Thursday, 31 May 2012

Hard View (Run Johnny Run!)

12th October 2010



President Goodluck Jonathan is best known, perhaps, for his unique fortune of being in the right place at the right time. Coming from a family of canoe makers, his meteoric rise, seemingly by accident, to the uppermost echelon of Nigerian society has been nothing short of serendipitous. As a public officer who has never been elected to any major public office in his own right, President Jonathan has taken full advantage of the opportunity fate thrust upon him by parlaying his advance in politics into an existence that is way ahead of the hopes and expectations of ordinary people.

There really is little doubt that President Jonathan is a man blessed with good fortune. But while some may consider his opportunities as an attribute to the quality that his name speaks of, I see his fortune as a burden of opportunity that saddles him with an overwhelming predicament. A predicament that sways his future legacy on the brink of distinction or damage; a choice in which he can completely re-order the damaged value system of this nation and usher in a paradigm of hope for the future of Nigeria, were he to take it. Herein, at this very point in time, President Jonathan has a very extraordinary chance to have his name written in gold, to become Nigeria’s first political hero for many a generation. To stand as a symbol that pays mind to a pertinent chronicle, one who shows a perceptive ability to perceive the consequences of his actions and one who sets an important precedent. He has the opportunity to transform himself into a completely dignified elder statesman with global respect and the greatest legacy had he remained an uninterested umpire and a silent spectator in a democratic revolution that that will ensure every one vote counts in 2011. But that legacy can only be claimed by him if he were to dig very deep into his reserves of courage, foresight and resistance against the enticement of skulking ambition and the incitement of wanton Svengalis that fall into a sort of hagiographic rapture whenever they hear the mention of the his name.

Luck may have given Mr Jonathan the advantage, but from the foregoing, it would appear that this is as far as the advantage goes. Because all of a sudden the heroic, empathetic, rational and unwearied silhouette that President Jonathan cut in the final days of President Yaradu’a seems to be vanishing. Mr Jonathan’s luck put him in a position where, before, during and after the passing of the late president, he represented a great patriot and a gentleman who was not politically greedy or biased. We admired the manner in which he endured the accusations, acrimony and contempt meted out to him by a megalomaniac first lady and the way he resisted scrutinising her rapacious voracity. We trusted his statesmanship in not taking power at a time when the power was rightfully his. When the hawks and vultures that surrounded the former president exposed a ruthless vehemence in their hunger to cling onto power, President Jonathan reacted with patience, calm and clemency. The fact that he has made no attempt to bring to justice any of the cabal and their insatiable appetite for almost causing anarchy in this country, demonstrates the decorum and dexterity of a man for all seasons. Some of us marched for him, wrote for him, stood by him and were ready to fight for him because we believed in him. He endeared himself to Nigerians in every way a leader possibly could.

But alas, unfortunately, reminiscent of a preceding handful of leaders before him, President Jonathan materializes as another one who is vulnerable to the allure of accolades and susceptible to an inordinate ambition. It is an ambition that seems to have a way of diminishing our leadership’s ability to rise above the lure of continuity. For any incumbent president in Nigeria, the temptation for contesting for the presidency must be very high and it must be very difficult to restrain one from doing so. Somewhere between the assumption and departure of public office, the spirit of every leader that resides in Aso Rock, save a couple, seems to get lost in the pursuit and possession of power at its extreme. A preoccupation of incumbency and ‘tazarche’ clouds the better judgement of our leadership. One thing that we are familiar with in this country and indeed all over the continent is that it is very rare for a President to leave the office voluntarily.  They are often either removed physically from that lucrative and cosy office, disgraced out or they drop dead.

It is unfortunate, that with his declaration of active participation in the 2011 elections, President Jonathan has lost his chance to set the kind of record former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela did. Today Nelson Mandela remains a saint in Africa, a global symbol of hope and a legend of our time, not solely because he sacrificed his personal freedom for his people for 27 years, but also because he served only one term as president and withdrew diplomatically from politics and public life. As a popular President in South Africa, Mandela had the opportunity and genuine popularity to hang onto the South African Presidency for another term of his office but he had the force of courage to serve only one term. In so doing, his brief presidency avoided undermining the laudable legacy and reputation he had built in his decades of captivity. It really would have been possible for Nelson Mandela could have undone his good work, rubbished his image and damaged his place in history irreparably had he continued in office longer than he had. Mandela may not have experienced the kind of luck President Jonathan did in the course of his lifetime, but when the fortune of life and the chance to lead his country presented itself to him, he didn’t misuse it but instead nurtured it in a way that makes him one of the only true leaders that Africa has ever produced.

Had Mr Jonathan embraced the kind of resilience exhibited by Mr Mandela, he would have achieved the maximum that history can judge or reward him for and as a result of his selflessness, sometime in the near future, Nigerians may have stood up to request for his return by virtue of his impressive reputation of voluntarily relinquishing power.

Already the tide is beginning to flow against Mr Jonathan. With recent events where he degenerated to the valley of constituting himself into a megaphone of militants and his rather reactionary and premature denial of the existence of a zoning arrangement within his party despite the fact that he is product and a beneficiary of such characteristic, Mr Jonathan has started his journey on the slippery slope of villinary.
Without a doubt, it is the constitutional and inalienable right of Mr President to run for the presidency. However, notwithstanding any that Mr. Jonathan may have, if the president had a strong interest in his legacy, instead of focussing on the immediate political prize, he would not allow his ambition for power to drag him into a situation that will become unsuitable for that legacy. No matter the reward that lies at the end of his quest for another term in the presidency, with the pitfalls inevitable for every incumbent African leader that contests for a continuation in office, I am sure the prize will be worth the cost.

One of the greatest legacies a leader could ever leave is his ability to know when to leave power before power leaves them. If Mr Jonathan chose not to run for the 2011 elections but oversaw and ensured a free and fair process, he would, without a doubt emerge as the greatest African hero after Nelson Mandela and he would have the greatest legacy to be told for generations of Africans to come. For those who are in a position to advise and encourage him, if they truly had his personal best interest at heart, they could ask him to run; not towards the polls, but to “run Johnny run” as far away from Nigeria 2011 as possible.

Article Written By Hannatu Musawa

Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Hard View (unBARTable)


Bianca Audu, a 32-year-old woman from Jalingo, is just back from the market and sorting out the goods she bought. This time she had to leave a lot of essential items off her usual shopping list, because the prices of the basics she needs to feed her family have recently doubled since the removal of the fuel subsidy. As if that wasn’t enough, she has just learnt that electricity tariff all over the country will be increased on 1st June.
“I just don’t know how we will manage”, Bianca says despairing. “I receive a daily income of less than N200 from my home-run photocopying business and the pof-pof I sell. We can’t cope with the price increase of anything else…Unless government wants to create a system where we go to the market and do trade by barter not by money, they should understand that we are human and our lives are ‘un-BARTable’!” says Bianca, a mother of three, whose husband is paralysed and unemployed.

Bianca is correct, Nigerians are humans and their lives are un-bartable! Bianca is not alone in her plight. She can be sure to be in the company of millions of Nigerians whose struggle for survival can barely endure a further price increase of anything from any quarter. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, poverty keeps rising in Nigeria, with over 100 million people living on less than a $1 a day. Almost 70% of the Nigerian population cannot make ends meet and are living in "absolute poverty". And by absolute poverty, I mean they have absolutely nothing to survive on, absolutely nothing to feed on, absolutely nothing to do, absolutely nothing at all! It really is shocking that even with the challenges to the economy and development that the government is tackling, this administration would think that it is justifiable to implement policies that undermine prosperity and worsen the people’s extreme poverty level.

Only a few months ago, government gave a heavy blow to the populace by thrusting Nigerians in the colliery of despair by removing fuel subsidy. To come with another severe policy at a time when the country is yet to recover from the recent pains seems ridiculous.
We are told that the increase of electricity tariff is necessary for efficient services, for the encouragement of investments in the power sector and the creation of jobs, but Nigerians feel sceptical. And who can blame them? When accounts of how the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of State for Finance aledgedly abetted $1.1 billion in the Malabu Oil Block Deal are leaked, people become wary of governments’ motive with every decision. When disclosures of how N2.6 trillion has been stolen by the fuel subsidy gang of very-wealthy-merry-men and revelations of how the surveillance and control of Nigeria’s territorial waters has been ceded to a commander of a criminal, terrorist vigilante army in a multi-million naira deal, Nigerians read ‘hugger-mugger’ between the lines of such policies.

In 2008, it was revealed that since 1999, a whopping $10 billion had been spent on the power sector. At that time people were astounded that such a mind-boggling amount could be spent in a sector that yielded no results and saw no improvement of power generation. Despite all the funds that have been sunk into the sector in the past, Nigerians today live in darkness, still victims to the non-power supply, still existing in an atmosphere that looks more like the stone-age than it does the 21st century. And in the midst of that, consumers have had to pay for a service that just wasn’t there. If, in the face of the billions of dollars that was spent in the past, Nigeria still has no stable power, why should anyone have faith that this new initiative to burden the Nigerian people would result in steady power?
Over the years, we have witnessed the transfiguration that our power sector has gone through; from NEPA, to PHCN, to an organization of subsidiaries all in a bid to rectify the dyslexic state of our power supply. And as Nigerians continue to grope in the dark for lack of light, alas, it seems to have all been for nothing!

If the champions of the electricity price increase were truly candid in their bid to reform the sector, they need to first establish where the money spent in the power sector in the past went. They need to address this before doing anything because Nigerians have a God-given and constitutional right to know ‘how’ and ‘who’ mismanaged and stole the billions of dollars that was spent on the power sector in the past. Nigerians have a right to see these people either pay back their ill-gotten, stolen wealth or pay for their offense with their freedom. If government were focused on recovering the billions that was stolen from this sector, there wouldn’t be a need to impose on the predominantly poverty stricken people of Nigeria to balance the incongruity of a few callous businessmen and government officials.

Apart from the blatant misappropriation of the funds, government should educate Nigerians on all the reasons previous governments failed to successfully solve the electricity impasse. This is very important so that, as we move forward everyone would be knowledgeable on the snares that need to be avoided. This way, when government proposes necessary draconian policies in the future, it will be easier for Nigerians to understand and accept.

“The government should take pity on us, I beg”, says Bianca Audu while preparing some pap for her husband.
She does not know where to turn for help. “I don’t trust the government anymore, they keep lying and suffering us all the time, and I am tired of living like this”, she says while feeding her husband.

“The government should take measures on power and fuel subsidy without asking us to pay for their carelessness… Already, I don’t have enough to pay for electricity…even the light is not always available and my photocopying relies on light… Let the government take pity on us”, she cries.

Bianca, who has just finished feeding her husband with pap that is now more precious than ever, has little hope for a better future. “Government should understand that we are human and our lives are ‘un-BARTable’…If today I can’t fulfil my family’s basic needs, what am I going to do in the near future”, she asks… Bianca is still looking for someone who can answer her question.

From all indication, there is a high probability that the rapid fall in living standards likely to be triggered by the increase in electricity price could mean a social crisis is just one step away. With extreme poverty and unemployment reaching an all-time high on the one hand, and with the government’s apparent total indifference toward the plight of the majority in Nigerian, the increase in the electricity tariff might lead to the kind of social turmoil we saw with the removal of fuel subsidy.

I doubt there was anyone more excited than myself when Dr. Bart Nnaji emerged the Minister of Power. Knowing of his brilliance, achievements and pedigree, I have never believed that there was anybody more suited for that position more than him. And as I write this, I urge Dr. BART Nnaji to make the necessary reforms in the power sector while considering the plight of over 100 million Nigerians that cannot afford any hike in electricity tariff. After all, to impose on our people in this way, at this time would be like BARTending our suffering in a BARTer of sorts where the BARTizan of each Nigerian household would be under the miscoloured BARTracery of government misrule... And as Bianca Audu would say, Nigerians are human Sir and our lives are ‘un-BARTable!'

Article Written by Hannatu Musawa
Twitter- @hanneymusawa

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Hard View (Leave No Child Behind)


-Akin is a 5 year old orphan from Oyo state born on the 1st of January. He never knew his mother; she died from loss of blood bearing him on the dirty floor of their one-room apartment. After her death his father moved the family to Lagos. When Akin was 2, his father died in an accident leaving him and his 9 year old brother. Ladja, Akins’ brother, managed to support them by patrolling parking spaces and demanding fees from motorists. When Ladja became involved with a group of area boys and was killed while participating in an armed robbery operation... Akin was adopted as one of the area boys’ own to raise!

-Shamsiya is a 5 year old girl from Katsina state born on the 1st of January. Her father is a maiguard with 4 wives, 2 concubines and 29 children. From his wages, Shamsiyas’ father can only afford to feed a third of his family. Shamsiya and her sisters don’t go to school, instead they hawk groundnut. Mallam Ado, a shoe shiner 48 years older than Shamsiya, is her biggest customer and has recently taken a pervasive interest in eating groundnut… but only if Shamsiya is selling it!

-Gladys is a 5 year old half cast girl from Edo state born on the 1st of January. She no longer sees her mother and never knew her father. Her mother only met him once; he lives somewhere in an Italian suburb oblivious of his offspring, forgetful of that one night he ventured to solicit the tall black lady with the red high heel boots. The little girl lives with her elderly grandmother, a woman too frail to notice the goodness of her grandchild. Unfortunately Diezel, the local, sick-minded mechanic noticed and was always determined to show Gladys just how much. From the age of 3, Gladys has been sexually molested by Diezel and he has commenced arrangements for a passport for her so that she could travel with him and 6 other young and abused slave girls in a shipping container... on a one way trip to Italy!

-Chukwudi is a 5 year old boy from Anambra born on the 1st of January. Being 14 years older than him, his brother was lucky enough to gain an education and admission into a university. Unfortunately for Chukwudi times were hard and the family couldn’t afford to educate another child, so he and his twin sisters assisted their parents in their kiosk. Away in university, his brother became involved with a deadly cult. The cult leaders gave him a house to move his family into and without waste of time they did. In their joy Chukwudi’s family failed to notice... it was situated near a shrine!

The implication of these accounts may seem severe, but in reality millions of children all over this country are abused, molested, sold like goods, violated, forced to lead immoral lives, kidnapped and killed. If we look in every corner of every state in Nigeria, one common theme we will witness is malnourished, uneducated and impoverished children living in a very poor state of health and filth. And regardless of where they are from these children are all victims of the existing decline of our country. Every one of us must understand that no child can be left behind and we have to take responsibility for the safety of the children of this country. Arguably we are all guilty for exhibiting a poor attitude toward their welfare. We are guilty of inaction because we witness daily the employment of very young children as domestic servants, the growing rage of the system of almajiranci, area boys and marriage of very young girls without challenging the institutions and people that encourage these trends. Unless we create an initiative to stop the exploitation of children then we face a grim future. If we don’t take a stand then children like Akin, Shamsiya, Chukwudi and Gladys become part of that vicious circle and 20 years down the line we have a scenario A sitiation where:

-Akin grew up learning the ropes from his area boy idols and on many occasions would assist them. Alas, in order for Akin to reach an ultimate high, he began to take drugs. It started with the occasional marijuana but latter turned into a need for something much harder. He was eventually thrown out the gang for sluggishness due to the drugs and started living under a Lagos bridge. His drug use became so desperate that on one night when he couldn’t get the drugs, he cut off his little finger in order to quantify his intense craving and need for the drugs. Akin lived this way for many years until his lonely death on the 31st December;... a day before his 25th birthday!

-Shamsiya was married off to Mallam Ado by the age of 12 as his 4th wife. By the time she was 14, she gave birth to the first of her 6 children. Mallam Ado, her first husband, died 4 years into their marriage after which she begged on the streets with her children in order to survive. Shamsiya married 2 other men in her lifetime, the last one lasting only 4 months before her husband divorced her to marry a younger woman. Towards the end of her life, Shamsiya begged on the streets with some of her children, the others were sent to a Mallam in Maiduguri and are living as almajirai. During a religious clash, her 11 year old almajiri son Inusa plunged a knife in her gut, ending her tortured life for reprimanding him for using the opportunity to loot shops and kill people. She died on the 31st December,... a day before her 25th birthday!

-Gladys didn’t get her passport and didn’t get to travel abroad till she was 24 because Diezel thought she would be more useful to him in the big Nigerian cities. For many years she was raped, beaten and abused. By the time she was 24, Gladys managed to travel to America. With a sigh of relief a damaged Gladys, determined to start a new life, went to the doctor for necessary tests. A few days latter Gladys stared with horror at the piece of paper in her hand which sealed her fate, the piece of paper that said “results of blood test”, the piece of paper that said “HIV: positive”. For Gladys it was not to be the start of her new life but the end of her journey because on New Years Eve a gun lay in her right hand and her life less body just lay victim to her own suicide.... It happened a day before her 25th birthday!

-Chukwudi and his family were barely making ends meet when his brother defied his cultist leaders. Had it been a minor crime, 1 sacrifice would have been adequate for the leaders of the cult, but this was an insulting offence that required nothing less than 6 sacrifices. On the night of 31st December screams were heard from the direction of Chukwudis’ house. In the morning 6 burned bodies were discovered including that of the mutilated torso of a small boy with his arms, legs, and head hacked off. Chukwudi was not 25;... he died a day before his 8th birthday!

Be it life till 25 or 8, the need of all children is one and the same and their fate interconnected. For Akin, Shamsiya, Chukwudi and Gladys, 4 children who were never destined to meet but had more in common than they would ever know, their destiny could be changed if our attitude and laws were too. In order to protect them from the exploitation and degrading treatment in scenario A, our government must enforce more laws that protect children; put a stop to child begging, hard labour, trafficking, establish organised rehabilitation centres, orphanages, provide primary healthcare, basic education, safe water, sanitation and enforce stringent sanctions to those who encourage these harmful practises. Those of us who have the means should take it upon ourselves to sponsor the protection, empowerment and education of strangers, albeit one. The populace must show care and humanity to the already displaced children living on the streets. Granted, it may be an unreasonable expectation for all the above reforms to be simultaneously put in place but if only we could start with a couple, then we have a real likelihood of succeeding so that children like Akin, Shamsiya, Chukwudi and Gladys have a chance of the life in scenario B some 20 years down the line where:

-Akin went to an orphanage and excelled in school. Upon seeing his brilliance, a childless couple adopted him and groomed him to grow up into a fine, proud young man. He became a lawyer and dedicated his practise to speak for all unprivileged drug addicts living under bridges. His brother Ladja went into rehab and emerged a confident, rehabilitated business man!

-Shamsiya benefited from the state sponsored education in her town. She went on to get a scholarship and was able to eventually qualify as a teacher. Happily married with 6 children she speaks out against almajiranchi, early marriage, hawking and writes against these practises in her native language. Her son Inusa wants to work in a bank!

-Gladys was protected by the authorities and went ahead to study economics. Latter in life she won a beauty contest and used the platform to speak on the dangers of child abuse. Now she travels the world and provides counselling and aid to AIDS patients!

-Chukwudi and his family were provided a secure shelter and eventually relocated. Chukwudi became a doctor and senator. He introduced a bill in the Senate that tightened the law on cultism in Universities. His brother works with him!

Our children are important and valued members of our society. We must at this point ask ourselves which of the above scenarios we prefer for our children; A or B? For our children of destiny; Akin, Shamsiya, Gladys and Chukwudi and every other Nigerian child, the answer must be B and one thing must be clear; we must leave no child behind!

Article Written by Hannatu Musawa.


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Hard View (The Comedy Called Life)

One of the greatest gifts bestowed upon us by the Almighty is the gift of laughter.  Rather than constantly taking life too seriously, humor pre-supposes a large measure of goodness of heart, of tolerance and human kindness. The diversity of our beautiful nation gives us ample ammunition to make fun of others and be laughed at by others. This week I have a treat for you.  "Hold on tightly to my hand and let’s take a ride in life’s amusement park…................!"

-From early childhood I was able to appreciate the irony of life in funny stories told.  One was about a Hausa man that travelled to the UK for the first time during the 1980's.  The man in question visited the good old city of London during the popularly advertised sales period.  Most of the shops he saw had a glaring sign in bright colors - ‘SALE’ and when he came back to Nigeria he was eager to talk about the wonders he saw on his trip.  He spoke of the bright lights at Piccadilly, ‘moving’ stairs (escalators of course), life-like statues at Madame Tussauds, trains that snake around under the city, the hustle and bustle along Oxford Street and finally with immense pride he spoke of all the great shops he saw owned by (he thought with pride) a fellow Hausa man just like him… one “Alhaji Saleh!”

-Another highly amused Northerner also took his dry cleaning to a laundry beside his hotel in London and among the items he took was his ‘babanriga’ - the pride of a Hausa man’s attire.  The puzzled British boy while listing all the items for collection turned the richly adorned garment over and over and finally recorded it as ‘... 1 multi-colored, cotton parachute!’

-There is an ancient Scottish proverb that says, ‘A smile costs less than electricity and gives more light’ and with the situation of our own dear PHCN - I think we should all learn to smile more, don’t you?  I have a beautiful sister-in-law who happens to be Igbo and many a time she has made me smile.  In business today we all know there seems to be more downs than ups and when certain situations have gone financially astray I try to console the both of us.
“Don’t worry,” I would say in soothing tones, “God is always there and our reward will surely be in heaven, Insha-Allah.”
“Listen,” she would hiss, “I’m aware God is here but I want to see some reward here on earth too - your prayer is a poor man’s prayer!”

-This never ceases to make me smile and I pray that every one of us shall get our reward both on earth and afterwards as well.  On issues of money, one sees Nigerians at their very best. It is interesting to note that people usually know you well enough to borrow from you but you are not known enough to be lent money to. Of course it goes without saying that when you lend, you are a friend and when you ask you seem to be a fool!

-Recently, I was told a joke by a former teacher of mine who hails from Ghana.  A man went to pay back his mechanic money that he had owed for months. Upon arriving at the house, he noticed a large crowd and to his horror learned that the poor mechanic had passed away and his wake-keeping was taking place.  He slowly walked up to the bereaved widow to pay his respects and as they stood over the open casket the man whispered, “Madame, may Nkenna’s soul rest in perfect peace. I did not know he has died, in fact I came to pay him back some money.”... Nkenna rose from his coffin and asked, “Nna, how much?”

-It seems even cloaked within the sadness of death; a spark of humor does not go amiss.  My dear mother told us the story of two brothers in the village who shared the same room.  They were members of a large extended family living in the same compound and their grandmother was terminally ill. On one cold and windy Friday morning as the brothers were settling down to eat a special breakfast of fluffy akara and sweet pap, a piercing scream echoed through the compound. “Wayo Allah! Kaka has passed away”, shrieked one of their sisters and a barrage of commotion began.

“Quick,” said one brother to another, “we loved her and we’ll miss her dearly but what can we do for her now but pray?  She is now with the Almighty who loves her more than we do.  Let us quickly eat our food while its hot so we’ll have enough energy to receive people well and grieve for her properly!...”And it was thus that 30 minutes later both boys emerged well nourished with fresh tears staining their faces!

-This tale makes me think of all the times I have been to houses of mourning and discreetly noticed certain individuals while observing the mood of mourning never-the-less usually have at least one roaming eye on food warmers in the corner of a room!

-A true reflection of the tolerance and diversity of our individual beliefs and traditions as the human race is perfectly illustrated by this scene. If nothing this tale has taught me how customs we embrace as a part of our identity are interpreted as strange by others.

-On a cold, foggy morning in a lonely cemetery while a Chinese man offered a bowl of noodles to his relatives’ grave site, a bemused Englishman who was holding a bunch of colorful flowers for his dead friend asked with sarcasm while pointing to the grave stone, “Round about what time do you expect that person to come out and eat this lovely meal?”
The Chinese man looked up and smiled coyly.  He answered, “Well, around the same time that you expect your friend to come out and thank you for those lovely flowers!”

-One of the best things about being a Nigerian is that while in Nigeria, the food we eat, clothes we wear, our indigenous languages etc. usually are synonymous with our individual tribal identities.  But once we meet ourselves anywhere else, in the world we are ‘Proudly Nija!”  Something very special happened two years ago while on a family summer holiday abroad.  As we were rushing out of a busy shopping mall (you know how we Nigerians go around in large groups), we spotted an extremely famous ‘Nija,’ footballer.  We also noticed a group of ‘oyinbo’ people excitedly but hesitantly gazing at him - wanting to approach him for his autograph but a little embarrassed to impose themselves on him.  Were we behaving in the same way you ask?  For where!  We started shouting and screaming his name (it comes naturally to all Nigerians).  In a flash, he rushed over to us and we took some memorable pictures with him. he carried the little ones and played with them and was so charming and gracious - we all bonded with him!  As he drove past us we chanted that he should hang up his football shoes to come back to Nigeria and run for the senate to the bewilderment of our ‘oyinbo,’ brothers watching.  Back in the car I mentioned to my sisters that the celebrity in question was really a jolly good sport.  They laughed and commented on how being a fellow Nigerian he must know he was better off treating us well ....Nigerians can come out with bucket loads of bad language and behavior when ‘disgraced’ or when our pride has been wounded.  When it comes to such matters forget the 350 dialects spoken in our country - we all speak the same language!

-On issues of morality in our great nation, no stone is left unturned either.  “Do this!”, “Don’t do this!” they yell.  Lets highlight this as an example - people who criticize the way some ladies dress.  With our abundantly rich culture inherited over the centuries some of my fellow gender wish to always emulate the scantily dressed ladies on Channel O. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing morally wrong if that is your choice.  But it is clear that the true beauty and essence of an African woman is one who embraces her natural gifts and nothing is more breath taking than a Nigerian woman in traditional attire. One of my favorite authors P.G. Wodehouse once wrote that while looking at one woman during a dinner party he thought, “she looked as though she had been poured into her clothes and had forgot to say ‘stop!’”

-I would like to tell you of a hilarious tale told to us by a dear aunt.  There was once a woman who was peacefully married to her husband when he married a second wife. The second wife was quite well to do and came into the house with expensive clothes, jewellery, plush furniture and all the latest gadgets. The first wife suffered many indignities and amidst all these travails, dreaded armed robbers raided the house one dark and stormy night.  The first wife’s room was ransacked and nothing of much value was found; just when the armed bandits were about to disappear into the darkness of the night with their meager findings (they had missed the second wife’s room at the side of the house), the long suffering first wife raised her hand just as a child in a class room would and whispered in a halting tone, “Excuse me Sir, there is one big room at the side of this house with plenty, plenty nice things that you forgot. I will be happy to let you take everything there…please don’t be angry - go and check it…please!”

-Every employer complains about their staff, especially the domestic staff but they seem to be essential for Nigerians running a household.  They can also make you laugh loudly too.  My latest nanny called Blessing (may God bless her) when starting to work for me suffered the brunt of many jokes by other members of my staff. She was not familiar with any gadget and they would snigger at her behind her back. Blessing hated this and was determined to put a stop to it. She carefully watched the manner in which we did everything, even the way we ate on the dinning table.  And after weeks of being vigilant I am proud to announce that my nanny now takes tea and garri …with a knife and fork!

-It seems in life, death, work, business, polygamy and at home there is always amusement to be had.  So next time you travel, don’t be angry if you are unduly scrutinized too vigorously as a Nigerian traveller and asked to pass through an ‘X-ray’ body scanner.  The real punishment is on the people paid to watch all sorts of ‘wonderful’ shapes and sizes of all our bodies. I can’t think of a worse punishment, can you?

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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Hard View (The Lockerbie Patsy)


It was the terrorist attack that led to the biggest criminal investigation of our time. When on the 21st of December 1988 a bomb exploded on a Pan Am flight flying from London to New York over the village of Lockerbie Scotland, 270 innocent civilians lost their lives. Two decades after the tragedy Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the crime and dying from prostate cancer, was sent home by Scottish officials on compassionate grounds. Al-Megrahi had served only eight years of his 27 year to life sentence for murder. As the outrage and fallout from the decision to release him continues, questions surround every facet of this emotionally charged and compelling case. Apart from the queries regarding the reason for his release, uncertainty and lingering doubts still surrounds the evidence on which he was convicted in the original case.

After the Lockerbie bombing, years had passed before Al-Megrahi, together with another Libyan, Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, was charged for the crime. On the 31st of January 2001, Al-Megrahi was eventually found guilty and sentenced to life, while Fhimah was aquitted. Al-Megrahi appealed his conviction but lost. However, after a series of reports issued by Hans Köchler, the special observer nominated by Kofi Annan, described the decisions of the courts as a spectacular miscarriage of justice’, Al-Megrahi applied to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission for a fresh appeal. In a scathing indictment, Mr Köchler accused the west of double standards in criminal justice in the Lockerbie trial and called for an independent international inquiry into the case. Other independent observers, including the legal architect of the special trial and the spokesperson for the families of the British victims, have declared that Al-Megrahi was wrongfully convicted. In 2007, a Scottish court ruled that Al-Megrahi is entitled to a second appeal because he may have suffered a miscarriage of justice’ and in an article published on the 31st of October 2008 in The Times of London, it was wrtten that Al-Megrahi was the ‘victim of one of the most spectacular and expensive miscarriages of justice in history’.

Many who followed the trial argue that the basis for attaching the blame on this single man was political rather than judicial. They claim Al-Megrahi was a scapegoat for concerned authorites who needed to steer the investigation away from the real perpetrators. Reports that Al-Megrahi has withdrawn his appeal despite compelling evidence in his favour, in exchange for his release lends itself to the assumption that some authority cut a deal with him to drop his appeal in fear of what might be exposed had the appeal been successfull. Had Al-Megrahi been acquitted, there would have been a clamour for an investigation to find another culprit, but the discontinuance of an appeal truncates any further investigation. This and other hypothesis may just be the fantasy of a conspiracy theory, where a coverup is required to neccesitate the commission of some grand design. But another account implies that in light of the global nature of the crime, the political pressure to identify a culprit overrode all reservations about the suspect’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Many analysts believe the case was a weak mixture of suppositions that would have been thrown out in any other court.

During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that showed Al-Megrahi used a false passport to travel to Malta days before the bombing. In Malta, Al-Magrahi was accused of placing the bomb in a suitcase and checking it in for a New York journey that was destined to start from Malta, transit to Germany and go through London. After the plane arrived in London, the unaccompanied suitcase was transferred onto the Pan Am plane that was destined for New York. It blew up over the village of Lockerbie, Scotland before leaving the shores of the United Kingdom.

The conviction of Al-Megrahi was based largely on a chain of circumstancial evidence. The key witness at the trial was a Maltese shopkeeper named Tony Gauci who picked Al-Megrahi out of a police line up and testified that the accused had bought a shirt in his store two days before the bombing. Scraps of a similar shirt were later found wrapped around a timing device in the wreckage. Apart from the fact that Mr Gauci gave a string of contradictory statements in the 17 interviews he had, there is an inconsistency about the date he says the accused bought the clothing. Also, new evidence suggests Mr Gauci saw a picture of Al Megrahi in a magazine linking him to the bombing four days prior to picking him in the identity parade, making it likely for him to pick out that specific suspect. It was also alledged that the CIA offered Mr Gauci more than £1million to be placed in a witness protection programme, a fact that was never disclosed at trial.

Reviewers of the case continue to present a torrent of elements that casts serious doubts on Al-Megrahi’s guilt, including a secret document provided to the UK by a foreign government and seen only by the prosecution, the discrediting of one of the FBI’s principal forensic experts and claims by high-ranking Scottish police officers that vital evidence was fabricated. Another piece of evidence used to convict Al-Megrahi was the presentation of a circuit board fragment found at the scene that was latter identified as part of an electronic timer. The owner of the company that manufactures this timer claimed that the FBI had offered him millions of dollars to say that the timer fragment was of a type specifically supplied to Libya. Another witness latter swore an affidavit admitting he had lied under oath and admitted stealing and giving a similar device to an official investigating the case. A thorough assesment of the issues show that the major elements of the prosecutions case were so unsubstantiated that it’s difficult to believe a conviction was able to be sustained in such a high profile case.

But if Al-Megrahi and the Libyan intelligence were truely not guilty, one wonders why their government accepted responsibility. In a letter to the UN, Libya offered to pay $1.7 billion to the families of the victims for the actions of its officials. With the escalating tensions between the west and Libya in the 1980’s, the nation was not short of motive to attack American interests. In 1985, a confrontation in the Mediterranean between the US and Libya left scores of Libiyans dead. This was followed with a bombing at a Berlin disco by a Libyan diplomat, where US service personnel were killed. The American government paid Libya back by launching a bomb at one of Ghadaffi’s palaces, killing his daughter, to which the Libyan leader vowed revenge. Despite such motivations, top officials in Libya have continueally denied responsibility and maintain that their government accepted responsibility solely because it was the only way of ending the sanctions imposed on them. Since the Libyan government accepted responsibility, sanctions against Libya have been lifted and the US has granted Libya immunity from further terrorism-related lawsuits. If the Libyan denials are to be believed, then it may be established that Tripolli offered up Al-Megrahi in an attempt to intigrate itself with the west and satisfy the west’s need to finger someone for the Lockerbie plane disaster. Though very insensitive to the victims, this would explain the jubilations displayed in Libya last week when Al-Megrahi was released.

Notwithstanding these implications against Libya, there were numerous other entities with the motive to attack the US during that period. In the initial investigation, experts suspected a Palestinian terrorist group backed by Iran or Syria. But the investigators were more convinced with the involvement of Iran. Five months before the Lockerbie air disaster, a U.S. warship accidently shot down an Iranian Airbus in the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 aboard. Although the American government appologised for the act, many believe that Iran had not accepted the appologies and the Islamic Revolution had destroyed the plane in retaliation. However, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, having complications with Syria or Iran would not have been in the best interest of America because apart from the fact that Iran was a well-armed nation of 70 million and Syria was a key factor to Arab-Israeli peace, the United States did not need more regional enemies in the run up to the first Gulf war.

The pain and suffering of the bereaved family members will never go away. When such a senseless loss is caused intentionally, the desire for justice comes naturally. But true justice is not served by yielding to the propensity for unquestioning condemnation despite compelling evidence to the contrary. If Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi is not the true culprit, then true justice requires that he be sent home to his wife and five children to die. If on the other hand he planted the bomb on the Pan Am Flight 103, then justice for the victims can only come in the hereafter as Al-Megrahi embarks on his final journey of life.

After he was arrested for the assassination of President John.F.Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald repeatedly claimed that he was the sacrificial lamb; “I am just a patsy! I am just a patsy!” he exclaimed. Whether he was or not, history has condemned his memory forever. Only God and those involved know if Al-Megrahi was the lone bomb planter or a co-conspirator. But whatever he was, the full truth is now unlikely to ever be revealed. So while we wait and watch history describes Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi as the Lockerbie bomber, from all indications, he is also the Lockerbie Patsy!

Article Written by

Hannatu Musawa

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Hard View (The Elephant In The Room)


Imagine being confined in the same room day after day with an elephant! Apart from the fact that you would probably be shaking in your boots, it is fair to say that it would be impossible for you to ignore the elephant. Sometimes when the expression "elephant in the room" is used, it normally refers to an obvious topic, which everyone present is aware of, but which isn't discussed, as such discussion is considered to be rather uncomfortable.

Several months ago before the incidence of the Boko Haram attacks became so frequent, I wrote ‘The Elephant in the Room’ to address the fact that the government was very obviously ignoring measures necessary to solve the problem at its root. From the first time I wrote this article to the present, not only has the Boko Harm offensive developed into a hydra headed monster, it has also grown tentacles of terror that are most likely being exploited and utilised by several other interests.

Needless to say, no matter the conspiracy theories surrounding Boko Harm or who at this point is involved in their activities, honestly, unless the problems and people that created the crisis in the first place are addressed and all the people that suffered are compensated in one way or another, then the exercise of the security authorities to stop the offensive almost seems like a superficial measure. Let’s cut to the chase here, the truth of the matter is, even if the members of Boko Haram are neutralised, the situation can never be effectively dealt with in the long term as long as the lead protagonists that created the problem in the first place and nurtured it for several years before it became a Nigerian problem take responsibility for their conduct. The apparent disregard of the government to address this is the reason I reiterate this message.

From the beginning of the crisis till date, thousands of family members of the victims of bombings and devastation, victims of the extrajudicial killings of Boko Haram in the hands of the security forces and hordes of other people that were not protected by the state feel angry and disenfranchised. The majority of these people are poor, hungry and desperate. When a human being feels this kind of desperation and anger and is threatened by the kind of attacks Nigerians have been subjected to of recent, it is almost as if the balance of justice is disturbed. And unless that balance is somewhat restored, the society in which they live in succumbs to a rule of violence and the thirst for retribution from those people. I believe, that is exactly what has happened here; what we are seeing play out in this Boko Haram saga. The government has to realise as a matter of urgency that all the people that have been affected by this crisis need to see that justice is served together with a commitment to protecting their rights as Nigerian citizens. That and only that will allow the balance of justice to be restored and affected people to have closure.

In order to tackle the problem at its roots, government is going to have to upset and subvert a rather ‘government collectivist mentality’ and fully investigate all the players in the whole affair, even those from within its ranks. They know it, we know it; heck everybody knows it. It’s the 10,000 lb elephant in the room that the president appears to ever so slightly tip-toe around.
If there is anywhere the government must start in its bid to stifle this issue; then the buck stops at the GAS Station or more aptly, the SAS Station! The Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad sect, commonly known as Boko Haram has been in existence way before Senator Ali Modu Sheriff became governor of Borno State. In several incidents in Yobe in 2003 and in Kano in 2004 and 2007, Boko Harm has been reported to have been involved in minor conflicts with the police but was by and large not going out of its way to harm civilians. However, in regards to what eventually led to the present situation, there is no doubt that several high ranking politicians, but Senator Ali Modu Sherrif in particular, have been complicit in the saga. It is shocking that today as we suffer under the threat of Boko Haram, not only is Senator Ali Modu Sheriff freely plodding around between London, Dubai and God knows where else as if he wasn’t the one who created the problem in the first place, the president doesn’t seem interested in making this man accountable for his role in kindling the Boko Haram saga. As a result, it would be fair to say that the fortification of Senator Ali Modu Sherrif’s role in the Boko Haram situation has now become to President Jonathan a mirror image of the resolve late President Yaradu’a had in wrongly protecting former governor James Ibori.
While the actual crisis itself started in Bauchi State in 2009 when hundreds of the sect’s supporters launched retaliatory attacks on police station, it was the five day clash the group had with the police that led to the eventual death of the sect’s leader in Borno that gave birth to the bloody impasse we see today. When President Yar’adua sent security forces to quell the situation, they proceeded to act ultra-vires by randomly arresting and murdering people they suspected to be Boko Haram members. This brutal response by the security forces, appeared like a reprisal, and resulted in the unjustifiable extrajudicial killings of suspected members of the religious sect, as well as many innocent citizens. The horrendous clips can be viewed on:

It was also at this time that the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf and alleged sponsor Alhaji Buji Foi were also extra-judicially murdered, in police custody. Furthermore, at that time, Mohammed Yusuf’s father in law, 72 year old Alhaji Baba Fugu was also murdered after which his houses and plots of land were forcefully taken over and destroyed by the state government. The alleged financer of the group that was killed on the same day as Mohammed Yusuf, Alhaji Buji Foi had been a former commissioner under Senator Ali Sheriff’s cabinet and was also considered as one of his political opponents. At the time of his arrest, it is reported that he asked to speak to Governor Sheriff several times to which the governor refused to respond. Shortly after, he was murdered allegedly by directives from above. The clip of his unspeakable murder can be viewed on:

Whoever it was that ordered the extra-judicial killing of the sect's leader and Alhaji Buji Foi, it is yet to be established. But one can say for sure that the deaths of these two men have been the main catalyst for igniting the ferocious violence unleashed by the group today. And whoever it was that ordered their unlawful murders must share the responsibility for today’s violence.

Senator Ali Sheriff the former governor of Borno State, whose failure to respond to every security information he received during the initial unfortunate standoff, including a letter that was sent to him warning him of the impending security breach, by the former Secretary to the State government, Babakura Alhaji Fugu, the first son of Alhaji Baba Fugu, the father-in-law of Mohamed Yusuf (The same man that was recently assassinated after he was paid a visit by General Obasanjo to bring an end to the crisis), should be called to clear up several uncertainties and enlighten Nigerians on who ordered the killings of people and destruction of property at the time the crisis began. The Federal Government should open a public enquiry immediately, starting with an examination of all the previous enquiries, reports, committees and white paper that had previously been set up by Senator Sheriff when he was governor.

The aggression that stemmed from the original crisis was unnecessary; it was created by the unobstructed failure of governance and carelessness of the Borno State Government and Security authorities. Now what was once a controllable insurgency in one Nigerian state has morphed into an international crisis.

Although the victim's family cannot be restored to the status which preceded the mayhem and their loved ones cannot be brought back, all affected victims must be fairly, equally and adequately compensated. And those who created the problem should be made to answer to Nigerians. If we fail to hold those who created this crisis accountable, it is likely that as a nation we will continue reaping the blood-spattered consequence.
I can’t imagine being in a room with a large elephant! Apart from the fact that I would probably be shaking in my heels, it is fair to say that it would be impossible for me to ignore that elephant. And while, sometimes we shy away from discussing looming big issues, the truth is that they will not go away by themselves; much like an elephant in a room.

Hannatu Musawa

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Hard View (Rashidi Yekini; Disposable Hero)


Rashidi Yekini was a true superstar and a Nigerian hero! As the man who captured the imagination of a united Nigeria at a time when our Super Eagles were the toast of the world, news of his death devastated millions of us who adored and appreciated him. Rashidi Yekini was arguably the greatest footballer this nation has ever seen and one of the greatest African footballers of all time. Naturally athletic, disciplined, strong, assertive and blessed with pure talent, his career was one of the brightest stars of its generation. His gift was legendary. Yekini boasted the ideal image for the burly, energetic African athlete; a man gifted with the genius to play ball. He stood up and fought for his country on the football pitch in a manner that forced the world to take notice of Nigeria’s football prowess.
Born in Kaduna on October 23, 1963, Rashidi Yekini started his professional career in the Nigerian league before going to play in Cote d’Ivoire. From 1993 to 1994, he found himself playing in Portugal and it was there he was to excel in his career by emerging as the top scorer of the Portuguese first division. The brilliant achievement of scoring 34 goals in 32 matches earned Yekini the title of African Footballer of the Year in 1993. He was instrumental in helping the Super Eagles win the 1994 African Cup of Nations where he topped the goal charts and continued to impress as part of the Nigerian team at Olympic level in Seoul.
For any of us who remember that time, it was a time of pride for Nigeria, a time when Nigerian athletes stood up to be counted amongst the best in the world. When Yekini played, he outshone everyone else on the pitch. His mazy runs, powerfully precise kicks and spellbinding dribbles helped many of the victories that the Super Eagles recorded during that peak.
In 1994, when he stepped onto the pitch during Nigeria’s debut in the World Cup stage, it took just moments for the determined Yekini to make a goal scoring impact when he netted Nigeria’s first ever goal in the tournament against Bulgaria. He was back for the 1998 FIFA World Cup and even though he didn’t score, his attempt of a brilliant scissor kick that resulted in a very narrow miss of the goal mesmerised the world. Had he scored that goal, there is no doubt that it would have been one of the best goals of all time.
If anyone had any doubt of the brilliance of Yekini’s achievements, the thought of him scoring 37 goals for Nigeria in 58 appearances should dispel it. As the national record goal scorer, Yekini had certainly arrived, and the world could clearly see that he was something very special.
After some stints in several foreign clubs, Rashidi Yekini came back home. After a short comeback in 2005, he withdrew from the public and the sport that he lived for. Amid reports of ill health, it is believed that Yekini’s life deteriorated. Reports of his struggle with depression and financial hardship are truly heartbreaking. Tragically for all his admirers, Rashidi Yekini died in Ibadan on the 4th May 2012 amidst the most deplorable of circumstances. Nigeria, Africa and the whole world mourn the death of this superstar and one of the best African players to have ever lived.
When I reflect on the story of Rashidi Yekini, I feel a combination of sadness and anger. I am angry because it is a crying shame that the life of a Nigerian hero, who gave so much for this country, could be allowed to deteriorate in the manner reported without the government intervening to provide him with a descent standard of life. As time goes on, it seems Nigeria is getting deeper and deeper into the business of abandoning and disposing its true heroes. It’s all very reminiscent of the death of the highly talented musician, Tyna Onwudiwe (the African Oyinbo) in 2001 who suffered from terminal cancer but couldn’t pay her hospital bills. While undergoing treatment in South Africa, to the embarrassment of the government, it took a group of friends in the Music industry to launch a Save-Tyna-Appeal Fund.
It really is tragic that our nation has risen to the majestic height of honouring and catering for only the affluent and the corrupt rulers of yester-year but at the same time fallen to the passionless dept of disposing and not honouring those who have sincerely and individually dedicated themselves for the benefit of this country. When we look at our archives and consider Nigerian heroes like Gani Fawehinmi, Mallam Aminu Kano, Agbani Darego, Mary Onyali and so many more, one wonders in what state their families have been left in.
One would be hard pressed to find another nation that disposes its heroes in the way Nigeria does. There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance and neglect. And if we continue failing to take care of our heroes; in that invisible book one day it will be written that our great nation perished because it failed to appreciate the works of its heroes. It is trite but urgently true that a nation that does not honour its heroes is not worth striving for. It’s no wonder that few have the pure intention of serving Nigeria sincerely. Go to any civilized country in the world and see how they have cherished and honoured the national heroes who, through some painstaking commitment and selfless dedication, have contributed immensely to their nation and giving it some of its proudest moments. But when we cast our eyes to our national scene, the picture is tragically pathetic.
Our rich history and achievements will continue to be washed away by the rushing tide of western indoctrination if we fail to provide subsequent generations with true Nigerian heroes to learn from. To them, their heroes and mentors will be the Snoop Dog’s instead of the Fela Kuti’s, the J.K Rowling’s instead of the Chinua Achebe’s, the George Clooney’s instead of the Samanja’s (Usman Baba Pategi) and the Lionel Messi’s instead of the Rashidi Yekini’s.
For all the goals, daring dribbles, wonderful memories and gift of pride that Rashidi Yekini gave to us, his legion of fans worldwide will always be grateful. He left his mark in the world of football. And although many of us will miss him and regret the manner in which our nation abandoned this hero, his spirit and his talent will live on forever.

The circumstances that he survived in the later part of his life leave many of us with a sense of anger and his death leaves us with a deep sense of loss. And as we pray for him, I urge the Federal government, the Kaduna, Oyo and Kwara state governments to honour this illustrious son in the manner befitting of a national hero by naming stadiums after him and setting up a national football academy in his name to train our young sporting talent in the skills that came so naturally to him. In addition, the government should take the initiative of providing a decent life for his children, his mother and all those he looked after.
I have many people that make me proud; many idols and icons that I look up to… Rashidi Yekini just happened to be one of them!

“O Allaah, forgive and have mercy upon Rashidi Yekini, excuse him and pardon him, and make honourable his reception. Expand his entry, and cleanse him with water, snow, and ice, and purify him of sin as a white robe is purified of filth. Exchange his home for a better home… Admit him into the Garden.’ -Amin.