Category Archives: Politics

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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Husbands Wanted: Apply In Person

A romance with poverty is an intriguing and debilitating experience. It’s a romance that could either generate the humorous or bring one to a vegetative state. I’m talking about material poverty, inability to survive on your own without dependence on kinship or the state. In such a state, your ability for independent choices is dependent on your inner wealth and strength. But that isn’t what is common among women in Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria. Demographic studies have highlighted the cultural subjugation of some of these women, many of who are neither heard nor seen. They are behind-the-scene attendants, with their needs dictated to and provided for by others. It was news last year when Kano State Government organized a mass wedding ceremony for about 100 widows and divorcees in the state. It smacked of a carnival. One would have thought that perhaps the women and men so married had chosen themselves, but lacked the financial resources for a ceremony. After all, mass weddings are widespread in Nigeria. The churches do it, so why can’t the state governments do it as poverty-alleviation projects? The difference lies not in the conduct of the ceremony by external parties like church or government, but in the decision of the marrying parties.

Vanguard Newspaper of today (January 5, 2013) has published Zamfara State Government’s announcement of plans to find husbands for about 2000 widows as a means of curtailing the rising numbers. I read the news and began to wonder what underlines this act of charity. As I read the online comments that followed the publication, I found that to be more intriguing than the news report itself. One of the most worrisome questions that emerged was “How did this large number of women become widows?” In trying to wrap my head around this, another post gave suggestion as to possibilities, suggesting that many of them may have been wives to late terrorists who have been killed within the last three years following the intensification of attacks by state security agents. That might be over-generalizing as the attacks have been more in the North East and not the North West where Zamfara State is. But, with the possible homogenous nature of the North, who says a widow in the North East cannot relocate, with clandestine state assistance, to the North West for purpose of swelling up their ranks and justifying the allocation of financial resources? Nigeria is a land of absurd possibilities. Nevertheless, if that line of reasoning is valid, then we are having a situation of indirect state-financed terrorism in the country. But I will let the state intelligence agencies do their work.

Now, back to the marriage arrangements; I’m wondering where the husbands will be sourced from. Will they be sourced from within and outside the state? Or will the search extend to outside the country to neighbouring Niger Republic and even up to Libya and other North African countries? Inter-marriage between northern Nigerians and citizens of Northern African countries is common and with the large number of women involved in this case, this wider search might be necessary. Anyway, come to think of it, only 500 men are needed actually. Since Zamfara is a Sharia state, a man is allowed to marry four wives. So, if the 2000 widows are distributed among 500 men, they would have been adequately taken care of. That will, however, be dependent on the State Government’s ability to source for and find willing single men.

Exploring the above further, there are several other concerns about this arrangement, unanswered questions. What are the qualifications for the husbands – cultural, religious, citizenship, psychological, etc? Are they going to be economically active and independent men? Are they going to be single or widowers? Are they going to be healthy enough such that they don’t die too soon and leave these widows widowed again? Are they going to be given employment to enable them to provide for the new wives? Will the women be given a chance to choose among the assortments of men that are going to be lined up? Have they discussed with the widows their specifications in terms of the kind of man they want? I would expect that in collating information from the widows, they were asked to fill out a form or one was filled out for each of them and in that form, they were asked adequate demographic information as a basis to match appropriate men.

There is another question that stands out. What is in this for the State Government? Is it part of their social security/development arrangements? Is it so difficult for the government to execute interventions that would make these widows economically independent on their own? I want to believe that many of them have children and these children have a right to grow under conditions of appropriate care and provisioning. I know in certain cultural settings a woman is denuded of her humanity to the extent that she is not given a voice to choose her partner or spouse, but should this be accepted as the best solution? As is common in Nigeria, it may not be surprising to find out that these “widows” are really not widows, as it could just be an arrangement to syphon money from the state treasury through some phony means. If the basis for this “project” is to address the perceived deprivation these women are exposed to, then it is hinged on the erroneous assumption that marriage is an empowering institution. In fact, marriage is a subjugating institution, especially when the basis for entering into it is not negotiated in some form.

It is my assumption that many of the said “widows” have children of varied ages and their peculiar needs may not be addressed within a marriage context. It is my reasoned opinion that the needs of many of these children may be addressed through their mother’s economic independence. These children should be situated within the entire project as the most vulnerable group; not the widows. They are vulnerable to all kinds of abuse – physical, moral, sexual, psychological, economic, etc. This is a task for the civil society groups who have a mandate to protect rights of children. There is need to understand the basis and dynamics of this project. If the women have chosen to subject themselves to this experiment, how have they factored the helpless children into the whole arrangement? It is even worrisome that the announcement was made by the Zamfara State Commissioner for Women and Children Affairs, who incidentally is a woman. In a cultural setting characterized by complementarity rather than equality, we are facing a situation where new organic problems are created by trying to solve existing ones.

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The Animal Instinct

It’s just one of those moments when my mind spins on its orbit and my heart traces and retraces varied paths my consciousness has travelled. Now, I’m wondering what constitutes the subsistent element of human life. Though I wonder about this, I let not myself wander much into the abyss. It’s because I love life and its potency in bringing forth beauty, growth and life. I’m not surprised that blood remains life’s precious fluid. It might not be subsistent, but blood is certainly elemental to life, whether it’s human or non-human. Looking back through history, blood has always been viewed as being coterminous with life, and rightly so. It is not surprising that blood is shed during the birthing process in order to bring forth life. This is in spite of the fact that recent statistics point to hemorrhaging as the commonest cause of death among pregnant women in Nigeria. Shedding one’s blood to give life to another is an altruistic act which has sustained the human population all through the ages.

On the flip side, however, so much blood has been shed in Nigeria, deliberately and carelessly. When we talk about the shedding of human blood, I’m referring to the senseless murders that have taken place across this country in the past one year? I don’t mean only acts of terrorists who bomb people dead or slit the throats of innocent citizens as though they were readied for suya meat. I also mean the murder that bad roads have committed, because those who have responsibilities to repair them have embezzled the money with impunity and got rewarded with juicier positions in government, leaving the pot-holed roads to the recklessness of drivers and siren-blaring public officials. It feels as if there is a god-goddess enthroned somewhere, whose delight is to feast upon gourmet blood. When I talk about blood-letting, I’m referring to the hospitals, where the voiceless and poor are legally murdered due to lack of adequate equipment and competences. I’m also referring to the extra-judicial killings by agents of the state and the attendant reprisal killings. I’m thinking if all the blood that has been shed in Nigeria this year were collected and contained in some form, they would sure sail a ship steadily from Lagos to Maiduguri.

The country is soaked in blood and this is not good for true development. When bloodletting is not curtailed, peace is endangered. Our search for solutions through political correctness and maneuvering will lead us along a path that is not sustainable. I’ve often wondered how people feel when they take human lives, directly or by proxy. Thinking about this now, I remember a discussion I had some years ago with a retired Colonel of the Israeli Army. He happened to have been one of those who, as a young officer, carried out the Operation Entebbe of 4 July, 1976 during the reign of Idi Amin of Uganda. Knowing him to be a veteran sniper and blunt too, I believed he would be sincere with me. We were discussing his various engagements in the military when I asked him, “Looking back, how do you feel recollecting those moments when you had to aim the gun at someone and then pull the trigger?” The retired colonel looked me intently in the eye and responded “Charles, I’ve never let my eyes look into a man’s eyes when I pull the trigger. No true human being does that. At the point you pull the trigger, you must submit yourself to the animal instinct.” I was subdued by his frankness, but I learnt something deep.

Recently, a colleague’s brother was coldly murdered in Bornu State and months ago a video of communal homicide was posted on the internet, of how four young men were murdered by a community in Rivers State. During the year, there was also the circulation of a video of children, mainly under six years, who were murdered by some terrorists. All through the year, we hear stories of deaths, of carnage across the land. Going by the bloodletting that has become pervasive in Nigeria, I truly believe that it takes becoming an animal to kill a human being. Respecting the preciousness of human life and its sanctity bestows some form of purity on the human soul. Our land needs healing, as the cries of the innocent resound across the space and those they have left behind bewail their suffering. The healing must start from our hearts, as we seek peace, breathe peace, speak peace and work for peace. Each positive action we take to stop a human life from being a victim of the animal instinct is a valid action that contributes to our collective and individual healing and sanity. We need this healing to grow, to overcome the hurdles politics, religion, greed, hate and egos have placed on our way.

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Beyond Oronto Douglas: Irresponsibility As Statecraft By Pius Adesanmi | Sahara Reporters

Beyond Oronto Douglas: Irresponsibility As Statecraft By Pius Adesanmi | Sahara Reporters.

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When Tomorrow Is Now

As an undergraduate student, I had to study and pass several courses to be found worthy in learning and character for an award of a degree. Some of these courses were intriguing in their creative potency and my questing mind never rested in finding local illustrations for the predominantly western examples we were given. One of such courses I enjoyed was Urban Sociology and one of the interesting pieces of academic references was Louis Wirth’s classical “Urbanism as a Way of Life.” Initially, Wirth’s theoretical treatise failed to appease my search for local correlates, until I relocated to the Federal Capital Territory. Dressed in Wirth’s pince-nez, the variables of population, density and heterogeneity as indices of urban life have become more and more discernible as my observational spectrum becomes deeper and wider.

Having lived in Abuja for close to a decade, I have come to notice the dominance of human interaction on the basis of utility and segmentation, no matter how involved relationships might be. Within this context, Abuja, the insignia of the Federal Capital Territory, has assumed a conspiratorial status. Abuja, as a geographic area, is deeply a concept as much as it is an ecological space. It symbolizes the glitter of Nigeria’s appetite to deceive itself as a wealthy country and development-driven. It masks the eccentricities of individuals living decayed existence under the cloak of denial. Abuja, in terms of geographic space, is the reticular dermis of Nigeria’s organic corruption, the epicenter of the country’s decadent values. For each square metre of Abuja constructed on genuine sweat, there are thousands raised on fraud. Deceit is the tradition of the Federal Capital Territory, one that is nurtured and legitimized by subtle means, to be read, interpreted and understood by different codifications. Abuja epitomizes the artfulness of quintessential conspiracy that involves key players from both public and private sectors embroiled in dance steps that chart the drumming.

Every day in the life of the Federal Capital Territory is a deceit. It is this deceit that underlies the Federal Government’s plan to build a new city within the Federal Capital Territory to mark the centennial celebrations of Nigeria’s 1914 amalgamation. It is the same deceit that inspires approval for construction of a new banquet hall for N2.2 billion barely nine years after one was constructed by Olusegun Obasanjo to welcome Her Majesty Queen of England when she visited Nigeria for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2003. The FCT Minister’s attempts to justify the new banquet hall on the grounds of its proximity to the president’s office and unique utility construes the envisioning capacity of those who built the 2003 banquet hall as myopic. He is, inadvertently saying that Nigeria’s leaders lack the capacity to capture a ten-year vision, given that it is less than ten years since the last one was built. Standing on this implied indictment, isn’t it clear our Vision2020 aspirations are blurry? At least, members of my generation are living witnesses to the abysmal visioneering failures of the past such as “Health for all by the year 2000,” “Education for all by the year 2000,” “Housing for all by the year 2000.” It is hard to deny that we did achieve an unexpressed feat, “Corruption for all by the 2000,” given that Nigeria has become more corrupt since circa2000.

I am not given to ostentatious or overt celebration of any kind even when the event is worth celebrating. I feel the more an event is worth celebrating, the more sober the celebrant should be in reflecting the twists and turns of human existence. But that is my very personal opinion. Nevertheless, I am saddened by the Federal Government’s commitment to celebrate 100 years of whatever in 2014. The news of the celebration is reminiscent of that of Nigeria’s fifty years independent anniversary. There is the likelihood that Dr. Jonathan will enter history book as Nigeria’s owambe President, the one who has spent much of the resources of his presidency, in terms of time, wisdom, strategy and money to celebrating anniversaries. I certainly will be glad to celebrate one year of stable electricity in Nigeria. Maybe one year is too ambitious; let’s say One month. I’m sure some of you are thinking one month is still very ambitious. Let’s celebrate one week of stable electricity in Nigeria.

Having listened to the spokesperson of the Federal Government on the New City within the Territory, it is clear that this government is so much interested in any means that will increase financial leakage in the country than anything that would add value to the lives of Nigerians. The new city, according to Minster for Information, will be carved out of the Federal Capital Territory, so as “to create the enabling environment for new infrastructure development.” To him, the celebration is justified on the grounds that it will help him to showcase the impact made by Nigeria on the African continent and the world in general. It doesn’t take a wise person to see the conspiratorial underpinning of Federal Government’s posturing. There has to be a means by which certain fraud is committed under the cloak of transformation and celebration. As the Federal Government is embarking on this grand deceit, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory is demolishing estates assigned by earlier public officials and built by the middle class, to allow for re-assignment to those who didn’t benefit substantially from the fraud of the former officials. Even if the National Assembly makes noise about this, it is the case of the dance steps charting the sound for the drummers. They have successively owned Abuja and will continue over time.

I know that there have been distortions in the managing and implementation of the much-touted Abuja Master Plan. There is no perfect correction of this distortion, given the elitist avarice that characterizes the successive ruling class of Federal Capital Territory. But, my contention is this: does the new centennial city fit into the Master Plan of the Federal Capital Territory? It was never part of capital territory; it couldn’t have been. It would take so much vision to have included it, a lack of which the presidential banquet hall clearly validates. It is on this premise that one cannot deny the unexpressed intent of the centennial city as a subtle commitment to feed elitist appetites. One of the laws of growth is prioritization. History has shown that the Nigeria’s current leaders are much wasteful than those of the past. The picture of the future does not point to a slowing-down. I know history will judge all, but which side will it judge us? Will it judge us as being on the side of the wasteful lot, the visionless lot or the silent lot? Nigeria is a country in need of redemption. We are being dragged into decadence and fatalism by the seconds. The only path to redemption is the unsteady steps we decide to take today; otherwise, we might never have the chance to start tomorrow. This applies to the nation as much as to the individual.

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The Mockery of Leadership

During my national youth service, I came upon Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, from a friend. He had a photocopied version of the book and after going through it, I made a copy for myself. I had since had various versions of the book, in digital as well as paperback forms. Nigerians fight too many wars in their lives, so I’m not going to teach you how to fight a war. The wars we contend with daily, the war against diseases, insecurity, laziness, hunger, unemployment, despondency, victimization, corruption, theft, lies, darkness, materialism, clueless leadership, and all sorts are enough to keep one busy and educated on the art of war. So, I’m only making reference to Sun Tzu for allegorical purpose while exploring an aspect of our security management in Nigeria.

One of the intriguing portions of Sun Tzu’s book is the introduction. In the introduction, the book documents how Sun Tzu was recruited by Ho Lu, the King of Wu, to be the general of his army. Reading this portion highlights the importance of recruitment for any assignment that is considered worthwhile, especially recruitment into leadership positions. A general has his job cut out for him. I will not bore you about the details of what is documented in the book, but when you reflect on the lesson inherent in that portion of the book, you will come to appreciate the fact that when people are recruited into critical positions of leadership based on merit, chances are that they will perform more meritoriously. I have decided to provide you with a link to a free copy of the book (here). As you read the book further, you will also come across another portion where Sun Tzu declared that when you know yourself and know your enemy you can fight a thousand battles without losing. I like that.

A general is known by his strategy, how resilient and successful his strategies are in quelling the oppositions he faces in the course of his daily engagements. The questions, therefore, that we as Nigerians need to answer in the face of this reality are manifold: Given the plethora of security challenges plaguing our country, what kind of general do we have? Are we clothing the presidency with the title of Commander-in-Chief to mock our sensibilities? How should we recruit a C-in-C in Nigeria and what strategic endowment is he expected to possess? I’m wondering which general will sit in a palace peacefully while there is an expansionist bid against his territory by insurgents? Put more directly, which general will be so fearful to visit the battle front and witness firsthand the plunder and pillage of his depleting ranks?

I am yet to hear that the present Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces has visited the battle fronts. Neither have I even heard that the so-called Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum who is, by positional allusion, the putative Commander-in-Chief of the “North” has visited the hotspots? What kind of generals do we have in Nigeria? Are the generals’ ears so insulated to the rhythm of bullets? Of course, I do know that should they attempt to visit, they would have the best of military arsenal to support their movement, decked in goliath’s attire. But would the C-in-C trust the intelligence of the security forces enough to let them coordinate his movement? I have a feeling that the present President does not trust the intelligence of the security apparatuses, no matter how thick the bullet-proof vest he wears is. There is so much information leakage among top government functionaries to warrant them being educated on the criticality of information management.

In considering Sun Tzu’s second point I noted earlier, I wonder how much of the enemies of the state our military forces know. There has been a lot of hype about the presidency knowing the people behind the insurgency in the country. That is quite a simplistic award of intelligence. The corollary to that would be, isn’t “knowing” a verb and shouldn’t it, therefore, consist in action? Well, perhaps, it is the act of not acting that is the derivative of the knowledge. If the presidency knows the perpetrators of the acts of insurgency so well, why haven’t the war been won? I’m adopting Sun Tzu’s spectacles here, alluding that he who knows himself and knows his enemies can fight a thousand battles without losing. So, I want to follow my fellow citizens and believe that the federal government knows the insurgents very well. After all, hasn’t the presidency, through its various media engagements, noted that it knows the sponsors? What this implies is that the other leg of knowing – in the idea of Sun Tzu – is lacking; that is, the federal government does not know itself.

One disturbing point to note in our governance approach is the security strategy of fighting insurgency through the media. Not only are the media releases by the government distorted and unbelievable, they are, many times, not necessary. I note with concern government agencies going into details to narrate security operations which led to arrest of an insurgent or a kidnapper. I note the conflicting reports on many incidents by different security agencies. The desire to be noticed often distorts the ability to be objective, for an individual; more so for a government. Fighting insurgency through the media is ineffectual and a shameful indictment of our strategic thinking. But in a country where those who have a duty to protect others cannot protect themselves, it is not out of place to notice a drowning man struggling to hold on to a floating straw.

The presidency recently revealed that over seventy percent of planned acts of insurgency in the country have been botched. I like the theatrical way we generate statistics in this country, but I will leave that matter to an opportune time. A look at our security governance in the country reveals the contradictions in our leadership mentality. It is a case of us being promised cake, when all we need is bread, being promised three-course meal three times a day, when all we need is a single course meal, being promised power when all we need is electric light. It is a situation of being promised transformation, when all we need is a functional means of transportation, being promised bottled water, when all we need is pipe-borne water. As I’m pondering all that we need in the face of the promises we have been made, Sun Tzu disturbs my meditational peace with his whispering: “The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds.”

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Lessons on Leadership

I love airports, even Nigeria’s. On some days they have all the features of a motor park and on others, they shed off a little bit of these. I love it when I’m able to arrive in time to check in for my flight and then find a room to squeeze my tiny body, let my eyes sweep the varied personalities that litter the available space, and think. Yes, think! That seems to be all I can do when I’ve time to spare. I’m thinking of yesterday.

Yesterday, the world celebrated Barack Obama’s electoral victory and accompanying speech while his photograph dotted the cyber space. In Nigeria, virtually all my social media friends had something to say. It was either they cursed Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, the president, the politicians or they noted the marital bliss of the Barack-Michelle duo. In fact one admittedly posted “I wish I was American.” Yesterday, a colleague and friend told me “Charles, we contributed to Obama’s victory. We were there as part of the strategy team.” He was referring to a meeting he and I attended almost two months to November 5.

It was in October when Mohammed and I had the privilege of being invited to be part of America’s celebrated democratic process. The venue was the City Hall in Philadelphia and the meeting was a strategy session hosted by some members of one of The Mayor’s commissions. We arrived when the meeting had just begun and seats were made for us. It was a very communal meeting that had one major agenda, which was to get Barack Obama back to the White House. The means was to successfully mobilize against the voter identification brouhaha that the Pennsylvania Government was championing alongside other states as well as to also get people out to vote. At the meeting were diverse professionals with ancestral roots traceable to many countries of the world. Mohammed and I had a chance of being officially introduced and I was happy to hear them say “…from Nigeria.” After the meeting we got around to meet some of the attendees, including Nigerians, among who was an Efik woman, my “village woman.” Incidentally, she happened to have a cousin working in my organization. It was a lovely evening, after a hectic day of business meeting.

When I arrived New York from Philadelphia and sat down with my brother to discuss the American elections, he was nostalgic about Nigeria. He reminded me how, as children then, we were used to rig elections in favour of National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Since then he had never voted in any election, though he seemed inclined to vote in the coming one. When I asked him whom he would likely vote for between Obama and Romney, he admitted that he wished he didn’t have to make the choice, but that Obama stood greater chance of getting his vote. Later that day when I went to honour a dinner invitation from a friend, the discussion was entirely on Romney. My brother and the friend knew each other’s stand, in spite of the shared friendship. Both sides had their strong reasons and stance, but knew that their love for each other was deeper than politics.

As I look back to the zest that Nigerians expressed about the United States elections I feel a civic burden and share the anger of many who wished things were different in Nigeria. This morning, I expressed a deep-seated wish to a friend. “I wish we could exchange Jonathan for Obama,” I muttered. She quickly added, with undeniable seriousness “And bring Michelle too.” I nodded limply, with total agreement. But somewhere, beneath my consciousness, the proverb “as you make your bed, so you lie on it” was throbbing for breath. I shared with her my thoughts about the concept of the critical mass and the magnetic energy inherent in it. Then, I brought up the interest which Nigerians have shown in American elections. I pointed out to her a soft sell headline from a national newspaper that read “US Election tears PDP, ACN, Others Apart.” I told her I didn’t bother to read the story since fights among Nigeria’s politicians were commonplace, but added that my pondering was on our capacity to conceal our failure in the face of American success. She wanted to know what I was driving at. I told her that if only Nigeria would fix its presidential elections to coincide with that of the United States, same date and same year, perhaps there could be some form of transferred redemption as we could be caught by shared magnetic energy. She was quick to remind me of the plethora of obstacles that would attain such effort. I don’t want to list them here since I don’t believe human-created obstacles cannot be surmounted. After all, man has demonstrated such capacity on many fronts.

I believe in Nigeria, but I don’t believe in the present crop of Nigeria’s politicians as a collectivity. I don’t even want to believe in them, except in hindsight. Sometimes I think the bad ones, taken individually, are greater than the sum of the good ones. There is dearth of widespread self-consciousness that is needed to create the critical mass. There is abundant intellectual laziness, such as that which deprives people the capacity to adopt a systemic view at problem analysis and solution. Not that we don’t have the capacity for such self-consciousness, but we don’t consider it expedient to activate. Thus, we perish because of the non-use of knowledge, rather than its lack. After a few days, America will move on, the memory of the elections would have faded and we would willy-nilly prepare to fail the next test that comes our way. Whatever lessons we take from the United States, let us not forget the lesson of leadership. That, in my mind, is the strength we need. Leadership that is earned.

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Lessons on Leadership

I love airports, even Nigeria’s. On some days they have all the features of a motor park and on others, they shed off a little bit of these. I love it when I’m able to arrive in time to check in for my flight and then find a room to squeeze my tiny body, let my eyes sweep the varied personalities that litter the available space, and think. Yes, think! That seems to be all I can do when I’ve time to spare. I’m thinking of yesterday.

Yesterday, the world celebrated Barack Obama’s electoral victory and accompanying speech while his photograph dotted the cyber space. In Nigeria, virtually all my social media friends had something to say. It was either they cursed Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, the president, the politicians or they noted the marital bliss of the Barack-Michelle duo. In fact one admittedly posted “I wish I was American.” Yesterday, a colleague and friend told me “Charles, we contributed to Obama’s victory. We were there as part of the strategy team.” He was referring to a meeting he and I attended almost two months to November 5.

It was in October when Mohammed and I had the privilege of being invited to be part of America’s celebrated democratic process. The venue was the City Hall in Philadelphia and the meeting was a strategy session hosted by some members of one of The Mayor’s commissions. We arrived when the meeting had just begun and seats were made for us. It was a very communal meeting that had one major agenda, which was to get Barack Obama back to the White House. The means was to successfully mobilize against the voter identification brouhaha that the Pennsylvania Government was championing alongside other states as well as to also get people out to vote. At the meeting were diverse professionals with ancestral roots traceable to many countries of the world. Mohammed and I had a chance of being officially introduced and I was happy to hear them say “…from Nigeria.” After the meeting we got around to meet some of the attendees, including Nigerians, among who was an Efik woman, my “village woman.” Incidentally, she happened to have a cousin working in my organization. It was a lovely evening, after a hectic day of business meeting.

When I arrived New York from Philadelphia and sat down with my brother to discuss the American elections, he was nostalgic about Nigeria. He reminded me how, as children then, we were used to rig elections in favour of National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Since then he had never voted in any election, though he seemed inclined to vote in the coming one. When I asked him whom he would likely vote for between Obama and Romney, he admitted that he wished he didn’t have to make the choice, but that Obama stood greater chance of getting his vote. Later that day when I went to honour a dinner invitation from a friend, the discussion was entirely on Romney. My brother and the friend knew each other’s stand, in spite of the shared friendship. Both sides had their strong reasons and stance, but knew that their love for each other was deeper than politics.

As I look back to the zest that Nigerians expressed about the United States elections I feel a civic burden and share the anger of many who wished things were different in Nigeria. This morning, I expressed a deep-seated wish to a friend. “I wish we could exchange Jonathan for Obama,” I muttered. She quickly added, with undeniable seriousness “And bring Michelle too.” I nodded limply, with total agreement. But somewhere, beneath my consciousness, the proverb “as you make your bed, so you lie on it” was throbbing for breath. I shared with her my thoughts about the concept of the critical mass and the magnetic energy inherent in it. Then, I brought up the interest which Nigerians have shown in American elections. I pointed out to her a soft sell headline from a national newspaper that read “US Election tears PDP, ACN, Others Apart.” I told her I didn’t bother to read the story since fights among Nigeria’s politicians were commonplace, but added that my pondering was on our capacity to conceal our failure in the face of American success. She wanted to know what I was driving at. I told her that if only Nigeria would fix its presidential elections to coincide with that of the United States, same date and same year, perhaps there could be some form of transferred redemption as we could be caught by shared magnetic energy. She was quick to remind me of the plethora of obstacles that would attain such effort. I don’t want to list them here since I don’t believe human-created obstacles cannot be surmounted. After all, man has demonstrated such capacity on many fronts.

I believe in Nigeria, but I don’t believe in the present crop of Nigeria’s politicians as a collectivity. I don’t even want to believe in them, except in hindsight. Sometimes I think the bad ones, taken individually, are greater than the sum of the good ones. There is dearth of widespread self-consciousness that is needed to create the critical mass. There is abundant intellectual laziness, such as that which deprives people the capacity to adopt a systemic view at problem analysis and solution. Not that we don’t have the capacity for such self-consciousness, but we don’t consider it expedient to activate. Thus, we perish because of the non-use of knowledge, rather than its lack. After a few days, America will move on, the memory of the elections would have faded and we would willy-nilly prepare to fail the next test that comes our way. Whatever lessons we take from the United States, let us not forget the lesson of leadership. That, in my mind, is the strength we need. Leadership that is earned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Politics