Saturday 28 January 2012

Thought Picnic: Straws and Ropes

Yearning to survive
It is probably a gift to know what appropriately suits the seasons though it is first of all important to know the seasons and when they change.
Thinking about this scenario one had to find ways to articulate the deep recesses of the mind and one or two analogies materialised.
The time to talk about mountain views is not when one is stuck in the valley, the perspectives are different and the state of the mind is such that all the optimism that can be mustered will not produce the refreshing blast of the mountain breeze.
Even more pertinently, if a man were drowning and clutching at straws for survival, it would seem strange if those on the banks of the river were attempting a rescue by asking the man to clutch at another straw; the man is no state to process that kind of information, no matter how advantageous, however, if those on the bank of the river threw in a rope, that situation will be compelling enough to make the man realise that it is an aid to safety.
Overwhelmed by situations crowding ones space, when you reach out it is unlikely that you have the ability to process ideas, there is a time for talk and there is another time to hug instead, if we make the mistake of not knowing the difference, you’ll be over the edge before the situation is redeemed.
I suppose it all makes sense with boxing, when the man is ready to throw in the towel, that is not the time to talk strategy about winning that match, it is already over and we just waiting for the bell.
Again, it is important for that team to know the difference because disaster looms and if that season is not recognised, that might well be the last boxing match ever.
Now one knows why it is not right for man to be alone because there are times when the ears and the tears need to be shared, just to take you out of the valley, to pull you out of the river, to calm you down in turmoil or to help you handle defeat without being totally defeated.
There is a season, know that season because it is only after you have been helped to survive that you can begin to thrive.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Nigeria: Why #OccupyNigeria should matter to all

The inspiration
This is an unusual blog because what I have decided to do is review excerpts from an original news story on recent events in Nigeria that leaves one literally uninspired by anything the government is up to today.
The Financial Times in an analysis published two evenings ago titled Nigeria: Power outage by Xan Rice homed in on a number of issues we need to keep in focus to begin to turn our country around.
What makes this analysis very interesting is the innocuous use of nuance and language to convey very deep truths that could be missed if the article were skimmed rather than thoroughly read through; Xan Rice is in the thick of things, he is the West African correspondent for the Financial Times and based in Nigeria.
An appalling report card
“This is our chance to change Nigeria.” That was meant to be Mr Jonathan’s job.
Goodluck Jonathan had promised an era of transformation, a breath of fresh air which was supposed to presage radical change, the change for the better that Nigerians have hoped for, for a long time. The implication of this statement is that he is NOT doing his job or he is doing his job so badly that people have had to come out on the streets to protest.
Nine months on, merely maintaining the dysfunctional status quo appears too much of a challenge.
Now, this is 9 months from getting elected with his own mandate; it is however 21 months from when Goodluck Jonathan took full control of the affairs of the country. The damning assessment here is that he has failed to rise up to the challenge and there does not seem to be any indication that he will be able to do the job. The more disconcerting part missing from this statement is we might have another 39 months of this.
Meanwhile, the president’s bungled attempt to remove fuel subsidies … has raised serious questions about his capacity to push through reform.
This is looking like a very bad report card already. For instance, the meaning of bungled speaks volumes, with the help of the Free Dictionary, I found the following definitions.

  • To work or act ineptly or inefficiently. 
  • To handle badly; botch.
  • A clumsy or inept performance; a botch.
All of which point to a perception of inexperience, an aura of cluelessness, a pall of rank incompetence and being oblivious of consequence; the result of which will suggest this man will not be able to bring change to Nigeria no matter how hard he tries.
Copyright considerations
Ideally, I would have liked to excerpt more from the FT article but for copyright restriction issues which I will not like to infringe upon without appearing to reproduce the article here – others that I have shared the article with I have asked to read with the mind of an Englishman because it is loaded with meaning such that one should really read between the lines.
Following the money
However, I did post some tweets with regards to that article and I will use them in completing this blog.
"That subsidy amounted to up to $10bn last year, more than double the figure in 2010." #OccupyNigeria
The question to ask here is whether the Nigerian consumption of fuel doubled in 2011 or maybe the cost of fuel did – there is no indication that any of those situations were the case, leading the House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee chairman investigating the fuel subsidy issue to suggest there were sharp practices at play.
In other blogs I had written about this fuel subsidy issue, the matter of how a budget of NGN 250 billion got to a NGN 1.3 trillion spend which then increased to NGN 1.7 trillion paid as fuel subsidy in 2011 is still baffling. This is almost 6 times more than the budgeted sum and literally all those responsible for this atrocious criminal enterprise are still sitting pretty exculpating themselves in complete denial and buck-passing.
The cost of patronage
The writer then goes to suggest where all that money went.
"There are reasons to suspect some of this cash may have been used for electioneering." Suspect? FT Are you kidding me?
This no doubt paints those whose electioneering quests needed serious bankrolling like the President and his coterie of supporters as people who dipped their hands in the Nigerian treasury with impunity.
As we all know, the do-or-die atmosphere that pervades the quest of political office in Nigeria is predicated by the fact that the spoils of office are amazingly great and better than any occupation anyone can have in Nigeria. The recognition of this largesse means those who must ward off viable opposition need to pay off their opponents handsomely such that their thirst for having access to the national coffers is assuaged.
Patronage is a very expensive undertaking in Nigeria with brown envelopes being so last century and favours doled out as cars and if you are in deep, you might even get an oil block or have the opportunity to setup a briefcase company to push around paper oil deliveries walking away with unbelievable returns completely oblivious of whether oil comes from sunflowers or peanuts, perish the thought of know what the colour of crude oil is.
Where did all the money go?
 "Foreign exchange reserves have halved to $33bn since 2008." Where did the money go? Who has been spending it? #OccupyNigeria
This is where we have no confidence in our government at all, because this indicates $33bn has been spent of our reserves and this is apart from other income that has come into the Nigerian treasury and there is nothing to show for it – not in infrastructure or any social development scheme – it is more than a leap of faith to now expect us to believe that the paltry savings from the fuel subsidy removal will now be ploughed into any scheme for the benefit of the people.
The government in its prodigal profligacy uses over 70% in recurrent expenditure and shows no signs of restructure, reform or restraint. They are demanding sacrifices of Nigerians and living large in wanton excess and ostentatiously unbelievable luxury on the literally broken backs of the people completely unconcerned as long as their greed for more money for patronage and control can be satisfied with burdening an already desperately impoverished people.
These are the many things that gave rise to the #OccupyNigeria movement globally and seeks to get to the bottom of the real cost of the fuel subsidy before we can honestly look towards its removal. If the, as it were floating cost of the fuel subsidy has a spectrum ranging from NGN 250 billion to NGN 1.7 trillion, a span of NGN 1.45 trillion means we do not know what is going on and you really cannot remove an indeterminate especially when we cannot establish with all certainty whilst the cost of the fuel subsidy doubled between 2010 and 2011.
Even those who have strongly advocated the removal of fuel subsidy for any of their myriad reasons, some quite valid and indisputable, have to see that with the revelations at the Ad-Hoc committee, the government was not anywhere near ready to do this if all they did was pay any bills that came in to the tune of NGN 1.45 trillion above the amount they budgeted for 2011 – this just condones corruption to a such an unprecedented level and breath-taking impunity.
Not with these people
So, the writer concludes with an admonition.
“It is up to the leadership to take advantage of this rather than be overwhelmed ...” #OccupyNigeria
The elephant in the room is the leadership – complicit, involved and exacerbated a corrupt enterprise aided by the agencies they control with paybacks from those that have a hold on them by reason of the hefty sums they have invested in this government.
This government does not have clean hands, they are in spite of the technocrats that appear to give the government a veneer of credibility the personification of the faceless cabal that have been offered as the criminal element of the fuel subsidy scheme – the sooner we awake to the fact that we are in the grip of an unconscionable kakistocracy pretending to have Nigerian interests at heart, the better it will be for us to rise once again and seize our country from this brigandage of bandits.
#OccupyNigeria – take your country back.
Acknowledgements and attribution
This blog is originally inspired by the analysis in Nigeria: Power outage by Xan Rice, the West African Correspondent for the Financial Times, the excerpts are fully acknowledged and are used to further the debate initiated from the article.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Nigeria: #OccupyNigeria Holland - Q & A

I attended the #OccupyNigeria Holland peaceful protest (pictures) in front of the Nigerian Embassy in The Hague yesterday and I was asked a number of questions which I believe I should flesh out in a separate blog.
I cannot offer total recall of those questions but here is an idea of what I was asked and the responses I gave to those questions.
Q: Why are you here?
I am here as a Nigerian to join with other Nigerians all around the globe to protest about issues going on at home with regards to corruption, governance, waste and non-representative democracy. Being in the Netherlands, I felt it was the least I could do to show my support beyond my online activism.
Q: Do you not think that corruption pertains to all citizens in Nigeria?
Indeed, it does but leadership matters in all these things. Leaders are needed to give a direction, inspire the people, create a vision and set example. Without essential leadership in the fight against corruption, the people will become like an army without a general or strategy, they’ll be scattered and listless, meaning nothing can be achieved.
Q: Do you think Southerners being attacked in the North should leave the North?
My early years were spent in the North, even though I am a Yorubaman, I do speak Hausa, they are my people too in the North, I cannot ask them to leave their homes because of the problems.
[Pressing me further on this point.]
To me, there is no Northern Nigerian or Southern Nigerian, we are all Nigerians and we are all affected.
Q: What do you think about the outsourcing of the Visa services?
[Now, I have never used the Visa services of this Embassy]
I have no problems with the outsourcing of the Visa services if it makes the system more efficient. For instance, a few months ago I used the outsourced Visa services for India and the process was completed within 5 days.
Q: What do you think of the turnout?
Other Nigerians might be busy but that the point being made here is that anywhere in the world where Nigerians exist they will come out on the issues that concern their country. For those who could not make it, I will hope that they are able to help and contribute to essential change our country needs in any small way they can.
Q: What is your view of the embassy to this protest?
I am disappointed that they did not engage, apart from the man who came out to receive our letter, they all cowardly hid behind the curtains looking at us like aliens despite the fact that we clearly said we had nothing against them and that we are all Nigerians.
[When asked about the ambassador.]
I have not been impressed with her, when she first arrived in the country, the first speech she gave implied that Nigerians in the Netherlands were not law-abiding and I blogged about it.
Besides, all Nigerians abroad are unwilling (I meant unwitting) ambassadors of the country to all our communities but much more is expected of our official ambassador to be more positively representative of us in this country. I cannot say I have seen much in that regard.
Other comments
Conversing with a fellow Nigerian in Belgium who was involved in #OccupyNigeria Belgium, she said all the embassy staff came out, addressed them, put up pictures of the ambassador and almost took all the credit. Sadly, that cannot be said of the embassy staff in the Netherlands.
The only ones who came out were smokers who needed a cigarette or two. In fact, I noticed that the mailman who had a pile of envelopes – possibly visas and passports was told from the window of the embassy to return at another time.
Nigeria: #OccupyNigeria Holland and the chickens in the embassy

YouTube videos from 9JA.TV of some the interviews conducted yesterday.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Nigeria: #OccupyNigeria Holland and the chickens in the embassy

Cordially invited
I received notice by email on Sunday that #OccupyNigeria was coming to the Netherlands. Sometimes I am amazed about how more engaged I am with Nigerians all around the world through social media than those with a Nigerian heritage in the Netherlands.
At least the few I have spoken to with regards to the issues in Nigeria have been apathetic if not hostile to the idea that the little we can do in the Netherlands could be of any effect.
In my opinion, I beg to differ; it is important that Nigerians anywhere and everywhere in the world are seen to have a unity of purpose and direction to move towards obtaining that long held view that we are people of a country with great potential.
The arrangements
The convenor of the #OccupyNigeria protest in the Netherlands or for simplicity sake #OccupyNigeria Holland had arranged for a peaceful 45 minute protest at the Nigerian Embassy in The Hague though I did call to ascertain this morning if we were to prepare to be jostled by the police. He had received the requisite permits and made out the placards that attendees could hold up outside the embassy.
I had planned to arrive with 10 minutes to spare but by the time the connections between train, tram and bus were made, I was sadly 10 minutes late.
At #OccupyNigeria Holland
By the time I arrived at the embassy, the leaders were chatting to an official who came out to receive the letter of protest, gave some assurances to pass on our message but took no questions and returned to the comfort and security of the embassy building.
A number of press organisations were there as Radio NetherlandsWorldwide (link to their report) and journalists from 9JA.TV, we were interviewed about why we were there, what we came to achieve and our views about the turnout at the protest.
Primarily, I thought it was a disgrace and utterly disrespectful whilst smacking of cowardice for the staff of the embassy to hide behind the curtains of the building peeping out to see what we their fellow Nigerians we up to as if they were unconcerned and we were a spectacle to behold.
The turnout was not high, we are just about 15 as someone wryly noted that if the embassy had called a party the troops would be out in droves to attend and be jolly. Our resolve was however not diminished; for the concerned and the apathetic Nigerian, we are all affected and every little we can do for its progress is commendable.
We are Nigerians
The most important point I had to make was in response to the question about the terrorist attacks in the North and whether I would advise my relations if they were from the South to return home.
I made the point that part of my upbringing was in the North even though my parents are from the South-West, that I speak Hausa which is the language of the majority in the North and that there is neither Northern nor Southern Nigerian – we are all Nigerians together and wherever they are terrorised, they are my people.
Besides, we cannot ask those who live in the North to leave the North for the terrorists.
As we stood in the cold, the men with loud voices voiced our views on corruption – I held up a “No to Corruption” placard, on the fuel subsidy, on bad leadership and the sadly inefficient and lackadaisical attitude of the embassy in the Netherlands.
We stressed that we were not against the government but at the same time, the government and more pertinently, the staff at the embassy had to earn the trust of Nigerians in charting the progress of Nigeria.
Making our point
We sang the protest songs almost like socialists and concluded our protest with singing the National anthem loudly and proudly.
It was the little we could do from the Netherlands, but once again, the authorities are put on notice that Nigerians wherever they are in the world can organise, gather, project and protest with regards to issues back home and how we are represented in the Netherlands.
As we all know, the #OccupyNigeria protests are part of the multipronged approach to take our country back from the rot and rut that has plagued it for decades, we will not relent and we will not despair until our country begins to work and live out the potential it has always had but rarely realised.
It was a pleasure to meet other concerned Nigerians – Long Live Nigeria and God bless our dear fatherland.
A Slideshow of the #OccupyNigeria protest can be found here. Hopefully, I will get links to pictures showing my visage too. Thank you - Sahara Reporters for your coverage - Our Protest and the PhotoNews.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Thought Picnic: This is really heckling in church

The nuisance of mobiles

Just over a week ago, just as the New York Philharmonic were concluding Mahler’s Ninth Symphonic a mobile phone went off with its iPhone Marimba ring-tone and it became such a nuisance that the conductor stopped the orchestra to get the culprit to check and stop that ringing. [NYTimes]
The view is conductors rarely ever stop an orchestra in flow but this warranted an extraordinary action. Now, it is to be expected that when we go in to attend performances at the theatre or watch films at the cinema that people silence their phones not to constitute a nuisance and affect the enjoyment of others including themselves during the show.
There have been instances where actors have called out to people to switch off their phones in the middle of a performance though I have not heard of any occasion where such a culprit has been asked to leave the premises, but that I feel should eventually become the norm for the purposes of showing such recklessness and indifference will not be condoned in public.
Multilingualism in church
When I attend an event, I very much want to concentrate on the purpose of the event than be distracted by other attendees whose enthusiasm appears to override the social necessity to be decorous in polite company.
Nothing is as annoying as to be heckled by miscreants in the audience whatever their gripe to the discomfort of others.
My church is a young vibrant church, we can be exuberant and loud especially in the singing and the applause – it comes with the territory. There are people who dance, some jump though I have not seen anyone do cartwheels or somersaults yet, such will not be out of place for the part of the programme that will accommodate such expression.
Having stood before a church to speak before, I can understand the difficulties in maintaining flow if for every sentence spoken there is need for interpretation, my pastors are experts at this, they never skip a beat.
I was however amused with context and translation this morning when the call to prayer in Dutch had the words “U bent Heer” that the interpreter, bless his wonderful heart interpreted as “You are here” when I really think in context of the prayer what was meant was “You are Lord”. You can imagine that if native Dutch speakers mishear each other, those of us who are by no means word perfect have no chance – it did bring a wry smile to my face as this was repeated twice. It goes to show how “hier” (here) and “heer” (Lord) can be confused, then again, I might be wrong.
What we expect elsewhere
If I were to attend a lecture and for every valid point the lecturer made that sounded profound there was someone loudly acknowledging those points, I am sure the lecturer might at one point for all the compliments to his views be inclined to advise the person to be quiet and show their appreciation at the end of the lecture.
If in secular settings we maintain a modicum of consideration and behavioural adjustment with respect to people speaking to an audience it is disconcerting that church allows an almost unforgivable level of levity that is quite distracting that it can almost be considered heckling.
Speakeasy at church
I have sat through many a sermon in my church and had my attentiveness seriously disrupted by such interruptions, there are times during the preaching that certain things are said where a majority of the attendance at church interacts and responds, those are quite understandable, however, where every single sentence elicits a vocal egging on as if we are in some speakeasy environment one is caught between maintaining the peace and wanting to once and for all shut that person up.
Such was the feeling I had this morning and I am sure there were many more in church who felt just the same. In a church of a few hundred people one person cannot singularly be the most engaged and responsive to the preacher beyond everyone else that we are so annoyingly inconvenienced with the equivalent of for the purposes of churchianity – cat calls – because in any other setting, that is what they are – unnecessary, over-exuberant and inconsiderately selfish expressions of agreement with the preacher without the temperance of social graces to recognise that the setting is there for more than just the overly receptive attendee.
Something has to give
If this matter is not curtailed as it begins to irk at the level of the high-decibel grunts of female tennis players, there will be one almighty disruption of a sermon just like the conductor stopped the orchestra to deal with the ringing mobile phone hopefully to put an end to this situation.
I love my fellow church members, we are all there for reasons of fellowship and communion, but let no person use their liberty to create a stumbling block for others. I had better let my pastor read this because I am sure; I am not the only one who is beginning to feel quite strongly about this.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Nigeria: #OccupyNigeria New York townhall disruption

On Sahara Reporters
Now, I am not the greatest fan of Sahara Reporters but I realise that in a country like Nigeria the need for a guerilla news agency beyond the reach of government or powerful influences is critical and important.
I have always contended that they need to be more professional with a better editorial policy, an independent funding arrangement and some control of the quality of commentary that accompanies their stories.
As I learnt to my chagrin and annoyance, some two years ago having praised Sahara Reporters on my blog, their editorial team ripped off my article wholesale and posted it verbatim without acknowledgement or attribution and gave the impression I was a guest blogger when I was not at all.
The interesting knowledge gained from that experience was when I eventually got to see the 33 or so comments posted with relation to my write-up only one appeared to comprehend fully what I was talking about, the rest of the comments were redolent of ignorance and a strange pall of illiteracy that put keyboards at the fingertips of cretins.
Some lessons
Recently, the front-man of Sahara Reporters attended a town-hall meeting in New York where the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs was the guest of honour. He successfully disrupted the meeting which was recorded and posted on YouTube and he made some very crucial points that representatives of Nigeria going abroad will pay heed to appreciate and note.
We are well informed of activities in Nigeria and the global cachet of Nigerians is able to project and protest anywhere in the world.
The idea that Nigerian dignitaries can utilise African time when going to events abroad where we do keep to time and are punctual will no more be condoned. In this case the Minister was shamefully 90 minutes late.
We are not in thrall of people in power, if you are in public service, the element of service to your countrymen has to be paramount, the idea that you will be revered as some potentate with an air of mystique is so last century.
Patriarchy is dead, if you are expectant of respect by reason of the office you hold, you will have to earn it by merit, with competence and the honest engagement that accords respect to the people you desire respect from.
Causing serious embarrassment
The Occupy Nigeria movement has a global outreach and it is evident that despite the fact that the President in his concessional speech revisiting the fuel subsidy issues by promising to cut unnecessary travel, this minister was almost aimlessly gallivanting around the United States with the penchant for arriving late at all events she was invited to.
Though there were Nigerians in Diaspora ready to fawn in supine sycophancy in the presence of Nigerian politicians the goal of Mr Sowore was to call out this minister and in the process address the burning issues going on in Nigeria whilst embarrassing the minister seriously for her classless and reprehensible behaviour, not to talk of the inability of the government to really cut back on the profligacy that had become part of the gripes of the Occupy Nigeria movement.
Mr Sowore made his point by disrupting the meeting and he probably could have been a bit less volatile and abusive in his delivery so as to make even more reasonable points. The meeting eventually commenced after that representation of Occupy Nigerian were escorted out of the venue by the New York Police Department but not before an 11 minute recording had been made which will have the minister having to do some explaining and clarification with regards to what that video clip purports to suggest.
Reviewing the video clip
Without doubt every news organ has an agenda and it behoves them to pursue it with fervour, but it also important that the organ maintains a principle of credibility and integrity for purposes of posterity.
I cannot say if Mr Sowore’s edition of that video had sinister intentions to embarrassing all Nigerian representatives to the point that their positions become untenable. That might be scalps for Sahara Reporters but it does their cause no good at all.
At issue with that video is the idea that the minister and representatives of the Nigerian Embassy in New York sat through the recitation of the Nigerian National Anthem and a cursory viewing of that video appears to suggest that they disrespected the National Anthem and the ensuing consequences will be grave. Many of the comments I have read had both excoriated and condemned those officials but I not convinced that they did sit through that fervent expression of patriotism.
Within the first 1:07 minutes of that recording, there is enough evidence to indicate that the editing of this film clip has either deliberately or inadvertently besmirched the loyalty of these officials.
I have taken timings in playing back that video at normal speed and detailed my observations to support my view.
00:00 The lead in to this video clip introduces the subject of this recording.
00:04 The national anthem was already being sung as the narrator began to set the stage for the event.
00:14 The man at the podium was talking to the audience from what one can see of his demeanour; he could not have been doing this whilst the national anthem was being sung, indicating the audio recording of the anthem was dubbed over the video.
00:30 The lady that approaches the podium after the man also appears to be talking to the audience.
00:35 The lady glances toward the high table as if to acknowledge the people sat there.
00:38 The lady in the black jacket walked over to confer with the lady speaking at the podium.
00:42 The camera pans to the back of the lady in red who appears to be holding a microphone and maybe asking questions – at no other time are we shown the audience singing the National Anthem after the glimpse at the beginning of the clip.
00:59 The clapping at the end of the audio playback of the national anthem appears to be in acknowledgement of the man getting up on the right as he makes for the podium. The minister and the other man are clapping too, it cannot have been for the end of the national anthem.
01:05 As the man approaches the podium we hear the voice of Mr Sowore who seems to have commandeered the microphone and you can see the attention of those sat at the high table directed towards him.
My submission
I will suggest that no matter how late meetings start for Nigerian gatherings there will most probably be a call to prayer and the singing of the national anthem.
In both cases, I will expect that the master of ceremonies will expressly as all in attendance to rise for prayer and then rise for the singing of the national anthem.
It is unlikely that the singing of the national anthem will be a spontaneous activity and hence if the people are asked to rise to sing the national anthem it is almost impossible to contemplate the situation where those at the high-table with expressly ignore that request and sit through the national anthem.
By circumstance, tradition or even rarity, one has to submit that the video was an edited version of the event which inadvertently portrays a side of the story that does not represent the whole truth and by so suggesting the official disrespected the national anthem – there is no indication from that clip that those officials did not rise for the national anthem and until one expressly shows that they did not respect the anthem it will be unjust to suggest impunity.
I will be ready to review any other recordings of this event either to corroborate or dispute my views but this video by commission or omission on the matter of respecting the national anthem is unfair, unjust and heaps opprobrium on the officials to foster an ulterior and dastardly motive which is at best unconscionable if not dishonest.

Friday 20 January 2012

Nigeria: Our acceptance of religiously sanctioned child abuse

The rights of the child
This is one subject that I have always found myself returning to – it is the dehumanisation of children by adults in society to all sorts of ends which we today have to question, contemn and condemn.
In a conversation with a friend I met in India, though born in the United States, he had a Sudanese heritage and he worried about bringing up his children in the United States because children appeared to have certain rights that he thought trammelled the control parents should have over their kids.
Now, whilst I appreciate the need for discipline in the home, it does not completely remove the right of a child to be able to respond, react or protest – in my retort I suggested that the West appears to give anyone born into their society a modicum of rights which the state does well to protect.
Child abuse in our society
If parents have not for all sorts of reasons been able to foster an atmosphere of love and care that prompts the child, the neighbours or other vested persons to report the parents to the authorities for alleged abuse, it cannot be the fault of the child that certain elements of good parenting have failed.
Child abuse remains a problem in many societies be it emotional, physical or sexual and nowhere is it more prevalent when we attempt to find cultural or religious justifications for meting it out, condoning it, tolerating it or covering it up.
In Nigeria, we have acquiesced without question the egregious abuse of children with impunity by our religious leaders who we hold in thrall and are so fearful of by reason of terror that originally derives from expected instant retribution of animist gods and fetishes than from the more reasonable and just deities of the religions we have acquired.
Recent examples
Recently, it has been child sexual abuse that has thrived and been swept under the carpet for years until the intervention of foreign law agencies intervened and brought the perpetrator to book.
There was another where a child was given in marriage and this was approved by religious bodies ready to go nuclear if the civil authorities dared to question the offender.
However, the most heart-rending has been the stigmatisation of children in South-Eastern Nigeria accused of witchcraft then physically abused with acts that will not be foreign to mediaeval torture dungeons. Sadly, even the reasonable and the powerful found it difficult to stem this atrocious heinous criminality in the name of religion that it took an NGO to publicise these nasty harmful practices for the government to attempt to curb the injustices.
The methods of determining the witchcraft abilities of these children are more than suspect, the code simply finds its strength in superstition and the wanton abuse of the vulnerable, the dramatic scenes enforcing the vague dread of the supernatural on the faithful as they lose the sense of justice and gumption in aid of these cultish and abhorrent acts of unconscionable religious abuse.
A Bishop’s strange example
The one that however causes the greater consternation is the YouTube video that went viral a few weeks ago though the recorded event happened some years before. Bishop David Oyedepo who is the presiding bishop of Living Faith Church World Wide also known as a chain of churches called Winners Chapel and the chancellor of the “Christian-based” Covenant University slapped a girl in a church service during a session of ministering to people who had come forward for spiritual help.
The bishop has gone on to boast about what he did and that is his prerogative but there is a more fundamental point that needs addressing on this matter.
One should find it incredulous that a supposed witch ready to exhibit witchcraft powers regardless of her utterances would have gone forward for an altar call to be assaulted and humiliated in what some might call deliverance but sadly, the bishop was not disposed to offer the deliverance the supposed “witch for Jesus” went forward for.
And compassion?
Now, Bishop Oyedepo holds a doctorate degree in Human Development and even from a secular perspective one would suppose he understands mental health issues that should separate the core personality of an prospective patient from the influences that alter the character of the person.
On watching the video again, the bishop appeared to be addressing two different personalities, the first with regards to whoever or whatever he might have termed the “foul devil” and the second with regards to where the girl came from.
There are many instances in the Bible during Jesus’ time where it was narrated the people were possessed and exhibited incredible and unnatural tendencies by reason of the influences they were under but fundamentally Jesus reached for the person in compassion delivering them from their afflictions because that was His mission – to set the captives free.
The bishop with his posse of almost 10 men who took the stage behind him did not feel inclined to minister grace, love, compassion or the slightest sympathy to those who stepped forward that it looked like a spectacle for the audience that would not have been out of place at the Roman Coliseum when Nero fed Christians to the lions for entertainment.
What we saw
However, the bigger issue is what example and what message this sends out to other practitioners of deliverance or exorcism in the guise of religious authority because what was evident from that video and many related to this matter is that the vulnerable are open to abuse with impunity from religious leaders and these religious leaders will face no sanction or prosecution.
Meanwhile, these sometimes helpless and vulnerable persons who have hoped and wished they will get some succour and respite from their torments or afflictions are forced back down; back into their shells twice humiliated for coming forward, then getting assaulted and left literally bereft of the possible last hope they might have had for what in our highly superstitious environment is spiritual bondage and outside the purview of medical help.
Our religious leaders are human
Religious leaders in Nigeria seem to have untrammelled fiat to act as they will as if instructed directly by omniscient deity and our supernatural dread borne of residual animist belief systems allow us to acquiesce to any of their actions without question.
The reality is, subconsciously we have allowed mortal and fallible men of God to become the gods of men, overarching in their power, overbearing in their influence and never answerable to the temporal but only to the spiritual to be absolute domineers of our will, intellect and intelligence in feckless display of appallingly supine humility.
Whilst, what a religious leader does within the setting of their followership might well be argued to be their prerogative and undergirded by the freewill of their flock, the extremes of such unquestioned followership are exemplified in the Jonestown massacre.
We have to ask ourselves time and again of our religious leaders, how closely are we so ready to follow them that we cannot cut loose if beyond the mesmerism of their control our intellect informs us that we are on the road to perdition?
Our responsibility
What is wrong is wrong and the sooner we realise that religious leaders are flesh and blood like us, suffer that same issues we do, are tempted as we are and can be as error-prone as anyone of us, our folly will get the better of us and we will only have ourselves to blame for helping to perpetrate criminality masquerading as religious activity.
The responsibility remains that of the adult and enlightened individual to have the discernment and ability to see right from wrong, question the atrocious and make independent decisions. If we lose rational thought in the pursuit of faith, I dare say we are neither rational nor in faith but stupid.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Nigeria: #OccupyNigeria and Occupy their lives

Uttering nonsense
When a man is unable to allow his utterances be controlled by his cranial matter we assume the person is drunk because alcohol has a way of loosening the tongue. If there is no sign that the person is inebriated we begin to question the mental capacity of the person and words like stupid, dolt, idiot or cretin come to mind.
However, if such a person falls into neither category because we are aware of the person’s intellect and his bearing is such that alcohol and stupidity are excluded, you are left to wonder and ponder at what the issue might be.
Running Nigeria is neither for the inebriated nor the stupid, it is a job that calls on all faculties; the exhibited ones need to be alert, sharp and commanding of the authority and bearing expected of such who dare to lead.
Taking stock
The time has come and the time is now that we can no more acquiesce to low expectations and levels of achievement that are redolent of indolence rather than hardworking effective and efficient leadership.
In our 6th decade of independence, we have no time for people learning on the job, lacking aims, plans, mission or a vision as to where they intend to take Nigeria in the short term and at the end of their term in office.
Our democratic experiment is now close to concluding its 13th year and what we have seen more of is profligacy, prodigality, waste, corruption and a lack of accountability. Billions of dollars have been ploughed into infrastructure as power, roads, transport, rail, health and education but there has been very little to show for those investments.
Rather our legislators have growth fat on the largesse of the country earning humongous sums that will make the eyes of real creators of jobs and masters of industry water – to think from anecdotal evidence that our federal legislators earn more than presidents or leaders of more advanced economies and then to see a paltry work rate that is self-serving rather than in the service of the people is unconscionable, dishonest, corrupt and unsustainable.
Things are NOT changing
However, the biggest question remains what plans do they all have for the progress of Nigeria and when will they stop promising and start delivering?
After the 2 weeks of Occupy Nigeria and the strikes that ended yesterday, it appears the reluctant government in perpetual inertia was forced to be responsive albeit unilateral in all their decision-making dispensing of the rule of law for expediency and convenience that the legislature is found having to exert itself as the usually careless overseer of executive excess.
And careless they have been because they have still not addressed the criminally fraudulent matter of noticing the executive budgeted N250bn for fuel subsidies in 2011 and actually had spent N1.3trn by September and they are asking for more to cover the whole of 2011.
It still beggars belief that there are no checks and moderating influences over the executive to ensure they do not overspend without recourse to the legislature and if they do, there are no sanctions and repudiations to be made to all responsible with the possibility of criminal prosecution.
It is incredible that any organ of government can overspend by 500% and the other organs of government abdicate their responsibility with impunity; it indicates how corruption has eaten into the fabric of Nigerian governance that it is impossible for it to reform without some radical act of the people or God forbid some other intervention that forcibly resets this untenable and flagrant abuse of democratic processes.
We are caught as I once said before in the grip of an unconscionable kakistocracy – it is the government by the worse people ever selected to be in leadership.
Doing the worst of the least
Just before words could be taken out of our mouths, the president when addressing certain youths who in their excellence might abdicate their initiative and innate abilities for subservience to the government we have today, he said, “If we cannot build good roads for our children; if we cannot leave hospitals for them, then one thing we must not leave for them is debt, for them to come and pay.”[1]
I have been trying to get my head round what the president really meant by this statement because try as I might, I have found it impossible to make anything positive of it.
Then to think someone thought this statement was so positively profound that is was the quote on the FrontPage advertisement of BusinessDay just shows how low our expectations of this government have precipitously fallen that the government is not even exerting itself to anything at all.
Nigeria needs roads and she needs hospitals, those will contribute to the lifeblood of our economy and wellbeing. Even theoretical economists who always tend to leave out the serious human dimension in their modelling know that road infrastructure and healthcare are critical elements of development that if we end up in debt facilitating such the long term economic benefits will eventually pay off the debts.
A race to ruin
What I read here is a man that we have in elected office as president who has no vision for the country, he is as laidback as a rug with not particular goals apart from the default of not leaving the debts to our children whilst in the 5 years that he has been running mate either as vice-president or president he has presided over such an expansion of government to no end but for the aggrandisement of their debauched lifestyles of untold opulence leaving nothing for the people.
It is a race to ruin that does not address the real problems that affect the country be it corruption, profligacy or the security deficit that allows a high-level terrorist suspect to escape from custody at a time when the country is in a heightened state of security.
Occupy their lives
This, my friends can no more continue, we have another 40 months of this regime and something must give, it cannot be the people giving in to business as usual anymore, we need to make these people responsible, accountable and earning each kobo of their keep.
Our Occupy Nigeria movement needs to spearhead a series of tenacious occupations, we must occupy their minds, occupy their thoughts, occupy their time, occupy their space, occupy their lives, audit their time, audit their spend, audit their lives, micro-manage all their activities and call each and every one who takes money from the Nigerian coffers to account.
Politics in Nigeria must stop being a cushy job of high-living in ostentatious consumption to feed insatiable hedonistic appetites, these people should be too busy to find time for such excess and if they cannot stand the heat, they should resign.
Occupy and force change for the better
If a politician is not ready to put their best forward and make Nigeria the main priority of their lives with everything Nigeria being front and centre of their focus, it is time for them to retire with no benefits, they should take to life like all other Nigerians do. Enough of this nonsense, enough of the rottenness that is eating this country to the core and enough of the clueless leadership that needs to be given a good boot kick in the backside to start performing.
Occupy Nigeria for the change we deserve and we either force these people to do it or force them out but by God, we will not wait until 2015 for this indolence to become so ingrained that the future would have been eternally mortgaged to this looming debacle and apology of a state of affairs.
Occupy! The time is now.