couple of years of his governorship. Now this is not to belittle the man’s achievements; another governor would have awarded himself a bonus of around 60% of the money and committed the rest towards his re-election. But Mr Fashola saw it as an opportunity and used it to win over Lagosians who were still suspicious of the way he emerged as governor. 

So what’s my point? There wont be any more windfalls I imagine between now and 2015 so he will have to work much harder to ensure he finishes on a high note. I dont doubt his resolve though so there’s not too much to worry about.

6. I met up with a couple of friends one evening on the Island and as soon as I got there, one of the guys introduced me to another guy I had never met before that day thus ‘This is Feyi, he believes in Nigeria….me I am an Odua citizen’.

Tatalo Alamu, in this here piece said in the aftermath of the recently concluded elections ‘Nigeria advanced democratically, but it regressed nationally in a mutually cancelling dialectic’. I think that about sums it up.

At the great risk of misreading the public mood, I will stick out my neck and say people in southern Nigeria are in the mood for a Sovereign National Conference. Let me show my hand while I am at it; yours truly will wholeheartedly support such a dialogue if it is convened even by Mr Jonathan as President. 

The point of such a dialogue of course will be for everyone to say what they really think about Nigeria and where they think its heading. But it was perhaps to prevent the repeated patching of tyre tubes that the oyinbo man came up with the now ubiquitous tubeless tyres. I think we’ve patched enough…we need a new workable model.

Nothing has been more tragic in all of this than the senseless killing of youth corpers in parts of the north. There need not be a law against killing young men and women serving their country by their fellow countrymen. The only thing that should prevent such killings is that moral chip installed by the creator inside every human being…and the simple logic that no matter what our grievances might be, turning on your fellow countrymen can surely never be the solution.

So what makes us countrymen? I see you stroking your beard thinking of the answer. I will see you at the SNC.

7. To my mind, corruption is probably the only thing holding Nigeria together as it is. Without the centre being able to dangle that huge national cake in front of the whole country, a sizeable portion of who are hungry, one suspects that the whole thing would soon unravel. 

There is so much corruption in the land that defining it is now a problem even for the most decent men. From the private sector to the judiciary, the tentacles of the beast are everywhere. I heard too many tales to even begin to recount but its safe to say, the thing aint going nowhere anytime soon. 

One friend of mine who I have the utmost respect for as a stand up straightforward guy told me ‘Feyi, before I moved back to Nigeria I always said I would never be corrupt…now I dont know anymore’. I know that this guy definitely doesnt wake up every morning heading to work musing on how much he would steal that day. He’s a good guy…but if it comes his way…there’s a Yoruba proverb that warns not to take near your nose, any food you have no intention of eating. Right now, the thing is all up in his grill as the Americans will say.

Another lawyer friend told of how their chambers had a case in court last year and they had to deposit some money with the court pending the outcome of the trial…something like an escrow holding. When the trial ended, they made to collect their money back only to discover that the court registrar had in fact bolted with the money and was nowhere to be found. Turns out Mr Registrar was about to retire and must have seen the money as some kind of gift so he retired only slightly early. 

As a friend of mine would say; I laff pour Moet for my expensive polo shirt…..and then I realised how terribly tragic the story was. A man who worked his whole career only a heartbeat from the daily dispensation of justice and all the laws of the land, contrives to end it all in a rather fiendish finale.

We have laws alright…but they dont appear to be worth the paper they are written on.

8. Professor Pat Utomi recently enunciated ‘state capture’ for the national lexicon. The phrase now means something quite clear to me so let me explain using Yobe state as an example.

You might recall that in January 2009, the then Governor of Yobe state, Alhaji Mamman Ali died in Florida from what was suspected to be leukamia. Step in, Ibrahim Gaidam who had been Mr Ali’s deputy. Mr Gaidam had been plucked from the civil service in 2007 to be Mr Ali’s deputy and was viewed at the time perhaps as a ‘safe’ choice who wont give the governor too much trouble…the proverbial spare tyre no one ever plans to use.

2 years later, Mr Gaidam was able to ‘deliver’ every single seat contested in Yobe state to his ANPP with the exception of one House of Representative seat in the Nangere/Potiskum federal constituency. The entire 24 seats in the state house of assembly are now ANPP controlled. Senator Usman Albishir who left the ANPP for the PDP ostensibly to teach Mr Gaidam a lesson, was himself taught a lesson by the rookie. Even the Yobe South senatorial district which had been held by the PDP since 1999 fell to the ANPP under Mr Gaidam’s leadership. 

So how great has been Mr Gaidam’s performance in just 2 years in office given his relative lack of political experience before 2007? I honestly dont know. But the above example is to illustrate how state capture via incumbency is becoming more and more entrenched in Nigerian politics. Lagos is no different…all seats contested went to the ACN. Same thing in Osun State and most of the states in the South East and South South. In Ondo Dr Mimiko, barely 3 years in office, delivered 80% of the presidential vote to Mr Jonathan and kept practically everything else for his Labour Party.

What the results of the governorship elections seem to be telling us is that being incompetent is not enough to stop a governor from being re-elected for a second term. He must be so awfully bad that he must be despised by his people. This theory holds for Adebayo Alao-Akala in Oyo and Aliyu Akwe Doma in Nassarawa. Or perhaps the governor, without being fully in control of the political ‘machine’, then falls out with his godfather. This holds for Aliyu Shinkafi in Zamfara who was felled by Senator Yerima working against him.

Beyond these three, all other average governors like Jonah Jang in Plateau and the woeful Theodore Orji in Abia were duly re-elected. The day when mediocrity will be punished at the polls has not yet come to Nigeria (except maybe to the South West to an extent).

So we solved the problem of holding ‘credible’ elections and then we discover that competition was in fact dealt a mortal blow in these elections. State capture now takes no prisoners. 

Oh before we leave Yobe state, join me in congratulating Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Governor of Yobe from 1999 – 2007) and his lovely wife Honourable Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim who have both been returned to the Senate and House of Reps respectively for their second terms in the NASS.

If the jumbo salaries remain the same, then Mr and Mrs Abba Ibrahim will cost us something in the region of N1.2bn over the next 4 years to maintain. Please pay your taxes. Thank you.

9. So yours truly voted in the guber elections on the 26th in Lagos. For whatever it was worth, I am glad I participated in the process. I can confirm that I voted for Mr Fashola for a second term as governor and will have you know that I was not bribed, coerced or induced to do so in any way. 

Much has been said about how politicians induce voters with all sorts on or just before election day. But it has to be said that voters too hawk their votes by holding out and waiting to be induced. Perhaps it was down to election fatigue or the fact that most people felt the re-election of Fashola was a foregone conclusion so they might as well make it worth their time but I could clearly see it on the faces of more than a few voters. On the queue while waiting to cast my vote, I could hear people openly asking if the ACN agents had come round bearing gifts.

Very early on Monday morning as we were heading out of Lagos, we stopped to have our tyres checked at a petrol station in Gbagada and this chap sauntered over to us, clearly under the influence of something strong. He proceeded to sing some funny song in praise of Mr Fashola and then told me ‘they’ would be sharing money at a nearby sawmill on that day for people to vote for Mr Fashola. I then queried why he needed to be induced given that he was always going to vote for Mr Fashola anyway. He didnt quite answer before he broke into another song. Again I asked him if he would ever vote for Mr Dosunmu of the PDP and he started to curse the PDP and everyone in that party declaring that Mr Fashola’s re-election was a foregone conclusion. 

He pulled out his voters card, threw it on our car and began to demonstrate to us how he was going to press his hand on the broom the next day.

For his troubles, I put my hand in my pocket and gave him ‘something’. And then he sang for me too.

The connection between what a vote means and its actual value has not yet been made in the mind of the majority of Nigerian voters so it remains by and large a buyers market. A vote might sell for N500 in one part of the country and command a going rate of N5000 in another part of the country. 

As one of my Pastors in church always says, when the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is bound to occur.

 

I must thank you for reading my ramblings.

FF

 

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