Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Politics of "Substitution by Elimination"

Early hours of Tuesday morning, the news broke that the 2007 Action Congress Ogun state gubernatorial candidate, Chief Dipo Dina has been murdered. ‘DD-Direct’, as he’s fondly called by his political admirers, was shot through the windshield of his car near Covenant University in Otta.

Just as the nation battles to wriggle its way out of the current constitutional quagmire, created by the indiscretion of an indolently selfish president, we witnessed yet another ‘political-motivated’ killing of a humble and distinguished politician.

The gruesome murder of Dipo Dina is not the first of its kind. We have an endless list of politicians that have been sacrificed on the altar of political machinations. Sadly all of these cases remain unresolved. I recall the killing of the former Justice Minister, Chief Bola Ige. Up till now, no one has been found guilty of his murder. In fact, one of the suspects, who is a serving Senator, won his Senatorial elections while undergoing investigation in Police detention.

I would say that political-motivated killing is one of the legacies of past repressive military regimes. But unfortunately, the current political leaders have claimed this legacy as an inheritance – albeit with greater zeal! Whilst past military regimes were notorious for killing people with dissenting political views in order to strengthen their grip on power, the current politicians are now engaged in what is known as do-or-die politics. But if the sole aim of public office is to serve, why does anyone need to go the extreme of killing his/her political opponent? Why the need for this sort of desperation? Why can’t we practice politics without bitterness? What is it about this ‘do or die’ politics?

The students of the ‘do or die’ school of politics can be broadly divided into two main classes. The fundamental principle of the school remains the same, however the modus operandi of the students differ. The first class is made up of students who subscribe to the theory of ‘substitution by elimination’, as seen in the case of Dipo Dina. Their target is to substitute their opponent by eliminating him from the face of the earth. The second class consists of students who believe in doing all it takes to perpetuate themselves in power. Such people see political office as a family/birth right, even if it means they need to be permanently plugged to a ‘life support machine’ to remain in office.

But can anyone plant cassava and expect to reap cocoyam? What can we expect from an electoral system that is bereft of transparency or fair play? A system designed to reward thuggery, rigging and all forms of violence. A system designed to ensure that the incumbent perpetuates himself in office. A system that ensures that the winner take all. A system designed to disenfranchise its citizens.

As usual, the vice-president has given an order to the Inspector-General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo, and other security agencies in the country to fish out those behind the hideous murder of Dipo Dina. But as my friends will say, na today? We are sick and tired of the lip service the govt pays to security of lives and properties. The govt’s record in investigating this type of cases is appalling. And it’s not just political-motivated killings. Every year, hundreds of lives are lost to religious violence. However, none of the security agencies can categorically tell us who the perpetrators of these crimes are. So how will Dipo Dina’s case be any different? How can the VP convince Nigerians that Dipo Dina will not just be another statistical figure?

Everyday, the Nigerian media is awash with bad news. The nation has now become an extension of Hollywood box office. It is suffice to say that the suffering masses are now film watchers, waiting for the next box office hit. The media, who should be at the forefront of informing and sensitising the public, have become armchair “movie critics”. We now have newspaper editors who are paid ‘script writers’ – thanks to brown envelopes. And with the likes of Ojo Maduekwe, Michael Aondoakaa, and Dora Akunyili, the movie producers can never be short of actors/actresses.

I refer to the famous biblical verse “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46). Most of my non-Christian friends may not be familiar with the quoted bible verse; however this nine-word sentence aptly describes my feeling about the current trend of political events in Nigeria.

So if I may ask, can anything good come out of Nigeria?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crisis in Education Sector!

I recently came across a caption on a friend’s Facebook page. It was titled “Two percent passed WAEC (West African Examinations Council) Exam in Oyo State”. After reading the caption, the questions I asked the poster were, how many of supposed successful candidates ‘bought’ questions prior to sitting for the exams. How many wrote the exams by proxy? How many colluded with examiners to have their results manipulated? For me these are reasonable questions to ask considering how desperate Nigerian students have become recently. Anyway, that’s not the issue here.

From east to west, north to south, evidence of the deplorable state of our education system are very glaring. Just like other sectors, the nation’s education system has been on a steady decline in the 20 years. Both the quality of teaching and infrastructure have been severely impacted by the comatose state of the education system. As we know, incessant school closures due to strike action have been the norm of the day. In fact, it will be considered unusual not to have schools shut down in any given academic year.

Also, most of the classrooms in Nigerian schools are dilapidated, sub-standard and unfit for human habitation. There have been cases of school buildings that have collapsed killing children in some parts of Nigeria.

Whilst the performance of Oyo state candidates looks very depressing to say the least, the fact remains that no state of the federation holds the monopoly of poor education performance. Lagos state is also not left behind in the race towards educational failure.

According to recent statistics released by the Lagos Ministry of Education, there’s been a decline of about 43 per cent in the enrolment figure between public primary and senior secondary school students, while there is about 31 per cent drop in the enrolment figure of primary school pupils by the time they move to junior secondary schools. The question one will ask is, where do these pupils go when they drop out of secondary school?

Only few weeks ago, WAEC noted Nigeria's performance in the 2009 SSCE as only 25 per cent(!). However, Head of WAEC National Office, Iyi Uwadiae was quick to point out that, we can take consolation in the fact that, Nigeria’s performance is the best among member countries, which include Ghana, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia. According to Iyi Uwadiae, "In our excellence award, Nigeria dominated. Nigerian candidates are doing very well,"

With 25 percent performance, it’s very disappointing to hear the Head of WAEC saying “Nigerian candidates are doing well”. So what exactly is the benchmark for measuring examination success? Why are we so fond of celebrating mediocrity? I consider Mr Uwadiea’s statement ludicrous.

Mr Uwadiae can say whatever he likes. As one will expect, he has chosen to be ‘patriotic’ rather than been objective in his comments. His statement however does not take anything away from the fact that our education system is comatose. Can his statement be accepted as evidence that our education system is better than that of Ghana? For me, the answer is No! If we do indeed outperform our neighbours, then why are Nigerians sending their wards to Ghana for secondary school education? Why have places like Benin and Togo, all of sudden become a destination for Nigerian students?

The result is a strong indictment of our education system. It exemplifies the rot in the education system. Is it not pathetic that our standards have now fallen so low, that the nation’s foremost assessing authority now considers 25 percent performance as “success”.

With the current state of education system, it doesn’t come as a surprise that 23million Nigerian youths are unemployable. As they say, “knowledge is power”. No nation can excel without investment in quality education aimed at economic growth. The lack of investment in quality education is putting our youths at a huge disadvantage. The world is now a global village. Nigeria is not just competing with, Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

But with the continuous decline in our education system, how can Nigerian youths compete with their counterparts from other parts of the globe?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Missing President" - A Case for Constitution Review

The Abuja Federal High Court, yesterday declared that Vice President Jonathan Goodluck is “empowered by the 1999 Constitution to exercise, in the absence of President Umaru Yar’Adua, all the powers vested in him, including signing of sensitive documents, so far such powers are delegated to him”.

Justice Dan Abutu made the pronouncement while interpreting sections 5(1) and 148 (1) of the 1999 constitution in a suit brought by a lawyer, Mr. Christopher Onwuekwe. Mr Onwuekwe had asked the high court to declare that “in absence of the President Umaru Yar’Adua, the Vice President, by virtue of the provisions of Section 5(1) and 148 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, could exercise all the powers vested in the President in the interest of peace, order and good governance pending when his boss, Yar’Adua, would resume office.

In his judgement, Justice Abutu noted that both sections 5(1) and 148 (1) are clear about how the president can transfer to the Vice President or any of the cabinet member. However it did not specify the manner or the procedure through which Mr. President could delegate any of the presidential powers.

So in simple terms, the Vice President could be instructed via a simple phone call from Saudi Arabia to sign the 2010 Budget Appropriation Bill. In fact the Judge went further that it’s no one’s prerogative to query the mode of transfer of power to the Vice President (!). In the current situation where it is rumoured that the president is comatose, how can anyone be sure that the president is actually passing instructions. Another implication of the judgement is that it indirectly legitimises the “unofficial” role of the First Lady as a conduit between president and cabinet members, since no one can challenge the ‘mode of power transfer’.

Whether good or bad, the current political impasse has helped underline the ambiguity in the nation’s constitution. And from the events of the last few weeks, I have come to a conclusion that when you are dealing with Nigerian issues, matters of legal importance need to be spelt out in ‘black and white’. You cannot afford to have grey areas, because if you do, it will be exploited to its maximum as we are currently experiencing.

The truth is, as things currently stand, President Umaru Yar’Adua has not breached any provisions in the 1999 constitution. I’m sure some would ask, what’s this guy talking about?. Whilst it might sound harsh, that is the blunt truth.

There is nothing in the constitution about how much time the president can spend overseas, just as the Deputy Senate President said recently. So as far as the constitution goes, President Yar’Adua can stay in Saudi Arabia as long as he likes. Also, just as the Attorney-General once said, the constitution does not state that the president has to be physically present in Nigeria to rule the country. This means, President. Yar’Adua can continue to rule Nigeria from Saudi Arabia until kingdom come. In fact there is nothing stopping us from voting for an offshore president, if we so decide, in 2011. If people can contest and win elections while in prison, how much more having a ‘President in Diaspora’.

Also, we have been told many times by the Yar’Adua apologists that there is nowhere in the constitution where it is mandated that the President has to handover to his deputy. Whilst some might not agree, it is the fact. The president is not obliged by the constitution to do so. This could easily be interpreted as been discretionary.

Even on the issue of incapacitation of the president, the constitution does not clearly articulate what it means to be incapacitated. And like I wrote in one of my previous articles, does lying on a hospital bed mean been incapacitated? Or is it being brain-damaged? Or is it when you are in coma? Some might say these are trivial questions of which you can apply common sense. But as we all know, ‘common sense is not always common’. When an individual is allowed too much discretion, you cannot expect him/her not to exercise the discretion in his/her favour.

So the question is, how do we prevent a repetition of the current political crisis? You need not to be a Professor of constitutional law or political science to know that the nation’s constitution needs wholesale review. And when I say constitution review, I’m not talking about opportunity for state creation or tenure elongation. The loopholes currently being exploited needs to be plugged, as a matter of urgency. Legislative provisions need to be set in black and white, since it has become apparent that our political leaders cannot be trusted with the use of discretion. If it takes having clauses that limit the duration of the president’s absence, so be it!

The power to investigate the health status of the President should not rest solely on the Executive. The national assembly should be given powers to initiate such investigation. For me, vesting such powers on the Executive represents a major conflict of interest. Most, if not all, members of the federal executive council are the loyalists to the president. So how can anyone expect them to launch an investigation that could ultimately result I them losing their jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no perfect constitution. You must be living in utopia to want to have a perfect constitution. Like every legal document, it can never be fool-proof. But at the same time, there is no point having a constitution that is not ‘fit for purpose’. Irrespective of how the current crisis is resolved, there is a growing urgent need for a wholesale review of the constitution. We cannot afford a repetition of the current political impasse. A situation where a nation’s president will go missing for 50 days is totally unacceptable in any jurisdiction. Nigeria is not a banana republic.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Abuja High Court has ordered Vice-President Jonathan Goodluck to be sworn in as Acting President.

More to come....!!!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Shameful Act - NEXT Editorial

And on the 50th day, they did nothing.

Our national legislators met yesterday in our benighted capital, and promptly decided they needed not pronounce on the fact that our president has vanished from our shores for 50 straight days.

It is rapidly becoming a kind of macabre joke, or at least a rich subject for sarcasm, were the fate of 150 million people not directly tied to it.
It is 50 days. Do you know where/how/what your president is?
As thousands of citizens filled the streets of Abuja yesterday, demanding action on an absentee president, the expensively maintained members of our National Assembly met in their first session, after a prolonged holiday, to declare that it was unimportant to even discuss what to do about a president who is no longer able to perform his duties. Other than to send a delegation to Saudi Arabia, all the while making clear that they will leave any real action to a cabinet that has so far shown no inclination to live up to its constitutional duties.

Instead, they wanted to divert themselves with something called "anti-terrorism" measures. Or where to find your lost dog Bingo. Or whatever.

Anything, it appeared, but the most urgent matter at hand-a dangerous leadership vacuum created by the indefinite absence of a critically ill and incapable president, who is believed to be suffering multiple organ failures, brain damage, cognitive dissonance, and is alarmingly emaciated.

Let us be very clear: Umaru Yar'Adua, decent man though he is, and sympathetic though we are to him personally and to his family, is no longer able to discharge the functions of the presidency. Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar and should produce the president for the world to see.
We at NEXT take no pride at all in the personal travails of the president. If anything, we would love nothing more than for him to somehow magically be restored to full health so that he can function effectively as president. He seems to be a decent enough man, at least compared to most in our political leadership. And it may not have been entirely his fault that his exit from Abuja in late November has created such a mess. After all, he is critically ill, and perhaps we could not have expected that he had the time, or the wits, to have prepared a formal letter to the Senate President announcing his absence and the appointment of his deputy to act during his absence.

But that having happened, we are left in the hands of a sinister cabal hell-bent on ruling the country from the shadows, for no other discernible purpose than self gain. This cabal,led by First Lady Turai Yar'Adua, has successfully kept the president from public view, curtailed any meaningful access to him by responsible officers of state, and chosen to dole out instructions supposedly emanating from the president. The last time this happened anywhere in the world, the Soviet Union was still in existence. We are worse that a banana republic; we are a butt of jokes in any part of our civilised world.

But instead of responsible organs of state and those that lead them standing up to clean up the mess left by Mr. Yar'Adua, we have had a failure of courage from virtually all sectors of our national political leadership.

The first and most obvious has been Mr. Yar'Adua's cabinet,which the constitution presumes will be populated largely by women and men of some character and patriotism, and therefore could be trusted to declare the president medically incapacitated so that Vice President Goodluck Jonathan could take over with some measure of orderliness until the next election.

Fat chance.

Then yesterday we faced the farce in the National Assembly,

presided over by the spineless and unpatriotic duo of David Mark, the Senate president,and Dimeji Bankole, the Speaker of the House. Both arms of the national legislature effectively said it was not important enough even to debate the issue. The political opposition, of course, is largely mealy-mouthed and has so far provided no concrete example of leadership around which the nation could rally.

Finally, we have political leaders, former President Olusegun Obasanjo prominent among them, who have proved most cowardly and unworthy.

What we have left are citizens, on whom we now call to express their justifiable outrage and disgust by saying, enough. Please sign our electronic petition on our web site, Let a million voices be heard.

Article culled from NEXT  Newspaper.
Cartoon culled from Vanguard Newspaper

Monday, January 11, 2010

What If You Were the President for One Year?

I asked a couple of questions on a social networking website recently, and I thought I should share some of the responses I received.

My questions were "if are given a mandate to rule Nigeria for one year only, what will you seek to change? What will be your topmost priority? What will be your 'quick wins'?

Feel free to post your comments.

Uchenna B
electricity 24/7

Olajuwon A

electoral system! That will build a solid foundation into building other things. Good and eligible leaders will be voted in in a free and fair manner.

Oshine O
topmost priority: strengthen the process of true representation via a dependable electoral reform that can even unseat me if am not representing enough, supremacy of the constitution and judicial independent that can see even the president to prison on charges of corruption. Quick win: assets declaration with a sworn affidadit that any illegal ... See Moreproperty and fund at the end of our tenure should be given to the state, Zero tolerance for corruption, no foreign medicals for cabinet member and family including education. my children education and health issue must be in public school and within the state health schem. State police with some caution. no police escort for cabinet member and no foreign trip for cabinet member except on official purposes. I will seek to change our system of government possible re introduction of regional government as against federalism, i ll seek to change our absolute dependence on oil and fight godfatherism in politics and sure, all past leaders ll be made to acount for illega gotten wealth and ?
Oraye S

My 1st week will see the judiciary & efcc coordinating a strategic & high powered probe of special interests (parastatals & persons) while that's going on, we'd initiate moves for a sovereign national conference to remake nigeria. In one yr, i'd be happy to send thieves to jail & have true (fiscal) federalism entrenched in Nigeria.

Segun M

@Juwon, i agree. A good electoral system will bring good leaders that will bring all the change we need.

Seyi O

@All.....interesting stuff.
But do u think we can have a genuine electoral reform in one year?

Oraye S

That's why its not my focus

Oshine O

but without it, our direction is bleak!

Oraye S

I think in one yr the focus shld be a leadership that can inspire change. Strong decisions must be made & strong crooks clipped. If we get that then ppl will definitely move on to reform the electoral process, power, education et al.

Oshine, just imagine that for 3yrs now, we'v been running 4rm pillar 2 post on all kinds of reforms. That's why we need an electoral revolution in 2011 to bring in the leadership that can command the change we desperately need.

Oshine O

i agree, the electoral revolution ll fast track the reform. Correct!

Taofik K

Electricity. And every other thing will fall in place automatically


1st 3Mths all radio and tv stations must play national anthem and pledge at noon and 10pm daily. Churches, Mosques & Offices must say National Anthem and Pledge after closing. I will expand governance to the internet with live weekly video conference 2hrs meetings about Development. Priorities will be: Law Enforcement upgrade, Agricultural Production, Enterpreneurship, Public Health, Literacy, Industrilization, Population Control, Digital Educational Sytem. I will give Power & Energy to VP.

Taofik K

A more radical way is to kill all politicians above age 45 or send them on exile. No apologies

Blessing A
Focus on building our culture of anything works and remove lawlessness by bringing in discipline to evey sector....civil service, police, once you reform the mind by being firm and dealing with corruption squarely, get the right team and set a system that works base on principles, fairness and justice. Everyone equal b4 the law. I tell you once u ... See Moreget the laws to work people will carry their duties with national interest . Everyother thing will follow. People will be afraid to steal money meant for power projects or roads , people will pay their bills etc. Just empower the justice system and people will stand for their rights and demand for better systems
Oshine O

@kassim, u mean u go kill me? laughssss

In addition, I will change some policies and see how the constitution can be redrafted and copies made available to every household. Nigeria has enough capability to power the people but equipments need to be upgraded. However I will make sure Institutions get power during the 3/4 of the day and Residential 3/4 of d evenings until total upgrade can... See More be done. Work from home initiative to reduce commuting and pollution. Official 4 working days and 3 Shift operation in necessary institutions. 24h Sport Centers!
Banky O

Jail everyone!

Temitope S
Imagine 80% of the ruling class in jail and the rest 20% shot ehn,heaven.I will empty their bank accounts and fund education,infrastructures and the health services with it.electoral reforms my ass.we need to understand that total democracy cannot work for nigeria,it is prejudiced and too expensive.a little bit of democracy at the grassroots for ... See Morethe future to be built on and total revolution at the top.fantastic formula.remember,the enemies of nigeria are the minority ruling class.they are organised and very ruthless and needs to be removed from circulation before any meaningful progress can be achieved.

Ekundayo A

Interesting will be NEPA and the other will be tackling corruption....... those two will be big for me!!

Femi A
In the first hour of the first day, I will instruct all governors and LG chairmen to visit all Police cells and release, with profuse apologies, anyone who has been detained without charge. Then a statement of intent to outline a 4-point government action plan-

1. Setting out an interim list of national priorities- education, primary health care, infrastructure development BUT not defence or football. The definitive list will be outlined after 4. is concluded.

2. Civil concordat- basic rights of the people and primary functions of the government- security, development strategy, facilitating entrepreneurship, impartial arbiter of private economic activity.

3. Tackle corruption- start by a full declaration of my assets (freely disseminated on the web, newspapers,and other media), immediately followed by that of my Ministers (there'll be no Special Assistants).

4. Institute a Sovereign National Conference to address our union, and the structure of the federating units.... See More

Then I will retire to drink some palm wine and give her Excellency the first lady (na joke- i will abolish the ridiculous office!) some serious action before going to sleep.

Ekundayo A

LOL ..Femi, you are really prepared..or are you the plan B for Baba Go-slow?

Balogun O
This is in fact the sort of conversation we need to have as progressives. Since you've asked a three part question, I will try my best to respond accordingly.

My first thing would be to effectively train and equip our Law Enforcement, because we all know that corruption, greed and armed robbery are all huge issues in Nigeria. My first priority will be a total and comprehensive overhaul of the Law enforcement system in Nigeria, including intelligence agencies. I will also ensure that men and women of law enforcement including all civil servants are well remunerated and that they are also paid promptly -- this includes their retirement as well.

My next big initiative would be to finally establish a safety net for Nigerians like we have social security in America, because therein lies the key to an intelligent way of fighting crime while providing access to an array of much needed socio-political and socio-economic development (This is also a very good way to ensure people registered to vote).... See More

My next initiative would power, I will deregulate the power sector as I do not believe the government should be in the business of generation and distribution of electricity -- I’ll leave that to the private sector. I will bring in the latest solar and smart grid technologies because that is the future, and that is the engine that will drive business and help businesses survive and it is a much needed relief for Nigerians.

Another priority would be to provide incentives for students, ensure that getting to College is not as complicated as it is right now, and also ensure that when they get out of college there is gainful employment waiting for them. I will fight for an upward revision of the minimum wage in Nigeria.

I will invest in Health Care and do a lot of infrastructure spending, a very big one being roads and constant maintenance of roads. People do not have to keep dying at the rate at which they do right now on our roads.

I will ensure that Teachers, Doctors, Nurses, Engineers etc have access to the latest technologies in their respective fields of endeavor by mandating they receive constant training. The list is endless...

Akin L
i will with utmost urgency let Nigerians know nation building must be done collectively. I will move to remove government from oil business. Deregulate the power sector totally, I will try as much as possible to restrict government activities to tax collection and provision of welfare services. Before I leave i will reduce government dependency on ... See Morecrude oil to below 20% of revenue. I will do this by encouraging taxes so much that people will see that their money is in government and therefore participate

it can be done. the oil represents less than 30% of GDP. other sectors are contributing nothing to govt expenditure. The money is latent

The root cause of Nigeria's problem is understandable. Government stance is 'We will manage this oil money instead of collecting taxes that will now make the masses demand accountability and free and fair elections. The truth is NO JUPITER CAN REALLY TAKE THE MONEY OF THE MASSES AND GO FREE. remember the Rawlings massacre in GHana. Also the ongoing Sanusi probe in Nigerian banks

Ekundayo A

We definitely have a lot ofm presidents in the making!!! I wonder why we are wasting time with a comatose one

Friday, January 8, 2010

What does it mean to be a Nigerian?

If there is one thing I have learnt from the Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab bombing saga, it is people’s perception of what defines a “Nigerian”.

I recall when the news hit the airwaves on Christmas day that a Nigerian has been arrested for trying to blow up a US airline. As expected, the public reaction was swift. However, many refused to believe a Nigerian will be involved in such a nefarious act. Even when it became clear that the suspect was carrying a Nigerian passport, few people were still sceptical. The reasonable for the scepticism was understandable. You will be stupid to assume that all holders of Nigerian passports are actually Nigerian citizens. In connivance with corrupt Immigration officers, foreign national have been fraudulently issued passport in the past.

It was not until the photograph and identity of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, as being the son of the former First Bank Chairman, was disclosed that the penny dropped (!). And just as a friend said during a discussion, if Umar AbdulMutallab was a son of a “Mr Nobody”, it is likely that we will still be arguing over his nationality. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the govt says, his father is an “illegal immigrant” in Nigeria.

Whilst we can all agree that religious extremism exists in Nigeria as witnessed in Boko Haram and Kalo Kato riots, however these extremist behaviours have never been exported outside the shores of the country. The consensus among the civil society is that a Nigerian will not die for anything, talk less of dying for nothing. Nigeria is often described as a nation of docile citizens. And this partly explains why our leaders have continued to rape the nation with impunity.

Many have argued that Umar AbdulMutallab cannot be classified as typical Nigerian because of the length of time he spent overseas. As we know, Umar AbdulMutallab received his post-primary school education in Togo and the United Kingdom. He was also reported to have travelled to Yemen to study Arabic language. So as far as most Nigerians are concerned, Umar AbdulMutallab hasn’t exposed to the traditional Nigerian upbringing. And considering the limited time he spent living in his home country, there was no way he could have been ‘radicalised’ in Nigeria.

The question for me then is, what exactly does it mean to be a Nigerian? What typifies a Nigerian citizen? What are salient characteristics of a Nigerian Citizen?

As I write, there are various online social groups vehemently repudiating the actions of Umar AbdulMutallab Farouk. For once Nigerians have come out in solidarity to condemn the action of this misguided individual. And in order not be labelled a ‘terrorist’ state’, there are planned peaceful protests across the nation and overseas to say that “Nigerians are not terrorists”. So if we all agree for once that we are not terrorists, then what are we?

Sadly, there seems to be an informal acceptance among “we” Nigerians that we are a nation of ‘scam artistes’. When Umar AbdulMutallab terrorist attempt was reported, I heard people say, “If it’s 419, credit card or money laundering, then it could be a Nigerian, but not terrorism”. So does that mean we’ve indirectly accepted fraud as part of our way of life? On one hand, when the western media portrays us as such, we cry to high heavens. However our lackadaisical attitude towards condemnation and prosecution of perpetrators of fraud, money laundering, and drug trafficking only confirms such views.

Let me pose these questions, if Umar AbdulMutallab was caught at a US airport trying to launder foreign currency, would that have drawn same local public reaction? What if he had been caught trafficking cocaine? How will the Nigerian public have reacted? How will the Nigerian public have reacted if he had been caught with fake credit cards and passports? Would we all have spoken with one voice that we are not fraudsters?

It is also convenient to say Umar AbdulMutallab is not a typical Nigerian because he spent most of his formative years overseas. However they are many Nigerian high-profile public office holders who share similar background with Umar AbdulMutallab. These so-called “big men pickin”, having spent most of their lives overseas come back to home only to be handed plum government positions. Some even ride into political offices on the back of their parents’ political clout.

Just like Umar AbdulMutallab, it will be right to say these big men pickin are also not typical Nigerians. However, they still engage in fraudulent and corrupt practices that are attributed to ‘typical’ Nigerians. How can anyone explain the reason behind this?

As much as we can all say “I’m a Nigerian and not a terrorist”, for me, a person is defined by his/her individual personality and not ‘nationality’.

Save Nigeria Protest! London! New York! Abuja! and Canberra (Australia)!

London protest . starts 12pm Tuesday 12th January 2010 Trafalgar square, move to parliament square- then ends at Nigerian High Commison , Nigeria House

9 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5BX encouraged to come with Nigerian flag. Homemade banners, dress warm . contact 07984212553 or e mail  London Metropolitan Police will provide security.

Key point for Protest, Where is Musa Yar'Adua

Nigerians are no terrorists

Stop the criminalisations of Nigerians,

Fight against corruption

and add as you may wish


Australian protest: Nigerian High Commission, Canberra. 26 Guilfoyle Street, Yarralumla, ACT 2600

Ph: +61 2 6282 7411. Time: 12 PM. Tuesday 12th January 2010. Contact Abiola Falayajo Jr.  for more details.


Tuesday 12th January 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Terrorism and National Security - My Thoughts

It is official; Nigeria has now been inducted into the US terrorism ‘hall of fame’. Oh sorry, the US terrorist ‘watch list’.

The US govt through Transportation Security Administration (TSA), announced that it would begin enhanced screening procedures on any US-bound air passenger travelling through a list of 14 nations, in which Nigeria has been included. From the US point of view, the 14 nations (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Cuba, Afghanistan, Algeria, Libya ) are believed to have links to terrorism.

So how did we become a member of the terrorism “hall of fame”? On 25 December 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, son of the former First Bank Chairman, Dr AbdulMutallab, attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear on a Northwest Airline Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit Michigan. And according to the US authorities, Umar claimed to have obtained explosive chemicals and a syringe that were sewn into his underwear from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with Al Qaeda. Further investigations by US authorities also revealed that Umar has been in contact with radical Islamic extremist Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been accused of being a senior al-Qaeda talent recruiter.

My thoughts

Many commentators have described the action of the US govt has been high-handed. The Minister for Information also described the action has been ‘unfair’. From the public perspective, it seems that 150million people have now been ‘criminalised’ because of the nefarious act of a single individual. However, for anyone to think that US govt reaction was just because of Umar AbdulMutallab’s terrorist expedition smacks of naiveté.

It is common knowledge that religious extremism has been on the sharp rise in Nigeria. We all know of the famous Boko Haram killings. Also, just two days after the US terrorist attempt, hundreds of lives were lost in Bauchi State to religious riots (Kalo Kato). The nation also witnessed incessant bombing of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta. The combination of religious extremism in the North and armed militancy in the Niger Delta underlines the failure of our national security.

As much as we can criticise the US for its high-handedness, it’s the US govt prerogative to determine who it allows into the country and under what terms and conditions. We need not to remind ourselves that the US is a sovereign nation.

It is convenient for our leaders to say Umar’s action was an isolated case, and not representative of behaviour of 150 million Nigerians. But there is no doubt that the US govt will be deeply concerned about the failure of the Nigerian govt in dealing with the local religious extremism. Who knows if the Boko Harams are actually al-Qaeda sympathisers? Who knows if some of the extremist organisations in Nigeria are affiliated to the al-Qaeda or Hezebollah of this world? It’s been alleged that some of the Niger Delta militants were trained in Libya (!).

Up until now, there’s not been a case of religious extremism that has been successful investigated. Almost every year, hundreds of lives and properties worth millions of naira is lost to religious riots. Instead of getting to root of the problem, our security agencies engage in judicial killing.

What the government fails to realise, is that the whole world is watching. No nation is interested in dealing with countries with failed national security. Our failed national security is a haven for home grown terrorists. While these terrorists may not be interested in blowing up US interests, there are a threat to our national existence.

What we are witnessing are the effects of failing (or failed) nation. The western world has lost faith in us. Our society is deeply corrupt. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of our society. Our security agencies are arguably some of the most corrupt in the world. With the level of corruption in Nigeria, I’m convinced that a suicide bomber can pay his/her into a passenger aircraft. For the right price, such a person would be offered a ‘first class’ seat. It is in Nigeria where Customs officials aid and abet importation of fake drugs. It is in Nigeria where Immigration officials knowingly issue passports to non-citizens using false identity.

There is no doubt that the new US policy would affect every Nigerian, irrespective of social status. Unfortunately, 150 million people will now pay for the sins of one stupid individual. Already a Nigerian travelling overseas is a suspected asylum seeker, suspected over stayer, suspected illegal immigrant, suspected identity fraudster, suspected drug courier, and now a suspected terrorist.

May God help us!