This piece was written in commemoration of #BlackHistoryMonth 2016

I first became conscious of race and the history of black subjugation while watching the screen adaptation of Alex Haley’s 1976 classic novel, “ROOTS” on NTA, Nigeria’s leading television channel. I was seven or eight. In those days, television time on national broadcasting stations was limited so it was a special feeling to be invited by my dad to watch this programme which had become at the time, a favourite for many families in the neighbourhood. I am grateful that he did. I was so enraptured by the story and the experiences of the main character – so much so that I hardly referred to the programme as “ROOTS”, rather, it was “Kunta Kinte” to me. That show broadened by understanding of identity and black consciousness.

Before then, we had sang during morning school assemblies songs which pledged solidarity with the black struggle against apartheid and segregation in South Africa. We often donated with our meager lunch allowances to the “Free Mandela” efforts, of which Nigeria was at the forefront. We had also been taught about colonialism, of our country once being under the rule of white people, of how Nigeria won its independence on 1st October 1960 from Britain, a story that welled in me a sense of national pride. Nothing however brought all of these experiences – slavery, colonialism, apartheid and racial segregation, to life as much as “ROOTS”.

I remember feeling hurt knowing that what I was watching was not fiction, but an experience lived by people who look like me. I remember how I would lie in bed after each episode, mentally rewriting the script and changing the plot to enable Kunta Kinte’s escape. In my mind, he would succeed in his escape attempts, and he somehow returned to The Gambia as a free man. My young mind could not understand why one group of humans would subject another to such treatment. It made absolutely no sense and for many years, images of a defiant Kunta Kinte in chains, being whipped and forced to accept a new name was etched in my memory.

Many books, movies, and news stories later and I still struggle to grasp this history: not so much the past which I cannot change but the present, which point to the fact very little has changed in a system characterised by racism and prejudice.

Read the full article here


Nigerians are now unshockable what with the kind of absurdities they are treated to every passing day. Some of these issues which would have generated quite an uproar in time past are greeted with not more than sighs and inaudible grumbles – the sign of a people who have seemingly resigned to their fate and have assumed a siddon look approach to life. Imo State is a clear example

How does one explain a state government declaring boldly – and I dare say, with impunity- that it has failed to clear mountain-high refuse from a major road in the state capital as punishment to its citizens for their opposition to the government. What on earth could be more absurd and unintelligent?

Anyone who knows Owerri the Imo state capital will know that Douglas Road is right at the heart of the city, one of the main roads that runs through the state capital. When images of the abandoned refuse first emerged, it was quite shocking. But it was nothing compared to the shock when the state government owned the refuse and even attempted a justification for clearly abdicating its duties and leaving the refuse there.

One wonders what the sins of the citizens of Owerri are for their government to visit such wickedness on them. Opposition, was what the government listed. Of what kind you may wish to ask. Is somebody forgetting that this is a democracy, thus ‘opposition’ is sanctioned and protected by the constitution?

Their real sin one must observe was voting in such simpletons as their government and tolerating their many failures for this long. Indeed their sin is lack of opposition to such government. For it is years of letting their leadership get away with inefficiency and bad governance, and even rewarding it with second terms that has given the Imo state leadership the audacity to do what it did.

But the motives and logic of the Imo state government must also be questioned. An Igbo rochas adage goes that he who holds someone to the ground is himself also held to the ground. You leave refuse on the street in the name of punishing the citizens, do you not realise you are shooting yourself in the foot. I will assume that there are doctors that work with the state government. They should in the least know the public health implication of that action, the least of which is air pollution. There are countless diseases and their pathogens that will find conducive breeding grounds in such a place. We are looking at the possibility of an epidemic of varying kinds which will in turn further stretch the state’s health care system. Lassa fever remains a reoccurring decimal nationwide, yet a government establishes a breeding ground for rodents right in the centre of the city, and has the guts to brag about it. Something has to be wrong with us as a people.

This is just another episode in what has become a series coming out of Imo state. It is the same state where the governor has declared unashamedly that the work week is now cut to three days and that its workers should use the remaining days to go fend for themselves because government cannot cater for them anymore. In other words, government was throwing in the towel. Such examples make it seem like good governance is not possible at all. But the now famous speech by Peter Obi, former governor of neighbouring Anambra state on October 1, at The Platform tells us otherwise. I happen to be from Anambra state and unlike many, I didn’t need the speech to become aware of the exploits of Obi in office. I am a witness and beneficiary of his efforts to cut down cost, and engender good governance, the effects of which are being felt even today. Here are two states that exist side by side, one is relatively working because the past leadership planned and saved, the other not only can no longer meet its obligations, it now also abandons refuse on the streets to punish her people.

Therein lies some food for thought for Imolites (Imo state indigenes) and Nigerians in general as we stumble on towards 2019.

And two other things…

Arrest of Judges by the DSS

When one calls attention to an obvious abuse of human rights and the rule of law these days, you get the response “do you know what they did?” So is the case with the recent Gestapo style arrest of judges across the country by the Nigeria secret police. People must realise that societies survive not on good intentions but on laws and precedence. There is no way the Federal government paints this that it does not look like an attack on the judiciary. And we must realise that in our system of government, those three arms, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are equal with provisions made in the law to enable each checkmate the powers of the other. When one begins to act superior to the others, it begins to look no longer like a democracy but something else.

Attack on Shiites

Shiites have sustained their push for the release of their leader who has been held for so many months without charges or any information really about his state of health. This is within their rights, to march and to protest in a democracy. The continued use of security agencies against them – including the recent request for the arrest of their spokesperson by the Kaduna State Governor is quite worrying. It amounts to beating a child and at the same time denying him the right to cry. The El-Zakzaky situation is already a messy one. Government should be seeking ways to resolve this amicably, not create a situation that could turn into an inferno of its own.

Do have a good week.


pdpThe call by the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Bola Tinubu demanding the resignation of the party chairman, Chief John Oyegun, is no doubt one of the biggest political news in a long while. In case this is the first time you are learning of this, the veteran politician and former governor of Lagos state, who undoubtedly led the process for the formation of the party and was critical to its victory in the 2015 elections, in a statement released on Sunday, accused Oyegun of sabotaging the will of democracy in Ondo state by overriding the decision of the appeal panel that asked for a fresh governorship primary following investigations that showed that the delegates’ list used had been tampered with. And having done the ‘irredeemable’, Senator Tinubu called on Oyegun to resign.

This development did not come as a surprise to many close political watchers who had long observed that all was not well with the party which has had a series of internal wrangling since it took over power from the PDP in May 2015. A few others had predicted this even before the electoral victory, when the merger to form APC was still on-going given how the party opened its arms wide to accept (and is still accepting) into its fold, persons of all character including political renegades seeking a new platform to remain relevant.

No doubt, the very foundations of the house had serious issues. It was going to take quite a miracle to marry politicians of all kinds of backgrounds viz the now defunct CPC, ANPP, AC and what was called newPDP, into a new fold without cracks, given the sharp differences in their ideologies, histories, ambitions and makeup. It was clear that the oneness of purpose (at least of the majority) which is critical to the success of national political parties was lacking. What we had was a union of forces all opposed to the continued reign of Goodluck Jonathan as President and after he was ousted, there didn’t seem to be any clue how to manage the victory. Certainly, this was not the time to start cultivating a party ideology and having the different blocks within the party align with it. The next mission was a scramble for the spoils of victory, with an eye on the next elections.

This situation raises once again the question around ideology politics in Nigeria. Ideally, political parties are founded on certain ideologies which guide their manifesto and informs their approach to governance. It also defines the goals and aspirations of the party which the members can key into. Ideology represents a crucial element of political parties and their activities.

The closest we have come to having parties with defined ideologies remains the First Republic, with parties like the NPC, NCNC and AG which though were largely ethnic-based, showed certain ideological uniqueness. Ideologically, the NPC was an essentially conservative and elitist party, while the AG and NCNC appeared to be progressive and welfarist, predicated upon socialist ideology. Since then, the parties we’ve had have just been aggregations of persons for the purpose of capturing power. In the 3rd republic, there was an effort by the government to experiment with a 2 party system (which like you have in the US) represents 2 varying ideological camps. However, the SDP and the NRC, as we had then, besides being described as ‘a little to the left’ and ‘a little to the right’ respectively, had nothing much to differentiate them in terms of ideological dispositions.

The story continues today. Perhaps the APC presented the best opportunity for the founding of a party deeply rooted in progressive thinking but the hurry to win power and enjoy the spoils of same derailed such lofty ambitions. It must be stated (and as we have seen) that ideologies are not about what is written on paper or the slogans voiced at campaign rallies. They are shaped and refined over time and it helps if such a party spends some time in the opposition during which such ideology becomes rooted and through some kind of ‘natural selection’ the genuine members of such a party are defined.

The dearth of ideology party politics manifests in governance. Parties claim one thing in their manifestos and once they are in power, they are doing something else. From Lagos to Borno, Sokoto, to Bayelsa, there is no difference in the policies of state governments despite the fact that there are up to 3 parties in power across these states. These governments seem to be drifting about (with their subjects in tow) like a rudderless ship simply because there is no principle guiding their movement. This is one of the reasons why we are where we are as a country.

Today more than ever before there is a need for us to go back to the basics. Young people of like minds must begin to converge and define ideologies that can shape the makeup of new political groups. This should be done not with the view to capturing power in 2019 — which is not realistic — but for building a solid group strong enough ideologically to challenge for power and make a difference in governance in the future. We must now free ourselves from the failures of the past and the present and define for ourselves, the future we want to see. The time to begin congregating is now.


First published Here on 29 September, 2016

Schools are about to resume, many parents will be unable to pay the fees. Many are right now not sleeping well at night. There is perhaps an increase in the sale and consumption of blood pressure tablets. Same as the rate of disagreement between spouses. The frustration is palpable. Suicide notes are already making headlines. Long-suffering parents trying to give their children the best suddenly feeling inadequate and unable to meet up with all the pressure. The monthly shopping budget now buys less than half of what it normally does. Yet the demand is rising. It doesn’t matter your social class, it’s an experience that cuts across board.

A child somewhere is about to drop out of school. Many more will not resume along with others or will have to be sent home sometime before the exams. Nothing can be more damaging to a child’s self-esteem. Even more, some are being withdrawn from schools abroad and planted in schools in Nigeria. And some others have been withdrawn from schools in-country and moved to ‘more affordable’ ones. For some others still, the dreams of starting school this October has just been deferred. The uncertainty looms large.

The slices of bread at breakfast has been reducing. For some, it has disappeared. Butter, jam and mayonnaise are long forgone. Rice. Did you say rice? It has for some, gone from a Sunday, Sunday delicacy to a once in a long while menu item. Who can afford rice these days? Millions are not sure of their next meal. Children are on the verge of becoming malnourished. No, I don’t mean those in IDP camps. That one is already a disaster. Immunity levels are dropping. Hitherto quiet diseases are awakening, aided by dropping hygiene levels. Brief illness, that known killer, is staging a comeback. It’s time to display its prowess.

We are cutting down and cutting down and cutting down. Start-ups are closing shop. Big companies are closing down. Multinationals are packing and leaving. It’s not even a joke. Go to the malls and see empty shops. No one is coming to rent. Old tenants can no longer pay. Entrepreneurs are watching their dreams turn into nightmare. Investors watch as years of built up value turn to ashes in their hands. It is not a pleasant taste. No. It is the kind that forces on you certain actions you will rather not think about as a business owner. Actions like debt renegotiation and unpalatable cost cutting measures. Like downsizing, right-sizing and bankruptcy declaration.

Jobs. Oh, those precious things that were hard to find even in the best of times. Now they are being lost like it is going out of fashion. Some of those who still have theirs are just turning up with their staff IDs around their shrinking necks for the pleasure of it. Many months of salaries already being owed. Many more months to be owed. Some others have accepted a ‘short sleeving’ of their take home. A pay that can no longer take them home. The labour market remains saturated. Skilled. Semi-Skilled. Unskilled. Nobody is employing. What do we do?

Consciences are being remade. Deadened. Otherwise good guys are pushed to become what they are not. Against the wall, not sure of what to do, the wrong ideas are taking over, building tents where bright ideas used to reside. The smart ones are signing up for Yahoo plus. The strong ones are picking the guns and becoming nocturnal. The gritty are breaking oil pipes and claiming to be freedom fighters. Others still are boarding flights for a career in Italy or Portugal, selling sex. Anything to bring some change into the pocket and food on the table. Something to make it feel easier. To make this nightmare pass quickly.

Checking out is becoming the anthem again. The privileged, many who only braved it back home in the last five years, with all colours of passports and Visas to their name are sneaking back out. Those with plans to return are cancelling it. There goes all the hymns and sermons by our leaders to the Diaspora about returning home, all these years. But not everyone has the luxury of bouncing out through the airports. Many more are taking their destinies in their hands and braving it through the deserts with nothing but the dreams of a better life across the Mediterranean. Many end up as food for fishes. Others in unmarked graves. Those who succeed have their faith renewed in the ‘miracle working God’

So please don’t tell me recession is just a word madam. No. It is not. The above is what recession is in black and white. Not fiction. Not economic jargon. Not politics. This is what it really means for a majority of the people. So stop trying to apply makeup to it or deodorise dog poop. It is nauseating really. Now is the time to sit up and get to work. It’s not so difficult for a recession to become a depression.


First published here on 6 Sept 2016

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We love to party in Nigeria. This national culture runs true regardless of social class. We close up streets and set out canopies populated with plastic chairs and tables. We sew uniforms, complete with caps and hifalutin headgears, and endure all kinds of discomfort to honour invitations to come and chop. In the clubs, we turn Champagne into water, so much so we are said to be the world’s second highest consumers, inching close to dethroning the French. Everything has to be elaborate, from naming ceremonies to weddings and even funerals. It has to be loud. It has to be lavish. It is as if we are in a competition with everyone else for the gold medal on whose party was the best within a period.

We are so consumed by this love for ‘owambe’ that sometimes it appears to be a form of a compulsive disorder. Last year I remember a patient who just had a baby in one of the wards in LUTH and was being kept because in addition to her baby having jaundice, her blood pressure was elevated and she needed to be monitored for a few more days. This lady was, however, more interested in being home for the naming ceremony so much that she was constituting quite a nuisance. It was as though if she did not go for the naming ceremony, the world will end. If strong advice by doctors on a life threatening issue were not enough to make this lady see reasons, one wonders what else can. There are very few scenarios that will beat this in the show of ignorance.

I can liken the lady’s story to the ongoing craze where states in Nigeria are falling over each other on who will throw the biggest party to celebrate their anniversary. There are certain things that take place in this country that are so stupid that you feel commenting on it makes you also stupid. This is one. Just when you think the state governors have done the very worst thing possible, they come up with something new to take it to a whole new level. The last time they (APC governors in that instance) took themselves to Germany supposedly on a training trip – an excuse for a summer holiday and shopping spree, on tax payer’s money. There seems to be no limit to the ability of public officials in Nigeria to shock.

There seems to be no limit to the ability of public officials in Nigeria to shock.

An Igbo saying goes that you do not need to tell the deaf that war has started. One ordinarily expects that nobody will appreciate the dire financial stress we are in as a country than the state governors, whose monthly trips to Abuja, cap in hand, to share money, has been producing dwindling returns. As a result, not a few, have raised their hands in dramatic declaration of defeat that they can no longer meet their monthly wage bills and capital projects have as we say “entered voice mail”. Indeed one can count on the fingers of one hand the states that are still working. If these states were businesses, Majority would have declared bankruptcy by now. A few have even reduced their work days, to allow helpless workers go fend for themselves and their families. There has already been two rounds of bailouts by the Federal Government yet many of the states are still hanging on the precipice, not to mention that many of them are so deep in debt that generation yet unborn will inherit.

It is thus shocking when the leaders of these states, even the worst hit of them, still turn out and declare senseless parties with the little they have. Clearly, these deaf people need a megaphone to remind them that the war is just about consuming them. As if it is not enough that they have not bothered, in the face of the crises, to cut down on their flamboyant lifestyles and over bloated cabinets, their Excellencies have caught the new bug of lavishing scarce resources on state anniversary celebrations as though they were some revenue generating enterprise.

The latest of the lot is the state of Osun which is debt-ravaged and last month received zero allocation from the Federation Account after statutory deductions of its debts. The state’s leadership apparently were not too bothered about this and were more interested in marking its 25th anniversary in grand style. How does one rationalise such show of shame? How do these guys, who are owing many months of salaries, who have sunk the state in debt, who cannot even get the free money from Abuja, sit around in their cabinet meetings and decide on such things? It is just hard for me to understand. Any explanation that can rationalise the expense on such celebration is welcome.

If Osun does not celebrate its anniversary, will the sky fall? On the other hand, could that money have been applied more profitably towards the welfare of the people of Osun? The answer does not require rocket science to decipher. This is one wastage and misplacement of priority too many. Their Excellencies should please note that toying with sensibilities of the ever patient citizens and getting away with it has its limits. At some point, the people will let them know they have had enough. We already have an example.

Last week it was reported that Governor Bello of Kogi was stoned in Lokoja during a Jumaat service to mark Kogi at 25. Let all those other states who are nursing the intention of throwing similar parties please note. When you are in a hole you seek for ways out and digging deeper is not one of them.


Now that Rio is over

Rio teamThe Rio Olympics has ended and it’s no more news that it was a shambolic and truly embarrassing outing for Nigeria. I hate to say I told you so, but I had written in an article published in this column about a month to the games that it would be a spectacular failure. But there was hardly anything prophetic about my prediction. The signs were everywhere for everyone to see. A popular adage posits that if you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail. And fail we did. In every aspect. Even the lone medal, a bronze in the football men’s event, was won from the sheer will and determination of the coaches and players. We remember how the team only managed to reach Brazil few hours to the kickoff of their first match against Japan.

That is why it is laughable when the sports minister, Solomon Dalong, who had promised at least 10 medals prior to the games, blames the failure at Rio on the past administration. There could be no better case of burying one’s head in the sand. Perhaps the last administration was also responsible for the ceremonial wears of the team as well as their kits not making it to Rio, arriving only 3 days to the end of the summer games. Little wonder Don Wilder famously said; “Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.” Many are still waiting to see if the minister keeps his job after what was an embarrassing outing, but then you want to ask, which ministry really is currently delivering the goods?

Rather than the empty excuses and sharing of blames, one will expect that we will return from Rio with a basket full of lessons learnt on how not to make it at the Olympics. One will expect that sports administrators will take responsibility for the woeful outing, apologise to the country and then resolve to do what was necessary to ensure Tokyo in four years’ time is an entirely different experience for both the athletes and the country.

These things are not rocket science. If we cannot take a man to space, we should at least be able to make our mark on the global stage via sports. We know that the talents are not in short supply. This is the largest black nation on the planet. We have the population to draw from and experience has shown that Nigerians excel very brilliantly when they are given the opportunity and needed support. We must realise that winning medals at the Olympics does not come by mere wishful thinking or prayers. It is not also something you hold few weeks camping for, no matter how gifted an athlete you are. Countries who left Rio with their kitty full of medals prepared for at least four years for it. Indeed countries like the US and China have a long drawn out plan of action for these games such that they seemingly effortlessly trounce their opponents when the games finally arrive.

It is not magic. If we want to excel in Tokyo, we must begin now. There has to be a ‘method’ to the ‘madness’. First, we must identify the sports we want to compete in — especially those we have a comparative advantage in. The traditional areas of strength; Sprint, football, weight lifting, and boxing aside, we need to raise athletes that can compete for medals in other sports which we have simply ignored over the years. Someone said there was no reason why we had no contestants in Swimming, archery and shooting sports. It took a decision and personal effort of our US based lone rower Chierika Ukogu for us to participate in that sports when our people have been paddling canoes and rowing for ages.

The Federations of such identified sports must now rise up to the occasion. One wonders how people feel comfortable to occupy seats in federations that cannot even produce a single athlete for the Olympic Games. The Federations under the guidance of the Sports ministry must now draw up four year plans towards Tokyo 2020 and this should include building capacity of known talents, identifying new talents, engagement of coaches, planning of training tours, acquisition of modern training equipment and knowledge, exposing the athletes to international competitions, proper budgetary planning and clear strategies for raising funds outside of government’s purse through corporate sponsorships.

These are not things to be mouthed off for the camera like the sports ministers declaringrio to journalists recently that preparations for Tokyo have begun. It requires clear-cut strategies, a team of people capable of critical reasoning and execution, a commitment by government to keep its part of the bargain and pack of athletes who are fired up to see their nation’s flag raised and their anthem played in Tokyo.

If we are a serious people we will realise that beyond the medals and national pride, there is a lot of benefit to be reaped from sports. Nothing unites our people like it and indeed nothing better harnesses the strength, skills and creative abilities of our youths. It is thus an opportunity begging to be exploited both by the government and the public sector. But no private body will put their money into a sector where government has not created an enabling environment, where there is simply no order.

The tunes being sang now are familiar, we’ve heard them before. We heard them after London in 2012. We will still hear them again in 2020 after Tokyo if we don’t get off our behinds and begin to do what is necessary to give us a different result.

On a final note, I believe congratulations are in order to the U23 football team for doing us proud. Nigerians salute you.


First published here on 23 August 2016

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