Haba Baba!

Quite the buzz has trailed the recent actions of Nigerian president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari with regards to press, AIT in particular. Vincent, in the piece below, shares with us his views on the matter. ‘Haba Baba’ as a title surely leaves no doubt as to which side he leans; as for me and my family, we hold reservations. We will watch and wait…

No matter how rat-poisonous or iiiice-waterous your thoughts be, don’t fail to share them with us in the comments. Enjoy.

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Since his emergence as Nigeria’s president- elect General Muhammadu Buhari has comported himself as a man deserving of his new role. Like he did in the months preceding that historic election, he has continued to win admirers from all corners.

Having realised that this is the man who will hold the proverbial yam and knife after May 29, political jobbers, business moguls, technocrats and even some officials in the present government have turned Buhari’s house into a ‘Mecca’. Under the guise of courtesy visits, they are falling over themselves and holding vigils at his gate to register their loyalty before he is sworn in and becomes too busy to see them.

As the Buhari crowd home and abroad wait for May 29 with bated breath, it appears the man himself can’t wait for that long before acting like the commander-in- chief.

Two developments in the last few days have proved to be the writing on the wall as regards the direction the Buhari government may take.

First was the statement about the allegedly missing $20 billion from the coffers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation, NNPC. While hosting guests from the Adamawa State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who paid him a courtesy visit, the president-in-waiting promised to revisit the issue.

“I heard that some people have started returning money; I will not believe it until I go and see for myself”, Buhari was reported to have told his guests.

Barely a day after expressing his determination to institute a fresh probe into the affairs of the state-owned oil company under the outgoing administration, Buhari gave another hint of what is to come when he eventually takes over the reins. The president-elect barred, African Independent Television, AIT, from covering and reporting his affairs until further notice.

Confirming the development, Buhari’s media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu said “AIT has been asked to stay aside based on security and family concerns. In addition, Buhari has decided that they will have to resolve some issues relating to issues of standard and ethics.”

‘Standards and ethics’ may sound like reasonable excuses but even the most politically naïve observer knows the real reasons for Buhari’s action. Having aired series of damaging documentaries against him weeks before the election, Buhari is only taking his pound of flesh from AIT.

Whatever explanations his supporters may offer, it is certain Buhari will spend the first months and maybe years of his administration probing the affairs of the past government and settling political scores.

That implies that the change many Nigerians sought when they elected him in April may not come to fruition anytime soon. It means rather than facing the task ahead, Buhari’s government may focus on making scapegoats out of past leaders.

There is no gainsaying the fact that NNPC and other government parastatals have become Aegean stables that must be cleared.  Yet, probing past misdeeds in those organisations may just be another exercise in futility. If Buhari truly means business, dismantling the existing structures in NNPC and re-organising it for a fresh start may be his best bet. The probes may be politically correct and boost his popularity but it could also be a distraction for a government that has promised to hit the ground running.

As regards the ban on AIT, it is proof that the president-elect is not ready to begin the healing process that the country urgently needs at this critical time. Having been so vilified in the course of the campaign, Buhari’s anger is justified but he must also be aware of the dangers such moves portend. Banning an opposition station from reporting his affairs opens a leeway for those who have always described Buhari as an intolerant and vindictive man to return to business. Moreover, the campaigns were ‘bloody’ at all levels. The politicians and their lackeys, including those in Buhari’s camp threw salvos at each other on a daily basis across various media platforms. As they say, all is fair in love and war.

Thankfully, Buhari’s party APC has said AIT and other media outfits are free to cover Buhari’s activities. But if Buhari still feels offended, he should seek redress the right way by dragging AIT to court. He has sufficient evidences to win a case of defamation. It is even more politically expedient for him to punish the company using state institutions such as the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission when he is sworn in than this hare-brained directive. The president-elect should show some maturity. After all, it is not for nothing that they call him BABA.

Vincent Nzemeke is a Nigerian currently studying in Germany.

He is @vincentnzemeke on twitter.

FOR THE LOVE OF ‘BLACK’

A friend of mine was once asked, “If you had to add one more face to Mount Rushmore, whose would it be?”

For those of us still struggling to catch up, you might have seen the 2003 comedy, ‘Head of State’ starring Chris Rock. Nearing the end of the movie after Mays (Chris) had won the presidency, there was a shot of his face hewn into a massive stone structure beside the equally sculpted faces of four former American presidents. That is Mount Rushmore (picture below) – without Chris Rock of course. It is a historic structure in America forever remembering the feats of four great past American leaders – George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).

Mount Richmore

So my friend thought for only a second before saying that the one face he would have added to Mount Rushmore is that of Nelson Mandela.

I completely agree with him. Nelson Mandela preached forgiveness, resilience and freedom to South Africans at a time when the ideals sounded hollow to them. And with love, determination and immense sacrifice, he showed his people how. As I read Timi‘s piece below, I wondered what emotions would be going through Mandela’s mind if he were alive now to witness the waves of xenophobic hostilities sweeping across his beloved South Africa.

I wondered and I came to a conclusion – shame.

FOR THE LOVE OF ‘BLACK’ – by Timilehin Osunde

Xenophobia

Okay, this is coming some days behind. But it has got me thinking for days on end, this South African issue of hostility and violence towards black foreigners – XENOPHOBIA, they call it.

This one video just leaves my stomach unsettled. You are walking home after a hard day’s work in a foreign country; someone walks up to you and hits you in the face without any prior altercation or exchange of words. That leaves you dazed for some minutes sitting on the hot tarred road with vehicles whizzing past. You’re still in confusion when another brings a building block meant for construction and hurls it at you and you hit the ground in shock, in pain. Then a young man still wearing his school uniform decides that your lying on the ground looks good for a trampoline practice and chooses to use you for his sport.

A man, a human being suffered this fate. One can only imagine what would have been racing through the mind of such a poor soul. He probably just ended a call to his wife back home in his country or even a sick parent back in his village. He probably just promised to send them a little out of what he struggles to earn in harsh, uncertain conditions.

I didn’t want to join the list of people who have had to remind South Africa of their dark times and how other African nations lent a helping hand. While these sibling African nations could have looked the other way, they did not because they identified with the South Africans on many levels of value. The first of these levels is the colour of the skin which I right now so want to believe goes beyond the surface covering.

There are a whole lot of others on this values’ list which we cherish as a people, a continent, and a ‘race’. Yet, for whatever reason, South Africa has subtly over time chosen to act the odd one out (personal observation) since the apartheid era ended. This nation has in so many tiny but significant ways sent subtle signals that they do NOT want other Africans. They could have voiced this stance a long time ago, and it would have made life easier for the many ‘foreign’ Africans who have continued pushing across their borders.

I know some Nigerians who have had the ‘poor luck’ of visiting South Africa and have not had anything good to say about the reception they get. Maybe this goes for some other African countries as well save a few but again, maybe this issue reaches far deeper than what is happening right now; maybe it is more of an African disease than a South African flaw. Maybe our leaders need to start working on the value system of each nation on this beautiful continent, maybe our ideologies are flawed in Africa, maybe that student in the school uniform on his way home needs to understand the value of life, be it that of an insect or a human.

Maybe the so many unions across the continent with the apex African Union need to re-strategize on workable, possible ways to avert future occurrences of such hostility in the many states that make up Africa. Some of the objectives of these unions have been written to include; achieving greater unity and solidarity between the member countries and its citizens, defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of member states, to accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the members amongst a whole lot of others. Maybe these objectives need to be effected before the whole issue spirals down the drain into a messy mass.

So many maybes…

Now it’s the turn of Nigerians to hold a rally on this xenophobia matter somewhere on the Island in Lagos soon and that leaves one with the question what next after that.

I would like to put a hold on my thoughts at this point to avoid going round in an unending cycle of heartbreak. As humans living in Africa, when we choose to leave our home country to either visit or do business in another African country, all we ask for is security and a sense of belonging. It really is as simple as that.

God bless Africa!

Timilehin is a journalist, a communications and social media expert with the Weed Science Centre at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

The Lectern: Oil price fall, Naira devaluation and everything else

Very recently, there has been a lot of ginger around crude oil, naira, dollars, devaluation and how they together will be the death of us. While we have all appreciated the seriousness of the situation, a great majority of us have done so without any inkling of what all the gragra is about. What is this devaluation sef? Wetin concern me, concern central bank and external resaf? Shebi the oil don finish ni?

Chuba Ezekwesili in this month’s edition of The Lectern answers these and many more. That’s the small news. The big news is that he does it in as lay a combo of terms and illustrations as you will ever find in the econosphere. He titles it The Bricklayer’s Explanation…and indeed it is. Per chance you find yourself still confused after reading this, don’t lose heart. Just keep telling yourself that all is well; after all, it is not only the beautiful ones that are not yet born…Enjoy!

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That we might be read…

THE BRICKLAYER’S EXPLANATION TO OIL PRICE FALL, NAIRA DEVALUATION & EVERYTHING ELSE

So I logged onto Nigerian Twitter yesterday afternoon and found people abusing economists and financial analysts for speaking in jargons about the CBN’s actions. So for those who’re still confused about what’s going on with Nigeria’s economy and are trying to understand the implications, here’s a simplified version. No bricklayers were insulted in the writing of this post…at least, not explicitly.

So How Did This All Start?

First thing first, oil price fell. Why? Everyone’s increased their production of oil and no one plans on cutting back. In the US, shale oil’s getting cheaper, so there’s more oil out there…and we all know what happens when you have a lot more of a product — price falls. When price falls, consumers are happy and producers are unhappy. Consequently, nations that are consumers of oil have a lovely time, and oil producer countries …a not so lovely time.

So? What Does This Have to Do With the Naira?

Before we go on, a little info on currency and exchange markets. It’s important to note that our currency doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Essentially, a unit of our currency is exchanged for a unit of another currency. Hence the term, Foreign Exchange or Forex or FX, for short. When we buy products from outside Nigeria, we have to exchange our Naira for Dollars. Your Naira is useless outside of Nigeria. It’s why you convert your Naira to Dollars before you travel. You want to test it? Travel to Dubai with only Naira.

Back to the question you raised. Nigeria is fortunate(?) to be an oil producing nation…when oil prices are high. Presently, oil prices are not high and that’s bad for us. Nigeria’s economy is dependent on oil revenue: about 75% of Government revenue comes from our crude oil sales. So when oil prices fall, oil revenue falls too, and that’s bad for the economy.

In the currency market, exchange rates are often centered on the health of a country’s economy. When the economy of a country is strong, its currency is also strong in the foreign exchange market. When the economy appears to be weak, its currency loses value in the currency exchange rate. Nigeria’s dependent on oil, so when oil prices are weak, so our currency loses value in the foreign exchange market. This loss of value of Naira is called a ‘depreciation’ in currency value.

Here’s a simple example. If we began with a dollar exchange for a Naira, both are in a sense equal. However, once I have to give out 2 of my Naira for just 1 of your dollar then the value of Naira has fallen. In the past months, the exchange rate was $1 dollar to roughly N150. Thanks to depreciation and eventually devaluation (we’ll get to that later), it’s now $1 to N168.

Alright. I Get the Currency Part, But What Does Our External Reserves Have to Do with our Naira Value?

To explain this, we’ll have to look into what the External Reserves is and why it exists. Think of your External Reserves as a Savings account where you put some portion of your salary every month. That money gets saved for something later: paying your children’s university fees, buying a house, or importantly, in case things get bad in the future (perhaps you lose your job).

Likewise, countries keep these reserves, but mainly to safeguard the value of their domestic currency, boost their credit worthiness, protect against external shocks and provide a cushion for a rainy day when national revenue plummets. When Nigeria earns revenue from oil, it gets paid in dollars, so we simply stash a portion of the money in our reserves.

Moreover, the reserves of oil producing countries like Nigeria tend to benefit economically from higher oil prices. The higher the price of oil, the more money oil producing countries like Nigeria get to earn and save.

So if We Have an External Reserve, Why’re We Worried?

Well, having a bank account doesn’t mean you have money. We have a reserve, but our money no plenty. Nigeria has been dancing shoki with its reserves. When oil price was high, we apparently weren’t saving that much into our reserves. In fact, our reserves have been on a downward trend for years. We’ve been using our External Reserves to keep the value of Naira stable for months. When our currency appears to be falling, we take out some dollars from our external reserves and purchase Naira. Increased demand for Naira leads to increased value of Naira, and that’s how we stabilize our currency.

However, we sacrifice a portion of our External Reserves to pull this off. For instance, “while the central bank stepped in Nov. 7 to send the Naira to its biggest one-day gain in three years, intervening in the market has reduced foreign reserves to a four-month low of $37.8 billion.” In the last few months, even Russia with their large reserves had to devalue their currency by 23%.

So is This why Everyone Was Making Noise About CBN Devaluing the Naira?

Yes. Now there’s only so much spending from the reserves that the CBN can do, especially given that we’ve really sucked at growing our reserves when oil price was in the $100 range. It’s like when your office was paying you N100k, you were clubbing every weekend rather than saving some money. Then the minute your office decided to increase your income tax, that’s when your jobless relative comes to live with you too. So now, your salary is not only less, it’s burning faster cause there’s an extra mouth to feed.

The drop in oil price does not only send our currency downwards, it also makes it difficult for the CBN to defend our currency. It’s a double whammy. Essentially, if the CBN keeps trying to defend the rate at N150, it’ll burn through the reserves pretty fast and then we’ll be screwed. So relaxing this currency threshold to N168 means they can relax a bit. They don’t have to keep using as much of the reserves to prop up the Naira. If you’re still curious on how it all works, Feyi goes into the intricacies of devaluation in his fantastic post here.

Okayyy! I Think I Understand Now, But How Does This Affect Me?

Like many other economic events, devalution creates winners and losers. Let’s start with the losers. If you generate revenue in Naira and incur costs in dollars, this is a bad time for you. Any activity that has you converting Naira for Dollars will hurt you way more than a few months ago.

Let’s have a moment of silence for our Igbo brother who will be ‘importing containers’ this christmas. Life just got harder for them. Given that importers have to pay for their imported goods in dollars…and dollars just got more expensive, the cost of their goods have increased overnight.

Same thing happens to those tush parents who’ve got their kids in Nigerian schools that only accept their fees in dollars or Nigerians that have children schooling abroad. If you like flying, shopping or doing anything abroad, your cost of doing so has risen. On the contrary, if you earn in dollars and pay in Naira, life is looking pretty good at the moment.

Exporters also benefit. The fall in value of Naira means more exports because our exports have gotten cheaper. But ermm…what exactly are we exporting?

Phew. So It Doesn’t Affect Me Like That

Don’t be so sure. Nigeria’s an import-dependent nation, which means that most of what you purchase is produced abroad. I heard we import our toothpick too. If the prices of imports have risen, trust your Nigerian brothers and sisters to increase their prices too…leading to what’s popularly known as inflation.

I Was Hearing All These Oversabies Saying CRR, MPR. What Does This Mean?

CRR stands for Cash Reserve Ratio. It’s the proportion of what a bank can lend, to what it has in its coffers. So if the bank has N1000 and its ratio is 50%, can only use 50% of that money (N500) for business. Given that awon banks do not mess around with profit making, they will make sure that N500 brings back maximum profit. Banks are like the servant in Jesus’ parable that got 10 talents from his master, not the lazy one that got 1 talent. So to make max profit off the N500, they will raise interest rate if you want to borrow their money.

MPR stands for Monetary Policy Rate. The Central Bank uses the MPR to control base interest rate. The higher the rate, the less money in circulation. How? If interest rate is higher, will you borrow money from the bank knowing that you’ll pay much more later on? Nope. Instead, you’ll take your money from your pocket and give it to the bank, so they’ll make you more money.

Remember that thanks to devaluation, awon boys will be increasing prices left and right. General price increase in a given period leads to inflation. To tackle this, CBN increases CRR and MPR to reduce demand for money. This way, they prevent inflationary rise.

Okayy. I think I Understand That Part, So What’s This Austerity Thing Aunt Ngozi was Talking About?

That one is another long story. So, we’ve all been in situations when we’re broke. Ok, maybe just some of us. We adjust our lifestyle around the middle of the month when our salary hasn’t been paid. You go from eating jollof rice to drinking garri. When friends tell you to come out and party, you form ‘I’m very busy’.

Nigeria’s proposed austerity measures are similar…except on a grander scale. To cushion the effect of the falling crude oil prices, we have to cut back on spending and quite literally tighten our belts. The Government is cutting back on wastage (less government traveling and all that sort). The Government’s also raising taxes on luxury goods such as private jets, yachts and champagne. Somewhere in this luxury tax is the amusing observation that the revenue from taxes on the rich will still go back to the rich.

For the proletariat, the sweet subsidy you enjoy when you fuel your car will also get cut. Prepare to pay more for fuel. This is a good thing. Subsidy has to go anyways.

Wow. That was Long. So, Any Lesson to Learn from All This?

Yes. First lesson: Nigeria is the most reactive and least proactive nation you could’ve been born into. This isn’t the first time oil prices have fallen. Government should’ve gotten used to fluctuating oil price and prepared accordingly. And, since oil is the figurative oil in Nigeria’s economic engine, judicious and prudent management of oil revenue should’ve been practiced. However, we largely mismanaged our wealth during the time of booms and we’re now trying to behave ourselves in the time of slump. Let’s see how that goes.

The second lesson to be learnt is that we should’ve diversified our economic sources of revenue a long time ago to prevent price shock of primary products from affecting us drastically. Also, State Governments should’ve been pressured to increase their internally generated revenue much sooner. We can’t keep reacting to every economic shock that hits us.

Anyways, this is getting too long and no one probably got to the end, so no need for a witty or wise ending. But, if you reached this point, congrats! After spending all that time reading this, make sure you show off your new macroeconomic knowledge to your friends. And please, stop abusing econ-nerds. We have feelings too. Selah.

By

Chuba Ezekwesili

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Chuba Ezekwesili currently works for the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) as a Research Aanalyst. He enjoys reading up on matters pertaining to Economics and is an avid technology geek with a belief that the intersection of both can create immense economic development. You can find him at @chubaezeks on Twitter.

If you have a piece you would like to people to read from ‘The Lectern’, send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you just know that you want to ‘be read’ but can’t figure out what subject matter to write about, no wahala. Send me an email too and we can work up something for you. We must write…that we might be read.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

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The Mind Factor: ‘Nigeria-Ebola’ play in perspective

The proprietress of the secondary school I attended in Aba had this saying she was very fond of and made sure we never stopped hearing. On many occasions while we were in class, or standing on the hard-clay assembly grounds behind the main school building, or seated in the large auditorium, she would face us in one of her uniform loose, short-sleeved blouses, knee-length cotton skirts and black flats. Her slouched shoulders would straighten a fraction of an inch, her amply dimpled chin would incline at a determined angle and set in her dark brown face, her black eyes would burn strength and hope into ours, while she said, “I can do it! You can do it! If I set my mind to it!”

Often she would ask us to repeat after her and most of us would attempt humorous mimicries of her American accent – I cain duweht…you cain duweht…if I set my mind tuweht! We would covertly snicker among ourselves and exchange low high-fives; and a number of our teachers would even crack tiny smiles at our juvenile mischief, but not Mrs Zoe. She would stand stern while we repeated those words and like her, gesticulated accordingly with our index fingers. And it worked because they stuck. The words didn’t just stick in our hearts and minds, they have rung true for me in all the years since then.

I CAN DO IT! YOU CAN DO IT! IF I SET MY MIND TO IT!

The best example that comes to mind is with respect to the emergence of the Ebola virus in Nigeria few months ago. The manner in which EVD was battled into containment in Nigeria reeks of ardent resolve, especially on the part of the health officials and government. The facts that follow establish this as concisely as possible:

Nigeria’s first reported case of Ebola was an imported one, borne by the 40-year old Patrick Sawyer into Lagos via a flight from Monrovia, Liberia. Fortunately, he was suspected of having the virus and was hospitalized on arrival in Nigeria at the First Consultant Hospital, Obalende. Mr. Sawyer died 25 July having infected healthcare staff that had had close, unprotected contact with him prior to realizing he was infected. It was imperative then to initiate containment action against the virus and Nigerian health officials promptly swung into action.

By the 17th of September, records showed the total number of confirmed cases to be 19 with 7 deaths. There were 4 contacts still under surveillance in Lagos and 344 in Rivers State. Over 520 contacts had been discharged from surveillance following a symptom-free 21-day observation window. And by the 1st of October, these numbers remained except for additional two cases – one infection and one death, both marked as ‘probable’.

As impressive as they are, these numbers barely scratch the top of how much work went into the fight to contain Ebola. A doctor’s strike that had been underway for more than a month was temporarily suspended in early August to enable medical personnel help with the outbreak. A State of Emergency was declared, discouraging large gatherings and asking schools to extend summer holidays. As the outbreak continued, the doctor’s strike was cancelled (instead of suspended) and school closures were extended through mid-October. Isolation facilities and centers were established in different parts of the country – one 40-bed facility in Lagos, one 26-bed centre in Rivers state, seven hospitals in Delta state, a quarantine centre in Niger state – along with elaborate plans ongoing to expand on the infrastructure. Volunteers were raised and trained to become primary screeners while physicians underwent training to become secondary screeners, and to distinguish suspected cases of Ebola from other diseases. Thousands of people were screened per day per point of entry – land, sea and air.

The result? There have been no new cases of Ebola in Nigeria since August 31, a strong indication that the virus has been contained.

While the aid of foreign institutions like the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) cannot be discounted, most of the praise has reserved for Nigerian physicians like the late Dr. Stella Adadevoh and the Nigerian Ministry of Health headed by Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu. In the words of a doctor with the Atlanta-based CDC, Dr Aileen Marty, “”The Nigerian government was wholeheartedly into the process of trying to solve the problem”

Dr AdadevohProf Onyebuchi Chukwu

While the encomiums on the ebullient Dr. Adadevoh, who paid the ultimate price in the fight, and her colleagues are without suspect, much of those heaped on the Nigerian government are perhaps more in shock than anything else. Many have wondered at the energy that was mustered by the government in procuring and unleashing resources to fight Ebola; ‘the Nigerian government is incapable of such efficiency’, the disbelieving public has declared.

But is it really?

Dr. Marty of the CDC identified reasons which she thought aided the Nigerian battle against Ebola, and one such reason was that the disease was mostly limited to the wealthier population of Nigeria. “The person who brought the infection was a diplomat,” Marty said. “He was brought to one of the best hospitals in Nigeria, and the people who were infected were individuals who quickly comprehended the importance of following our recommendations.”

This train of thought was shared by a Nigerian who for the purposes of this piece, chose to remain anonymous. In his opinion, Ebola was battled so methodically and decisively because it struck at the heart of the upper social class of the society. “Otherwise why are lower class members of the society still dying daily from malaria and child labor?” he finished emphatically. Some other schools of thought would rather remain grateful – for the containment of Ebola – and hopeful – for the rest.

Whichever school of thought you choose to align with, one truth we can all agree on is that the Nigerian government has shown itself capable of excellence. Whether it was due process or a case of necessity mothering invention matters not at the moment; the country’s leaders have shown that if they put their mind to a task, they can achieve it. Much like the tortoise who claimed he couldn’t dance but was caught gyrating in the inner chambers of his hut to the beats of the moonlight drum, the Nigerian leaders must now dance the music of the gods in the market place. They must now answer a burdened people’s call to accountability par excellence.

But will they? Can they?

“I can do it! You can do it! If we put our minds to it!”

 

 

Extracts from:

How Nigeria contained its Ebola outbreak by Mark Gollom, MSN news.

International SOS report, October 2014.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

THE LECTERN: MAY I HAVE SEX WITH YOU?

In this month’s edition of ‘The Lectern’, Tobe Osigwe writes about sex, sex education and where we have got it all wrong…as of yet. 

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That we might read…

Plato the classical Greek philosopher believed that dramatists should be banished from the society. His reason was that dramatists are imitators of reality; therefore they are liars, thus, removed from the reality which they try to imitate. I think of a truth that dramatists are imitators of reality but I doubt if they are removed from it. If there is any group of people in our contemporary society that are removed from reality I think its most clergies and fanatical Christians. These people are miles away from reality. Not because they don’t preach the truth but because they have mastered the skillful art of pretending away some truths.

However, if you think that our ever pontificating pastors are only those guilty of this habit of shying away from some truths, then you are sitting on a long thing. Topping the pretenders list are parents. Now, look at how our parents and pastors engage in this vocation of pretense. They will tell you things like, my dear fornication is a sin, don’t allow any man touch you, don’t have sex with any fellow that is not your spouse, keep yourself pure. While all these lines are true, the lie in it is, mere stating of it does not have power to stop one from abiding by it if the teller of the truth does not show how to uphold it. Rather, the teller of the truth has successfully aroused your desire and interest in testing the veracity of the truth.

I for one strongly believe that any problem you do not have a solution to you have no authority to shout from the tree top about the reality and existence of the problem. How can a parent tell the child or ward not to have sex while there is a sharp contrast if the child turns on the radio, TV, magazine, music, film? And, to crown it all, the parent is not curbing or monitoring the intake of such alternative agents of information. As if that is not enough, the child is shipped into a university, office, any other environment where the child is left in close proximity with the opposite sex and the hormones are all screaming and seething to be gratified thus placing the poor fellow in a hamlet situation of ‘to be or not to be’.

For those at loss with the point I am driving at, it’s simple: it’s not enough to say, don’t indulge in pre-marital sex; we have to go further by showing a practical and realistic way for one not to shine congo. In these days of intellectual enlightenment that people find it difficult to swallow axioms hook, line and sinker, one should not assert that something is bad and snooze off. Rather, there is a need to realistically explain why it’s bad and how to escape it for one’s warning to be effective and result-oriented. Failure to do this you have not solved any problem but you have succeeded in making noise and worse still, alienating yourself from such youth who will see you as an anti in the quest of having fun.

Sex is one issue parents don’t like to teach their children and when they do they simply gloss over with the hollow caveat ‘it’s bad’. Something so important and difficult to rise above its sweet temptation is funnily summarized in one straight jacket threat-loaded phrase: it’s bad. It’s bad and so what? Lie is bad and people still lie every day, so is stealing, cheating, fighting and other vices. Methinks it’s pertinent we admit that the reality of one not indulging in pre-marital sex in the way our society is presently structured is as difficult as a Fulani herdsman passing JAMB in one sitting. Let’s face and accept this reality then find out how to overcome it.

If the present foregoing is true, then it’s totally ridiculous for parents to expect their children to turn out good without showing or beefing them up with the required skill set and properly monitoring them. In the light of present societal realities parents need to take charge in overcoming of some moral codes. You can’t just sit down and expect people to remain chaste when there are overpowering modern day realities circumventing their power to remain clean.

Now let’s look at the following modern day realities; a full grown man of about 30 years is living in his own apartment, he pays his own bills and for reason best known to him he has been in an intimate relationship with a lady for two good years without hope of marriage and you tell them pre-marital sex is a sin.

Also, an unemployed youth who is sitting around at home is visited daily by a fellow unemployed youth and they gist away their unemployed time. I leave you to do the math of the end result of their unemployed gist. What of a lady who is in the university, her parents are no longer privy of her whereabouts, she feels she has fallen in love after some guy whispered some sweet nonsense into her ears and you think she will not…? *coughs*. Or a cute guy joins his church choir and at each rehearsal he sits closely with one beautiful church girl and they become brother and sister in the lord. And as we are all aware, hormones do not repent. Do you think they will not…? *coughs again*.

Let’s face it. So many things inevitably bring the opposite sex together these days. So many factors make people keep late night these days, so many styles of socially acceptable dressing, songs, films and activities, religious ones inclusive, make one think of sex every minute of the day nowadays. Also, it’s no longer a secret that parents no longer have a firm grip on their children or know their itinerary – no thanks to civilization. Trying to deny these facts is akin to denying that there is a mystery being who has a mind of its own in between your thighs. And, believing that people can behave modestly despite all these facts by mere warning that sex is bad is like keeping a yam with a goat and expecting the goat to be reasonable.

Trying to shy away from reality with some biblical truths minus sincere practical step is the staple product of most post-modernist day Nigerian parents or should I say Christians- I believe that’s why over -zealous church goers remain the easiest set of people to sleep with once the perfect opportunity shows up. Little wonder most randy pastors and some smart folks are having a field day sampling the Lord’s vineyard.

Parents should understand that helping their children to plan their future will help greatly in curbing pre-marital sex. If one knows that at the age of 24 or thereabout, he is sure to be financially and emotionally responsible, and therefore ready for marriage, I believe the issue of premarital sex will be history. After all, nobody enjoys doing bad, but one resorts to it when one runs out of alternative good deeds or when one is visionless, deluded and ignorant.

To this end, with my short experience, I think the only way one can shy away from pre-marital sex is to flee from it via avoiding intimate relationship, sexually suggestive films, songs, raunchy friends, profaned environment and less of social media. But the fact remains, the longer you run and flee, like every other race, the weaker you become. Yes, each time you add a year, your defenses against withstanding the enticing darts of sexual intimacy and gratification reduce unless you have tasted it and have grown weary of crossing the Rubicon. Or you have resorted to some other secret but perverse way of gratifying this legitimate desire. Or perhaps, the Creator has given you a special grace to withstand sexual urges. But such people are few and rare.

May GOD open our eyes of understanding.

Capture (2)

BY: Tobe Osigwe ()

If you have a piece you would like to post at ‘The Lectern’, send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you want to ‘be read’ but are yet undecided about a subject matter, send me an email too and we can work up something appropriate for you.

“I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter”

Why I put out the TB Joshua bribery audio – by investigative journalist, Nicholas Ibekwe

 Nicholas ibekwe TBJoshua

Nicholas Ibekwe is an investigative journalist who has been in the news for releasing an audio recording which he claims captures T.B. Joshua offering bribe to reporters. This happened in the wake of the building collapse in the minister’s synagogue which claimed over 70 lives.

Click HERE for a summarized transcript of the clip and to download and hear it for yourself.

The journalist himself took to the pages of his blog to shed more light on the matter in a piece titled ‘Why I put out the TB Joshua bribery audio’. To answer the self-imposed question, he wrote:

“I had recorded the audio six days before posting it on Twitter. To be sincere, I didn’t think much of it until Saturday morning (I’d explain later). I was intently watching the way the collapsed building was being played out in the media after the rather disappointing way Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, dodged reporters through a back door after his private meeting with TB Joshua on September 14. I observed that Nigerian media were being too gentle on TB Joshua despite the glaring irregularities surrounding the collapse. I read more reports about the “hovering craft” and how Boko Haram could’ve sabotaged the building and other poppycock the televangelist wanted the world to believe.

Very little was reported about the structural defects of the building. Not much was written about the fact that the building originally had 2 floors and was being illegally refurbished with 4 additional floors when it collapsed. We didn’t come hard on the Synagogue Church goons who attacked first responders. We didn’t highlight the fact that many of those that perished could have been saved if NEMA officials weren’t barred from the site for almost three days! We didn’t make an issue of the fact that our colleagues who had gone to report the collapsed building were molested on Saturday.

So when I woke up last Saturday morning and saw the picture of Jonathan shaking hands with a grinning TB Joshua with headlines like “Jonathan consoles TB Joshua,” I said damn it! I couldn’t stomach this blatant impunity…”

He also went on to highlight the less honorable parts of the journalism profession, especially as it is practiced in Nigeria.

Click HERE for the full article as written by Nicholas Ibekwe who tweets @nicholasibekwe.

Then go ahead and spill your thoughts below. As for me and my family, God forbid we speak or even believe ill of an anointed man of God; lest evil airplanes start to circle our small house and it collapses upon us before we have the chance to celebrate Independence day.

For your entertainment, hit Google to read the reactions that greeted the reporter’s actions – from TB Joshua fans and haters alike. One thing is sure – Naija has got talents!

Bless you!

 

 I am @ojukwu_martin on twirra

THE LODGE

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The roof was brown and rusted; perforated from use and so, in the rains, all their property had to be moved to corners where it was certain that water couldn’t seep through. If the breeze came with the rains, then no one would sleep for the whistling of the wind and the struggle in vain for the wooden slats that were windows to keep the rain and cold out of the rooms.

 

The enclosed pit dug a few metres behind the house served as the latrine. You had to be careful to hold on to the zinc door while you took care of your business, as much for balance as for prevention against uninvited guests. The builders had only succeeded in plastering the insides and the front of the house; maybe they ran out of materials or maybe they decided that the front looked good enough, so the house was ready. The builders hadn’t bothered with a fence and a gate either.

 

But then, they would hold contests during the rains for who lasted longest while they were trying to hold down the windows against the howling wind. On cold nights, the girls would scramble into the boys’ rooms  shivering and then all of them would huddle together to chase the cold away and of course the guys would spend the better part of the night trying to cop a feel of any female parts. Ah! Christmas had come early.

 

Temi had nearly fallen into the pit toilet when she went to do her business; that was how they found out that Emeka had been secretly admiring her because he just jumped up and ran to help her before she had even finished the scream. He didn’t seem to remember that she was half naked in there. It gave them a good laugh for quite a while.

 

Since the compound had no gates, they would come out in the afternoons after the day’s work was done, when everyone had returned from their various schools and sit under the huge mango tree in front of the house. They would watch the cars zoom past on their way to Lagos while they played games trying to guess the reason for the hurry depending on the speed of the passing car.

 

The ever busy market across the road always provided some entertainment too. Once, it was a little boy who caused a commotion because he wanted to buy a loaf of bread with akara – bean cake  in it. Loaves of bread generally do not come with akara; you bought the bread and then you bought the akara and put it in the bread. Of course the bread seller explained all this; only, he did it in English – the little boy only understood Nupe. He had stood staring at the seller with a frustrated look on his face before turning away with a shake of his head. The other time it was a man on a bike –or okada – with chickens tied to his waist and all over; some hanging upside down, others swinging about with only feet on the bike or on a fellow chicken. It was a funny sight.

 

The absence of gates too was the reason they met Sani, a young man at twenty-three with three wives already, who had come running into the compound seeking sanctuary to escape the wrath of Zanjabil, his third and newly married wife, when she caught him with Hauwa their neighbours’ daughter. Sani had become a regular visitor who regaled them with tales of how he had wrestled Abu for his first wife Fathia, endured a hundred strokes of the cane and had slept for almost a week after for Binu, the second, and then wooed Zanji as he fondly called her. He was already thinking of Hauwa for the fourth since Islam permitted four wives. When the boys expressed their surprise, he had laughed and called them “small boys.”

 

It wasn’t much, true, but it was their home – at least for a while. It was the Corpers’ Lodge.

 

By Lilian Izuorah (@HalfpintEl)

 

 

The Lectern: THE LAW OF THE ICEBERG

Hi.

Here’s announcing the start of a new series on Words Are Work. It is called ‘The Lectern’ and is really a column for you, all of you, to express those thoughts no one ever paid you a penny for. For family, friends, fellow bloggers, writers, and – I am really hoping – readers, everybody, The Lectern is a platform beneath your feet and a microphone up against your mouth, thus the motto: That we might be read…  

If you have a piece you would like ‘read’, send it via email to ojukwumartin@gmail.com; title the mail ‘The Lectern’. And for those of us who feel the need to ‘be read’ but are yet undecided about a subject matter, send me an email and we can talk through it and select something appropriate for you. My editing and fine-tuning skills are offered free of charge too…(no cameras please)

We start off the maiden edition today with ‘The Law of the Iceberg’ which is courtesy of a colleague, Seun Abejide. Be kind enough to pen down your (chocolate-flavored) criticisms, comments and thoughts in the right sections below. Till later…have a WAW experience!

The Lectern01

That we might be read…

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”

Ansel Adams

THE LAW OF THE ICEBERG

Bimpe is an only child, a teenager resident in Ikoyi, Lagos with her family. She very recently returned from a 3-month summer vacation in the UK – her first time ever to leave the country. While on the trip, she lived with her mum who has lived in the UK for over a decade now. Bimpe’s departure date was planned so it was concomitant with the commencement of her mother’s vacation leave, and when it came around, mother and daughter returned to Lagos together.

In the month since her return, Bimpe has taken on a superficial attitude that pisses everyone around her off. She refuses to play with her neighborhood friends because ‘they are local people’; she refuses to eat with her hands anymore and insists that her bread must always be toasted; and she skips and hops all around her house chores – ‘they could get dirt in her nails’.

One evening, her father returned from work to find Bimpe cowered into a corner by her exasperated mother who stood over her with a cane, yelling. Intermittently, she flicked the slender wood over Bimpe’s flesh in a visibly half-hearted attempt to discipline the errant child; and every time the cane brushed her body, Bimpe whimpered like a little scared kitten.

Flick! “Ouch”, she whimpered. Flick! “Ouch”. Flick! “Ouch! Mummy, you’re hurting me” she enunciated in a very nasal voice.

Now fed up with the child’s act, Bimpe’s father stepped up and took the cane from his wife. He flexed it once and let rip on Bimpe’s clothed back with the cane: WHACK!

For a split second nothing happened. Then Bimpe’s eyes widened, her face contorted into an astounded cum tortured mask and her back arched at an angle so acute that she should have cracked. Then she screamed, “CHAAAEEE!!!”

WHACK! WHACK!! came her father’s reply.

“YEKPAAAA” Bimpe yelled again, springing up. “E GBA MI OH!!!” And she raced off like an alaye cat whose tail was on fire.

MORALE: Pretend on the outside all you want, what you are on the inside will eventually, always, out-shine it.

And on that note, I present to you, The Law of the Iceberg.

Experts estimate that on the average, only 10 percent of the entire mass of an iceberg appears above the surface. What that means is that 90 percent of the mass is beneath the surface and is invisible to those above the surface. The Law of the Iceberg, as put together by Todd Duncan, states that ‘the truest measure of your success is invisible to the people around you’.

Your success as seen by people could be summarized by your income, official designation, accolades and material possessions, but the truest measure of your success, Todd Duncan espoused, lies deeper within you in the form of your values, character, passions, desires, goals and purpose in life. Most of the latter are hardly ever visible to the outside world, so that what the world actually does see is often – and should rightly be – the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite is the case majorly among the young folks of the present society many of whom are largely empty barrels living off the cliché, ‘fake it till you make it’.

Party-pooper alert! You cannot fake it for long if you have nothing on your inside, which is why Kenneth E. Hagin said that “it doesn’t matter how beautifully you label a can if it is empty; a labeled empty can is still an empty can”. Robert Kiyosaki also intimated the ‘Be-Do-Have’ principle when he said: “Before you can have, you need to do, and before you can do, you need to be”.

Folks have tried to reverse this principle unsuccessfully. We think that if we have what certain people we term successful have then we can get to do what they do and therefore we could be like them. But we forget that we need to have roots. Deep roots.

How many times have we seen someone looking successful only to find out he was a hoax? Remember that musician who comes out with a hit song, causes raves and in six months, he’s gone? We hear nothing of the artist ever again. Also the young man who buys a new car, rents a 3 million naira apartment, marries a wife but is broke in four years, busted and disgusted begging for his next meal? Or the curious case of lottery winners?

On the other hand, there are people whose present positions in their lives’ journeys do not look like much yet they have a quiet assurance within them that makes them excel at most things. Because they have roots.

I am reminded of the very first time I watched the now famous Nigerian rapper M.I.; it was on the lunch hour show of the local television station MiTV some years ago. The little man looked tired and hungry in over-sized clothes which he probably borrowed from a bigger friend to make an appearance on TV with. He didn’t look like much. But when he went on to rap, I knew he was different; I judged him as a more than a flash in the pan. True to my judgment, M.I. has gone on to become “African Rapper No. 1”, the only Nigerian artiste ever to have sold one CD for 200 million naira.

On another pedestal, a lot of really wealthy people appear so simple that it is difficult to associate them with their great wealth. No wonder Poju Oyemade said that “highly successful people are masters of understatement.” Indeed, what we see on the outside is often not an accurate representation of how successful a person is.

Still on the earlier analogy around an iceberg, imagine sawing off the visible surface of the block of ice. What would happen next is the appearance of another tip, a dense substantial mass of ice which would float around for a while until the entire block of mass becomes stable again. in fact, a thin iceberg – one without a foundation – is more a slab of ice than an iceberg, and it would play slave to the ever-changing ebbs and flow of the tides.

In similar fashion, without a solid foundation beneath the surface of your life, the surface success may never be stable. What is on the outside is important of course – appearance matters – but it is not nearly as important as the stuff we have on the outside for many reasons, most relevant among which is the fact that the inside produces the outside.

If you are ever going to have or be anything, reader, it’s going to come from your inside before it can work on your outside.

Money on the inside, working on the outside;

beauty on the inside, working on the outside;

genius on the inside, working on the outside;

wisdom on the inside, working on the outside;

excellence on the inside, working on the outside;

success on the inside, working on the outside.

So says The Law of the Iceberg.

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By Seun Abejide

ON TOP D MATTER: Final weeks of the National Confab

YES, in spite of all the evidences to the contrary, I continue to hope that some respite just might come for us from the National Confab. Find below the summary of events in these concluding weeks of the conference. For the full article, visit here.

 


 

The National Conference convened by President Goodluck Jonathan may be winding up soon, amidst lingering dissatisfaction over the outcome of the conference.

The conference, chaired by Justice Idris Kutigi, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, has 492 delegates and it is expected to articulate and coordinate the views and thoughts of Nigerians, with a view to building a stronger, united, peaceful and stable nation.

At the end of their four-month-deliberation, the delegates reached consensus on wide-ranging recommendations made by the 20 standing committees of the conference. Some of the recommendations include the creation of 18 new states and an additional state for the South-East geopolitical zone, the zoning of elective positions at all levels of government, the establishment of state police, and the establishment of a commission to address the plight of FCT indigenes.

Others are scrapping of state/local government joint account, scrapping of state independent electoral commissions, removal of fuel subsidy and removal of immunity clause, among others.

The delegates, however, failed to reach consensus on the contentious issues of resource control and derivation principle for the Niger Delta region, which was contained in the main report of the Committee on Devolution of Power.

They were also unable to agree on two new issues: the proposed 5 per cent of the national income, each for the development of mineral resources across the federation and for the special intervention fund for national emergencies.

 

Another death

Professor Muhammad Nur Alkali, who was one of the six delegates representing the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) at the 2014 National Conference in Abuja is dead.

He died in his residence in Maiduguri on the night of Friday, August 1, 2014. The 68-year old professor of History, a two-term Vice Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri (1985 – 1992), former Director General of the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee under the administration of General Sani Abacha.

More recently, he was a member of the Committee on Insecurity in the North East (The Boko Haram Committee). He will be buried later today, Saturday, August 2, 2014, in Maiduguri.

 

What to do with the recommendations?

Prior to the adjournment of plenary session on July 14, there was intense debate amongst Nigerians on who should implement recommendations of the conference. While some school of thought suggested that the recommendations should be forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law, others believed that that they should be subjected to a referendum before their inclusion in the constitution.

Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the National Chairman, Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), said that the recommendations should not be subjected to referendum on the grounds that most of them were “superficial”.

Musa said that instead of dealing with the negative state of the nation, the delegates only dealt with the consequences of the negative state of the nation. He noted that corruption, organized violence, insecurity and unemployment were some of the factors that contributed to the negative state of the country. And he suggested that as a way out, the National Assembly could regard the recommendations as public hearing.

Conversely, Gilbert Agbo, the National Secretary, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), said that the recommendations should not be forwarded to the National Assembly for passage into law, since some of the recommendations were not in favour of the legislators.

He stressed that Nigerians should be allowed to decide on the recommendations via referendum organized to determine their acceptance or rejection since “power derives from the people”.

Sam Eke, the National Chairman, Citizens Popular Party (CPP), who shared a similar viewpoint with Balarabe Musa, said that the recommendations should be forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration, amendment and passage into law.

He said that those advocating referendum were just “trying to build something on nothing.”

 

Waiting for draft report

There were reports on Monday that the absence of the draft final report, according to reports, may stall resumption of the National Confab, earlier scheduled to reconvene on August 4. The leadership, in a letter to delegates and signed by the Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, James Akpandem, stated that the decision to extend the resumption date by one week was to avoid a situation where delegates would return to Abuja on August 4 and discover that there were no necessary materials to conclude the session within the time frame specified in the work plan.

There are indications that much interest in its work will have been lost when the conference eventually reconvenes to certify the draft report. The vocal section of Nigeria, from indications, believe more were lost than gained. Their opinion stems from the fact that the country may not be much different after the conference, with major national controversies subsisting.


 

God bless Nigeria.

compatriot

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter…and I am proudly Nigerian yet

My Beef with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

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The 57-year old former commissioner of Lagos state is the present governor of the state of Osun. Getting there was no ride in the park for him; he fought a dogged battle for his mandate following the results of the April 2007 elections, a battle which lasted nearly four years as he was not sworn in as governor until October, 2010.

I remember following the legal battles as a much younger man and rooting for him partly because I admired his tenacity, but also because I believed that only a man who was convincingly justified could hang on to a fight for that long. So when the October judgment came in his favor, I sent Governor Aregbesola a pat on the back via DHL – I am still waiting for him to acknowledge receipt.

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When I was posted to Osun state a few years later for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, it felt to me like somebody in the highest was rewarding my support for the engineer governor’s cause. But one year later as I packed my bags to leave, I was neither an admirer nor a fan of Ogbeni Aregbesola.

My beef with Engineer Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, Executive Governor of Osun state (State of the Living Spring) is a very rare beef. It is red, juicy and meaty, laden with strips and strips of milky, stringy akwara-ndu.

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The beef is justifiable because a lot of it is based on my personal experiences during the year I lived as a khaki-wearing tenant in one of the more rustic communities of the state. Because one can only masticate so much beef in one mouthful, this beef is restricted to the governor’s mishandling of education in Osun.

My primary assignment in Osun was to teach students of a secondary school and like many of my fellow corps members, I approached the job with enthusiasm and a burning zeal to impact positively in the lives of the young ones. But that zeal was soon ruptured because I quickly saw that the system was not designed for much positivity. The educational system I met in Osun state was held high up as a brilliant executive make-over; it was heralded both within and especially outside the state as a revelation – the resurrection of a hitherto dead system. But in heart-wrenching reality, it was still a corpse, only better suited.

The following lines will explain why:

  1. Communication:

In my first class teaching Physics to the SS3 class, something very akin to the following scenario ensued.

“Did you learn about motion in your SS1 and 2 classes?” I asked.

The class nodded as one.

“And the laws of motion?” Nod again.

“Good. How about force and friction, temperature and pressure? You know them?” Nod. Nod.

I was on a roll, flowing and very happy they were following.

Then I called up a girl in the front row. “Ope, please stand up and tell us what pressure is”.

Opeyemi stood – she was a thickset light-skinned girl whose round face made me think of a happy doll with her low-cut hair and marked ample cheeks. She said nothing, just stood with her fingers splayed out, palm down on the desk before her and eyes set on me.

I thought she was shy so I tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry,” I said, “You don’t have to quote your book, just explain it to me in your own words”

Ope stared on at me for a few moments more. Then she said, “Oga, só Yoruba

“What?” I asked, lost.

“Só Yoruba” she repeated, “Só Yoruba dí è dí è”

 flabbergasted

Beautiful people of heaven and earth, she requested that I speak Yoruba to her, or in the least interject sprinklings of the vernacular in my lessons. The reason was that she could not understand the words I was saying in English. Neither could the rest of her SS3 classmates, who were all registered for and few months away from writing the West African School Certificate Examination at the time.

It was not just SS3 students though, and not just the students in my school. In Osun state, I met students who could not write if you dictated notes to them, and when you wrote the lecture notes out on the board, they drew it into their books because they could not read.

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I kid you not.

Maybe this deficiency exists in more Nigerian states than Osun. Maybe, but for Osun state whose government swears that education is a priority…tsk tsk tsk.

 

  1. ‘Free’ education:

Knowing his beginnings and the path that led him to the pinnacle of power in Osun state, Ogbeni Aregbesola should know that nothing that turns out good in life is ever given free of charge. Not good wealth, not good friends, not good health…and definitely not good education.

Perhaps the biggest irony of the government’s policy of ‘free’ education is that when critically analyzed, the system is not even free. A much-touted dividend of the ‘free’ education policy is the common uniform for all students of government-owned schools.

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About the ‘free’ school uniforms, parents in Osun state had the following to say: “the uniform wears out too quickly and cannot be purchased elsewhere than from the State approved company. We were made to wrongly believe that the uniform would be free as part of the Free Education policy when the first batch was distributed for free. However, purchasing another one afterwards costs about N2,000” (www.9ralife.com)

While we’re on the matter of parents, another sad result of the ‘free’ education system in Osun state is a complete and conscious self-dissociation from the education of their children by parents, especially the unenlightened. In many schools, the PTA was more or less nonexistent and where it did exist, it had no purse to fund events like student socio-cultural and end-of-term gatherings because the government decreed that parents not be levied. On market days, the classrooms dried up because parents sent their children to the market with wares for sale. And on other school days, one too many parents took their children to the farms.

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No chance, no time, school can wait.

In order to avoid such indolence by parents towards the education of their wards, and in fact, for the sake of reason considering the population of children involved, subsidized education is clearly a wiser path to tow than ‘free’ education. But His Excellency’s government will not hear of it.

 

  1. Opon Imo:

According to Aregbesola, Opon Imo is ‘a virtual classroom containing 63 e-books covering 17 academic subjects for examinations, an average of 16 chapters per subject and 823 chapters in all, with about 900 minutes or 15 hours of audio voiceovers…more than 40,000 JAMB and WAEC practice questions and answers…mock tests in more than 51 subject areas, which approximates to 1,22o chapters, with roughly 29,000 questions referencing about 825 images’.

I wish I could confirm or challenge any of these claims but I cannot because in all the months I spent teaching in Osun state, I never saw an Opon Imo tablet. Neither did my students, nor for that matter, any students in my local government of primary assignment. My enquiries revealed that it was a similar case in many other local governments across the state.

I do not know which students received the 50,000 units of Opon Imo tablets that the governor supposedly ‘distributed across the state’…

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Oh, there they are.

Still, I wish more of them ended up in the hands of the younger students, more than two-thirds of whom are yet to own one. And if they eventually do get the Opon Imo, I would like to ask Governor Aregbesola questions like: ‘Are the learning materials in English or Yoruba?’, ‘Who will teach the children to use the Opon Imo? No, not all the propaganda about support centres and ambassadors…really, who will teach them?’, ‘And you say it will phase out textbooks? How? More importantly, why?’

 

  1. Re-classification of schools:

Another key point of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s education policy is re-classification of schools into elementary school (5 years), middle school (4 years) and high school (3 years), as against the national education policy of 6-3-3. In addition, the re-classification had attendant mega schools which accommodated many small schools bringing children from different religious backgrounds under the same roof to learn.

The administration claimed that this new system would give the pupils more time at the middle school so as to be “better prepared for maturity into high school”.

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From my vantage point at the grassroots, all I saw the re-classification doing was tearing apart whatever hope was left for the struggling Osun child. These children were being taught WAEC syllabus in local parlance, had very minuscule grasp of English language as a result and even less significant academic and social abilities. It was therefore very tactless, in my opinion, to force upon them the rigors of such a transformation.

Seeing as a good number of students still struggled to grasp the technicality of writing their own names, it was disorienting to learn that their class was no more JSS 2 for example, but Grade 7. Many of them quit school when their classes were moved far away from them, to one of the mega schools. And consequently religious havoc erupted in the state as Muslim schools protested against having to conform to Christian students in their midst, and vice versa.

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The re-classification activity was not just unnecessary but potentially damaging to the struggle of education in the state of Osun. It was a badly conceived move by the governor’s administration and even worse, poorly executed which explains why in many rural communities, the change was just too burdensome that it was made only on paper.

I do not think that Engineer Rauf Aregbesola is a bad man with intentions to ruin Osun state. I think he is an intelligent man – his media and publicity contraptions are so robust that to observers from outside the walls of the state, he can do no wrong; I think he is a shrewd politician who in spite of all, manages to keep both the grassroots and elite smiling for the camera; and I think he is a man whose good intentions for his people are constantly at war with – and losing to – his personal and party political ambitions.

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Come Saturday, August 9, 2014, the people of Osun state will march to the polls to cast their votes for the person who will sit in the executive seat of the state for the next four years. My beef with the man currently in that seat does not project any ill will towards him. It merely calls attention to the potentially fatal tilt of the education system which I witnessed under his leadership.

Hopefully, Engineer Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola or his successor will pay attention; because otherwise, I fear for the future of the children in the state of the living spring.

I rest my beef.

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Locate me @ojukwu_martin on twitter