After tackling corruption, then what?

If there is one thing many Nigerians are excited about the newly elected president for, it will be his ability to not shy away from punishing corrupt pubic officials. This is based on historical actions in the early 1980s. Nigeria has since changed significantly, corruption was in its infancy stage at that time, now it is full-blown – maybe a whole different ball game for GMB administration.

Observing what has happened in the last twenty years, our problem could not just be about stealing public funds, it is a bit more complex than that.

NNPC $20 billion missing money will be sorted, life will go on but for the sake of argument, when corruption is curbed, what else should the government focus on?

At a conference last year, a lady gave a passionate speech encouraging fathers to attend school PTA meetings so they too could be involved in discussions about events affecting their children in school. The lady expressing her concerns and disappointment in the fact that men’s views about PTA meeting is such that it is women’s job.

So I elbowed my conference friend who is a father and had four children at school to see what he thought of the speech.

He laughed and shook his head sideways and said to me ‘That’s women’s job.”

As we have sat together for three days, I felt comfortable enough to share my thoughts.

“You are right, it’s women’s job, but what I don’t get is why we have lots of men’s leaders when all responsibilities involved is beneath them.”

In the last few years, Kano alone has sponsored over a thousand mass wedding for women in the state. This is mainly because of high divorce rate among young adults. Women are mostly affected by this as they were married out young, and men are free to take on new wives on send out the ones they deemed no longer the right match on to the streets with their children.

To keep women married to ‘anyone’ the government spent 287 million naira in one ceremony to marry off 1,111 women two years ago. For some of the women, it is their second or third marriage.

How I wish these women could be given options:

To be re-married paid for by the state?

Or

Learn a trade and help with welfare support to keep children in school?

Buhari may not necessarily agree with Kano mass wedding, however gender imbalance of his transition team is disappointing.

Corruption likely to be brought into more manageable low, however, our leaders must represent the population they lead.

 

Photo credit: google

 

 

 

Why do Nigeria embassy treats Nigerians like trash in First World?

Nigerians are fond of complaints, sometimes for very good reasons, then one way or the other, we are sorted so we say “Uhmn… thank God, that’s done no need to moan anymore,” so we moved on to another business, only to complain about the same issues as we did five years prior because the situation is just getting worse and more dehumanising.

Nigerians in the UK have one embassy that issues passport at Northumberland Avenue near Trafalgar Square London – superb location, only on the outside so as to meet up with the First World outlook of the surrounding buildings.

The process of obtaining Nigeria passport is enough of a tale. You could sit reading and clicking away the websites for hours and still end up not getting it ‘right’ – one click will take one completely away from the UK site to a Nigerian site and then to an outside contractor for payment. All complicated but yet, we ride with it.

I had gone to speak to someone because electronic payment services would not accept my card for reasons that I did not get. The alternative was to pay using a system called POS which one can only access by visiting their offices on Fleet street, London and for using the service, there is additional £10 charge using the same card that was refused online.

No problem, payment done, just need to move on.

What about the Money Order?

For every £20 money order purchased, there is £2.50 charge, this is what hundreds of Nigerians going through the embassy must pay daily on top of the normal passport renewal fees.

Actually, Nigeria embassy is the only one needing to use money order now in the UK.

All good, yet we moved on.

But why do Nigeria authority treats Nigerians like trash even when in First World?

For Nigerian Visas, NHG Fleet Street office is well planned – only about 15 minutes bus ride from the passport office. The downstairs office is staffed with knowledgeable people, they are INNOVATE contractors. This office looks like how any office in the First World would, nice plants,  clean sitting area, courteous and helpful staff.

Just looking around this Fleet Street office, I begin to understand some of our complex issues – so Nigeria authority wanted to present perfect outlook to foreigners but refused to treat its own citizens the same, even in First World?

So these guys get clean environment and plants with carpeted floor and we get over crowded sitting room, bare concrete floor with stinky unisex toilet in London?

A few years back was the first time I’d really have to use the toilet while at the embassy, so I spent a considerable amount of time just checking where I was supposed to go. “Ha, ha so it is unisex”, No problem but the tricky part was that there were urinals where everyone washes their hands.

So in the First World where Nigerians pay comparable amounts (sometimes even more) for services, people are still expected to ‘live with it’? And we are eager to blame others?

It matters how we treat one another.

Sitting Area, Visa office Fleet Street
Sitting Area, Visa office Fleet Street
Toilet at Nigeria High Commission,  Northumberland Ave
Urinals/sink for unisex toilet at Nigeria High Commission, Northumberland Ave

A spoonful of sugar

What a world we live and beautiful one at that only that preference for rosy and less controversial ancestral history sometimes get the best out of people.

Thankfully we have people reciting history with humour, but no matter how watered down it’s presented, folks still get defensive.

The scene here in 1:25 looks like what could have made Ben Affleck lost his cool, panicked and refused to be associated with slave owner ancestors and ordered the fact edited out of Finding your Roots  show.

History is what it is, there is a reason where we revisit once in a while to learn and grow.

You’ve got to love African-Americans for lots of reasons, lots have happened and still happening, yet they match on, well to a degree than Africans they left behind.

Sometimes I wonder, when will Africa be ready to own up to their involvement in slavery? Surely not every family was taken. And there is evidence around us with folks who are happy to remain in the dark ages given any chance.

Maybe with a bit of humour, we can drive some points home too.

A few months ago, an uncle and I were chatting, something about my royal family came up so I told a story about four of his children graduating from a US university, all on the same day.

Uncle: Really?

Me: Yes, I heard it on Empower radio, the guys congratulating His Royal Highness

Uncle: But he was impotent!

Me: What??

Whose job is it to revive our education system?

There is a fair amount of expectations on our government especially after decades of neglect in our education sector.

How do we as citizens could best help our government with information on areas that require attention?

Osun state schools especially primary and secondary have seen the most improvement than anytime since the state was created 23 years ago.

New school buildings across the state. Obviously, this is a massive project that most people are deeply appreciative of.

We do need more fit-for purpose schools to accommodate our growing population, however given the finite budget for education or any project for that matter, realistically we could not have all new constructions, however we can renovate existing structures and bring the old glory back to our land, one school at a time.

My old primary school is on a major road, Ondo road. Since I left the school in the 1980’s I have always wondered why the same structure has not seen maintenance ever since.

However small, surely there must have been some annual renovation budget for the school. So this time, I thought I’d stop by to see my old ‘spot’ in class six B.

Just approaching the building I realised not only has the building not seen any improvement but it has now been turned to public toilet – literally.

No government, no matter how brilliant could solve all of our accumulated issues with wave of a wand – this has to bother everyone around as well before it can be a priority.

CAC Oke Aanu Primary School Akarabata, Ondo Road

DSC_6651 This building here to the left was used for primary five  and six in 1984/5. Now just rotten away.

DSC_6652

The once class six C  is now a dumpsite and a toilet. I saw a middle aged woman just finishing up her  ‘business’ as I walked up, I suppose she saw me first otherwise I would have waited – no point been a nuisance.

What’s the church business in this?

The pictures above are about 20 feet away from the minister’s accommodation so it is not far fetched to assume the rubbish here came from the occupants of the Mission House.

It is very common to have schools attached to churches especially if the church is centrally located and has land to spare (usually sold to the government). Government maintains such schools. This is the case with CAC Oke Aanu Akarabata.

DSC_6654

To some degree, the church used to work collaboratively with the school to maintain high standard.

From what I saw, this has not been the case for a very long time.

Luckily I met a young man in front of the Mission House who was surprised that the building was once used as classrooms. He didn’t even know that the basement of the church was once rooms for primary 3A & B neither – well, that is now a pond for more garbage and frogs.

After a few minutes wander, I was convinced the school is no longer being used but to my surprise, a few one level buildings are still being used for classrooms.

Really? Where do pupils sit then? I asked the man. He gestured to the left. To the area he pointed at – I saw perforated corrugated roofs, I feared to ask the same question over again, so left and thanked him for the time.

Renovating existing structures of this school and the likes across the state will be a lot cheaper and together we can have schools to be proud of.

Here, I also pondered on the idea of education vs. religion.

Methanol emitting gods

It is one thing to hear of a horrible news when one is thousands of miles away from the source, it is a whole different feelings when one is less than 80 miles away.

“Have you heard about the ebola-like disease killing people in Ondo State?” a friend texted.

“What disease?” I asked.

It can be a bit exhausting trying to reason with everything that happens with my people especially when crucial fact is concealed.

Everything around this news suggested some kind of food poisoning but a friend was adamant that the okada (motorcyclists) must have offended the gods. Explanations floating locally was that the guys went to steal some masks from a place that ‘ordinary’ people should not have ventured.

The stolen masks were to be sold on to some europeans.

I looked on and really did not want to get to any argument of existence of ‘dark power’ under masks.

I called a friend to hear what she knew of the ‘outbreak’ – she was also convinced that the deaths of the Okada riders have been ‘written’ and that it was due to our sins that angered Jesus Christ.

Subsequently, WHO announced the deaths of 17 people in Ondo village was due to pesticides poisoning, this was assumed as there were no new case in the area and that the symptoms were not consistent with Ebola – a huge relief.

Pesticides are heavily used to kill bugs in our fruits and vegetables – the usage isn’t much of a problem but the quantity being used.

This kind of incidence happens all the time in different parts of Nigeria, usually they go unreported, the only reason this gains any attention at all was the Ebola case that people are still very sensitive about.

About 20 years ago, a whole family was seriously ill in my village – it started overnight – the local nurse was called in and gave all he could – a toddler in the family who had different meal gave clue that it was a food poisoning from a particular mushroom that the family had eaten. When the family felt better, they brought the mushroom to the village so all could see and warned not to eat them.

We all learned.

In the case of Ode Irele, Ondo, Lagos-based laboratory tested body fluids of the victims and concluded that methanol consumption was the cause of the deaths. This is more believable given locally brewed alcohol is very common particularly in the southern parts of Nigeria. They are cheaper than the Oyinbo brands.

Thank goodness that science exists.

Unless Molokun, the Ondo local diety is capable of emitting methanol, I’d go with the laboratory findings.

Vandalism and Xenophobic

To my mind, vandals and xenophobia are twin that have no place in this modern age. Often in times, the reaction is seriously flawed with baseless reasons.

People in this category believed all life challenges can only be solved using one tactic – violence.

Only last week, I was walking through my town early in the morning, around my old neighbourhood at Akarabata Street so spotted my little sister’s old primary school.

For the first time I noticed that LA Primary School Alapata was burnt during the last

LA Primary School Alapata, Modakeke
LA Primary School Alapata, Modakeke

crisis of Ife and Modakeke – the memory came back fresh. Really? They got here? – it has been 18 years, yet the building remained a shell.

Why do people destroy properties? For what purpose especially in our case that there is a likelihood that the structure will never be refurbished.

How do we change people’s mentality not to destroy public properties and businesses during disagreement?

LA Primary School Alapata
LA Primary School Alapata

I only remember this today when reading online comments about South Africa xenophobic attitude towards Nigerians and other African foreigners in the region.

MTN Nigeria Corporate Services Executive in his remarks urge Nigerians not to attack MTN offices in Nigeria as the first people to suffer will obviously be Nigerians. Mr Wale Goodluck made this remarks because of threats Nigerians have made to destroy their offices given it was a South African company.

What is it with us and wastefulness? So Nigerians are being attacked in SA, we must destroy SA business in Nigeria? How does that solve the problem of people losing their homes, businesses and lives in SA?

Sadly, this is the order of the day, someone says something one disagrees with, the next thing is destroy their property?

Maybe another point to add to Buharis’ long to-do list is that vandals of any kind to be illegal and punishable by law. Enough of eye for an eye.

Creating morality from bottom up

I don’t understand many church doctrines, I could perhaps read slowly so to assimilate but because the reality on the street is a complete contrast of what’s preached in the church, I’ll just leave it as is.

Father Charles Richardson was a well loved vicar in his church, known by many from the church and school as a great leader.

Then something happened, his private life was exposed – too many people to disappoint, too many uncomfortable explanations to make – the vicar took the only way to avoid having to face the ultimate ridicule – escaped it all by killing himself off the cliff near Dover months before he was due in court.

Father Charles was one of many that were found to have possessed indecent images of children bought from a Canadian company. The leaders of school and the church had been hinted of the Father’s offence but kept the church in the dark, saying  the Father has “taken a step back from ministry”

To feel a bit of Father Charles influence, here is the locals reactions. They were clearly disappointed to learn about the dark side of their beloved vicar, however what hurt most was them been kept in the dark until the end. 

One can not but admire the enlightenment of people here, they feel parishioners and communities deserved to know the truth about their leaders, even in death.

There is a myth in Nigeria that suggests our church leaders are different from the likes of Father Charles, even when we see it happening, one way or the other people helped conceal and also make excuses for such behaviour, even in death.

I once had a pastor who was up to date the most charming church leader I have ever met. He genuinely loved the choir and would shower us with praises. Pastor O always asked for us to be taking care first during special events and would order more fans to be directed towards the choir area when it was especially hot.

He came to my church with his son who was a bit older than me, his wife was back in their hometown somewhere in Ondo state. The pastor’s son and I became friend, mostly chat about non church stuff which was a huge relief.

This pastor, several years on, my old church can still point to many things he had initiated and completed successfully but for some reason, my church did not like him.

Elders in Nigeria Pentecostal churches, especially the traditional ones have power to remove any pastor if there were enough evidence of misconduct.

If the main issue here is the man of God abusing his position of trust, isn’t it better to insist every pastor have their wives at their station and being truthful about celibacy?

Anyways my pastor has gone way beyond pardon as he was caught red handed having affair with a 16 years old church member. The husbands and parents of young women were worried he’d make a pass on all eligible women – oh well.

Not a sin if you can keep it secret but becomes abomination when everyone knows? Before this time everyone thought celibacy is fantastic because  our ‘daddy’ is doing it. Really?

My old pastor was successfully removed only to be transferred to yet another church, will he change? I doubt it.

Case closed, it is frowned upon to even mention his name let alone talk about what he did.

Awareness of our own biases against others helps to tackle stereotypes

Realistically, we are not at that stage yet for a unified national identity, we are working on it, we need not deny it.

The just concluded election revealed the other side of Nigerians that we prefer not to talk about, we shy away from it but yet it is strong enough to divide us – we are still very much tribalistic.

How can we move past this for a united nation especially on our collective challenging issues?

“All I am is a Nigerian!!! If you ask for my state of origin, I will no longer answer you. States exist for administrative purpose. Join me!!” wrote a tweep.

I believe denying our differences will only make our healing a long one. What is wrong by telling the truth about our state origin or even our home town if it ever came up in conversation?

A few years ago at the Lagos international airport, I presented my passport to the immigration at the departure check point, the man stared at me and back at the passport a couple of times and then chuckle, I asked if all was ok – all was fine he only found my home town amusing.

He has been working at his post for a decade, and could not recall ever checked in anyone from my hometown. That was a little odd given there are hundreds of people passing through the same airport every year to different destinations around the globe. Or perhaps, the officer just hasn’t met anyone given there are many of his colleagues there in similar role.

I could not have imagined anyone from my town to claim to be from somewhere else, where else would they claim to be from? This is very simple truth that should not even require thinking about.

I would think one of the best ways to better Nigeria is the understanding of our differences and embracing them.

In the past, we have been fed with lies hence the dislike for one another was deep-rooted, how about if we took a different approach given amazing technology of today to tell our stories – local stories to encourage movement within the country?

Nigeria can only unite in the way that will benefit us all by being comfortable with where we are from. Understanding our differences need not divide us, it is a great opportunity to strengthen the ties.

Allow GMB to earn our respect

“… if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

My friend hitting her forehead lightly trying hard to remember Nigeria president’s name. This shouldn’t be a big deal but I have known my Trini friend for the best part of 15 years to know politics isn’t one thing she enjoys talking about. I was amazed she was trying as I didn’t know she cared that much, she wasn’t remembering the name because it was anything like Singapore Lee Kuan Yew but all because of the Chibok girls.

“Yes, you see, that #BBOG really got me” Eve said. “Thank you” was all I could mutter.

Another friend from Canada who has heard of Chibok girls wrote “I’m hearing on the news about the Nigeria elections today. What do you make of it?”

Me response: “Overall it has been peaceful compared to any in recent history and we have managed to vote out our Clueless president which is a massive victory and unprecedented – assumed office as part of ‘it’s my turn’ policy. Fingers crossed, this will be the beginning of progress for the country.”

M replied “Sounds like very good news for Nigeria then. Hope positive changes follow quickly without causing unrest.”

I posted these exchanges because sometimes, Nigerians are caught up with ‘other people’ want to see us fail but in reality most people are everyday people who feel our pains – the pains of ordinary citizens, they do indeed wish us well.

That is done. Now it’s the time to congratulate GMB and at the same time let the man earn our respect.

I was quite young during Buhari’s regime in the early 80’s but old enough to remember his attitude towards corruption and of course whatever that was then was mere stealing, now it has gone beyond corruption.

I remember there were saying about Buhari and Idiagbon to be no-nonsence leaders. One thing that stood out for me about Bihari’s time was that school children were made to recite WAI song (War Against Indiscipline) after national anthem everyday, my school did this religiously.

It goes:

“There is a monster called indiscipline

Living in Nigeria posing as a King;

It rules in our schools and churches and mosques

Controls our offices, markets and behaviour

We must kill indiscipline in thoughts, words and deeds

Sing this chorus day and night;

Drivers try –

Chorus: WAI for Nigeria

All Around Nigeria, with God as our Guide

W’ll win this War Against Indiscipline.”

My music teacher at the time, Mr Adio made us learn the song by heart within a few days and had lessons about the lyrics in class.

And of course that was all history the minute Buhari was pushed out in a coup.

Now, second time is lucky not just for GMB but for Nigerians who remembers how state schools were like in the 80s and what the remnants we have today. I belief whoever can see the decay in our school system and do something about is worth our praise.

While the president will call the shot on many major projects, Nigerians can not rely on him to be messiah – at the state and local levels, we must have leaders who best represent the interest of the people – it is only then we can have a little break.

Congratulations to us all.