From (On)going Concerns – My NEXT column

The view from the future

by Tolu Ogunlesi /  Published March 30, 2009

A few days ago I was reading The Economist and a story caught my attention. It was a dirge for the “View-Master”.

And suddenly I remembered that I used to have one of ‘em. The Economist describes it far better than I ever will: “Long before the internet, or even before most people had colour televisions, View-Masters gave millions a full-colour, three-dimensional view of the world.”

I remember peering into the View-Master, and being transported into a world of vivid colour; clip after clip from a reel of, if I recall well, Sesame Street characters.

And then, as one thing likes to lead to another I remembered that I was a child once. And I had toys. Plenty of them. Real toys (do they exist anymore?): Lego, Teddy bears, toy cars – brick-and-mortar stuff, not virtual reality nonsense. Toys that I controlled, not the other way round. (Today’s toys – mobile phones, Facebook, playstations, iPods etc insist on being the masters of human fates, not servants…)

I recall also my Fisher Price ‘stereos’ that played pre-recorded tunes. The first one I owned played “When you wish upon a star”. Like all toys it underwent the inevitable death-and-cannibalization, and was replaced years later by another one, that played the staccato “How much is that doggie in the window?”

Fast-forward a few decades. Ever heard the name Igor Panarin? Not likely. You will, soon, when he wins the Nobel Prize for Prophesy. He’s the man who’s been predicting for years that America will soon join the distinguished list of what I call “Civilisations Archaeologists Love to Love”.

In simple English he’s been predicting the break-up of the US of A.

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When Daniel becomes the lion

by Tolu Ogunlesi / Published Sept 08, 2010

I met Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel, in 2007, at the African Business Leaders Forum in Accra, Ghana. I was there with a hundred other young persons from across the continent, sponsored as youth delegates by LEAP Africa.

I walked up to the governor after one of the Forum sessions, introduced myself, and asked to take a photo with him. Mr. Daniel was warm and obliging.

He was the only Nigerian state governor at the Forum. Ogun State had an exhibition stand, manned by the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Kehinde Sogunle. I recall very clearly the commissioner showing a handful of us young‘uns PowerPoint documents on his laptop, detailing the governor’s ambitious development plans for Ogun State.

But apparently those were the days when Daniel was still Daniel. Today Daniel has become the lion. At his paws, Ogun State lies prone, bleeding from multiple bite wounds, hunted into submission by the man (s)elected to be its guardian.

If you don’t understand what this Daniel and the lion business is all about, turn with me to the Holy Bible. Daniel was a young high-flying Jewish technocrat and administrator in the court of the Babylonian emperor, around 600BC. (The Babylonians had conquered Judah, and taken many of its people captive). Envious of him, a band of senior government officials manipulated King Darius to have Daniel thrown into a den of lions. Inexplicably, the lions showed no interest in devouring Daniel. A miracle.

The import of that biblical account was not lost on Mr. Daniel back in 2002 when he sought to become the governor of Ogun State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. I clearly remember one of his campaign jingles, which played regularly on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) station in Abeokuta. (This being Nigeria, OGTV, the state-owned television station, firmly in the grip of the ruling party (AD), was out of bounds to him. They wouldn’t touch Daniel’s campaign jingles with a ten-foot microphone).

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Good ol’ days and a good ol’ future

by Tolu Ogunlesi / Published Sept 05, 2010

Question 1a. Define Nigeria. Answer: A land where the elders do nothing but sing of a glorious past and the youth are leaders of a tomorrow that will never come.

Question 1b. Explain your answer in 1a. Answer: In typical Nigerian fashion I will begin my answer with another question – or series of questions:

“Why is our Society so afflicted with the virus of corruption? Why does it appear that the average Nigerian is congenitally corrupt? Why should people who do not want to exert themselves enjoy the good things of life? Why should the indolent and the mediocre prosper at the expense of the hardworking members of the Community? Why do we place so much premium on wealth even when it is known that such wealth is a product of unjust and corrupt enrichment?” Who said this, and when?

Those words were spoken by a certain Mr. Ayo Fasanmi in a speech delivered at the annual conference of the Association of History Teachers in Nigeria in, wait for this, 1972.

Troubled by the questions above, Mr. Fasanmi and a handful of young Nigerian men and women on May 29, 1971 formed an “Anti-Bribery and Corruption Committee.” 1971. Good ol’ days indeed. I could have sworn that those words above were uttered by Nuhu Ribadu yesterday afternoon.

One keeps hearing all this talk about “when Nigeria was good” – when angels roamed the streets and questionable wealth was kept hidden far from public view, and one naira could buy you a shipload of rice (apologies to Mr. B of Basi & Company fame).

Isn’t this one of the great myths of this age?

I insist that the starting point for the transformation of Nigeria is the realisation that there’s no point lamenting that Nigeria is “getting worse.” From all available evidence, Nigeria has always been “worse”. Our problems in Nigeria have never changed. At best, what they do is change name:

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