Archive for September, 2008

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
Banks currently are the greatest employers of labour and the best paying job one could find in Nigeria today. With their branches springing up like churches all over, there is a daily requirement for man power, this has made bank exams and interviews an every day thing. On the other hand, their pay-which many have argued is not commensurate with the trouble they make their staff go through or with the kind of profit they declare- is by Nigerian standards the best except perhaps for our political office holders who increase theirs at will. So it is not usual that giving the very high level of unemployment, every graduate aims to work in a bank, your sincerely inclusive. The best part is that it doesn’t need any form of professionalism, what ever course you studied, you are welcomed to the bank.
But it’s not all rosy. Beyond the fitted suits, ID tags, air conditioned offices and flashy cars are different tales that are not so good. Ever cared to listen to a young banker complain about the job? It might change your impression about bank jobs forever.
For a greater majority of those who banks recruit, their job description can be summarized in one word: Marketing. In simple terms, this describes the sum total of activities aimed at raising money for the bank. Usually, you are recruited, trained and then pushed out into the streets to do what ever you can to raise money for the bank-to meet a given target. In this job, all is fair. Here, ethics or morality doesn’t count.
Many writers and commentators in the past have complained about the lucid and suggestive dressing of bankers especially the female bankers. In fact it now seems a conscious policy of some banks to have their ladies dress in a way that will help them secure and keep male customers or how else does one explain coming into a bank and all the ladies you meet-both married and un married- are wearing shirts/blouses that give a more than generous view of their mounds.
Many women are forced into prostituting in order to meet targets that are simply out of this world. When you hear the figures involved, you would begin to wonder where they are expected to raise this money from. Raising these outrageous sums are often tied to the security of their jobs. While in the Ivory towers it’s a case of “Publish or perish” here it is “meet your target or leave”.
Well I guess all this is not news. Guess we are all familiar with our commercial banks. What however provoked this piece is what I see as attempts by a different kind of bank-a Micro Finance Bank- to even out do the commercial banks in the Marketing craze.
Yesterday, I met a friend-an acquaintance really-who I first met in camp during the three weeks NYSC orientation. She had following rejection by the institution she was first posted to ended up in a micro finance bank-arguably the biggest and most popular in Abuja- Fortis Micro Finance Bank.
Now, Fortis except for the conspicuous presence of the word “Micro-finance” in their name cuts the picture of a big time commercial bank. Their big office buildings in highbrow areas of the city, flashy cars, smartly dressed staff with suits and all, for me negates every thing micro finance banks stand for. I can’t help wondering how a shoe cobbler or a tomato seller –those who these banks were meant for, will confidently approach such a bank without being heavily intimidated. I had once joked with some friends that Fortis seem undecided about their status-whether Commercial or Microfinance. For all purpose and intent, they are using a Microfinance license to operate a purely Commercial Bank so to speak.
Evidence to support my claims emerged after my chance meeting with my old corper friend yesterday. A look at her and it was obvious all was not well, her well fitted trouser suits not withstanding. In fact I felt she looked awkward in that suit under the hot Abuja sun. Her story?, Fortis MFB gave her an unimaginable target of twelve million to be raised before the end of the month or she looks for some where else to continue her national youth service.
While it might fall within the modus operandi of a bank to operate in any way that suits her, I think it is something else entirely to subject a fresh graduate-a youth corper- to such degree of stress in a city she is not so familiar with.
Twelve million is no mean amount of money and you don’t just pick it up on the streets. Like my friend was willing enough to volunteer, she had been harassed sexually by men who would want her in bed first before depositing their mostly stolen money with the bank. Her resistance thus far has left her many digits shy of twelve million and hey, it was already month end. The way she was looking, I doubt how long that resistance will last.
Some one may say ‘why did she take the offer?” well if such a person had the remotest idea of what serving in Abuja could mean, you will begin to understand. Here some corpers work as bar men just to qualify for the monthly platy FG allowance.
It is important to note here that Fortis MFB is not alone in this exploitation of corpers. But for a handful, all commercial banks are guilty of the same crime and other Micro finance banks as well. The question is, is it right-morally and corporate wise-to ask young people to do next to the impossible just to keep their job?
I feel strongly that it was high time perhaps the International Labour Organization and international human rights groups began to look into this issue since our local equivalents seem just unable to address it. The pressures and demands of working in banks have simply gone out of hand. No need talking about the enactment of laws because our legislature doesn’t seem to know her job. But most importantly, I feel the National Youth service Corps should spell out terms to any organization that wishes to engage corpers. It is simply unfair to place such a demand on a corper.
Outside all this, the Central Bank must do something about banks and their target ultimatum on staff.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

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Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
The Nigerian is an elaborate person who doesn’t waste any opportunity to party, his poor finances not withstanding. Weddings are one such avenue for our public show of extravagance. Some one-a comedian on one edition of Nite of a thousand Laughs-had observed that the most expensive thing in Nigeria was marriage because of the detail put into it : introductions, traditional wedding, church wedding, thanks giving service and then the honey moon which due to its tone in Nigeria he referred to as an ‘excursion’.
The comedian however also questioned why we Africans should bother our selves with such routine especially the Church wedding part asking if the white men did our own traditional wedding. He concluded that its was all part of our continued colonialism by the west.
The westerners who brought us all these practices-a church wedding after the traditional one- funnily do not put any emphasis on weddings. Couples meet on the road, in the train, in a pub, wherever, get discussing and walk down the road to a registry and get married. Parents, friends and relations only get to know about it later. Around here-perhaps due to the sacred importance we attached to the union, it is different. I will spare us the details.
But that is really not the issue this piece wishes to address. I grew up to know of a particular pattern marriage took. It is always the traditional wedding first before the Church or white wedding. Recently however, the leadership of the Catholic Church in some sections of the country-Nsukka Dioceses for example- have reversed the trend by breathing down their faithful a new decree or dogma as they call it that the Church wedding shall hence forth be superior to the Traditional union and must be performed first. In fact, the way the law is, it leaves the impression that the Church doesn’t now attach any importance whatsoever to the Traditional union and doesn’t really care if it holds or not. What was important was the Church union.
Their reason? Many young men take wives, perform the traditional rites and don’t –especially due to the financial demands- go the whole hug to bless the marriage on the alter. The two begin to co-habit, bear children and all that which is not Christian and of course keeps both parents and off springs from the church sacraments. Hence the new order.
With due respect to the Catholic Church and the Bishops who have promulgated these ‘decrees’, I beg to disagree. With all sincerity, I appreciate their reason, but I simply can not come to terms with any thing-religious or other wise- which seek to relegate our cherished traditional values to the realms of antiquity and of no value whatsoever. This is exactly what this new law is doing.
The early Christian missionaries succeeded to a great deal because they some how found a way of infusing their teachings along our traditional beliefs not necessarily against it. That way, our people were at home so to speak with most of the teachings thus it was easier for them to come to church. Some essential values such as the sanctity of marriage were preserved and protected. When a Church teaching is such that it has the propensity of setting the Church against the people, such a law is all but healthy.
I am an advocate of the old order-our traditional wedding first- not because I am a curator of some sort or an old school fellow who feels so attached to the traditions and thus antagonistic to change. No, I am taking this stand based on what I see as the very great importance the traditional wedding bears-an essential part of our culture- which the new law threatens to erode.
The traditional wedding includes all such rites as the payment of the bride price which symbolizes more than any ceremony on the alter can, an entry into a lifelong union by both families, wine carrying or Igba Nkwu-for the Igbos- which is sort of a public acknowledgement by the bride that yes this is the man I love and married to, exchange of gifts etc.
These ceremonies do not only have strong significance in upholding the sanctity of marriage and advancing our culture, it also helps to better unite both the family of the bride and groom who are both now united by the marriage of their children. It helps to foster unity, and better understanding between people of varying beliefs and more importantly, members of these two families contribute to ensure the union is a success.
When we de-emphasis these, and glorify the exchange of ring on the alter-which is essentially an alien practice borrowed from the West- we are simply putting the cart before the horse and inviting a series of other problem while trying to solve a religious one. Amongst many of these other problems, we are giving youngsters permission to get married with or without the consent of their families.
While I subscribe to change without which our society could not have evolved from what it was fifty years back to what it is now, I wish to strongly advocate for a retention of those traditions and practices which distinguishes us as Africans, makes us unique and gives us an identity.
With our music getting essentially hip-hop, our dressing getting wilder, our mother tongue becoming extinct and our traditional weddings taking the back stage, I am afraid we-Africans-are gradually losing what we have as an identity. The Catholic Church of all institutions should appreciate this.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

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Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

Yesterday (15th September 2008) was United Nations World Democracy day. Accidentally, on that same day, there was a formal signing of a South Africa brokered power shearing agreement between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe. Under this arrangement, Tsvangirai is to function as prime minister controlling amongst other key ministries the Police, while Robert Mugabe who remains President is to retain control of the countries armed forces.

Morgan Tsvangirai the opposition presidential candidate of the MDC in the last general elections in Zimbabwe is believed to have won that elections but the re-run election ordered under questionable circumstances was contested only by Mugabe following the pulling out of Tsvangirai who protested the brutality being mated on his supporters by forces loyal to the President. Mugabe won and swore him self in. Tsvangirai cried foul and got the worlds attention. The weeks of drama laden negotiation led to the power sharing agreement.

Many people would want to celebrate the signing of the agreement in Zimbabwe as a land mark achievement for democracy.  They would be right in some way as if nothing else, the People of that economically stressed state who in drones have sought asylum in neighbouring countries can now return home and heave a sign of relief. Peace as an essential component for human existence is precious and if the deal will bring that, I guess it is worth celebrating.

Outside that however, there is nothing else to cheer about as the deal in Zimbabwe is a suicide on Democracy.

Gradually, we are getting into a situation where African leaders with there penchant for wanting to remain perpetually in power would loose election, use force to intimidate the opposition, rig the election, and swear themselves back into office. When the real winner of the election cries foul and shows an ability to cause trouble, they are quickly invited to a negotiation table and a power sharing agreement is worked out. In that way, the old leader remains in power while placating the authentic winner of the election with a share of the power. That is what I call turning democracy up side down.

Earlier in the year, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya lost the polls, declared him self winner, and swore himself in. when Raila Odinga refused to swallow what was indeed an open day robbery and called out the people for mass protests, he was called to the negotiation table and power was shared. He became prime minister while Kibaki retained the presidency.

Taking a cue from Kenya, the situation is repeating itself in Zimbabwe just few months after. With so many African Countries billed to hold elections later this year, we might have as well provided the incumbent leaders the right formula for remaining in office despite being unpopular and unwanted.

With the prevailing circumstance all African Leaders most of who have over stayed their welcome but whose greed for power and the spoils of office will not want to leave office need to do is to bastardize the electoral process and then get to share power with the real winner. This is a rape of every thing that democracy stands for.

The situation appears to be even worse in Nigeria where the people seem always contended with the status quo. We seem more prepared to grumble in the safety of our bedrooms about our Government than to ever come out to openly challenge it. We are like Fela once sang, afraid of every thing. While Kenya’s marched out to say No when Kibaki stole power, Nigerians will never do same. Those who lost in elections that were so brazenly rigged are asked to go to the Tribunals to seek redress in the interest of democracy. While such people are at the tribunals spending away what ever is left of their finances, the election rigger is in office enjoying unrestricted access to the state treasury and using state funds to execute the court case. Could there be anything said to be fair about such a system.

Worst still, the tribunal process progresses at snail speed and when finally a verdict is given it is in most cases at best a re-run. Between the financially worn out plaintiff and the illegal occupant of the office, who is better placed to win the re-run?

We can thus say in essence that African Countries have successfully turned democracy upside down and we would be deceiving ourselves in rolling out the drums to celebrate the existence of genuine democracy in the continent. If this order is allowed to sustain itself, I fear that we shall soon get to a state where what we would have as a system of governance in the continent would be worse that the most brutal of dictatorships. It would be a system in which our opinion in electing our leaders as a people will have been totally denied us yet we would have persons in civilian regalia-democratic rulers- as our leaders.

When a people become opinion less, they are as good as dead.

Zimbabwe and Kenya should be the last. We must stop the spirit of compromise now as it does not portend any good for us. We must insist that what should be done, must be done right. Elections should seize to be a process where the people legitimize their disenfranchisement but really a process for a people to decide –by popular participation-who governs them.

Until elections become free and fair in the true sense of it, we can not boast of having Democracy in the continent and in that sense, we should not be part of the annual September 15th word democracy Day.

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo





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Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

I am not a learned man like those in the legal business will prefer to refer to themselves as but I don’t need to be one to say what I am about to say. It is common place knowledge that justice delayed is justice denied. Every body knows that including street urchins and the very un-educated. One man who however seem not too aware of this axiom or who has simply decided to ignore it for whatever reason is The President of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal.

How else do we begin to explain the prolonged failure of the President of The Court of Appeal to constitute panels to hear the various hanging appeals from various states arising from the ruling of various electoral tribunals?

At the last check, the tribunal ruling in Edo state which declared Adams Oshiomole of the AC the rightful winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election is seven months old. The former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC is yet to assume his mandate because the Governor Prof Osunbor of the PDP filed an appeal. For seven months, no panel has been appointed to hear this appeal. Since then, other states have joined.

Appeals are waiting to be heard in Abia State in which Governor T.O Orji is challenging his removal as governor by the tribunal, Rauuf Aregbesola is questioning the ruling of the Osun state tribunal which was accused of bias and unholy association with the ruling governor who was favoured –as predicted-by their ruling. Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour party is also waiting for the Court of Appeal to claim the mandate of the people of Ondo (as ruled by the tribunal) due to an appeal by Governor Agagu of the PDP. Peter Okocha of the AC is waiting in Delta. Fayemi of the AC following the ruling of the Ekiti state tribunal is of course heading for the Court of Appeal to join the waiting game. Hope I have not left any out?

Why do we have to wait this long to get justice?

The lone voice of opposition in the country AC has continued to harangue the media with appeals to the President of the court of Appeal for the needed panels to be constituted. Recently, the new executive of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA joined in the appeal with their president stating that the Bar was going to actually meet with the Court of Appeal President in other to find out what exactly is delaying the process. We wait to see if their efforts will yield any result.

Until then, it is important to state that the actions of the Court of Appeal President in failing to do his job or coming out to tell Nigerians why is cant do his job, is tainting what ever achievements the Judiciary has made in the recent past.  In fact, it is beginning to look as though the learned Justice is working with the ruling PDP to subvert justice or to simply delay it until such a time it would become as good as denied.

The most logical explanation is that he is helping the various governors whose seats are threatened gain time. This time allows them access to the state treasury for a longer time so that when (if) they are eventually thrown out, they would have stolen enough for their generations unborn.  It can also be viewed in the sense that the delay is to allow the threatened governors time to do their “underground” job well-grease the necessary palms and liquidate all stumbling blocks- so that when the panels are finally constituted they would either have a smooth sail to victory or at the worst get the reprieve of a re-run which they are already set to win. For example, the Edo State Governor has been openly campaigning, certain he was getting a re-run ruling.

The suspicions are apt given that some other states had had Appeal panels constituted for them. Why did it not take so long? There was appeal hearing in Sokoto, Kebbi, Kogi, Cross River, Bayelsa, Enugu and even the FCT senatorial seat which was done so rapidly, why is it taking long in these other States?

It is worthy of note that in all cases above, the hearings where expedited, re-runs were ordered in line with the tribunal ruling and in all cases, the ruling PDP won again. In these other cases that are being delayed, we have cases that can change the leaderships of the states (not just re-runs), could that be the reason for the delay? Is there some thing fishy going on? Is our Court of Appeal already compromised?

These questions will continue to ring out until the man whose duty it is to appoint the various panels does his job. While he can sit back and enjoy the spoils of his office without any pressure from any quarter (because the ruling party is the ones benefiting) the Learned Justice should be aware that posterity will never forgive him if by his action (or inaction) justice is subverted or seen to have been subverted.

The Judiciary has remained the hope of the common Man especially in our democracy which is filled with all sorts of sharp practices. Failure of the Court of Appeal to keep that hope of the common man alive is tantamount to a failure of the Judiciary as an Institution and will invariably lead to a loss of faith in her and in democracy as a whole.

I am neither a member of the AC nor of any other political party. I write these as a Nigerian who witnessed the shamble called 2007 general elections and who is pained by the fact that in the few states where Justice is close to being given, it is being threatened once more.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo







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Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

A friend one said early in the Yar’adua administration, that President Yar’adua, Nigeria’s President shouldn’t have bothered himself –and by extension Nigerians-in listing seven whole agendas which included amongst other issues power and the Niger Delta, for his administration. In his opinion, the Man should have just picked and concentrated on one agenda which if successfully executed will leave Nigeria better off instead of seven that might never be achieved.

Today (as I write) one year and four months into the administration, I can’t help but agree.  None of the seven bogus agendas has neared being achieved and given the state of things, it doesn’t seem like any would be. It is now even looking like a complete waste of time discussing it, on a personal note for example, I now refrain from commenting on power because it has since turned into a hopeless situation.

Hitherto, I had stayed away from commenting on the complicated Niger Delta issues, but today, I feel a strong urge to say something about the seemingly endless “one step forward, two steps backward” dance of the administration as it concerns the all important Niger Delta- the source of the money our leader’s daily share amongst themselves.

I had held my peace on the Niger Delta because of its rather complicated nature. I was happy and hopeful when the government muted the idea of a Niger Delta Summit that perhaps we were finally moving in the right path towards the end of the age long issue. We all know how it all ended. An obstinate federal government insisted on a Prof Gambari who was rejected by those most affected and then suddenly dropped the whole idea as though it never really was their intension. It was at that point that I began to feel that this people really had no plans whatsoever for the emancipation of the Niger Delta like Mr President glibly boasts.

To confirm my feelings, the Federal Government (as an alternative to the rested summit) came up yesterday with the idea of a Forty man Committee which would review the Niger Delta issue with a view to advising government accordingly. That is the move that has forced me to join in the discourse.  With all sense of purpose, I feel that it is the most banal idea I have ever heard of.

For a start, what is the difference between forty sitting committee members and a summit? When forty men (and of course their aides) sit down to discuss whatever, isn’t a summit already holding? The forty men we are told were nominated by their various states, so what are we talking about here? Aren’t we just calling a summit by another name?

These forty men it must be noted did not fall down from the skies, neither did they just return to the country after decades abroad. No, the committee is made up of the same old names. People who have been in and out of office on countless occasions, People who have been part of the problem at various degrees, people who have been in a position to influence government policy on the region but failed woefully, people who from their antecedence clearly lack any idea on how to improve the region, people who have fed fat from the illegality that has haunted the region, persons who have been recycled and recycled, people who have nothing good to offer the poor, deprived, desolated and increasingly criminally minded people of our oil rich Niger Delta.

Now, we are not new to committees in Nigeria. We’ve had a whole lot of them…committees, panels, commissions, etc, that spend weeks junketing from one part of the country to the other at the expense of the public purse. At the end, they submit bulky well bound reports that soon join the others in the archives some where to gather dust. From pre independence till now, the Niger Delta has had countless committees and panels that have reached all sorts of conclusions and made all sorts of wonderful recommendations which never saw the light of day. What makes yet another committee any different?

What even were the criteria for the selection of the forty?

MEND one of the popular militant groups in the Niger Delta is reported to have dissociated its self from the committee describing it as “the appetizer on the menu of another banquet of deceit orchestrated by an in sincere government to give it a semblance of integrity” and therefore unacceptable. Their major grouse is the non inclusion of youths in the committee and the demand for the release of Okah one of their own who is currently standing trial.

Simple reasoning is enough to let any one appreciate the troubles of committee work. Too many cooks they say spoils the broth. Now when such a committee is not five man or ten man but forty man, the troubles can best be imagined. What in heavens sake do we need forty men to dust up old reports and make new recommendations for? Perhaps only the joint juxtaposing of ideas by these forty will present us with the fool proof Niger delta blue print.

I see a situation where in a meeting of the forty, ten are reading a copy the days daily, another ten are retired to the back sits, too tired of the boring meeting and nodding aware in a much desired siesta, five are engrossed in a hot argument about things like the ongoing build up to the US elections, five others are on the phone running their various businesses, five are absent and what ever work there is, is left for the remaining five.

Does it have to take that number of people and such cost to Government just to produce another document that would say nothing different from those we already have and which will like those others end up in some Aso Rock put away office cabinet.

Moreover, do we need a committee to know that multinational oil companies operating in the region are not doing so in line with globally accepted best practices? Do we a need a committee to know that the environment is polluted and that the people can no longer source their means of livelihood from their surroundings?, do we need a committee to remind us of the level of insecurity in the region? Do we need a committee to point out to us that the youths hiding under the guise of activism are now perpetuating all forms of criminality in the region? Certainly, we do not need a committee to make us understand that we’ve failed the Niger Delta region as a nation.

Someone might ask what better ideas I have. My answer will be that as much as I don’t claim to be an expert in problem solving, I am convinced that this idea-the committee- will not work. What the Niger Delta needs now is not another long session of intellectual masturbation, but a clearly defined action plan of development. Government must begin to turn words into action and show a will (not just by taking about a list of agendas) to really turn things around in the region for the better.

What the people require is nothing new or different. What they demand is the same old necessities of life. Good roads, electricity, portable water, jobs, good schools for their children, functional health care facilities, and an environment In which they can grow raise their children and live better lives.

And by providing good roads we don’t just mean awarding contracts of eye popping figures, but awarding them and ensuring that the job is properly done and that the terms of the contract is met to the letter. Same applies to all the other amenities.  The solution to the Niger Delta situation is not sloganeering but sincere dedicated developmental efforts.

Further more, no efforts to change things in the region will succeed without the involvement of the youths who are actually those leading the militancy. While I do not encourage militancy, constituting a committee of that nature without involving the youths who are by every reason major stake holders is to say the least a wasted effort as it is apparent that the youths have lost confidence in their elders and would prefer to represent and speak for themselves.

So it goes without saying that the committee is simply yet another big jamboree. An effort by an administration that is fast losing the confidence of the people –who never really elected them in the first place-to show that they are doing something . And as stated earlier, I sincerely do not expect anything new or good from them.

Just as I was completing this piece, I overheard on Radio Nigeria that the President who went AWOL seventeen days ago was finally back. It’s good to know he is back alive from what ever it was-a prolonged lesser Hajj or a Kidney transplant- as Nigerians will love to see him at work, making reality of his seven point agenda rather than on a controversial unofficial leave abroad.

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo








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