Friday, October 26, 2007

The Price We Pay for Democracy

This letter, written by Funke, a friend of The Afro Beat, is a wake-up call addressed to our "democratically-elected" leaders to get up and do something about the plight of the people as it is THEIR JOB (for which, they are paid rather handsomely indeed) to see to it that their constituency is able to attain a certain (let's even call it a universal minimum) standard of living. She focuses on the dire security situation in Lagos but really, this applies to all parts of Nigeria (except maybe Abuja, feel free to correct us on this).


The Price We Pay for Democracy - Funke

The recent and recurring spate of armed robberies in Lagos poses a serious threat to the security of life and property of its residents and makes our existence in this state a mockery. Lagos is under siege by armed robbers, hoodlums and thugs and our politicians pontificate. People are being traumatised on a daily basis and no one feels roused enough to take action. People have lost property that was hard won and cash that was hard earned and still we have people swaggering about, claiming leadership. People are dying and the cries of the dead fall only on the ears of their loved ones. The commercial nerve centre of the country is being targeted and the state turns its back while the lobbyists and apologists hold centre stage.

How many must die, lose their property, remain in fear and apprehension and cower under this reign of terror before action is taken, before resources are put in place, before the choice of the people reacts?

Fear. Apprehension. Terror. Trauma. Insecurity. Loss. Death.

These are some of the symptoms of a Hobbesian existence, where the state of life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” This is the regrettable and tragic state of life in today’s Lagos.

I say tragic because, according to Thomas Hobbes’s theory and philosophy, the role of government is to prevent people from their inherent selfishness and evil, which if left unchecked, would result in a constant state of anarchy and chaos. He believed that a people needed an authority figure to provide direction and leadership but also that it was important to have such a leader’s powers curtailed by a group representative of the people and their wishes. These theories are what have evolved into what we now know as democracy and the rules that bind civil society.

Now I ask you – when a people have elected individuals to lead them and other individuals to support that leader in ensuring that the people’s desires and expectations are met, and it turns out that those desires and expectations have not been met, are not met and perhaps never will be met, where does that leave the people? Exactly where they did not want to be when they elected leaders – in a constant state of anarchy and chaos. This is our tragedy.

Let us analyse each of the words in Hobbes’s famous quote one by one and apply it to the state of life in Lagos. 1) Solitary – means being by oneself, alone, lonely, or without associates. Lagosians today are in a solitary state. We have to fend for ourselves in a society and under governments where even the basic amenities of life are not provided. Each person or family unit is a city in its own right, providing its own electricity and water and their own security. 2) Poor – means with little or no possessions or money, to be pitied or of low quality. We have little or no infrastructure to speak of and what there is existing is pitiable and in shocking states of disrepair; we find it almost impossible to own property or acquire wealth given that most people are even struggling to feed themselves and their families and keep a roof over their heads, and finally, attaching the word quality to life is inconceivable. 3) Nasty – means something bad or disgusting. We exist in dire circumstances but call it life and the fact that those who are in leadership over us insulate themselves with the wealth and resources of other people’s toil and sweat is frankly disgusting. 4) Brutish – means resembling a beast, bestial, showing lack of human sensibility. People here have become bestial in nature as a direct result of the hardships they are facing, the absence of human comforts and niceties in society, as well as the decrepit state of tertiary and continuing education. The leaders in turn have repeatedly shown a lack of care for the plight of the people; after all they are in power to further their own needs and self interests. 5) Short – simply put, our average life expectancy has been considerably shortened by stress, hardship, turmoil and for most, not even the faintest glimmer of light at the end of the sweltering, stinking tunnel.

The collective senses of the people who granted you the right to reign and rule are affronted. Do something. Prove our votes right!

Funke, Ikeja

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Adedibu Menace...

Ok, so this was one of those blood-boiling-type articles that leaves you dazed. Of course, we've all heard about the "great" Lamidi Adedibu, godfather of godfathers, and his antics in Oyo state(think ballot-machines piled high in his living room and police authorities knowing this but doing absolutely nothing to bring him to justice...this being just one small incident among many). But how can we talk about bringing an end to corruption when people like this still walk the streets without any fear of reprimand/repercussions for their actions? Imagine the huge difference one LESS Adedibu could make in the war against corruption (and one MORE Akinyuli for that matter)? According to this Reuben Abati article in the Guardian(this is a well-known fact, but for the sake of accuracy...), Oyo state is completely under Adedibu's control so this matter needs to go straight to the Presidency, as he might be the only one with the power (since we're not sure where the EFCC stands these days) to call this glorified hooligan to order. Do we (the government, EFCC, international authorities if need be) need to concentrate our efforts on bringing down the "big dogs" (the Adedibus, Ubas, insert names of other godfathers that you know of here) who've been on the scenes for Lord knows how long and are now in-built self-made institutions in their respective regions? or focus on taking down their cronies-turned-big-boys (the Iboris, Odilis, Alamayeiseghas) who stole sickening amounts directly from their constituents in order to butter their godfathers' bread?

NAFDAC And The Adedibu Menace - By Reuben Abati

"We have been having a lot of problems with Adedibu. When we were working on unfortified spaghetti and macaroni that were smuggled into the country and that were unhealthy for consumption of our people, Chief Adedibu got to our office and threatened our staff and stopped that activity. He did not stop at that. When NAFDAC closed Kollington fisheries, Chief Adedibu sent his boys to go and open the warehouse. When my staff reported to me, I told them to go back and seal it. They went back and sealed the warehouse. Chief Adedibu sent his boys to go and re-open it. Nobody has ever done this in Nigeria since we started our activities. Chief Adedibu never allowed us to complete any investigation. He (has) never allowed us to carry out sanctions that we carry out in other states" - Dora Akunyili, Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Ibadan, October 17.

These were the words of the Director General of NAFDAC, Professor Dora Akunyili in
the course of her visit to Ibadan, Oyo state to flag off the NAFDAC/NYSC Grassroots Sensitization programme, last week. She pushed her case in a similar tone at the office of the Governor of Oyo state, Alao Adebayo-Akala, she also did so at the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Samuel Odulana, and at an open forum with the people of Ibadan. It was as if Akunyiili went to Ibadan to deal with the Adedibu menace once and for all. Governor Alao-Akala, Adedibu's protege was reportedly shocked by the allegations and he promised, we are told, to "personally confront Baba Adedibu to make sure that he does not turn the state into a den for the enemies of NAFDAC." The Olubadan, who is not on good terms with Adedibu was said to have compared Akunyili to Jesus Christ; and he promised to invite Adedibu to his palace to come and defend himself against the allegations leveled against him.

Akunyili took her case to the court of public opinion where she told her audience: "Adedibu is terrorising us. And this hostility is actually led by Chief Adedibu. We are getting disturbed. The hostilities in Ibadan are mounting by the day. The agency has reached a critical point concerning its activities in Oyo state and if the hostility continues, we are not only going to arrest some people, we are going to move our office away from here... It was disheartening that the agency arrested some people who were handed over to the police but the people were released on the instruction of Chief Adedibu... How can we operate like this? We cannot continue in this manner".
At this interactive session with the public, Dora Akunyili was taken up by the Deputy Governor of Oyo state, Taofeek Arapaja who was in attendance. Arapaja accused Akunyili of insulting Chief Lamidi Adedibu without having "sufficient facts". The event later became melodramatic as the public booed Arapaja and he felt compelled to return the jeers. The situation then became riotous. Arapaja's reaction is understandable. He is an Adedibu protege. Other Adedibu defenders have also responded to Dora Akunyili's allegations. One Alhaji Taofeek Olayiwola says: "What concern Adedibu (sic) with NAFDAC again? It is a lie. He cannot do such a thing. He is loving and caring and by the way, his own family members have been benefiting from the activities of the agency. He cannot hamper the activities." Another Adedibu aide, Alhaji Yahya Adetuinji alleges that some people may have committed the atrocities in Adedibu's name to discredit him.

By taking the fight to Ibadan, and to Adedibu, Akunyili has again shown the depth of her commitment. By naming Adedibu in public as an obstacle to NAFDAC operations, she succeeded in shaming him and that was why she got the support of the audience at Jogo Centre where the interactive NAFDAC/NYSC forum took place. She spoke out of frustration. It should have been possible for her and her staff to report Adedibu to the police, but part of her protest is that the police in Oyo state are under the control of Adedibu. He is so powerful that he can order the release of persons from police stations! Akunyili in pointing this out confirmed what the rest of Nigeria had always known: in Oyo state, Adedibu is above the law. He is "the law". The NAFDAC boss referred to "Adedibu's thugs": these miscreants wield more powers than the Nigeria Police .

Oyo state is thus a classic case of how not to run a democracy and Adedibu is a threat to democracy in that state and by extension, Nigeria. His most memorable contribution to the show of shame in the House of Representatives for example is that Patricia Etteh should be left alone because she is a Yoruba woman and that any criticism of her leadership style is an attack on all Yoruba. The simplest response to the Adedibu menace is to say, that this is the quality of Nigerian leadership.

What manner of man would stand in the way of an agency that arrests the merchants of killer drugs? What sort of man would encourage the sale of fake drugs that can maim and kill? What man is this who cannot appreciate the work of NAFDAC? Who is this man who is prepared to reduce everything to politics, including the lives of people? The additional question must be asked: does Adedibu really love the people of Oyo state? Or he is just using them, that is the crowd that converges on his Molete residence to swallow dollops of amala? And why is Adedibu so audacious?
Akunyili's public protest in Ibadan last week may be a good strategy but it does not go far enough. Who was Akunyili reporting Adedibu to? To Governor Alao-Akala? Yes, the Governor has promised to take up the matter with Adedibu, but is he in any position to challenge, criticise or admonish the old man? "I will personally confront Baba Adedibu" , the governor promised. Can Alao-Akala call Adedibu to order? He owes his presence in Government House to the old man. I do not see him jeopardising his political interests just because some people are dying from the use of fake drugs sold openly and freely in Adedibu's markets. And the Olubadan? The king says he will invite Adedibu to respond to the allegations. Which Adedibu does the Olubadan want to invite? The same Adedibu who has made it clear to all and sundry that there are two traditional rulers in Ibadan?

So what should Akunyili do? When next Adedibu stands in the way of NAFDAC operations, he or his agents should be promptly arrested. The police may release him later but NAFDAC would have shown that it will no longer be intimidated by the Adedibu menace. The agency should also document its allegations against Adedibu properly and formally and send a petition to the Presidency. During the Obasanjo era, Adedibu acquired power and notoriety because he enjoyed the support of the Presidency and the personal attention of the President. Adedibu is one of those liabilities that President Yar'Adua needs to cut down to size. He and his men are already testing the patience of the Federal Government. Will President Yar'Adua continue to fold his arms and allow Adedibu bring further embarrassment to his government and the PDP?
Akunyili has threatened to close down the NAFDAC office in Oyo state and leave the people at the mercy of merchants of fake drugs. To do so would be to violate the NAFDAC mission statement. It is the Adedibu menace that should be dealt with. Adedibu's thugs have been accused in the last four years of all kinds of atrocities in Oyo state including a recent assault on the hallowed grounds of a praying ground on Eid-il-Fitri day. Oyo state is desperately in need of the rule of law. President Yar'Adua who loves the rule of law so much he mentions it at every conversation should help rescue Oyo state from the rule of that one man called Lamidi Adedibu.

Please read the full article on the Nigerian Village Square if you get a chance! And look out for a future post on the Amazing battles of Dora Akinyuli.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another casualty in the War Against Corruption

A pro-Etteh member of the House of Reps slumps from suspected cardiac arrest. Nothing too unusual about this heading. Very sad indeed and we pray for his family at this time. But the point here is, how did we get to this state of affairs. Why has she still not resigned? Why do we as Nigerians not have shame in our misdeeds? It's true that she stands to make so much more $$ if she's able to ride this wave of controversy and remain Speaker of the House, but has she no shame? Hasn't she looted enough already(allegedly, of course, remember "innocent till proven guilty"... but in this case, the IDOKO panel has declared her to be an "incompetent leader" )? Are there no limits to our shameless politics?

Etteh’s Sit-Tight Drama Claims Lawmaker’s Life - This Day

The crisis rocking the House of Represen-tatives over the controversial renovation contract took a tragic turn yesterday as a member from Katsina State, Dr Aminu Shuaibu Safana, slumped at the lobby of the legislative chambers and was certified dead moments later.
Safana, a pro-Speaker Patricia Etteh lawmaker and former Secretary to the Katsina State Government, was first wheeled to the National Assembly Medical Centre after he collapsed.
But when doctors at the clinic found that his case was not getting better, he was rushed to the National Hospital, Abuja where he was later certified dead.
The Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Dr. Olusegun Ajuwon, who confirmed the death of the lawmaker, said Safana stopped breathing immediately after he was admitted.

Ajuwon said that although relatives and colleagues of the deceased lawmaker hastily took away his corpse and did not allow the conduct of an autopsy, basic investigations carried out during his brief stay at the hospital revealed that it was one of those cases of sudden deaths associated with cardiac arrest.
Safana headed the House Committee on Health (ironic, no?) until his death.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

This article doesn't suggest that the Human Rights Watch report on Nigeria says anything new. Nigerians know the 2007 elections were a sham, that corruption is endemic (must have learned that phrase in primary school), and that as long as godfathers and corrupt politicians continue to gain more than they stand to lose, things are unlikely to change much. But why bother? Do such reports (like many before) shame our leaders into acting, or our people into demanding more from them? Whenever i meet a Pakistani, a friendly conversation usually gets kicked off by a shared acknowledgement of our countries' ongoing competition to be at the top of Transparency International's Most Corrupt list. SO WHAT will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Your views on the "findings" of this new report and the effects of such reports on the state of affairs are welcome...


Nigeria: Violence, Corruption Institutionalised - HRW Report

Nigerian leaders are so violent and corrupt that their conduct "more resembles criminal activity than democratic governance", according to a scathing report issued by Human Rights Watch on 9 October.

"Violence, corruption and impunity are not just problems that government has failed to tackle; they are systemic abuses that flow from the heart of the very same government institutions that should be working to combat them," the report, titled Criminal Politics: Violence, "Godfathers" and Corruption in Nigeria, said. In some Nigerian states, powerful political "godfathers" control politicians, the report said. "In return, the 'godfathers' have captured government institutions to serve their own interests."

In Oyo State, one of several examples cited in the report, the ruling "People's Democratic Party (PDP) godfather Lamidi Adedibu recruited gangs that sowed terror on the streets of the state capital Ibadan and other cities".

Besides surveying what it calls "systemic violence openly fomented by politicians and other political elites", the report shows "corruption that both fuels and rewards Nigeria's violent brand of politics at the expense of the general populace". The report also seeks to show "the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these abuses".
According to author Chinua Achebe, winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, "Corruption in Nigeria has passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage; and Nigeria will die if we continue to pretend that she is only slightly indisposed."
At the same time, the report said corruption and mismanagement had led to the waste of record oil revenues that could have been used to tackle poverty and improve access to basic health and education services.

HRW said efforts to investigate and prosecute corrupt politicians "focused on enemies of the [former President Olusegun] Obasanjo administration, [thus] undermining if not destroying the credibility of those efforts altogether."

Written by senior researcher in the Africa Division of HRW Chris Albin-Lackey and consultant Ben Rawlence, the report is based largely on missions they conducted to Anambra, Delta, Ekiti, Gombe, Katsina, Lagos, Oyo and Rivers states and the capital Abuja before, during and after the April 2007 elections.

The report called for an end to impunity. "One obvious and important place to start would be for the federal government to enact and aggressively implement the long delayed Freedom of Information Bill, which would make it possible for Nigerians to peel back the veils of secrecy that allow many government officials to conceal the evidence of their misdeeds by denying access to even the most basic government-held information."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

Monday, October 1, 2007

WANTED: A Proactive Government

"The value of life has suddenly become greatly fractionalized and the worth drastically reduced. Is that due to poverty too? Probably it is a combination of poverty, frustration and anger. It is nevertheless unacceptable..."

This Guardian Newspaper article by Kunle Sanyaolu paints a picture of the current frustration (nay, depression) among Nigerians as we mark our 47th year of independence. Various pockets of "unrest" throughout the South have left citizens jaded and back in the pre-election mood of 'indifferent spectator'. So where is our government in all this?


Four months after President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua assumed the mantle of leadership, the focus of his government is hazy still. The period is short for any meaningful impact-assessment. But it is long enough to have more than a faint idea of what a government will deliver...[and so far it] is not living up to the momentum. Too many issues are urgently begging for resolution and Nigerians are simply losing patience, not minding that the problems did not crop up, or assumed their present dimension overnight.

Can one blame Nigerians? They are living through a difficult time presented by poverty, unemployment, disease, frustration and crime, against the backdrop of a practically non-existent police. In Lagos and a few other western states, armed robbers have taken over, targeting banks in the main, eliminating policemen, bank workers and other citizens who either get in their way or constitute an obstacle - real or imagined. In Port Harcourt and other Niger Delta states as well as some Eastern states, kidnapping has become the order of the day. The serious offence is certainly not new to the country, but it has never attained the seriousness, frequency or pathological fervour with which it is now carried out. Initially, the focus was on expatriates, particularly those working in oil and related companies. Then attention shifted to just any white-skinned in the region, the underlying idea being that they could fetch handsome ransoms, which they did, even where nobody so acknowledged or officials denied outright. It was a question of time before the South-South ran out of white men, a development that led to the kidnapping of children going to school. This was closely followed by their politician parents, particularly those elected. When parents became elusive, grandparents consisting of aged mothers and fathers, became the targets. The rest of the country is only slightly better in terms of security.

The fact that political, social and economic conditions differ in different parts of the country at any particular time has its implications. When Port Harcourt is under the siege of kidnappers and cult members, Kaduna is peaceful, with everyone going about his normal duties. And when Lagos and environs are reeling under incessant armed robbery attacks, Katsina is deep in Ramadan fasting with the entire town praying and atoning for sins. Therefore, anyone commending or condemning particular situation stands the risk of not being perfectly understood by citizens outside the vicinity of his focus. Notwithstanding this, a central theme usually runs through the nation most times, depending on the circumstances. News reports in the media, including live television, in the last few weeks tends to elicit a feeling more of depression, sadness and frustration, that despite the numerous resources and high potentials of this country, its fabric seems to be going from bad to worse. When and how did we get here?

There is little doubt that what is happening now took roots firmly under Obasanjo's government and its reform that lacked a human face. Obviously however, the criminals have been emboldened because no one is challenging them. There is a lot wrong with Nigerians for our newfound love of dispensing with fellow citizens at the slightest provocation or no provocation at all. The value of life has suddenly become greatly fractionalized and the worth drastically reduced. Is that due to poverty too? Probably it is a combination of poverty, frustration and anger. It is nevertheless unacceptable, even if Nigerians have cause to be angry at the insensitivity of political leaders who spend millions renovating official houses, buying Ramadan gifts for themselves and awarding jumbo salary and allowance packages for themselves. Government's assignment in this regard is two-fold. One is to provide a machinery to effectively challenge and subdue violent criminals, be they robbers, kidnappers or political assassins. There is a thin, imperceptible line between them anyway. Two is to provide real governance which entails provision of service to the people; spending public fund judiciously and in public interest; and bringing to book highly-placed officials found to have abused their office or corruptly dealt with public assets. So far, government is not discharging any of these duties either out of insensitivity or out of incompetence...

(read Guardian link for rest of the article in which Sanyaolu points out the need for a proactive government at the state and federal level to tackle the current state of affairs)

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!! May the best of our past be the worst of our future.