(ON)GOING CONCERNS: Of propositions, elongations, and miscalculations

By Tolu Ogunlesi

(originally appeared in my column, ONGOING CONCERNS, in NEXT)

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The State Security Service (SSS) needs to be on Facebook and Twitter. There is an ongoing proliferation of subversive tendencies on social networking platforms, and something needs to be done urgently to check the trend.

Since we’re in the middle of the National ‘Propose-a-Controversial-Bill’ Month, I’m proposing that Mr President send a bill to the National Assembly making it an offence for social networkers to make the president the butt of their jokes.

In one of the gags currently making the rounds, the phrase ‘tenure elongation’ (I know the ‘presidency’ has protested that it’s mischievous to refer to it as ‘tenure-elongation’, and that it should instead be referred to as ‘single-tenure’; on my part I’ve settled for the alliterative ‘tenure-tinkering’) has been replaced with the unprintable ‘penile elongation’.

Apparently, there are rumours that before the presidency settled for this whole tenure-elongation business, the shortlist of recommendations included a ‘penile elongation’ bill, seeking to make it mandatory for all male Nigerians above the age of 18 to undergo, erm, surgical intervention, to help spur the country’s economic growth.

Confused? In case you didn’t know, there is a scientific theory linking male organ size to economic growth. Only two weeks ago, Finnish economist, Tatu Westling, of the University of Helsinki, published a paper: ‘Male Organ and Economic Growth: Does Size Matter?’ which “explores the link between economic development and penile length between 1960 and 1985” and finds that there is “an inverse U-shaped relationship” between weiner size and 1985 GDP levels. “The GDP maximizing size is around 13.5 centimetres, and a collapse in economic development is identified as the size of male organ exceeds 16 centimetres,” the paper states.

It beats me why the presidency settled for a divisive tenure restructuring bid, when it could have introduced the much less complicated, more easily sellable penile tinkering alternative. Think of it, in the event of failure, it’d have been easy for the president to say: “It wasn’t my idea, it was Gmail-spammers who originally proposed the idea” – and we would have believed him.

The decision to settle for the more complicated constitution-altering project was an all-out bad one, if you ask me. Speaking of bad presidential decisions, I decided to compile a ‘Top 10’ list, from Nigeria’s post-independence history. Here’s what I came up with (in chronological order):

Aguiyi Ironsi’s ‘Decree No. 34 of 1966’, which declared Nigeria a unitary state; The imposition, by the Yakubu Gowon government, of a £20 compensation limit on Igbos after the civil war ended; The knee-jerk decision of the Shagari government to expel hundreds of thousands of West African immigrants – mostly Ghanaians – in January 1983 (Buhari repeated this move a little over a year later); The Buhari-Idiagbon regime’s cancellation of the Lagos Metro-line project; Babangida’s decision to take Nigeria into the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC); The introduction, and subsequent mismanagement, of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), by the Babangida government; The annulment, by Babangida-and-cabal, of the June 12, 1993 elections; The Sani Abacha transmutation-into-civilian-president project; The Obasanjo 3rd term bid; and the unilateral handpicking, when it failed, of Umar Yar’Adua as his successor; the Goodluck Jonathan surprise-surprise tenure-tinkering agenda.

Somehow, when Mr Jonathan traversed the length and breath of Nigeria, campaigning, seeking votes, rousing Nigerians with moving speeches of how he was not born rich and how, once, he had no shoes, (and consequently promising transformational leadership), he forgot to notify us that ‘tenure-tinkering’ was not only on his manifesto, but that it was Number 1 in priority terms.

The ‘presidency’ has made eloquent arguments about how longer intervals between elections will help reduce the amount of money our expensive democracy consumes. We have been reminded that the government released a whopping N87 billion to INEC for the 2011 elections, and that that is a helluva lot of money.

Which is true, especially for a country in which more than half of the population has to survive on less than $2 a day. But when you consider the fact that Hassan Lawal is currently standing trial for presiding over the stealing, sorry, misappropriation, of N75 billion – almost as much as the 2011 INEC expenditure – during his years as Minister of Works and Housing (an unelected government position), doesn’t it occur to you that Mr Jonathan’s money-saving priority should actually be ensuring that not only is every single kobo of that money (and other stolen ones) recovered, but also that the system is restructured in such a way that looting of that magnitude is rendered impossible henceforth?

How much sense does it make to complain that (inevitable) elections are costing us so much when unelected government officials continue to steal the nation blind, unchallenged? Elections are supposed to cost money, damn it! The alternative is to abolish elections completely and invite the military back to power.

One sad fallout of this tenure-tinkering bid is this: the president has managed to awaken and unite his many enemies. In recent days, I’ve seen mentions of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) in the news. Just when we thought that annoying cabal was dead and gone to its grave, Jonathan rouses them. He has now fully convinced me that his uncanny ability to make Messrs. Babangida and Atiku and Ciroma sound like statesmen, is no fluke.

I insist that Jonathan’s decision to take time off governing Nigeria, to push tenure-tinkering, was a miscalculation of the highest order. He ought to pay attention to the ‘nattering nabobs of negativism’ that have seized the airwaves in the last week. Justifiable negativism from Nigerians, if you ask me. Jonathan should ‘jejely’ jettison the jejune ‘genda’, for the good of the country.

Let him revisit that penile-length debate instead, and let all Nigerians, male and female, young and old, come together to see how we can use Tatu Westling’s theory to improve our chances of attaining the 2020 Vision.

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