Oct 8, 2014

The KGB Church in Nigeria

When one hears of KGB, the first setting that comes to mind is old Russia. The setting of the Kingdom of God Bible (KGB) Church is however, Foron Village in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, Nigeria. The church was, arguably founded by late John Wash Pam, sidekick to Joseph Wayas at the Senate during the Second Republic between 1979 and 1984.

Sometimes in the mid nineties, the KGB church started at the Geosciences Auditorium Anglo-D in Bukuru, Jos-South, Nigeria. Two men, that included the late Senator and another man of comparative obscurity named Dung Kassa, came together and founded the church. Kassa was the church’s spiritual leader while Senator Pam appeared to be the financial backer.

 Senator Pam was mostly in Abuja, working at the Presidency under the administration of late General Sani Abacha. He, nonetheless, came around every weekend, making sure he worshipped at the church. As the saying goes, “the harder they come, the harder they fail.” General Abacha died suddenly. The ripples of his death changed so many things, with Senator Pam’s stint at the presidency ending. He, subsequently and permanently, returned to Jos.

Members of the church’s congregation were either Pam’s relations who often traveled from Foron, political allies or loyalists, or persons who just wanted to sit under the same roof with the senator and, perhaps, enjoy his oratory. With time, the senator decided to start a new branch in his Foron village to make things easy for his poor kinsmen. The Foron branch was meant to be the head branch. Things started getting out of hand when it became clear that Kassa was not going to head the main branch. The Senator brought a young and more educated man by the name of Andrew Dido to head it. Kassa then abandoned the branch he was in-charged of and started a completely new church by the name of The Triumphant Christian Bible Church.

The Triumphant Christian Bible church is located somewhere between the Fire Service and D. B. Zang junction, along the Bukuru Expressway. When I visited the branch, it was a half-done kind of building: just walls, no roofing. Inside of it however, a small shade of corrugated iron sheets resting on wooden pillars stood at the far end of the open building. I did go there a second time, on a Sunday and, indeed, confirmed that people do worship in the uncompleted building. The congregation was in the neighborhood of about a dozen worshippers.

On September 7th, 2014, I traveled to Foron and worshipped at the KGB Church. It was a small but decent building at the road diversion leading to Government College Foron. The size of the congregation of less than seventy showed that, though still small, it was far ahead of the Triumphant Christian Bible Church. There was glittering music band equipment to the right side of the pulpit and the floor was rugged from wall to wall.  It had an uncommon sitting format that saw men sitting face-to-face to the women. Between them was a narrow space that led to the pulpit. Members speak in tongues and their destinies could be revealed to the church spiritual leaders who often approached the members and reveal such destinies during a special prayer session.

The pastor, a Togolese by the name of Josue Tosa, led events. He preached on symbols of the word of god. He who spoke with an accent I thought was southern Nigerian, wore an old dull-white Chinese jacket that appeared well laundered.

It seems the founding of the KGB Church may have been, merely, to serve the personal needs and conveniences of The Senator. He was raised in the Church of Christ in Nigeria but as his life evolved however, he found himself getting ex-communicated by the church over his sudden decision to embrace polygamy. The wanton hubris usually common of wealthy and powerful people may have led him to feel insulted and subsequently chose to tow the line of British King Henry VIII by starting the KGB Church to accommodate his private interests.

Relocating the church from the urban Bukuru to rural Foron may be an indication the church hasn’t got any ambition of growing by the capture of a huge congregation.  Also, it is difficult to see how the scanty and poor rural laity of less than seventy mixes of men, women and children can raise enough money to sustain the fairly ostentatious life of Pastor Tosa.  The indication is that Tosa is more or less a staff in the late Senator’s personal payroll rather than the payroll of the church.

It is pertinent to note that the late Senator’s youngest widow hails from Edo State in the south of the country. Edo happened to be the home of the earliest Nigerian liberal preachers, preaching prosperity, with defiance. Among some of these preachers was late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, founder of the Church of God Mission International. There is, also, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy.

As a young corps member in Benin back in 1993, I worshipped at the Church of God Mission International along Adesua Grammar School Road. It wasn’t a place for poor people and it was common to hear prayer lines like “give us the good things of life like air conditioners in our homes, BMW cars, huge pieces of meat in our meals - rather than the tiny pieces that are reminiscent of poverty…” Senior ministers of the church were highly educated and financially successful.

Liberal protestant churches are now all across Nigeria and pull huge populations of members. The phase of liberal Protestantism that is advance for the comparatively conservative Plateau Christian is however, doing away with monogamy. This is very aspect of the history of the KGB Church that inhibits its growth.

Oct 4, 2014

Nigerian Social Media Abuses and the Law

I have always been struck by the differences in social media usage between other countries and Nigeria. Each time one logs into Facebook to make comments about local issues that concern Nigeria, he notices insults flying up and down the pages. If however, he goes to an international social media webpage to comment, he notices the decency and guarded usage of words.

I was of the opinion that the difference was born out of ignorance, a comparatively poorer standard of education coming from modest educational resources here in Nigeria. Recently however, I have come to understand that this isn’t the case. It is not poor education or ignorance. Rather, it is more of a case of a weakness of the law. People know this and choose to abuse the judicial loopholes. Thus social media pages, particularly those of Facebook, are always littered with insults when it comes to the Nigerian space.

Some years back, a young man logged into Facebook and posted abusive comments against the Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido. The governor was traumatized and directed the young man to be arrested. So it happened. The only problem in this case was that acceptable legal procedures were not followed in the retribution of the young man. He was, rather, tortured. I am sure however, the option was adopted because the governor knew the Nigerian courts may not do something early enough, thereby allowing time for the issue to lose steam.

When Isaiah Balat, late senator from southern Kaduna died, somebody posted to say that the senator deserved what he got as he was the Arial Sharon of Kaduna State. At the time, I felt that the individual should have been approached by the law and made to explain why he made such a comment. When my dream President of Nigeria, Nasir El Rufai lost a son in an auto crash, somebody posted insults in place of condolences. The comments suggested that such a fate was well deserved. I also think that the man who made that post should have been made to explain it in a court of law.

If undeserved insults are deplorable in the real world, then they should also be in the virtual world. The virtual world is a medium of expression that is even more powerful than the real world. When such an insult is posted, it is damaging to the victim just as it would be in the real world. Furthermore, it travels far in the virtual world more than it does in the real world and we cannot treat the internet differently from the way the rest of the world treats it. About a year back, I learnt that the Nigerian National Assembly passed a law to handle cases of unwarranted social media insults against leaders. It was a brilliant footstep along the right bearing. The insults have, however, continued to pace their way along the footpath of ignominy. The implication is that the law has gone to bed and is sleeping ceaselessly or is even in comma. This is a reflection of what Nigerian has always been: a theatre of legal dormancy. It explains the situation we are in now: a climax of confusion where you have a fracture here and as you try to seal it, another one opens over there.

Jos the city of my birth and to which I am besotted, once built a reputation as the most embracing city across the country. Then somebody went too far and the police just said something like “well, the boy was having his fun.” The result is obvious and we know it. While Jos may still be embracing, one cannot walk without looking over his shoulder because there are now “no-go-areas.” Along this line, if nothing is done about social media abuses, it would grow into a monster, just as anything else does, in Nigeria, when it is not curbed at infancy.

People should be made to justify every vile comment that is directed at the innocent. 

Sep 24, 2014

An Open Letter to Governor Isa Yuguda

Gov. Isa Yuguda. Source: Global Ville News
Oga Isa Yuguda, I heard you have requested teachers to explain why there was, yet, another episode of a murky and abysmal performance by your state, Bauchi, at the last West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations. Sir, the tone of your summons seemed lopsided, suggesting the teachers are solely responsible for the poor showing of the state at the WAEC examinations. Sir, we don’t need to search deeply to realize 70% of the blame rests on your doorsteps as it is in most states across Nigeria.

Sir, I understand that you asked why the result should be poor, in view of the huge investments your administration has made in the education folder over the years. Sir, such problems come when administrations throw money at ministries rather than administration it. Before doling out money to a government ministry, one has to check to ensure that the ministry is structured enough to ensure the money serve its purpose efficiently.  Poor performance comes only when this is not done.

What do I mean by structuring a ministry to ensure it uses its budgetary allocations efficiently? The rules of efficient administration of schools must be enforced before any money sunk into such schools can result in pleasant outcomes.  These rules are basic and include

·         A child going to a secondary school must prove that he can read a simple passage and then answer questions taken from the passage he had read. If he gets admitted despite his inability to read and understand a passage, he ends up staining the result of his school at external examinations.

·         Those admitted have to be forced to continue working hard. This is achieved by the class teacher ensuring those who fail promotion examinations don’t enjoy any promotion. This scares students who would be compelled to read hard, get promoted and avoid the shame that comes with demotion.

·         Teachers who teach these students must also be qualified enough. This can be established by the government ensuring the teachers pass examinations on topics they would teach when recruited. There will always be limited teacher’s vacancies. Hence teachers who score the highest mark should be given the jobs. It triggers a competition, since teachers know that if they score high, they will get the jobs. This leads to improved standards in teacher’s education. Initially, those who fail to get the jobs will hate you but generally, those who like you will grow because the policy spreads the jobs evenly and out of the circle of your political friends.

·         Those who get the jobs must be made to continue working hard by ensuring teacher promotion is based on his/her passing a tough promotion interview rather than on how long he/she has stayed in the service.

·         Teachers are educated people and working environment must be pretty decent. Schools should be kept clean by hired cleaners rather than by students. Broken windows, doors and chairs/desks must be fixed immediately rather than government waiting for every thing to breakdown first in order to give out a contract to friends to get them rich. In like manner, leaking roofs should be fixed and fading walls painted.

·         Teachers have to be regularly paid. When this is not done, it places a stigma on the service and most citizens would want to use the service as a stepping stone only. It also repels the best minds from the service where bright minds are actually needed.

·         Materials needed by teachers for the successful delivery of their services must be in place. So, there should be books, pens for teachers and students and good blackboards.

·         Discipline would have to be enforced among staff of the ministry, not just in the schools where you have teachers, but also the offices of the ministry from where the schools are administered.

·         At the primary level, the public schools must adopt the approaches the private nursery /primary schools use which enables their pupils to read at the ends of the three years of nursery education. This is important because the secondary schools can only succeed with students that meet entry qualification. Your government can “steal” some of these teachers in the private primary schools to help the public schools. Most private school teachers are poorly paid despite their hard work and would want better pays as long as it comes in promptly.

The truth however, is that these guidelines have always been with us. It is however, their disregard that has led to the seeming mire in which our schools find themselves. So, while your government provides the monies needed by the schools, it must also embark on a reform that cleanses the system and allows the flow of the proper procedures. A reform is needed because the rot has thrived for decades and we expected the period of democracy to create the space necessary for these reforms. Perhaps your administration still believes democracy ends when a politician enters office. No, Sir. It isn't so. Democracy is meant to be a benign flood that washes away all filth.

Sir, the quality of education that should give the kind of result that gladdens the heart is delivered by private schools, mostly. This private schools are however, not affordable by the majority of the parents. The few kids that find their ways to the private schools are responsible for the irritating 10%, 20% or 30% scores at the external examinations. If however, your government can improve on the quality at the public school domain, the majority of kids whose options are solely the public schools will also end up with superior education that are not merely pleasant but give rise to the Isa Yugudas, Adamu Mu’azus, Tatari Alis of the future, to the pride and glory of Bauchi State. Long live Bauchi, Long live Nigeria.

Sep 23, 2014

Book Review –Honor and Polygamy –Omar Farhad

Honor and Polygamy
Honor and Polygamy, a debut novel of about fifty thousand words by Omar Farhad, is an emotionally breaking story of fate and adventure that is driven by the cogs of war, anarchy, religion, love and crime. 

 Nick is an America Christian, husband and father of two who finds himself in Afghanistan in a circumstance that compels him to marry an Afghan girl who is born and raised at the far side of the cultural spectrum. Against all odds the strong love that grows closes the social gap between the two. But then Nick finds himself in the United States without his Afghan wife. He is determined to travel back to bring her at a time when the safe travel routes to Afghanistan have ceased to exist. He resorts to seeking the help of drug gangs. This brings him face-to face with extreme danger and uncertainty. Will he succeed in bringing his Afghan wife to the United States? If he does how will he explain choosing to become a polygamist to his wife, kids and friends in the United States?

The writing approach is modest and sustains one’s interest up till the point of real suspense.  Farhad shows a strong ability to explore the minds of his characters and paint a vivid picture of the details that at times deceives the reader into believing that the book isn’t a work of fiction. In writing the book Farhad arms himself with a good understanding of the history, culture and politics of his ancestral nation. People that have known and love Afghanistan have often lived with the fear that should things fall apart for the Afghan Authorities the nation would be fragmented among warring factions with the name “Afghanistan” ceasing to exist. The author builds his fiction partly on the assumption that the fragmentation of the country has begun.

 Reading the book has changed my perception of Afghanistan as it brings to fore the brilliant face of that nation that most people around the world aren’t aware of. This calls to mind the sad situation where, most times, people paint in their minds what they consider to be colored portraits of distant nations, by just the use of a single color. Reading Honor and Polygamy has reawakened my appreciation of the beauty of the cultural diversity of our planet. Isn’t that what literature is all about?

Sep 2, 2014

Ralph Uwazurike Cannot Break …

Ralph Uwazurike
Source: www.thenationonline.net
I wouldn't refer to Ralph Uwazurike, the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), as a stunted individual. If however one takes out all the wadas of Nigeria out of the equation, Mr. Uwazurike would, no doubt, go down as a Lilliputian. The orbs of his eyes seem perpetually wakeful, paranoid of dangers that are non-existent for his Igbo kinsmen but rather exist for all Nigerians.  The Igbo “liberator” is either the most ill-informed Igbo leader or pretends not to see the realities and hence tows millions of young Igbos along a tangent that undermines the tranquility that is necessary for prosperity of all interests, including the social and business interests of his Igbo kinfolk across the country. 

If Mr. Uwazurike is exploring avenues to fame where they don’t exist and explains why his argument to push his cause for a separate nation for the Igbos, native to the southeastern part of the country, is always insipid. The first time I caught an idea of his baseless arguments was when he visited the Africa Service of the BBC while in the UK, some years back. According to him, the Igbos in Jos, Plateau State, were unfairly targeted while the Jos conflict lasted. I am a living witness of the social unrest in Jos till date and I see it as needless to waste ink here, trying to clarify the circumstance of the Igbos within the context of the Jos conflict, a conflict whose place in history will, no doubt, be made obscure by the bulky hulky issue of Boko Haram in the northeastern corner of the country. The clarification is pointless because I am sure the Igbos in Jos would have already made the picture clearer to Mr. Uwazurike or Igbo leaders generally, had they been facing an unfair persecution. If they did not, he ought to have asked them first.

Recently, Mr. Uwazurike tried to jump across a gutter that is wider than his stunted legs can scale, when he suggested that all Igbos living in Northern Nigeria should return home to the “East”. It was from this suggestion of Mr. Uwazurike that I got the impression he has issues with his logic of thought, a logic that is, obviously, twisted by his desperation for heroism.

Northern Nigeria is a vast region, perhaps taking up two-thirds of the land area of the whole country. Across this region, you have Igbos in every inch of it. The Igbos are largely traders and were attracted by the business windows they saw in the region, just as elsewhere where you find Igbo entrepreneurs. They took hold of these openings, prospered and built empires. So when Mr. Uwazurike orders such a population of people to move home and crowd the region that, as far back as the sixties, already had one of the highest population densities in Africa, it naturally raises the question of how to handle the wealth many of them labored all their lives to create. Such an exodus will, no doubt, involve a lot of board-rocking, whose ending will be uncertain. This is comparable to replacing a rope suspending a heavy load with a string; the place of your wealth is your home as it is where your mind will always dwell.  Wealth, here, is not just money but the landed properties and the business ties and profiles one has built in a locality over the decades. The Igbos clearly own more wealth in Diaspora than they own in their native home.

Mr. Uwazurike had previously masterminded an attack on Enugu State House and a public radio station. I watched on social media, a photo of topless men who were alleged to have carried out the assault. The picture evoked the disturbing feeling associated with its abortiveness and what it aimed to achieve. Someone posted a comment hinting that the assault lacked brilliance and could not even measure up to the smartness of Boko Haram operations.

These vignettes of events have only worked to tag Mr. Uwazurike and his followers as a bunch of ill-advised elements. With this, I wonder how Mr. Uwazurike can fit into the imagery of a liberator in the eyes of responsible Igbo men and women. If the Igbos saw any relevance in Mr. Uwazurike’s cause, he would have been included in the southeastern delegation to the National Conference, just concluded in Abuja.

If River Niger eventually flows across five nations rather than its current four, it will be because the new nation was created either out of Guinea, Mali or Niger but not in Nigeria. While the agitations for a new nation may come, largely, from people like Mr. Uwazurike, the irony is that the Igbos, by virtue of their prosperity across the whole length and breadth of the nation, have become the cohesive matrix of the nation. This, again, underscores the belief that our diversity is actually our strength –in it there is solution to all of our challenges. Clearly, the viewpoints of a few within the population of Igbos at home and outside confront rather than meet, as far as the topic of homeward migration is the agenda.  Thus young Igbos at home need an orientation that their Diaspora have, by virtue of their extensive travel.

Obviously, Mr. Uwazurike is already waiting for the prophesy, to come to pass, of former American Envoy to Nigeria, Terrence McCulley, suggesting that Nigeria will explode into bits in 2015.  However, the series of travels the nation had gone through seem to indicate that the bond binding Nigeria as one nation is superior, by far, to the abhorrent forces that aim to tear it apart. Thus Mr. Uwazurike may live out his life and be buried in Nigeria, rather than in Biafra. Those who belief in one Nigeria strongly feel that until the last Nigerian soul is laid to rest Nigeria will go on as one nation.

Ralph Uwazurike cannot break what Heavens has joined.

Aug 14, 2014

Nigeria’s Forgotten Revenue Sources

 A recent radio call show requested callers to express their opinions on the question of whether to pay or not to pay tax. One of the callers requested that Nigerians should not pay tax at all, since, according to him, the tax will end up in the pockets of corrupt government officials. There is no doubt the caller’s opinion rested on his youthful naivety; you cannot have a nation without taxation. Tax is, primarily, the source of a sustaining resource that every nation cannot do without.

In Nigeria, the corruption that a lot of people dread is actually made worse by the fact that a lot of them live under the tax radar and often search, in vain, for the strength that can be deployed towards fighting corruption as paying tax gives you a strong voice with which to challenge corruption. It is also the very reason why Nigerians lack the will to protest when government vehicles, buildings, office equipment and furniture are wrongly handled.

When we say that taxes aren’t collected in Nigeria, we are referring to taxes beyond what the big corporate organizations, whose taxes come in millions of naira and also documented workers whose taxes are taken from sources based on a fixed percentage of what they earn. The tax mechanism is so inefficient that in some instances, even these categories of tax-payers escape taxation, as recent events in Plateau State have shown: the state internal revenue board had to drag the University of Jos over accrued tax, to the tune of eight million naira. Also the state government had to seal the premises of the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) Vom and MTN mobile phone communication company over tax evasion.

Before the Local Government Service Reforms of 1976, the local governments (known as Native Authorities before the reforms) were financially independent in the sense that they received no statutory revenue allocations from the federal and state governments as is the case today. Between 1991 and 1992, further reforms made it mandatory for 20% of federal revenues to be allocated to the local governments across the nation. Seven years later, it was enshrined in the 1999 constitution.

Thus the 1976 reforms outlined the sources of local government revenues to include rates, grants, statutory allocations, fees/charges, fines, earning/profits, loans and miscellaneous sources. Despite how “petty” these non-oil revenues may appear, the large population of Nigeria should give it some gravitas and is reason why they should be pursued with all gusto.

Today, the non-oil revenue sources have been forgotten by the states and local governments whose responsibility it is to collect them partly due to the ‘difficulty’ involved in their effective collection, an uncooperative judiciary and laziness on the side of the administrators who prefer to recline and wait for “bags” of statutory allocations that has become, more or less, the only source of their revenues. This is despite the over-staffing of most local governments due to pressures for employment that is hardly available outside the public service. Since there is too much personnel that is not even carrying out the work of a relatively fewer support-staff that public offices actually needs, the statutory allocations end up paying staff salaries rather than financing the very services for which the local governments where created. Such services include establishment of healthcare centers, provision of portable water supplies, building feeder roads, schools and electrification.

The implication of overlooking the non-oil revenue sources by the state and local governments is that those tiers of government don’t work and only wait for the subvention that comes from Abuja.

I once asked a friend who is a staff of the local government service why tax revenues are hardly collected. His responds was that the field staff got fed up going out to the field to generate these revenues only for senior officials to steal them through bogus financial claims.  According to him, it becomes even more painful when salaries cannot be paid the moment the statutory allocations are late or inadequate.

Besides the developmental significance of tax collection to any tier of government, its significance can also be seen in the discipline it instills in citizens, especially the youths who will learn that once you are an adult, you must have a commitment to your nation, that you don’t live in a nation for free, even if it means paying for the air that you breath.

Jun 24, 2014

Corruption Wasn’t a Campaign Promise

Goodluck Jonathan courtesy www.Huewire.com
I hear that the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan wants to contest again in 2015. There are two reasons why he may not be President on May 29th, 2015. First, in the depth of their gluttony, politicians have failed to lay bare the self-restrain essential for a desired democratic stamina and as such democracy may not be with us by mid-2015. If you have the conviction that democracy is the desired political ideology, then you should not only use it but work to sustain it as well.
The most recent toast in Nigeria’s political space is the dust stirred by Air Vice Marshal Alex Badeh, Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff, when he tried to dispel rumors of a the prospect of a military takeover in Nigeria. There is no smoke without fire and the dire layback pose of the administration has created an ambiance where certain persons have started thinking that the seeming political power failure in Aso Rock has pushed too far that a forceful takeover may be looming.

The happy-go-lucky attitude of Nigerian politicians has always been the impetus behind the shortening of democratic regimes in the history of the country. The records are not hidden -the longest interlude of military tolerance of political recklessness in our history is the current spell (1999 -2014). Until now, the life span of a democratic regime in Nigeria has never been anything beyond five years. On January 15, 1966, a set of juvenile military officers of Ibo extraction revolted against Nigeria’s independent democracy as, according to them, it was unfavorably skewed against the Ibo tribe. During the Second Republic (1979 – 1983) politicians manifested lack of discipline and led an intellectually bankrupt democracy. The Nigerian edifice, built through the hard work and discipline of previous administrations crumbled exponentially as a result. Two gun-wielding soldiers, Mohammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon, “came to the rescue” on December 31, 1983.

The second reason why Jonathan may not be president in 2015 is if Nigerians decide that they have had enough of the use of Nigeria as a laboratory for the simulation of apocalypse.

No administration has ever been welcomed like the Jonathan administration in the history of Nigeria. The much talked about religious/regional dichotomy of the voting pattern was never perfect; there were many ordinary Muslims in the North who voted Jonathan, tired of the disappointments of series of northern leaders since independence. Internationally, there were powerful visitations to show support for Jonathan. I watched on the Nigerian Television Authority the visits by President Obama’s precursor, George Walker Bush who came in company of his Secretary of State while he was the President: Condoleezza Rice. There was also a visit by David Cameron and Angela Markel of Britain and Germany correspondingly. Later, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair showed he wasn’t going to be left out.  

The opinion here is that the Jonathan administration failed this breadth of supporters, starting from the voters at home to the world powers. In addition to its terrible habit of deferment of action needed to fix fraying ends until it is belated, the bane of the Jonathan administration is its anomalous tolerance of corruption.

The same foreign powers warned that corruption will be the bane of the war against Boko Haram in Nigeria. This, in my opinion, is the first show of support. Brazenly, however, the administration brushed aside the warnings and acted as though corruption was a campaign promise it made to Nigerians. The administration ensured corruption spanned across its sub-domains: oil and gas, pension, defense, aviation, presidency, the prisons, the police, etc. Perhaps Jonathan thought he would find continuous support from Nigerians by tolerating all manner of evil aspirations. This leadership style, where people’s support is won by the tolerance of all manner of wishes of the people, has been used in some states of the country. It seems that the Jonathan administration is making the first attempt to make it universal, failing to understand that the mentality of Nigerians actually vary from region to region.

If only the administration had taken, seriously, the warning that corruption will only feed Boko Haram, it would have known that the option would only lead to a sort of apocalypse for the nation, a situation in which we now find ourselves. We have heard stories of the military taking bribes to allow contrabands destined to Boko Haram enclaves. It explains why soldiers would fold their hands even after receiving warnings notifying them of an advancing army of Boko Haramists to a town.

The obligation of building a prosperous nation rests, equally, on the shoulders of every Nigerian. While the leaders have a role to play, ordinary people, at the bottom, also have an indispensable role to play. When leaders fail to execute their own tasks fairly, common people ask why they should be the only ones discharging their portions of the obligations, honestly. Hence there are always protests from the bottom in the form of disregard to law and order. In the northeast, enrolment into Boko Haram (going by its history) represents a protest for the carefree attitude of administrations in Borno State and in Abuja. Elsewhere, the protest could take the form of sabotage to oil pipelines to steal its contents, scam, stealing of ballot boxes, “jungle justice” by citizens who have lost faith in a corrupt police force. The painful ripples of “jungle justice” come in the form of religious, tribal and communal clashes. In the end, the nation is ungovernable.

Each time one logs into Facebook and condemns the administration for building a stage for corruption rather than undermining it, our friends form the South-east and South-south will argue that corruption did not start during the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. That is true! A lot of Nigerians, however, voted Jonathan believing he was going to fight corruption; they are conscious that corruption is behind the electric power shortages, poor quality of education, bad roads, hospitals with absence or inadequate doctors and drugs, the proliferation of bogus drugs, an ineffective police force, proliferation of firearms that undermine security, violation of human rights, etc

Nigerians have always known that the successions of leaders they have had in the past are unpatriotic; every action or inaction of theirs always find roots in covetousness. The Jonathan administration has demonstrated this more than all its ancestors. One thing that is obvious, however, is the fact that one has to place a limit to how much luxury he wishes to enjoy. Anything contrary will involve the constant search for means to support the endless desires and any effort to abstain from corruption becomes unsustainable. For a president who once paced barefoot, it should have been easy for him to teach Nigerians how to place limits on their love for luxuries.

The Under-Policing of the Nigeria Space

Image source: Th Nigerian Presidency
I search, online, the database of the Nigerian Population Commission, NPC, for the population figure of the town of Vom Vwang in Jos South of Plateau State, to no avail. Through other benchmarks however, one could give a picture of how big or small the town is. 

The town of Vom Vwang has eight secondary schools, each with an average population of about 250 students. In the same town, there is the Vom Christian Hospital which was founded by the Church of Christ in Nigeria in 1922.  The town also boasts of a College of Nursing and Midwifery. It is sad that a town of this magnitude has only four police personnel.

It is very easy to see the under-policing of Nigeria on the roads or highways. At a busy Junction, a female police officer directed traffic one evening. It was a T-junction. She grappled with traffic from the north, south and eastern ends. Some naughty boys down the road rode tricycles in the wrong direction, a situation that would lead to a traffic squeeze. She wished a colleague was around to handle the boys, but there was not. She couldn’t leave her primary assignment to walk down the road and deal with the boys. Eventually, the boys caused the stalemate she worked to avoid that evening. It rendered her effort of the evening a waste.

In Nigeria, it is a cliché to see vehicles making violations along the road. Vehicle owners drive across kerbs, along pedestrian paths in the wrong directions, causing inconveniences for pedestrians and panicking law-abiding road users. So long as the roads seem clear, some vehicle owners move on when traffic lights “say” stop. These are all caused by the hasty and intolerant culture of Nigerians and what is seen on the streets and highways is actually a microcosm of what one finds in the general fabric of the nation.

Years back, road users in Nigeria were scared of traffic violations, fearing the law would catch-up with them. The lawful usage of the roads started fizzling out however, when it became clear they could get away with their highway misdeeds, leading to a culture of road madness and the sour ripples always tied with it.

Road offenders get away with driving crimes because there aren’t enough police personnel along the roads or highways to discourage the illegalities. If under-policing means that crimes are not sufficiently fought, the forgotten plight of the force makes it even worse. The “I-don’t-give-a-damn” posture of the authorities has created an ambiance where taking bribes to turn a blind eye on criminal acts has become so entrenched that it is seen as an acceptable custom.

It is also the reason why the officers often transfer their traditional beliefs into the profession. Nigeria, a country of my birth and which I love so dearly, is a theater of, sometimes, deeply hilarious drama in which some police officers believe there could be crime scenes where the criminals are invisible and fire visible and deadly bullets.  At such instances, it is needless to engage the criminal. Instead, you go back and just wait for the month-end to receive a pay for crimes not fought. This represents an unquantifiable degree of under-policing.

The Nigerian Police and its affiliates are exclusive appendages of the Federal Government (FG). The FG recruits a handful of men and women into the force and disperses them to the thirty-six state and the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) commands across the country. Often, the only things that follow are the regular entitlements of the recruited men, entitlements that often arrive famished due to the rough paths the benefits often pass through. Since there are always inadequacies of working resources for the men and women of the force, state governments often shoulder these responsibilities, mostly the provision of operational vehicles, despite this being the constitutional liability of the FG. The rationale behind this generosity is in the knowledge that such goodwill will only work to keep crime levels low in the donor states.

When Plateau State suffered a sequence of conflicts between polarized groups, the tragic events played up the need for state police in Nigeria. The Plateau State Governor, Jonah David Jang, observed that each time trouble started, police reinforcements were often required and since he hasn’t powers to mobilize a police contingent from other parts of the country, it was the reason why succor often came late. Furthermore, the police command in his Plateau State isn’t really answerable to him and where the President fails to promptly give an urgently needed directive, it leads to regrettable damages. He was motivated, by these realizations, to propose the idea of state police in Nigeria. Support to his proposal was divided; northern governors and legislators kicked against the proposal while their counterparts from the south supported the proposal. Since the FG was not in support of the proposal, it did not endure through the night to see the light of day.

Then the problem of Boko Haram surfaced and became a monster, messing up the Nigerian nation direly. At a point, Shettima Mustapha, the reigning Governor of Borno State, where Boko Haram is headquartered and largely operates, was ignorantly blamed for his inability to end the bloody chaos. His respond was that he hasn’t any control of the security apparatus in Nigeria: the police and the military are all organs of the FG. Also the Ombatse problem in Nassarawa State broke out and the Governor of Nassarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura was also berated for allowing the recurrence of the unrest. His respond rhymed with the respond of his counterpart from Borno State. Thus the true presence of a manpower vacuum in the force led colleagues, who initially opposed Governor Jang, to subconsciously gravitate to his position on the debate.

It is obvious that the FG’s refusal to support the idea of state police is founded purely on the pedestal of morbid interest as the force is often deployed to serve them, especially during elections when it is used to bully political challengers. The significance of humanity must, however, be stressed. The FG must see the damage the deficiency of manpower in the force causes the nation and recruit the thousands of men and women needed to close the manpower gap. On the reverse, it can legislate to allow states to own police forces to guarantee effective policing of Nigeria.

Apr 26, 2014

Review- Chicken -Efemia Chela

Caine Prize 2014 is here. The short listed authors have been announced. One of them is a 21-year old Efemia Chela whose story is titled, "Chicken".

"Chicken" is an emotional story of a young educated woman by the name of Kaba, daughter of a wealthy African family. Kaba’s got quality academic degree for which the African employment market is not ready for. Her parents insist she go back to campus for what they consider a better degree, in Law, especially since she is still young. She is not ready and takes up a job as an intern in a global firm, hoping to use it as a springboard to a paid job. All she comes up with is a business card, stolen from the pocket of a superior, made lame by drug addiction.

Life becomes extremely tough since her parents have become increasing unsupportive in terms of the stipend they have provided to help her pay rent and take care of other recurrent demands. The parents are using this as a weapon to get her to cave in to their demand that she have a professional switch. Eventually, the hard knock life pushes her to prostitution. But seeing that prostitution isn’t going to make things easier, she remembers the stolen business card and where it points to: an agency accepting the donation of female sex cells which are made available to needy couples.

In the end a baby results from her donation. Her experience teaches her that for every individual, life presents a spectrum of options: benign and otherwise. She is not mothering the result of her ovum donation but prays, so deeply, that life sways the destiny of the baby in a direction entirely opposite to her own bitter experiences. 

Efemia writes with an extremely covert chic, demanding that one reads with highly concentrated mental energy. The theme of her writing is, definitely, creative, demonstrating that besides those issues of poverty, corruption, war and crime that has preoccupied the minds of most African writers, there are other issues that have been little explored or never at all. Thus her story features the issue of same-sex relationships which Efemia appears to favor. She calls attention to the kaleidoscope, there is in African cuisines and not forgetting to cause a splurge on the struggle for the possession of the minds of Africans, between Africa and the West.

Young Efemia, in her writing also showed how permissive she can be when she writes: “it (the wind) pranked me in public, lifting my skirt. I got used to a flash of my thigh and untrimmed hedge creeping just past my briefs. I wasn’t having enough sex to be greatly concerned with my appearance down there.”

There is a little of that collision that plays up the fiction that the story is.  Such wealthy parents, especially in Africa, would hardly allow their children to go through such ordeals. They haven’t got that guts; they love the child plus they would not be able to shoulder the reputation crash that comes with such abandonment.

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