“America, Donald Trump and I”, by chukwudi adepoju

As I write this, the world is gradually coming to terms with the fact that the new President of the United States of America is Donald J. Trump, ‘self-professed’ billionaire and political-outsider sworn in to office less than a week ago. How do I perceive the ascendency of Trump and the future of America under this most unpopular President in America, their America? This is my take. It is not going to be short.

First things first, I should state where I am coming from; the values that have shaped my thinking about what I am going to write about. You know what they say, “…we do not see the world as it is, but as we are!”

I am a middle-aged black man, a Christian of the fervent Pentecostal, Evangelical flavour. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. I grew up the son of a church elder, who later became a Pastor. My mum is a Deaconess. But do not think that makes me ignorant about things outside the Bible and the stories of Abraham, David, and Goliath. By age 10, I could reel off the list of all American Presidents from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. Even now, I can tell you (with no effort at all) the names of all America’s Presidents in the last 120 years, and in the correct order of course. With an advanced degree in International Politics and a keen interest in international affairs spanning more than three decades, I am well grounded in the arguments in that field, especially in International Political Economy.

Continue reading ““America, Donald Trump and I”, by chukwudi adepoju”

“I’m a Port Harcourt Boy!” and the neglect of the Niger Delta

Song ref: Duncan Mighty’s Port Harcourt First Son (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFDFtSfccWM)

If you know someone whose heart doesn’t beat for his own patch of earth, pity him. If you know anyone that can’t sing with pride his own version of this extremely likeable song “I’m a Port Harcourt Boy eh, e ji kelele eh!” by Duncan Mighty, I have a feeling the person has not started living yet.

And this indescribable love for your own city is not a new thing.

The writer of Psalm 87 gushes about his own love for Jerusalem. In another Psalm, David says “If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to play musical instruments”, and that is saying a lot. Jay Z and Alicia Keys tell us in “Empire State of Mind”, that in their New York, the streets will make you feel brand new, “the lights will inspire you!” You need to hear MI talk about Jos! Aladuke will tell you about her Ilorin, Elemure will tell you about Ekiti, the Lisabi sisters told us there was nowhere like their Abeokuta, and you don’t even want to get me started about the one and only “Osogbo oroki”.

Continue reading ““I’m a Port Harcourt Boy!” and the neglect of the Niger Delta”

“What’s God got to do with it?” by Chukwudi Adepoju.

“What’s God got to do with it? Everything, my brother. Everything!”

“What’s God got to do with it? Absolutely nothing, my guy. This is business!”

Reuters-Nigeria-Christians-church-service-memorial-photog-Afolabi-Sotunde When the Western press says that Nigeria has a Muslim North, and a Christian South, we vehemently protest it, letting them know that the lines are not that clean-drawn between the North and the South; and that we indeed have huge populations in the North that are definitely Christian and lots of Muslims in the Southern part as well. I even volunteer the info that my own Dad, who lived all his life in the supposedly (only) “Christian South” was himself a Muslim for most of his youth. What we do not contest though, is that Nigerians love to be either one or the other. It is the rule that we belong to either of the two faiths. God lives in Nigeria, you know. It is a very rare Nigerian indeed that does not have God in his conversations on a daily basis.

 Our cars carry the bumper stickers, and our homes have the necessary paraphernalia. Our politicians talk about God at every opportunity. We are not the sort of people that believe our God should be kept at home. By my side, by my side…I have a very big God o.. He’s always by my side… We know the song, don’t we?

 And yet the presence, and at the same time, the unbelievable absence of God in the life of the Nigerian is one of the most impossible dichotomies you could ever encounter anywhere in the world. I explain.

Continue reading ““What’s God got to do with it?” by Chukwudi Adepoju.”

Not racist! Only ‘Tribalist’! In defence of an unusual name.

My Kenyan friend put it quite succinctly a few days ago as we talked about the politics of Africa in general, and of Kenya in particular – “In Kenya, we’re not racist, you know… We’re ‘tribalist’!”

This assertion is certainly true for most of us in Africa, and it is so subtle that you may not even know that you yourself are biased, in a way. We have an interesting way of making up our minds about someone from our own country, once we hear what tribe affiliation his or her ancestors held. Or even worse, when the only thing we see is the person’s name.

Believe me when I tell you… our prejudices run deep. I am Chukwudi Adepoju; I should know. From the unbelievable reactions I have received in all these decades, especially in Nigeria, I should know.
With both of my parents being of the Yoruba ethnic group, bearing the name Chukwudi (and bearing sounds like an appropriate word here, seeing that the name can be a bit ‘heavy’ sometimes) has led to really “interesting” conversations all through my life.

Continue reading “Not racist! Only ‘Tribalist’! In defence of an unusual name.”

To My Dear Pastor

My Dear Pastor,

 

“When in the course of human events…”

 

It is now quite obvious that apart from those dark days of the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970), Nigeria has never been in as bad a situation as the one in which we find her today.

 

Every single day, on many fronts, we see a daily annihilation and unbelievable decimation of not only the people of Nigeria but also the dreams of Nigerians.

 

Continue reading “To My Dear Pastor”

gardener. MENTOR. friend. 2

equal strength

The 19th Century American Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson was so right when he wrote in that famous essay of his – “Self Reliance”, that “Envy is ignorance, imitation is suicide”.

Why in the world would the Mango tree envy the hibiscus flower? Or the palm-tree envy the Iroko? It does not really make much sense, you know?  It is sheer ignorance of its potentials that makes a palm tree complain about not having flowers. That was what Emerson meant by “Envy is Ignorance”, and Imitation? Suicide. You kill the potential of the orange seedling if you want it to imitate the flower in the corner of your office. It may not be immediately obvious, and it may never be. But something dies in the species that imitates another of a different kind.  Continue reading “gardener. MENTOR. friend. 2”

The Lucky Bastards! And the rest of us…

Interviewer: “You were appointed DG of the institute (NIIA – Nigeria Institute of International Affairs) at 33. How was the experience?

Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi: “First, I wasn’t that unique in age. The young have always been in charge of the country. …The cabinet was made up of very young men….. How old was Yakubu Gowon when he became head of state? If I went to the institute at the age of 33, how old was the then head of state, Murtala Muhammed? He was about a year older. Obasanjo was his number two man, but nobody really ever knew his age (sic). I became a minister at the age of 43, but Ibrahim Babangida, who was the head of state, was only eight months older than me. So, in a way, young people have always been given opportunities. I wasn’t unique.”

Professor Bolaji Akinyemi @ 70 (The Punch, Saturday Feb 11, 2012)

Call me irreverent if you like. See if I care.

Like I say in most of my essays, I am a child of the 70’s and 80’s Nigeria, entering university just two months before Abiola went to prison in 1994. Abacha was in power when I turned 18, you see; so please pardon my anger.

I need to make a clarification though. I will, in a few minutes give my candid opinion of a vast majority of what our very own Nobel Laureate Prof. ‘Wole Soyinka has described variously as “the wasted generation”, referring to his own generation of Nigerians that had absolutely no reason to fail the country as they have so spectacularly done.

My clarification is that every generation has a sprinkling of these bastards, and it’s a huge disservice to the worthy ones (like one of my favorite Nigerians quoted at the beginning of this piece –Prof Bolaji Akinyemi) who did their very best to make Nigeria proud. It’s a huge disservice to have to lump them all together with this irreverent tag. Looking at the individuals, you can definitely pick up Nigeria’s great sons (Akinyemi, Soyinka, Achebe, Fela, Fawehinmi readily come to mind), but as a group, they should have been aborted. I’m sorry.

I knew an article was coming when I first read the interview, part of which I have quoted above; then this evening, I picked my father’s copy of “Military Leadership in Nigeria: 1966 – 1979”, written by Maj. General James Oluleye (rtd.), who was a front-row observer during the civil war (1967-1970) and who also held several critical positions in the Murtala/Obasanjo Governments of 1975 – 1979. His last major role was as Minister (then called “Federal Commissioner”) for Finance in the last 3 years of the Obasanjo regime in the late 70’s. In reading the book again, I am forced to note that these young chaps were just doing as they liked. They had absolutely the whole nation to do as they pleased with. And what have they done with it? Anyway, I get ahead of myself.

Lucky indeed

These fellows to whom we owe this rot of a country were born mostly between 1930 and 1945. Yes, if anyone turns 70 or 80 around you, he belongs to that generation. But the year of birth is not all that determines which were the worst of them.

The decade 1930 – 1940 means different things to different nations.

For the United States, that was the decade of the New Deal, when the Great Depression bit real hard, and America elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt whose time in the White House saw the laying of the foundation of America’s social welfare system; as he promised a car in every garage and chicken in every pot. It was a tough decade but it got the government working and got them more or less ready for when they had to get involved in what was formerly known as “Europe’s War”.

For most of Europe, it was a terrible decade, as they moved from epidemics to war. They also elected phenomenal people in Mussolini and Hitler. Indeed, it was a decade they would like to forget.

If that decade was terrible for Africa, not much has been reported of it, but from the sons that have ruled Africa since 1957 when Ghana got her independence, that decade brought Africa’s worst bastards.

Incidentally, they were fed as sons. The children born to Nigeria in this decade were mostly teenagers when the final battles for independence were being fought.

You cannot call them the founding fathers of Nigeria. That title is reserved for the Awolowo generation. It was this much older generation (born 1900 – 1920) that started the agitation for independence from their days as students all over the United Kingdom in the ’30s and ’40s. They knew they could make something great of Nigeria, and showed it by the way they governed Nigeria’s three regions in the six or seven years before the 1960 independence.

How lucky was this “Wasted Generation”, you ask? From 1954, they enjoyed Free Education and free health (until 18). They had a new independent nation handed over to them on a platter of gold. They were the very first students in Nigeria’s new Universities springing up in Nsukka, Lagos, Ife, Zaria (the one in Ibadan was already 12 years old in 1960). This ungrateful generation did not fight for the independence in any way; neither did they really have many of the older generation restricting their chances in career progression. For those that chose to go to school, scholarships were thrown at them from every angle, from Nigeria, from the Capitalist West, and from the Socialist East.

[With America’s John F. Kennedy circa 1962]

Then Nigeria found oil, and in commercial quantity. More deposits were found as the decades rolled in, so much so that by the time these fellows were in their 30’s, they complained (loudly) that money was not Nigeria’s problem; it was how to spend it.

Much has been written about the events that led to the ousting of the nation’s founders from political leadership, especially with the coming of the January 1966 coup, and in fact there is absolutely no way to know how Nigeria would have turned out if we did not have that first phase of Military Intervention (1966-79). Some really terrible elements (the Okotie-Ebohs and co) made the soldiers coming very welcome. However, I will not dwell much on the failings of the Akintolas and Okparas, but the obvious failings of these old men we see now. What did they do with our collective wealth, and with our national honor? What did they do with our future, and our bargaining power in the markets of the world?

For a minimum of forty five years (for Nigeria – forty six), most of Africa has been in the grip of the Lucky Bastards, who enter the twilight of their years, leaving populations that have actually tripled between independence and now. Nigeria’s population was barely 60m in 1960. Now we are closer to 170m than to 160m. Now, we’re close to 170m, and hungry.

We have become beggars because our fathers stole us blind.

The Nation’s statistics office released their new figures a few days ago. Officially, we now have at least 110million people living in poverty in Nigeria. How did we let this happen? How did we eat ourselves out like this, with no social welfare system, with very little encouragement for enterprise, and with much wanton aggravation of the poor with your display of ill-gotten wealth?

As they grow old and are gradually forced to retire (thankfully, there is old age, and death), our infrastructure has all but crumbled, our educational institutions are just shadows of their former shadows (!); and alas the world is in some un-understandable financial turmoil, the likes of which have not been seen since these bastards turned up more than seventy years ago.

What can we do?

This is not even written for their benefit, you see. They are the wasted generation and their history is already written. Neither is there much hope for the one that follows, whom I will call the “Cabal Generation” whose god is their belly, and political patronage is their philosophy. All decisions must be made with the belly in mind for the generation of these people, in their 50s and 60s.

Can the rest of us start to rebuild in spite of them? Can we start to save ourselves, please? Can we start from the very foundations, determining for ourselves what we want Africa, nay, Nigeria to look like when we are 70?

Interestingly, we have the numbers. More than 100million Nigerians are between the ages of 1 – 35.

More than numbers, we have the tools to reach everyone with, in our continuously connected world. We have the benefit of youthful vigor, and can learn from the mistakes the dying old men made of their lives. We can find our own ways of talking (with or without a National Conference, Sovereign or Not), and gradually effecting the change we desire.

We should as a matter of urgency, come up with a blueprint for the Nigeria we desire, in all the important areas- the standards and expectations our society will meet, in education; health; law and order; economy; and gradually become what we were meant to be, honorable.

If we do nothing, we ourselves will undoubtedly become nothing but the
Grumbling Bastards. God forbid.

©Chukwudi Adepoju. 25 Feb 2012.

Choosing a Leader for our Cooperative Society.

Hmmm.

I’m passionate about Our Cooperative, but how do i decide who is best to lead it, especially since the present leader got there by “the Hand of God” and he wants to continuing leading us; He has serious contenders for the post, and this is a candid opinion of that contest, and whom I would like to win it.

Something to clear up, first of all.

About thirteen to fourteen years ago, I had the privilege of leading a University Christian Youth Organization, as the President of the Campus Christian Fellowship (CCF-NIFES) in FUTA. In our little world on the campus of the Federal University of Technology Akure, the Christians were in the majority, and the organized student fellowships were indeed a major force to reckon with in student politics. They also had the ears of the University Management, most of who were our fellow “brethren” in the University Chapel; so you can say the organized Christian bodies were capable of deciding the elections of the Student Union Government, merely by leaning towards a favored candidate.

The contestants of course sought the “endorsement” of the big fellowships regularly. It was not out of place to just notice the appearance of a noted student-politician in your congregation repeatedly especially as the elections drew near. In fact, some went ahead to “give their lives” and become fellow brethren to ensure they won the votes of the Christian bloc. All fair, but I had the course to address my group in one especially-packed meeting, a few days to one of those elections. It had been rumored that CCF was going to declare their candidate that night. Not a few were shocked when I informed the hall that the fellowship I led did not have a candidate, and that God has a way of using the one we call a devil to bring his will to pass while when we vote the one we think is an angel, we get disappointed and disillusioned. I also pointed out that you could find two Christian brothers completely divergent on their political views and affiliations, and still be entitled under God to their views (and votes). I still hold dearly that opinion that it is not the business of religious leaders to tell us whom to vote for. Vote from your own perspective of the situation, with your conscience intact. The outcome should then be left for God’s will. Like the Good Book says in Proverbs 16:33 “Make your motions and cast your votes, but God has the final say” (The Message Translation)

All this long story is to let you know that this discourse is not to “inform” anyone that “This is who God says we should vote for…” but that this is an explanation of why I hold the views I currently hold. I am sure it will persuade some to my line of reasoning, but in all this, my prayer and hope is that our cooperative society thrives in prosperity for hundreds of years to come.

You may know that I refer to Nigeria when I say “our cooperative society” but I like the phrase Cooperative Society as it conveys the picture that we are all contributing to the big purse, through our Income Tax, Petrol Tax, Value Added Tax, Profit Tax etc. Secondly, when we think of Government as something other than the management of our collective resources for the purpose of giving us security, and good roads, and infrastructure that we could never have been able to do by ourselves; when we think of Government as an almighty benefactor with deep pockets, we tend to accept anything “they” deem fitting for us. As the protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen are showing this week, we are the Government, and the resources are ours, if we do contribute to the common purse.

So it is very important to choose amongst us, someone that will not only secure the collective purse, but someone that will find very innovative ways of investing our money and increasing it moderately. Of course we need someone that can use our money and other resources, like the Cooperative Security team (also known as the Police and the Armed Forces), to protect us from the harsh life (bad roads, no electricity, infant and maternal mortality, armed robbers, embarrassment all over the world, genocide in Jos and Borno). In short, we need someone that can watch our interest.

As we register to go to the polls this April 2011, the incumbent Cooperative President is asking to manage the cooperative again. We also have a former Police Officer who did us proud by bringing to book thieving past committee chairmen; then we have a former School Principal who has very good records in his management of the Kano purse, and in terms of his respect for all shareholders; and finally a former Cooperative President who thinks that what we presently have is a terrible rot that he could fix.

These four main men (there are also others, like the Prof and the Photographer) have passionate supporters but I have seen that in terms of Courage and Personal Example, only the Police Officer and the former Cooperative President have what I think our Cooperative needs at this time.

In what ways has the present President failed the Cooperative?

1. Our savings are being depleted daily: The Cooperative’s local and external debts have grown astronomically to more than $30bn (Thirty Billion Dollars) from near-zero when Balogun of Owu left in 2007. The Excess Crude Account (our rainy-day money) has depleted to only $200mn, from about $30bn, in just one year since he took office as an Acting President of this oil-rich Cooperative.

2. There is no control on how money is being wasted in the Presidential Quarters, as can be seen in the budget proposed for 2011. Renovation of already-renovated guest houses, huge traveling expenses, entertainments etc are all draining us. This is no way to show example to the Civil Service or the other 36 committees we have.

3. We are not getting commensurate services for all these monies being spent. Some people claim they now have electricity almost 24/7 and that this will take a long while to fix. No problem. It seems I am the only one still running my generator. But what about the Benin-Sagamu Rd, the Onitsha-Enugu Rd, or worse still, the complete break-down of security in all our branches, especially Plateau, Borno and indeed the Abia axis.

These signs worry me very seriously, and left to me, the present Cooperative President is not fit to continue. If you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. As long as our brother Goodluck is surrounded by vultures, the digging will continue.

Of the two cooperative members that I think can lead us out of this rot, I do respect Nuhu the former Policeman a lot but he has not been put in charge of a lot of our money like the older man has. Secondly, Nuhu also has some things he has not been able to explain away. The EFCC Chairman’s official accommodation that he bought is one I have a major problem with. He has said that his father-in-law was the one that went to borrow money from a bank and helped to buy it. The father-in-law that is a Professor? I am not sure I am ready to believe that just yet. I know he means well, but I am not sure he can survive a thorough microscopic scrutiny. I may be wrong, but I prefer the tried and trusted.

I simply believe that the older gentleman has shown, for many years, an incorruptible character that no one has been able to fault all these years. He lives a spartan and ascetic lifestyle that lets me trust that his court will not be full of ‘owambe’ first ladies and their crews. Some say he is a religious fanatic, but they cannot show one single instance of his fanaticism. His former boss Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd.) described him as one of the most honest men of integrity he knew. Dedicated and honest.

For now, that is what I want in the President of this Cooperative. Moral strength to say NO to waste.

In choosing as running-mate a well-known social critic who now has no choice but to live by the high standards he has set all these years, Buhari has shown he is looking for like-minds to help in repairing Nigeria.

I am sure that if Buhari wins, with Bakare as a Vice President:

1. Government waste will begin a downward slide that will be noticeable in our purse.

2. A revolutionary Inspector General of Police will be appointed. Our Police will become sane, and something we can all be proud of. Believe me, of all the ills in our Cooperative, the impotence of our Police Force and their harassment of innocent Nigerians while thieves (big and small) get away is about the biggest shame on our character.

3. The Federal Civil Service will wake up, and be efficient.

In short, we will stop this drain on our purse, and start a journey of righteousness that will exalt our nation.

I have said it on other forums that our followership in Nigeria is really inadequate, as we tend to encourage the corrupt and wait for our own chance to ‘steal’ public funds, but even at that, a good leadership will help us recognize and attain our highest ideals.

I welcome other opinions on this April 2011 election, but I am persuaded that our best effort this time will be to vote in the Buhari/Bakare team. In fact, this will end up being a “Revolution by Other Means”. And that is a welcome development.

“He’s the one that does my exams for me!”

A huge part of our national building is being left to rot, and the rot is left to a few largely uncoordinated (and sometimes unconcerned) people to repair, instead of all of us seeing this as a monumental crisis. The rot I am talking about here is the state of Nigeria’s Education System.

I will narrate two shocking conversations I have had in the last few years to buttress my point, as if it needs any buttressing.

The first one happened while I lived and worked in the beautiful city of Asaba by the River Niger.

I once remarked, in my casual jovial way, to the young teenage girl who was a cleaner where I worked that I saw her the previous evening with her boyfriend at about seven pm.

Immediately she denied the young man “He’s not my boyfriend o”.

OK. “So who was the chap?” I asked innocently, still continuing with my work as she cleaned a colleague’s table.

“He’s just the guy writing my exams for me!”

I practically dropped what I was doing in complete shock.

“What exams are we talking about here?”, I asked.

“My O’level WAEC of course” was the smart reply, like I should have known.

“And why are you not doing that by yourself?”

“I don’t have the time to read”

I was simply too shocked to immediately respond. Then I took the news in slowly. Yes, she works hard as a cleaner. Yes, the cleaners sometimes have to close late, but never later than six pm… So I called her again with another line of reasoning, or so I thought.

“And how do you know he will pass these exams on your behalf?”

“Of course he will pass. He did my sister’s WAEC for her, and she’s now in 200level at the Delta State University, the one at Anwai.” And I am ashamed to say that I did not try too much to make her see the error of her ways, for it was obvious this was a family matter and the young girl obviously did not execute this treachery without some input from her immediate community.

The second one was this year, just about a month ago when my ward returned from the writing of her University Matriculation Exam (UME) and it was almost night when she came in. I had heard on the news that the exams started rather late in my part of Port Harcourt but to come in at about seven pm for a short exam was bordering on the bizarre. Then she explained that though the papers came in really late, the invigilators at her exam center, which was a primary school (as usual) immediately asked that the students coming for the exam divide themselves into two groups. Those who have money on them, and those who don’t. Why would they need to do that, you may ask? The invigilators were asking for some “fees” that would let them invigilate in blind mode, thereby allowing anything to happen in those halls. The brazen audacity of it is so shocking; the exams were delayed longer while the negotiations lasted. Most of the students parted with money, and the rest begged their way in under one condition. They were not going to be allowed to cheat, as the others would.

I am ashamed to write that this is what we have become. A nation of cheats that cannot guarantee the quality of the youth that will be Nigeria tomorrow.

Agreed, very small handfuls still remain, that do things the right way, but they are the dwindling exception, and in our millions we have lost our sense of shame. And of pride. And of dignity.

Many of us analyze this problem, as well as many other national shames every day, with our friends, our families, and our colleagues (as I myself have told the first story a number of times) and all we say is “God will help us in this country”. I am afraid to bring the news to us cold. God will NOT help us anymore. I think we have stopped deserving his help.

For my cleaner colleague in Asaba, we have shown her the way of life in Nigeria, where you do not need to take a test to get a driver’s license. A license that can have Mungo Park as the name of the holder, and his address somewhere in the middle of the rainforest between Nigeria and Cameroun, and no-one will be any wiser.

When a nation has money but not smart educated people, they can buy their social services from China, India, and South Africa. But what will happen when (not if, WHEN) that country runs out of money? Doom, I assure you.

So what can we do?

We can start by RECOGNIZING that it is a trend that MUST be stopped, or we are dragging ourselves right down a huge ditch, just a few years down the road. We should stop ignoring it or stop thinking we can put it in God’s IN-TRAY. He has family in Ghana too. And they do not worry him so.

We can start by POLICING OUR OWN AREAS OF INFLUENCE; ensuring that no teenager or young adult under our watch is asking a mercenary to do his/her exams at whatever level. A final year student at one of the federal universities was severely cross with his brother-in-law because he (the final year student) had failed an important course, and the brother-in-law would not give him money to go ‘sort’ the lecturer with. He was really mad with the brother-in-law for wanting to waste one more year of his life, instead of helping to bribe this lecturer.

We (you and I) must PUNISH people in positions of authority (lecturers, invigilators, etc) that provide the market for this rubbish called SORTING, wither with cash or with wetin-call. How will that be done? You, think that one up.. Really.

We must THINK of solutions to Nigeria’s problems by ourselves, and start solving them.

Our survival is at stake.

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