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.

Please vote for Muhammadu Buhari on April 09, 2011.

I will try to make this a short one.

I am writing this to you my family and friends, to ask that you to think deeply about the coming April 2011 General elections in Nigeria; that you scrutinize the contestants, and objectively vote for the people you think are the best for Nigeria right now. In fact, I am asking that you vote for Muhammadu Buhari. Here are my reasons.

I have said it a number of times, that I strongly believe that the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan has shown no capacity to deal with our biggest malady – corruption in Government; he has shown that his government is entirely clueless in managing national security and worst of all, he keeps depleting our foreign reserves and excess crude accounts, with absolutely nothing to show for it. (Read “The Economy is Going Down” by Charles Soludo)

I strongly feel that of the main contestants for the post of President, General Muhammadu Buhari has shown the capacity that is required to lead us out of this our big mess of clueless governance and outright bankrupting of the nation; not that he is an economist – he definitely is not; but because he can lead by example, and clean up our federal, state and local government bureaucracy. If our laws are implemented right, we actually do not need new ones to have a great country. I know that Buhari has had a very clean public office record for decades – as former Governor of North Eastern State (under Murtala/Obasanjo); Petroleum Minister (under Obasanjo); Head of State (and Nigeria became sane till IBB set corruption free); as PTF Chairman (under Abacha/Abdusallam).

My initial thoughts on this are penned under “Choosing a Leader for our cooperative Society”.

The following Nigerians that I respect also feel the same about voting Muhammadu Buhari for President in April 2011:

  1. Mallam Nasir el-Rufai: (one of Nigeria’s most-respected technocrats, and a leading member of OBJ’s former economic team) Titled “Why I’m standing by Buhari-Bakare“, here are excerpts:

    “My belief is that the Buhari-Bakare ticket is the strongest because it addresses the concern of Nigerians for an inclusive and balanced ticket of two very strong and competent individuals. It shows greater capacity, track record and evidence of proven ability than the other candidates, to tackle what I consider to be the five most important challenges facing most Nigerians in 2011, which are insecurity and inadequate justice, infrastructure deficits – power, roads, railways, ports, etc.  Unemployment and youth hopelessness, collapse of government institutions and corruption, and collapse of public services, particularly education and healthcare. It is the only ticket that has published a detailed manifesto with clear deliverables, timelines and commitments. The others are either promising nothing in writing (PDP and ANPP) or just unrealistic platitudes (ACN) e.g. 30 million jobs and 5 million homes? -are they kidding?

    “What I had against Buhari (and IBB) running was their relatively advanced age and fact that they were presidents 25 years ago. I felt they should be elder statesmen and leave the stage. My objection had nothing to do with the competence or capacity to be president. With the choice of Bakare and Buhari’s message of inclusion and teamwork, I have dropped my objection. In any case, I think the issue for me is that the B-B ticket is simply the strongest amongst the four we have to choose from. We have all witnessed what Jonathan can do or not do within the last one year. Nuhu is my close friend and I know his strengths as well as his limitations. Shekarau is just running because he can. Only Buhari has an agenda, clear message and track record of getting real things done in his public life. Bakare’s track record of social and activism, his courage and integrity and community service are well known to me and superior to that of all the other “running mates”.

  2. Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (the fearless CBN Governor that recently called out the National Assembly on their huge drain on Nigeria’s purse). This is a really great piece he titled “Why I will vote for Buhari”. Includes a detailed analysis of Buhari’s economic policies of 1984/5

    “…let me conclude by saying that if Buhari gets a nomination he will have my vote (for what it is worth). I will vote for him not, like some have averred, because he is a northerner and a Muslim or because I think his candidacy is good for the north and Islam; I will vote for him not because I think he will make a good democrat or that he was not a dictator. I will vote for Buhari as a Nigerian for a leader who restored my pride and dignity and my belief in the motherland.”

  3. Adeolu Akinyemi (www.deoluakinyemi.com): A passionate Nigerian Entrepreneur with a huge following among the youth, especially those that know how to use the internet. He titled his piece “Why I’m voting Buhari-Bakare in 2011 elections“. An excerpt:

    “… In 2011, Buhari is not alone. He’s supported by a team of volunteers online and offline like me, who never voted for him before. We didn’t vote for him, because we didn’t know. We didn’t know that he supervised and birthed our only existing refineries. We didn’t know that what he did in road construction while in the PTF hasn’t been matched by 12yrs of the PDP, even though we claimed they were lopsided. We didn’t know that in his time as head of state he reduced inflation from 23% to 4%, by fiscal discipline and a homegrown economic team (not achieved under any other era, even military). We didn’t know that there was no religious crisis while he led. We didn’t know that JJ Rawlings of Ghana took over 2yrs before him, and killed all the corrupt leaders, while Buhari merely gave his own, long-term jail sentences. We didn’t know that the hospitals and universities around the country never witnessed as much benefits they got from the PTF from any government after or before his time. We did not know, that this man haven been in all the oil sectors in Nigeria, has no petrol station, much less a refinery or an oil rig like so many of our leaders. We never voted him, because we did not know.

    But now we know… We know that he has followership in the north that money can’t buy. We know that those who follow him are poor, and follow him out of hope and belief in his values. I have met old men who know him, who have said… “All I need from Buhari is his word; I can take it to the bank”. Now we know that here is someone that has been in everything to make him a Dan-Something, but didn’t take the road. We feared he was an Islamic fundamentalist, but he challenged us to provide any human being who can point at anything he did to show the same. His Cook and Drivers… two roles that can be influenced to have your life are Christians. In his passion for discipline, he has pulled down mosques, punished emirs, and followed principles over the respect of people. Then this year, to the utter shock of the world, he picks the most radically outspoken no nonsense Christian Preacher in Nigeria to be his vice. Now we know, that it’s about the values, not religion and certainly not the fact that he becomes the first (correct me if I’m wrong) Nigerian president without multiple wives or an array of concubines.”

     

  4. Sonala Olumhense (a veteran journalist of note), titled his piece “I endorse Muhammadu Buhari for President“. Excerpts:

    “Nigeria needs in office a leader whose word will command respect; a leader who will not speak out of both sides of his mouth; a leader who will deploy power in the national interest and not in the massaging of his own bloated ego and the greed of his friends.

    Nigeria needs a leader who is capable of holding himself and those around him to high standards of accountability and performance, not one who simply preaches about them in public.

    Nigeria needs a man who has demonstrated he can stand up to Nigeria’s army of the rich and influential, not one whose friends, colleagues and mistresses are exempt from the law.

    Nigeria needs a man who will be consistent from day to day, not one for whom right and wrong depends on the company or the time of day.  Nigeria needs a man who can tell opportunity from opportunism; a man who can resist the greed, insensitivity and ethical nothingness that now defines the country.

    There are many people asking to be president of Nigeria next May, but only Buhari truly meets these basic considerations.  Only he answers the question: “Who is Nigeria’s best hope for halting and reversing the deterioration and decay?”

    Only he can change the questions and seek new answers.  He can bring in new men and women of character, and throw open a genuine new beginning anchored on public service.   He can slam the doors on indolence and compromise, and unlock the cellars where the PDP hopes the bodies will never be discovered.

    I wholeheartedly endorse his candidature for President of Nigeria because he has the capacity to bring a sense of responsibility and mission to governance.  If he does, implementing budgets and policies will become standard, and good men and women will have a place in our nation head of the mob of monsters.

    All of this is possible because Buhari has character.  In Pastor Tunde Bakare, he has also chosen another man of integrity.  Through action, not loud rhetoric, they can correct the principal weaknesses that have made Nigeria an underachieving and under-developing country.”

     

Nobody is saying Buhari is a messiah or that he rebuild Nigeria all by himself, but I know that when you have someone in the highest office in the land that is looking after your interests and not his own pecuniary appetite or that of his cronies/godfathers, it is much easier to build a great nation.

I am ready to answer questions you may have about Buhari or about how his team plans to give Nigeria a better deal than we have been having since 1999.

If I cannot answer your questions, I will pass them on to his team, and they will get back to you quickly.

Finally, don’t let your voting be based on the sentiments of ethnicity or religion or age. Let’s rebuild this nation, and give ourselves a chance at greatness.

God bless Nigeria, and God bless you.

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.

Dear IBB: An open letter from Generation X

An Open Letter to
Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd.)
– Sunday 24th October 2010.

Dearest IBB,
Salam a leikum to you and your family. I hope this letter meets you very well.
I am very sure you do not know me, not even if I trace my family history to the third generation. Suffice it to say that I am a 34 yr old Nigerian that has lived all his life in Nigeria and would just love to bring some things to your notice as you go about your aspiration to become a democratically elected President of this Nigeria that you love so much.

Some people reading this my letter will question my assertion that you love Nigeria. I will not bother to convince them that you do love Nigeria, knowing that we all love Nigeria but only have different ways of showing our love. But that is another matter entirely.

I would like to start by thanking you for the wonderful things you have done for this country, especially during your meritorious military career, serving your fatherland. My late father (he was about your age, but he passed away four years ago) used to regale me with heroic tales of Nigeria’s young officers in the 1960’s, and 70’s. I was fascinated by stories of “the Five Majors” and “why they struck”; the stories of the revenge coup of July ’66, and the war that was fought to keep Nigeria one. My father firmly believed you were a gallant officer in that war. He was briefly in the army but he left early for some personal reasons.
Please bear with me as I bring back to mind the things I heard were your contributions to the governments of Murtala Muhammed, ‘Segun Obasanjo (1). He told me you were instrumental in quelling some coups and in starting some yourself. I remember vividly, him describing your patrolling the Dodan Baracks in 1966, for almost 24 hours, without a break. That was heroic, and tough. The rest of your antics in Nigeria, I followed by myself.
Yes, you recently said the younger generation of 18 to 35 only heard stories, but I will let you know that we saw some of these things with our korokoro eyes, and we heard them live, sometimes on the NTA Network News. I will highlight some of these things. Things I would put in your report card if I were your teacher; the things I will tell my infant son when he is old enough, who will tell his own son, the things that you did when you had the big opportunity to run this your beloved Nigeria. Of course I am referring to 1985 – 1993. God forbid that you get that chance again.

1. Nigeria’s economy: I really wish things were rosy when you were President. Really. For your sake, and my childhood’s sake, I wish they were. My parents were secondary school teachers, both of them belonging to the first generation of university graduates from their respective communities, and they were doing OK. In fact, they got married in 1972, and between 1972 and 1982, they had lived in Zaria, Ibadan, Iwo and Osogbo. They had bought 3 cars (one in 1973, a replacement in 1976 and an additional one in 1982). Brand new cars, actually. Not the tokunbos that we do ‘thanksgiving’ for these days. They had built their own house (a 6-bedroom bungalow) and were doing fine. They continued to cope after you became president, but it dawned on me some weeks ago that the 1982 car was the very last brand new car my father bought in his lifetime. Of course you were not the finance or economics minister that introduced SAP, but the egg-heads that were the ministers of those days tell us that it was not implemented right. Anyway, you have told us that you gladly bear the responsibility of the actions of your government. You however lamented recently at the launch of your campaign that the Naira exchange rate that you left in 1993 was not this ridiculous N150 to $1, but you forgot to mention how much it was in 1985. It was 89kobo to $1, jumping to N2 in 1986, N4 in 1987 and about N22 to $1 when you left. I also need to remind you that since Naira was introduced in Nigeria in 1972 (from the time of Gowon, to Murtala, to Obasanjo 1, to Shagari, to Buhari), it had always hovered at between 50k to $1 and 78kobo to $1, till you came. I think that should be fairly judged as a fail grade. As we say in this generation, you did not try !

2. Corruption: How do I explain this well to you? The government before yours –that of Messrs Buhari and Idiagbon – was extremely hard on the politicians they toppled. Unfortunately, corruption did not start with the Shagari Govt. Corruption was huge in the days of Okotie-Eboh, and even in the decades before, as you well know. All human beings can be corrupt, like an African proverb says “Everyone can steal when there’s nobody at home”. But what works in developed countries and in fact very well in the Middle East where Sharia is practiced is the fear of the law. The people need to fear being caught, and punished. With Idiagbon’s tough stance against indiscipline and corruption, EVERYBODY became sane. We were on our way to building a society where nobody dared embezzle money, collect bribes or jump queues. You reversed all that when you came. We Nigerians had it in us to not be corrupt but before the seeds of that thought could germinate, you dropped all charges against the imprisoned politicians, telling us we could get away with murder, literally.
The brown envelope found its way into Nigeria’s vocabulary. Some people like to say that you institutionalized corruption, I think it’s better to say you set it loose on our streets. During your Presidency, we lost all respect for the law. And for the Police, as a matter of fact. For that, I can confidently say: You did not try.

3. Education: I will say candidly that you did not completely fail in this sector. I personally think the 6-3-3-4 system is a great innovation that should have served us well, but implementation is our huge problem. I entered one of our prestigious unity schools (a Federal Government College) in 1988, and had a great 6 years, with wonderful and dedicated teachers (even though our laboratories and libraries could have been better), but I did not know that I was merely eating ‘saari’ (the early morning meal Muslims take during the Ramadan fast), and my fasting was just postponed for a few years down the line. I left FGC Ilorin in July 1993 (a remarkable leaving, as my uncle and mum who came to pick me from the boarding house had to drive through bon-fires and riots all the way to Osogbo – as a result of your infamous annulment of the June 12 election). I expected to start my university degree in October 1993 but that your unique invention –ASUU strike- did not make this possible till April 1994. Then your friend Sani Abacha added more years and I could not graduate till Feb 2000. Several other students can relate their experiences from the 1992 ASUU strike and so many others, but we know that this instability and total disregard for the Ivory towers and all it stood for, led to the mass exodus of our best lecturers (brain-drain it was called), and these brains that left have not yet drained back to Nigeria since then. Doctors left en-masse to Dubai, Saudi Arabia and so many African countries. You should be ashamed actually, that while your fine son Mohammed and his siblings were schooling in Switzerland and other beautiful places, we were rotting away in Nigerian Universities. And you say we should trust you again?

4. June 12: I’m sorry you CANNOT get away from this sir. Not as long as there are calendars in this world. True, I was sitting for my May/June SSCE Exams in Ilorin when the votes were cast, but we faithfully followed the results being announced state by state by state by state. True, I was too young to vote. I was going to be 17 in November 1993 but the annulment of the obviously free and obviously fair elections was arguably the small fire that led us down the Abacha years. I cannot forget the announcement of the creation of Osun State that you made about 2 years before the June 12 elections. “Osun State, from the old Oyo State, with the headquarters at Osogbo” still rings in my head till today. We were extremely overjoyed in Osogbo but you have erased all that goodwill with the annulment you announced on June 23. The reason why it is very sad is that you had the power to not annul this. You had the power to do what Uncle ‘Sege did in 1979. You even had the benefit of hindsight to put measures in place such that the intervention of Dec 1983 would not have been necessary again.

Yes you did some good things, starting the Federal Road Safety Corps with the indefatigable ‘Wole Soyinka; you started DFFRI, you built the 3rd Mainland bridge in Lagos, and built the FCT in a rush (though we know it was the Orkar coup that really rattled you into that) but the killing of Vatsa, the highly controversial deaths of Dele Giwa and of course that of the officers that died in the crash of September 1992; are ghosts you must be very familiar with right now. I will not bring them up. Besides, these are things I heard about. This letter is about the things I saw.

I think I should stop here. I am not sure you were aware of these very important points before now. I do not see how you could have been aware, and still decide to go ahead to ask for our votes.

My father cannot vote again. He has gone to heaven but I would be a bastard to look at you, with your records of 1985 to 1993, and vote for you. I would also be a really terrible father not to be able to tell my son when he is old enough that I did my best, and convinced everyone I knew, not to vote for you.
I know you will understand.
It is personal.
On behalf of my late father, and my infant son, both of whom cannot vote at this time, I say please go back home to Minna. You could spend some time on a memoir.

God be with you.

God bless Nigeria.

Best wishes,
Chukwudi Adepoju.
24 October 2010.

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