OPINION: Sanusi, Akunyili and the road rarely travelled

10 Jan

Originally published in my NEXT column in December 2010

By Tolu Ogunlesi

The Nigerian Big Man is essentially a man (or woman) who derives his power from the (relative) powerlessness of those around him. A Big Man may or may not have a Big Stomach, but a Big Ego is sine qua non. And of course, money. Loads of it, often acquired illegally. Big Men also prefer to move in groups; something to do with a fine appreciation of the advantages inherent in the deployment of a mob mentality. 

Early this year a band of Big Men rose to prominence. Going by the name “Federal Executive Council”, they decided to hold the nation to ransom during the crisis that followed the disappearance of President Yar’Adua. On Wednesday January 27, more than sixty days after the President vanished, they rose from a meeting to declare that “the president is not incapable of discharging the functions of his office.” 

An even more powerful mob (in terms of its capacity to maintain a murderous grip on Nigeria) is the one known as the “Governors Forum”. Abandoning their constitutional duties they turn to clandestine meetings, seeking to manipulate whoever is President. They’re always selfishly wanting something: a share of the Excess Crude account, the right to produce the Vice President, or President…

Then there is the mob that has been in the news lately. They go by the name “National Assembly”, and like to think of themselves as “Honorables”, but everyone knows that is a private joke gone public, and that if you’re looking for ‘Honour’, the farther you move away from the premises of the National Assembly, the more likely you are to stumble into her.

These people apparently swore an oath to faithfully divide Nigeria’s commonwealth amongst themselves (‘so help us God!’) – through increasingly inventive schemes: Constituency Allowances, Furniture Allowances, Contract Awards. Their houses are always in need of refurbishment, their cars in need of replacement; their office carpets and printer toners have the shortest life-spans this side of eternity. 

As a friend put it in a Facebook status update: “Never in the history of Nigerian political endeavour has so much been paid by so many to so few.” But the truth is that no one pays this mob, they pay themselves, and exactly how much no one has the foggiest idea.

Arguably their most striking characteristic is a prickliness in the face of criticism. Which is puzzling, because one would think that all the money they feed on would at least thicken their skins. But no, this is one petulant bunch; think “Nigeria’s most prestigious kindergarten” and you wouldn’t be far from the truth.

This is why Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi’s encounter with this mob – in which he accurately labelled it a drain on the country’s economy – should go down in history as one of the most memorable moments of 2010. As is customary our Machiavellian mob instantly fished out its favourite poison – a fermented mix of blackmail and bullying, bearing no expiry date – and is now obsessed with getting Lamido to take a sip. It has queried his character; wondered aloud if he’s enjoying his job. 

An unfazed Sanusi responded in words that should be pasted in every government office, every school building, across Nigeria: “My name is Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, not ‘Central Bank Governor’. I enjoy my job but if you want me to quit, I will honourably quit.”

Of course that answer must have flown right over the heads of our distinguished mob – a bunch for whom “quitting honourably” is an abomination; for whom life would be hopelessly incomplete without the “Senator” or “Honourable” prefixing their names.

Sanusi brought a smile to my face. My ‘Nigeria’s Persons of the Year’ List is taking shape. Sanusi is in, joining Dora Akunyili, who, you will recall, declared, most memorably, in the heat of the Yar’Adua constitutional crisis: “I am the Minister of Information for the Federal Republic of Nigeria but if you ask me, I have no information about this matter.”

I have chosen to ignore Akunyili’s “Naija” misadventures (blame it on boredom) and focus instead on her ‘greater good’. I will also be the first to acknowledge that Lamido Sanusi is not a perfect man. I think he sometimes talks too much; far too much for a Central Bank Governor. And then there are those bow-ties, but let’s leave that for another day.

Nigeria however doesn’t need perfect men and women. No. To give an idea of what Nigeria needs, I will quote from the article I wrote (“Wonder Woman”) praising Dora Akunyili, after she broke ranks with the Federal Executive Council earlier in the year:

“At this hour, this minute, we need more people speaking truth to power, especially from WITHIN the corridors of power. There are enough of us outsiders trying our best, screaming from the rooftops and marketplaces and newsrooms, from the Facebook status updates and twitter pages.”

Speaking truth to power, from the inside. Sanusi (Central Bank Governor; grandson of a former Emir of Kano – what could be more “Northern Elite” than that?) – a man who should be the archetypal Establishment Man, has chosen to stare our rapacious Lawmakers in the face, without blinking. I doff my hat.

The Lagos Floating Museum of Folly: A Proposal

9 Jan

(First published in ONGOING CONCERNS, my NEXT newspaper column, in June 2010)

By Tolu Ogunlesi

It is the shame of the century. The fact that Lagos, a city of fifteen million, is without a proper National Museum. If you think the “National Museum” at Onikan is a museum you’ve got another think coming – that place, dusty, dimly lit, supremely depressing, is a disgrace to this country. It is a disgrace to the legacy of Murtala Mohammed, whose official car (in which he was shot and killed) lies forlorn in a padlocked garage. It is a disgrace to the memories of all of those great Empires that once made up this “geographical expression” now called Nigeria. Disgrace, period.

If Lagos is serious about becoming a city to be reckoned with, then the government needs to pay a lot more attention to making history feel at home amidst the enchanting dysfunction that is Lagos. Following therefore is a proposal to kickstart a reinvention of Lagos. The proposal revolves around the iconic Lagos yacht known as the Sunborn (Sunburnt?). But a little history first:

The Sunborn was once a proud resident of the city of London. In 2003 it won an award for ‘Best Kept Hotel in the United Kingdom’. Twice (2005 and 2006) a London newspaper group awarded it the prize for ‘Best Hotel in London’ in the ‘Food and Drink’ category.

But that was then. The floating hotel soon became a victim of its own success. Unable to cope with a rapidly-expanding clientele, it had to be replaced by a bigger boat. That was the first misfortune. The second misfortune was even more overwhelming: the hotel caught the attention of the Lagos State Government. The state Commissioner for Tourism, Tokunbo Afikuyomi thought the Sunborn would look good on the Lagos skyline. In 2008 the yacht arrived in Lagos.

Afikuyomi was ecstatic. He boasted that the Sunborn would “would put [Lagos] in the league of the first five major cities of the world with similar hospitable facilities and tourism earnings capabilities.” He spoke too soon, too loudly. Two years after the Sunborn berthed in Lagos waters, it has become a museum piece. It lies derelict, an eloquent monument to the inimitable ‘Nigerian factor’; its trans-Atlantic trip now clearly a drawn-out journey to Death Row.

My proposal seeks to take drastic measure to salvage the yacht. I hereby propose that the Sunborn, the “Pride of London” that has become the Shame of Lagos, be converted into a Museum: The Floating Museum of Folly – a testament to the infinite ability of Nigeria and its people to energetically inflate ambition with foolishness; to complicate good fortune with bad luck; to transmute child’s play into rocket science. The idea of the Museum will be to serve as a one-stop shop for the patently irresponsible legacies of Nigerians and their leaders.

The Lagos State Government is in good company. Nigeria’s history is littered with monuments to folly; ill-conceived projects dreamt up by governments in active collaboration with the armies of ‘consultants’ and ‘contractors’ that have occupied the land from the Beginning.

First in will be Ayodele Fayose, swashbuckling former Governor of Ekiti State, who ‘chickened out’ into the hands of the EFCC. The man sunk billions of state funds into a poultry project that never took off. The money did however succeed in taking off, crash-landing well out of sight.

Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, men whose administrative style can be justifiably summed up in one line: “if in doubt, set up a government agency!” will be prominently represented in this Museum, with the relics of MAMSER (Babangida), and the National Reconciliation Committee and War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (Abacha). Obasanjo will make it in with the tricycle-buying NAPEP.

Ojo Maduekwe’s famous bicycle, the one he almost committed suicide on in Abuja a few years ago will be on display, as will Patricia Etteh’s (proposed) 98 million naira massagers. There will also be famous “Star of David” from the monstrous carbuncle that Timipre Sylva inflicted on the impoverished face of his oil-rich state. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke’s legendary ‘Obama Dinner’ will be recreated full-scale within the Museum. On display will be thousands of National Identity Cards, bankers’ payslips from a few years ago, and Margin Loan documents.

It is not only our leaders and who will be memorialised in the Sunborn. Ordinary Nigerians will have a section devoted to them; to the mindless spending culture that sees weekend after weekend transformed into naira-burning orgies. That section will feature embossed invitation cards and hypnotisingly-patterned, horribly overpriced aso-ebis.

The idea of the Sunborn as a Floating Museum of Folly will serve a number of purposes:

It will in some ways redeem the Sunborn dream. That yacht was built to be a crowd-puller; if, in Lagos, it cannot draw the crowds as a luxury hotel, it surely will as a museum.

It will create jobs and provide income for guides, souvenir dealers, and tour package firms.

In a land with a curious predilection for amnesia it will ensure that the past and present never fail to walk cheek by jowl. The hope is that the past will eventually shame the present into sensibleness.

Take this piece as an open letter to Mr. Afikuyomi (representing the Lagos State Government). I volunteer to be an unpaid Consultant (that word again!) to the project. In my mind I can already see the Floating Museum of Folly, its rich red carpets worn out beneath the feet of the tens of thousands who will visit annually.

And I can picture scenes at Nigerian embassies across the world, as foreigners hustle for visas to enable them pay obligatory pilgrimage to what Aunt Dora will inevitably refer to as “Africa’s biggest museum!”

*

[UPDATE: That ‘ship’ has since sailed away, back to God-knows-where. A Thames sighting has been reported :) Most disappointingly, the ruling party in Lagos has simply dismissed it as a “bad business” deal that has now been “done away with.” (see link)

Seriously? Do we know how much that “bad business” cost the state’s taxpayers? Are we allowed to know?

(ON)GOING CONCERNS: When two elephants fight…

11 Dec

By Tolu Ogunlesi

First published in NEXT (February 2011)

The debate started on a peaceful, rather cerebral note. Former presidential aide and two-time minister, Femi Fani-Kayode put up a short Facebook “note” titled: “Is Hosni Mubarak’s Time Up?” and comments were pouring in.

Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, governor of Jigawa State between 1999 and 2007, and currently a member of the Nigerian Senate, was an active contributor to the debate. All went well until the spotlight shifted, to the Nigerian situation and the country’s trademark leadership crisis. Turaki brought the late President Yar’Adua into the picture by saying that Yar’Adua was “the best [of the] class of 1999.” (It’s hard to tell if this was said in sarcasm or not) Fani-Kayode described Yar’Adua’ as “a disgraceful choice.”

Then both men started to argue over who was in the know regarding the circumstances surrounding Yar’Adua’s emergence as president. Turaki, describing himself as “the closest [governor] to [Obasanjo]” and therefore an insider dismissed Fani-Kayode as an “appointee” who was “not in the deep [sic]”.

Riled by Turaki’s comments, Fani-Kayode told him ‘the story of his life’, as they’d say in my language. “Ibrahim, you were elected in your little state somewhere in the dusty northwest and apart from coming to the villa to curry favour and gossip at night you were not part of us at the federal level.” By the time Fani-Kayode was done, he had ‘revealed’ several things, including, but not limited to the following:

One: that surrounding Mr. Obasanjo was a cabal of “evil” people, who did nothing but “[steal] vast sums of money, [supply] little girls for the president, [create] turmoil in our states and [mess] up government policies.” The name of Obasanjo’s aide Andy Uba featured prominently.

Two: that contesting for control of Mr. Obasanjo’s mind, were two camps- one full of “well bred intellectuals” who “came from an upper class and well-respected background”- and the other, a “cabal”, consisting of “a bunch of unenlightened and barely educated people who had managed to buy their ways into various government houses as governor in 1999 and in 2003; mainly charlatans, cowards and self-serving liars and a bunch of self-seeking sycophants.”

Many other very alarming things were said; indeed, when two Nigerian elephants fight – the shit covers the grass! But let’s for a moment ignore these admittedly unsurprising allegations, and focus on Fani-Kayode’s concluding words to Turaki: “When next I see [Andy Uba] or you I will take great pleasure in telling you both all this to your faces. It is long overdue…”

Long overdue. Crucial words. Isn’t it a disgrace that the story of the Obasanjo years remains mostly unwritten? In a sensible country the bookstands would have by now been awash with titles – tell-all tales of the workings of the Obasanjo Presidency, and the ill-fated Yar’Adua Presidency that succeeded it.

But because this is Nigeria – nothing of the sort will happen. We need WikiLeaks to tell us that Aondoakaa tried to blackmail the British government into dropping charges against James Ibori; and FaniK-Leaks to reveal that “little girls” were regularly supplied to the Presidential Villa.

Last year, Donald Duke shared with Nigerians a most fascinating treatise on how Nigerian governors rig elections, but did it casually, in what appeared to be an extempore speech.

Nasir El-Rufai waited until things had completely fallen apart between him and the Yar’Adua administration before publishing – incidentally also on Facebook – a lengthy biographical essay about the late president. That essay does contain shocking details. Imagine that no one had thought of letting Nigerians know the kind of man they were getting as president in 2007?

Why is it only when things fall apart amidst them do Nigeria’s Big Men deem it fit to open their mouths? What does it say about the culture of conspiracy that reigns in our political spaces; the informal deals of mutual silence struck to maintain an oppressive status quo?

It is a tragedy that ordinary Nigerians like you and I have to wait for cases of “Two Fighting!” for any insights into the goings-on in the engine room of our country.

On the whole, reading the Facebook exchange (pre- and during the ‘fight’) between two men who by virtue of their positions were insiders of sorts in the Obasanjo years, was a fascinating experience for me. From it a clear pattern emerges: of an impulsive but intelligent Fani-Kayode, and an arrogant Turaki whose insights were tragically diminished by the garbled statements and atrocious grammar that conveyed them.

One other thing to take away from the incident is the fact that the debate thrown up by WikiLeaks – about the dividing line between the private and the public – is one that is bound to stay with us for much longer. In succumbing to his fury, was Fani-Kayode aware that he was making comments that were available to the public? And in bringing what was essentially a debate on Mr. Fani-Kayode’s Facebook “Wall” into the ‘public-public’ (outside-Facebook) domain, have I, as a columnist, taken any indefensible liberties with privacy?

Most interesting is that the entire exchange has now been deleted from Mr. Fani-Kayode’s Facebook page. Medicine after death, sadly, for anyone who knows a thing or two about the Internet’s infinite memory.

Party-ematics for Dummies (nPDP + APC = ?)

27 Nov

11 or so things you need to know about what is arguably the most significant re-drawing of Nigeria’s political map in the 4th Republic:

1. The APC has gone from 11 Governors to 16 Governors (Only 5 of the 7 nPDP Governors moved, apparently. Two distanced themselves from the ‘merger’ as soon as the news emerged, presumably wary of leaving Certainty for Uncertainty; and also buffetted by seen and unseen pressures, which may or may not include the EFCC). The PDP has gone from 23 Governors to 18. Labour has 1, APGA, 1. (It should be noted though, that the Labour and APGA Governors are simply PDP-by-other-names). 

 2. The power brokers in the APC at national level remain Bola Tinubu and Muhammadu Buhari. The new entrants are not very likely to upset that state of affairs at this time. They will be more likely to focus on staying in control at state level. Having said that, the influence of Tinubu will no doubt be diluted by this ‘merger’ even though he will clearly remain the National Leader of the party.

3. The Governors’ move may or may not significantly affect the party structures in the states. Over the coming days/weeks we will see how much of the structures align – Federal and State legislators, state party executives, etc. Will enough legislators defect to the APC to make the PDP the minority party in the National Assembly? Will the defecting Governors be able to sway their party executives and influential state politicians to the APC? 

 4. Attention will be on a number of persons in the coming days/weeks:

  • Aminu Tambuwal, the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, who has never hidden his association with the APC (his election was made possible by the overwhelming support of APC legislators; he was not the preferred candidate of the ruling party, and it’s safe to say they’ve only ever tolerated him).
  • Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who has identified prominently with the nPDP since the split, and is believed to have led the split.
  • Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who, while remaining a PDP chieftain, is not on the best of terms with the President and the party.
  • The 2 undecided nPDP Governors. Will they also decide for the APC? Or stay with the PDP – either reconciling in full or staying as internal opposition? Also, will other PDP Governors consider making a move?

 5. These nPDP-turned-APC states have very strong existing PDP structures. It will take a lot of time and effort to undo the PDP in these states. It will take more than a Governor defecting to alter the political equation. Will be interesting to see to what extent the Governors can build strong APC platforms in their states. Take Rivers as an example – it’s going to be almost impossible to displace PDP as ‘The Party To Beat’ there. This is a state that has been almost exclusively PDP since 1999. A few people might move with Amaechi, but not much else is likely to change. PDP will most likely remain as strong as ever in Rivers, home to the President’s wife. The gap left in the party by the departure of Governor Amaechi will quickly be filled by other forces and interests (e.g. Education Minister and Amaechi-opponent Nyesom Wike)

6. Because PDP is still the party in power at the center, it will still hold a lot of attraction for politicians, because of the many benefits available from the center: contracts, Government boards appointments etc. There will be many politicians who will stay in the hope that whatever they miss out on at state level they will be compensated for from Abuja.

7. Will there be another cabinet purge, as President Jonathan moves to punish all Ministers associated with the rebellious Governors? Will any Ministers resign-and-defect, or defect-and-resign? However things play out, these are not the best of times for the President. In the confusion he will resort to some desperate and ruthless - and ill-advised – moves. 

8. There will be considerable infighting within the APC, as the struggle for control of the party structures escalates. The new Governors will insist on being in charge of the APC in their states, and will inevitably clash with the existing (if feeble) APC structures. With the swelling of the APC it will begin to suffer from the curse of bigness – which has plagued the PDP from the beginning. I suspect that the Old APC will want to constantly remind the New APC of its newcomer status. The SouthWest APC may also strive to assert itself as the core APC.  

9. On 2015:

  • The two most populous states in Nigeria (Lagos, Kano), and the country’s 3 biggest domestic economies (Lagos, Kano, Rivers), are now being run by persons who belong to a single opposition party. That has never happened before, and might have implications for the funding of the opposition, and for the way the 2015 elections will play out.
  • We have no idea who the APC presidential candidate in 2015 will be, apart from the fact that he will be a Muslim from Northern Nigeria. Mallam El-Rufai says he’s got a candidate in mind, who he’s willing to support, but has not mentioned any names. 

10. I hesitate to see this as a “merger” – it’s more like a loose ‘coalition’ of forces arrayed against President Jonathan and the strongmen in whose tight grip the PDP currently is (Bamanga Tukur, Tony Anenih etc).

11. There is only one political party in Nigeria, actually. All it manages to do, in and out of crisis, is manifest in various guises. In the beginning (1998) there was only one party – the PDP. Every new party since then has emerged from that original; and all the combinations of acronyms since then have not been able to detract from the fact that political organisation in Nigeria is structured solely on the basis of fleeting interests (in this case the need to get Jonathan out in 2015) than on any long-term philosophy of governance or development.

One more thing: we are nowhere near the end of the confusion. The aligning and re-aligning will continue indefinitely. Rest assured, no one knows anything, not even those at the center of it. We’re all stumbling on blindly into the dark future, hoping for the best. The politicians all hope to end up on the winning team; while the people hope to end up on the receiving end of decent governance. 

Tolu Ogunlesi (c) 2013

[Lecture] Obafemi Awolowo on Nigeria – 3rd September, 1961

2 Sep

Below is an excerpt from a lecture delivered by Obafemi Awolowo, Leader of Opposition in the Nigerian Federal Parliament, to Nigerian Students in London, on 3rd September, 1961.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

*

“Education is still in its inchoate stages. The masses hunger after education but are not being satisfied. In regard to primary education, the position in the South is good. All children of school-going age are now in school in the South. But it is very far from being so in the North. A little over 250,000 children are now receiving primary education in the North, as against 1.3 million in the East and 1.2 million in the West. Secondary education ought to be free, but only the well-to-do can afford to send their children to any post-primary schools. The award of scholarships tenable in Institutions of Higher Learning, and for technical and vocational studies, now lags very much behind the present needs of the country, with the result that many a lustrous talent is wasting and rotting away either in a soul-depressing job or in an asylum. The finances of the Federation are being very badly managed. We are now right on the brink of a balance of payments crisis. Yet, according to the latest pronouncement by the Federal Minister of Finance, our imports of consumer goods have increased appreciably; but as far as is known no visible effort is being made for a big export drive. I have told the Federal Government, on a number of occasions, that unless the present adverse trends which. have continued for four years are checked, Nigeria will, figuratively speaking, one day find herself in a debtor’s prison! Bribery and corruption, especially in high places, are alarmingly on the increase. A large percentage of monies which are voted for expenditure on public projects find their way into the pockets of certain individuals. There is unemployment everywhere. The standard of living in the country as a whole is very low, and in most parts of the country the peasantry and the working class wallow in abject poverty and misery.”

*

Read the full speech here [pdf]

The People’s Republic of Lagos

5 Aug

By Tolu Ogunlesi

(Originally published on August 17, 2011, in Ongoing Concerns, my column in NEXT)

*

Benin Republic, through its debonair president, Boni Yayi, has declared itself Nigeria’s 37th state. It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. This paper reported it, on August 10. Mr. Yayi strolled across the border, and made his way to the hilltop mansion of former President, Olusegun Obasanjo.

“I have come to visit my father, Baba Obasanjo, who is a world leader who should not be ignored. He contributes positively towards the ongoing genuine democracy in my country, Benin Republic, and many other African nations. I shall forever remain grateful to him,” My Yayi gushed.

He wasn’t done. “Obasanjo is a great man. What is important to me is for God to give him long life. My plan is to be coming to Nigeria every month because we cannot do without Nigeria. Benin is like the 37th state of Nigeria,” he said.

I wonder what his citizens thought of that – a president visiting another, to gleefully surrender his sovereignty, in peace-time. Even though the news reports did not say that Mr. Obasanjo, a former Army General, held up a gun to Mr. Yayi’s temple, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some duress involved. Mr. Obasanjo is not a novice in this bullying business. Ask Mathieu Kerekou, one of Mr. Yayi’s predecessors.

It was in August 2003, during Mr. Kerekou’s second stint in office, that Mr. Obasanjo – as President of Nigeria – ordered the closure of the Nigeria-Benin border. Mr. Obasanjo did it to force Benin to surrender Hamani Tidjani, cross-border robbery kingpin, to Nigerian authorities. For a long time Mr. Tidjani’s car-snatching bandits had terrorised Lagos and Ogun States.

Not long after the border was closed, Benin – whose economy partly depends on the smuggling of second-hand cars into Nigeria – delivered Tidjani, like a DHL package, to the then blameless Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun.

But let’s not deal in conspiracy theories – there’s no evidence that Mr. Yayi’s statements, last week, in Mr. Obasanjo’s house, were obtained under duress. Mr. Yayi seemed to mean what he said.

Which leads to the exciting part: the tantalising possibilities of a peaceful 21st century geo-constitutional revolution in West Africa. If – or when – Benin eventually becomes a Nigerian state, a Nigerian state will have to be given the chance to declare its independence, so as to ensure the preservation of Nigeria’s 36-state structure.

My vote, like yours, is for Lagos to be that lucky Nigerian state. If things go as envisaged, before long we will witness the birth of the People’s Republic of Lagos, as the African Union’s 55th member country. Coming in the wake of the historic independence of South Sudan, this can only be great news: another bloodless redrawing of borders, in a continent better known for its propensity to shed blood on the flimsiest of grounds.

The prospect of a People’s Republic of Lagos excites me. “If Lagos were a country,” notes the Economist in its May 5, 2011 edition, “its GDP of $43 billion would make it the fifth-biggest economy in sub-Saharan Africa.” And if Lagos were a country, its population of 15 million would put it in the ‘Top 20′ on the ranking of most populous African countries.

Indeed, Lagos is already by far Nigeria’s most independent state; two-thirds of its revenues are internally-generated. And it has already started to act like an independent nation anyway: Babatunde Fashola’s government has for a few years now been regularly deporting hordes of non-Lagosians to their Nigerian home states.

Now, the question to be faced is this: why should the Federal Republic of Nigeria allow Lagos to emerge as an independent nation?

Simple – the PDP government will finally get a chance to get rid of Bola. Tinubu and his band of “rascals” (libel lawyers should please note that I did not coin that appellation; and the person that did is currently covered by constitutional immunity).

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) can therefore have Lagos to themselves, in exchange for a promise to immediately cease interfering in the political affairs of south west Nigeria. Led by a rehabilitated Olabode George, the PDP can thereafter reclaim the renegade west in a series of spectacular ‘do-or-die’ battles.

Nigeria will no doubt miss Lagos – imagine the commercial potential of Lagos ports’ alone – but, according to the PDP’s reckoning, that’d be a small price to pay for saying goodbye to one of the world’s most dysfunctional urban agglomerations. From then on Nigeria will not have to bear the shame of ‘Welcome to Lagos’ and all other dubiously conceived Nigeria-bashing BBC documentaries.

Besides there’s still Port Harcourt anyway, which will be enthusiastically developed to replace Lagos as a viable port city. And don’t forget that the Republic of Benin will also be bringing to the Nigerian table its own port city, Porto Novo.

Under the new arrangement – i.e. the People’s Republic of Lagos co-existing with the Federal Republic of Nigeria – Mr. Tinubu’s long-standing presidential ambitions will be realised, as will be the dreams of all those people eager to see Mr. Fashola take up national-scale responsibility. A Putin-Medvedev combination will be recreated in the People’s Republic of Lagos – President Bola Tinubu and Prime Minister Tunde Fashola, or vice versa.

Other benefits: Benin will immediately start to benefit from Nigeria’s oil wealth. Nigeria will officially become a multi-lingual country – French and English as official languages. (Think of the size of the contracts that will be awarded, for French textbooks, French lessons for all government officials, including First Ladies) etc.

Abuja will no longer have to deal with any envy-inducing challenge from Lagos – think of how many people out there still consider Lagos to be the capital of Nigeria.

The above looks, to me, like a classic win-win-win scenario, for all parties. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it? Now join me in saying: ‘Thank you, Boni Yayi.’

 Tolu Ogunlesi (c) 2013

[Throwback] Achebe Wuz ‘Ere

10 Jul

On 15, October 2004, Chinua Achebe wrote an open letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo, explaining why he was turning down the National Honour offered him. 

In light of the tragic goings-on in Rivers State, I have decided to post an excerpt from that letter. My conclusion is that there is no past and no future in Nigeria, only a present that, while never sitting still, never actually goes anywhere.

*

“I write this letter with a very heavy heart. For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.” CHINUA ACHEBE (2004)

 

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