Akintokunbo Adejumo

Akintokunbo Adejumo

Akintokunbo Adejumo, M Sc.,CIHM, MCMI, FITP, MIH, a social and political commentator on Nigerian issues, lives and works in London, UK as a housing professional. He is a graduate of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria (1979) and University of Manitoba, Canada (1985). He is also the Coordinator of CHAMPIONS FOR NIGERIA, an organisation devoted to celebrating genuine progress, excellence, commitment, selfless and unalloyed service to Nigeria and the people of Nigeria

This article is not meant or written to disparage or ridicule the system of governance, politics and democracy in our country (although if I were to do that, I will be within my rights as a very concerned Nigerian) that we have turned on their heads, aberrated, mangled, brutalised and bastardised solely for selfish, ethnic and religious reasons and interests.

Rather it is an attempt at education; attempt at redemption; attempt at deep reflection; attempt at releasing my own deep frustration, yet with the hope and conviction that we are passing through a phase that all true democracies and governments and societies have passed through, learning, improvising, adopting, adapting and improving all the way to become what they are, but only due to commitment, willingness, selflessness, unity and cooperation of all peoples concerned.

My concern is not that Nigeria will not be a great country (it does not have to be the greatest country); my concern is that it will not be in my time, and even in the time of our children.

My first taste of any politics was at the University of Ibadan, when in 1976, I was elected the Commissioner for Health at Independence Hall of Residence. In this small, virtually unrecognised election, I went through nearly three months of campaign, culminating in a Speech Night at the cafeteria. My opponent and I gave speeches; other candidates for other positions also did, and it all went well. No hecklers, no thuggery, no bitterness, no mudslinging, etc. It was a night of convincing the electorates of Independence Hall who they should vote for. I won the election that took place the following day. My opponent, an Igbo guy, and older than me in age and in class, became very good friends with me, and in fact, I appointed him as a member of the Health Committee.  And never did he slur me during my one-year term. That was students’ politics in Nigeria of those days. No gratification from anybody; no sponsor; my friends helped me raise money to print my electioneering posters and leaflets. That was it.

Then Youth Service came and I was the Social Secretary of the one-month Orientation camp in the state.

I was elected the President of the International Students Organisation of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Province of Manitoba, Canada in 1983. The incumbent, an Iraqi Ph D student and the Director of International Students, a Professor and the entire African Students Organisation, led by a Nigerian, the then Miss Morayo Grillo (now Mrs Anthonio), of the university encouraged me to run against a Chinese student, because there had never been an African student leading the organisation, which was umbrella group to all foreign students in the university. I accepted to run, and I was duly elected, thanks to a concerted and positive campaign and support from these people, and this was barely after one year of entering the university to do my Master’s program. During my one year term, I was so much involved in students, and even provincial and national politics that it affected my studies, and resulted in me spending three years for my Masters rather that the eighteen months I was supposed to do. But it was all for a good cause and good personal experience, and I have no regrets. I travelled all over Canada for conferences, meetings, seminars, etc. I met great Canadian politicians including the late 15th Prime Minister of Canada, Mr Pierre Trudeau, the father of the present and 23rd Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau . I was introduced to PM Trudeau as the President of the ISO, Canada, which was not even in existence then, and perhaps even now, in 1984. I was also invited to wine and cheese parties and dinners by the then Minister of Employment and Immigration, the Hon Lloyd Axworthy (MP for Winnipeg), the then New Democratic Party Premier of Manitoba, late Howard Pawley (died 2015) and the then Mayor of Winnipeg, William Norrie, Q. C.

A useful digression. When Mr Trudeau was PM of Canada, (the time I was there, at least) his party, Liberal Party, was not ruling any of the 12 Provinces and Territories of Canada, yet it was ruling nationally. How can a party which could not win in any of its provinces now win nationally? Such is the advanced state of democracy in these climes. And this was a time when the separatist Parti Quebecois of the French-populated and dominated province of Quebec were agitating for separation from Canada, and Mr Trudeau himself was a French Quebecois/Canadian. Yet he resisted with very heavy handedness, the attempt to break Canada by his kinsmen. In fact, a few terrorist incidents were ruthlessly quelled by his government.

Which now brings me to the United Kingdom. If this is not a perfect democracy, at least it is near perfect. It is what any aspiring democracy should copy and emulate. I love it for its openness, tenacity, commitment to the people, the sincerity of its politicians, the selfless service expected of and obtained from the politicians, the freedom, the peacefulness, the transparency, the dividends the people get, the assurance of progress and continuity and expectations of the people from their political leaders, the TRUE GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE.

But what really is the DIVIDEND of Democracy that we love to shout and demand from our rulers? Today, if a Governor or president construct, dualise or rehabilitate a road, they will tell us these are dividends of democracy. What then do we call the military governments that constructed much of the roads in Nigeria. When new universities were approved during the tenure of Mr Jonathan, we call it dividend of democracy, but most of the universities in Nigeria were provided by the military. The Nigerian military governments provided the bulk of the electricity we use today; they built the refineries, the airports and much more things than the democratic governments are providing, should we call it the dividend of militarism?

Kingsley Ohajunwa, wrote two years ago “Let’s start by understanding that governance at any level and in any society, is geared towards providing quality service to people. Democratic governance follows this pattern but goes a step further towards not just providing such services but also ensuring that the people get carried along in this process of service delivery; this is indeed the very essence of democracy. Some may understand “dividends of democracy” as meaning good roads, provision of portable water supply, making education accessible and affordable, constant power supply, accessible medical care, provision of jobs, good transport system, affordable housing, favourable economy for trade and investment, affordable food supply amongst others. However, while all of these may be accepted as what these political office holders should do, the focus is to ensure that they are effectuated by involving the people.

The entire idea of “dividends of democracy” will be useless if it is concerned only with the provision of all the structures listed above. The crux is to have a people-involved process. So, it seems funny when political office holders construe “dividends of democracy” as what they are able to provide and even more worrisome when the governed see it as physical structures built by their representatives in government”.

So, what is the true meaning of the dividend of democracy? To me, it’s simple. A true government of the people; a situation where the people's voice is the government decision; freedom of speech, association and movement; peaceful co-existence; justice, equity and equality; sincere and selfless governance; no marginalisation of any person due to tribe or religion; good governance,  Are we free to speak without arrest? Are we free to move without prevention? Are we free to associate peacefully?

“Dividends of democracy” should be the people’s absolute involvement in running the affairs that concern them, and therefore, we should see the expression as meaning something else but not just the physical manifestations provided.

In the context above, we will see that these are exactly what Nigerians do not get in their practice of democracy. Not even the physical structures. Nigerians are NOT involved in the processes of governance, only the greedy, selfish, and corrupt politicians, civil servants and business leaders are. Simple!!!!!

I started voting in the UK elections as far back as 1991. In 1991, I was a Census Enumerator for the nationwide UK Census, conducted every 10 years; in 2001, I was a Census District Manager and in 2011, was again a Census District Manager. These were part-time jobs that lasted over 6 months. I still had my full-time jobs, these were only to supplement my income. I will not even try to make comparisons with how we hold population census in Nigeria; there simply isn’t ant grounds to compare.

Today, 8th June 2017, is a great and joyful day for 1000 years of British Democracy. It always gives me great pleasure and assurance to vote (and sometimes participate as an official) in any UK elections, be it a Referendum, local government, or general/parliamentary elections. It is a joy to see democracy in action and to know that it is not only determined by ALL Britons (and Commonwealth citizens living and registered to vote in the UK) but it also benefits them and pave ways for better and better lives, society, environment, economically, technologically, and culturally. It is a true tested and proven system, and I do not see any other system replacing this system. Of course, Democracy is not just about elections. It is about the action; it is about good governance; it is about service by the elected and being served from the electors. The electors DO NOT serve the elected; the elected SERVE the electors. It is about humility and acceptance of defeat gracefully;

Former Chinese Premier Cho En Lai, when asked in the 1960s what he thought about the French Revolution of 1789, said that it was too early to tell. Nigerian democracy and the independence, military schisms, turbulences, and civil unrests and war that spawned it is still in its early stages. The challenge for the West will be to find a way to nurture democracy without giving the impression that it harbours neo-colonial ambitions. Nigerians are ever sensitive to the still recent experience of British rule, military rule and civilian ineptitude.

At the same time, it frustrates me, angers me and saddens me to know that we are nowhere near this almost perfect system in Nigeria. Some reading this will tell you “Oh, the British and Americans have been at it for centuries, so we cannot compare them to Nigeria which has only been off and on democracy just over 50 years ago; our democracy is still in its infancey”.

But I counter this by saying, “We cannot re-invent the wheel; we have examples and precedents in Britain, America, and the rest to follow, we cannot start from the scratch; in fact, we cannot afford to start from the scratch, otherwise we are setting ourselves back for over 10 centuries and the world will just leave us behind, if it is not already. Why don’t we adapt Western brand of democracy with all altruism to our culture, environment, and traditions, and adopt democracy if we want it, or discard it in totality if we don’t?”

I do not have to describe again what happens on Election Days in the UK, not the mode of political campaign which is filled with maturity, sensitivity, sincerity, and peacefulness. I do not need to describe the deep commitment and involvement placed on political and electoral activities by the politicians seeking offices, their campaign officials, the people they are asking to vote for them, and the officials conducting the elections making sure there is no rigging and everything runs smoothly not only to ensure that the right people are elected into office, but that money is well spent, and no politician gets campaign money illegally, from dubious sources or use public money and spends more than is stipulated by law. It is a joy to see and participate in such a system, I say.

For the moment, I am simply going to savour the moment and humbly express my joy at watching millions of Britons execute and celebrate their democratic right at the ballot box. It is the joy of democracy.

For Nigerians, it is up to us; whether we remain as one indivisible unit; or as separate units infused into one country (regionalism) or we break apart into small units. For now, it is one country seemingly bent on self-destruction and immolation that do not seem to know the meaning of Unity in Diversity.\


Monday, 27 March 2017 17:07

Much Ado About a Certificate?

I have written many times on a singularity, or perhaps we should call it a genetic aberration or bane of development and progress in our dear country – it is the inability to find the Truth; nobody speaks the Truth; nobody wants to hear the Truth. Even when the Truth is glaring us in the face, we almost always manage to deny it, and successfully too.

Lies, deceit, deception, fraud, propaganda, all these lead to Corruption, hence the reason we are still stymied by poverty, underdevelopment, and an acute lack of progress in everything we do. A people beyond redemption, I always say.

Lack of Truth is a very serious substance in a society of human beings; it is insincerity; it is falsehood; it is dishonesty; it is fraud; it is deceit and deception, and therefore a very poorly run and inept government and the society is what you have at the end of the day. This is manifest in our day to day struggle to escape from bad, inefficient governance and endemic corruption. We do not seem to be winning that battle. It seems every effort made to make good is thwarted a hundred times by the forces of corruption and retrogression. It is almost as if those who profess to be patriots are out to sabotage every effort for Nigeria to progress and live up to its full potential as a nation.

Let’s take the instance of educational certificates. Our President was enmeshed in it prior to the Elections in 2015. Two years after, the controversy still rages on. Many politicians and legislators, federal and states, are still enmeshed in certificate controversies and scandals, but in Nigeria, very few politicians, if any, have been sanctioned because of either producing fake educational certificates, or unable to produce one. Or even claiming to attend higher institutions they did not. Why?

It never fails to amaze me how a society such as ours, with hundreds of universities and other tertiary institutions; with several years of Western education spanning over two centuries, where Nigerians are recognised all over the world as education-loving and excelling, with very brilliant refined minds in all fields of education accomplishment  and human endeavour that one can think of, will still be brought to its shame by some fake people, usually those claiming to be its rulers (or leaders, as they like to  term themselves) who claim to have achieved some educational status and achievement when they have not.

The minimum educational requirements for elective and public office in Nigeria is secondary school leaving certificates or their equivalents. Nigerians, especially those seeking public office, are not under any constitutional obligation to attend Harvard, LSE or Oxford University before they can stand for elective office. (I wonder why most of them always claim to have attended universities abroad and not in Nigeria).

So why do our politicians lie about their education? A kind of inferiority complex is at play here, as well as crass arrogance and patent disregard for the law and Constitution of this country. The Constitution, and indeed the people themselves, have made it very simple for them to befuddle us and reach their political zenith, if I may call it that, so why exalt their educational achievements to what was not?

Only recently the committee on review of the Constitution made a proposal to make the minimum requirement to be a degree in relevant fields.  Not too long ago, a member of the senate presented an American certificate as part of the degrees he had; after investigation, it was discovered that he never attended any American university at all. As of today, he is still a member of the Senate. And this is the Senate that refused to confirm Ag. EFCC Chairman Magu as substantive Chairman, because, according to one of them, Magu cannot speak good English. A Senate, as Sonala Olumhense put it, “far and away the most corrupt and backward legislature in a modern republican democracy…stinking from many years of decay and layers of no standards, low standards, certificate-forgers, foreign-exchange speculators, paedophiles, influence peddlers, dubious former governors and money doublers, not an outpost of transparency and good governance”

Salisu Buhari (not a relation of our current President), a former Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1999 presented a certificate from “Toronto” (very vague) as part of his educational qualifications. After thorough investigation and it was discovered he never attended the University or awarded a certificate, he honourably resigned and that was the last anybody ever heard of him.  He disappeared into oblivion. There is still honour among thieves, it would seem.

The late Gani Fawehinmi went to court to challenge the certificate presented by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 1999 when he (Tinubu) wanted to contest for the governorship of Lagos State. Unfortunately, this case was never concluded; maybe or just maybe if that case was concluded and an example set by the court, no other person would have had the courage to present fake foreign certificate to boost their educational credentials.(quoting Olutoyin Eweje)

Now, my beef is this. Despite the obvious obfuscation, lies and deceit being peddled by the “lying” politicians, we still find people who are certifiably educated (that is, we know they went to the schools they said they went to, and there are hundreds of people who can attest to this, plus the schools themselves) who are supporting these fraudulent people.

What I am saying is this, and please at the risk of being labelled immodest; I am proud to have gone to a university in Nigeria, and another in Canada, taking me minimum of 6 years to study hard and earn university certificates for my efforts, my parents’ money and my family and friends’ goodwill; why would I be in support of a fraudulent charlatan who is claiming to have made the same effort as I did to earn a certificate, and thereby degrading all the educational efforts and achievement of others, all because he/she wants to be in power to rule over me?

I do not take my educational achievements lightly; it was the best thing bequeathed to me by my parents, and actually, also from my country (after all, I enjoyed some free education in the old Western Region)  and that I am in turn bequeathing to my children. I worked hard and genuinely to deserve my certificates and I will not endure or support anybody to demean either my education or that of somebody else by parading fake certificates or claims to have been so educated.

In all my years in education and academia, I have never heard of an institution of higher learning, from Colleges of Education to Polytechnic to University awarding “Certificates of Attendance” after a three, four or even seven years’ tuition. You either have a degree or a diploma, with Pass, Third Class, Second Class Lower and Upper or a First Class, for a first degree.

A course lasting a week or even a month does not entitle one to a Degree or Diploma. That is where a Certificate of Attendance comes in, and even at this, it does not mean one has passed or excelled in the course. It only means, as it says on the tin, one has attended. One may sleep throughout the course, but that person has been there. I know many instances of Nigerian legislators, federal, state and local governments, who spent our money to go overseas on some dubious courses organised by equally dubious trainers, who, whilst in the UK or US for the supposed course, were busy shopping and taking in the sights rather than being in the training room. But they come back to Nigeria, flaunting and flashing Certificates of Attendance, the knowledge, and the money a burden on the poor citizens of Nigeria.

I have no doubt Senator Dino Melaye (who happens to be a friend) is educated, and have, at one time or the other, attended Ahmadu Bello University, one of the first-generation and great universities in Nigeria. He has been a Member of the House of Representatives and now a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I have seen him in action, in and out of the Senate. I have proffered advice to him in the past. Of course, I have never broached the issue of educational certificates to him; I believe that is left to him to handle. Of course, again, we know why the issue of his certificates is suddenly being brought to the fore. He has proven himself to be a fifth columnist in the APC, and the Rottweiler of the Senate President. He is laying himself wide open to political disaster, just as he did on behalf of ex-Speaker, Patricia Etteh, that got him in the bad books of ex-Speaker Dimeji Bankole; and that led him (Dino) to being de-selected by his then party, PDP to run for a second House of Representative term

Dino does not need to file suits against anybody, least of all Sahara Reporters (you don’t mess with them); he will surely end up with eggs all over his face and sink his own political ambition and reputation. What he should just do is bring out his certificate (the Vice-Chancellor of the university has now confirmed that Dino is a bona-fide graduate of the university, with a Third-Class degree in Geography), although he’s not bound by anybody or anything to do that. After all, many of his ilk and political co-travellers have gotten away with this in the past.

With all kinds of depressing revelations being brought out in this certificate saga, it behoves Senator Melaye to back down and suppress his braggado; he can still stay in his favourite Senate, but his credibility is shot to pieces. If you live in a glass house, you do not throw stones. His Senate President himself has not used his medical degree certificate as his minimum qualification for both his governorship and senatorial stints for reasons best known to himself.

However, in this piece, the issue is not about Dino Melaye; not about President Muhammadu Buhari, not about Salisu Buhari and these others who have been embroiled in certificate scandals such as former President Goodluck Jonathan, Prof Maurice Iwu (former INEC Chairman); first Senate President in the Third Republic, Evan(s) or Evan Enwerem;  “Dr” Ayo Fayose, Governor of Ekiti State; former Aviation Minister Stella Oduah; former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole; current Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; former Benue State Governor, Gabrliel Suswan; APC Chieftain and leader and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Senator Andy Uba; former DG of Nigeria Stock Exchange, Ndi Okereke-Onyuike, and a host of others.

The issue is with a system and society that allows such proliferation and no punishment of such fraud; the problem lies with some of our universities who cannot, for reasons best known to them, verify simple attendance and graduation records at their campuses (it is a shame on our institutions of tertiary learning, I hear most of them don’t even have functional websites or url’s); it is a shame on our governing system that we allow fraudsters and forgers and deceptions to invade the corridors of power and lord it over us, make laws for us and to direct our affairs. It is a shame truly educated members of our society are complicit in allowing these forgeries and fraudulent declaration to prosper in all areas of endeavour and it is an indictment on our society as a whole that it is a very degenerate society which allows such dishonesty and crime to survive and thrive. No wonder all is not well with us. Isn’t it a shame that a country as proud, rich and recognised all over the world in educational achievement is being governed (and ruined) by crass illiterates, educated illiterates and people of little or no intellectual and academic standards?

All this boils down to what I have always suspected and written about – that we Nigerians think we are smarter than each other – friends, colleagues, mates, family, acquaintances, and the next man on the street; we always love to take undue advantage, we are wont to cut corners every time to get everything and everywhere. Politicians and civil servants delude themselves that they are the only smart Nigerians because they can sit in their dingy little offices and forge invoices and receipts to embezzle money meant for others of their fellow Nigerians to make their lives better.

We need to change this culture. One causative agent of this depravity is the low level that our educational system has gradually sunken into in the past four decades. Another is the poverty level forced on us by our insensitive and corrupt rulers, military and civilian, over the decades. All these have led to self-deprecation, self-doubt and lack of confidence and belief in our academic, political, and governmental systems, for the main reason that they cannot be trusted to be genuine and authentic. Nigerian universities are no longer respected abroad; our degrees are taken with pinches of salt these days, unlike in the glorious past, opening the way for unscrupulous Nigerians with fraud in mind to take advantage of the gaps in the system to become elected official, civil servants, appointed officials, and even gurus in the private sectors. Criminals and fraudsters populate the legislature and the executive arms of government; charlatans are prescribing justice, impostors run the banking and economic sector and half-baked academicians run our institutions of higher learning.

On the forgers and perjurers, themselves, perhaps we should spare them some pity, as explained earlier in this article, that psychologically, such people are prone to lack self-respect and esteem, lack of confidence in one’s abilities and a warped urge to fit into a level of the society which they could not believe they have found themselves or want to be; their inferiority complex and moral bankruptcy is very acute

Unfortunately, despite what the laws says on perjury (section 118 of the Criminal Code) which prescribes imprisonment for 14 years, and may even be punishable by death or life imprisonment if done to harm another person, and for forgery (Section 465 of the Criminal Code Act), the Nigerian wheel of justice is grinding notoriously and criminally too slowly such that these miscreants of perjury and forgery may escape punishment, especially the politically exposed persons.

It is obvious that a person who perjures or forges certificates to get into office is more than extremely likely to perpetrate all kinds of corruption if elected or appointed into office. This again explains the reason corruption is so endemic and rampant in Nigeria today, and seems so indestructible.

Tell the Truth always!!!!

“Ground-breaking, also known as cutting, sod-cutting, turning the first sod or a sod-turning ceremony, is a traditional ceremony in many cultures that celebrates the first day of construction for a building or other project. Such ceremonies are often attended by dignitaries such as politicians, government officials and businessmen”. (Wikipedia)

Please NOTE the last sentence  - “Such ceremonies are often attended by dignitaries such as politicians, government officials and businessmen”.

Another use is, “If something is ground-breaking, it is very new and a big change from other things of its type: E.g. His latest movie is interesting, but not ground-breaking”.

But why do we need these extravagant ceremonies to get things, projects, official events, etc. started and done in Nigeria? Must all kinds of projects embarked upon by government and even the legislature in their constituency projects, be accompanied by a formal ground-breaking or sod-turning and then after completion, by a formal and noisy commissioning or Grande-opening?

Road constructions, building constructions, independent power projects, bridges, school buildings, hospitals or primary rural healthcare dispensaries, boreholes, electrification, rail projects, water projects, environmental and ecological projects, etc., our leaders must make noise and declare them open either for construction or completion.

First, we waste money, time, and other resources in announcing the commencement of a project, when even the funds needed for the project has not been secured (most often we squander the resources needed for the project at this level)

Then, when substandard work is done, or, as is often the case at all government levels, the contractor disappears with the money, without carrying out the contract – usually with the knowledge and encouragement of the person who awarded the contract in the first place – the money needed to complete the contract is wasted during commissioning.

We spend millions of monies (organising the event, event decorations and management, provision of security for the VIP’s, entertainment, public address system, tents and marquees, etc.) on ground-breaking to start off a project, and then spend another set of millions to commission the project (assuming the project managed to be completed). In some insane state and local government situations, the officials even contract out “aso-ebi” and other souvenirs to commemorate the scandalous and shameless ground-breaking, and afterwards, a big commissioning is done (the tax-payers invariably pay for this extravagance) and many minor and big officials, will of course make some money illegally from this blatant anomaly.

And of course, the swaggering and posing of the officials and politicians on the day. It is a chance for politicians and officials to be recognised and pampered with all kinds of unnecessary protocols, a chance for the arrogant among them to flaunt their position and perceived importance, and then a chance for political encounters to be renewed, while, they are sure, their overburdened public and people they are looting from look on in awe and appreciation (not apprehension at the way their common wealth is being wasted) at the awesome and flagrant display of power, authority, position, wealth, and importance.

What kind of bureaucratic foolishness is this, that we keep enacting over the decades, and our leaders do not seem capable of thinking of getting rid of this culture of waste and propaganda? Why do our leaders keep on making the same un-progressive mistakes?

It is a cultural thing, I believe. Or maybe a genetic aberration or mutation of sorts. As with some other unexplainable traits of the Nigerian-African, such as corruption; insensitivity to the plight of others; do-or-die to get power and wealth; show of power, position, and wealth, etc., it is in the genes. And to exorcise or correct it will be a monumental feat of genetic engineering.

Our democratic leaders, who are professing progress, change, professionalism, enthusiasm and above all, good governance and sincerity of purpose must do away with all these asinine and wasteful exercises and instead divert their attention to getting value for money and quality delivery in their projects to ensure improved service to the people who elected them and are paying their salaries.

Our leaders are not doing us any favours by announcing and parading the commencement and completion of projects they are expected to deliver. And in these lean economic climes, the more reason they should be financially conscious in the way they spend public money. 

The essential point is, while all these formal ceremonies may serve some innocuous political purposes, in Nigeria, and perhaps in Africa, they are exercises in wasteful extravagance and thoughtlessness; unfit for purpose considering the dire economic circumstances that we have found ourselves, and only fuels the selfishness, insensitivity, corruption, and arrogance of our wayward political leaders.

We cannot continue to do things that have not been working for us the same way and continue to hope we will get different results. There cannot be change without commitment and willingness to change.

I do not see the value that ground-breaking and commissioning of projects are adding to what Nigerians are asking for – accountability; good governance; justice, fairness and equity; reduced or zero corruption and a betterment of their lives.

Let the Truth be told always!!! 

"Politics cannot be effectively played or carried out without money. Even in those ancient days when politics started, some form of money was involved. At least, money or forms of it, was used in moving from one place to the other. In fact, people involved in moving from place to place playing politics, spent money to buy food in places outside their places of abode. Again, money breeds corruption. The result of corruption is always money or money's worth. There is no corruption anywhere in the world without some benefit to someone. And this benefit can usually be quantified in monetary terms. Thus, money, politics and corruption can be said to be bed fellows.

They are somehow interrelated. This relationship is quite apparent in Nigeria where corruption is said to have eaten deep into the fabric of the society. The questions that may be asked, are: Has Nigeria always been involved in corruption? What role does money play if any, in politics and corruption in Nigeria? How influential is corruption in Nigeria's politics? Is it possible for politics to be played in Nigeria devoid of money and corruption?" Abstract of "Money, Politics and Corruption in Nigeria" - Bernard Oladosu Omisore, Journal of Public Administration and Governance, Vol 3, No 1 (2013) The Nigerian political mindset and landscape are changing, the problem is whether it is for the better or for worse. This is evident in the recently concluded Ondo State gubernatorial elections. But please, do not let us be lulled or deluded into thinking all was well a hundred, or even eighty percent with that election. Far from it!

But first, we must commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for seemingly getting it right this time and doing a very good job considering the intimidating circumstance and the outgoing Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko for his maturity in congratulating the victor and all the candidates for displaying rare sportsmanship in the history of Nigeria elections. Prior to the election, at each of the parties' Primaries, we saw some desperation on the parts of the contestants; do-or-die politics; nasty name-callings and abuses; money-politics, and of course, the usual Nigerian political pastime and speculation of fanning embers of disunity within the parties. It would serve the observers well to come out and tell us the election was free and fair (I seriously doubt this is any Nigerian election, as of now), peaceful (yes, apparently, I did not hear of thuggery, ballot snatching, intimidation, beatings, cutlass, and gun attacks, etc.) and smooth (all seemed to go well).

But we all know the hindering that the PDP candidate went through before he eventually got the ticket to contest, just mere days before the elections. This, let's be fair, must have greatly impacted on the performance of his party and the final results he got, as he had barely any time to campaign like the rest of his co-contestants. And what or who do we blame? First, his party, which was riven apart by the two factions with incessant court appearances and unintelligible and varying court orders. Secondly, the justice system of this country, which has once again proven its incompetence, bias and corruption. Not a pretty sight or thought! But my concern, despite all the above virtues of a peaceful, so-called, or doubtful free and fair election, is the money politics.

The rampant and open buying and selling of votes by agents of the parties, with the main offenders being the PDP that currently controls the state and the APC that is in power at the federal level. Rumour abound that even the winning candidate's party was "spreading" so much money around to buy votes, it was mind-boggling. With this, I cannot but show my disappointment and disenchantment with Barrister Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, (alias Aketi) the governor-elect, and his political party, the APC, assuming (and of course he will do a disavowal, if asked) that he knew what was going on – the blatant and open buying of votes. Incidentally, the noted, respected, and debonair Barrister was at my church in Ibadan, two Sundays before the election as the Distinguished Guest of Honour (and he deserves this honour a hundred percent) of the Church's Harvest Thanksgiving Service.

He made every attempt to attend, and though he came a bit late, the congregation used the opportunity to pray for his success at the polls. In fact, our Venerable Reverend was of the belief that Aketi has already won the election. I prayed for him too and believe he would win. Now, for me, and for many other sincere and discerning Nigerians, we should not see this election as a victory for democracy alone; we should learn lessons from it, and improve on it. Again, I will not subscribe to the general trance that the election was not flawed. It was! The suspicion that money was used to buy votes (allegedly, but we all know this was true) has besmirched the result of the elections in my mind and eyes. I cannot accept that the election was not flawed with vote-buying accusations and rumours flying about. Financing politics is a good investment in Nigeria.

Once a godfather elects his protégée, return is guaranteed. Corruption in financing politics in the country permeates every level of the government and takes many forms. It is no wonder then that political parties are among the three most corrupt institutions, according to governance surveys in Nigeria. However, the problem has not yet received deserved attention. Take money out Nigerian politics (before your slam me, yes, I know, even the United States elections consume a lot of money, but we all know there is a difference in the way election funds are used, regulated, and accounted for in that country) and what you have are great, conscientious, sincere, honest, and good leaders at all cadres or levels of government and the society emerging at every election, which will be truly free and fair. It is then that Nigerians will truly enjoy what we like to term as "dividends of democracy".

In a society, such as ours, submersed and immobilised by greed, selfishness, deceit, deception, fraud and corruption, this venture of regulating and accounting for election funding might sound very optimistic and impossible, but as with everything, all it takes is a little bit of altruism and sincerity of purpose from our leaders and of course, awareness, watchfulness, speaking-out, resistance and protection by the general public and society. The poverty, ignorance and dispirit in the land are so considerable, and have constituted a formidable barrier to any positive thinking and action from all sections of the society, as well as a daunting barrier to good leadership and good governance. With such an environment, lies in wait unscrupulous and evil opportunists and political jobbers who emerge, crawling out of the woodwork, virtually unchallenged at every electoral exercise, brandishing wads of money and pretending to love their people, by spending money they have stolen from the people in the first place.

In Ekiti State, a new term for this emerged – stomach infrastructure. The result is the scuppering of the ideals of democracy, political evolvement, and good governance. When this happens, of course, as we are now seeing, feeling, and experiencing, it is bad news, very bad news for the people/masses – the people, the society, the country suffers. Any reward given to a person for voting in a particular way or for not voting can be called vote buying. Vote buying is a corrupt election practice. A vote buying bribe is that having a monetary value. The practice of vote buying is banned in most democratic countries. Vote buying is a threat to the conduct of fair elections. Vote buying is an offence when a person knowingly or wilfully gives false information or conspires with another individual for the purpose of encouraging his false registration to vote or illegal voting, or pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting. Vote buying is an electoral fraud, it is an electoral malpractice, electoral corruption and election manipulation, or vote rigging and is illegal interference with the process of an election.

Since 1999's new democratic dispensation in Nigeria (I will leave out 1979 for now), we have had a political campaign finance system that is corrupt and increasingly controlled by stolen money and godfathers, and I fear very much that, in fact, government of the people, by the people, and for the people is really not being practiced in Nigeria. We cannot allow that to continue to happen. When scrutinised critically, those who were buying the votes did so in their pursuit for such power and wealth that would come their way once they enter government. This is the only logical conclusion; what else? And why do they want to enter government? To loot the treasury. Let's be truthful and admit it: this is a political system in which a handful of opportunists and special interests will determine who gets elected or who does not get elected.

That is not what democracy is supposed to be about. Getting unwanted, looted and free money out of politics is vital, if we truly want a democratic country that will be beneficial to "all of us, and not some of them" but much more needs to be done to sustain our democracy. Notably, we must ensure that all Nigerians are guaranteed an effective right to vote, and their votes MUST count. A nation in which all people, regardless of their income, can participate in the political process, can run for office without begging for gifts from some political godfathers. We need to get money out of politics and restore our democracy to combat a corrupted political system controlled by rich crooks, thugs and special interests, whose only interests are themselves and what they will gain from the system.

There is no doubt that money politics and vote buying have serious threats to democratic governance in Nigeria. To combat this resonating threat, electoral and other institutional reforms should be effective, and this can only be done by our elected officials, if they are sincere enough. Anti-corruption, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies as well as electoral authorities need to work together with banks and other financial institutions to monitor the movement of cash before and during elections. It is also essential that we change and imbibe a culture of democratic citizenship that begins with an electorate ready to insist on credible and transparent elections. Voters, and in this case, the poor suffering Nigerian masses, should be useful adequately to engage and transplant moral oppositions to vote buying. Tell the Truth always!!!

The guy in the middle you are looking at is Abiodun Adegoke. He is 7 feet and 2 inches tall, ((in England, they lovingly call such tall people, Beanpoles) almost 18 years old and has just been admitted to resume and complete his secondary education at Segun Odegbami International College and Sports Academy (SOCA), Wasimi, near Abeokuta, Ogun State.

He should have finished his school leaving certificate and be in first Year at a university, but failed to do so following his inability to cope with the psychological effect of the taunting by the public, the bullying by school mates and the financial constraints he had to face. 

So two years ago, he left school in SS1 and retired into isolation, remaining mostly indoors weeping for the 'misfortune' fate had dealt him. He admits he is facing psychological challenges because of his unusual height and is only trying to cope with the attention he attracts everywhere. All of that until Chief Segun Odegbami found and took him in to resume a more purposeful life.

At SOCA, he is to be well schooled, trained and groomed to gain a very good education as well as sports excellence that would open up opportunities available to someone with his exceptional gift of nature. Guess in what sport? Basketball, of course!

There is no doubt that he may be destined to be a great basketball superstar in the mould and background of the legendary Akeem Olajuwon. This is what SOCA is committed to steering him towards.

But there is a big challenge - the finances to take care of the rest of his education.

Interestingly, Abiodun is from Ibadan. 

What will it take the Oyo State Government to take up the financial commitment of supporting him to finish schooling in Nigeria? Being in SS2, he has less than two years left to complete his studies. 

Undoubtedly, American College basketball scouts will soon be on his trail, and a successful future with the support of the Oyo State government will be a big plus for the people and government of the State. 

Your Excellency, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, here is a challenge for you, and an opportunity to demonstrate goodwill and support for one of your children from the State. It will be a positive gesture by you that would reflect and reciprocate the kindness and benevolence of the good people of Ibadan and Oyo State. 

I am sure the Governor of Oyo State has Chief Odegbami’s phone number. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 23:41

Rio 2016 – Why We Really Failed

Just a few days after the just concluded Rio Olympics, Mariam Usman, a Commonwealth medallist, said she has lost the urge to represent Nigeria at international events. She was the only weightlifter that represented Nigeria in Rio, where she competed in the +75 category and amassed 265 kg. She finished 8th in her group. Her words: “It is painful to come to the Olympics and see people who are your contemporaries perform better than you; not because you lack the ability but because you were not prepared like them….I can only consider going to another Olympics if things change for the better. But if the status quo is maintained, I don’t think I will go to another Olympics again. Olympic gold medal (or any medal for that matter – my own input) doesn’t come cheap. It is painful that one has to suffer and when competition comes they expect you to win a medal with your blood. The people you have to compete with had everything they needed: training grants, competitions and are exposed to the most modern equipment. I had nothing. You don’t expect such people who have invested so much to lose to one who don’t even train adequately.”

Only four years ago, in Nigeria, the top leaders of sports were at a Presidential Retreat to discuss London 2012 debacle and to lay a solid ground work for Rio 2016. Sometime in 2013 the media showed the top echelon of sports administration hunkering up to create a high performance programme for Nigerian sports and therefore deliver medals for Nigeria at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but because of politics and power play at the upper echelons of government as well as reported strong resistance by the top civil servants to this Bolaji Abdullahi-led initiative, all these efforts, as we have now seen happen, turned out to be in vain. It's time to start planning for Tokyo, and hopefully there will be some sense this time.

However, for those urging and hoping that Nigeria would start preparing for Tokyo 2020 Olympics immediately, we may already be too late.  Nigerian officials, whether sports or in other areas of our governance, are not built for preparedness – readiness is an alien activity to them. If they are ready, there will not be money to mismanage or divert, and nepotism to be effected. The British Olympic Association (BOA) has already visited and inspected prospective preparation camps in Tokyo three times in the past one year and will be finalizing arrangements in October this year. Also the developmental cycle for BOA is eight years, meaning that they will this year identify and begin to groom athletes that will represent Great Britain in the 2024 Olympics. In other words, for Tokyo 2020, the BOA started 4 years ago!!! That is what is called PREPARATION TO SUCCEED.

BOA invested for twenty years to achieve their leadership position at number two at Rio 2016. Nigeria has not started at any rudimentary level yet, so four years is nowhere near enough in a system so suffused with corruption and measured maladministration; that puts square pegs in round holes; and that places mediocrity over merit every time and that is always engaging in “fire-brigade” and “last minute panic” approaches to everything  it does, even in governance. The rest of the world invests, commits and continues to move on in a 21st century which has no place for the 19th century. This has been said over and over again and we keep saying it. The problem is that the people who are "at the top" either don't understand or are deliberately unwilling to actually turn sports around in this country, or both and more. Unfortunately for us, these people, these top dogs civil servants are virtually untouchable. They are the Alpha and Omega of sports in Nigeria; they call the shots; and even the politicians placed above them to “minister” over them, are scared stiff of them.

It is unlike us to ever start in time. We always like crisis management in a world that's daily perfecting scientific long-term management by the day. Our result at the Olympics was so woeful but that is not unexpected with zero planning and the reported vanishing of appropriated funds over the years. That will not be unlike us. It's garbage in garbage out. It is difficult, if not outright impossible, to get the right answer from the wrong input. The name of the game is a well-considered enduring plan and honest finishing. This is the only thing that will attract sponsorship by corporate organizations. As things stand, there is nothing to show that we have begun to come to terms with the problems talk less the solutions. Unless and until we do, the Jamaicas of this world will excel while we will still come back, year in, year out to make up the numbers and then bemoan our problems and failures.

But look ahead we must! We must look at what Britain did after Atlanta ‘96. We cannot politicise sports and expect professional results. Neither can we have complete mediocre and charlatans running our sports and expect to do well at international sports events. Mediocrity and charlatanism will always breed corruption, which ends up affecting preparations for major sports events.

UK Sports has done very well since the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. I can't describe what they have done here. Funded mostly by the National Lottery,  funding of its athletes has increased almost 400%, talent hunting and catch them young, local or grassroots sports was funded and encouraged, more facilities provided,  etc. That is a country that went for it. They have never had it so good since they realized from what they achieved in Beijing 2008, what was missing in their sports and decided to correct them. For the second position that Team GB took at the Rio Olympics, they worked for every medal, they paid for every medal; according to Team GB and UK Sports, every medal they won was worth four (4) million pounds sterling; being the amount they invested in the athletes that represented Britain at the games.

I don't see Nigeria doing that. Nepotism, favouritism, corruption, hypocrisy, square pegs in round holes and cultural inhibitions will not let us do it, despite the fact that we used to do it before, an example being you yourself as a product of when we were serious and focused.

So why did Nigeria fail, or rather, why didn’t Nigeria win more than just the one bronze medal in the soccer event?  Unfortunately, it had precious little to do with the Sports Minister Dalung! He is just the man who inherited a sabotaged and already sunk boat as I discovered...we have deeper problems than the beret wearing activist! In fact, recent revelations revealed that the Minister did his best to alleviate the problems faced by the athletes, but at every turn, he was sabotaged by both the Sports Ministry officials and the Nigeria Football Federation, including the coach of the bronze-winning football team himself (I refer to the Atlanta hotel accommodation fiasco and the airplane debacle).

“Research shows that investment into sport in developing countries is much less than in developed countries, as sport development is usually not a top priority in the national budget or in the education system of most developing countries. Studies show that a ‘vicious cycle’ is emerging as a result of the underdevelopment of sport in developing countries, in which lower investment in sport decreases the potential for athletes to build their talent. It also means that there are fewer prospects for athletes to continue their sport training or pursue professional sport careers in a developing country. In turn, the lack of talent-building opportunities in a developing country leads to less return on the little investment put into local talent, further debilitating local sport development structures and sport career pathways. Less developed countries are unable to utilise the talent of their strong performers and/or tend to lose them to more powerful nations in global sport. Sport regulated by global processes can thus contribute to the underdevelopment of a developing country’s talent”. Underdevelopment of sport in developing countries - http://www.sportanddev.org/en/learnmore/sport_and_economic_development/underdevelopment_of_sport_in_developing_countries/

To his credit, ex-President Jonathan funded a high performance structure that was established in 2013. The chaps at the corruption-ridden, indolent and mediocre-packed National Sports Commission ensured its death. They worked against it until it ultimately failed. They drove the then Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi out. They strangulated the programmes of the various identified sports federations; the usage of the billions earmarked for the project cannot be explained; they didn't pay the foreign experts on time and hardly followed their advice. They didn't build and utilise the high performance centre projected as at when due. They refused to fund the preparatory programmes of the sports federations even after asking them to submit their 2016 Rio Olympic roadmaps. Many sports presidents are said to still be owed monies for international programmes they had to raise money to attend dating back many years. To top it all, the defunct NSC and now Ministry of Sports routinely hijacks the role and powers of the Nigerian Olympic Committee, NOC in preparing and disbursing funds for the major events. They did not do this for altruistic reasons or to save funds for other projects, but mainly and solely to divert the money into other purposes. Where are the billions said to have been set aside for Rio since 2013?

Frustrated, in November 2015, the hired American High Performance Director, Angie Taylor predicted that Team Nigeria could record a disastrous outing at the 2016 Olympics Games scheduled for Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, maintaining that no proactive step was being taken by NSC leadership to avert a fresh no-medal show during the 2016’s most glamorous sporting showpiece, adding “You go and ask the leadership how prepared they are because with what I can see, there is no preparation in place. Nigeria will have to qualify first before talking about going to the Olympics. You have to ask them why they couldn’t make the athletes go for qualifiers which they ought to go since early this year.”

The NSC it seemed was made up of powerful and untouchable Civil Servants who are very much opposed to new ideas, and do not tolerate reformists. They don't like anyone getting in the way of their business as usual pipelines. Even at the Presidency it was rumoured that Minister Dalung's request for funding for Rio 2016 was "delayed" for several weeks until he could see President Buhari in person. What this indicates is that those who corruptly benefit immensely from the previous government’s style of “see me first" are still at the upper echelon of civil service.

Various committees that were established to prepare for the Olympics were all scrapped one after the other by succeeding henchmen at the defunct NSC who the media says would have produced the goods, and the new Ministry of Sports continued in like manner.

In most of the countries that excel in sports, especially football, it is business. In countries where there are restrictions or the sports are in rudimentary stages, individuals of those countries look abroad and invest in other countries' sports. Examples are Chinese, Russians, Middle East sheiks who have invested heavily in the English Premier League. However, the problem in Nigeria is the centralization of everything. Sports should be taken out of the hands of government somehow (I will admit there is a lot of business risks involved here), but with government creating an enabling environment, erecting and providing infrastructures and providing incentives to private investors.

The truth is: it is Government's responsibility to show the way. Three sports ministers in three years and a lack of financial independence of sports federations are hardly confidence-giving. When, as occasional as it happens, they get private or corporate sponsors, it is still government account that the corporate or individual sponsors will pay this money into, and the elected president is not a signatory to the money, so he chases the civil servants up and down to get access to the money; in most cases they don’t get it, or if they do, only in trickles which negates the effective use of such funds. There is therefore a system where Government doesn't fund sports yet controls the funds raised externally. However, for the big Games it is Government's first responsibility to finance the preparation and participation of athletes and teams. Britain spent £4million for every medal they won in Rio 2016! That's reality.

The role of governments in sports development in every country in the world is well documented, easily available and adaptable to our special circumstance, but the challenges the government should address are as follows:

  1. How to address the recent decline in sports performance excellence in the country, and deliver a long-term sustainable increase in participation and success at international level;
  2. What type(s) of sports areas should be encouraged and how should they be measured;
  3. How to ensure that funding goes to those who can best deliver results, and not corruptly mismanaged;
  4. How to specifically target under-represented and under-privileged  groups across the country;
  5. How to develop, encourage and sustain grass-root sports as well as “catch them young” programs;
  6. Understanding the role of the private sector, and how public sector bodies, sports federations and other sports bodies should work with the private sector to help deliver sporting excellence or improvement;
  7. How to best support new and/or non-traditional sports and activities;
  8. How to maximise the potential of new technology to increase sports performance;
  9. How to use the power of sport to achieve broader positive social outcomes and whether some funding should specifically be spent for that purpose.

So, can we hope we will start preparing for future international tournaments and games? We can only hope. Like Bobby Knight, coach of the U.S.A. men's basketball team that won the 1984 Olympic gold medal said “The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”

We need dedicated and totally incorruptible officials; we need knowledgeable and skilled officials; we need motivators; we need funding and very heavy investment from the federal government; we need the federal government to be very much interested in sports and the benefit and goodwill it brings to them, as a government and to the people of this country; we need to separate sports from politics, tribalism and religious intolerance; we need infrastructures to be rehabilitated or constructed; we need to start treating our athletes and other sportsmen and women right; we need to start identifying the right people to run sports in this country and not allowing opportunists and charlatans from getting into the sports federations; we need private and corporate sponsors who will be given all the incentives and conducive environment to enable them recoup their investment or at least, be appreciated nationally for doing so.

We need grassroots sports to be revived or invigorated – schools sports, national sports festivals, university and polytechnic games, corporate-sponsored sports tournaments, etc.; we need overseas scholarships for potentially successful athletes; talent hunting and management of sportsmen and women in areas of sports that we want to concentrate and excel on.

The Ijaws and Ilajes are known for their swimming prowess; why don’t we talent-hunt them, pick the best, educate and train them in the finesse and skills of international swimming? The Igbos are supposed to take wrestling as a virility test for men; can’t we exploit this talent and potential? The Hausas are known for their ability to fight with their feet, so why not pick some at a local festival; and train them in taekwondo? Edo and Delta boys are good footballers; I don’t care if the entire Nigerian teams are made up of them, as long as it is Nigeria that is written on their kit.

Nigeria used to excel or at least perform creditably in sports like table tennis, football, wrestling, boxing, weight-lifting, taekwondo, and used to occupy the top international rankings in the men’s and women’s 100, 200 and 400 meters; let us concentrate on these sports that we can excel in or has reasonable chances of winning laurels, and let’s fund and motivate them. Kenya and Ethiopia discovered a long time ago that long distance running is their forte, and they concentrated on providing the world’s best athletes in this area of athletics. This is what UK Sports and the British Olympic Committee have been doing to get them their recent success. They rated each sports area and measured their chance of success in each and funded them accordingly. For example, they went for these three events - swimming, sailing (rowing) and bicycling events - funding the athletes and facilities more heavily than some other sports, and they got many medals of various colours to show for their investment. The next sports they funded more heavily were in athletics, and only in selected events.

I might sound so optimistic or perhaps, unrealistic here – where is the money, where are the facilities, where is the commitment, where are the officials, where are the athletes, etc.? But, we have to start somewhere; something we are always saying we are going to do, but never does.

But start somewhere, we must!

As we ecstatically inch towards the finale of the greatest sports fiesta in the world, the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Brazil, it is becoming increasingly apparent to many Nigerians that this time, Nigeria is going to end up without a single medal of any colour in any of the sports event. In fact, we may not even be in any of the finals of any sport, except perhaps, football, our current saving grace. But before I go on, let me appreciate  and say Thanks and Kudos to our motley crew of athletes who, despite all the obstacles hurled in their way by insensitive and inept officials, are still competing for their fatherland, and giving it best they could, under the extenuating circumstances.

Watching Rio 2016 Olympics athletics events is a sad reminder and unarguable confirmation of how far backwards Nigerian athletics – and indeed, sports - has gone. While it is very heartening to watch a South African win the 400 meters men in world record time and a Botswanan finishing fifth, it is instructive to note that Nigeria was not represented in that event. Also, the other day an Ivorian lady came fourth in the women's 100 meters; again no Nigerian made it through to the finals. To think that not too long ago, at least in Africa, the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters were the exclusive preserve of Nigeria, male and female. I really do wonder......

So, shaking my head, what is the matter with our track and field athletes, and again, indeed, sports? Our athletes are simply not performing (that is, those few ones we see), and whose fault? Definitely, I will not pass the blame on the athletes; rather, it is the fault of our mediocre, corrupt and unpatriotic sports administrators and the indifferent Nigerian government itself. The people, this time, take my vote; we are as enthusiastic, supportive and patriotic as ever and always.

One thing is clear and salient, Nigeria has got the talents - harnessing these talents and making them world champions will remain so very elusive as long as those in authority continue to be inept, lethargic, unconcerned, self-centred, self-serving, serving sectional interests, practicing nepotism, putting mediocrity before meritocracy and lacking vision and focus.  The lack of cohesion, the lack of adequate preparation for international events, the absence of unity, the overwhelming ethnicity complete the major reasons why we don't do well in sporting activities these days... and I might add, in everything we do.

Oh! The days of Chidi Imoh, Innocent Egbunike, Sunday Bada, Mary Onyali, Falilat Ogunkoya, Francis Obikwelu, Soji Fasuba, Henry Amike, Yusuf Alli, Olapade Adenekan, Osmond and Davidson Ezinwa, Deji Aliu, Glory Alozie, Christy Opara, Beattie Utondu, Chioma Ajunwa, Olabisi Afolabi, Regina George, Charity Opara, Clement Chukwu, Adewale Olukoju, Fatima Yusuf, Moses Ugbisien, Airat Bakare Adejobi, Alimat Sadiat Sowunmi Barnes, Carol Lyn Nwajei, Kehinde Vaughan, Linda Ezemokumo, Linda Ige, etc. They don't make them like these anymore. These may not have won Olympic medals or World Championship medals, but they have won in Africa and made their marks on the international stage too. Most of them were highly globally ranked and respected; gave Nigeria respect and dignity in athletics, and did their best for this country.

Olukayode Thomas (Playthegame.com of 09.08.2007) in his article, The Sorry State of Nigerian Sports, wrote “It is shocking that officials of NSC are not concerned that about a decade ago, for every eight lanes in the women 400m at either the European circuit or the IAAF Grand Prix, it was certain that four of the athlete would be Nigerians. Then we had three consistent 49.00 secs runners in Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo, Charity Opara and Fatimah Yusuf. The last of the four, Bisi Afolabi was then a consistent 50.00 secs runner. But officials of NSC are not bothered by any of the above. Nor are they bothered that a few years ago, Nigerian female sprinters like Mary Onyali, Gloria Alozie, Christy Okpara, Beatrice Utondu, Ajunwa, Mary Tombiri etc. rivalled the likes of Gwen Torrence, Gail Devers and others for honours in major games and championships.

They have forgotten that not too long ago Olapade Adeniken, the Ezinwa twin brothers, Davidson and Osmond, Daniel Effiong. Francis Obikwelu, Seun Ogunkoya, Sunday Bada, Clement Chukwu, etc. were among the best sprinters and quarter-milers in the world. They also don't seem to remember that apart from the Americans, Nigeria's relay teams were the most dreaded in the world not too long ago. NSC officials do not realise that unless they go back to organising monthly classics and other developmental programmes and the American school system, we will never get back to where we were before, talk less of surpassing it.

It was local developmental programmes that led to the discovery of such phenomenal talents like Ajunwa, Bada, Afolabi, Ogunkoya, Obikwelu, Alozie, Nduka Awazie, Angela Atede, Rosa Collins, Innocent Asonze, Opara, Deji Aliu and others too numerous to mention, while the American school system gave as the likes of Ogunkoya-Omotayo, Onyali, Chidi, Imoh, the Ezinwa Brothers, Pat Itanyi, Fatimah Yusuf, Innocent Egbunike, Adewale Olukoju, Chima Ugwu, Vivian Chukwuemeka and others.

NSC top shots have not thought it wise to revive the programmes of the past, which worked so well. What appears paramount to them are promotional events, and obviously the megabucks that goes with them”.

Compatriots please read and digest the above. What has changed? Nothing! Has anything been learnt? No! Isn’t it painful that NOBODY ever listens or learns from mistakes and history? Are we cursed to be saddled by unthinking and mediocre administrators in all areas of our lives in this country? Why are we always applying “fire brigade” approaches to all our preparations? Ours is a classic case of “if you fail to prepare, then be prepared to fail” – and this has been happening since time immemorial. Our inept administrators never fail to prove and confirm their ineptitude.

In my article, “The Death of Nigerian Sports And A Walk Down Memory Lane”, published in 22 Aug 2009, I wrote: “We were on our way then, because in subsequent years, Nigerian sport was improving splendidly, nurtured by disciplined, sincere, honest, focused, dedicated and committed sports administrators such as the late Abraham Ordia, Isaac Akioye, Dan Enajekpo, Dr Awoture Eleyeae etc. They practically lived for athletics, a trait that is hard to come by in present-day managers. Then the roof, or rather the sky, fell on Nigerian sports the moment the likes of Amos Adamu came in with their one main ambition – make as much money as they can. And they did make money”. But the country’s sports have been on a downward spiral since they took over.

In that article, I proffered many solutions, advice and called on the government of Nigeria to please realise the importance of sports in governance. We do not need to win tens of gold medals in any international competition, but to perform well and creditably; for our athletes to be proud they contested, and for upcoming youths to be interested and looking forward to represent their country and for that country to be proud of them too.

Grassroots sports development remains a programme on paper; sports facility development and welfare of athletes are lip service; poor funding and no call for private investments; the decay in sports is a reflection of the decay in Nigeria. Look at our efforts in recent past at sanitising the sports industry and see what obtains today. How do we expect to be victorious without any worthwhile effort, sacrifice and necessary prerequisite to be competitive in the world – little or no funding or adequate preparations were made to compete with world-class competition.....it's a no brainer. ....we cannot reap where we don’t sow. We refuse to invest in our youths, in our sports, in our education; so what do we expect from those youths who are the backbones of sports in any country? Then we install mediocre and corrupt officials to manage our sports.

Rather than make progress, we are retrogressing. This is beyond corruption. We just keep having inept people who know nothing about sports running sports. That's another problem – putting square pegs in round holes, all because of nepotism, political narrow-mindedness and blatant ethnicity.

On the Africa medals table, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt are ruling the roost with medals; these are also more progressive African economic hubs, let us face it. Globally the US, Great Britain, China, Japan, Germany are on top ... again these are global economic and industrial giants. If only we understood how a sound economy impacts on so many things positively, we would not trifle with it.

There is a very strong correlation between sports achievement and economic and industrial progress. In a country where people are impoverished, unemployed, unloved and uncared for by their own leaders and government, living day by day in an unjust, unequitable and corrupt society, where in every area of endeavour and governance, there is no level playing field, there is no opportunity to excel, there is no chance to spread your wings, failure is bound to be the outcome of any competition that the government embarks on. It is there for all to see in EVERY area of our lives.

Now comes the question of Nigerian nationals now competing for other countries, notably, Asian and Middle-east countries? Do we blame them? Why are others still competing for Nigeria despite all that Nigeria has NOT done for them, if that is our grouse against our country’s attitude? Why are you still a Nigerian yourself? (and if you say you're not Nigerian anymore, why are you reading this article and interested?) Why are some athletes still doing things for Nigeria when they have seen that Nigeria MAY not do anything for them in return?

Somebody said Patriotism is reciprocal; No, it is not (my opinion). It is one way. You are either patriotic to your country or you're not. Like the famous JF Kennedy saying goes, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”. Yes, our rulers are bad, but also our people, the followers, are bad too. It is a societal problem. We have all contributed to the demise of EVERYTHING in Nigeria. I do not believe there is an excuse for abandoning or not representing one’s country of birth when the opportunity arises.

Our country itself, NIGERIA, is not a bad country, God knows; it is the people, rulers and followers alike, in it who are messing it up. Didn't we have the American-born Nigerian professional rower, Chierika Ukogu, who probably paid her own way to the Olympics, rowing for Nigeria? She's probably never been to Nigeria, and probably bought her gear from her savings. The Nigerian Olympic Basketball team consist mostly of American-born Nigerians who came together to represent Nigeria from their base in the US.

We have to change the system; we have to change the leaders; we need to educate our people. It is our country. It belongs to all of us, not greedy, clueless, corrupt charlatans parading themselves as leaders, senators and legislators. Please this is NOT about Politics or Party Politics. It is about a natural desire for us to be a good country, a good people, a progressive people.

How can our athletes and sportsmen/women give good performance with no preparations or trainings? It is the fault of the mediocre people that are everywhere in Nigeria. It’s the fault of the system. Sometimes the best are not picked because those that will go have godfathers and mothers. How can they compete with people who prepare and train year in, year out and have been doing so since their country qualified for the next Olympics. Since 1998, UK Sports has increased its funding to its athletes about 300%, and this paid off when London hosted the Olympics in 2012. Their commitment, efforts, vision, focus, resources, and funding has paid off again at the Rio Olympics. They invested in their athletes; the country reaped the benefits, the fame, and most importantly, the goodwill of their citizens, who are happy and proud every time a medal of any colour is won for Great Britain. Yet, the British Government itself contributes very little to the funding of their athletes. This is left for the independent UK Sport to raise funds, mostly from the National Lottery, to support promising athletes and sports that they feel they will get the most medals and mileage.

In my country, there is no proper diet; no regular training schedule; very little funding (and the little funding, the officials still put into their own pockets); there are no more serious sport programmes to nurture new talents; youth empowerment is zero; the motivation and drive is no more there and I think the system of picking these athletes is seriously biased. They don't pick the best anymore.

Bad leadership begets a bad system ....and when the system is bad, nothing works! Our leaders do not seem to care about sports; this is visible when you see them getting fat and unfit whilst in power; going about in agbada, babariga and feathered caps; and not allocated needed funding for sports. The National Stadium in Lagos; the Abuja Stadium, the Liberty (now Obafemi Awolowo) Stadium and the Lekan Salami Stadium in Ibadan, all lying almost derelict, rare or no sporting activities, except uses for religious and entertainment activities. The stadia have been converted to “pepper-soup” joints, where even the rent that commercial tenants pay fail to be recorded into the account of the Sports Commissions that own these stadia, and end up in the pockets of the Commission officials.

Our rulers do not know anything; their minds are totally shut out from ideas and knowledge; they are irresponsible, obdurate and tyrannical. They are devoid of any inspiration to do things for their country, only to loot. They don't know sports make the country great and famous. The only 'sports' they know is corruption and oppression of the masses. They do not know the role that sports plays in national development, youth empowerment, employment, health, good governance, acceptability and respect in the comity of nations. They do not know that sports promote unity and people cohesion; promotes security and negates dissent and grumbling from the people. They do not know sports is a tool of governance.

The key is the re-introduction of an autonomous National Sports Commission headed by a technocrat .Their remit will be for development of sports in the country, and to raise funds which will then be matched by the government after due accountability. Coaches and sports administrators should be employed and posted to the geo- political zones and to all the States and the various sports Associations. This will also assist in creating jobs for the youths on the streets. The talent scouts should be all over the country, helping to organise grassroots sports to identify budding talents that they can then groom to world standard. School Sports should be revivified and brought to the fore .The School Sports have always been producing national athletes in the old days. Foreign-based athletes always compete against home-based to pick jersey. Most often the Local based have always been defeating foreign based then. The overseas scholarship should be brought back for budding talents to go to America to gain more – this is how we produce Chidi Imoh, Innocent Egbunike, Mary Onyali, etc

In the days of these athletes mentioned, there was a pride to being a Nigerian, a certain sense of belonging and patriotism; zeal to project Nigeria.... All of these fueled the very ingredient of representation through TALENT HUNTING!

Every government, past and present, military or democratic, federal, state or local, is to be blamed. Nigerians in the past that did well in sports did it out of sheer determination and a hope that sports issues would improve in the country. But they have realised that every Nigerian government does not care about its citizens, neither do the government keep to its promises. So, those who represent us now are not only ill-prepared but have been emotionally drained. I learnt that those who went to Rio were told to pay for their flights and warned to fly economy. If this is so, how can they perform well when they have a lot of other worries on their minds?

Simply put, our sports are just a reflection of who and what we are – a nation without pride, dignity, credibility, vision, focus; led, ruled and ruined by mediocre people of dubious character and pseudo-patriots.

There are thousands of Niger Delta natural swimmers, but those who run our sports would never look that way as these people do not belong. Archery should be natural to the core north, but the Almajeri system is an entrenched social system that forbids schooling, not to talk of sports participation.

When the wicked ones are in the position of governance, the nation mourns and when the righteous ones are in the position of governance, the nation rejoices. This is a true reflection of the current happenings across every sector in Nigeria. Current happenings beg for proper and ideal solutions. We all have gone to sleep in Nigeria and it is time to wake up to the reality of the current times.

Things have fallen apart. We have failed and are still failing, ourselves. But the hope is that we can still rescue ourselves from these self-inflicted failures.

Will we be saying the same thing in four years’ time?

(I started writing this article in March 2014, but for some unknown, warped reason, never completed it. I have now decided to finish it)

"Nigerian leaders on Friday (28 February 2014) called on Nigerians to work harder towards ensuring the country’s unity", with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo averring that Nigeria will not break up. They made the call in separate interviews with State House correspondents shortly after they were honoured with the nation’s centenary awards at the Presidential Villa, Abuja”.

Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, said for Nigeria to have survived the first 100 years despite the various challenges of nation building, the country would not break up.

They should tell us what they mean by ''to work harder''? Nigerians should keep Nigeria one for them to continue looting!

Also recently, the Senate President, Mr David Mark, also bemoaned the continuous activities of terrorists ravaging parts of the country and pleaded with citizens to rise up against the orchestrated plot to destabilise the country.

Isn't it incredible that those destroying our nation are the same ones that lecture the poor masses to refrain from destabilizing the nation? They want the poor, common Nigerian that they have impoverished and debased to fight their war for them. They want us to be their cannon fodder while they stay in their comfortable mansions and drive around in their armoured cars.

The same Nigeria that they love so much they plundered and are still plundering and failed to build great has its citizens busy queuing to buy fuel at all and crazy costs at filling stations. The same Nigeria, whose youths and young graduates are walking listlessly and idly on the streets without jobs; the same Nigeria where their people sleep on the streets; the same Nigeria where if you don’t have money to pay, doctors will not treat you in the hospitals; the same Nigeria where the students barely learn anything in the state schools because the classrooms are dilapidated and the laboratories are not equipped; the same Nigeria where when you drive on the roads in the morning, you are not sure of coming back home alive.

They are living in the dream land. Our leaders are simply the greatest threat to the existence of Nigeria. Many Nigerians have lost hope in them. My concern is how to awaken the consciousness of the followers into action(s).

It pains me a lot and wrecks my heart when I read utterances like this which smacks of the highest hypocrisy. It is the same Nigerian Leaders who are messing the country up; looting the treasury, indulging in corrupt practices, insisting on power at all costs; instigating and promoting religious and ethnic animosities that can lead to break-up; disregarding the calls and cries of their people for betterment, succour, development and progress, etc.

These are the same people who, decimating our education, build their own private schools and universities, and send their own children abroad for education with looted funds; who, neglecting the health sector, find it convenient to treat themselves and their families in overseas hospitals; who, refusing to maintain or construct our road networks, find it convenient to buy and fly in private jets; who, neglecting the development of our agriculture and food security have private multi-billion naira farms; who award our oil blocks to themselves and their friends and families, etc. They are the ULTIMATE HYPOCRITES!! They are the ones destroying and destabilizing (or been destabilising) Nigeria for a very long time with their greed, selfishness, ineptness, and corrupt practices; but listen to the tune they're all singing now that election time is coming.

Now they are calling on us - the despondent people whose lives they have plummeted into poverty and impoverishment and have refused to better - to work harder. They are calling on us to continue to bear the brunt of their recklessness, bad leadership, and corrupt practices at all levels of government and so on. They are calling on us to continue to be tolerant as they continue their looting

I am very much convinced that God will not come down and save Nigerians (from their leaders) because He has given us everything to have a comfortable life but we are too passive, gullible and because we celebrate thieves and mediocrity. The alternative is that we continue in a shameless spiral of dependence.

Quite frankly I don’t see how Nigeria can progress until Nigerians are cured of their self-hatred. It is this self-hatred; this self-deprecation that translates into the politicians’ and government’s contempt for the abilities or capabilities of Nigerians!

We need to amend our laws to give teeth to the agencies which are supposed to fight corruption. Our laws are not strict enough to ensure that sentences are stiff even when the rare conviction is achieved. We also need legislation on Assets Forfeiture which places the onus on an accused person to prove that he rightfully earned the income with which he/she acquired properties which appear to be beyond his/her legitimate resources. If a public official cannot account for how he/she earned enough money to own companies, shares in quoted companies, hill-top mansions, fleet of cars etc., such properties should be forfeited to the Federal Government by a Court Order.

Inasmuch as kidnapping and other social vices is a crime and must be condemned I will urge kidnappers to turn their attention to our (s)elected representatives! Because lack of visionary legislation is what is denying good utilization of our laws...you people kidnapping our money are killing us, I must confess

The Senate President also made a daft and inane comment that kidnappers are embarrassing Nigeria. How would kidnappers not embarrass the government when all what people in government (PIGs) do is to embezzle the resources that would develop security infrastructures and arm law enforcement agents with the best and sophisticated tools to combat crime? The hearts of Nigerian leaders are dark and evil. Nigerians must wake up, stand up, and hold their leaders responsible and accountable for their actions and inactions.

Nigeria has become a mindless and mediocre-run country, built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of corruption and insecurity. George Orwell, in his famous satirical book, Animal Farm, demonstrates how simple political dogma can be turned into malleable propaganda and the “seven commandments” are replaced with the maxims, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"

There’s a popular Nigerian pidgin slang/saying as “Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop”. Meaning: People in power putting in less work but eating off their minion’s labour. Nigerians would no longer accept a situation where some people would continue to feast on the sweat of the people in the country in order to fill their pockets. We must be relentless in our resolve to bring to an end the era of ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’, which had characterized the abuse of the rights of the people of Nigeria.

A politician who works for his own self-interest and not the interest of the people is known as a “snollygoster.”, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles. So, snollygosters we have in 95% of our politicians in Nigeria, and let’s call a spade a spade, that’s what they are.

“Monkey dey work; baboon dey chop”. They want the citizens to work hard so they can have more to loot. No, we don't want Nigeria to break up; but the way the "Owners and Looters of Nigeria" are going, perhaps it is better if Nigeria breaks up sooner than later. They have to change their ways and show the way, the right way, and we will follow and work harder for ALL of us (Nigeria), not for them, the irresponsible and corrupt, opportunist rulers/leaders.

For all the recycled politicians in our House of Representatives, the Senate, States’ Houses of Assemblies and other key positions, it won’t take long before their cups are full. Things can’t, must not be allowed to continue like this any longer. Young energetic bloods, if we can call them that, or trust them, are doing the work, but the weak old hags are getting the pay!

How can unity, peace and progress be achieved in a climate of social, economic and political aberration and injustice; a situation where merit and hard work count for nothing, and form takes precedence over substance, and there is an inverse relationship between effort and reward?

Is our society stable, sanitised, corruption-free, equitable and fairly governed and rationally re-structured?

We cannot continue to do things that have not been working for us the same way and continue to hope we will get different results. There cannot be change without commitment and willingness to change.

Let the TRUTH be said always!!!

Friday, 29 July 2016 09:59

Our Politicians, the NURTW and Us.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, “The National Union of Road Transport Workers is a Nigerian organisation which functions as a mixture of a public transport company, street gang, and a transport worker's union. The organisation raises fund through several methods, but the largest of these is charging fees - of approximately 20 Nigerian Naira at illegal checkpoints, and from local shop owners. A large number of the NURTW have been arrested in recent months after a government crackdown on these unregulated fees, after the government embarked on a plan to stop people from collecting dues outside motor parks. These people are known as “agberos”.

To be honest with ourselves in this country, the NURTW can best bedefined as a bunch of illiterate thugs, extortionists, murderers and highway robbers. I say this at the risk of their members in Ibadan attacking me. I wouldn’t put it past them, that is if they manage to read this article.

It has now become an accepted thing to see full grown able-bodied man collecting money by force (from owo union (union due), owo load (loading fee), owo olopa (police money), owo task force (task force money), owo aaro (morning, afternoon and evening money), owo agbero (tout fee), owo council (LG council fee) and sometimes traffic officers’ fee, etc.) under the guise of National Union of Road Transport Workers from operators of individually owned public vehicles (taxis, buses, danfos, molue) and motor bikes (okada and NAPEP tricycles).

All the fees are collectible in most of the major cities in Nigeria, sometimes under different names, but the police fee is not debatable. Although the police have at different times denied that its members collect any fee, but the reality is that the police collect fees at most bus stops, especially in Lagos. The OPS Messa, RRS, and other police units visit all motorcycle and motor parks at intervals to collect the fees every morning, afternoon and evening on daily basis. Any park that refuses to respond quickly would be maltreated and branded as illegal parks, while members would be arrested and sometimes tagged armed robbers.

According to their own website (the national one, I would guess, since I don’t see the notorious and illiterates bosses in Oyo and Lagos States ever thinking of a website) which is idealist and at least sounds people-oriented, “the NATIONAL UNION OF ROAD TRANSPORT WORKER (NURTW) Union is an organization that represents employees’ interests to management on such issues as wages, work hours, and working conditions”. When you read something like this, and know what actually obtains, the absurdity of the statement is disheartening.

Again, according to themselves, NURTW was formed to “Protect, defend & promote the rights, well-being and the interests of all workers in the union against discrimination and unfair labour practices”.

Service rendered by the Union to it Members:

(i) Militant functions

•To achieve higher wages and better working conditions

•To raise the status of workers as a part of industry

•To protect labours against victimization and injustice

(ii) Fraternal functions

• To take up welfare measures for improving the morale of workers

• To generate self confidence among workers

• To encourage sincerity and discipline among workers

• To provide opportunities for promotion and growth

• To protect women workers against discrimination.

Compatriots, if you are familiar with these obnoxious and vicious people and how they operate, the above “services” that they claim to render to their so-called “members” are risible.

The notorious and demeaning indiscipline and rowdiness in the City of Ibadan is a direct result of the unruliness and lawlessness of this bunch of overrated thuggish illiterates parading themselves as “union people”. They jump into the road, stopping their “members” – taxi drivers and the commercial motorcyclists, okada” extorting money from them; they often fight for control of the government-built motor parks and taxi-stands, and nobody know what the forcefully generated money is used for by this organization (but we know their vicious bosses take home a large part of the money, which they may or may not share with their political hirers and police). The fact is, their members, the real  road transport workers do not benefit in any form from this massive revenue, and our governments at all levels keep their arms crossed looking at this menace to society and the peace and security of the public. We all know why, of course, successive politicians and governors, especially in most of the southern states are complicit in the use of these thugs while campaigning for elections and other unreasonable vices they commit, all in the “do-or-die” battle to get to power. The governors use them; the senators and members of the House of Representatives use them; the members of the states’ House of Assembly use them; local government Chairmen use them and even ward councillors use these road transport workers as thugs and enforcers to intimidate and even murder opponents, disrupt political rallies, intimidate electors at polling booths on election days, rig elections by outright hijacking of ballot boxes, and generally fomenting trouble during elections.

This is one area of our politics that the government of our beloved country must look into, and check the functioning of this forcefully generated revenue collected by men of the NURTW as it causes so much problems on our roads; sometimes, the “agbero” would delay the movement of the vehicle because of the money he wants to collect, so many times they will forcefully remove items like fuel tank cover, engine cover, wiper etc.; there are times when the agbero would fight the conductor and the driver so as to get money. We know the authorities – governments, police, etc. - would have at one time or the other seen or heard about this continuing incidence but they prefer to look on at the sides while mayhem is being committed. The “agbero” can aptly be described as the “foot-soldiers” of the top bosses of the union.

The NURTW has at various times claimed that it derived its functions and actions from its registration and an Act of Parliament during President Shehu Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria (NPN) government in the Second Republic. But the question is: does the Act stipulate the gangsterism and brigandage members of the union often manifest in carrying out their business?

According to an analyst who reacted to reasons why the government cannot take a proactive measure in curbing activities of these groups, “governments across the country are not unaware of the infamous activities of agberos. In some instances, some state governments have had to proscribe the various bodies they represent.”

Another analyst contends that it may be impossible for any democratic government to proscribe or condemn the unions’ activities, because all the political parties enjoy their patronage, as well as seek their support to win elections, especially in this era of the politics of ‘capturing states’.

It is a known fact that the partisanship of the law enforcement agencies had always been a serious issue in tackling the menace of agberos in our society, and it has indeed been alleged that the leadership of the police, as well as the politicians in and out of government, are the leading sponsors of this menace in the country.

There is obviously government’s lack of political will as being responsible for the persistent unacceptable acts of violence by the groups. Activities of the various security agencies in the state have also become a clog in the wheel of progress for commercial transportation in the country.

It is important that government at various levels need to take firm steps to curb the lawlessness of the NURTW (read agberos) in the country. They need to evolve tough policies in order to ensure that no group or individual in the society continues to act above the law.

The police and other security agencies must stop their unholy relationship with the lawless agberos so as to be able to hunt down, arrest and bring to book anybody involved in anti-social activities. Nobody, no matter how highly placed or connected, should be allowed to go scot-free after inflicting pains on other members of the society in carrying out their legitimate business.

Since it is claimed that the union was created by an Act of Parliament, then the National Assembly can review its activities and bring succour to the various cries of innocent Nigerians who are daily being terrorized by NURTW members. Everybody should be free to associate with any union he/she wants and not forced to pay fees under duress to any association, while the union should evolve another way of collecting its dues instead of constituting themselves into a nuisance on the roads, as not all the drivers are interested in being members of their association. And all activities of the union should be limited to its members.

We also need to go down hard on politicians to stop using the group as political thugs to win elections as it had always been difficult to call them to order after the election had been won, or rather rigged, as is often the case.


Recently in Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State, a group of thugs, wielding cutlasses, dane guns and cudgels, said to be under the control of the “chieftain” of the NURTW in the state, overran a large piece of land belonging to members of Ibadan Progressive Union (IPU) at Bota Village, and “boned” all undeveloped plots, uprooting survey pillars and threatening anybody that came near them. My late father, being a member of the IPU, had bought some plots since the early 70’s, all paid for, with Certificates of Occupancy. The NURTW chieftain is said to enjoy the patronage and protection of the sitting governor and when their action was reported to the Police Command, the police advised the owners of the illegally-claimed land to “settle” with the thugs, because their (the police) hands are tied.

That is impunity and injustice for you! A society where a police force cannot tackle common thugs!

Monday, 02 May 2016 15:38

Education Ain’t Cheap!

The decline in government funding of higher education, the economic downturn, the long decades of unforgivable neglect, along with rapidly rising costs of the different services and products that universities have to provide, have led to steady increases in student and parents outlays over the last two or three decades. There are no indications that costs will go down, neither are there signals that one day university education will be free – as called for by many segments of the society.

All institutions should consider a number of factors to determine the students’ full cost of study.

According to some studies, the major cost drivers are academic and administrative salaries, the rise in the costs of municipal services, including electricity, water, the cost of powering laboratories, libraries and other teaching and learning amenities, and maintenance of infrastructure. The impact of rising costs has also been felt from the naira-dollar exchange rates on the cost of library holdings, as a result of most books and materials for libraries being bought from dollar-denominated countries.

In Nigeria and many other African countries, higher education is recognised as a public good and is therefore, expectedly and understandably highly subsidised by the state. However, increases in student fees have had adverse consequences on students’ ability to access higher education.

While Nigerians find higher education in the country expensive, the cost of university education is comparatively low compared with international institutions. Viewed in dollar terms and the fallen Naira value, Nigeria’s degrees will be perceived as much cheaper in comparison.

There is no doubt that universities are very expensive to run, especially in developing countries such as Nigeria. In most cases, close to 65% of costs are associated with highly qualified and experienced staff, while a further major cost is the provision and maintenance of the university’s domain. Costs also include a wide range of support services such as libraries, laboratories, transport, security, counselling and healthcare services, in addition to the cross-subsidisation of financially disadvantaged students, i.e. university-funded scholarships.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. I went to four secondary schools in the old Western Nigeria where the standard of education was so high, no matter where the location of the school, urban or rural. I ended up with a good School leaving certificate result that enabled me to, and got an opportunity to go to the University of Ibadan, through passing the entrance “Preliminary” examination, thereby bypassing the old Advanced Level certificate, where I got both an undergraduate degree, and many other unquantifiable skills, experience, abilities and most importantly, a very sophisticated outlook in life, dignity in labour and an expansive view of the world. On the way, I received students’ loans, grants and state bursaries, and now I can hardly say I was disenfranchised, but I used what freedom this great country gave me: an opportunity.

Jon West, “If You Think Education is Expensive…”, This Day, 5th March 2016, write, “With the advent of the military regimes that( mis?)ruled Nigeria from 1966 – 1999, there was a great onslaught on education, knowledge and intellectualism in all facets of national life, due perhaps to the fact that, unlike in other parts of the world, African armies were recruited by the colonialists as internal oppressors of their own people, and what better oppressor is an illiterate or poorly educated person in command of the educated. Officers and other ranks were recruited from the pool of the illiterate and antagonistic ethnicities, in a divide and rule process that ensured the pacification of educated and nationalistic agitators for political and economic Independence. The most horrendous products of this colonial agenda were Idi Amin of Uganda and Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the short-lived Central African Empire”.

We are still living victims of the above, and we seem to be still entrapped and unable to escape. In fact, Nigeria and some West Africans were a bit fortunate to be spared totally from Jon West’s account.

This now brings me to my initial lines of thought.

I have always been one of those who criticise the high fees charged by private universities in Nigeria, especially the ones owned by the Pentecostal and other religious organisations. But another look at this convinced me they are not entirely wrong. Most of the criticism directed at them had been that the members of the congregation, who actually funded the universities through tithes, contributions, Sunday collections, etc., are usually the ones who cannot afford to send their own children to these schools, supposedly owned by them. Another is that the heads of those churches are exploiting the congregation in the process, diverting funds to themselves.

While I agree with the two evidences above, the fact remains that establishing and maintaining those universities were always not going to be cheap. When I attended university in Nigeria, there were only about six universities, all owned and 100% funded by the Federal Government (University of Ibadan; University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University; University of Lagos; Ahmadu Bello University; University of Nigeria, Nsukka; University of Benin; these were later joined by converting University of Ibadan, Jos campus to University of Jos; Universities of Ilorin, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Sokoto,  and Calabar and Ado Bayero University). These universities were established and built when Nigeria was still “good”, most of them immediately after Independence and during the oil boom era; the people who established them were committed and sincere Nigerians; money was available and international cooperation and collaboration was easily sought and available; and Nigeria was not as corrupt and degenerate as we have now. – things were done at almost 90% altruism.

Then with the creation of more states in Nigeria, come the proliferation of state-owned universities, which, because of our innate political immaturity, often fall victim of discontinuity of government, even during the military tenures. A new governor comes in, jealous of his predecessor, and refuses to continue funding of the state-owned universities and other institutions.

So, when the Federal Government decided to liberalise the education sector (and with some entirely selfish reasons, because those in government who were supposed to facilitate our educational progress, were in fact the ones, who after looting the treasury, now started establishing their own private universities. What an irony!), the churches and other religious organisations started their own venture into the education, or rather, tertiary education sector.

Ordinarily, this would have been greatly commendable. In fact, it is still commendable, as they are complementing the efforts of the federal and state governments in the education sector; but, being Nigerians, their motives have not been entirely holistic or altruistic. It has been full of hypocrisy and self-promotion. However, as I mentioned above, I have now tended to be a bit sympathetic to their situation.

Establishing and maintaining an institution of higher learning (and in fact even primary and secondary schools – ask the mushrooming private operators who have capitalised on government indifference, neglect and lack of focus and vision) in Nigeria is not cheap, and is no mean task. Even the conditions they have to meet before they are granted the licence to establish are usually very daunting. This is evidenced by empty acquired lands going nowhere, university buildings that look more like secondary school classrooms, lack of teaching and library resources, infrastructural problems, lack of IT facilities, and inability to maintain standards for some of them, resulting in the Nigeria Universities Commission coming down hard on several of them and refusing to accredit courses, departments and faculties, thereby leaving many students in limbo.

The Federal Government universities are still highly subsidised to the point that it is ridiculous, and with the downturn in the economy without recourse to oil income, the government might soon have to reconsider its level of subsidisation of tertiary university in Nigeria. The same goes for state universities and other tertiary institutions; these are even finding it difficult to pay staff salaries, so how do they want to equip classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and other services they are expected to provide as institutions of higher learning, which must be of world standard?

So university education is not cheap, and these Pentecostal and other religious operators must be spared some criticism and flagellation. However, one would have suggested that the way out for them to avoid the scathing criticism that their own congregation are not able to afford sending their children to schools that were built with their money, is to give financial concessions to them in terms of reducing fees for members.

But I shudder to think of the abuse that will follow, knowing my country-men and women. That is when pastors and imams will start making more money by falsely attesting that non-members are members; and people will start flooding the already-full churches just to get their children into these schools.

A Catch-22 situation, if you ask me, but a solution, or at least, a compromise, must be found. Some of these private Pentecostal universities are of very high standard. High standard means a lot of investment and funding, and must always be maintained because of competition and world recognition. I personally will not send my child to a university that the world academic community does not recognise, as I would not send him/her to a university where they come out more illiterate than literate.

The corruption in Nigeria is not helping either. With the examination bodies, e.g. WAEC, NECO, JAMB, UTME and whatever names they call themselves all ridden with corruption; the universities engaged in scams, e.g. selling 30,000 forms for only 3000 places, hence university lecturers and non-academic staff involved in all sorts of bribery; parents cutting corners by paying someone else to write exams for their children and offering bribes to get their children in by all means even if those children have not met the minimum or cut-off marks; thereby, all denying legitimate and more hard-working and successful candidates the opportunities that should rightly go to them first.

Finally, like Jon West cited, “If you think education is expensive, why don’t you try ignorance”.

For me and many other Nigerians, I know the value of good education. Both my parents were great educationists in Nigeria, and I know what they imparted to me and my siblings, and indeed, to thousands of students who passed under them.

Those were those days, but I still cherish the legacy and I have passed them on to my children with the prayers and advice that they need to pass it on to their children too.

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