Michael Oluwagbemi (popularly known as Busanga) is an avid writer and commentator on a range of issues affecting his country Nigeria, Africa and indeed the rest of the world in hundreds of commentary that have appeared in both the print and electronic media for the past nine years. A resident of Houston Texas, Michael is passionate about his country, her affairs and the wellbeing of her citizens.
A native of Odo-Oro Ekiti in Ikole Local Government of Ekiti state; he was born in Ibadan, grew up in the great city of Warri (yes, a bonafide Warfarian) and attended schools in Lagos (Indeed, the greatest University of Lagos) and Texas United States. He believes his wealth of experience gained from traveling and living in different parts of Nigeria and overseas impacts the depth and understanding he tries to bring to his writings. Michael seeks not only to analyze problems but also take a bite at proffering solutions no matter how simplistic; believing you his reader can fill in the gaps. He believes it is our duty to leave our society better than we met it and lives by the saying, paraphrasing the great philosopher-Plato that the greatest evil, good men can do is to keep quiet while evil thrives.
His writings are syndicated across a host of Nigerian websites including but not limited to NVS, NIA, Dawodu and Gamji. He touches a host of issues including the politics of Nigeria, the growing pains of developing Africa, gender and social issues as well as topics on international relations and diplomacy.
An electrical engineer by practice he is also a business owner and investment advisor; in fact, he authors a financial blog for young immigrant professionals seeking to meander their way through the difficult financial web of the United States. Michael is an avid outdoors man; he enjoys swimming, golfing and jet skiing and of course traveling to beach towns and exotic places.
There is this natural tendency to despair in the rot called Nigeria even when one lives in this paradise of misgovernance in fits and bursts. However, despair is exactly what the rulers of Nigeria want us to feel, and we must not give them such pleasures. Despair has succeeded in driving millions, miles away from the shores of our land even as these locusts multiplied their plan of destruction on the helpless souls left behind. But in the midst of despair, is it still possible to see hope? I dare to think so.
Nigeria is a paradise of misgovernance but also a fixers’ workshop. Everything here needs retooling, starting from the very minute you step your toes on this shores. The air tight, sweat inducing tunnel that connects most ordinary travellers from their air-conditioned international aircraft to the derelict and disgusting Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) will be a great start.
Okay, once you get past that the dimly lit welcome halls, the begging immigration/customs officers and the lack of basic airport orderliness and management will be next. Need we talk about how the luggage is handled? Can someone stop the madness already!
The madness about this rot that still confound otherwise sane commentators are the fact that only the most inept rise to the very top in this society. A society that requires men with a game plan, men with grit to deliver complicated projects and reforms, men with commonsense touch for what is wrong and what needs to be done to right them seem to be obsessed with empty big-men, noisemakers and men of easy virtue surrounded by sycophants! Leadership in our society is upside down.
Those that are leading were naturally made to be forgotten and unseen. Both their emotional IQ and organization IQ hover slightly above zero, except for a few who had to sacrifice whatever they had in IQ just to descend to the bottom of the barrel and rise to the top of Nigeria’s leadership. This is the story of why Nigeria has not been fixed and why it will take a while to do so.
Now beyond these, we have to recognize two other reasons why fixing Nigeria remains a mirage. First is that fixing requires undoing entrenched interests that will fight one tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. Take the example of the MM Airport. Care to know why Lagos with a population of 17 million is stuck with one tiny terminal, while Houston with four million has two major airports with one having about five terminals to boot? Well, it is call “entrenched interest”.
I understand the cleaning contract that never happens does kick back to the very top of the aviation ministry! Go figure. The parking, the collection – all of that stuff that annoys you about the Lagos airport pays into a kitty that will fear losing that jackpot over the unknown of a well operated airport or a new one for that matter! It is not that complicated.
Another reason why this mirage of fixing Nigeria may persist is that fact that good people even when they approach governance in our country assume somehow they can do it alone. Wrong! In a nation with entrenched interest, a bottom-up clean up requires a team of patriots. If you dare walk over the establishment alone, then you will have yourself to blame. I’m using the airport as a very simple and probably the most basic fix that can happen in Nigeria. But try even the oil & gas, power, transportation and construction sector for reforms; and real giants will pursue you in your dreams without a very strong team to withstand the barrage of counter attacks by the owners of Nigeria.
Always remember Rome was not destroyed in a day, and it will take far longer to rebuild it! With decades of misgovernance under her belt, and as an increasing proportion of the population surrenders to the rot of public service and corruption, Nigeria requires a top-down scrub not just a rinse. In this society, it will take more than a good heart to fix it.
It will take serious heart & liver, some degree of strategy and good measure of patriotism mixed with common sense. You will need to pick your battles and sequence reforms so that the entire system does not collapse on itself; one must also recognize that far more important than fixing Nigeria now is sustaining those reforms. Good people in good places, remains the only answer. How many good Nigerians are left? I reckon only those that try will find out but don’t be too hopeful.
Would-be mini-reformers in the past and present have always had to build a parallel civil service to achieve the bare minimum. I understand the Lagos state Governor Fashola pretty much does the same thing in Lagos; moving from the round house to a building where his key private sector driven executive arm implements the tiny magic that have stopped the slide into rot in Lagos but has not completely driven out the madness. Of course he keeps commissioners at the relevant ministries, but they’re there to keep an eye on those trouble makers and do occasional cherry picking not do real work.
To this end we must recognize the importance of having a team of reformers elected or selected to have any hope of fixing Nigeria the way it is. There is a very practical aspect to this suggestion, first is the reality that the organ for executing life changing programs in Nigeria cannot be the existing system. Doing this practically requires a sponsor; I mean money. Let us hope the true capitalists that have been doing those talk shops i.e. the Dangotes, Elumelus, Bello Osagies and Kola Karims, will put their money where their mouth is. Need we challenge them?
In the next few weeks, we’ll examine in this series what it will take to fix Nigeria bit by bit; assuming you or I were privilege to plan this fix – as a team of course; what and how should we do it? We cannot forget the importance of these insights that for every reform planned there is an entrenched interest, that we must pick our battles, that good people are more important than good policies and that in this society; reform is another name for war. Once we have this understanding, let us get to fixing!
One has to be intrigued by the long-standing feud between the Ooni of Ife and the Oba of Benin as to which city-state preceded which, and to whom did another contribute a royal genetics. At the center of this feud is the ego of ancient grandeur; it is the longstanding contention of cousins contending for legendary historical superiority. It was with an eye to resolving the mystery that I decided to undertake a literature review to try to decode the mysteries of the origin of the people of Ife and Benin.
Literature review (or in this case oral tradition review) is reputedly unreliable due to the never-ending manipulation of orally handed down traditions to suit the sentimental cravings of the “tellers”. However, a superimposition and side-by-side examination of two contending oral traditions may reveal some salient truths that can point to the background fact often omitted in the “single stories” from which they are individually derived.
The story of Ife goes as the spiritual origin of the Yoruba people. Odùduwà, phonetically written as Odùduwà, and sometimes contracted as Odudua, Oòdua, is generally held among the Yoruba to be the ancestor of the crowned Yoruba kings (he reigned as king of Ife in the 1100s). Odùduwà is generally said to be of Easterly origins (some in Oyo say Mecca, but historians generally assume Ekiti-Okun region at the confluence of the great rivers and the general area where language shift occurred between the Yorubas and their neighbors). The Ife oral traditions, on the other hand, tell that Odùduwà was the son of the supreme God, and was sent by him from heaven to create the earth.
It was established that when Odùduwà arrived ancient Ife, he and his group conquered the component communities and eventually evolved the palace structure with an effective centralized power and dynasty. Oral history tells us that Oduduwa had a son known as Okanbi. Okanbi had EIGHT children. SEVEN (Onipopo of Popo, Onisabe of Sabe, Alara of Ara, Ajero of Ijero, Orangun of Oke-Ila, Owa Obokun Ajibogun of Ijesaland and Oranmiyan) by his "legal" wife, and one (Ooni) by his slave turned wife, named ORUNTO. Ooni reportedly usurped Oranmiyan while he was away from Ife. Oranmiyan departed to found Oyo on his return.
Ooni reportedly inherited the magical powers of his father, and that accounts for the spiritual commitment of Yoruba kings to Ife, as opposed to political supremacy, which rose and ebbed with the affluence and influence of the individual kingdoms (Oyo Empire for the most part in the golden ages). Note that Alaketu of Ketu was one of the original seven kingdoms Yoruba land, but was founded by a daughter of Odùduwà. It is also true of Owu; founded by the son of Oodua’s daughter.
Special Note: An original, but now disputed, account by Samuel Johnson puts the Owa Obokun, Oragun of Oke-Ila and Alara of Ara as brothers of the same mother who was “kept under the care” of Akanbi (“Olofin”) and as such were foster children –ppg. 23-24, History of the Yorubas, Samuel Johnson). The same account puts the founders of Owu and Ketu as granddaughters of Oodua (through Okanbi) not direct daughters of Oodua. Some accounts also omit the Ajero of Ijero in favor of the Oba of Bini (“Ado”) , this is however disputable since some of these accounts also hold on to the legend of Oranyan (as brother of the Ado) and Eweka his son (as king of Bini i.e. Ado). Both stories cannot exist side by side in congruence.
This genealogy must be distinguished from the modern day Yoruba people, who lived in the lower western Niger area, at least by the 4th century BC, were not initially known as the Yoruba, oral historians confirm the existence of people in this region for several millennia. In fact, the name “Yoruba” is very much of recent; often attributed to the long-standing trade relationship between this common linguistic group and those to the North (Nupe, Hausa and Tivs). Indeed, maps of the 1200s clearly showed so called “Yoruba tribes” extending to present day Liberia, and Ife as a distinct empire, with Nri land (present day riverine Igbos) to the East of it.
The Odùduwà story is at the heart of contention between the Yoruba’s and the Binis. Indeed, the Benin regards Odùduwà as Prince Ekaladerhan, once a powerful young warrior and well loved but who was banished from his kingdom. On leaving Edo he travelled in a westerly direction to the land of the Yoruba, and assumed 'Izoduwa', (which in his native language Edo language means, "I have chosen the path of prosperity/(I have arrived (home)"). It was this Prince, who later sent a son Eweka I, of “pure Edo origin” to become the first Oba of Bini (marking the end of the previous Ogiso dynasty).
First, in examining these oral traditions few things are mutually agreeable:
The differences in genealogical account are where the story gets complicated; was Eweka the son or great-grandson of Oodua? Evidence points to the later. Oduduwa emerged in Ife on or before 1100 CE as an adult; Eweka ruled Bini as a mere boy at about 1200 AD. Hundred years or more is too far in-between for father and son. Indeed, the grandsons of Oodua are documented in Yoruba oral tradition that predates the present day contention for genealogical supremacy between these peoples in modern Nigeria. Of course, the near stranger-king emergence in the dynamic monarchial settlements of 1100s is not by itself unusual. Kings in that era ruled on the strength of their warrior valor; and many kings were not of aboriginal descent. Hence, it made sense that Oduduwa was not of Ife origin. It makes sense that Eweka who began a new dynasty in Bini didn’t need to be from Bini to achieve that feat.
Today, many Yoruba towns are ruled by aboriginals whose claim to fame solely possessed a beaded crown from Ile-Ife and being regarded as the bearer of the spiritual strength inherent in Ife and its Odùduwà heritage Princes. Indeed, Ikere-Ekiti today has a dual monarch, Ogoga of Ikere is of Bini origin (as a reward for prowess in war and saving Ikere) and the Olukere of Ikere who is second in command but of local origin. In Egbeoba of Ikole, the Elekole family is acknowledged as migrants to the region, yet rules as paramount rulers as possessors of the Ife beaded crown. Indeed, even as an offshoot of the Bini monarchy, the predominantly Yoruboid origin Itsekiris around the fifteenth century adopted a prince (Ginuwa) from the Kingdom of Benin as a monarch, and quickly coalesced into a kingdom under his rule.
At this juncture, one must also note that while it is true at least one oral tradition of Ife did reference an attempted return of Oranyan to “the east or Mecca” to avenge the expulsion of his great-grand father (i.e. father of Odùduwà). The complete iteration of that story reveals that he never succeeded in that mission to reach the “east” placed as north east of today’s Ife; having being stopped by the Tapas (i.e. Nupe) from crossing the “okun” i.e. River Niger and settled at Oyo Ajaka from where the Oyo empire was spurned (note: beyond contemporary Oyo town). This story rather proving the emergence of Odùduwà from Bini city (definitely never situated beyond the Niger), in fact places his origin beyond the northeastern territories and from the earlier Nok or Benue Valley civilizations.
It is on record that Oranyan was a warrior, and who variously fought and conquered territories beyond Ife during his time…varying stories in fact link this pattern to either his brief ascension to the Ife throne, and later abdication, usurpation or abandonment (depending on the story you believe). Oranyan (Oranmiyan) at his death the first Alaafin of Oyo, was buried in Ife.
Now a few posers to the unbelievers:
The only rational extrapolation from the confluence of this story is that:
What appears to be recurrent is the near absolute might, and perhaps influences of this one man- Odùduwà, in the debate. Is it possible that a man that might have emerged to the North East of present day Yoruba land (beyond the Ekiti-Okun region) is a direct progenitor of royalties of aboriginal lands that stretch from modern day Togo to the western banks of River Niger? Without contention, it appears the ego-massaging contest between Ife and Bini is unnecessary, since it appears Odùduwà after all was neither Bini nor Ife.
However, he was definitely powerful, and awe inspiring enough for failing kingdoms around him to unite around his lineage to appoint leaders. The more interesting fact is the near autonomy of the kingdoms that Oodua descendants led; be it in modern day Dahomey, Yoruba land, Itsekiri or Benin from the center of Oodua’s power i.e. Ife. Who says leaders are not born? And yet, it is just a theory.
Air crashes in Nigeria are like coming of age ceremonies, where the attendees air their closets, stride their wares, get immolated and conclude the lessons of the day by wrapping up and behaving like it never happened. After the Dana disaster that has claimed the lives of tens of our fellow citizens, if history were to repeat itself we can guarantee nothing will come of it. Relatives will wail, government will make empty promises and we the citizens will forget!
Aircraft disasters are preventable, and should not happen. Unlike road, the air is not congested and is often plied by professionals with thousands of hours logged in training. Before aircraft take to the air for one to two hour trips, they are normally subjected to rigorous checks that declare them air worthy. Under normal circumstances, only a rare incident of once in hundred-year weather condition should even be capable of disrupting normal take off and landing of aircrafts; but not in an air of error: the type that whiffs the aviation corridors of Nigeria.
There three relative factors in play when aircraft accidents become common in any clime; these are the prevention, the reaction and the deterrence factors in place in such environment.
Speaking about prevention, the reasons why the Dana air crash occurred may not be self evident directly at the moment but the chain of incidents that led to it are clear. First is the age of aircrafts in the Nigerian airspace. A recent list compiled by a blogger, revealed up to 40 years old planes (Kabo Airlines) are being flown in Nigeria! Most airlines have tokunboh airplanes flying upwards of twenty years and coming with the risk of mechanical failures.
This situation is directly linked to an inept regulatory system that allows these airlines to purchase and utilize these planes (with the NCAA director now rationalizing the 22 years old age limit for aircrafts flying our space, commercially). Where government regulation has failed, it is time for the market to put companies flying old aircrafts out of business, and this is why the list now circulating is very important. Beyond regulation though is the capital adequacy and competition issues confronted by the airline industry.
Indeed, the liberalization of the fledgling sector in retrospect is now looking like a terrible error. Even in better developed climes, the airline industry was heavily regulated like a utility until recently when their financial and manufacturing sector could handle the heavy capitalization required for efficient operators. It will be worthwhile for our economic planners and legislators to seriously consider reorganizing the industry, with limited licenses and competition alongside regulated airfares that ensure predictable returns to operators and robust funding mechanism to meet their needs. Our economy is not ripe for unlimited competition, cut throat airline ticket prices and bare bone market driven airline industry! We must learn to crawl before we walk; not all theories on paper work out as planned upon practice.
Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria working with the Ministry of Aviation should immediately commence credit guarantee scheme to finance purchase of new aircrafts by the few operators left under this heavily regulated regime. A rigorous operator guideline that emphasizes rigorous safety record and technical prequalification, robust financial wherewithal of sponsors and open bids for the limited licenses will ensure only four to six operators that are healthy emerge at the end of such restructuring. It will also ensure the sponsors’ collateral can be linked by the CBN to such aircraft purchase guarantee scheme to ensure Nigeria airlines can order tens of new aircrafts much like their South East Asian counterparts to service an ever growing (but more organized) domestic market.
Indeed, a better organized aviation industry also requires brand new airports removed from the madness of urbanization that made the Black Sunday incident a much greater tragedy. What in heaven’s sake is an airport doing in such densely populated area like Ikeja? Aircrafts should not fall on people’s homes! The government of Nigeria and Lagos state seriously start doing something about moving the airport to much saner location removed from the heart of Lagos. The airport is old; it is an eyesore and should be decommissioned as new ones are built at strategic locations away from the mess. The thousands of jobs created by such effort will more than pay off for the investment, disregarding the need, safety of travelers and image change such project will bring to Nigeria.
Speaking about response, the emergency response on Sunday left much to be desired and this has been the case from time immemorial. The lack of firefighters and first aid at the site of the incident probably killed more people than should have actually died. Tales now abound of at least one person walking out conscious in the first twenty minutes when that aircraft did not explode. What if we had firefighters in every neighborhood? What will it cost the government of Goodluck Jonathan to build 2000 fire stations across Nigeria as clear evidence of democratic dividends? What will it cost the opposition to begin a mass movement for such demand much like the fuel subsidy protests and not yield till we ensure no other Dana Air tragedy occurs again, without well trained fire fighters in place?
Beyond prevention and response however we have the deterrence factor that could ensure the human dimensions to the Dana Air crash never occurred. When the accident report is released, we are sure to find cases of technical and management malfeasance. Cutting corners on aircraft maintenance, insisting clear mechanical warnings of failure be ignored, taking to the air when the aircraft clearly had given signs of giving away will be few amongst many. It is important that the usual condemnation give way to prosecution this time around. Cases of murder, manslaughter – voluntary or involuntary must be brought against anyone involved.
This will ensure that next, where the choice is between losing your job and going to jail for life, the staff of airline operators in Nigeria would have learned the lessons of this air crash incidence and err on the side of being a whistleblower. Whistleblower funds should also be explored, to enable folks working inside this airlines give early warning signs to regulators about the management errors that brings this tragedy at regular intervals on our nation.
Last but not the least; the government must be commended for immediately withdrawing the license of Dana Airlines. That is good enough deterrence for other airline operators; fly a plane that crash at the risk of being put out of business completely and immediately. We must go further though than these knee jerk reactions though, and ensure complete investigation and appropriate actions to prevent further loss of lives in our airline industry.
God bless Nigeria and comfort the families of those whose lives were lost.
Much ado have been made in the commentator and foreign policy circles in recent weeks about the speed of the ultimate ouster of the mad man of Tripoli, Colonel Ghadaffi. While many tears have been shed in the elite minded circles of his friends, admirers and benefactors, no one among the common people who suffered the sheer arrogance of his power and despotic rule for 42 years seem to be shedding any; neither am I.
Ghadaffi was a personification of everything wrong with African leadership that has seen the continent retrogress in 40 years. A combination of greed, arrogance of power, brutality and megalomaniac policy making; he was Mobutu, Idi-Amin, Bokassa and Mugabe all rolled into one! His insistence on clinging to power longer than he was welcome ensured his countrymen suffered immense economic damages to which he showed no sensitivity.
While power escaped from his grasp, he could not come to terms with it and killed his people needlessly. As usual, to this ruler (not leader), his hold to power was more important than his lip service love for his country and her people! And as power escaped him by the sheer will of Libyans backed by the firepower of Ghadaffi's perennial enemies in the West, the mad man of Tripoli only became madder!
Some have risen in condemnation of NATO's intervention. Indeed, it is now the single most fashionable stance by African dictators to hug nationalism and African independence to perpetrate evil against their own. Fortunately, the world is not buying it. For far too long, Africa has been raped by her rulers acting like kids in the candy store without any control. And in so far as these rulers continue to act like children (and that is being uncharitable to kids), then intervention to check their excesses is only appropriate.
Definitely, the ouster of Ghadaffi was good for good governance, as many African leaders are now on notice following the Spring Uprising in North Africa that the days of reckoning is nigh; and that unlike before when they could put these uprising down- justice may as well be coming from outside. Aside from NATO, one will expect the International Criminal Court to start looking into Ghadaffi's atrocities soon.
It is true that many Pan-African minded folks detest this interference, but I believe strongly that this is the best outcome in light of the sheer wickedness of African rulers in the past four decades. The mundane justification of slaughtering your own on the altar of independence, especially when you lack legitimacy is long gone. Welcome to the 21st century: despots! Of course, Obasanjo and Mbeki are unlikely to like this trend, they are men of yesterday. Today is for the youths, and in our eyes freedom from the real neo-colonialists is freedom from their locust generation of internal colonizers called rulers.
Is it true that Western powers did this for oil? Or for some kind of economic advantage? Perhaps! But would you care if someone invented a cure for cancer because of money, to cure a dying sibling or just good plain old luck? The end I believe justifies the means of Ghadaffi's ouster. Here is a man that was not only clearly incompetent, but one incapable of reading the clear writing on the wall that his time was up. His retinue of enemies: both domestic and foreign, ensure that his fall will be swift and definite!
Some have condemned the support Nigeria have given to the transitional government; I believe it is appropriate. This was paying Ghadaffi back in his own coin. Here was a man that had the audacity to advice the breakup of Nigeria just last year, and routinely feels no compunction to interfere in the internal affairs of his neighbors with the numerous rebel movements under his sponsorship across Africa. More than anyone, he has been responsible for more civil wars and proxy warfare in Africa; he was a sponsor of many of the mineral fueled conflicts in West Africa. Why should anyone shed for a man who lived by the sword and was felled by it?
Others have pointed out to the rest of the world how Libya was somewhat a model of self sustenance which flourished with milk and honey under Ghadaffi. I say they are sorely mistaken. The key parameter of human prosperity is our ability to seek happiness free from the control of another mere mortal. Fact is, under despots some measure of prosperity can always be guaranteed to a compliant few but those tales of good life was not the case for the dissident tribes and people of Libya under Ghadaffi. Those were carrots akin to Hitler's economic revival program, with the hopes for perpetual domination. Hitler's economic turnaround for Germany does not absolve him from his crime on humanity.
For those giddy about this idea that Ghadaffi was some defender of the African cause or some form of renaissance; I ask them to consider few facts. Ghadaffi in fact had no problems in doing business with the West provided they allowed him to continue looting and kill Libyans. It is easy for us to sit in our comfy nice cushy zone and talk neo-colonialists if we don't realize these so called African "leaders" only discover their nationalism when they get in trouble with their foreign buddies?
You think ordinary Libyans were the ones getting the nice contracts that gave Ghadaffi his fair share of Libyan loot? No! It was Oxy, Eni and other foreign companies that did with the full connivance of the strong man of Tripoli. Same is true of Mugabe, whose later day conversion to land reallocation contrasts sharply with the accommodating stance of his administration in the first twenty years of independence when Zimbabwe prospered and he was the good boy of Western powers until they asked him to abandon his one party state hegemony. Who cares if Mugabe, Abacha or Biya gets kicked out by a foreigner, alien from space or poisoned apple?
I think it is misplaced priority as an African to be concerned about the double standards of the foreign policy of Western Powers (well who wouldn't?) when we have a bigger fish to fry: in the freedom of my people and liberation from the big devils (sorry, big men) of Africa. I am vehemently anti-African rulers (they are not worth to be called leaders) and pro-African people...if that makes any sense. In any case, may be when we start having leaders, we too can start shaping foreign policy that is in our best interest instead of being back sit drivers, and enjoying the benefits of Western freedoms while nagging them.
Lastly, let this not be read as a statement of support for the rebels. For the rebel of today is the oppressor of tomorrow when they go astray sans Robert Mugabe. They will be better served if they turn their attention to the hard work of nation building instead of the hollow search for revenge; ensuring the prosperity of Libya is more evenly distributed among their countrymen. For Ghadaffi, a man that sponsored rebellions across Africa's heartland, there is no more fitting tribute than his dismissal by rebels.