Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nigerian Leaders are Boko Haram!

So much has been written in the last few days about the recent saga of the Maiduguri-based sect that was referred to as Boko Haram (roughly translated ‘Western education is forbidden’), their violent clash with the police, and the extra-judicial killings that saw individuals already arrested being killed without so much as a trial, and the Minister of Rebranding going on international media to justify this aberration to the ‘Rule of Law’.

I do not intend to offer any opinions on that issue. I leave that to the likes of Disu Kamor of MPAC and Reuben Abati of ‘The Guardian’, and I believe time will expose more facts on the issue.

However, I intend to look at the larger issue of a nation that seems to derive satisfaction from denying its citizens (even the willing ones ) access to education and enlightenment. Yusuf and his followers were alleged to have waged a physical and violent battle against western education.

However, our leaders have been waging a battle against education for as long as I can remember. How best to forbid education than to kill the system, starve education of funds and create a system that churns out educated illiterates, and provides no jobs for even those who survive the system!

I am a product of the Nigerian education system, and I can remember strikes going back to my early years in secondary school. Back then, primary school teachers took no part in strikes as their rewards were still ‘in heaven’. However, I am told that these days, even day-care teachers embark on strikes to press home their demands.

Despite the strikes, I finished secondary school at the young age of fifteen years. Even though I had one of the best WAEC results and entered the University on my first JAMB attempt, I did not graduate from an Engineering course until eight years later, yet I never failed a single course. A colleague of mine who left for college abroad had finished his PhD by the time I finally got ushered out into the labour market.
But its only gotten worse!
Quoting Deolu Akinyemi on his widely read blog,,

“For the first time since I have also been aware of it, ASUU is staying off work for a just course. It’s no longer the selfish manipulations of the government by lecturers for salary increases, it’s negotiating a bigger investment into education. ASUU is asking the government to investing in educating the minds rather than providing amnesty for them when they have become irreparably damaged. ASUU is questioning why Reps and Senators get to earn more than $2,000,000”
I say; A nation where the Education Minister goes on a lavish birthday splash while the tertiary institutions are shut down due to strikes really shows that our Leaders are Boko Haram!

Deolu continues further ;
“The case of the Kogi teachers is also troubling. The students became teacherless six months ahead of WAEC and the teachers gave them the opportunity of sitting for it. Last year, 13% of students passed WAEC with credit in Mathematics and English Language and three other subjects. What will this year be? These warehoused generation of students caught in the no man’s land between Secondary Schools and Universities, their older ones trapped in between NYSC and getting a job, and the many who are trapped within the tertiary institutions without really being there. With these many frustrated, and unhappy youths, and a country that pays so well for militancy, can we say the Government is in Control? “

I say; Our Leaders are Boko Haram!
Paraphrasing a comment from the same blog mentioned above;

Nigerians are not asking for much. All we ask for is functioning power, safe transport and education. We’ll do the rest ourselves. The clowns up there are fighting Lagos for being a state that has created and funded new LGAs legally, claiming victory over militants while oil facilities get bombed daily, taking up multiple-point agendas without resolving one….the amount of cerebral mediocrity on display is absolutely galling! And in the midst of all this, the President goes on a 3-day trip to Brazil while the country is burning?

A country has serious challenges yet the president can afford to go to Brazil on a three day visit? We have obvious challenges, yet the president is concerned about the number of local government in Lagos state that her citizens are not complaining about?

I say; Our Leaders are Boko Haram!

A nation where students prepare for exams with candles because the leadership is yet to declare an emergency in the power sector; where a huge part of the budget is devoted to procuring generators for government buildings , and even the structures we have in our schools are falling out of decay and neglect?

I say; Our Leaders are Boko Haram!

I recently attended a business summit in Houston organized by the Nigerian Muslim Association of Houston, and I remember one of the speakers lamenting that he had just returned from a trip to a suburb of Russia to discuss the use of solar energy ; this is a suburb that has only 1 hour of sunlight daily for only a few months in the year, and yet Nigeria, blessed with the abundance of sunlight refuses to harness such potentials, and continues to give the same excuse of inadequate megawatts due to lack of water in Kainji Dam.
I say; Our Leaders are Boko Haram!

In the end, hundreds of articles may be written about the recent sad incident in Maiduguri, but until the leadership of our nation shows a sincere attitude to providing qualitative and effective education along with the infrastructure to support the delivery of that education in a conducive environment, and an enabling environment to utilize the products of that education, we shall continue to have a situation where , to borrow Luke Onyekakeyah’s words “…graduates from our schools are unemployable because they were not taught to be independent. The result is that thousands of other youths are discouraged from going to school and have lost faith in education...

This is the real Boko Haram situation!

Idris Ayodeji Bello

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Its the Year 2020! (Concluding Part)

All the fallow lands have been converted to food plantations, and our graduates now consider farming as a viable option when they graduate from college. Commercialized farming and other large scale businesses by the private sector is now the in-thing. Without knowing ‘anyone’ at the ministry, people can now get lands to farm or create industries. Gone are the days when ministers assigned all the choice lands to their mistresses.

My bosom friend who had been living in America came visiting the other day, and he was surprised that I had no fence around my house, and even the door to my main living room was just strong enough to keep the flies out. He told me I did not dare do this in New York where he lived, and I told him we had the Servant-Leader to thank for this.

Insecurity had become a thing of the past, and just yesterday, my wife’s senior brother’s friend’s cousin forgot her car keys in the door-lock at the busy Idumota market. On getting back to her parking spot, she met a young constable there who had kept a look after the car for her, and surprisingly refused the N10, 000 she offered him as a gift. And just the other day, I saw some bank vehicles transporting money, and not a police escort was in sight to be seen.

Need I mention that our graduates are now sought after all over the world? Several Nigerian universities now have satellite campuses in London, Washington and Paris, and we now outsource most of our menial day to day tasks to other countries. University professors are paid on time, and retirees get their gratuities even almost before retiring. All my son talks of these days is how he can get into the University of Ife to study Medicine, when just 10 years ago, all we thought of was how to get out of Nigeria.

Just the other day, we passed in front of the US Embassy in Nigeria, and there was a huge crowd. No, not of Nigerians seeking visas to go to the US, but of Americans who were refusing to go back home after their visas had expired. How things have changed.

Need I talk about the rule of law, we recently scrapped the Anti-Corruption agency, as we had run out of corrupt people to prosecute, and just in the recently concluded major elections across the country, less than an hour after the last polling center had closed, we already knew who the winners were. Gone were the days when electoral commissioners would go into hiding to preserve their conscience, and our electoral reforms have now become a commodity of export to other countries.

Ring! Ring! Ring! There goes my alarm clock! I have overslept again! I suddenly discover there is no light in our area, and I have not yet ironed the cloth I was to wear to the job interview this morning. There is no petrol in the generator, as my brother was unable to get any even after eight hours at the fuel station yesterday.

On my transistor radio, I hear the election in Elkiti has been ‘electorally reformed’ as usual, some senators are being sought by EFCC for stealing public funds, and on the bus to the Island for my interview, I lose my iPhone to the ‘One Chance’ folks. So much for Vision 2020 and the 7-Point Agenda!

Can I go back to sleep please?

Friday, May 8, 2009

It’s the year 2020! (Part 1)

I just woke up and it’s the first day of the year 2020. I am happy to be alive to see the reality of the vision our servant-leader president had over ten years ago.

The nay-sayers had a field day then and said it was not possible. They said we could not be one of the world’s 20 leading nations without any real planning, but our servant leader knew what he was doing, as he loaded his cabinet with visionaries who could turn water into wine.

In his first two years in office, his detractors compared his achievements to that of one small boy who became the American president then, and they joked that in two years, our servant leader had achieved less than what the small boy from Chicago had done in 100 days. What they never realized was that Servant-Leader was studying the huge problems we had (as if he had actually been living outside the country before then). The detractors failed to realize that slow and steady wins the race (after Fast & Consistent is long done!)

I remember how back then, Servant-Leader was not invited to the G-20 meetings, but surely now in 2020, we will do the invitation to the meetings of the G-10 nations.

In our neighborhood, we have had stable electricity for the last nine years, and my 8-year old daughter does not even know what it means to say ‘Up Nepa’! Now I do not have to rush to iron my clothes for the next two weeks as I used to do then. Servant-Leader declared an emergency in the power sector and it was as if God said ‘Let there be light, and there was light’!

These days if you see several cars at a petrol station, then they must be giving out free petrol, as fuelling up our several cars now actually costs less that N100, and the last time my wife saw a queue at a petrol station, was when she visited a neighboring country.

Now we have so much food that we actually export food to the Americas. I cannot remember when last we had 3-square meals in this house, as these days, we have 5-round meals.

I have a faint memory of back in the days, when graduates would leave the university and find no jobs, and there used to be long lines at every employment aptitude test. These days, foreigners are jostling to get our ‘Blue Card’ just to fill the several available employments that have been created, and there are American doctors here in Nigeria who now have to work as nurses, just as we used to do back in those days. Just the other day, a British lady came in to wash the toilets at our office in Ikeja. Every street corner you turn to, you now find modern industries, where in those days the warehouses were converted into worship centers. How the times have changed.

The wife and I took the kids on a nationwide tour just the other day. We got on the light train in Yaba, and in a few hours, we were already in Kaduna, from where we drove along the 14-lane roads to Yobe, before taking a lovely bus ride to the East. At night we slept at the hospitable inns all scattered over, and our only fear was that we would get arrested by the police for over-speeding, and they would refuse to take a bribe just to let us go. Our 7 year old son would not believe me when I told him that just ten years ago, we would never have dared to take this kind of journey, that the roads were really bad back then, and that the fear of armed robbers was the beginning of wisdom, especially on the way to the East.
He said my stories reminded him of his scary cartoons.

To be continued...

Story of Tamedu & his Foo-Foo Isiewu Company

Tamedu is the proprietor of a Foo-Foo and Isi-Ewu Shop (Exotic Nigerian food) in Lagos, Nigeria.

Sales are low and, in order to increase them, he comes up with a plan to allow his customers to eat now and pay later. He keeps track of the meals consumed on a ledger.

Word gets around and as a result increasing numbers of customers flock toTamedu’s shop. His suppliers are delighted and are very willing to sell more and more raw materials for the meals he prepares. Tamedu showsthem his ledger of receivables and they extend him credit.

A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local Nairaland bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and gives Tamedu a credit line and then increases Tamedu’s borrowing limit.

Taking advantage of his customers' freedom from immediate payment constraints, Tamedu jacks up the prices of his Foo-Foo and Isi-Ewu.Customers don’t mind as they are not required to pay on the spot. Sales volume increases massively; Banks and suppliers lend more; Tamedu opens more outlets in Abuja, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Ibadan. He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the customers as collateral.

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert bankers recognizeTamedu's customer loans as assets and transform these customer assets into Bonds. These negotiable instruments are given exotic names such as FoofooBond, IsiBond, EwuBond and EgusiBond.

These securities are then listed on the Stock Exchange and traded on markets worldwide. No one really understands what the names mean and how the securities are guaranteed but, nevertheless, as their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items.

One day, although the prices are still climbing, a credit risk manager ofthe Nairaland bank decides that the time has come to demand payment of one of the debts incurred by Tamedu. Tamedu in turn asks his clients to pay up. One by one they refuse; the clients cannot pay back the debts. Tamedu refuses to serve them anymore. The clients stop coming.

Tamedu is really screwed now. He cannot fulfill his loan obligations andtherefore claims bankruptcy. All bonds drop in price by between 80 to 95%.

The suppliers of Tamedu, having granted generous payment due dates andhaving invested in the securities are faced with similar problems. The goat-meat supplier defaults on payment to the Mallam who sells goats to him and to the cattle supplier and claims bankruptcy. The yam supplier is taken over by a competitor; Tamedu lays off the cook and staff. Bankruptcies soar, unemployment mushrooms.

The Nairaland bank that lent the money in the first place is set to collapse. It is saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the Peoples Undemocratic Party with Tamedu commuting back and forth in his Executive jet and Mercedes 500SEL, brokering the deal.The funds required to save the economic collapse are obtained by a tax levied on the citizens, most of whom do not eat Foo-Foo or Isi-Ewu.

Adapted by Idris Bello for the Nigerian audience (2009)

Sites where you can find this story-

Understanding the Global Financial Crisis- Story of Tamedu & his Foo-Foo Isiewu Company

The motivation for this blog and my first post is an article I wrote in early April of this year. It was an attempt to comically explain the global financial crisis in layman's terms. However, as I did not maintain a blog, I sent out the article via email to several friends, sent it for publication in some Nigerian dailies and also posted it on some online blogs.

A month later, I have seen the article make its way through blogosphere and mailing groups, and while I am happy at the fact that most people have enjoyed it, in most of these forms, its no longer properly attributed, and its authorship is not acknowledged.

Hence I have decided henceforth, that when I write such articles as I do from time to time, I will be posting it on my blog, and then send links to it.

For those of you who are yet to read the story, check my next post. I will be posting the arcticle as I wrote it in early April 2009.