Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nigeria @ 56: When Change is a Torture…

What a great difference 365 days can make! We don’t need a time machine to help us remember the wind of enthusiasm and the gamut of hope that swept through the political landscape of Nigeria in 2015. Chorused in a creed that was titled ‘Change’, from the North to the South, and to an extent, the East, the expectations that greeted the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari bordered on the incredulous. He had the answer to all the nagging questions that 55 years of misrule had created. In his hands were the solutions to an epileptic health system, a broken educational terrain, the unemployment cancer, the insecurity conundrum to mention but a few. However, as days gave way to weeks, and weeks metamorphosed to months and months clocked a year, hope has slowly but surely eroded and many are left asking ‘How were we deluded?’

Not sure about delusion, but clearly, on the evidence of the man on the street of Lagos, the low income earner in Kaduna who is struggling with fees for his children, the road-side seller in Enugu hurling her wears, this was not the deal they had all bargained for when they went to the polls on March 28th 2015. Irrespective of who you give your loyalty to, the crux of the matter is that a vast majority of Nigerians are worse than they were a year ago; and it is from that premise that the debate must begin.

The reality is that President Buhari never had and will never have all the answers. Put succinctly, no leader has all the answers. In the midst of all the plethora of criticisms that have trailed the president in recent times, a bit of context is required, and it behooves on all not to trade logic and facts for sentiments and primordial interest. Whatever way you choose to describe it, President Buhari inherited a mess of a Nation, couched in years of deceits, untold corruption and evil governance. The facts will suffice here. In a masterpiece article in the backpage of ThisDay Newspaper of July 24th 2016, Simon Kolawole aptly noted ‘Indeed, President Goodluck Jonathan was unable to build robust reserves in the time of boom — and this is very significant. Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the highest price oil sold for was $60, and production was less than 2mbpd for the most part. He parted with $12 billion to settle foreign debts, and still left FX reserves of $43 billion, out of which $9 billion was excess crude savings. Under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, oil went up and down, hitting $147 per barrel at some point, and sinking to $31 at its lowest. With that, Yar’Adua raised FX reserves to $62 billion by September 2008 — the highest in our history. This is where the Jonathan team loses the argument. Oil sold for between $70 and $120 during his first four years in power (2010-2014) before the downward slide to $50 in 2015, when he left office. If our reserve management was anything like what we had under Obasanjo and Yar’Adua (when, by the way, Professor Chukwuma Soludo was the CBN governor), Jonathan could have left at least $100 billion in the reserves. If Buhari had inherited such a hefty kitty, the naira would not be gasping for breath today. Clearly, our failure to build an FX war chest in the time of plenty exposed us to the infectious diseases we are battling with today.’ When you juxtapose this anomaly in addition to the syphoning of funds that was the hallmark of that regime (Dasuki’s $2.1 billion loot being the poster boy), then you realize how much they raped this nation. An attempt to begin to unearth all the inimical wrongdoings that were on rampage during the stint of the erstwhile president, will require volumes of books, and a sequel. Hence, chief of the criticisms that have been meted out to him was not that he was a ‘bad person’, rather he didn’t have the capacity to lead, the tenacity to do the right thing, the wisdom to steer a direction and the will to command respect. Under his watch, everything that could go wrong went entirely wrong. Irrespective of what his apologists say, you can’t divorce our current national travails from the shenanigans of the last political dispensation. It was always a case of an implosion waiting to happen.

Having said that, we can’t remain there forever. After all, it was on the premise of a new lease of life that the current political class was entrusted with the peoples’ mandate. The Buhari administration should have known enough to realize that they were inheriting a broken system and an economy in comatose. The integrity hiatus was screaming for a fix and he was voted in to do all of these. The reality is that the Buhari administration might yet come good, but if the evidence of one and half year is anything to go by then we should be worried. Very worried. The administration has been thrown a myriad of sticks and rightly so, for their inability to conceive a coherent economic blueprint, social policies to address the doldrums we are in and a lack of ingenious quick wins. There are simple quick wins and palliatives that could have been implemented, while the long term solutions are being pursued. These quick wins are not rocket science and it is the job of all those who parade themselves as honourable ministers, over-fed special advisers, theatrical legislators and heads of parastatals to find the answer.

However, like him or loathe him, one thing even his detractors agree to is that in this regime, it is not entirely business as usual. Corruption is being fought, albeit haphazardly. The criticism in this space has been that the Buhari administration is waging a somewhat selective and vindictive fight against corruption. They argue that the ‘yesterday men’ of Goodluck Jonathan and even our endearing ‘Mama Peace’ is being targeted. While I sympathize with this comment, it is a case dead on arrival. It was the ‘yesterday men’ that largely brought the nation to its knees, and while Buhari’s cabinet is not entirely immune of corrupt men and women, it does not exonerate the leaders of yesterday. The talk of Patience Jonathan being a target is sheer nonsense. The argument is that no former first lady has been subjected to such probe and that she might well have been enriched by goodwill gifts. Spare me the gibberish! What does the rule of law mean if we can’t ensure that no one is too big to stand trial? Yes, she might well be the first erstwhile first lady to be subjected to such probe, and so what? The real question is ‘Is there a case?’ In a sane clime, that will be the discussion, rather, we have so called activists on the streets, some of whom can barely afford two square meal pleading the case of a woman who might well have denied them of their collective wealth running into millions of dollars. There is also some mileage gained in the insecurity fight; but with the relative sanity in the northeast have come endless days of Niger-Delta militancy, crippling an already devastated economy.

The conclusion is that Nigerians are tired of rhetorics, blame games, superficial promises, fictitious solutions and imaginary fixes. It is not enough for President Buhari to mean well, he must exude that. Nigerians must see sacrifices from their leaders, unconventional answers to conventional problems and a will power to purse what will benefit a vast majority of the people.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Poem: To The One Who Left

Extant in our minds
Vivid in our thoughts
We remember.

To you our beauty who departed unannounced
To you our jewel who checked out untold
To you our substance who left unprepared
We remember.

It was many years ago
A score and one
But this memory has suffered no senility
This heart has seen no distortions
Today, like many days in our lives
We remember.

We remember how you caressed our soul
How you decorated our lives
How you tended to our troubled heads
And how you were there.

You were there when there was nothing
When all we had were the dreams you helped us nurture
You were there when the days were dark and the nights, tight
You were there when living was a herculean task and the next meal was an answered prayer.
You were there when no one else was there.

To you who left
we remember.
Our heartthrob, Our Hadassah, Our joy, Our convener, Our cheerleader.

And though it seemed like death has won when you left
Though it seemed the sting has had a victorious day
Though it appeared the inevitable had the last laugh
But we know better.

Death did not win, for you never truly left
We see you in our thoughts, we hear your voice call out our names every now and then
We behold you in the beauty of our dreams and in life's perilous moment, we see you
To the one who left, rest on, worry less, sleep sound, for our ultimate reunification is a certainty
And it is for you who left that we will strive to make this world a better place and die empty.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

10 Good Reminders to Spend More Time with the Right People

1. Sometimes the most ordinary things can be made extraordinary, just by doing them with the right people.

2. The best thing you can do is to let go of what you can’t control, and focus on the things you can – like the people you choose to be around.

3. You intellectually grow to be like the few people you spend most of your time with. So surround yourself with only those who are going to lift you higher.

4. The right people for you are those who inspire you to be who you always knew you could be. Keep this in mind. Anyone who helps you make your half-hearted attempts more whole-hearted through kindness, commitment and teamwork, is a keeper.

5. A healthy relationship will never require you to sacrifice your happiness, your other important relationships, your dreams, or your dignity.

6. Don’t listen to those who tell you exactly what to do. Listen to those special few who encourage you to do what you already know in your heart is right.

7. Healthy relationships don’t just happen – they take time, patience and two people who truly want to work together to create something meaningful and lasting.

8. What you give to another person is really what you give to yourself. When you treat people you care about with love, you learn that you are lovable too.

9. The people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow. Never be too busy to make time for those who matter most.

10. Pay attention to the little things, because when you really miss someone, you miss the little things the most, like just laughing together.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Being Part of a Noble Cause!

Saturday, 3rd of September will remain an indelible date for all those who were part of the Back to School drive initiative. This initiative was powered by the Freehands Organization in collaboration with the SCiNergy group. It was one event that happened in two different locations at the same time. The occasion saw over 600 children equipped with school bags loaded with school supplies. However, it wasn’t just the kinds that saw smiles returned to their faces. Men and women in the target communities also got clothing and food materials.

As I saw the crowd pour in to collect items of schooling, clothing and food, I reflected on how much we as human ignore the things we have to lament on the things we don’t have.

Ultimately, never forget that to give is what it means to truly live. This is truly what it means to be part of a noble cause.

Enjoy the Pictures…

Monday, September 5, 2016

Zuckerberg and Nigeria’s Silicon Valley

Sufficed literature has already been written about the unannounced visit of Silicon Valley’s top shot, Mark Zuckerberg to Nigeria. Zuckerberg was ranked a staggering 6th place in Forbes list of world richest men in 2016. At 32, Mark was the youngest in the top 90 and more than 20 years younger than anyone in the top 10. Only Lukas Walton of Walmart, ranked 99th is younger than Mark in the entire top 100. Mark is your poster boy for sending home the message that age is nothing. His rise and rise in the global social media space will forever be secured but with only three decades of his life spent, it boggles the mind what feats awaits the former Harvard student.

Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria has gotten so much airtime, and rightly so. Though he arrived without the usual pageantry, the moment word went viral that he was somewhere in Yaba, Lagos, the rest was history. The visit has been acclaimed by many social media experts and political pundits as a welcome development for our nation economically and technologically. As Reuben Abati puts it, ‘Zuckerberg helped to show the rest of the world that Nigeria is not so bad at all, and that something really exciting is happening here among the country’s young population’. It is apt to stress that that excitement, though a creation of the younger generation, is also slowly but surely sweeping through the older population. It is fantastic that Mark choose Nigeria in his first ever Africa voyage, but why wouldn’t he. According to internet live stats, in 2016, Nigeria’s internet users have climbed to 86.2 million, that is 48 million more users than it was in 2010. 86.2 million users translate to 46.1% of Nigeria’s total population using the internet. Zooming in further, 16 million of that number visit Facebook every month, that is 4 million more than South Africa’s 12 million users per month. This puts Nigeria as the number one highest Facebook users in Africa. On this evidence, Mark’s visit to Nigeria was only a matter of when than if. However, the timing was perfect. Bedeviled by an economy in comatose and a citizenry in sheer frustration, it was a needed distraction for all, and in some sense, a renewed hope for some. While that reprieve will be temporarily, the big question will be ‘what does his visit mean for us going forward’?

It is well chronicled that Nigerians are some of the world’s finest minds. There are about 18 Nigerians in reputable positions plying their trades in Facebook. This list includes Chukwuemeka Afigbo, who joined Facebook from Google. There are also Ime Archibong, Ebele Okobi, Nmachi Jidenma, Lawrence Aderemi and the delightful Morin Oluwole among others. To put into perspective, all of these guys are less than 40 years and are making a case for the emerging Nigeria Silicon Valley.

There is no gainsaying that the future is digital and the revolution in the social media space will be yet mind boggling. While the conventional manufacturing and energy industries will remain huge employers of labour, it is the social space, if well harnessed that will largely curtail the nation’s alarming unemployment numbers (Key word here being curtail). However, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. All stakeholders must begin to give the social revolution more support than mere lip service. In a nation where constant power supply is still a tall dream and effective network bandwidth is still a teething problem, it will take a while to cover some mileage in this space. More than ever before, today’s youth in Nigeria requires an enabling environment, the kind that allowed Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey to thrive with their innovations. However, the signs suggest that the nation’s leaders are either living in the dark ages or are just inept to do what is required here. The nation’s minister of science of technology is 64 years old, while the minister of youth and sports is 52. The point here is not that these men are not patriots who are willingly to give their best in service to country; truth is they might indeed be great servants in the quest to see that Nigeria succeeds. The crux of the matter is that there is a default and emerging mindset needed to drive such ministries but with men like Ogonnaya Onu and Solomon Dalong, who are already cast in their ways, you won’t get that. Without sounding like a broken record, if the right ideas and most suitable people are injected into those two ministries alone, there is no telling what they can achieve.

Having said all that, the buck doesn’t entirely stop with the government and those in authorities, there is the glaring and sacrosanct role the youths must play. Without mincing words, there are already trail blazers in Nigeria’s social and digital revolution space. Like her or loathe her, Linda Ikeji is a great inspiration. Her blog has been adjudged one of the most visited on the continent, and while her indulgences might be in the realm of the luxurious, it is truly no one’s business. Beyond her largesse, what is salient is that she has shown that it is possible to thrive in that space in this part of the world. Same can also be said of the more reserved Seun Osewa, who began Nairaland in March 2005. Today, the platform is extremely trendy among youths. Indeed, as Abati noted ‘Zuckerberg’s visit also provided great publicity for Nigeria’s emerging Silicon Valley, and the young entrepreneurs to whom Zuckerberg paid compliments.’ There are great tech entrepreneurs that are blazing the trail in Nigeria, and their stories must be told.

However, there are still a vast number of youths who will need to wake up from their social media slumber. For too long, we have been labeled a consumer nation, well equipped in the business of using than making. This sad trend can be said for a majority of youths who visit the social media space. It is not enough to be on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and all social media platforms there are, there is a need to shift the mindset and reset the conversation to how we can begin to create. It is this mindset shift that has led to the emergence of the likes of online shopping platforms, Konga and Jumia. Let no one be deluded, Nigeria’s social media space is still a virgin one begging for more novel and ‘out of the box’ ideas. We might never attain the ingenious level of the United States Silicon Valley development, but one only needs to look no further than platforms such as China’s Alibaba (e-commerce one stop shop) to know that we can have more home grown e-platforms that will not only be successful at home, but can also be exported to the rest of the world. Alibaba's consumer-to-consumer portal Taobao, similar to, features nearly a billion products and is one of the 20 most-visited websites globally. Jack Ma, who is the founder of Alibaba is reported to be worth over 20 billion dollars and is the world’s 33rd richest man. The time is now for Nigeria’s youths to get dissatisfied with just being on all possible social media platforms and start thinking creation in that space.

Make no mistakes about it, the future is technology, and that is exaggerating the obvious. According to Forbes list of 2016, 7 of the top 13 richest men in the world made their fortune from technology, social media and digital related platforms. This list includes Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg LP and of course, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Enough said!