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.

…if we have a country

thinking man

Dear Suzzy,

Contrition overwhelms me as I pen these words. I am ashamed of myself because I lied to you and made a promise I knew would be hard to keep. On a second thought, I forgive myself because you pushed me. You pushed me when you kissed me the other night and made me promise to take you to Nigeria on Valentine’s Day.

I must have been hypnotized by that kiss or the food we ate afterwards.  I am certain that I wouldn’t have made such a weighty promise if I was in control of my senses.

I hate to disappoint you my dear but we have to cancel the arrangement. We cannot spend Valentine day in Nigeria because my country will be at war on that day.

I know how eager you are to visit Africa and Nigeria. I know how much you look forward to meeting the nice people and seeing the beautiful places you have read and heard about. But your curiosity can wait another year my dear.

If you don’t want to have Valentine memories tainted in tears and blood then we should remain here and cuddle on that day. With the super-fast internet at our disposal, we can watch the madness in my country from a distance. Our love is young and sweet but I fear it will never be the same if I take you home this Valentine.

Suzzy my dear, you are probably wondering why I am so scared when all that is happening is just an election to decide who will be president of my country. But you won’t understand. You have lived in these peaceful climes for too long and you think elections in other parts of the world are the same with what you have here.

But you are wrong my dear. In my own part of the world, elections are like war. We go to the polls afraid of what will happen when the results are announced. However it turns out, tears, blood and wanton destruction of property are normal features of elections in Nigeria.

You ask why it is like that?  It is because politics in my country smacks of desperation. Those who hold power sit tight even when they have performed below expectations and those who want it will throw everything including the kitchen sink to actualize their ambitions.

My dear Suzzy, we can’t make this visit to Nigeria because the forthcoming elections may be bloody. Everyone is afraid the country may go up in flames regardless of the outcome.

Have you forgotten what my friends in Berlin said when we visited for Christmas? I mean, you saw the trepidation in Timi’s eyes when he told us his parents were planning to relocate temporarily from their home in the Kaduna because they fear a riot might start when the results are announced.

Joe my friend in Lagos, said some people were already planning to go to Ghana, Republic of Benin and other neighboring countries during the election. That’s what happens every time we go to the polls in my country. Those who have the means run away until the madness abates. The poor and innocent ones are always at the short end of the stick. Some die. Others lose their homes and means of livelihood while another group of survivors will spend the rest of their lives nursing physical and emotional wounds that will never heal.

Suzzy, do you know what is really annoying this time?  We are to choose between two men who probably don’t deserve to be president of any country in the world.

Unlike your own country where you have to choose from a pool of brilliant minds, with enviable track records, election in my country is based strictly on ethnic and religious sentiments.

My dear, do you know how difficult it is to choose between an incumbent president who has failed in many areas and a 72-year old retired General with a questionable past?  Joe says it is like standing between the devil and the deep blue sea.

You know another annoying thing as we prepare for this election? It is the fact that no one is asking the fundamental questions. On Facebook, Twitter and other social media platform, the re-packaged General is portrayed as our knight in shining amour.  To his teeming supporters, it is a sacrilege to express contrary opinions about him.

They sound as if this man who overthrew a democratic president some 32 years ago has the magic pills to cure all that ails Nigeria the moment he becomes president. As though voting for him will instantly mark the end of the epileptic power supply, equip hospitals without drugs, revamp universities of shallow knowledge, fix blood sucking expressways and better the lives of millions of impoverished citizens in one day.

As for the incumbent President, the cookies are crumbling around him with every passing day. They say he is weak and inept to rule a complex country like Nigeria and he is not doing much to change that opinion.

You know what is most funny about his re-election campaign? His followers compare him to Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew and other famous leaders and then urge us to give him more time to transform our country.

So Suzzy, do you see why we can’t go to Nigeria for Valentine this year? Let’s just watch from here and pray God and the angels protect our loved ones who can’t get out of the country.

I know how disappointed you feel right now but I promise you in the name of our love that we will spend the next Valentine in Nigeria…if we have a country after 2015.

With love, now and forever

Veen

Vincent Nzemeke is a Nigerian currently studying in Germany

Looking for God in Germany

Vin's article

It took Brother John four weeks to find a church in Germany and when he finally did, he had more questions than answers. Since he came here, his spiritual life has gradually receded into comatose.

Praying which used to be the first item on his daily routine back home has now become such a difficult task. His King James Bible sits quietly on the shelf where he dropped it the day he moved into his room and even when he tries to listen to those gospel songs that inspire him on Sunday mornings, they sound like Reggae in his ears.

Determined to mark his first 30 days in Germany with a thanksgiving service in church, Brother John launched a search on Google map. After some minutes of fixing his gaze meticulously on the computer screen, he found a church close to his city. He heaved a sigh of relief and made up his mind to attend the service on Sunday.

Brother John was dressed to the nines on Sunday morning. Now used to the weather and lifestyle of Europe, he knew what to wear, how to wear them and where to take a train to his destination.

On the train, he sat facing a fifty-something-year-old woman who smiled more than she talked. Every time their eyes met, the woman would smile as though her life depended on it.

When the train stopped at the Bahnhof, the woman proved to be more than a smiling figure. Despite the fact she couldn’t speak English fluently, she managed the show Brother John the direction to the church. It was just a few minutes’ walk from where the train stopped.

The church was a tall building older than everyone who worshiped there. Coming from a country where religious organizations contribute a great deal to noise pollution, Brother John thought this place was too quiet to be a church. There were no loud speakers on the roof and the sound-proof doors at the entrance made it difficult to tell what was happening inside from outside.

At the entrance of the church, some men and women were puffing smoke from their cigarettes. Beside them was a tray carrying a heap of packs and filters from already consumed cigarettes. Is the God in Germany merciful to the point of allowing this abomination in his house? Brother John was thinking aloud.

The door was heavier than it looked when Brother John tried to open it. In his country, he would have been welcomed by smiling female ushers dedicated to serving the lord with their strength. They would have directed him to vacant seats in the auditorium and most likely handed him a white envelope to package his offerings and other kingdom investments. But in this German church, he was all by himself.

Ambling through the aisles, he found a seat somewhere in the middle of the auditorium. His eyes roved through the hall and settled on the altar where a man was speaking.

Unlike the men of God in his country, this pastor was ordinary and completely bereft of the pizazz of a modern day pastor. He wore a jean and a black sweat shirt. From the interpreter’s headphone in front of his seat, Brother John learnt that the pastor was speaking about “forgiving our enemies as Jesus Christ did”. The congregation listened attentively.

Pastor ended his sermon with the Amazing grace hymn. They sang in German but Brother John sang in English. The announcement about the next meeting followed and the service was over. There was no testimony, offering or high praise session. There was no healing and deliverance session. There was no weekly prophecy and no time for prayer requests.

Brother John felt empty. This was different from everything he knew about God from his country. On his way out he saw more smokers at entrance of the church. Some lovers were also cuddling in the cold and God did not mind.

He walked home with a flood of questions on his mind. It is now five weeks and Brother John is still looking for God in Germany.

By

Vincent Nzemeke (@vincentnzemeke)

I paid my offering to a taxi driver

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“Praise da lord somebody”, Pastor Tutu’s effervescent voice wafted from the speakers, travelled through the congregation and landed on sleepy ears.

The following hallelujah was cold and drab.

The Super Eagles will play in an hour; they will not win, but we will do our bit as patriotic citizens by watching even as their performance breaks our hearts.

“I say praise da lord ooooooo”, she crooned again.

This time the hallelujah was louder but still bereft of the enthusiasm that is usually so palpable in our Sunday morning services.

I was – and I guess my fellow worshippers were too – tired and angry that Pastor John, her husband and CEO of our church had made us stand longer than necessary during his sermon. I mean, we had gotten used to the usual “tell your neighbor this is my week of unmerited favors”, and “I am going to my high places” or “I am touching my millions this week”; only last week, we drove imaginary cars, and the week before that, we fired our enemies to hell with holy ghost AK- 47s.

But this particular one – making us stand, hands in the air punching intermittently – under the guise of ‘finishing our enemies’ was utterly surprising even to first time worshippers. Those who attempted to sit through the exercise saw pastor’s red eye.

“Get up!” he yelled at Brother Freedom whose incredulous testimony much earlier in the service had seen him – and many of us too – dance like a lottery winner. “Who asked you to sit? The devourer, your enemy doesn’t sleep or rest and you’re sitting down when you should be fighting him. The bible says we’re wrestling against principality and powers, you think this is a joke?”

Pastor John hadn’t had to say more. His message was so clear and pointed that it ruptured Brother Freedom’s swag, and awash with shame, the brother had stood in one spot, face downwards until the end of the sermon.

As Pastor Tutu said “Offering time”, she had a dubious smile that can only come from a pastor’s wife as pretty and suave like her. She knew she had a hold on this congregation. Like an artist, she knew she had the power to draw and erase our moods however she wanted. She also knew her soothing voice was capable of righting all the wrongs her husband had done this Sunday morning.

“Package those offerings,” she cooed, “package the tithes, kingdom investments, transportation seed, church growth seed, project offering and every other substance you have brought and let’s honor the lord with it. The bible says while the earth remains, seed time and harvest shall not cease. And please always remember that they that sow in tears shall reap bountifully with Joy”.

If her smile was her charm, it was potent. The congregation responded like a flock of sheep following the direction of a diligent shepherd. The anger on the faces of the people faded and was replaced by quiet smiles. Hands were digging into bags and pockets and emerging with white envelopes and Naira notes of various denomination.

I thought people were angry that pastor John had pushed us too far. I thought they would vent their dissatisfaction by withholding their seeds, just as I have made up my mind to do. But the envelopes and hands that went up when she said “raise those seeds to the lord” made it clear that na only me waka come. I was a general without an army – the only worshipper who would not part with his offering on this Sunday morning.
Soon we were dancing, singing and clapping for the lord. The ushers were emptying the baskets of offerings into the large buckets under the watchful eyes of the strongest members of the “Jesus Mopol squad” from their vantage points close to the pastor’s seat.

 

Done with the collection, the hefty men grabbed the buckets firmly and breezed through the aisles. Our money – sorry God’s money – was going away.

I touched my back pocket to be sure my offering was still where I kept it, and I smiled contently as I felt its crisp edge. My N200 was right there the way I brought it. Naked. No envelope. No packaging.

We shared the grace and began to file out so the second service worshippers could come in. Some of them were already rushing to get seats in front. I looked at them and shook my head. If only they knew how Pastor John had made us stand, they would keep their offerings and join us as we filed out like prisoners.
On the road I flagged down a cab. The driver stopped and I hopped in. I didn’t notice the woman at the back until she spoke. “Oga driver, abeg no vex,” she stuttered, “my money don lost”

Oga driver was in no mood for super stories this Sunday morning. “Madam, that one nor concern me oooo! Why you no talk before you enter, you think say you wise abi? Na when we don dey reach your bus-stop you know say your money dey miss. Na so una dey do. Mscheww! You must pay me my money ooooo!”
Was madam a trickster? Did she make up this cock and bull story because she knew I didn’t pay my offering in church? The argument was becoming too loud for my ears so I shut it all up. And went with my heart – I decided to be a gentleman.

“Oga how much be her money”, I asked with the cockiness of a banker.

“From where I carry am, her money na 150”, came his reply.

“How much be my own?”

“Your own na 100 naira sah”, he said.

I smiled wryly, dug my hand into my pocket and brought out the N200 note – the offering box escapee. From my wallet I brought out another N100 and handed both notes over to the driver.

“You can keep the change sir”, I said as I alighted.

I walked home feeling good, like a Good Samaritan and a gentleman. I helped the needy with my offering. I gave my offering to a taxi driver.

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By Vincent Nzemeke ( on twitter)

EKITI 2014 AND THE RE-DEFINITION OF A GOOD MAN

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The Ekiti 2014 gubernatorial elections which held on Saturday, June 21 returned Ayo Fayose as victor over incumbent governor, Kayode Fayemi. The results of that election reminded of five lessons which I had hitherto forgotten:

1)       Ekiti 2014 and the re-definition of a good man

By Vincent Nzemeke (@vincentnzemeke on twitter)

“The result of the gubernatorial election held in Ekiti state this weekend evoked memories of a stage play I watched at the Muson Centre, Lagos sometimes in the 2011.

Although it was an adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s famous book ‘A man of the people’, the play which also had the same title was tweaked to fit into the reality of modern day Nigeria.

Debuting just weeks before the 2011 general election, it was a political satire that portrayed our lives as a people. It was set to depict the complexity of elections in Nigeria and how the perception of the people can affect the outcome of an election.

In the play, Tobi an American returnee was vying for a senatorial seat with Chief Omobolaji Bello, a stark illiterate who had accumulated so much wealth from his position as the one and only chairman of the biggest motor park in the community.

During the campaign, Tobi marketed lofty ideas and visions for the community to the people. He waxed lyrical about how he had spent his time and personal resources to develop the community and went about with a list of what he had done and the many things he hoped to achieve if given a chance to represent the community at the Senate.

Chief on the other hand, had a carnival-like campaign that touched every nook and cranny of the community. He had itinerant dancers who made a show everywhere his train stopped. He spent a better part of the campaign period throwing jibes at Tobi and telling the people not to allow him corrupt them with his foreign ways. And of course, he had a deep pocket from which he doled out money relentlessly to the people.

To cut the long story short as we say in this part of the world, when it was time to vote, the people settled for Chief Bello. They rejected the lofty ideas and vision of young Tobi and settled for the chief who had over the years connived with politicians to under-develop the community.

At the end of the performance, the leader of the advocacy group that organized the play asked us (the audience) why the people chose Chief Bello. There were many opinions because everyone had an explanation for what we had just seen. But at the end, we all agreed that there would never be an acceptable definition of “the man of the people”, especially as it relates to politics in Nigeria.

As the results trickled in from Ekiti on Saturday, that million dollar question resonated in my mind. It was obvious from the early results that Fayose, the PDP candidate had a commanding lead.  I was curious to know why the people of Ekiti where it is said that almost every family has a professor would send a cerebral governor like Kayode Fayemi of APC packing and replace him with a man who was impeached some years back.

If the people of Ekiti could turn their backs on a governor whose performance in the last four years has been adjudged to be well above average even by his political rival, who then is qualified to be called a man of the people?

Is it the man with an eye on posterity who devotes himself to building infrastructures and delivering other dividends of democracy that can be bequeathed to the next generation or the one who simply gives the people what they need to survive today?

Since the election ended, I have read tomes of commentaries in newspapers and social media platforms that are at best ridiculous. The Fayose lackeys will tell you that their man won because PDP is better than APC but I don’t buy that.

I have always described both parties as two sides of a bad coin because they are different only in names and symbol. The broom is as corrupt as the umbrella.

The election in my estimation was a protest against Fayemi who even in the halcyon days of his administration had been accused of running an elitist government. I once had a chat with a civil servant from the state who told me point blank that the man was way too sophisticated for the ordinary man in Ekiti.

According to him, Fayemi junkets from one part of the country to the other delivering lectures about how the future of Ekiti would be better while the people lack the basic things they need to live through today.

Fayose, methinks won this election because he is a good man in the Nigerian sense. You see in this clime, no one cares a hoot about tomorrow; we live for now and simply leave the future to take care of itself.

Fayemi concentrated on what posterity would say about him, Fayose bothered only about what those living now think about him. That is why it is so easy for him to connect with the lowest of the low in Ekiti and get them to vote for him.

I am also of the view that Fayemi devoted too much effort to social media rather than getting to the grassroots. As one of the tweets circulated on Saturday puts it: “the peasants and ordinary folks in Ekiti who voted for Fayose have no Twitter and Facebook accounts. The governor should have known that the bulk of those singing his praise on the social media don’t even have time to vote. Fayose did not brag on Facebook, he did not gather followers on Twitter, he went to the people and that was what mattered at the end of the day.

All said and done, Ekiti 2014, has given me a perfect definition of a good man in today’s Nigeria. I believe this new definition will also be useful to those of us aspiring to venture into politics sooner or later.

A good man is he who does not give a hoot about what posterity would write or say about him, he simply lives for now. A good man is not he who talks about leaving a legacy for generations yet unborn; he is the one who shares food, money and other essentials needed by the masses to live through today.

When I finally decide to begin my political career, I hope to be a good man.”

 

As written by Vincent Nzemeke, a friend, brother, former and future colleague who blogs at vincentnzemeke.blogspot.com

2)       When I finally decide to begin my own political career, I hope to be a good man too; a good man who has a twitter account.

 

3)       An incumbent cannot lose a re-election bid in Nigeria unless (a) he slapped a priest in Owerri; or (b) he is not a good man. P.S: Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will do well to know this in view of 2015.

 

4)       Our leaders are not forced to be who they are not by their positions of authority or by political parties or by ‘pressure’; they elect to be the IGODO masquerades they turn out to be.

 

5)       “Leadership itself is merely the opportunity to serve & power is a God-given resource with which we are meant to change lives for d better” – Kayode Fayemi.

 

GOD BLESS NIGERIA!