Following the inability of the local government councils to mobilise enough money to pay workers salaries, the Niger State House of Assembly has given approval for the state government to obtain an overdraft of N1.85 billion to pay the arrears.
Marafa who was elected on Tuesday was nominated by Alhaji Bashir Lokogoma, APC, Wushishi, and Alhaji Bako Alfa, APC, Bida North.
The approval came yesterday during a brief session of the House based on the letter from the state governor, AlhajiAbubakar Sani Bello.
The speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon Marafa Ahmedhad read a letter from the governor dated 29/6/2015 requesting that the overdraft would make up for the shortfall in the 25 local governments’ 2015 budget.
According Leadership the amount was to be used to pay the one month arrears of salaries of the workers of the 25 local government councils in the state.
Consequently the state governor took the step to avert industrial action from the workers and rescue the councils’ workers from the suffering inherent in the non-payment of their salaries.
After brief deliberation the House gave the approval for the governor to take the overdraft on the state local government joint account and the speaker therefore directed the clerk of the Assembly to convey the approval to the governor.
Marafa thanked the members for their response and understanding of the situation while restating the determination of the lawmakers to give necessary support to the state governor in delivering dividends of democracy to the people. The speaker appealed to the people of the state to be patient with the APC government.
Meanwhile Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello has condemned the deductions of money from the June salaries of civil servants in the state, alleging sabotage to tarnish the image of his government.
Apparently saying that he did not order for such deductions, the governor said that he was surprised that he received report that about N10,000 and above were being deducted from civil servants’ June salaries.
Consequently, he ordered the Secretary to the state government ( SSG), Alhaji Shehu Danyaya to set up acommittee to investigate the deductions from the June salaries of the civil servants and report back before 2 pm next week Tuesday.
President Muhammadu Buhari when in Washington urged American entrepreneurs to use
the opportunities offered by the liberal trade and investment climate in Nigeria to do
profitable business. President Buhari who gave the advice at a business forum organized by
the United States Chamber of Commerce and The Corporate Council on Africa, said that his
administration would continue with the Federal Government’s privatization programme in
various sectors of the economy. According to him, the privatization exercise will be
expanded to include the nation’s Aviation, Telecommunication, Energy, Gas, Solid Minerals,
Health, and Infrastructure development sectors.
In His words, “It is my intention to create the necessary environment for future investment
in Nigeria. We are the most populous nation and largest market in Africa with vast human
and natural resources and blessed with abundant young skilled workforce. We are,
therefore, proud candidates to become the destination of choice for United States
investments in Africa”.
He added, "I will work assiduously to welcome new investors to our country. I would like to
remind you all that we are continuing in major privatization programme with sectors
ranging from Telecommunication, Energy, Gas, Solid Minerals, Aviation, Health and
Infrastructural development, but with improved moral architecture. We will also simplify
visa procedures based on the principle of reciprocity. May I, therefore, seize this
opportunity to formally invite the American business community to take advantage of our
liberal trade and investment climate to do profitable business in Nigeria.”
The President, therefore, called on the business communities in the United States and
Nigeria to exploit the excellent political relations between the two countries to expand
trade and investment as well as enter into joint venture projects in priority sectors of the
Nigerian economy. He identified power generation, gas, agriculture value chain, mining,
health, tourism, among others, as the sectors needing expansion.
He said, “While I recognize the pivotal role of government in facilitating and promoting
economic growth, the private sector must assume an increasing role as part of the engine of
growth. We will welcome genuine investors, who are willing to come to Nigeria for solid
mineral exploitation.” He pledged that his administration would carry out its key campaign
promises including the creation of employment opportunities for millions of Nigerian
youths. “Generating employment was one of my key campaign promises. I will do my best
to keep this promise”.
He stated further, “There is no other way to expand economic opportunities and create
employment opportunities for millions of our youths than boosting domestic
manufacturing, undertaking infrastructural development and industrialization. Let me
repeat, Nigeria will partner with genuine investors who are willing to join us to achieve our
economic objective and at the same time realize handsome returns to recoup their
investments. There is more to Nigeria than oil. This is why I will continue to stress the need
for increased United States investments in our non-oil sector. In this respect the present
administration will be attentive to the needs of the business community and pursue policy
that will strengthen the sectors that drive the growth.”
President Mohammadu Buhari reassured that his administration would reduce waste in the
management of the Nigerian economy through prudence, accountability, and good
governance as well as respect for the Rule of Law, strict compliance with and observance of
contractual agreements. According to him, Nigeria has huge economic potential that
required heavy funding that cannot be sourced locally.
“In this regard, I want to use this platform to encourage United States foreign investment
and funding agencies such as Overseas Investment Corporation and the United States
Export–Import Bank to increase access to capital and funding of such businesses on
favourable terms. Nigerian potentials are already being exploited” he
In his remarks, the Chairman, Corporate Council on Africa, Mr Paul Hinks, expressed the
readiness of American investors to do business with the new government in Nigeria. He,
therefore, invited President Buhari to chair the council’s summit scheduled to hold in
Ethiopia in November.
Lafarge Africa Plc says its newly constructed 220-megawatts power plant at Ewekoro, Ogun State, will commence operation in October.
The project, reported to be worth $400 million (N78.8 billion), was executed in partnership with the International Finance
Corporation (IFC) and Wartsila.
The Management of Lafargee said IFC would provide financial and advisory services for the project through InfraVentures, its Global Infrastructure Project Development Fund, while Wartsila would build and manage the power plant.
They expressed the hope that the project would enhance 1.4 million households’ access to electricity and help mitigate energy problems of many firms in the country.
They said power project remained one of the company’s contributions toward providing an enabling environment for new investments and the nation’s economic growth.
The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is the licensed embedded power companies to boost electricity supply in the country. Embedded power companies are not primarily power generating companies, but they generate extra power from their operations and sell the surplus to the national grid or the distribution companies.
Africa and the Middle East contribute 18 per cent to the company’s turnover in 2014. Nigeria represents about three-and-half per cent of the company’s turnover from Africa in 2014.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Mrs. Uju Aisha Hassan Baba and a team from USAID led by the Director, Economic Growth and Environment, Mr. Matthew Burton agreed for the two agencies to work together to promote investments and provide support services to investors.
The NIPC Chief Executive who received the USAID team in her office on Tuesday in Abuja described their visit as timely as it coincided with the repositioning of the Commission for optimal performance through her new strategic framework.
The strategic framework known as “The NIPC Diamond Project – A future beyond Oil” have its components Investment Climate; Financial Value Chain, Sector and Geographic Prioritization, Regulatory Support and Investor Aftercare, Market Intelligence, Mega Projects and Investors (Game Changers), National Branding and Image and Investor Engagement platform.
She said the Commission is working assiduously to support the present administration in her economic drive through the inflow of both Foreign and Local Direct Investment and therefore called on USAID to work with the NIPC to coordinate and promote investments in the non-oil sectors, especially Agro-business they are promoting stressing that “As our partnership is being strengthened, please consider NIPC as the channel of communication on trade, investment and industry related matters for proper coordination with other agencies and the private sector”.
She explained that NIPC is the statutory organization set up by the Federal Government to promote and coordinate investments into the country and therefore called on both local and foreign investors to always refer to her for information, advise and guidance “as the Commission provides both pre and after care services to investors”.
Earlier, the leader of USAID delegation and Director, Economic Growth and Environment, Mr. Matthew Burton said they were in the Commission to strengthen their partnership and discuss on how to promote investments into the country. “We want to deepen our partnership and ensure we work in close collaboration with the Commission to promote and attract investments into the country”, he added.
In five years, MainOne has invested over $300m in infrastructure in West Africa
LAGOS, Nigeria, June 30, 2015/ -- MainOne (http://www.mainone.net), a leading telecommunications and data services company in West Africa, today celebrated five years of leadership in transforming the region’s Internet landscape. Speaking at a Press Conference organized to intimate the media on the company’s five year milestone, the Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Funke Opeke, discussed the evolution of the company, initially started as a submarine cable operator to becoming a full-service business-to-business communications services provider. Ms. Opeke noted that within its five years of operation, the company had made further investments in growing directly and through partnerships its fiber terrestrial network and POPs across the region and opened a Tier III Data Center, MDX-I, which was first of its kind for the region in Lagos earlier this year.She explained that since inception, MainOne’s objective has been to bridge the digital divide in West Africa and to become the preferred provider of wholesale Internet services and enabler of online business within the region.
According to her, it has achieved this with services delivered to 7 countries in West Africa, and an impressive list of 500+ major telecom operators, ISPs, government agencies, large enterprises, and educational institutions in the region on its network. Today, MainOne has the region’s highest lit capacity on its submarine cable, and is the #1 Internet transit provider in West Africa, interconnected with the London Internet Exchange (LINX), Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMIX), Nigerian Internet Exchange (IXPN) and the Ghanaian Internet Exchange (GIX). These achievements have opened up new business opportunities for indigenous enterprises, and positively impacted employment generation.
In her words, “Despite the challenges we face in this region, predominantly a dearth and high cost of infrastructure, we are excited about the future prospects in the broadband market and are determined to remain consistent in our resolve to bridging the digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world".
In five years, MainOne has invested over $300m in infrastructure in West Africa towards improving connectivity and data center services in West Africa. Within this period, the company has ensured to its customers highly available and reliable services with zero downtime experienced on its core submarine cable infrastructure over its period of operations.
Stakeholders have called for a review of the Contributory Pension Scheme, operated under the Pension Reform Act 2004 to make it more beneficial for subscribers.
While workers and pensioners want the scheme scrapped and a return to the old scheme, the mangers and labour leaders say it is more beneficial but needs to be better managed.
Some of the workers called for a return to the old system funded through the treasury.
Retirees and workers said pension benefits in the contributory scheme were meagre and never guaranteed happy old age.
A retiree from Jigawa, Malam Usman Abubakar, described the contributory pension scheme as a ‘fraud’.
He said that under the new dispensation, workers were expected to contribute 7.5 per cent of their emoluments with equal contribution by the employer.
“Unfortunately after retirement, the lump sum is divided into three and the retiree goes home with only a portion of his contributions.
“Your Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) will tell you that the remaining part of the money will be kept for you to be servicing your monthly pension, while the rest will be invested in a business that no one knows,” he said
He described the arrangement as unfair and unfavourable to retirees and called on the Muhammadu Buhari administration to revert to the old pension scheme.
“Retirees should be given their full entitlements and be allowed to decide what to do with it and not for PFA to decide for them how to invest their resources,” Abubakar said.
However, the Executive Secretary of Jigawa State Local Government and State Contributory Pension Scheme Board, Suleiman Kiyawa, said the state was operating a pension policy that catered for the interest of its workers.
Suleiman explained that under the new scheme, the state government engaged six pension fund administrators to manage the pension of workers.
He said about 500 retired civil servants who retired the state and local government services between January and May were currently collecting their entitlements without hitches.
The Business Manager of Premium Pension Limited in charge of Jigawa, Usman Raji said that the new scheme had a lot of advantages for a retired civil servant.
According to him, one of the key advantages is that even if someone is dismissed from the service, his employer cannot deny him the money that has accumulated in his name.
But some retired federal civil servants in Bauchi condemned the Contributory Pension Scheme and called for a return to the old order.
A pensioner, Dauda Aminu, said that the old scheme was better as it enabled a retiree to determine what to do with his or her gratuity.
He said that PFAs paid little as monthly pension, which was not enough to sustain a retiree and his family.
A civil servant, Joseph Abdu, said that often pension managers decided on how and what to pay individuals without considering their interests.
Abdu suggested that retirees be given bulk money to enable them to plan their future by deciding on investments of their choice.
“You work for a period of time and upon retirement, someone is there deciding for you how you go about spending you own money. To me, the idea looks too selfish and self-centred,” he said.
Malam Abubakar Pantami, a staff of Premium Pension, a PFA in Bauchi, however, said pensioners received their gratuities within 90 days of retirement.
He said that 50 per cent of the lump sum was given to those above 60 years and 25 per cent to those who retired below as 60, while the remainder was spread and paid as monthly pension.
Meanwhile, stakeholders in Borno commended the Federal Government for introducing the Contributory Pension Scheme, saying it guaranteed happy retirement.
They said the new scheme had curtailed massive corruption associated with pension administration in the country.
John Abaya, a lecturer at Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri, said that the new system ensured that retired civil servants received their entitlements immediately they retired.
“I think that the 2004 Pension Reform is one of the best things that have happened to our pension system because it guarantees happy retirement for workers.
“Unlike in the previous system, the Pension Fund Administrators pay workers their contribution on retirement,” he said.
Malam Ahmed Sani, a retired civil servant, said, `It took less than 48 hours for my PFA to issue out my cheque when I retired in 2014 unlike in previous years when retired workers died while waiting for their benefits,” Sani said.
Solomon Mamza, a civil servant with Borno Government, appealed to the state government, to adopt the new scheme.
Mamza said that the new scheme was the only solution to delays in payment of terminal benefits of workers in Nigeria.
Also, the secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Gombe State, Adamu Muhammed, said the new scheme had addressed the problem of fraud in the old arrangement which led to accumulation of unpaid pensions.
“People are still retiring and the arrears are accumulating. The new pension scheme is better because no matter how small the percentage you will receive, you are sure of getting something at appropriate time,” he said.
He said that in Gombe State, the government had inaugurated a committee since 2014 to work out modalities on how to implement the new pension scheme.
Musa Mohammed, a civil servant in Gombe, however, said the old scheme was better so long there was money to implement it.
“Under the old system, gratuities are paid in bulk or in two instalments, and that will enable the retiree build a house or engage in a business venture that will sustain him.
“The second advantage is that a retiree has a guarantee of a reasonable and fixed amount paid to him as pension every month,” he said.
In Adamawa, Federal Government pensioners called for a review of the 2004 Pension Act to address some issues in pension management.
Abraham Galadima, a former Director in the Federal Ministry of Education, said that the old scheme was better in terms of monthly pension benefits.
“The new pension scheme has no human face; there is no reason why I should not be allowed to decide what to do with my money.
“I spent 35 years serving my country and at the end, I do not have complete access to my accumulated pension savings ,” Galadima said.
Malam Umar Gabdo, another pensioner, said that the new pension law did not take into cognisance, the ‘rights’ of retirees .
“I prefer the old pension system because benefits are paid completely in spite of the delays in payment,” Gabdo said.
He called on the relevant authorities to review the law to enable retires to have complete control over their benefits.
Abubakar Kawu, the Chairman of Pension Board in Adamawa, observed that the new pension system had its benefits and shortcomings.
Kawu said that the new system was acceptable to the government because it reduced the financial obligations of the authorities to solely settle benefits.
Pensioners in Kebbi, Katsina, Kano and Zamfara states also called for a review of the law to enhance sums paid subscribers of the new scheme.
Some retirees told NAN that the amount paid to retirees as gratuity was too meagre to make life meaningful for them.
They also complained about the amount paid monthly as pension, saying it was also meagre compared to what was paid under the old scheme.
Kabir Ado, Kano State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the act should be amended to raise the contribution by the Federal Government.
According to him, retirees under the scheme run by the Federal Government have been complaining about what they receive after retirement.
“There are a lot of factors that push the federal pensioners to complain, that is why a lot of parastatal (agencies) are withdrawing from the pension scheme.
“If they are enjoying they would not have been complaining about it,” he noted.
Ado suggested the adoption of the Kano model, under which the employer contributed 18 per cent while the employee contributed 17 per cent to the pension fund.
According to the NLC chairman, Kano State runs a flawless pension scheme with robust benefits to retirees.
He said since the introduction of the scheme in 2006, pensioners received their benefits within three months of retirement.
“I do not think in Kano state there is any pensioner who is being owed even a month’s pension,” Ado said.
Isa Aremu, a labour leader, also suggested the amendment of the law to allow contributors access to the fund before retirement.
“The fund should also be used to fund housing schemes.
“Contributors should be allowed to borrow money from the scheme to build houses, which means it is not later when one retires before owning a house.
“This will require an amendment of the act to ensure that workers can access their contributions before retirement.”
Aremu said the scheme should also be made more efficient such that a retiree would be paid within three months of retirement.
He also wants all states to join the new scheme to avoid current situation in which some state governments are unable to settle the retirement benefits of workers.
Aremu advised National Pension Commission (PenCom) to expand the scheme by enrolling people in the informal sector.
According to him, only about nine million contributors are registered under the new pension scheme out of the more than 80 million eligible contributors.
“Labour is ready to partner with PenCom to make sure that the more than 70 million workers not captured under the scheme are brought in.”
Ashahabu Lawal, a pensioner in Katsina State, said it took him six months to start receiving his benefits after retirement.
He said that what a pensioner received under the new scheme was grossly inadequate to cater for his wellbeing.
Lawal also criticised some PFAs for refusing to pay reasonable amounts to enrollees.
He also blamed PenCom for undue delay in processing retirees’ entitlements, thereby causing problems for them as they waited to be paid.
Another retiree, Adamu, attributed delays in the settlement of retirees’ benefits to failure of the commission to do its work on time.
Muhammadu Sani, an ex-officio member of National Union of Pensioners in Sokoto State, called for harmonisation of pensions in the country in line with the national minimum wage.
He also called for periodic review of the pensions in line with economic realities.
” The Federal Government should also enforce new pensions circulars in states and local governments,” he said.
A pensioner, Tukur Kofar-Atiku said most pensioners in the country were languishing in abject poverty.
“Most of us are receiving peanuts as monthly pensions and the disparity in the pension regimes is not helping the situation,” he noted.
Some pensioners in Zamfara also called for “ better pension” management to make it more beneficial to retirees.
AHaruna Muhammad, a former staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission complained about the gratuity he received after retirement in 2010.
“Though I did not experience any delay before I started receiving pension after my retirement, the amount given to me as gratuity was not much compared to what my colleagues using old pension scheme collected.”
He called for a review of the scheme to enable retirees to receive more money.
“Much needed to be done in order to strengthen the system and make it more beneficial to enrolees,” he added.
On his part, Ummaru Sulaimanu, who retired from the Federal Ministry of Information, said he received his benefit after eight months of retirement.
“From the time I collected my gratuity, my monthly pension kept coming on time without any delay.”
He however noted that the new system was not good for retirees because of “the meagre amount paid as gratuity.”
“It is unfortunate that the money will not be enough for a retiree who retired without possessing a house and wants to buy one with the gratuity.”
Also, Muhammad Dankande, the Zamfara State Secretary of Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP) said that the major weakness of the new system was in the area of low amount paid as gratuity.
In Kebbi, where the new pension scheme took off in 2014, the retirees expressed hope that it would be different from the old scheme through prompt payment of entitlements.
Bala Habibu, the Secretary of Pensioners association, said the adoption of e-payment of entitlements to retired personnel had been successful, so far.
Sadiq Kaoje, a former Chairman of the state branch of NLC, said the new scheme had been accepted by workers, and expressed the hope that it would translate into “happy old age for contributors”.
A civil servant, Hamza Galadima, prayed that the new scheme would eliminate long delays in the payment pension as experienced under the old one.
“Even though the scheme is new, the prospect of the benefits of comfort at retirement has been imbedded in it and we hope it will remain beneficial to contributors,” he said.
A pensioner, Malami Bagudo, complained that the new scheme operated in the state did not review the pension rate for retirees.
“If the rate is not reviewed then the pensioner’s old age would be in pain, especially considering the high cost of living. We hope authorities would review the rate.”
However, Sokoto State Treasurer of NUP, Mu’azu Atto, and a Kaduna-based lawyer, Pascal Nickaf, called for the abolition of the contributory scheme.
“The contributory pension scheme is marred with a lot of challenges since it was introduced in 2004 and so far, it has not been beneficial to the retirees, particularly as they don’t usually get their benefits on time.
“More so, because workers contribution is usually very little, at the time of retirement the retirees end up with a very small amount as gratuity and a little package as monthly pension.
“In this kind of situation, no worker will be looking forward to his or her retirement because for a worker, retirement means a bleak future and that is why most civil servants don’t want to retire.
“The scheme is a complete failure since it cannot guarantee its main goal of ensuring happy old age for retirees.
“It should be abolished. Anything short of that will not favour the beneficiaries,” Nickaf said.
Atto on his part said government should revert to the old system to guarantee equity and early payment of entitlements.
” Some pensioners are now receiving about N4, 500 as monthly pension,” he said, and wondered how a person would live on that amount.
Christiana Auta, Business Manager, Premium Pension, Kaduna Office, however, attributed delays in payment of retirees’ entitlements to failure by PenCom to remit funds to PFAs on time.
“As I am talking to you now, we have not received retirees bond from PenCom for workers that retired from January to May this year and June is almost ending.
“The affected workers are yet to receive their entitlements because after preparing the payment template as designed by PenCom we will have to send same to PenCom for approval.
“Usually, the commission accepts only one payment template from a pension administrator per day.
“So these are some of the challenges confronting us as pension administrators,” Auta said.
By Cerutti Mike Osagie, Lagos
Sir Roger von Oech was pointblank right when he posited in a quote that:"It's easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date."
This very quote may be the driving force behind the rare union in innovative business bonding between Guaranty Trust Bank plc, a foremost financial institution in Africa and Etisalat, one of Nigeria’s most innovative and fastest growing telecommunications company.
In a most formal but elaborate ceremony, in the Akin Adesola, Victoria Island office of GTB, both organizations unveiled a rare partnership which has eventually given birth to the historic GTEasySavers, a savings account that is easy to open and easy to save; designed to enable under-banked and unbanked individuals achieve their financial goals while operating a regular bank account via their mobile phones. This strategic alliance that will enhance the service delivery of both brands, will offer customers, unparalleled lifestyle and loyalty benefits.
Registered subscribers of Etisalat network can conveniently open a GTEasySavers account by simply dialing a USSD short code –“737*0#”via their mobile phones, and a ten digit GTBank account number is sent via SMS immediately. Funding of the account can be done by Cash deposits at Etisalat Experience Centers and GTBank branches; electronic transfers from other bank accounts; Cash Deposit ATMs at GTBank branches and GT Express Agent locations.
Speaking on the partnership, the Managing Director and CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank plc, Mr. Segun Agbaje stated that “we are passionate about driving the CBN’s financial inclusion strategy in ensuring the under banked and unbanked, begin to find the propositions of banking services more attractive and convenient and then take the bold step of patronizing our numerous bank products and offerings, a passion which we fully share with Etisalat Nigeria”.
The GTEasySavers account operates like a regular bank account and is in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s financial inclusion strategy for the country. Transaction limits on the account is pegged at CBN’s Tier 1 KYC status limits of N20,000 for single deposits and maximum cumulative of N200,000 account balance at any point in time. Benefits for account holders include free airtime, higher interest rates on savings and quarterly rewards.
"This is a new chapter in the continuing growth of the banking industry made possible through GTEasySavers by GTBank and Etisalat Nigeria. Enabling account opening via an Etisalat phone will make it more convenient for individuals to carry out transactions using the transformative power of the banking system. Etisalat currently has the highest quality network in Nigeria and our partnership with GTBank is designed to add value to the lives of our customers and make banking more accessible. We will continue to offer innovative products and services in fulfillment of the promise we made to Nigeria over six years ago when we commenced operations in the country. The partnership will also begin the journey for unbanked customers from our over 22 million subscriber base," said Etisalat’s CEO Matthew Willsher.
Customers who sign up for this account need not provide any initial documentation but can upgrade the status of their accounts to Tier 3 at any time, by simply visiting any GTBank branch with additional information/documentation, including a valid identification card and utility bill.
I am immensely grateful to God who has preserved us to witness this day and this occasion. Today marks a triumph for Nigeria and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad we have today a truly democratically elected government in place.
I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation. Together we co-operated to surprise the world that had come to expect only the worst from Nigeria. I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country.
I would like to thank the millions of our supporters who believed in us even when the cause seemed hopeless. I salute their resolve in waiting long hours in rain and hot sunshine to register and cast their votes and stay all night if necessary to protect and ensure their votes count and were counted. I thank those who tirelessly carried the campaign on the social media. At the same time, I thank our other countrymen and women who did not vote for us but contributed to make our democratic culture truly competitive, strong and definitive.
I thank all of you.
Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians.
I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.
A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.
Our neighbours in the Sub-region and our African brethren should rest assured that Nigeria under our administration will be ready to play any leadership role that Africa expects of it. Here I would like to thank the governments and people of Cameroon, Chad and Niger for committing their armed forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria.
I also wish to assure the wider international community of our readiness to cooperate and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century.
At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.
In recent times Nigerian leaders appear to have misread our mission. Our founding fathers, Mr Herbert Macauley, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief J.S. Tarka, Mr Eyo Ita, Chief Denis Osadeby, Chief Ladoke Akintola and their colleagues worked to establish certain standards of governance. They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house.
Furthermore, we as Nigerians must remind ourselves that we are heirs to great civilizations: Shehu Othman Dan fodio’s caliphate, the Kanem Borno Empire, the Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire and King Jaja’s formidable domain. The blood of those great ancestors flow in our veins. What is now required is to build on these legacies, to modernize and uplift Nigeria.
Daunting as the task may be it is by no means insurmountable. There is now a national consensus that our chosen route to national development is democracy. To achieve our objectives we must consciously work the democratic system. The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution. We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system.
For their part the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past. The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today.
Elsewhere relations between Abuja and the States have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. Not least the operations of the Local Government Joint Account. While the Federal Government can not interfere in the details of its operations it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. As far as the constitution allows me I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.
However, no matter how well organized the governments of the federation are they can not succeed without the support, understanding and cooperation of labour unions, organized private sector, the press and civil society organizations. I appeal to employers and workers alike to unite in raising productivity so that everybody will have the opportunity to share in increased prosperity. The Nigerian press is the most vibrant in Africa. My appeal to the media today – and this includes the social media – is to exercise its considerable powers with responsibility and patriotism.
My appeal for unity is predicated on the seriousness of the legacy we are getting into. With depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts the Nigerian economy is in deep trouble and will require careful management to bring it round and to tackle the immediate challenges confronting us, namely; Boko Haram, the Niger Delta situation, the power shortages and unemployment especially among young people. For the longer term we have to improve the standards of our education. We have to look at the whole field of medicare. We have to upgrade our dilapidated physical infrastructure.
The most immediate is Boko Haram’s insurgency. Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory can not be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. But we can not claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.
This government will do all it can to rescue them alive. Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extra judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.
Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connexions to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a reccurrence of this evil. For now the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces.
Boko Haram is not only the security issue bedeviling our country. The spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings all help to add to the general air of insecurity in our land. We are going to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people – friendly and well – compensated security forces within an over – all security architecture.
The amnesty programme in the Niger Delta is due to end in December, but the Government intends to invest heavily in the projects, and programmes currently in place. I call on the leadership and people in these areas to cooperate with the State and Federal Government in the rehabilitation programmes which will be streamlined and made more effective. As ever, I am ready to listen to grievances of my fellow Nigerians. I extend my hand of fellowship to them so that we can bring peace and build prosperity for our people.
No single cause can be identified to explain Nigerian’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20b expanded since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.
Unemployment, notably youth un-employment features strongly in our Party’s Manifesto. We intend to attack the problem frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick – start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure.
Your Excellencies, My fellow Nigerians I can not recall when Nigeria enjoyed so much goodwill abroad as now. The messages I received from East and West, from powerful and small countries are indicative of international expectations on us. At home the newly elected government is basking in a reservoir of goodwill and high expectations. Nigeria therefore has a window of opportunity to fulfill our long – standing potential of pulling ourselves together and realizing our mission as a great nation.
Our situation somehow reminds one of a passage in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar
There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life,
Is bound in shallows and miseries.
We have an opportunity. Let us take it.
President Federal Republic of NIGERIA and Commander in-chief-of the Armed forces
Crap leaders look out for themselves.
Minor leaders look out for their sect or section.
Great Leaders look out for their country.
Exceptional Leaders look out for humanity.
Dear Leader, which are you?
Before they take him away from us. Before they appropriate him exclusively for themselves. Before we send him forth to occupy the Presidential palace in Abuja also known as Aso Rock. Before we throw him like a lamb into a den of lions, we must do something post haste. We must do something about the seemingly intractable Aso Rock Disease.
The Aso Rock Disease is a unique disease of Nigerian Presidents and Heads of State that no doctor or medicine can cure. A wasting disease, once acquired by its intended target the sitting President or Head of State, its symptoms can only be managed, almost never eradicated.
The only known effective palliative for Aso Rock disease is to quit Aso Rock unconditionally. However one of Aso Rock disease’s principal symptoms is a deep yearning to remain in perpetuity as the rent-seeking Tenant-in-Chief of Aso Rock. And therein lies the dilemma of what is effectively a classic catch-22 situation.
Since one cannot effectively fight an enemy that one cannot readily identify, it is necessary for us to revisit and refresh our memories about the particularities and peculiarities of this strange Aso Rock disease which almost exclusively targets Nigerian Leaders safely ensconced in the imposing Presidential Villa at Aso Rock, Abuja.
Signs and Symptoms of Aso Rock Disease
The following are some of the main signs and symptoms of Aso Rock disease presented in no particular order of severity or chronology. Note that the list is neither exclusive nor conclusive.
Given these signs and symptoms, what specific micro-organism lies behind the Aso Rock Disease? Let us consider its virology
Virology of Aso Rock Disease
Aso Rock disease is caused by the Aso Rock virus which is an invisible virus that has two variants. The first variant or Aso Rock virus Type 1 is genetically associated with innate greed (a.k.a. long-throat) and feverish ambition. The second variant or Aso Rock virus Type 2 is passed on by tangible human vectors who are persons found exclusively in the Presidential Cabinet – that is persons who have steady direct access to the President or Head of State, the Tenant-in-Chief of Aso Rock.
There are various categories of Presidential Cabinet by which and through which the President may be infected by Aso Rock virus Type 2. These include:
Regarding these various presidential cabinets, it is important to stress that some individuals may be titular members of several of these different kinds of presidential cabinets all at the same time. Indeed research time and time again has proven that there is a perfect correlation between the number of these cabinets a particular individual belongs to and that individual’s capacity to infect the President with Aso Rock virus Type 2.
For example an individual that belongs to the Ministerial Cabinet, the Kitchen Cabinet and the Bedroom Cabinet all at once has a three-fold increase in his or her capacity to infect the President with Aso Rock virus Type 2. This is because such an individual can have encounters with the President during the day, during the evening and late at night!
How often have outbreaks of Aso Rock disease been observed among Nigerian Presidents and Heads of State over the years? It is time for us to briefly consider specific cases of this dreaded disease.
Epidemiology of Aso Rock Disease
Aso Rock disease has wasted not a few relatively promising military or civilian administrations in Nigeria. Let us refresh our memories by revisiting the recorded outbreaks of this disease briefly and quasi-chronologically.
The first known case of full blown Aso Rock Disease ever recorded in the history of Nigeria afflicted a Tenant-in-Chief who for the purposes of this piece we shall simply describe as the gap-toothed one. Now it should be noted that before him there were other cases of Aso Rock type Diseases. But these were very mild in comparison to what has come to be regarded as full blown Aso Rock disease.
We shall call these early and very mild forms as proto-Aso Rock diseases. The first recorded case of proto-Aso Rock disease which occurred in the period 1970 to 1975 afflicted no other than our own dear Jack the one-time play boy army officer turned evangelist and latterly turned a basher of his deceased fellow one-time play boy army officer colleague turned rebel leader cum war time adversary.
The first substantive Aso Rock Disease was recorded in Nigeria in the period 1985 to 1993. It is pertinent to note that seduced by his cunning smiles, no one protected the gap-toothed one from Aso Rock disease. Arguing whether he was infected by Aso Rock virus Type 1 or Type 2 or both is largely academic. We all know what happened next. He refused to leave until he was forced to step aside.
For his successor the technocrat, Aso Rock disease did not matter one way or the other, for he was eased out unceremoniously by other causes even before he could unpack his luggage.
To this day no one can say for sure whether the dark-goggled one contacted the Aso Rock virus Type 2 from close proximity to the gap-toothed one or whether he carried Aso Rock virus Type 1 in his own genes. Plentiful anecdotal research evidence however buttress both scenarios. In any case no one would have dared raise a suggestion to his face about seeking medical attention in the form of a retro-viral vaccine shot until he died suddenly in 1998 from as yet unexplained circumstances. What cannot be denied is that his own form of combined Aso Rock disease was of greater severity than that of the gap-toothed one.
The bearded-one stayed for too short a while (1998 – 1999) at Aso Rock to be infected by the Aso Rock virus which leads to Aso Rock Disease. But there are many who swear to this day that if he had stayed a minute longer at Aso Rock he would have surely tested positive to Aso Rock virus Type 2.
The sharp tongued one having survived an unmerited stint in prison gave everyone the impression that he was naturally imbued with immunity to trifle opportunistic diseases like Aso Rock disease. He it was who characteristically volubly proclaimed on release from prison when the subject of running for President was mooted to him by the self-appointed powers that be: “how many presidents do you want to make of me?”
On the face of it, this was an expression of natural immunity to Aso Rock disease. But closer scrutiny reveals that it was actually a positive test for the presence of Aso Rock virus Type 1 in his genes. It is universally accepted medically that the presence of anti-bodies against a specific virus in the human system is a confirmation of the presence of that virus within the body.
Seen in this light therefore, his knee–jerk reaction actually arose from anti-bodies to Aso Rock Virus Type 1 already present within him. Before long after emerging as the tenant-in-chief for the second time (1999-2007), he tested positive to both Aso Rock Virus Types 1 and 2 and shortly thereafter succumbed brutally to full blown combined Aso Rock disease.
The meek one was weakened by other health challenges as a result of which he was quarantined while serving as the tenant-in-chief (2007-2010). With this vacuum, the primed Aso Rock virus type 2 present in his kitchen cabinet staff, not seeing any other viable target apart from the First Lady to infect, mutated and the vector-hosts developed full blown symptoms of Aso Rock disease themselves and ruled the roost unhindered until he died and they were all constitutionally ejected from Aso Rock.
The shoeless one who fortuitously or otherwise had a tendency of stepping into his erstwhile masters’ shoes, himself stood no chance. His penchant for trying on shoes of different sizes much bigger than his feet, hoping to find the largest one available, (a genetic condition consistent with infection with Aso Rock virus type 1) left him brutally exposed to Aso Rock virus Type 2 as well.
He was infected by Aso Rock Virus Type 2 right from day one in 2010 and developed chronic, full-blown combined Aso Rock disease caused by both Aso Rock virus Types 1 and 2 acting in concert in short order. Within the short time frame 2010 to 2015, he manifested all the known symptoms of Aso Rock disease with the exception of violently eliminating real or imagined threats and publicly quarrelling with his deputy. He never recovered fully, insisting that one and a half presidential term is not enough until he was divinely eased out of Aso Rock by God himself acting through the agency of inspired men.
As we have seen coming down with Aso Rock disease carries serious consequences for both the leader and the led so a word or two about the political fortunes of presidents infected with Aso Rock disease will not be out of place at this juncture.
Prognosis of Aso Rock Disease
Aso Rock disease has almost a 100% political reputation fatality rate. There is not a single known case of a Nigerian leader infected by Aso Rock disease who has recovered from the disease with his reputation 100% intact.
Invariably Aso Rock disease targets the leaders’ thinking faculties, stops them from making hay while the sun shines, paralyzes their ability to correctly gauge the mood of the nation, deludes them into thinking they are invincible with state funds, state institutions and other national assets at their disposal and leaves them totally unprepared for their inevitable and oftentimes disgraceful exit from office.
Most of these Nigerian leaders have something in common. They mostly took office with the potential of being great. Within one year in the saddle they started showing tendencies of being minor. By the second year they were largely confirmed as minor with a tendency towards crap. By their third year they were almost invariably certified as crap.
As indicated, the Aso Rock virus comes in two basic forms. The Type 1 Aso Rock virus which is genetically transmitted, is naturally mild. It is only triggered if and when the host manages to gain residency permit in Aso Rock as the tenant-in-chief. Even then it still generally behaves in a relatively mild-mannered manner.
On exposure to and combination with Aso Rock virus Type 2 however, the Aso Rock virus Type 1 becomes ultra-aggressive and capable of causing very great harm both to the host and more so to the larger nation.
The Aso Rock virus Type 2 which is transmitted by the various categories of the Presidential Cabinet is a different animal altogether.
Found extensively in members of the various Presidential Cabinets, Aso Rock virus Type 2 does not usually attack its natural carriers or vector hosts other than in exceptional cases when the tenant-in-chief is incapacitated. In such cases it undergoes some mutation and attacks the members of the presidential Cabinet who then begin to act unilaterally in the name of the incapacitated President.
The exact manner in which Aso Rock virus type 2 is transmitted from the cabinet vector-hosts to the President is not yet well understood but is commonly thought to be through voice mail (aka solicited or unsolicited advice) which exits from their mouths and enters into the President’s brain through his ears.
Aso Rock Type 2 viruses show characteristics which are vector-host specific. It is not unknown and unheard of for Aso Rock Type 2 viruses from one vector-host to fight against another Aso Rock virus Type 2 from another vector-host. Such fights which occur inside the President’s brain once he or she is infected from several sources, leaves the President confused as to what course of action to take in addressing pressing national issues.
Many a Nigerian President infected with Aso Rock disease has been known to confess that they receive conflicting advice (sorry type 2 viruses) from their cabinets.
Now while the Aso Rock virus Type 2 the President receives from the Kitchen cabinet is passed onto his brain through his ears while standing up or sitting down, the Aso Rock virus Type 2 the President receives from his Bedroom cabinet is passed onto his brain from his ears and other parts of his body while lying down in a horizontal position.
Ample research has shown that Aso Rock virus Type 2 transmitted to the President while he is in a horizontal position is 10 times more potent than their counterparts transmitted to the President when he is in a vertical standing or semi-vertical sitting position.
Buoyed by the published results of this ground breaking research, members of the public who have Aso Rock virus Type 2 to infect the President with, but who lack direct access to him because they do not feature as members of one of the possible Presidential cabinets, often resort to infecting the President through known members of the Presidential bedroom cabinet especially the First Lady.
This is why the pet projects of the First Ladies of Aso Rock are always over-subscribed by known carriers of Aso Rock virus Type 2 who lack direct access to the respective Presidents but who nevertheless decide to infect them through their wives. This type of indirect infection is known as secondary infection. And the mode of transfer of the Aso Rock virus Type 2 from the original vector-host to the First Lady is via bank drafts and cheques (checks) drawn in favor of the First Lady’s pet project, the proceeds of which inevitably end up in the First Lady’s hand-bag.
Because Aso Rock disease is a dreaded presidential disease that no doctor nor medicine can cure, prevention seems to be best solution for the intractable problem. There are two aspects of prevention of Aso Rock disease. The first has to be done by the ultimate prime target of the disease that is the President himself. The second has to be undertaken by the well –meaning people of Nigeria i.e. those Nigerians who are not vector-hosts of the disease themselves.
Since heaven helps those who help themselves, and since Aso Rock virus Type 2 is transmitted in the form of voice mail from a carrier’s mouth to the President’s brain and into his consciousness through his ears, the President is well-advised to always wear a protective filter inside his ears to sift all voice mail coming through from his various cabinets.
A robust and effective filter would automatically apply a four way test on all voice mail traffic before routing appropriate ones through to the President’s consciousness.
The technical details of the four way test which is actually a form of decision cascade are as follows:
As noted above, the primary vectors of transmission of Aso Rock disease to the President of Nigeria is via one or more forms of the self-chosen Presidential Cabinet. And who can occupy Aso Rock without having several cabinets? Aso Rock disease hides itself deep within the drawers of the presidential cabinets.
To protect themselves and their administrations from Aso Rock disease, every Nigerian President is well advised to sanitize and vet very thoroughly any object such as any piece of advice they pull out from the presidential cabinet along the lines of the decision cascade guidelines given above before adopting the advice for implementation.
For Nigerian Presidents it seems, the fear of the various Presidential cabinets should be the beginning of wisdom. Too often we hear of Nigerian Presidents blaming their misadventures on the quality of conflicting objects they pull out from their presidential cabinets as if they did not “pre-select and pre-approve the installation of their presidential cabinets together with their contents” themselves.
Thankfully the incoming President is different. As a devout Muslim it is unlikely that he would have a Beer and Wine Cabinet. He might have a squash cabinet, but members of that cabinet would be too exhausted from playing squash to transmit the Aso Rock type 2 virus to the President.
Furthermore the new President is not known to have a roving eye. It is thus to be expected that his Bedroom Cabinet shall consist of one and only one member, his lawfully wedded wife the First Lady (thanks be to God for little mercies).
With such a reduced population of potential sources of infection, his chances of coming down with Aso Rock virus type 2 is correspondingly reduced.
The new President is famed for his indifference to money and deep abhorrence of corruption (thanks be to God for great mercies).
Taken together with the fact that his leadership credentials were forged on the anvil of disappointment by the hammer of serial electoral frustration, it is to be expected that by now any traces of Aso Rock virus type 1 existing in his body, if at all they ever existed in him from birth, would have been purged and expunged.
The second aspect of prevention which is left to well-meaning Nigerians is to inoculate the President and boost his resistance to the opportunistic Aso Rock virus type 2.
Now the best way of inoculating Mr. President is to offer prayers and supplication to God Almighty on his behalf. Those who underestimate the power and potency of prayers might do well to reflect on the waning fortunes of the once shoeless one.
Let no one be deceived as to whom the glory for the ouster of the once shoeless one should go, for to God alone is the glory due.
When God’s time arrived, when the time allotted to him by God as a punishment to Nigeria and Nigerians for our collective sins and individual shortcomings expired, all the dollars and all the naira at the beck and call (in the Treasury of?) of the Federal Government of Nigeria were not enough to salvage the administration of the shoeless one.
So when the chairperson (and sole member?) of the shoeless one’s Bedroom cabinet proclaimed on the stomping ground sometime in March/April 2015 that “this is our own time. We shall enjoy our full eight years of (mis?) rule allowed by the Constitution before we handover”, it was as if God said to them in reply. ‘You f**ls, before the end of the month of May 2015, this power which you cherish so much shall be taken away from you and handed over to another.’
So as we congregate in anticipation of a smooth take-off of a brand new Presidency, there is something we must do right away without hesitation or indolence.
Before they take him away from us. Before they appropriate him exclusively for themselves. Before they inject him with Aso Rock virus Type 2.
We must inoculate our new President by prayerfully committing him and his family as well as all his decisions and indecisions, all his actions and inactions exercised on our behalf and for our benefit to God Almighty for guidance and protection.
We eminently know and verily hold it to be always true that just as a man who places his trust in God alone cannot fail, so also a nation that places their trust in God alone cannot falter.
So whatever may be your praying mode; whether you pray by standing up or by kneeling down; whether you pray by sitting down or by squatting down; whether you pray by endless dancing or by rolling yourself on the ground, whether you pray by bowing your head down or by hitting your forehead on the ground, let all of us, each in their own way commit our new President to God Almighty that he may govern us well for the benefit of all and to the glory of God in heaven. Amen
But please note as we inoculate our new President through prayer, that ritualists, terrorists, kidnappers, cultists, fraudsters (419ners), all evil and corrupt people who pray by slaughtering their fellow human beings either with a knife or with a gun or with a pen or with poison or with their mouths or by fraud, with the intention of making instant money or acquiring instant powers or out of envy and jealousy, are not invited to join us.
Let all such people steer clear and keep well away from the rest of us while we pray until they receive their own just reward either in this life, or in the life to come for the sheer wickedness of man unto man.
THE END -
‘Vanity upon vanity; (In the end) all is vanity.’
‘I have got ants in my pants and I need to dance.’
As the airplane taxied to a halt at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Kent Churchill felt a tightening in his stomach. It was uncanny but he always felt this way when he touched down on Nigerian territory. There was something about this bizarre country that both attracted and repelled him in equal measure. Try as he would he couldn’t quite place his finger on what it was and he had long ago given up trying.
To his surprise and elation he quickly breezed through Immigration and Customs. The local officials acted a bit queerly and unprofessionally but Kent was too tired and elated to care. He easily made his way through the Arrival Terminal to the Baggage Claims hall. Before long he had claimed his checked-in baggage and with the help of a trolley he exited the Airport building and emerged into the warm Lagos night. “Mister Shurshill, Mister Shurshill” a familiar voice rang out. “I am here. You are welcome. It is good to see you again Mister Shurshill.” It was Baba Osun his longtime charter taxi driver friend. “Ah Baba Osun, it is good to see you again my friend.” Both men gave each other a friendly hug.
Now Baba Osun whose real names were Femi Oluwole was quite a character. He was a third generation commercial driver. His grandfather drove Lorries during the colonial days. His father drove taxis and later owned several. Baba Osun, the first of seven brothers, migrated to the United States where he operated a taxi cab in Boston and picked up a diploma in Sales/Marketing. He sent for and installed three of his brothers as taxi-drivers in various cities in the United States. Later he returned back home to Nigeria because he could not stand the cold in North America.
Some rival taxi drivers quickly surrounded Kent. “Oga Oyinbo (My master, the Whiteman)” said one, “do not make the mistake of leaving with this man. He does not maintain his taxi. His air-conditioner is not working properly. Follow me let me take you in my car. Inside my car, it is colder than Europe in winter time.” Baba Osun gave the upstart a hostile stare that was fierce enough to frighten a lion. ‘Ti’ m ba mu e (If I lay hands upon you),’ he muttered. Without a further word the unfortunate taxi driver slouched away the same way a vanquished dog would do with its tail drooping between its legs, before an alpha dog.
Before long the duo were on their way in Baba Osun’s cab on the long ride to Kent’s hotel located in Lekki a distant surburb of the sprawling Lagos megalopolis.
“Mister Shurshill” said Baba Osun, “it is night time but still I hope you have already noticed that Lagos has changed a lot since the last time you visited. You will not recognize Lagos again.”
Kent had indeed noticed some changes but the most remarkable change he noted was in Baba Osun’s driving. Baba Osun seemed much more courteous, more careful and more tolerant of other road users now than he ever was before.
As if he was reading his mind, Baba Osun brought the matter up.
“Mister Shurshill, you know we have a new government now. Our new President is a no-nonsense General. The smallest mistake you make, will land you in jail. As I speak to you right now, they have expanded the Kirikiri Maximum Prison to ten times its capacity. In addition to the old prison known as Kirikiri Prison Phase 1, we now have Kirirkiri Prison Phase 2, Kirikiri Prison Phase 3, Kirikiri Prison Phase 4, up to Kirirkiri Prison Phase 10. Yet the demand for prison space far exceeds the available capacity.”
“I reliably learnt that on the General’s instructions, once you are locked away inside Kirikiri Prison Phase 1 to Kirikiri Prison Phase 10, the keys to your cell are immediately thrown away inside the Lagos Lagoon. So once you are inside Kirikiri Prisons there is no coming out. They say people who enter Kirikiri erect with handcuffs in their hands, come out lying face up on stretchers with cotton wool stuffed into their mouths, ears and nostrils. That is why I am very careful with my driving. Unlike before I am now ever ready to concede defeat to other drivers like a true sportsman and statesman.”
“I hope you don’t mind if it takes us all night for us to drive from the International Airport to Lekki a journey which should ordinarily take us at most 2 hours. Please note that the long delay is not because of heavy traffic, but because I have to be very careful, sportsmanly and statesmanlike in my driving.”
“That is okay my friend. Take your time and drive carefully. I would hate to see you rot in jail,” replied Kent.
“Mr Shurshill did you not notice that our police, immigration and customs officers now raise their two hands up above their heads when they are interrogating people?” queried Baba Osun.
“Yes now that you mentioned it, I do remember thinking that it was a bit unusual and unprofessional,” replied Kent, “why do they do so? Don’t they realize that an armed criminal can easily gun them down before they can reach their weapon?”
“Oh no Mr Shurshill. They never act alone. When one officer is interrogating somebody, he is always covered by his colleagues. The reason why the officer interrogating people always raises his hands above his head is that everyone can see that he is not receiving a bribe. Even when he receives a document like a passport or driving particulars from somebody he must make sure to raise it aloft and rifle it for all and sundry to see that it is a document and that there is no money concealed inside it.”
“Very impressive” said Kent “I would never have believed that Nigerians can be so careful and circumspect. Your new President must be something else.”
“Ah Mr Shurshill, the man is an Ogbologbo (old hand). He knows all the tricks in the books. You cannot beat him. He has a lot of this (Baba Osun pointed repeatedly to his brain signifying smartness).”
“Mr Shurshill did you not also notice that none of our uniformed officers has a potbelly?”
“No I did not pay attention to that. But I did notice that they all looked smart and walked briskly. Maybe it is because that is the way uniformed officers are in the United States that I took it for granted that they would be the same elsewhere.”
“Ha ha ha, our new President is lean and mean. They say he only has fura de nunu (local drink derived from fresh cow milk) or kunu (local drink derived from grain like millet or sorghum) for breakfast and eats sparingly at lunchtime and sometimes skips supper altogether.”
Baba Osun continued. “Ahhh any uniformed officer that has a potbelly in Nigeria has signed his own retrenchment notice. Our police and army officers now avoid pepper-soup as if it is poison. They also run away from beer and pounded yam as if they are Christmas presents from the devil himself.” He chuckled in self-amusement.
They were now driving on a very long bridge. Kent succumbed to tiredness and dozed off.
“Mister Shurshill, Mister Shurshill” exclaimed Baba Osun excitedly. “Look we are now on Third Mainland Bridge. I know you will not recognize this place again. You will not know that we are over water now.”
As he said this, Kent woke up and peered around. Indeed try as he would he could not recognize the bridge as the Third Mainland Bridge. It looked more like an elevated roadway in the center of town.
“You see all those lights you are seeing far into the distance? They are lights from the houses of Igbo people who have relocated into the Lagos Lagoon” said Baba Osun. Our people say “Eko oni baje (may Lagos not get spoilt). But I tell you Eko ti baje pata pata (Lagos is totally spoilt already). The Lagos Lagoon is no more.”
“You see these Igbos, they are building more and more structures on the Lagos Lagoon. I am reliably informed that they have bought up all the space inside the Lagoon right up to where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.”
“I do not blame them. But although we Yorubas are very careful and would not willfully disrespect our elders, I hold the Oba (King) of Lagos responsible for this tragedy and calamity that has befallen us. He was the one that said he would throw the Igbos into the Lagoon if they did not vote for his preferred candidate during the last elections.”
“After the elections when the Oba’s candidate won, all of us Yorubas, thought the matter was settled. Then one Igbo trader woke up one day and said he was relocating voluntarily to the Lagoon which he claimed had just been ceded to his people by the Oba of Lagos. Moreover he said it would be more peaceful for him inside the Lagos Lagoon than inside Kirikiri Prisons.”
“We thought he was only joking and that after being bitten by the giant mosquitos on the Lagoon for one or two nights he would run back. To our surprise he did not return and we did not see him again.”
“The next thing we knew, two more Igbo traders said to one another ‘Nna men, there must be something our brother is seeing inside that Lagoon that is keeping him there after all this while. Let us go and join him now before it is too late for us to hit it big.’ They left and did not come back.”
“That is how the Igbos started leaving for the Lagoon one by one. Initially we were very happy and were jubilating that the Igbos had met their waterloo inside the Lagos Lagoon. One day to our amazement and chagrin we woke up to see one high rise wooden building emerging on stilts from inside the Lagoon.”
“The next day two more high rises started emerging. The next week we counted 50 wooden high rises emerging on the Lagoon and we saw the foundations of many hundreds more. It was then that we realized that we were in serious trouble. Before we knew what was happening almost all the Igbos that matter financially in Lagos started rushing to live inside the Lagoon. They rented out their houses on Lagos mainland and relocated to the Lagoon. They mapped out canals in the Lagoon and built on both sides of the canals just as we build on both sides of streets on land.”
“They numbered their houses along the canals and gave names to the canals just as we name streets on land. The biggest and widest canal of all which extends from the Lagos mainland Lagoon front to the Atlantic Ocean they named after the Oba of Lagos. One of them rushed down to Venice and stole the designs of the gondola boats there. He took the drawings to Nnewi and their brothers manufactured prototype gondolas to serve as taxis plying the canals.”
“The biggest insult we received was when we woke up one day to see that a giant billboard had been mounted on the Lagos Lagoon proclaiming “Welcome to Igbo Lagoon – courtesy MASSOB (Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra) Lagos Branch.”
“When we challenged them the Igbos said that while Lagos is still no-man’s land, the Lagoon is now Igbo Lagoon. They brought out audio and video documentary evidence showing that the Oba of Lagos ceded the Lagos Lagoon to them!!!”
“They said they were ready to defend their ownership rights over the Lagos Lagoon right up to the World Court at The Hague.”
“When we pointed out to them that the Oba merely said he would throw them into the Lagoon if they failed to vote for his preferred candidate, they retorted that the Oba sent them forth into the Lagos Lagoon to occupy it, to be fruitful and to multiply therein. They said that is exactly what they are now doing.”
“It was only when our OPC (Odua’ Peoples Congress) and MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) stepped in that the Igbos calmed down. You know MASSOB, OPC and MEND forged a partnership and fought on the same side during the last election.”
“Initially when OPC were approaching the Lagoon to reclaim it, we thought there would be a world war in the Lagos Lagoon between MASSOB and OPC. But you know these Igbos are commercial arch-strategists and political arch-imbeciles. They realized that if only MASSOB was allowed to operate on the Lagoon, potential customers from other tribes would not patronize them on the Lagoon. So they quickly removed the offensive billboard and welcomed OPC and MEND with open arms and so peace was quickly restored on the Lagoon.”
“It was only after the new President launched the War against Corruption that we realized that these Igbos have great business acumen and humongous commercial foresight.”
“In fact Mr Shurshill, I recorded the President’s address to the nation while launching the War against Corruption and I play it back from time to time when I am in a sober mood. Let me play it back right now for you with your kind permission.”
Baba Osun pressed the play-back button on his vehicle’s audio console and the new President’s voice filled the inside of the taxi.
>> Greetings to you dear Nigerians, fellow country-men and women. You are all living witnesses of the depths of despair and dungeons of depravity into which our dear country was dragged down by unbridled corruption in the recent past. By giving me your votes during the last elections, a majority of you Nigerians vowed that things must no longer remain the same. You gave me the mandate to chart a new course for our country. I vowed on assumption of office not to disappoint you nor misplace the hard earned trust you have reposed in me. <<
>> Accordingly with the co-operation of the National Assembly, I wish to signal my intention to launch a comprehensive War against Corruption (WAC) on every single inch of Nigerian soil and land. As regards this war, please note that there are many different forms of corruption and we shall fight as many manifestations of it as we can identify. To name but a few, there is economic corruption, social corruption, religious corruption, sexual corruption etc. None shall be tolerated on Nigerian soil.<<
>> If we do not kill corruption in Nigeria, corruption will kill all of us in Nigeria and throw our dead bodies into the Lagos Lagoon and other water bodies scattered across the length and breadth of the country. Because we do not want to meet such a watery end, we shall fight corruption with all the energy we can muster as a people. To this end, all corrupt people in Nigeria will go to jail and there shall be no exception no matter how highly placed they might be. To signify the seriousness of our intent, I hereby endorse a blank warrant for my own arrest which I shall hand over publicly to the Inspector-General of Police with the instruction to fill in my offense and execute my own arrest any day I commit an offense. <<
>> I note that we are now a nation practicing true democracy. That is why if you paid careful attention to the earlier part of this broadcast, you would have noticed that I restricted the War against Corruption (WAC) to the Nigerian landmass and not to the entire Nigerian territory. This is in the spirit of true democracy which we must be seen to be practicing both in fact and in reality. The underlying principle guiding all democracies is the freedom of choice. Every Nigerian has a fundamental right to his choice. Those majority Nigerians who voted for an end to corruption are free to exercise their choice on the Nigerian land mass. However those minority Nigerians who voted for corruption are free to relocate to the Lagos Lagoon or the water ways inside Nigeria where anything goes. <<
>> So those Nigerians who remain on dry land do so with the understanding that they are subject to immediate arrest and possible imprisonment if there is any evidence of infringement of the extant anti-corruption laws on their part. Those Nigerians who choose to step into the Lagos Lagoon and other water-bodies in Nigeria do so with the understanding that they are no more subject to the laws against corruption but are subject to the law of anything goes. Note that this painful distinction has to be made in order to ensure that the tenets of democracy which I pledged to uphold are fully met as regards freedom of choice and association. <<
>> Fellow Nigerians, the die is cast. As long as I retain your trust and your mandate, there shall be no going back or slacking-off in the fight against corruption. We shall take the battle to corruption in all its forms and manifestations. I reiterate that I shall be leading the battle from the tip of the spear that is right from the frontline and we shall ultimately prevail against corruption by the Grace of God. I trust that you shall line up behind me as usual as we wage this war of national survival and liberation. <<
>> May God bless Nigeria. <<
Kent listened attentively to the replay of the Presidential broadcast and could not but applaud its contents. “Very well said and to the point, I daresay” he exclaimed.
Baba Osun was beside himself. “Mister Shurshill, it was only after this broadcast that I realized that the Igbos especially those that relocated to the Lagos Lagoon have 100 per cent commercial foresight but zero percent political foresight.”
“See immediately after this broadcast, all the homosexuals and lesbians in Lagos started looking for houses to rent on the Lagos Lagoon. All the prostitutes relocated to the Lagos Lagoon. All the native doctors, all the ritualists, all the cultists, all the kidnappers, all the political jobbers, all the blackmailers, all the criminals in Lagos, they all relocated to the Lagoon.”
“The rent for a single room in the Lagos Lagoon skyrocketed while that on firma terra in Lagos dropped precipitously. Those Igbos who relocated first to the Lagoon became multi-billionaires overnight. Like I said, our own OPC members belatedly relocated to the Lagos Lagoon. They struck a partnership with MASSOB and together with MEND and the newly formed Arewa Solidarity Front (ASF) who also joined them, they formed a Joint Strike Force to maintain law and order on the Lagos Lagoon.”
“They put up a new huge signboard on the Lagos Lagoon proclaiming: - Welcome to the Lagos Lagoon where anything goes. Remember the official policy here is ‘Every one do as you like. Don’t ask, don’t tell, just pay your levy, mind your own business and do your own thing.’ – signed MASSOB/OPC/MEND/ASF Joint Strike Force.”
“Mister Shurshill, I tell you out of fear of WAC, all the beer parlours in Lagos relocated to the Lagoon. All the Nkwobi and isi-ewu joints relocated to the Lagoon. All the night clubs as well as the strip-tease joints relocated to the Lagoon. Every day by 7.00 pm Lagos is already asleep while the Lagoon is just waking up. Even the suya (barbecue) sellers were forced to relocate to the Lagoon in search of customers.”
“You know when the water is too clean, all the fish will die. All the people living in Lagos are dying of boredom. A balance has to be struck between cleanliness and pollution you see.”
“Once it is night time, all the people looking for fun troop to the Lagoon. Even the police officers and soldiers once they close from work and pull off their uniform, they head to the Lagoon. Even Pastors head to the Lagoon pretending to be preaching to sinners, but when no one is looking they dash into a hidden corner of the Lagoon to catch some fun.”
“Even myself, once I drop you, I am heading to the Lagoon. You see my loins are already itching me. I must entertain myself with a woman’s company.”
“Ah my friend, but you have a wife at home. Why don’t you go and meet your wife at home and relieve yourself in the comfort of your own house,” said Kent.
“Ah Mister Shurshill, you will not understand. By the time I get home, my wife Iya Ibeji (mother of twins) is already frowning. When I touch her a little, she will be making shakara (sulking) as if I have committed a great crime. If I persist and she eventually succumbs she will lie there like a cold engine block such that all my desire will melt away just like that and I will feel like someone jerking off on top of a corpse.”
“When I ask her to give me style, she will say Baba Oshun round up quickly and let me go to sleep. Is that the type of woman you want to go home to when you are pressed?” Baba Osun hissed in disgust and annoyance.
His eyes suddenly lit up with excitement.
“But when I go over to the Lagoon and hook up with Mama Ngozi or Mama Ebuka in their beer parlour, any style I want, they will give it to me. It is true they drain me of all my money, but they make me feel like a vigorous man once again.”
Sighing Baba Osun remarked, “Ah these Igbos, both their men and their women, they are like termites. No they are like soldier ants. When you strike them off from one place, they reemerge from another corner in greater numbers. I tell you Mister Shurshill the Igbos are soldier ants in our pants.”
“How can you remove so many soldier ants from inside your pants without undressing yourself completely? Answer me is it possible? The soldier ants come at you in great numbers. Kill 20 of them, 200 of them will reemerge. That is our plight with the Igbo.”
“Mister Shurshill can you believe that they have incorporated the Lagoon and Waterways Dwellers Association of Nigeria (LAWDAN) and had the boldness to name our own Oba of Lagos as the Life Grand Patron of LAWDAN. They say every year they will take a big fish caught inside the lagoon to the Oba as a token of appreciation to him for creating a new business opportunity for them.”
“Stranger still, the Igbos are now saying that they will continue to strongly support our new President, the retired General, so long as he leaves them alone to do as they like inside the Lagoon and waterways across Nigeria. They say his WAC on land is driving heavy business to them right inside the Lagoon.”
“And they are right. Do you know that many of our daughters, even Yoruba girls in the university now go to the Lagoon each night in search of Igbo boys? The other night while I was hooking up with Mama Ebuka at the back of her beer parlor in the Lagoon, I overheard three Yoruba girls arguing inside the beer parlor.”
“One girl named Yetunde said ‘Ndubuisi is my provider.’ Another one named Toyin replied ‘Yetunde wait until you meet Ekene. Oh Ekene is my most wonderful provider.’ The third girl, Omolara by name, said ‘Kanayo my own provider is tightfisted, he does not give me much money, but he told me that I can take as many designer clothes as I like from his store. This expensive Brazilian wig I am wearing is from Kanayo’s shop.”
“Mister Shurshill I tell you I was so annoyed with those useless Yoruba girls that I felt like leaving the arms of Mama Ebuka and going across to give each of them a dirty slap across their painted faces.”
“I owe my life to the fact that I remembered the policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, just mind your own business,’ enforced on the Lagoon.
“If I had made the fatal mistake of accosting those girls, the Joint Strike Force would have dumped me inside the lagoon to suffocate and drown inside the human waste and thick sludge found there.”
“The only revenge I could take upon the Igbos at that moment was to inflict as much pain as I could upon Mama Ebuka. I was so rough on the woman that she would always remember that she met a true Yoruba man that night. It was the sound of her cries of painful joy that quietened those lousy girls. “
“Mister Shurshill it is because of the antics of these Igbos that we the Yoruba are forced to ensure our wives fidelity by lacing them with magun (juju or voodoo) such that if they are unfaithful, any man that meets them dies immediately. If not our wives would have run into the arms of these Omo-Ibo (Igbo boys). “
“It is easy for us to protect our wives but how can we protect our daughters from the hands of these Omo-Ibos? That is our dilemma. No sane man would want to take his own daughter to a witch-doctor for that kind of charm. That is why I said the Igbos are like soldier ants inside our pants eating away at us right from inside.”
Baba Osun sighed wearily.
Just then they reached Kent’s hotel in Lekki. It was already 2.00 am. They had left the airport around 9.00 pm. In spite of the long duration of the trip, Kent was quite happy. He paid Baba Osun his full fare and gave him a further 50 % of the fare as a tip. Kent felt he had received value for his money.
Baba Osun did not realize it, but in truth, Kent was a leading socio-anthropologist and an analyst for the American CIA. He was regarded in CIA circles as an expert on West African cultures. He was a leading contributor to the now famous CIA National Intelligence Estimate that had predicted the break-up of Nigeria in the year 2015.
Nigeria had tottered briefly on the verge of potential break-up on the run-in to the presidential elections of 2015. World leaders perhaps mindful of the CIA prognosis had tried their best to avoid an implosion in Nigeria.
Kent’s current visit was to reassess the situation in post-election Nigeria with emphasis on the view from the Nigerian street. Without knowing it, Baba Osun had given him tremendous insight into the pressures building up on the Nigerian street.
He said to Baba Osun, “My friend I will certainly like to visit the Lagos Lagoon one of these days before I leave. Maybe you will be available to accompany me as my guide.”
Baba Osun was overjoyed. Kent was his favorite customer of all time not the least because he was an excellent listener.
“Ah Mister Kent, I will be available to take you to the Lagoon any day, any time. Just give me a call and I will make myself immediately available.”
Just then Baba Osun’s phone rang. It was his wife. Baba Osun hissed. “It is my wife. This woman will not allow me to rest. She is always marking me closely like a no-nonsense ace defender in a soccer game. ”
“Yes Hello, ” he said harshly as he picked up the call.
“Baba Ibeji (father of twins), ah-ah you have stayed too late now,” said his wife. “I woke up to ease myself and realized you are not yet back. It is already past 2.00 am where are you?”
“Ah Iya Ibeji, I had a flat tire in the Lekki area of Lagos. I put the spare tire and unfortunately that one also got punctured. I have just managed to push the car to a safe place. I shall have to sleep inside the car,” lied Baba Osun.
Iya Ibeji was furious. “But you should have called me since and I would have told your younger brother Kunle to drive over to where you are to assist you.”
“Why would you do something like that?” retorted Baba Osun. “Is Kunle not a taxi-driver like myself? You want him to leave his customers or his family and come looking for me as if I am a small boy? Let me tell you a flat tire at night is nothing new to a taxi driver. Go back to bed I will see you tomorrow evening.”
Baba Osun hung up angrily and switched off his phone.
Kent laughed in amusement as he alighted. “Baba Osun do not bother about me anymore, I can handle my luggage. Go home to your wife.”
But Baba Osun had grabbed his luggage and escorted him right inside the hotel.
“Good night Mister Shurshill” he said once they were safely inside.
“Good night my friend. I hope you are driving home straightaway?”
“No way Mister Shurshill,” replied Baba Osun, “I am driving straight to the Lagos Lagoon. I cannot sleep this night unless and until I hookup with Mama Ebuka.”
“Ah my friend” said Kent Churchill shaking his head, “I can see that you truly have a soldier ant right inside your pant. Take care that she does not eat you up anytime soon.”
But like a wayward dog that would no longer heed his master’s call, Baba Osun got into his car and drove off to join the Igbos and other revelers right inside the Lagos Lagoon.
Wind: 3 mph