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dear-alaereEriye Onagoruwa’s debut novel, Dear Alaere tells the story of Alaere Benson and her struggle to navigate challenges in both her family and work life. On the one hand, she meekly accepts responsibility for her husband’s oligospermia which is largely responsible for their childlessness, while onn the other hand, her efforts to build a career in the corporate world is threatened by varying degrees of workplace shenanigans replete with situations that border on toxicity and even diabolic acts .

Alaere, the main character narrates this story in the first-person through a series of diary entries, chronicling her experiences, pains, and wishes in sometimes witty but thoughtful posts. The space between her life at work and the situation at home is filled by Alhaji Wasiu, her rather talkative, driver who unlike Alaere enjoyed high fecundity, but with no male child to show for it. A situation he laments about on end and takes sometimes ridiculous actions to change.

Alaere’s world manages not to fall apart because of the love she and her husband ‘Laja share and her dedication to doing the right things at work despite the issues.

Set in Lagos, Eriye through this novel contributes to the important conversation around reproductive health in marriage and how the wives are often stigmatized even when the man’s condition is responsible for their childlessness. Many, like Alaere, endure the ignominy while keeping the truth to themselves in order to protect their husband’s pride. Others like Iya Segi in Lola Soneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives find other means of getting pregnant which ensures that they secure their own happiness, while covering their husband’s shame.

The other major theme is around the intricacies of corporate environments. Eriye captures the hypocrisy, rivalry, scheming, harassments, gossip, and even mysticism at Criole, painting a picture many readers will find familiar. Those who have experienced or are active players in such circumstances will agree that it could be quite exhilarating and downright dangerous. Little wonder the binding and casting of enemies ‘at your place of work’, is a popular prayer point for many Nigerian men of God.

With these two broad themes, Dear Alaere packs a punch, but it really never lands it. The story doesn’t manage to rise to its potential nor convey the emotion that should make the reader feel, if not a part of Alaere’s story, at least, some sympathy for her. The novel does not quite hit the mark in the narration which could have been aa lot more engaging, the development of the characters who remain largely one dimensional, the exploration of the themes which does not go deeper than the superficial and the expansion of the plot which is rather bland and predictable, culminating in a nollywoodesque ending.

Read the full review here in the Lagos Review

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MOYMichael Afenfia’s The Mechanics of Yenagoa is an interesting feel-good read that grips the reader from the first page and keeps you flipping the pages like a compulsive disorder, as the narrator leads you deeper into the funny, disjointed and often troubled lives of the different characters it portrays.

From the title, one is wont to assume that it tells the story of different mechanics in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state. Not quite so. Instead, it is the story of one mechanic, his apprentices and how the choices they make impact on or is influenced by, the cocktail of characters in their lives.

At the center of it all is Ebinimi (who also goes by Brother Jacob), from whose narrative voice the story is told. He is a university graduate who opted to be a mechanic and runs his auto repair shop on Kalakala street. The irony of a graduate as a mechanic is made even more remarkable by the fact that he is also pursuing a second degree, an MBA, at the state university. With that somewhat unusual profile, he presents an image of one who had it all together but that seems to be all that is good about his life. The rest of it is a web of emotional entanglements, perpetual trouble baiting, fights, ambition, betrayals and their unintended consequences.

When we meet Ebinimi he also introduces us to his allegedly pregnant on-and-off girlfriend, Blessing (who will prove to be his undoing in many ways), his sister Ebiakpo whose marriage is perched on the precipice, his three apprentices, Biodun, Broderick and Saka who seem to have no cares in the world and Reverend Ebizimor, who is that behind-the-scene character instigating much of the conflict in the book and who smartly exits the scene, like he was never there, just when it is all about to unravel. We see how Ebinimi, in the course of his normal existence is drawn into situations which in his effort to solve, triggers other events that threaten to engulf his entire existence. Indeed, for most of the book, he is basically quenching fires, and sometimes igniting new ones himself but managing somehow to navigate through it all.

At its core though, The Mechanics of Yenagoa tells a much deeper story about the dysfunction of society, the everyday coping mechanisms of ordinary people, the breakdown of marriages and the games people play to get and retain power including the weaponizing of religion and the use of violence as a political tool.

Read the full review here in the Lagos Review

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abpplIt was American singer and songwriter Marilyn Manson who said that music is the strongest form of magic. If magic is the power to enchant, then there is no better word than magic for describing this music inspired collection of short stories, A Broken People’s Playlist by Chimeka Garricks

George Saunders, celebrated writer of short stories and essays in one of his popular quotes opined that when you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you. A Broken People’s Playlist does absolutely that.

This collection of twelve stories about life, death and everything in-between is a delight from cover to cover. One is first dazzled by the cover design, which whets the reader’s appetite and prepares your senses for the music in the pages. As the Igbos say, the eye first eats before the mouth does.

Some will argue though that a book should not be judged by its cover. Quite true but we are saved that argument in this instance. What is served in the following 248 pages, matches the artistry of the cover and combines to deliver a work of art that tickles your ribs as much as it does your tear ducts, making you question the essence of life and at the same time reinforcing your faith in it all the while, delighting you with all the rhyme and rhythm that the African storytelling tradition embodies.

Garricks does something unusual in this book. It is not very often that fiction writers avail their readers of their thought process, inspiration and influences within the covers of their work. That is the stuff for interviews, closer engagements during book readings and perhaps their memoir. But Garricks is a very generous writer. Perhaps to set the ground rules for any future interrogation of his work or as an appreciation to the composers who made the ‘track list’ of this album possible, he added a four page ‘Author Notes’ at the end of his collection

Read the full review here in the Lagos Review

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eforiro

There is this magic that happens when poets write prose.

Something about the freedom that poetry allows. Those flights of fancy, poetic license, loosening of strict grammatical rules and the rather ironic restrictions to the use of words which help create an all-round tighter prose output.

The brilliant poet and novelist Caoilinn Hughes in her June 2018 essay in GRANTA “When Poets Write Novels” summarizes it neatly as thus: It’s not just the sentences – though me-o-my, the sentences! – it’s the sensibility. When poets turn their hands to prose, those hands might well belong to Midas. In the best of these novels, poetry’s philosophy, acuity and truth-seeking are carried over into the prose.

I thus approached the reading of Efo Riro and other stories, the collection of stories by Iquo DianaAbasi with a certain kind of expectation. Besides the title – a rich vegetable delicacy of Western Nigerian origin – which very easily could make one salivate in anticipation, the author herself is a poet and remarkably, her 2013 collection of poems Symphony of Becoming was shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature among other such accolades. I can say quite frankly that I was not disappointed.

Efo Riro and other stories brings together 19 short stories all of which are set primarily in Nigeria and cover a range of themes and contemporary human-interest issues that form a chunk of our daily realities as Nigerians. From domestic abuse, love, heart breaks and social media shenanigans to mysterious disappearances, polygamy, abortion, betrayal and post-partum depression. And as diverse as the themes are, so are the characters as well as the literary devises Iquo employs in serving each narrative, presenting in the whole a complete package, enough to tantalize your literary palate.

A quick look at a few of the stories will be apt to paint a general picture. The opening story Efo Riro from which the collection derives its title is told completely in pidgin English. The humour laden story of the driver of a red Venza which grew wings in broad day light is an ode to the beauty in our pidgin English and a peep into what it can be used to achieve in contemporary Nigerian fiction writing.

Your Tongue is Fettered is about the twist in the tale of a ritual to revive a sick husband. In E-Pals, the daily gossip threads we are often regaled with on twitter comes to life, showcasing what love and lust feels like in the age of the internet.

Read full review here in the Lagos Review

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mmirinzo

“She was in her room but in another place. Asleep yet awake, and it wasn’t the first time”

In case the title and the cover design (which I think was brilliant) had not sufficiently made it clear, those opening lines from Achalugo Ezekobe’s debut novel Mmirinzo drives in a realization that this was not going to be your regular tale. And without being so forceful on your imagination, they set the stage for what I will describe as a fantasy novel inspired by Igbo metaphysics, specifically the ability of certain persons to control rain.

Olivia was born an Mmirinzo, a special breed of rainmakers who are rain in themselves, wielding the power to control water, and manifest dual presence through their dreams. The display of this unique gift is nothing short of what today’s Pentecostal driven Christianity will refer to as being possessed by marine spirits and so Olivia who was completely oblivious of such a heritage, thought when she first began to experience those blackouts that teleported her to strange ceremonies as both a spectator and an active participant.

With her twenty-eight birthday approaching, Olivia, a young, intelligent lawyer who was keen on developing herself into a great Alternate Dispute Resolution counsel had many things on her mind. There was her younger sister, Nwanneka’s impending wedding which came with the pressure and unsolicited pity, if not shame, from a society that expects the finding of love and life partners to follow the order of birth. There was also the expected announcements of promotions at the law firm where she worked and her efforts to deliver on a case she was handling as a ticket to the game.

The trances which besiege her existence, upending her life as she knew it and causing embarrassing scenes with no medical explanation will sent into motion a series of events leading to Olivia ultimately making that journey to self despite the challenges. And she manages to make it just at the nick of time because the four Igbo market days when lined with the days of the month summed up to twenty eight, the age at which the cosmic has destined that she was to come into her own, with far reaching consequences if she had failed to.

Mmirinzo makes an easy and interesting read. It is a fast paced, and well written effort at magical realism taking place among normal people, living their lives in an otherwise technological driven world. In many ways the work reminded me of Chukwuemeka Ike’s 1985 novel The Bottled Leopard which explored a different aspect of Igbo metaphysics involving the ability of men to acquire the powers of a Leopard. Achalugo very easily marries the daily realities of living in cosmopolitan Lagos today with the magical world of her main character as though they were two sides of a coin, normalizing by so doing, a state of being that would otherwise be seen as…

Read the full review here in The Lagos Review

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vcikeChukwuemeka Ike is one of my favourite Nigerian writer. I grew up reading everyone of his works I could find and my dad’s rich collection gifted me almost all of them. He gave us such gems like #ToadsForSupper, #TheChickenChasers, #Expo77, #OurChildrenAreComing amongst many others… News of his passing a few days ago really hit home. So I did an #obit in his honour for #Lagosreview…the writer lives on. Adieu.

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Obituary: Chukwuemeka Ike, Nigerian literary giant, dies at 88 – Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

Chukwuemeka Ike, Nigerian academic, administrator, monarch and prolific writer of international repute whose celebrated works influenced a generation of readers both in Nigeria and beyond and helped shape literary discourse and the reading culture on the continent, has died. He was aged 88.

Media reports indicate the respected writer died following some health challenges for which he had been admitted at the Nnamdi Azikwe University Teaching Hospital Nnewi in December 2019. He was until his death, the traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu in Orumba north local government area of Anambra state, a throne he ascended in 2008.

But the writer lives as he left a body of work, – twelve novels and as many non-fictional texts that the history of post-independence, post-colonial Nigeria will be incomplete without. It is for his fiction that many people outside of the academia would have known Ike for. A master storyteller who is probably not as celebrated as he ought to be by the current generation of readers, Ike belonged to that class of Government College Umuahia and the University College, Ibadan who in many ways started a revolution by telling the story of a continent long misrepresented through western voices and helped build a strong African literary culture that has gone on to produce many great works and accomplished writers.

Motivated by his friend the renowned Chinua Achebe who had published Things Fall Apart in 1958, Ike who had hitherto restricted his writing to short stories in the university journals, published his first novel Toads for Supper in 1965. After that….

Read the full essay here

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Trends1So some weeks ago, I got to trend on twitter. Calm down, before you start shouting, iz a lie, let me clarify. To be very sincere, it was not me as in me that hit the trends map, it was, a random tweet of mine that made it to the top of Nigeria’s hyperactive tweetosphere. The object of my stardom, yes stardom, stop beefing, was a line dropped carelessly by a taxi driver who I had struck a conversation with. He just said it like that as he was giving me gist on how someone he helped one time was now doing him anyhow now that he had been met with some hardship. I suspected the whole gist was to make me add something extra to our agreed fare but given the kind of ear that I have, I knew once I heard it, that it was packed. So I tweeted it sharply. Before we got to the airport, it was already being retweeted like the wisest words since God said “let us make man a helpmate.”

So what did he say? “This world na standing fan. If e blow you small. E go blow another person small.

The reaction to the tweet was just spontaneous, and the engagement, organic. Okay that’s me trying to sound like all these social media consultants. In simple English, a whole lot of people quite naturally connected to those words and there were all sorts of interesting comments which in themselves were equally packed in their commonsensical wisdom.

One of the comments that caught me was to the effect that in Nigeria unfortunately, the leaders have kuku pinned the head of the standing fan so that it is no longer rotating and is now only blowing them, their family and cronies. Kai! Flesh and blood could not have revealed this fact to the person who posted it. In a way and if you really think deeply about it, you will come to agree that, that is essentially a summary of the trouble with Nigeria.

The Nigerian standing fan is pinned to a spot. E dey blow only some people forever and ever.

And the rest of us are sweating in the heat. Or drenched in the rain… on the other side. Suffering and smiling like Fela sang. In fact, it doesn’t even seem these days like we are also entitled to the air from this fan. Somehow the gods of Nigeria have ensured the natural law of nature as epitomized by the rotating standing fan or as captured by other lines like “everything na turn by turn,” or if you like “chop I chop”,  does not find expression in these parts. They have confiscated the fan by themselves and for themselves.

So yes, we have our own adaptation of Animal farm’s “All fingers are equal but some fingers are more equal than others

Trends map

In no place on planet earth is inequality and marginalization of a section more evident than in Nigeria. Any place worse than us must be hell fire. Sincerely, I can’t imagine such a place exists. I saw a picture that brought tears to my eyes the other day on twitter. Somebody had placed side by side the picture of a man carrying the lifeless body of his son (killed by a stray bullet during the commando style invasion, sorry demolition of the Owerri main market) and that of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo hugging and smiling to the camera with his son who had apparently just accomplished an academic milestone at some foreign university.

And need I remind us that Universities are currently shut down, the public ones that is. The children of those who pinned the fan to themselves are enjoying summer in the abroad and uploading their Instagram pages with their farts and vomitus, sorry, that is hate speech. I meant, their filtered pictures and vain videos.

Staying on the topic of demolitions, it would appear those who have monopolized the enjoyment of the fan are often irked by the sight of the sweaty bodies of the rest of us on the other side that they want nothing more than to make us disappear. Think Otodo gbame. Think Okobaba. Think. Think again. Sigh. I am tired of thinking.

Let’s not even talk about the pay disparity in this country. Let’s not even go there. Do you know that in this country, some people are collecting salary and allowances as Senators (the retirement home for governors) and also collecting very fat pension which they fixed for themselves, from their states? Meanwhile some others are collapsing and dying on the queues waiting to get trickles after serving this country all through their most productive years, with absolutely nothing to show for it. But like I said, let’s not even go there. Somebody can just get angry for nothing over it.

But wait a minute. It is not only the politicians that have pinned the fan o. Your pastors too have perfected the act after all, it is only them that deserve cushioned sits in the front row in church. Have you seen your pastor’s summer vacation pictures? The Lord is really good. While he is cruising in his limousine and stepping out in those suits whose prize tags run like telephone numbers – all evidence of tithe payers money in action, you are jumping danfo and stitching your old trouser to make it to your umpteenth job interview in a month, harassing God for not locating you. Listen up, it is not that the grace of The Almighty has refused to locate you, it is just that the place you are standing, the standing fan is not reaching that side.

Oh did I just cross the red line? I better be on my way before these children of anger come for me. But seriously, we need to do something to get the Nigerian Standing fan rotating as it ought to, again. The first step is to observe that the fan is actually not rotating and to get angry about it. But it shouldn’t stop there. Anger alone is not productive. Anger must turn into a resolve. Something that translates into “our mumu don do.” And then action. Your voter’s card. Yes. That is the answer if we are ever going to then that fan to turn in our direction.

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doctor-protestA Few days ago, Nigerian polling organisation, NOIPolls, released the results of a survey which they conducted in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch. The research revealed that about 8 out of every 10 (88 per cent) of medical doctors in Nigeria are currently seeking work opportunities abroad. In other words, not counting those who have already left, among the very inadequate number we have, 88 percent have their eyes set on leaving at the earliest opportunity.

And this is not just among young doctors. The findings, according to media reports, cuts across junior, mid and senior level doctors in both public and private medical institutions — house officers, corps members, medical and senior medical officers, residents, registrars, consultants and medical directors.

No surprises here. The survey has only brought what has been a long known fact to the front burner of national discourse, albeit for as long as our fleeting attention span on important matters such as these can accommodate. You know we have this national habit of discussing our problems seasonally in piece meals and before we as much as arrive at a consensus or a clear path forward, we leave that issue and jump to the next one. For example, how often do you see headlines or public forums on recession these days? It used to be the order. Yet, we are still in recession. Same applies to Boko Haram, herdsmen killings, the Forex challenges, the President’s health and restructuring — the more recent craze.

But I digress. The result of the survey is a reminder of how bad things are. Indeed some will be surprised that there is actually a 12% who are happy to stay. Is this loyalty to Nigeria, lack of ambition or simply a case of ‘I really cannot be bothered anymore’? which ever it is, the real tragedy, as I had written here in the past, is that a lot of Nigerians are in a hurry to quit their country and this is not only evident in the medical profession. If the same survey were administered to everyone else, perhaps the only group who will express majority desire to remain will be our politicians and those who this rent-seeking economy has helped to have their mouths positioned very close to our revenue nozzle.

The challenge with doctors and health workers generally is particularly alarming though. Health they say is wealth. This statement holds even more value for a country where the large majority of the people live in poverty with attendant poor nutrition and hygiene, which leaves them susceptible to a wide range of communicable and incommunicable diseases. Millions of Nigerians die yearly from what has come to be known as “brief illness” — mostly a cocktail of easily treatable and avoidable diseases. A lot of our people simply cannot get to a hospital to access medical care because there is none within reach or when one exists there is no doctor or the doctor really has nothing to work with. This explains the scandalously high infant and maternal mortality rates and low life expectancy in these parts.

It should be a national tragedy that we have just 72,000 medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria given our population, but it gets even worse when you find that only approximately 35,000 of them are practising in Nigeria. And of this number, 88% are eager to leave.

So why are they leaving?

The simple answer is that the country is not in good shape. The economy is bad, the security is horrible, infrastructure is non-existent and the system generally discourages merit, innovation and hard work. This is in line with the findings of the NOIPolls study. The reasons respondents cited for the looming brain drain in the health sector included challenges such as high taxes and deductions from salary (98 per cent), low work satisfaction (92 per cent), poor salaries and emoluments (91 per cent) and the huge knowledge gap that exists in the medical practice in the country (47 per cent), among others.

It is one thing to simply want a better life for yourself and thus aspire to be where the grass is greener. It is, however, something else when you are willing to work but the tools are simply not there. Nothing could be more frustrating. And by tools, I don’t even refer to sophisticated diagnostic equipment. We are talking about everyday hospital supplies. And as if that’s not enough, you are most of the time embroiled in an argument with your employer and the government over your pay and allowances. Nobody wants to live in such a circumstance, the Hippocratic Oath and human conscience notwithstanding.

What to do? Clearly, we cannot force them to stay as long as there are other climes ready and happy to welcome them with open arms and offer them a far better condition of practice. We also cannot afford to just fold our arms and lament while the situation gets worse. We must do something.

The NOIPolls result should be the conversation starter for government and other stakeholders in the country’s health sector to begin to seriously discuss and fashion out the much-needed reforms in the sector and redesign the health system to make it one in which our people can have a fulfilling career in and to which our poor citizens can look up to for help when they are ill.

Above all, we need to fix this economy and the structure of the country as a whole, otherwise, regardless of what else we do, we will just be kicking a can down the road.

@nzesylva

First published here on olisa.tv on Aug 9, 2017.

My new ebook, My Mind is no longer here is available here on amazon and on the okadabooks app.

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MacronEmmanuel Macron has become France’s youngest ever president following the official handover by François Hollande. Since the victory of the 39-year-old centrist whose campaign took France by storm, there has naturally been some reaction among Nigeria’s very young population, referencing Macron’s age in relation to their own realities.

This is not unexpected. Despite the provisions of the constitution, at 39 most politically active Nigerians can at best aspire to be hand luggage carrying Assistants to politicians and social media aides, acting like thugs online to burnish the narrative around their principals. They appear only useful during the campaigns where they are either used to run ‘situation rooms’ or on the field as political thugs to manipulate results but not deemed fit to handle sensitive positions where they can bring their intellect to bear in influencing the policy direction of government.

It is a situation where 39-year-olds cannot even be Youth Leaders of their political parties. When you consider that Macron has already been France’s Economy minister two years ago, you will see the sense in the outcry among young Nigerians and the merits  of the “Not too young to run’ campaign.

Personally I align myself to calls for younger people in government but with a caveat which I will explain shortly. There is no doubt that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking (and the same people) who created them. We have been held back by years of recycled politicians, yesterday’s men who have refused to retire, who have planted themselves with deep tap roots in the system because they have the resources to sustain their influence in Nigeria’s rent-seeking polity and buy their way through elections. And like chameleons, they have mastered the act of remaking themselves to suit the current circumstance. They’ve dumped military Khaki’s for agbadas and swear to be converts of democracy. The PDP lost power and they trooped in their numbers to the APC, singing tunes of Change…just anything to remain relevant and keep young people out.

You would wonder why a population tilted heavily in favour of young people has not taken a clear stand to birth a new order, just like we’ve seen in France. The politicians have been able to (and continue to) exploit the most basic necessity of life — food — to remain in charge. Young people are happy to take the handout and crumbs, to be seen somewhere in the photo ops of the politician, they are content with feeling among, or being driven in the long convoys of the old man, in the hope that perhaps, if they show enough loyalty (even if this goes against the principles they loudly espoused as private citizens) they will someday be found worthy of a seat at the table, to commence their own ‘chopping’. One hopes we get to change this mindset and that ongoing advocacy is able to change the system to make it more favourable for young people to run.

But it is not enough to allow young people into office though. This is the caveat I talked about earlier. The fact is that when it comes to leadership age doesn’t matter – competency does. Our own history is full of examples of leaders who have succeeded and failed at every age, a good number of them young people.

Most of our post-independence leaders, military and civilian (most of who continue to hold the reins today), got on the podium first as youngsters. In recent times we have also had a few democratically elected youngsters whose performance does not in any way solidify the argument in favour of young people.

It is thus clear that just as corruption and incompetence do not have any age limits, the passion, character, commitment, discernment, and talent to be a good leader certainly also does not depend on a person’s date of birth. The real issue is competence and it is important we hold this dear in all conversations around leadership, especially as the 2019 drums begin to roll out. It is not enough to be young. You must also be competent. If somebody exhibited a certain level competence and success, nobody looks at your age.

While experience counts, energy matters and certainly, as we have seen over and over in our recent history, health also does feature strongly on the checklist for our next set of leaders. Some more salient issues are education and exposure. I am still not certain why being a graduate is seen as the minimum qualification for holding regular jobs but we leave the more sensitive issue of leading this nation to persons who have as much as attempted the secondary school certificate. That doesn’t appear very smart to me.

The whole conversation around Emmanuel Macron is one I hope will inspire changes in Nigeria and bring about a paradigm shift in the composition of our leadership. I hope that young people will sit up and take back their country from those who are currently running it down. This is a conversation that has to be had. But even more, we must interrogate more closely, the competence and moral character of the people we vote for and send to take decisions on our behalf at all levels of government.

First published on May 17, 2017 on Olisa.tv

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Bail is FreeAlong with “police is your friend”, one inscription you are certain to see boldly written in every police station in Nigeria is “bail is free”. You might have even heard the police top brass make such claims in public statements. If you believe any of that, then you will believe anything.

But it ought to be free, or at least on paper it should be. Bail is the temporary release of an accused person, or a suspect, from police custody pending the conclusion of investigations or the final determination of the case, on the condition that he would report to the police station when necessary or attend court for trial. It flows from Section 35 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution which intends to preserve the liberty of a suspect and is built on the assumption (at least among democratic states where the rule of law is more than a mere campaign slogan for politicians) that an accused person is innocent until he is proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Anyone who has had a police case will tell you a different story. It doesn’t matter whether the arrest was for a criminal or civil offence or even a mere disagreement with a neighbour. The Nigeria police will demand money in exchange for your freedom, the amount charged and paid depending on such factors as the size of the greed of the investigating police officer, the profile and bargaining power of the accused and the nature of the case. It is now almost a non-issue. Bail payment is sacrosanct. And when you fail or are unable to meet the payment terms, the Nigeria police, who do not have the best of human right records nor regards for the rights of citizens, will torture you, even sometimes to death as was recently reported in Ibadan.

That this sad situation which is illegal and a mockery of the popular police lingo continues to prevail is however not the subject of this intervention. So many legal minds and human right groups have been in the trenches on this matter for so many years and the struggle continues. To them I pay my respects for the thankless job they are doing. My interest in this piece however is to ask what exactly the police do with the bail monies they receive from people?

You see, ideally, the bail payment is a bond placed as guarantee that an accused person will be available to the authorities when needed and forfeited otherwise. That’s ideally. Nothing about Nigeria as we know is ideal. Here it is a payment for freedom. Are there any records of such payments kept? Does the police issue receipts for such payments? Does the police account for such payments and/or forward same to revenue generating agencies of government? Are you really able to retrieve from the police any payment you make to secure bail after an arrest if investigations later indicate you are innocent of any offence?

The answer to these questions is obvious to all of us. What we have done is that, in furtherance of the rent seeking culture, we have created an industry for criminal minded police officers through which they dubiously make money from the public by extorting innocent and often hapless citizens. Because there is no consequence whatsoever for this, it is not uncommon for a team of police men, who need money to augment their paltry pay, to carryout raids, and round up innocent people including bystanders and pedestrians minding their own businesses, to whom they read no charges and cram them up in filthy cells. They then each have to pay a negotiated amount to secure release or be left to languish. This money collected is shared by the police officers.

This is a very sad situation. You don’t fully understand how bad it is until you have experienced it. When we talk about corruption, I wonder if we capture such as corruption. When you remember that the Police is supposed to be an anti-corruption agency of government but has successfully institutionalized this daily act of fraud, you then appreciate how deep the rot is.

Who do we look up to for help? The protection of the rights of citizens including enforcement of their bail rights lies with government. But when government itself is a culprit, disobeying court injunctions and rulings and infringing of the freedoms of expression of citizens, then there isn’t much to expect from them in terms of succor.

Nigerians, especially those who are not wealthy, who cannot afford lawyers, who are by virtue of their social status even ignorant of the law and their rights, will unfortunately continue to be taken advantage of by officers who are paid to protect them and a nation they had the misfortune of being born in.

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