Monthly Archives: January 2013

Let Us Pray

A friend once shared an experience she had years back in Texas. She narrated how she attended a church, dominated by blacks, and I could bet by many Nigerians too, and the prayer point kept focusing on immigration issues. The pastor would call for prayer for those who needed their papers regularized, those who had overstayed their visa or smuggled themselves into the United States. She noted that it was a spiritually challenging situation for her, since she had valid papers and couldn’t quite fit into the community’s religious worldview. Her tale was reminiscent of when a family member came into the country and while sitting in a meeting where an event was being planned, he heard another family member interjecting the discussion intermittently with “I pray there will be light.” He couldn’t help asking, “What don’t you guys pray for in Nigeria?” And talking about light, the Hurricane Sandy which affected part of New York State affected a friend such that her house was left without light for a few hours and the land telephone line was out for a day. When I called her cellphone to sympathize with her, she sounded very worried as I laughed it off and told her to calm down, since it was a situation I was used to in Nigeria. When she responded that she could imagine what we experience in Nigeria, I advised her against deceiving herself, by asking her if she prayed for the light to come after it went out. The answer was obvious. She didn’t need to. She knew it would come on and sure, it did.

So, as I reflect on the above anecdotes, I’m moved to ask the question “What don’t Nigerians pray for?” As a pointer, I will briefly proceed to highlight a few of the things Nigerians pray for. Oh, you are already thinking Nigerians pray for electricity. Of course, we do. Why shouldn’t we? When we pray for electricity, we don’t pray that the lights should come on and stay all day and keep us company through the night. We pray for it when we want to iron our shirts or heat water to bathe in the morning, when we want to watch football match or our favourite soap opera on tv. We pray for light to cool our refrigerators or freezer, not so much to drink cold water under the scorching sun, but to preserve our food when we are too tired to pour the leftovers into the pot and rehash using firewood in the middle of the night. When we pray for electricity, we are mindful that we need it so that those who are better-off could pump water for us to buy and store for use, since the tap in the house hardly flows.

Oh, we pray for so many other things in Nigeria. We pray for the traffic to clear by some magical wand, and let us go home in peace. We drive through traffic lights without stopping, praying that there is no police officer around to arrest us. I was on-board a flight a few years ago from Lagos to Kano and somewhat close to descent, the flight experienced turbulence and landing was visibly difficult. It was a violent weather and though outwardly I was struggling to maintain my calm, my heart did actually beat faster than normal mainly because of the uproar from fellow passengers who were praying in different tongues. I could bet I heard Moslems calling on Jesus Christ, Christians invoking African deities and some others beseeching Krishna. Amid the din, the prayer of the young lady seated beside me was the most troubling. She was praying fervently, “God, please, I’m yet to be married o.” Yes, that was her prayer. Caught in the seriousness of the helpless reality and the humour of her prayer, I burst out with “Is it inside this plane you want to marry?” That is the kind of prayer some Nigerians offer. There is no doubt that praying for a life partner is a specialist spiritual activity in Nigeria. People fast for days, months and years in prayer pose for a life partner. I know many friends who have attended annual religious activities to “hear” from God about a life partner. Many have heard, and some are still trying to clean their ears to hear properly.

If you have watched public functions organized by Government such as inauguration of the President or swearing-in of Governors and listened to the kinds of prayers offered by the Imams, Babalawos and Pastors, you will hear them praying to God to make the leaders good, to prevent them from stealing money, to prevent them from being seen by their enemies, to give children to those in need. Even when the leader might have rigged election, you will hear some Nigerians thanking God for the person’s election and praying for the public office holder to be re-elected. Nigerians are so religious that it is not uncommon to hear someone praying that God should touch the heart of public officers to provide good roads, schools and hospitals in their communities. In fact, I have seen students praying to pass an examination even after they might have come out of the examination hall, in denial of the feelings their intellect tells them. Everywhere you go, there are prayers of all kinds: for a contractor to finish airport renovation on time, for Boko Haram not to detonate their bomb until one would have safely passed a spot, for the president or his wife to remain permanently quarantined inside their Aso Rock Presidential Villa so that the roads in Abuja would not become impassable due to closure. Last year, during the floods that overtook much of Nigeria, there were so many prayers for the rains to stop, for the drainage systems to work and all sorts. It is difficult to document the plethora of things Nigerians pray for because I will need to undergo months of prayer to be able to attain such aspiration.

Meanwhile, you might be thinking that so far, I have not focused on how Nigerians pray for money. Let me tell you how some of those prayers actually go. If you are working in Nigerian Customs Service, for instance, you are likely to wake your wife and children up around 3.00 am and cast and bind any spiritual forces that might be preventing your being posted to some specific national border spots or sea ports – rather than be in the office – so that you can make more money from fraudulent deals. If you are working with the Nigeria Police, you are likely to pray (while working to use all contacts at the Force Headquarters) to be posted to a state where the governor is engaging in shady deals so you can protect him at a price. If you are a female banker or financial services advisor in relationship management, you are likely to be waking up early in the morning and praying that God will lead you to a male prospect who would not ask for sexual favours before doing business with you. It is not beyond some Nigerians to pray that they will land a job they are not qualified for, or be blessed with a car they don’t need. There are some Nigerians who pray that the contract they have paid kick-back for and obtained would not be cancelled. Some pray that the contract they have executed and paid bribes for would be paid when they submit their bills for payment. Nigerians pray that when they fake academic qualifications to apply for job or some corporate documents to apply for a contract, the person evaluating the documents would not see that they are not genuine.

Prayer is a living art of communion which validates and reinforces our existence as spirit beings and focusing on the externalities of human existence makes the process of praying bereft of its essence. Most of the things I have heard people pray for have no bearing on their existence as spirit beings. Having observed the wide continuum of prayerfulness among Nigerians and the motley of themes and concerns that inform the prayer life of many, I think there is a valid need to be worried about the increasing abnegation of personal responsibilities. People should be held responsible for failures of the state or institutions, rather than just “pray” them out of existence. We will not need to pray for electricity if those given responsibilities and paid to provide this service are held accountable for the trust reposed in them. We would not need to pray for doctors to be dedicated to their duties in hospitals if those who have responsibility to hold them accountable do their jobs. I have often mocked the proliferation of places of worship across Nigeria because they have become physical spaces of human communion, denuding the individual of the grace of cultivating his or her heart and inward being for penetration of the redemptive light. The externalization and proliferation of prayerfulness in the form we know it in Nigeria tends to underline the systemic rot in the country. Ironically, it is a rot we cannot successfully remove with the kind of praying the country has gone berserk with. The prayer we need is one that redeems and renews the inward being; that nurtures love, dispels hate and engenders genuine smiles and trust.



Filed under Life


Freewill, I emerge from her womb
With rarest gift nature bestows
And took as companions faith and reason
As first free deed of my will.

Into philosophy I plunged with faith,
Crossed the line of aesthetics
To hold a rare date with logic
And there I lost my faith.

Retracing my limbs, I leaped
Into theology with reason
And saw guilt littered all round
And there too my reason was gone.

Reversing the network at will,
Into the other I plunged the other.
And still was left with something gone
Only now it was my freewill

One of two things it seems I must do
Choose between my will and others
But whichever way I dare turn
My humanity is there at stake

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Kitchen Recruitment

In the days and weeks following disengagement leave granted former Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mrs. Rosemary Uzoma, there has been a media buzz about corruption in recruitment process into many government establishments in the country. The Minister of Interior added to the news when he informed the public that the CG had to be sacked over allegations of recruitment fraud, poor management of promotion procedures among other misdeeds in the NIS. I can imagine how the Minister for Interior would have called and offered her opportunity to voluntarily retire or be embarrassingly kicked out. In Nigeria, many people don’t get kicked out of responsibilities for corruption, except the person has done something “substantially” offensive to the powers that be or is too powerless within the social circles that matter. Given my experience with how government institutions work, the Immigration boss did not recruit people who had no one to back their applications. She probably recruited people recommended from the National Assembly, the Presidency, Heads of sister establishments and related institutions. For this singular reason, she deserves the fate that befell her, because I’m sure in handling such recruitment she would have bypassed a graduate from poor and non-influential background, but without any political patronage. So, I will not mourn her exit. I only wish same decisions would have been extended to all other heads of government agencies because they are very much in same boat. In fact, the retirement of the CG as against dismissal could have been made possible by those whose children and relatives she favoured. So, to that extent, she is still a beneficiary.

Following the sack of the CG, there have been allegations by many who complain that they had been asked to pay the sum of N500,000 to secure jobs in Immigration and other government establishments. These accusations are not false. Last year, during the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps recruitment, a family member who had applied for placement was asked to pay N200,000 or obtain a letter from a National Assembly member representing us. Since I couldn’t settle for paying the required sum, I tried to secure appointment with the National Assembly member but it proved quite cumbersome. The aides to the parliamentarian clearly asked me to pay to obtain the letter. Needless to say, I drove away and informed the family member to forget about the job. Before then, I had another experience with the Federal Civil Service Commission concerning their issuance of forms for prospective employees to fill out and return for possible placement. The procedure for obtaining the form was punitive as one was expected to queue outside the gate under the scorching sun for hours before being called in. If you didn’t want to do that, you needed to pay a retinue of people from the security men to the office clerks to get the form, and it was no guarantee that you will ever get called for test. People have filled out the forms for up to ten years without being called, yet the Commission keeps issuing appointment letters to others on some criteria, mainly through patronage. In fact, when I succeeded in seeing one of the commissioners to get the form, I was asked to backdate the date of reception since the form was not for public issuance as of the time I was being given one. By that experience, I knew chances of the family member being called for a test was highly unlikely.

I once asked a friend whose aunt was well-placed in Government why she hadn’t secured a good -paying job using the aunt’s connection. She revealed that the aunt actually do help people from their community to get employment, but demands and collects a fraction of their salary for the first one to two years as reward. She revealed that she had done it to her brother and she wasn’t ready to submit to such slavery. Such cases are not uncommon. There is another which involved a family member who was rounding off her Masters degree in the UK. She flew into the country upon being shortlisted for an aptitude test into a government agency. After successfully scaling through the two stages of test and oral interview, she was asked to get a member of the corporation’s Board of Directors to support her application. That was after spending non-reimbursable expenses on flight to come to Nigeria. Needless to say, she lost the job and though it was in the public domain that the recruitment process in the organization was fraudulent, the head of the institution is still serving.

The corruption which has characterized recruitment into public service is endemic and is the seed that breeds the future of the country. Unfortunately, I can say without mincing words that the future is bleak, except people resent the system and revolt against it. I don’t believe getting a job should be seen as a miracle if merit is allowed to work. Sadly, it has become a miracle, especially for those from low socio-economic background. I have seen Nigerians pay several amounts or use unwholesome means to secure a job and the next Sunday, they are jumping up in the church to give testimony of a miracle. They are no different from those who cheat in exams and thereafter boast about their academic credentials. I have seen situations where ministers, parliamentarians and well-placed public officers use their influence to get placement for their wards and these wards come into the organization and display arrogance. In fact, some have been placed on positions they do not have requisite qualifications and experience to handle, thereby dragging competence in the mud.

There are numerous tales of recruitment corruption in Nigeria perpetrated by heads of public corporations. It is going to continue because the parliamentarians have failed to do their jobs of oversight function and rather settle to use their political clout to garner those positions for their cronies. They sell these slots through their cronies to third parties. I know of recruitments into watchdog organisations, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which were done mainly through political patronage, thereby making it impossible for total allegiance to the mandate of the respective organizations. When I talk about recruitment, I am not referring to executive positions only, but lower cadre and mid-level grades. There has been talk about slots for the President and First Lady in many government institutions. I know people who have utilized these slots and from the way it has been arranged, they have been slots controlled by the aides of these public officers, from the special advisers, special assistants, “personal assistants to special assistants to the special advisers,” etc. The slots range from recruitment to scholarship awards, whether it is direct Federal Government Scholarship or those awarded by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) or Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).

Over the years, I have come to accept the valid reasoning that the process of recruitment into an organization determines the organization’s resilience and ethical culture. I have told friends and relatives who care to listen that when you notice that the process of recruitment into an organization is fraudulent, know that in the course of working for such organization you will be faced with ethical dilemmas. Being prepared for such moments helps one in making choices and taking responsibility for those choices. I have interacted with many organizations and people and I’m yet to be proven wrong. Organizations that have had established history of ethical resilience have fallen in standards because a chief executive officer, along the history of the organization, greatly compromised in the recruitment process, and entrenched a culture of issuing letters of appointment to people in the kitchen based on expected benefits or political, ethnic or religious affiliations, without test or interview. In fact many are done without any meaningful background profiling to determine suitability for employment on certain positions of trust or claims of credentials. The change in culture has remarkably been validated by incidence of fraud and drop in work standards in many organizations in Nigeria. We should express worry about this state of affairs. If the people who hold the country’s future are being subjected to riding on the back of fraudulent recruitment process or, put more nicely, on political or socio-economic patronage, we cannot expect their future decisions to be free of ethical flaws. It will be a real miracle if it happens otherwise.

Viewed from a vantage point I want to assume that most of the best hands may be drifting into the private sector, where there is more appreciable level of merit-based competitiveness and diverse skill sets are recognized and encouraged. This leaves the public sector to be incrementally dominated by children of the powerfully connected, who happen to be indolent at best since they have hardly worked hard to get to where they are. Unfortunately, these are the people the future demand for development and growth would saddle with the responsibility of championing government reforms. It is clear that with the increasing entrenchment of oligarchic-aristocracy in public sector recruitment, the future of this country has been mortgaged as the circle is bound to continue. Change has often been successfully driven most times by those who have become fed up with the system on the throes of exclusivity, which beneficiaries of the fraudulent process clearly lack. This is not a task to be left to the corrupt and clueless leadership of modern day bureaucracy. People must put pressure at every point on institutions to be open in their processes. We must use every means available to bring attention of this problem to public knowledge and develop a social conscience, voice and engagement platforms that would wage war against this impending danger.

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Filed under Ethic, Politics

The Dawn

Everyday I rise
To a fresh
Good morning
Of newness
Behind the whistling
Of the pine
Your miracle
Aglow with
A sparkle of hope

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Black Gold of the Rainforest

Our land is a virgin, a maiden
Adorned with black gold of the rainforest
Surrounded by the wild of the coast
Shared in peace by her children
From the Cross stretching to the West.

That was then…

The maiden weeps, the maiden bewails
Her fecund laps stretched in disregard
And her hymen broken, her hymen
That conceals the differing ovaries within.
Now her soil is stained with blood
And her innocence sucked.

Her ovaries struggle within
To control the slimy fecund oily soil,
I mean of what is left,
While the imperialist jabbing heightens.

She’s pregnant…

Our soil is oily, our oily soil
Soiled by the oil of bourgeois machinery
Imperiling our land with imperialist outflow,
Milking adversely our bio-diversity.

Washed away are the resting abodes
Of our fore-gone sires through
The bird-foot region to the Atlantic,
Leaving their manhood bare-buttock.

And now we struggle within
Increasing her pains, spilling blood
And intensifying the imperialists imperiling
Of her innocence, our fecundity.

She writhes in pain…

Burnt within,
Suffering from the baton of abuse
From without,
Midwives are come to the rescue.

But will the confinement yield
And she be delivered of live births
That shall mock the imperialists
And restore her sanity, her resilience?
Or will her births be born still
Saying her gestation is not done?

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Filed under Poetry

divinity is an art

Our divine quest mocks our being
And befogs our nature visible:
The creative instinct of a Creator.
Earth’s manifest vastness of His presence
Teaches that of being creative or divine
It is in the trappings of the former
We are held hostage in His likeness.
Trapped in the web of this likeness
The creative instinct bestows the divine;
Or does something else reveal the contrary
Other than these same trappings?

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Filed under Poetry


Come home, my love
Away from those dog-eared notes.
Come, let me sing
The lyrics of your lips.
Supper beckons from the bedside.
The turbine is down,
The moon shall be our witness;
…the pumpkin sauce
…the white spread,
Come, let’s sing our being
And consummate our oneness.

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Filed under Poetry


Out of our prison wall of satisfaction
In the dead of the day’s dark period
Slouch the goodies we lack:
A moment of this.

I adore it,
Admiring its lustrous sparkles
Gusting from the bluish bright cover,
The lapis lazuli of supernal glory.

The air speaks in silent hiss,
Every noise for a while asleep
Except the solemn converse of maker and made.
Returning, this vibrancy vibrates afar.

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Filed under Poetry

Amidst the dark visage

This morning I awoke
To the voices of yesterday,
The disposition and the flair,
The striving and the settled.
They all sang one melody:
Amidst the dark visage
Of receding laughter
And pensive hunger
The world is a beauty
For the sake of our souls.


Filed under Poetry

The Bloom

The jasmine-scented path
With the deciduous cover
Recalls our first outing
When the hiss of your lips
Whistled in rhythm with the pine
And in the womb of the evening
Was born our virginal vow
To saunter in eternal tangle
And refresh our secrets
With these blossoms.

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Filed under Poetry, Writing