Monday, October 31, 2011

Wisdom Speaks

To America and the superpowers of the world “God judges motives”.

To Africa and the so-called third world countries “God is not a foolish God rather he is the embodiment of wisdom. He created everyone first as a baby and they grow up to either love or hate instruction”.

A foolish person is one who grew up to hate instruction like the old king who will no more be admonished. He came out of prison to reign whereas he that was born in his kingdom became poor. The king ruled and installed men into power who he pulled strings on like puppets. They ate wickedness like bread and spoke with no remorse for they have had their consciences seared with hot iron and the well of kindness seem to have dried up inside them.

Moreover, the profit of the earth (crude oil, gold, diamonds, crops, tin, coal, etc) is for all; the king himself is served by the field.

America or any of the developed countries does not offer anyone anything free. You have to pay for services and products. Can’t you see?

Wisdom is better than rubies and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.

Give instruction to a wise man and he will be yet wiser; teach a just man and he will increase in learning. If you are wise, you will be wise for yourself (your family and your nation) but if you scorn, you alone will bear it.

A wise son makes a glad father but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.

Treasures of wickedness profit nothing but righteousness delivers from death

In the lips of him that has understanding wisdom is found but a ROD is for the BACK of him that is void of understanding.

The desire of the righteous is only good; but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.

He that troubles his own house (his own country) shall inherit the wind; and the FOOL shall be SERVANT to the WISE of heart.

So I returned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun; and behold the tears of such as were oppressed and they had no comforter. On the side of the oppressor there was power; but they had no comforter.

Don't be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land. For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy

All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again

Then I saw that WISDOM excels FOLLY, as far as light excels darkness.

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to keep silent and a time to speak; a time of war and a time of peace

Also he has set the world in their hearts, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end.

That which has been is now; and that which is to be has already been.

For a dream comes through the multitude of business and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.

Better is it that you should not vow than to vow and not pay.

He that loves things will not be satisfied with things and the increase of such.

There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.

As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the songs of fools.

Surely oppression makes a wise man mad; and a gift destroys the heart.

Because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil.

BUT IT SHALL NOT BE WELL WITH THE WICKED; neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow because he fears not before God.

Whatsoever your hands find to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave where you are going (the final destination of every living creature).

I have seen servants upon horses and princes walking as servants upon the earth (Nigerians washing toilets abroad and being subservient to a white man in his own land).

If the iron is blunt, and he does not whet the edge, then must he put more strength; but wisdom is profitable to direct.



Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.


(Adaptations from the Holy bible)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Letter to the Nigerian Citizen... Part 1

This piece was culled from a book titled "Creating a New Nigeria" by one passionate Nigerian by the name Taulpaul Oselen. He is my first guest poster. Do read and freely make comments afterwards. I believe a new Nigeria is possible but it will take some amount of work and sacricifice by every well-meaning Nigerian.

Slightly modifying the list of national ethics as presented in the 1999 constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, we propose the following national values/ethics; Unity, Mutual respect, Self-discipline, Integrity, Resourcefulness, Service, Justice, Interdependence, and Equality. These few were proposed because of their ability to address the complexities of the old Nigeria and deliver to us our future in line with our proposed vision for a new Nigeria. However, no single one in itself is strong enough a foundation for us but working them together produces an unshakable foundation.

The first and most basic step is for you, the Nigerian citizen to identify with, personalize, model and recommend this vision. The next step would be for you to endorse the proposed national values by imbibing and continually practicing them. Remember, it is not enough for us to unlearn old habits (values) but to sustain change we must consciously learn new ones. Thus, we can;

  • Relate as individuals not tribes nor sects (breaking stereotypes)

Unity- this is the first ethic proposed because under the old system we were made to think that Nigerians could never be a people with one voice and one vision. In the new Nigeria, we would not preach ethnic/religious tolerance because we would not have to tolerate fellow Nigerians but rather we will see them as brothers, sisters, team members with our best interest at heart and relate to them as such. It is a system based on trust, not on a new found trust but one which has always been there only relegated for selfish interests. Within the old system, many of us, if not all of us at some time trusted these people (of diverse ethnicities or religions) with our greatest asset; our lives.

It may have been as a passenger in a plane, cab or bus (not having to do a check on who the pilot or the driver was); as consumers of meals at hotels, restaurants, eateries or ‘bukas’ (not being overly concerned about where the chef or cook was from); might have been as a sick patient awaiting surgery or urgent treatment at a hospital or traditional home ( not running a verification test on the qualifications of the resident physician or consultant); as our domestic staff in charge of some very personal effects and matters; as an accident victim in desperate need of a rescuer or someone stranded in unknown territory needing help... the examples are endless. Nigerians have always trusted one another regardless of ethnic or religious orientations.

The greater truth is that we did not trust them because we lacked better options; it was most times because they were the best at what they did. It was truly a case of mutual respect (not tolerance) born out of a singular pleasant experience or a series of good relations. However, this was only possible when we considered individuals as persons with unique characters and refused to have a presumed general behavioural pattern (a stereotype). We must endeavour to remove all generalizations and learn to judge each relationship as an isolated case instead of forming patterns (good or bad).

It is high time we made this the pronounced way of life at all levels and refused seeds of division sown by a selected few for selfish reasons and personal gains. Hence, no Nigerian should be regarded
as a stranger nor a settler in any part of the country for we are one people with equal stake in national peace and development. Indeed, Nigeria is our primary constituency. More emphasis should and will be placed on ‘state of residence’ than ‘state of origin’ in the new Nigeria.

  • Become worthy Ambassadors

An ambassador is an emissary of one nation to another nation. He is to uphold the acceptable standards of his nation while building a cordial relationship between his nation and the one in which he functions. Nations have no boundaries, no borders they are united by ideologies. As an ambassador it is this ideology you model everywhere you are. Our ideology is who we are and what we are known for. Your role henceforth would be to act as a worthy ambassador of the new Nigeria to the old Nigeria or to any other nation in which you may find yourself.

For this reason, you must become a student of the new Nigeria; comprehend the vision, imbibe the core values and model them. As an ambassador your life takes on a new and inspiring meaning because you may be the only Nigeria some people out there may ever see. You have thus become responsible for the success and good name of this nation. To accomplish this great task you must be able to see clearly the preferred and greater future. This will take an enormous amount of self-discipline; the ability to stay on course, to commit to whatever it requires, remaining focused. No matter what field or industry you find yourself you can be an ambassador.

Self-discipline will make you drop old habits that do not line up with your role as an ambassador and learn new habits that will facilitate your new role. It will cause you to do only the needful and to discard all unrestrained behaviours. It drives you to continually seek the right and latest knowledge regarding whatever you do, so you could be the best at it. When you are self-disciplined, you will not need anyone to motivate you for greatness because you have identified your place in the grand vision and have made a commitment to stay the course. You will continually set goals and achieve them, doing all it takes to be successful at what you do for the sake of a better future. Self-discipline causes you to delay gratification; finding yourself doing what may be inconvenient just to create a future you desire.

However, self-discipline alone if left unchecked can be disastrous. You will need of something else to keep your motives in check, which is Integrity. Integrity is a form of conscience within every man that convicts him to always want to do the right thing regardless of the circumstances. Integrity balances ambition with conscience in our quest for greatness. It is also the strength of will to say what you mean and to mean what you say; this attribute is vital in the life of an ambassador. It makes you realize the power of words; your word has to be your bond if you are to be successful as an ambassador. Integrity is the true value you place on your person.

Your integrity will help align your quest for knowledge and success with God’s plan for humanity. It will keep you from enriching yourself at the expense of the nation’s future. Integrity makes you understand that the means (process, path) is as important as the end (result, outcome). As a result of integrity, in assessing any opportunity for business or gain, you would ask ‘not only is it profitable but is it right?’ In the new Nigeria, decisions would be more people-oriented than money-oriented.

When a people have both self-discipline and integrity functioning in their lives, external warnings like; ‘do not take or give bribes’ or ‘do not dump refuse here’ or ‘do not patronize touts’ become unnecessary because these people now have an inner sense of dignity. Also, the resources committed to fighting all forms of corruption; electoral fraud, advance free-fraud and so on, could be ploughed into more productive and developmental programs. Someone once said, ‘it is much easier to switch on the light than to curse darkness.’ The truth is, if I can influence my world and you can influence your world, then we can influence our world and ultimately influence the world.

This is only possible because the Nigerian has assumed his office as a responsible citizen, a worthy and true Ambassador.

Thank you and God bless Nigeria.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ongoing Concerns: Fuel Subsidy Removal (FSR)

I have read many articles decrying the decision by the federal government of Nigeria to remove fuel subsidy. I have also watched many interviews on TV and listened to many radio programs about this issue. It has topped the chart on the front pages of most Nigerian dailies since the day it was announced. Some persons speak for the motion while some take the opposite stance.

I have worked in the Oil and Gas industry all my career life and so I know a thing or two about the oil (my friends from the delta pronounce it oyel) and its transformation into the popular products called petrol, kerosene and diesel. I have trained delegates on the act of refining crude and its operation. What I do know is that there is no ambiguity in the refining process; even youths of the Niger delta refine crude in their backyards! They utilize crude (unsophisticated) methods of refining crude which they lay their hands on through whatever means. The process is called fractional distillation. My major worry is the fact that we cannot refine crude efficiently within the country. Why can we not maintain the infrastructure of this highly important aspect of the Nigerian economy for the benefit of every Nigerian? I am not ignorant of the level of corruption that has made this (and developments in other areas of our economy) impossible but what amazes me is the decision by a government which claims to have a "transformation agenda" to remove fuel subsidy in a bid to harness funds for capital projects.  Is the government seriously thinking on this issue or is it another distraction after it proposed a single six-year tenure for elected president and governors? Or is it a conspiracy to protect vested interests outside the shores of Nigeria? Are there refineries owned by godfathers of Nigeria in other parts of Africa and the world which are being protected by ensuring the ones within the country do not work? Or why can’t that aspect of the industry be opened up to allow private organizations set up and maintain refineries within the nation if the government is incapable of maintaining one? One thing is sure, if the government is sincere in the fight against corrupt elements who are “seemingly” enjoying the proceeds of the fuel subsidy (as acclaimed), the best bet for the government will be to refine the crude here in Nigeria under her watch and regulate prices accordingly. Only after (definitely not before) this can any such plan be reasonably implemented. I seriously doubt whether fuel subsidy will be necessary then. Excess refined products would create export opportunity after many years of importation of the products and this will add to our economic indices. The opportunities in the refining industry are wide and varied: jobs will be created directly and also indirectly through petrochemical extension of the plants and local contracts. More importantly the products will be readily available across the length and breadth of the nation and it will be cheaper than what we are currently paying for them. 

I have witnessed some fuel price increase in my years of growing up and can authoritatively say that the attendant consequence makes the already hard life of the average man even harder. The removal of fuel subsidy will affect every single aspect of every lives in Nigeria: transportation, food, clothing, healthcare, banking, electronics, house/shop rents, construction, education and services (from barbing hair to laundry, furniture making, electrical repairs and pure water sale). The prices will double if not triple (depending on how much the person offering the service decide as the profit margin). I try hard not to imagine this scenario. 

I read about the plan of the government to create safety nets and I’m wondering whether the nets would be wide enough to cover all the aforementioned areas or will they just cover one or two of them. Why on earth will such nets be required in the first place when there are holes in them? There’s no doubt that this is the biggest goof of the millennium by the government, the mere fact that some people reasoned this out shows what kind of trouble we are in. The government laid aside responsibilities of providing adequate electricity - which is necessary to move the nation out of the importing and internal trading economy into the manufacturing and export economy as well as to encourage entrepreneurs, artisans, and generally improve the living conditions of the average Nigerian - in order to pursue this ambitious plan called FSR. The government left the construction of new roads and maintenance of existing ones thereby killing off many Nigerians who lose their lives on the death traps of a road network which we currently ply to chase shadows called FSR. The government left off financing the education sector even when warning strikes by teachers and lecturers are still reverberating within the month of October 2011; when health workers have just resumed back to work in some states of the federation after many months of work stoppages; when many state governments are disagreeing on the payment of the paltry N18,000 minimum wage; when Boko Haram seem to have seized the Nigerian space giving a new twist to the saying “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”; when flooding has destroyed many lives and properties in the rainy months of 2011;  to go after a wicked plan called FSR.

It is indeed unfortunate that these are the kinds of decisions the government is able to come up with despite all the challenges facing the nation at this time. The government must decide that the mighty goliaths in the oil sector cannot be bigger than the nation, summon the will and utilize every machinery at its disposal to cut off the head of the leader (which has to be firstly identified and then targeted). It is a known fact that once the leader falls, the army will flee. It is only right to point out that fuel subsidy is not the problem of Nigeria at this point in time and that government should focus on the very important task of tackling corruption starting from within itself i.e. the executives and the legislatives by reducing salaries and allowances as well as scrapping unnecessary job positions. Clearly, many GEJ (and not PDP) apologists are full of regrets at the turn of event but it’s not too late to correct the wrong. Everyone must lend a voice in mounting pressure on the national assembly to reject the plan. The plan must not see the light of day.  

I lend my voice to educate many who may have no clear understanding of the implications of this decision and to expose the ill-conceived ideas behind it.; I lend my voice to support the many other voices which are currently speaking against it; I lend my time to put up constructive arguments to reason this issue. I do hope you can lend yours too now and tomorrow. The ball has been played; it is now in our court...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Location, Time and Opportunities

I do not stay in Lagos because my family is not resident there. But does it matter where I am located? I know Lagos has the pomp, style, and energy that is curiously different from every other state in Nigeria. I don’t take that away from the city of excellence not with what Fashola has done and is doing. I have friends in Ilorin, Kaduna, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Umuahia, Jos, Akure, Asaba, Owerri but I have a large percentage of friends and family members in Lagos. If I had my way I would also like to be a Lagosian. Who no like better thing? It’s like, as in, you know, excuse me (a la Jenifa).

The fact that I do not reside in Lagos has not made my life to be put on hold and I am not living lower than I imagined that I ought to be living. I have a job that I love and get paid well to do. I enjoy my location as much as I would have enjoyed being in Lagos. I am currently reading Richard Branson’s autobiography “Losing my virginity” and he mentioned that it was an exciting time to be young back then in the ‘60’s. He lived in Shamley Green, a small village in Surrey which was close to London and he schooled in Scaitcliffe. He did not live or school in London which can be compared to Lagos of Nigeria. I am sure that at that time there were young people who felt that life sucked because they weren’t living in London and that life would have been better only in London and not in Surrey or anywhere else for that matter. Not Richard Branson, he saw opportunities in his environment and harnessed them with the exuberance of a young man who had no fear of failure. The outcome of that passion is evident for everyone to see. So, what that says to one is that it doesn’t matter where you are physically located, what matters is your attitude to your environment. With the right attitude, your eyes will be opened to see the opportunities that abound in an otherwise “empty” place. It reminds me of the bible story of Abraham and Lot. Lot chose the green fields of Jordan (well watered plains) as he had the opportunity to choose first but the Abraham’s seemingly parched portion yielded much more prosperity than before and he remained safe in the land (the area Lot chose was later destroyed completely).

What better time is there to be alive, I ask myself sometimes. Information is easy to get and relay regardless of where you are. I then say to myself, it is exciting to be young in this age and time because there are lots and lots of things one could do without getting bored whilst earning something by the side. I really want to challenge someone to open their eyes to see the opportunities around them. There is a feeling of contentment and security when you are in your own place and you can make a worthwhile venture right there and then. Do not follow the Nigerian crowd of doing business. When someone sells drinks and thrives in it, everyone will begin to open shops to sell similar products. It could be clothes, shoes, provisions, electronics or house wares. I am not discouraging doing business rather I’m encouraging creativity and innovation – creating value in a unique way by giving thought to it and utilizing your God given talents.

The earth is such that if you put seed into it, it will yield but you need to put the right seed for the right soil and climate of your location. Note that if your land is clayey it won’t yield if you try to plant carrots but potatoes will do well in such condition. But there is a guarantee that when you sow the seed, there will be a harvest and in no time you will bring in the sheaves.

It’s an exciting period to be alive, let me hear you say uh, uh, uh, uh!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Education in Nigeria – a legacy?

A legacy is an inheritance bequeathed to generations yet unborn. It is usually sustained from one generation to another. As a young child in primary school, I often heard that the best legacy a parent can give their children is education (used to mean both formal and informal). In fact, most schools touted that word as a selling point for whatever they offered.

Let’s take a journey down memory lanes – during the days of our parents. There were missionary schools – affiliated to a particular religious organization – which were the first sets of schools we had in Nigeria and the government owned schools. Those schools ran side by side and there was hardly any difference in the standard of education in both. I remember being told that back in the 50’s and 60’s, universities had lawns with luscious green colour and they were dutifully mowed. I remember being told also that students needn’t worry about food because there were central diner halls where each student go to with his/her tally to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I heard about how sumptuous and nutritious those meals were. So essentially the student need not worry about what he/she would eat. Electricity was very constant and schools were usually given the priority for power. The student didn’t need to worry about the number of candles left in his/her locker nor the length of time the rechargeable lamp will last before it goes out. Water ran freely in the taps and since it was treated from source, it was consumed without fear of infections (typhoid, dysentery etc). Libraries were well equipped with materials of the time and students made use of them as they needed. The students were mostly able to concentrate on the purpose of being in such institutions – which is to acquire knowledge and utilize such knowledge to make a change in an organization, the nation and indeed the world – and they were able to think critically as this process is an offshoot of an mental environment not beset with the need for food, water and electricity (the basic needs of man).
Lecturers (and teachers) were highly respected educational professionals in their various fields because they were well trained and they understood what their roles were i.e. to pass information in a structured format to younger generations. They go for extra studies to enhance their effectiveness and keep up with new information as it relates to their subjects. Research was a part of their work which involved them thinking creatively about a particular aspect of their field of study to bring about solutions to problems of the time as well as envisaged problems of the future. The non-academic staffs of such institutions also played their roles very well by ensuring the hostels and halls were well maintained, payments were not extra burdensome and that salaries were paid when due.

After independence, the civil war and the set of successive military usurpations affected the general atmosphere negatively as the values that were evident had began to change - brute force against citizens as opposed to freedom, power tussle as opposed to stability in government, ethnicity as opposed to nationalism, mistrust as opposed to truth and trust, fear as opposed to love and faith. The oil boom also opened the eyes of people in government to the potential for recklessness and avarice which has since become the order of the day. People who had no business being leaders became leaders and lorded it over the rest of the people. The atmosphere changed completely and each person began to redefine their own values as they see fit because the societal and national values were no longer consistent. Gradually, all the infrastructures which made learning enjoyable and easy collapsed like Humpty Dumpty and all the successive governments have not been able to put the pieces back together again. What we have now is chaos, disorderliness, greed, lack of patriotism, short term benefit- seeking, lack of care and a general bad attitude by almost everyone within the system. For the student, the interest is more in the acquisition (by hook or crook) of the paper certificate than in actually the knowledge which warrants it. For the lecturers, the focus now is in the usage of the latest car and the erection of grand personal buildings. These they achieve by being taskmasters to the students (and indirectly to their parents, guardians and sponsors) through the illegal sale of handouts, textbooks and materials. The non-administrative staffs also milk the students dry by collecting bribes to render their normal services.

So instead of an upward climb to better and current facilities, we retrogressed to nothing at all. Today, some of the few private institutions with reasonable quality of education (which is not accessible to ordinary Nigerians) have an undertone of wrong values in the sense that most of the owners of such institutions got their wealth by illegitimate means - embezzling government funds, manipulating members of religious organizations to part with their monies. In the midst of all these however, you will still manage to find people who still hold on to those good values which made the story of the earlier days sweet. These are exceptions for the rule nowadays is cheap, uninspiring, desperate and unfocused.

The question then is “are we thinking about the next generations and what we might be leaving for them as an inheritance?” As young people what role do we think we have to play in all of these? Or are we helpless, unconcerned and blameless?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Throwing Money at Problems

I once read an article in the editorials of one of the Nigerian dailies (The Guardian of Feb 10, 2011) titled “ Throwing Money at Job Creation”. Part of that article read
“…As is typical with many government initiatives, every time there is a problem, they throw money at it hoping that the problem will go away…. Speaking at a recent event, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, confirmed that the FEC had approved N50billion to tackle unemployment. He was not specific about what the N50billion is meant to achieve, rather he makes a convoluted explanation that confuses more than it enlightens….. The easiest recipe in a profligate regime is to vote money rather than critically evaluate the entire spectrum of the problem…..”

I find this sort of solution-seeking rather shallow and devoid of any level of thinking (about the issue). What was the N50billion supposed to achieve? How was it supposed to do that? How long can whatever was achieved be sustained for? Or is the money going to end up in the hands of the Minister and his friends? We all know the obvious answer.

A friend recently made the analogy of our importation of refined petroleum products while we export crude oil as a case of a farmer who has a large (industrial scale) farm of cassava yet he imports garri (the most staple food in his home country) at cut-throat prices. What the farmer needed to do was simple – get the cassava crusher, pressure-mounting machine (to press out the water) and a furnace to fry the paste and voila, garri for his household as well as for sale to his kinsmen at a reasonable price. So let’s say the Minister mentioned something in line with using the N50 billion as a kick-off fund for starting a refinery, that is sure to generate some thousands of jobs depending on the capacity of the refinery. The ministry (as I expect) is not in isolation but ought to work together (to achieve the overall objectives) with other ministries such as Petroleum, for the project. As it stands, I do not know how the N50billion has been disbursed but
I am sure there’s no accounting for it whatsoever. Many of the poverty alleviation job schemes are a grand design to ensure monies allocated to such end up in the hands of the heads of such projects and their families/friends. It’s all a grand farce because there is no sincerity of purpose. Manufacturing industries, power stations, refineries, rail projects, education are all sector this particular Minister might look to partner with to increase job creation and not just a bogus scheme which enrich the man’s friends.

I do not find this reasoning appalling as I have found individuals who also throw money at problems which merely required a “little” thought on what ails – like telling themselves they will buy another item when the current one develops a small hitch instead of maintaining it and keeping it in shape so it can serve them better and longer. Buying another item even though the one in use is not bad doesn’t speak of riches but rather of waste and laziness. If such an individual gets into the position of a Minister, how would such perform? After all, habit is what one does over time. The only reason why such individual can get into such positions in the first place is due to the triviality we attribute to leadership and corruption which says gives opportunities to the highest bidders. Our electoral system is centred around some “big political players” and only people who are “with them” gets to the place of influence. Poverty as I have seen it is a strategy which has been used and still been used (a grand conspiracy) to suppress the common man’s voice and prevent it from gaining strength.

A leader doesn’t just happen in one day when he/she is elected into a position where he/she has to make decisions which would affect many people. A leader is one who takes personal responsibility right from when they have become old enough to understand what responsibility means. From school days, from when he/she got the first job or contract, managing the home front, and how those various situations were managed.

Job creation is not a big deal but is directly proportional to infrastructural development in the nation. Throwing money at problems is easy because it doesn’t lay much responsibility on the person (s) to think long term, act, hold accountable or sustain whatever was arrived at. It is similar to “spraying money on a celebrant at a party (which we have termed as our “culture”). You get praised by the people around while you are at it and you go away without care for the money anymore.