Tuesday 30 August 2011

419 Reasons to Like Nigeria and Nigerians

Rebranding Nigeria

An unfortunate article sullying the reputation of Nigeria and Nigerians as having a propensity for Internet Fraud, 419-related crimes [1] and email scams has set in motion an inspired campaign to convert the Internet search for “fraud” to results that will now paint Nigeria and Nigerians in better light.

Peter J. Reilly, writing for Forbes.com published an article three weeks ago titled Nigerians Switching From Greed to Fear [2] which he changed to Switching From Greed to Fear after a Nigerian took exception to his views in a comment; he then went on to write an apology Fraud Has No Nationality- Apology to Nigeria [3].

Writing for change

Meanwhile, Nigerian bloggers starting with Jidenma Nmachi suggested every Nigerian on the Internet should start a blog [4] to militate against the negative stereotypes of Nigeria with the hope that the deluge of blogs will take Nigeria out of fraud context related Internet searches.

Meanwhile, I felt before we all rushed to crowd out the Internet with blogs there was a fundamental issue with English education in Nigeria in a blog titled Nigeria: The need for improved English education [5] which was original posted on my blog.

It is interesting to note that a comment left at the NigeriansTalk blog suggests my writing as an example of the reason why this is needed, because in Peter Iredale’s opinion, I “lack the ability to write in clear, coherent, [and] grammatically correct sentences.

I will be the first to say I do not have formal English qualifications at graduate level and even though English is my mother tongue, I have never pretended to write for the illiterate or those whose comprehension of English is below a particular level of professional education. Mr. Iredale is however welcome to redline my copy, and I am willing to learn to express myself more effectively in English.

Concerted Positive Branding

Then Chika Uwazie uploaded a video response at the following site The Truth About Nigerian 419: Response to Peter J Reilly Article on Forbes [6] where she advocated “Nigerians need to do more positive branding in order to remove ourselves from this negative label of fraud” and email scams.

This lead to an innovative and inspired idea from Peter J. Reilly in 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria and Nigerians - Part 1 [7] where he suggested Nigerians make lists of 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria and Nigerians, in what I think is becoming a crusade that is beyond redeeming himself for an infraction to helping initiate a concerted effort to rid Nigeria of atrocious stereotypes.

I will suggest that all Nigerian bloggers write a blog titled 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria and Nigerians and basically use every opportunity to turn a negative slur into a positive and wholesome reclaiming of Nigerian pride.

The association of 419 and Nigeria should begin to yield positive commentary about Nigeria.


[1] Advance-fee fraud - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] Forbes.com | Switching From Greed to Fear

[3] Forbes.com | Fraud Has No Nationality- Apology to Nigeria

[4] Why every Nigerian on the Internet should start a blog

[5] Nigeria: The need for improved English education

[6] The Truth About Nigerian 419: Response to Peter J Reilly Article on Forbes

[7] 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria and Nigerians - Part 1

Thursday 25 August 2011

NaijaLeaks: A sad decade of an ineffective anti-corruption crusade

New NaijaLeaks

Just in case we had forgotten, WikiLeaks unleashed another torrent of US diplomatic cables which included some pertaining to Nigeria that we have come to term NaijaLeaks.

These cables extend back to as early as 1985 and they will require a bit of data-mining to glean the cogent bits of information and insight that will expose the arcane workings of the Nigerian government usually referred to as GON which stands for the Government of Nigeria.

One interesting cable I found during my review of the new data pertains to Nigeria’s war against corruption which was created in 2001 and one has the opportunity to compare the issues then with the uncannily released Human Right Watch report on the same war released earlier today.

NaijaLeaks on Corruption

The cable of interest is titled - NIGERIA: A Close Look at the GON's Anti-Corruption Commission [1] which was an assessment made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan DeWitt and summarised in a cable created in July 2001.

At that time Transparency International had identified Nigeria as the 2nd most corrupt country in the world and steps to deal with that odious image involved creating The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC).

The ICPC had filed two cases in the Abuja High Court pertaining to the attempted bribery of the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the ICPC to persuade the person to suborn the judicial process by destroying the petitions that were to be filed in court.

The second pertained to the bribery of a member of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry for the investigation of the Management of Nigeria Airways Limited in order to curry favour for certain persons.

Clogged up courts

What was instructive was the brazen effrontery and impunity of the defendants who first challenged the enabling anti-corruption act then filed interlocutory motions both of which were denied and still the court dockets have been clogged with appeals and counter-claims to stymie the process as it climbed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Attorney noticed that the judges were quite learned and did much to move things along even though the defence continuously filed numerous motions and requests for adjournment – it appeared justice will be so delayed it might well be denied and the defendants having frustrated the system might get away scot free.

The ICPC appeared to be unprepared for their onerous task, they had a heavy case load and not enough staff to handle the matters, for the 90 positions that needed filling there were 27,000 applicants, a logistical nightmare on its own.

Ineffective at best

When advice was sought regarding the gathering of information about corrupt individuals by a member of the ICPC, the U.S. Attorney suggested a method of “pro-active investigations” but the chairman of the ICPC preferred the pedestrian and passive stance of receiving petitions and conducting oral interviews whilst being resistant to “pro-active investigations.”

Much as a lot of help was offered to help the ICPC, there was no proper co-ordination that it might well have been an ineffective organisation considering the chairman did not delegate much responsibility possibly for the fear that the commission members might be working against the system.

For all the seemingly positive spin the U.S. Attorney appeared to give the fledgling ICPC, it does not appear she was convinced that the ICPC will be able to deliver on the anti-corruption goals of the government.

Any progress?

Ten years on, the Human Rights Watch released a report on Nigeria’s fight against corruption looking at the activities of the other anti-corruption organisation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with the title Corruption on Trial? [2]

The Summary Page makes for rather unflattering reading as the EFCC was established in 2002 and whilst the EFCC has arraigned 30 nationally prominent political figures and recovered US$11 billion, there has been little progress with only four convictions and a completely gummed up judicial process.

The report saw no appreciable difference in the successes of either Nuhu Ribadu the first chairman or the current chairman Farida Waziri. It upbraids Ribadu for allowing one big fish to slip through the net and Waziri for not ameliorating the seemingly deplorable situation.

Not much it seems

It suggests Ribadu was media savvy but with a tarnished legacy of being selective of those to prosecute almost at the political whims of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Waziri who replaced Ribadu is said to have grown both timid and lethargic with certain legal successes looking like a mockery of the whole anti-corruption campaign as insignificant jail terms citing Lucky Igbinedion, then the inability to corral Peter Odili with the release of Bode George after incarceration sending the “unmistakable message that proven criminality is no bar to the highest echelons of politics in Nigeria.

Skilled defence lawyers have gamed the system gaining interminable delays in the courts with the Ibori case having 170 criminal counts thrown out on the technicality that the EFCC did not provide a written statement of the key witness and as such the court contemned the “worthless hearsay evidence.”

The report notes that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) have failed to complement the activities of the EFCC making for a disjointed and uncoordinated battle against endemic corruption as Nigeria’s political elite continues to enjoy ironclad impunity.

Still stuck on highly corrupt

The report suggests the anti-corruption agencies need an infusion of new and effective leadership observing much of the action against the corrupt Nigerian elite has been instigated by foreign governments as the extradition of Peter Odili from Dubai to London and the revocation of the visa of the former attorney general Michael Aondoakaa under the Yar’Adua government who consistently undermined key corruption trials.

Looking at the stretch of 10 years of Nigeria’s institutionalised crusade against corruption, the real effect can only be measured by reviewing where on the Transparency International Corruption Index, Nigeria now is – it is 12th in a cluster of 9 countries that includes Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Togo & Sierra Leone or as the table [3] (PDF) shows, it is 134/178 on the interactive map [4] where it falls in the group a notch up from highly corrupt cohabiting with 35.3% of the assessed countries.

It does not read much like an improvement over 10 years and that is rather unfortunate and quite so too.


[1] NIGERIA: A Close Look at the GON's Anti-Corruption Commission

[2] Human Rights Watch - Corruption on Trial? The Record of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission

[3] [4] Transparency International

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Thought Picnic: How do you lose your virginity?

Sex before time

There are some things it would take another life to have, a life where all the good knowledge and wisdom one has would have to be readily accessible at birth, but I do not believe in reincarnation, the life I have is the one I am living already.

Sex has always been a fascinating topic from the perspective that I first experienced it when I did not know what it was about and when I finally began to understand what it was about, its uses never found the value that was placed on it.

There have been many ways to explain away the deviations from the norm that have accompanied the loss of innocence on the matter of sex but the fact is, if you are more than sexually aware long before puberty there are many things that affect you just as the sensation of eating unripe fruit.

What is virginity?

That is an analogy rather than a parallel; but this thinking arises from having seen a number of tweets on virginity and I very well commend those who have been able to retain their virginity for all sorts of reasons or at least they have been able to decided when they want to lose theirs.

I write this in the mind of a child who never had a virginity, there is no comprehension of what it means before puberty and once you reach puberty sexual curiosity is hardly what it seems; it is neither exploratory nor gratifying, it probably is an animal passion driven by peer pressure or daring experimentation.

Depending on the level of abuse, there might be an aversion to it completely; a case of being speedily matured and damaged long before one can value what it is all about.

Sparing my children

That part of one’s childhood can make all the difference, the loss of innocence that leads to decisions that are difficult to understand, but I see that there is a part of me that is rational – if in the setting that I grew up in I could not be protected from predators, what chance have I having my own children protected from predators of another generation?

Indeed, there are aspects of the life I have lived that I would hate for any possible children of mine to experience and so I have had no children, the likelihood that I could ever have any was remote for a long time (there are studies that suggest pre-term babies do not generally go on to have children in adulthood), the possibility became less evident as time progressed and well after chemotherapy, we might well have reached the terminus.

All that just makes a simple story long, the question is how do you lose your virginity if you never had one?

Thought Picnic: Is our childhood sexual abuse their therapy now?

He was abused

This is as worrisome as it is upsetting to read that it would have been best that the case was not made public at all.

A primary school teacher now aged 39 has been sentenced [1] to a “three-year internet sexual offending treatment programme by Manchester Crown Court.

Whilst he lived in the US he had subscribed to child sex abuse websites and when his laptop was seized in March after having been teaching in the UK since 2007, 88 quite extraordinarily and deeply unpleasant pictures were found and another 2,968 had to be recovered by experts after they had been deleted.

He sought closure

In mitigation, he was abused between the ages of 6 and 8 by his grandfather and the court accepted the plea that he “started to look at images as a source of comfort to himself, so he could appreciate he was not alone.”

Now, given that none of the images involved any of the children we worked with as a teacher or had any contact with, that it completely beside the point; it is the material that is at issue regardless of its normal titillating usage by criminal child sex abusers or in this case an unusual therapy aid to deal with previous horrible experiences.

None of which is right or excusable, what makes this matter so difficult to read is the way the judge appears to have bought into this precedent making excuse in words that are best quoted verbatim.

To any normal person these pictures are quite extraordinarily and deeply unpleasant. You carried on accessing the indecent images to prove to yourself you were not alone and it provided you with some sense of calm and closure. I have never seen quite so glowing references to a man in all my long experience of sitting in this court.

Is our abuse their closure?

As I read that, I imagined the situation of those who abused me as a child and that was from 7 onwards and the idea that those events were recorded with some other person who experienced the things I did but already an adult seeking “some sense of calm and closure” from viewing the rape of my innocence.

There is no doubt that man needed help and probably had issues that required professional help, now, if some registered psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist had recommended continued exposure to such material as a way of dealing with previous sexual abuse, there might have been an interesting and plausible excuse but this is just beyond the pale.

As damaged people

The untold damage done to children with the rape of their sexual innocence and sexuality cannot be properly profiled for understanding, too many things are left in the inner recesses of the mind that will never be revealed but might well determine the course of many lives.

If they ever get to learn to use sex in any healthy and wholesome way, it would be by the grace of some power beyond them, the others trod through life damaged goods seeking temporary respite and succour at the mercy of other unspeakable experiences.

For all the empathy I can have for this man and for the mercy the court was willing to show to this unfortunate man, this was one judgement that simply accentuates the hurt of a lost childhood, abstracts the reality of those who were depicted in those images and condemns many who still suffer to the possible justification others might have for abuse, the production of the images, the trading of the images and probably a free pass to a treatment programme.

Setting a bad precedent

That memory is still etched on my mind along with that of others that I recall as I write through the tears welling up in my eyes is served an injustice so cruel as if my sexual innocence were being made to count for nothing once again.

This is hardly the message that we all need to hear especially where the person has been caught and it sets an unhealthy precedent very much along the lines of those who plea insanity for murder or even gay panic defence [2] for hate crimes with the prospect of getting off lightly.

I would hope no one else gets to use this strategy much as I hope that the man does find “some sense of calm and closure” for the rotten abuse he suffered of his grandfather.


[1] BBC News: Tameside abuse image teacher spared jail sentence

[2] Gay panic defence: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monday 22 August 2011

Editorial: Justice, justices and justifiable injustice in Nigeria

Justices in unjustifiable rancour

There is one event in flux in Nigeria today that would determine if the professional classes will apply their knowledge and expertise to a thorny issue or emote on the media having their inconsequential sentimental gestures reported as some sort of objective assessment of the situation.

Over the last few weeks, the judiciary has been involved in an internecine war that has pitted the erstwhile President of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Ayo Salami against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Chief Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu.

This matter from observation looks complicated and it appears to require a more clear set of interpretations from the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in terms of the function of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the power of the courts to trammel the constitutionally mandated duties of the National Judicial Council, the way the executive responds to advice in matters that are delineated in properly vested organs of government and the perceptions of clear separation of powers in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The mien of the National Judicial Council

My brush with the judiciary where the driver of the then Chief Justice Mohammed Bello with him well-seated in the vehicle in a reckless manoeuvre almost ran me over as he made to enter the compound of the Supreme Court in 1990 in no way compares with the situation in which we find ourselves today.

The accusations made against the Chief Justice were grave that the NJC constituted a panel out of the 25 sitting members to review the evidence and they arrived at a conclusion that exonerated the Chief Justice and impugned the President of the Court of Appeal to which they attached a disciplinary sanction that included a warning and the order to make an apology to the Chief Justice.

The President of the Court of Appeal might well have had a case and there are probably a whole lot of political machinations that are at play that make for very unsavoury reading but his situation had already become untenable.

The subtle hint in the sanction was for him to respectfully commit hara-kiri.

Between the offices and the officers

For all the conjecture that the judiciary has been infiltrated by the corrupt interference of the executive, it does beg the question that all the esteemed members of the NJC would have been in cahoots to subvert the course of justice and suborn judicial process to create a constitutional crisis.

There is a need to separate the offices from the officials; the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria was at risk of denigration and being besmirched by reason of alleged acts of the person in office and it is possible that the NJC had to weigh the consequences of finding against the person and the damage this might do to the office.

The judiciary in the highest echelons is a gentleman’s club at best, they would be expected to close ranks especially when one of their number decides to make an embarrassing public show of the arcane workings of the establishment.

It would have only been right to find against the person of the President of the Court of Appeal whilst sparing the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but this would have only been to protect the integrity of the judiciary and pave the way in due course to justifiably ease the Chief Justice out eventually for having allowed the matter to escalate into what has become a constitutional crisis.

Lawyer up for argument

The best thing the Nigerian Bar Association can do is to get prepared for court to argue the minutiae and substantive issues of constitutional mandates, the authority of the NJC, the presumably violated rights of the PCA, the matters of the rule of law and the separation of powers with regards to what actions the executive can undertake on advice of other arms of government.

Whilst it is clear that the President can veto legislation, the President however can only make choices based on advice received from the Judiciary.

It is still a judicial matter

The said conflict is most definitely unforeseen and it is unlikely that the populist clamour for justice to be seen to be done will prevail, this will boil down to the matter of points of law and at best following the letter of the law is the most that can be expected; the spirit of the law having been sacrificed on the altar of protecting whatever is left of what can be trusted of our judiciary.

Meanwhile, an acting President of the Court of Appeal has been sworn in, the President having taken the advice of the NJC to bring into non effect the official functions and authority of Justice Ayo Salami.

The whole situation is desperately unfortunate but there was no other easy way to diffuse the situation and one would expect that for the interests of all that is wholesome and honourable, the Chief Justice will soon as a gentleman resign for any set of reasons for the sake of restoring to the judiciary a sense of probity.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Thought Picnic: In an unfamiliar world

Circumstances of uncertain futures

Certain circumstances bring you into environments of almost outer worldliness, ones that never seemed to appear on the radar of your future years long before those situations become your reality.

I probably have had my fair share of such introductions to being given a hand for all sorts of situations where you find yourself vulnerable most of which has been in just the last two years.

I could well remember my falling so ill in Berlin that at the check-in counter the personnel had to come round to place my luggage on the weighing machine and then call for a wheelchair service to take me from lounge to aircraft and I was met by a greeting service at my destination.

Using help in helplessness

That was the easiest of them all, when I lay sick in hospital, I had literally lost every assertiveness of ego to defer to almost anything that was told me, there were times a spark of the old self materialised and the nurse would marvel as to how much I seemed to understand what was going on even if I could hardly help myself.

From a point of fierce independence, I have had to rely on a lot more people and services, learning as I go along that to access certain entitlements, I need to accept certain indignities, most of all the loss of pride and that does hurt to varying degrees.

They appear to care

However, I cannot but accept the fact that many of those on the other end listening to my tales are genuinely interested, quite sympathetic and ready to help.

In the many cases where I have had no knowledge of the workings of the welfare state, I have been informed that much of what I have contributed in times before when I was in rude health and in what was a pinnacle of ability and earning power counts towards the basis for assistance in the leanest and most vulnerable times.

Somehow, the hurdles just seem to be higher and more difficult for those that have generally been independent and oblivious of how the system works.

Singling the Double-Dutch of the system

Today, it started with a group session of making sense of liabilities, getting documents in some particular order and then having the experts wade through the maze of bureaucratic snags that make an impossibility of the circumstances that brought us here in the first place.

Much as I followed the whole introduction in Dutch, those of us not fluent in the lingo were expected to bring our own interpreters; I was not able to book one and I still found the personnel amenable enough to converse in English and take me through the processes.

The checklist of documents required to populate the folder provided differed from the list that came with the letter of invitation, there is much filing to be done back home.

It was worthwhile

I also got caught in the minutiae of understand some basic Dutch words where I thought a replacement service was a disconnection service – it does not get any easier and it informs the fact that formal Dutch classes are mandatory the moment I get myself back on my feet, the rudimentary stuff I have is just too warped and built on shaky foundations to be of value.

What I would take away from this morning’s session is not entirely clear but as the sun shines brightly out there, there is the hope that some direction will be provided. At least, as I left, I was told of the possibilities out there that I might not have availed myself off, they will do some research and help get the issues on track – it looked like a productive morning.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Thought Picnic: Built to last

The usefulness of therapy

Therapy is useful and somewhat different for me, a time I find to talk about the things that bother me. The therapist does not of essence have the answers or solutions but can provide perspective, give context and offer advice.

What I do with all that matters, I need to be able to overcome the seemingly insurmountable, break down the apparently impossible into steps of possible accomplishment and find paths through impassable thickets of thorns and bristles.

That is something therapy appears to do for me, someone who for a moment appears to engage, emote, sympathise or even empathise so you do not feel completely alone and without help at all.

I like my therapist and I think the therapy is working for me, helping my state of mind and hopefully preparing me to handle the issues I face and the circumstances I am in.

Built to last

After therapy, I decided to ride up to my old office to see ex-colleagues I left just about 3 years ago. Things have changed and some things have remained the same, some have gone, some have remained and new faces are there too.

However, it was interesting to see the results of the foundations laid years before, there are refinements but the basic structure is still there and the greatest compliment I got was when I saw the departmental head of the team I was in years ago.

He said, “What you built for us is still here, I’ll say, it is built to last.” If only I could take that to the bank, cash it in and get a job too.

Monday 15 August 2011

Thought Picnic: I want my life back

There was a time

Sometimes I think about when it did not matter when I never had to think about it to do it, I just had the means, the wherewithal, the good fortune, the blessing, the luck to live and enjoy life almost without a care.

Five years ago, I wrote The job just comes it seems like ages ago now, things have changed so much that I am in places I never imagined I could ever be.

I am finding a timeline demarcation showing up in my life history, there is a clear change of circumstances, pace of life and run of good fortune that has had me literally live from hand-to-mouth when I was faced with one of the severest threats to my life.

Another time

There is a B.C. and an E.C. and I found myself writing this Thought Picnic: No pills for the bills, recovery has been a long windy road, I have begun to sound like a broken record the immediate threat to life once passed still leaves an immediate threat to livelihood and a comfort of being built over about two decades.

B.C. stands for Before Cancer, before an unimaginable future became a present stark reality, before every vulnerability was exposed and there was little to help myself than hope and believe that I would come through it.

E.C. stands for Exim Chemotherapy, after discovery and treatment that took away every strength and resistance my body had to offer apart from the will to survive and the abundance of faith, hope and charity.

Maybe this

Matters were too pressing to relax and fully recuperate as the first opportunity to do anything was seized upon even though the strength to do it was hardly there; it was the triumph of spirit and mind over body that lagged far behind where my mind put my feet and where my spirit put my stamina.

It was a respite but not a solution even though I dared to think that lasting change will come it is now not so, each day passes by with every attempt to launch out countered with doubts about what I can do, serving a sentence like one is in the prison of one of those encounters of humanity – disease – over but still like the cloud of a criminal record.

I have dabbled in many things to change my situation even fancied the possibility of earning something from my writing and as much as a ”Donate” bottom has taken pride of place on my blog, it has yet to become a call to action.

Health is no doubt wealth, I see it all on LinkedIn; with my connections as life goes on, changes are happening and I find a number of laurels of a life where my views, opinions and professional judgement mattered.

I loved my work life

They are called recommendations and the few I have sometimes tell me that there is something out there I can still do given the opportunity, the change and some slack.

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Akin is a team player, humoristic and has his own special style. March 2, 2009

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Reliving memories

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I suppose this whole blog can be summarised into one yearningly loud cry – I want my life back.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Nigeria: The need for improved English education

The need for Nigerian expression

I read Nmachi Jidenma’s blog titled Why every Nigerian on the Internet should start a blog [1] where she coordinates the editorial activities of CP-Africa.

One can easily see the premise of her argument; as usual some blogger with a big magazine profile receives a scam email purportedly from some Nigerian along the lines of what is commonly known as a 419 Letter [2] and finds the opportunity to fulminate.

When Peter Reilly who contributes to Forbes.com first wrote about the letter, he noticed a subtle change in the tone of a 419 letter from that of persuasion preying in the greed of the victim to fearful threats and is was only normal for him to default to stereotype with the headline Nigerians Switching From Greed to Fear [3].

It took one well-placed comment by a Nigerian resident in Nigeria to get Peter Reilly to change the title of his blog though the underlying URL still registers the original title; he then went one step further offering insightful research about the original of fraudulent scams and the resolution of some interesting cases.

Effective communication presages change

In the comments under his first blog he engaged the commenters and it appeared he was contrite enough to write the follow-up blog Fraud Has No Nationality- Apology to Nigeria [4] in what I felt was a display of maturity and interesting raconteuring, you had to hear him out.

However, back to the purpose of this blog, Ms. Jidenma noted that a Google search for “Fraud” almost always presented contextual results that made Nigeria prominent and this is exacerbated by the fact that there are not enough positive Nigeria narratives on the Internet to minimise the association between Nigeria and fraud.

That thinking is well placed but there are problems we do need to address, the comments posted on the Forbes.com posts ranged from a dispassionately objective criticism of stereotyping to somewhat unnecessary but naturally expected defensiveness.

An underlying problem

Now, having blogged for almost 8 years and reviewed many comments and blogs of fellow Nigerians on many Internet sites, I doubt flooding the Internet with Nigerian opinion without attention to content, quality and intellectual ability is the answer to the dissociation of fraud from Nigeria.

One statistic that buttresses this view comes with the announcement that only 30% of students passed English and Mathematics [5] in this year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) results and whilst this is an improvement on the 25% last year it is appalling.

The problems are self-evident, maybe the strictures of mobile Short Message Service (SMS) known as texting does have an effect where the restrictions of 160 characters forces users to use abbreviations and strange spellings of words that depend on some sort of decoding to make sense; that form of communication is becoming so mainstream that it might have crept into formal communications like what students put down in examinations.

The low results in mathematics are worrisome too because it suggests that students are not leaving school with basic numeracy skills needed for further education or the workplace.

A failing curriculum

Even though English is my mother tongue by reason of it being the first language I could speak and the circumstance of birth but I do remember the attention paid to our English classes from primary school in Nigeria where reading, writing and spelling lessons and tests were part of our curriculum.

In secondary school, we were voracious readers, the girls on everything that Barbara Cartland [6] wrote and the romantic pulp fiction of the Mills & Boon series [7], we the boys started off with Nick Carter [8] crime novels then James Hadley Chase [9] and graduated to Harold Robbins [10]; we all not missing the African writers and compulsory Shakespeare texts in formal English classes and the traditional English novels by celebrated writers as Kipling, Twain, Shaw, Haggard, Dickens, Orwell and others.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the James Hadley Chase novels even had the Nigerian price on the dust jacket or back cover of the paperback novels.

The English syllabus contains essential guides for reading and comprehension, composition, context, interpretation which should result in communication that is at least structured and coherent with the possibility of it being concise, maybe precise and hopefully original belying some admirable intellect.

What is needed

I dare say, only a few expressions on the Internet have passed the muster and much as I would love to see more Nigerians on the Internet with blogs, comments and opinions that show Nigeria in more positive light, there is much more that needs to be done in terms of the quality of communication they present whilst it goes without saying that the slide of examination performance was not sudden much as it seems precipitously low.

Too much time is being spent on religious and motivational books and very little on those with useful literary value that would broaden outlook and improve expression, we have become clones of “How To” themed books.

The need to return to formal and traditional modes of English and language expression cannot be overstated and it starts with correct spelling, structured sentences, the ability to crystallise thoughts, an understanding of correct punctuation and tenses, the daring to be objective and a broadening of the reading curriculum.

Then we can ensure whoever decides to own a blog is at the least redounding to the positive narratives of Nigeria with good communication, clear thinking and commendable expression.


[1] CP-Africa.com | Why every Nigerian on the Internet should start a blog

[2] Advance-fee fraud - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Forbes.com | Switching From Greed to Fear

[4] Forbes.com | Fraud Has No Nationality- Apology to Nigeria

[5] AllAfrica | Nigeria: WAEC Results - Only 30 Percent Pass Maths, English

[6] Barbara Cartland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[7] Mills & Boon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[8] Nick Carter (literary character) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[9] James Hadley Chase - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[10] Harold Robbins - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Friday 12 August 2011

Thought Picnic: Will Experience Win Out?

Proximity helps ability

Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder, it could also make you forget and the corollary of which appears to negate that practice does make perfect.

I learnt to ride a bicycle at 9 during which time I had a few accidents and even learnt to ride with my hands off the handle-bars.

Continuous activity in a sphere of expertise does create a fixing in memory but it does not necessarily present total recall.

Familiarity is borne of doing the same thing over time and it is lost if that activity ceases or no particular goal directs what you do.

Recall requires presence

Decades afterwards after a wobble and a few accidents on my bicycle, I gained the confidence again to ride but never really the daring to take my hands of the handle-bars.

I find the same problem with a number of instances of telephone interviews I have had recently, when I was actively doing the things I am certified and commended for the theory, detail, expertise and experience flowed from the tip of my tongue without hesitation, I could guarantee moving to the next stage and was left with the option of taking the opportunity or not.

The breaks from that activity on which I have honed my teeth are showing up in my stutter and parrying off of the questions, I cannot fully remember and honestly say I am unable to answer whilst the technical detail seems to evade the fluency I am accustomed to.

Maybe experience will win out

In the end, what one relies on is the wealth of experience that at least suggests one knows what one is talking about because one has really done it before, given the opportunity to ride that bicycle again, there is no doubt that after a wobble or so a relatively smooth ride beckons.

The question remains whether enough has been done to make the difference without which it would be back to the original sketches and foundations of what one had built a whole career on – when one asks will that chance to shine come again?

Thursday 11 August 2011

Thought Picnic: Feeding the hungry on feasts of prayer

Absence has burdens

There are times when adversity appears to settle like a thick fog over the hopes of a person that they cannot see beyond the immediacy of the situation they are in.

One has to resist the urge to wallow as a hand reaches out either in help or recognition of the situation you are in. I do well health wise for a person who once had cancer it no more feels like an issue of importance for my present until in the quest for work people start to ask questions about the gaps in my work experience profile.

I was out for 11 months when my health deteriorated and I found out I had cancer, had chemotherapy and returned fortunately finding work within 7 weeks of my ending that therapy but will only enough strength to do 32 hours a week with Wednesdays off.

Soon my strength caught up but I was not doing what essentially was my core skill and as things changed, some distance was developing between what I once knew and what is now out there, getting back into the that rat race of cutting-edge technology had been fraught as my old network has been unable to invite me to some new project and the new prospects have difficulty placing me not to talk of my confidence that has had a good hit over the last 8 months.

It is what I have called the long tail of illness and sometimes, it is the tail wagging the dog.

The leap of faith

@DoubleEph shared a link on Facebook from The Washington Post which referred to an article titled How unemployment has affected my relationship with God [1] which I then shared on Twitter and it started off a conversation.

Whilst I will not recount his story, I found some similarities with my situation; he had had a spinal surgery and appeared to have the support of his church community in prayer and all the best wishes.

Beyond that, he seemed to be alone in a struggle to have his prayers answered for a change in his circumstances. Maybe employers are taking a leap of faith engaging an employee who has had a health problem, one cannot say but as I have learnt, recovery is much more than beating disease it is also the fight to maybe retain what you have and possibly to regain the position and status you once had.

Without opportunity however, the risk is total loss and there is no telling how the person might deal with that circumstance.

Prayer for practical issues

He then touches on the issue of prayer and many had prayed and he had prayed too but when answered did not seem to materialise his fellow Christians began to doubt his Christianity on the one hand and then suggest that God is putting him through a test on the other hand.

For practical purposes one if left to review what options one has left, more fervent prayer or a relent on hope, seeking mercy for grace. I opined that sometimes the matter of prayer did sometimes seem like one was being water-boarded to confess under duress some secret that might bring respite.

A respite maybe a break or dare to have even a breakthrough; some miraculous event that sweeps away the weathered clouds and allows you to bask in the refreshing sunlight of unlimited blessing.

Finding the other side of the road

Beyond Christianity is the more involved and particular Christian living, like the story of the Good Samaritan, there are many who have been mugged and bludgeoned by life, circumstance or illness; left for dead on the road relieved of all their means.

They are visible enough for the many who ply the same road to see but they pass to the other side of the road, conveniently avoiding the act of compassionate involvement with the good intentions of a silent prayer that the victim might just keep alive until a better person comes to help.

As the victim lapses in and out of consciousness the Good Samaritan does not cross to the other side of the road but tends to the victim and goes the extra mile to seek help and provide succour. The interesting part of this story being rather than the platitude of prayer a practical solution was offered by reason of the humanity and compassion of that person who as the story is told is of no faith.

A prayer dish for the hungry

The hard truth reflected in this man’s story is that your brother’s keeper might well be everywhere but in your religious community where prayer is supposed to put food on your table when hungry, provide a job when your brethren have the means of employing you – we are met with the greatest expression of mountain-moving faith but hardly the molehill of commensurate works.

Yes, we all find ourselves in that situation where the best of our humanity and compassion is expressed in good intentions whilst our expectations of others require actions and very few recognise the real needs of others.

Prosperity gathers for food and drink whilst lack gathers for the tangibility of prayer as the essential contribution to the kitty of your need. Prayer does feed, it clothes, pays the bills, gets the jobs and we are being offered a televangelist message of divine health, prosperity and all conquering defiance.

For winning or for testing

If you are not winning the prayer war, you are doing something wrong, meanwhile, we have heard the message of faith so many times we have gone from know how it works to being clueless as to what to expect anymore – are we about to have our prayers answered or still being tested?

Maybe there is greater honour in the good fight of faith than receiving the compassionate hand-out of help, assistance and practical expressions of faith through works.

Meanwhile, let us endure the water-boarding for in the passage of time, if time will pass much quicker we might just confess what brings the respite, the answers, the victory and all that waiting is forgotten for a testimony in the household of God.

Praise God!


[1] How unemployment has affected my relationship with God

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Thought Picnic: Only on your terms and yours only

Dastardly people

As I read the story in three parts, I had hardly been through half of the first when I began to feel my blood boil. The abuse of trust, the sense of betrayal, the dishonest duplicity and treachery for which words still fail to convey the disgust to the level that one should.

Online, through social media networking forums we portend to establish relationships and in the process hope that the people we meet can become friends and friends indeed.

There are many that will become friends, having nurtured acquaintance through interaction and created bond of trust on which we might begin to stake a lot more than we would dare to offer to strangers.

Turn-coat chameleons

The online communities where the Internet persona does reflect the person rather than a schizophrenic detachment of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the same body allows us to drop our guard such that we trust but fail to verify leaves us innocent, naïve and sadly vulnerable too.

There are people that have earned respect by reason of their views and opinions; we hope that when we meet them in person they are no different but greater figures of admiration worthy of more respect.

It cannot however be said of all who appear to command an audience that belies public sainthood but private devilry.

Whose promises are not worth much, whose character is rubbish and have a demeanour that makes a diabolical version of Machiavelli easier to befriend and trust to personal hurt.

Trust but always verify

For all the engagement one can have towards the prospect of working with these people, there are a few strict rules we need to follow in order not to have our fingers burnt.

Always obtain independent references concerning these people, not only from observers but from those who are colleagues with the person.

Never enter into a gentleman’s agreement of just the shaking of hands without legally binding contractual terms that must be signed and delivered, if possible notarised – these people are neither gentlemen nor ladies, they have no spoken word that can be their bond.

If you have nothing in writing, you have nothing to rely on and you have no case when the issues come up for review – trust but verify. If those people are honest, truthful and credible, having any of the views documented should never ever be a problem.

Always keep a copy of all correspondence and ensure that whatever ideas they are selling to you are if said to be approved by their line management are confirmed from their line management before you act.

Only on your terms

Never change whatever status, condition, situation or circumstance you are in for a prospect that does not look legally enforceable from the moment you are at crossroads where a decision needs to be made.

Never be blackmailed into taking an offer that you are not entirely comfortable with, if they want you they should sort out their end of the bargain rather than inconvenience you with the uncertainties of where you stand.

You have more leverage in demanding the formalisation of your contractual terms before commencement than after you have resumed because that situation after you are on-board becomes less of a priority.

Pragmatism over patriotism

Do not let the opportunity to work amongst your people becloud your judgement of the circumstances you might encounter, the price is high enough leaving your comfort zone, do not raise it higher by allowing patriotism to trump pragmatism.

If you are a gambling person, don’t show your hand until enough is on the table to call your bluff. Be prepared to walk away from an untenable situation and do it resolutely; do not be held to ransom.

I would have preferred to write a more direct indictment of the person(s) concerned, but this is a shot across the bow and the torpedoes are being loaded in the tubes for which there will be no counter-measures and that is a promise, threats are so passé.

Editorial: What really triggered the riots

Getting back at the truth

London and other cities and towns around the United Kingdom have experienced a whole series of community destruction efforts through riots, lootings, arson and deaths much of which brings into stark focus the city that will host the Olympics in 2012.

For all the indignation, revulsion and disgust at the spate of criminality meted out with impunity by those who in the confusion have found opportunity to satisfy a baser anti-social inclination we may miss some essential truths about these events.

We must with all sincerity condemn the violence and destruction of life and property whilst working to bring those culprits to book because a society cannot thrive on this kind of lawlessness.

The tinder box effect

However, one cannot fail to notice the tinder-box effect of the original trigger for what happened afterwards. Riots do not just happen out of vacuum, they are usually the whirlwind harvests of sowing to the wind.

This sordid tale started when some police unit after a somewhat notorious person an alleged drug-dealer and gang member decided to accost him as he rode as passenger in a mini-cab on the streets of London.

There surely might have been other places where this man might have been apprehended without much altercation but whoever put this plan together thought the risks of a problem would be minimised if they engaged him fully armed with the risk of endangering the life of the mini-cab driver all in the name of law enforcement.

We have now been informed that the person to be apprehended might have been armed but there is no indication that he tried to defend himself and every suggestion that the negotiation tactic the police adopted was to shoot first and then ask questions later.

What triggers riots

There will be many questions to ask and the first answers should have been given to the family of Mark Duggan [1], explaining in full detail, with all consideration, sympathy and definitely promptly what transpired between the police and the 29-year old father of 4.

Before they undertook that serious responsibility the consequences of their actions had already lit a slow fuse towards discontent, vigils, demonstrations, public unrest and riots.

Like many other riots before, it takes the basic semblance of the abuse of police power and the unresponsiveness of the police to the gravity of the situation to set things off and the rest becomes history. In others, it has been race or religious tensions and sometimes acts of the government where that are disconnected from their electorate.

Simmering societal issues

In our advanced societies we maintain an uneasy calm in the midst of simmering tensions of societal breakdown that just requires that last straw to break the laden camel’s back. As most as politicians and their ilk continue to suggest that other city riots were unconnected copy-cat activities we continue to live in the untruth of the structural breakdown in first the discipline culture and then the sense responsibility certain of our citizenry might have towards their communities.

The fact is, this can happen in any Western country so easily when the somewhat disenfranchised sense injustice and indifference by the actions of those we trust to uphold the law.

The fact the riots spread to other major cities around the United Kingdom simply belies similarities with the concerns of the immediately affected community which was only 26 years ago the centre of another major riot, the Broadwater Farm riot [2] which again were triggered originally by police interaction that lead to the death of a member of the public.

Some hard facts

The fundamental thread that links all these riots can be summed up in one basic statement – “They who think they have no stake in society will not suddenly assume the responsibility of protecting their communities.”

However, in a boxed-list of opinions towards the bottom of an article on the Daily Mail Online, certain prominent figures expressed their views [3] and those simply encapsulate the whole reason for this anarchy that needs to be addressed root-and-branch because setting in motion the wheels of punishment for crime without reviewing the causes of crime will just leave our society a worse off place.


[1] The death of Mark Duggan - Wikipedia

[2] 1985 Broadwater Farm riot

[3] Daily mail Online | Rudderless Met crippled by liberalism

Saturday 6 August 2011

Editorial: In court with or at the court of Al-Mustapha

All sensational theatre

The past week has provided amazing sensationalist fodder in Nigerian courts with the long-awaited trail of the former Chief Security Officer of Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha.

He stands charged and accused of the murder in June 1996 of Kudirat Abiola, the wife of Moshood K. O. Abiola, the generally accepted but unaccredited winner of the June 1993 Presidential Elections. He seems to have his hands deep in all sorts of criminality all of which should be proven in court and then met with adequate sanction if found wanting.

Now, Al-Mustapha’s trial is literally headline news and though I have posted a number of tweets on the matter, this blog was inspired after certain reactions to his testimony have begun to obfuscate the quest for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Much to process

Facebook being where a short status along with a quote can be pasted and elicit rather strong passions; there is a time that one needs to step back and examine the circumstances and hopefully interject with the hope of letting reason prevail in these somewhat uncertain times.

For all the claims and counterclaims in reaction to the testimony being given in court, what is in the courthouse is really what matters and that is what we must focus on, those who have been tarred by the testimony have it within their prerogative if able to submit incontrovertible defence, those who cannot defend themselves because they are dead might will become casualties of history.

However, I am of the belief that those revered dead were of the old school of journal keeping and meticulous documentation of their affairs; those journals might well need examination because the events to which they have been linked are not in any way insignificant.

The reality of advocacy

The most important thing is to understand what the defence strategy is and hopefully the prosecution does not end up being mesmerised with the entertainment that they are in dereliction of their brief – judges however should not be expected to do job of either the prosecution or the defence, they are there to ensure that the course of justice is served and to the letter, hopefully, the spirit of the law is adhered to.

For all said and done, this is where things are, Al-Mustapha was in court narrating his side of the story as any defendant would. Everyman no matter how imperfect our justice system is should be allowed the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

In court or at court

If the prosecution has not found grounds to truncate his “diatribe” with a convincing objection by suggesting to the judge that Al-Mustapha is argumentative, speculative, suggestive, diversionary, digressing from the substance of the issues and/or failing to contribute to the essential matter of adequate defence strategy, then we will have to hear every big and little story Al-Mustapha has to tell.

If on cross-examination the prosecution cannot take each assertion and use it to destroy the basis, premise, character, dignity, standing and credibility of the witness, then his testimony becomes germane to essential investigation for the truth and veracity as pertaining all those mentioned - death or alive.

Maybe Al-Mustapha is a dying man clutching at straws; even a dying man sometimes has a few last words - note them.

However, not to afford Al-Mustapha his full, rightful and untrammelled day in court after a 12-year incarceration will amount to a travesty and miscarriage of justice.

A fat brief

We can so easily get reactionary with every sensationalist claim made, it will not change what is being said, maybe there are people who do need to answer for a lot and there are other dots that need to be joined up - in the end, with all the keen interest and theatre of the macabre that this presents, it is incumbent on the prosecution to determine without doubt who the murderer is, who the accomplices are, who the conspirators are and who benefited from that sordid and sad part of Nigerian history.

It is a fat brief and the prosecution had better be up to the task or justice will be served but there will be no justice for all concerned.