Monday, December 14, 2009

NAIJA MONDAYS: "Chronic Pericarditis: it's not just a "Yar Adua" Disease!!!"

Theme: Revival

Touch your chest and feel your heart-beat. You may not have any disease, but your heart may be beating fast. Especially as the tension and heat rises right where you are standing or sitting. Or maybe your heart is beating fast because you are bleeding internally, for the sanity of your country...

Chronic pericarditis occurs as a result of inflammation that builds up gradually, resulting in fluid accumulation in the pericardial space (the space that surrounds the region of the heart). Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue. In extreme cases, it becomes a medical issue and the entire pericardium would need to be surgically removed. To the best of my knowledge, the President, Yar Adua, has been hospitalized in Saudi Arabia due to acute pericarditis which is now progressing towards chronic pericarditis, which will eventually require more hospitalization than the people of the country are prepared to understand. Yet, today we will not talk about Yar Adua or the plans that are currently being made to transfer him from a hospital in Saudi Arabia to another hospital in the United States or Germany. It is besides the point that the people under this presidency have little or no information because of the high level of secrecy that surrounds the details of their president's disease.

But we will try as much as possible to sway our focus into another dimension...which I have deemed wise to call "the prevailing ailing chronic pericarditis of the heart of Nigeria!"

Yes, the heart is sick, and dangerously is chronically ill. Sometimes, I sit back and think of the intelligence of people in this country and the amount of stuff they can do. I received an email some days ago from one of the administrators of N4C, saying that I should vote for one of the nominees of the Future Awards for 2010, of which I'm proud to say that one of my acquaintances was part of. And I looked at their names, and went down the list with pride, reading about their inventions and level of talent. Reading about their abilities to take Nigeria to the next level. I cannot really describe how I felt, but something shifted inside me. The amount of intelligence we have could be quite scary to an on-looker.

But the country is chronically ill. The society progressively deteriorates because we have no direction as to what the medical treatment should be. I'm grateful for the open doors that N4C has started to create in terms of accumulating buckets of intelligence into which passionate people can throw their ideas. Some of the chronically sick areas are as follows:

- BRAIN DRAIN/DISPLACED TALENTS: It is becoming worse, feels like many have given up. But N4C will not. Students graduate as lawyers, doctors, engineers, and other levels of graduate and PhD degrees, only to find themselves with the only option of working in a bank. Or standing in line for a visa to find "the good life" in a foreign country. This chronic illness will have to be surgically terminated.

-MEDICINE: It behooves a country that it should be able to supply the necessary medical equipment and expertise needed to treat its own president's acute pericarditis. Go figure out that there are smaller medical problems than this, but remember it starts from the small problems and progresses to a chronic problem. It started with false medical degrees, fake and expired medications, and ill-equipped Government hospitals.

- ELECTRICITY: Let it be known that there is an agreement that Nigeria has to keep: to supply another country with 100% electricity and let its own people suffer in consistent darkness. As the LightUpNigeria crew put it after studying a survey conducted by Sheila Ojey, Nigerians themselves have stated that electricity is 1) the most important infrastructure needed for the economic development of an emerging market (most people selected "electricity supply" over telecommunication or transportation); 2) the major catalyst for attracting foreign investors; and 3) what makes emerging countries less developed than "developed" countries. In 2010, my dream is that a group of people, inspired by the N4C Team will really start to think of possibilities to end this sickness.

That being said, I don't want to make this post elongated, but I want to make sure I say something: N4C is not a joke! It is not one of those unfinished businesses that people start and don't complete. It is the dream of an entire Nation being reborn. In 2010, this organization plans to start several projects that we will keep you abreast of as time goes on.

Remain subscribed and stay tuned. Watch the pericarditis become healed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Naija Mondays: Theme: Revival

“Lord, Send a Revival and Let it Begin with Me”
Hmm…so I wondered…Why am I doing this to myself? I’m so tired every single day. I wake up between 4-5am everyday thinking, “Here we go again” Sigh. Everything seemed like a pain in the neck. Every movement seemed like a chore. Waking up, getting ready for work. It slowly started becoming routine. Whatever happened to the passion that led me this far?

I remember once I had a conversation with a 16-year old and we talked about her goals in life. She was so precise. She seemed to have it all figured out. I was so impressed. Then I asked myself silently if I could clearly outline my own life that way and realized that I couldn’t. When I was 12 years old, I could have told you everything I wanted to accomplish- career goals, plans for a family etc, with a time table. But at some point, I seemed to lose it all. Or did I just forget?

Like an answer to my question, an attending physician at work approached me and asked “Where are you from?” When I replied Nigeria, it seemed something shifted in him. He went ahead to discuss how thinking of Nigeria, Congo and Haiti (his home country) always broke his heart. Curious I asked him to explain. He talked about how Nigeria had the potential to be one of the richest countries in the world- how we have so many resources but are plagued with corruption and mismanagement. Of course this wasn’t news to me. The unique part was that my country’s issues broke the heart of a Haitian.

He asked me if I planned to return to Nigeria. I said yes, but not anytime soon. “I want to return as an asset and not a burden.” Then he asked what I wanted to do career-wise. I’m training to become a surgeon but I haven’t decided what subspecialty. He replied, “Well whatever you decide, when you are done with your training here, you will be an asset!!”

I had a recent meeting with my program director and she referred me back to my personal statement where I had written about becoming a leader in health issues in Nigeria. Needless to say, I started some self-reflection. I reread my own personal statement…wow, it made me sound like a star-in-the-making. (Amazing the things you write about yourself when you are trying to get employed.) I called my parents and they psyched me up. Random people started saying encouraging things to me. And then I started to feel like Nigeria itself- an entity with tremendous potential but little drive for excellence.

I started to remember things I had left half-done on undone for different reasons. A recent phone conversation with a friend revolved around self-reflection, and constant self improvement. Remembering lessons from past experiences without dwelling on mistakes. I stumbled on texts that hypothesized on the purpose of earthly life. An N4C admin called for a meeting and we had a phone conference. For a while it seemed everything around me was pointing me back to the beginning, back to the reason, back to the initial fire behind most of my endeavors. It felt like a revival. And so I prayed, “Lord, send a revival and let it begin with me!”

My point is it’s easy to forget the initial reason for the things we do. It’s easy to fall into a routine and forget the purpose for your actions. It’s helpful to self-reflect and ask yourself why you do the things you do. Keep the big picture in mind. N4C’s big picture is changing Nigeria for the better. If you are reading this I assume you have a similar goal in mind. Don’t lose your passion. Bring the spark back and rekindle that fire. You are not alone. We are UNITED for change.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Light Up Nigeria!!!

Let us celebrate the people. A people who are resilient. A people who will sit in darkness no longer. Take up your cause, and light up Nigeria. See the following youtube video and Solomonsydelle's article (HERE) to understand and be more passionate about the cause.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Nigerian look at the Barack Obama's Speech in Cairo, Egypt

Now I can’t recount every word the US president said in his speech in Cairo, but it will make a whole lot of sense if you can listen to it yourself, just incase you have not heard or seen it. It’s easily accessible on

I think all the issues addressed by the US president, in this thought provoking and to me most powerful speech yet, is as much as relevant to the people he was speaking to, as it is equally relevant to the Nigerian nation ,even if we are not the ones being addressed directly in Cairo.

The key issues of US/Western world and the Moslem world relationship, the Israeli, Palestine’s conflict, Democracy and democratic governance, Religious freedom, Women rights, education and empowerment and finally Economic development and opportunity stretches into the Nigerian situation in many ways than one.

Now some of these issues looks like it has nothing to do with the Nigerian situations, however if you are familiar with the Nigeria situation and you have equally listened to president Obama speech, with Nigeria at the back of your mind, then Put that speech in context : I believe every single word and statement can be linked to the Nigerian situation and it hold concrete truths that Nigeria as a nation, its Government and People must embrace as we seek to solve our PROBLEMS!.

There’s no saying, we have gone down the wrong road for way to long, but more painfully and shamefully it seems even in the present era under 10 years democratic structures, however built on almost 49 years of a checkered history , we are still heading down the wrong path for nationhood.

Just a few days ago, I watched again the speech of the former US president Bill Clinton, as he addressed the joint parliamentary session of the Nigerian legislature.

If one could write those words of reinforcement spoken concerning our then tender democracy, line by line, sentence by sentence, and compare with what we have on ground today. It’s like our leaders (with due respect to each and every one of them), all had ear plugs on, as president Clinton spoke, and yet we wonder why president Obama is not visiting Nigeria just yet. Most if not all including the then president, never ran governance with the veracity, or the passion exhibited by Clinton as he gave his speech.

Party Politics, is killing Nigeria, a band and crop of people are riding on the destiny of hundreds of millions.

Let’s Stop, Look and Listen, we can’t go on this way, that’s my call to us Nigerians, our leadership, and its people each and every single one of us.

To close this, let me use some quotes from the US president speech, which speaks to us, particularly our Government and the restive Niger Delta.

“…. Abandon violence, resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed ……”

“….Violence is a dead end; it is a sign neither of courage, nor power….”

“…Suppressing ideas, never succeeds in making them go away...”

“They are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power, once in power they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others…..”

“…So no matter where it takes hold, Government of the people and by the people sets a single a standards for all who will hold power, you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion, you must respect the right of minorities and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise, you must place the interest of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party…”

“… All people yearn for certain things, the ability to speak your mind, and have a say in how you are governed, confidence in the rule of law, and the equal administration of justice, government that is transparent, and doesn’t steal from the people, the freedom to live as you chose….”

God bless Nigeria.

Wilson Kumesine
June 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Questions of the Essence

We live in troubled times, yet for some unexplainable reason I still find it an interesting time. With a financial crisis pounding the global like a high-arcing ballistic trajectory detonated in the western world. A flu viral infection transmitting among people, helping us all understand how connected we all are, after all. Has left me saying, globalization now has one more definition in my books.

For the most part of the 1st hours, days, weeks, and even month in 2009, all we heard was Israel bombing targets in Palestine and Palestinian fighters in Gaza firing rockets into southern Israel. Even then the news of clashes and rumors of impending war never seems to stop. Pakistani military deploying fighter jets and helicopter gunship to flush out Taliban militants, the Sri Lanka's government declaring victory in its war with Tamil Tigers and North Korea defying world powers and carrying out nuclear bomb testing.

One region where a military action is currently raging on, that would have been spared this war news frenzy; if people had just done the right thing at the right time. Would have been the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, and that's the crux of my writing, that's my main concern.I really don't want to go into the politics of long term neglect and marginalization of the Niger Delta, that's way in the past and now part of our history. What concerns me and I believe concerns us the most it the Now! And the Future!Let's not kid our self any longer in Nigeria and the Niger delta, because the time has come that we must ask ourselves the question who's fooling who?


Fighting, flushing out or even killing our so called militant boys and any local community standing in the way and then leaving the political godfather figures that created militancy or are still aiding the militants for personal financial gains. Makes me ask “who’s fooling who”?Can we trust Militant leaders who have fought gang wars amongst themselves, committed atrocities against their own local people, and people from other communities within Niger Delta, yet now claiming to be freedom fighters and vigilante force to achieve total control of resources in the Niger Delta, Makes me ask “who’s fooling who”?Scaring away investors, threatening investment on ground, creating lack of employment and even loss of jobs for people, in a world already plagued by a hard hitting financial crisis.

All in a bid to achieve a goal, which up till now is still incomprehensible due to lack of cohesion and a unified front in this quest for development in the Delta region, Makes me ask “who’s fooling who”?Listening to news about the hard working Governor of Lagos state and his team, as they strive to deal with the challenges of Lagos in the West of Nigeria and contrasting that with the continued justification by the Nigerian federal government and Niger Delta Governors in the South of Nigeria, that Militancy is the reason for lack of development or slow down in the pace of developmental projects. Makes me ask “who’s fooling who”?

With 10 years in Democratic governance, and the federal subventions, oil derivatives funds, Niger delta development commission NDDC, various state development commissions, excess crude account, oil and gas company development project e.g. school blocks, pipe borne water, local community health centers, scholarships etc. And yet we still cannot even say we are getting somewhere with the Niger Delta issue. Makes me ask “who’s fooling who”?

With an estimated 140 million population, 36 states, 774 local governments, 8,810 wards and 375 ethnic groups. Yet just 6 core-states in the South-South Niger-Delta zone (Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Cross Rivers) being the hen that lays the golden egg. Makes me ask “who’s fooling who”? When are we going to utilize the vast resources up north, east and west to also generate foreign revenue? The Educated Nigerian youth, especially a Niger Delta youth that have paid the price of seeking quality education locally or abroad, having their destiny entwined with those who prefer not to invest in any form of personal development, even if it just as a welder or mechanic, but will rather form the vast majority of people carrying guns in the creeks, is an ignominy.

We must tell ourselves the truth, that we must do if not anything, because it's not hidden. The solution to the Niger Delta problem like those of the Nigeria state at large lies with us. Its not going to come from the West, they can help, but we have to solve it.The good the bad and the ugly, that's where we now stand in the Delta, however ours is not a battle of quick draw, ours is a battle of truth, justices, and equity."No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities - always see them for they're always there." Norman Vincent Peale

Kumesine Wilson A.
Huddersfiled UK. May 2009.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Gbe, k'emi gbe

(Naija Monday Series. Theme: Teamwork)

It was hard for me to write this post.

I usually don't find it hard to write. I am the daughter of an English teacher, and my summer vacations were spent writing essay upon essay for my mom. I would ask her if I could go play downstairs with the neighbor's kids. She would ask if I had read 'all my books'. The few times I dared to say yes, she would say to sit down and write her an essay. Those were interesting days... But I digress.

Why was it so hard to write this? A simple reason: guilty conscience. I haven't been a very good part of a team I belong to of late. Of course life happens, and work happens, and travels are necessary, but guess what? Those are all excuses. So five or so different times in the past few days I sat down to pen an exposé on the amazing awesomeness of teamwork, and each time I felt incredibly like a hypocrite. "What right have you to write about this?" my conscience would ask me. Each time a slow reel consisting of the list of things that I had not yet done for N4C would begin to play, and I would put my laptop away, ashamed.

But that's not going to work. I cannot let myself get tied down by my shortcomings, and or let it suck out my energy and creative ability. I am not perfect. I recognize and acknowledge that. But I will not sit and wallow in self-pity. I will pick myself up, shake that dust off, and move on. So this is me moving on. This is the first small step towards me picking up my slack and doing my part. This is me rejoining the team... and this is part of the beauty of a team:

While I was otherwise occupied, my teammates have kept N4C going. They have researched articles of incorporation and tax laws, continued to encourage members and representatives all over the globe and co-ordinate projects. If I were doing this alone, N4C would most certainly have dropped into obscurity. But they were there - and I hope to be there for some of them in the future.

Man is a social being, but every now and then we are tempted to think we can handle our lives and projects alone. Unless it's a class project assigned to individuals, in which case collaborating can get you kicked out, I humbly submit that it's best to work with a team. It's amazing the diversity of ideas, based on all the unique individual's experiences, that each team member brings. I remember brainstorming sessions with this amazing group of people, strategy sessions with SWE in college, and staying up all night to finish projects for the organization my friends and I were charterring on campus at that time. Being in a team and contributing to a team teaches one so much about oneself - you get to see yourself through the eyes of others, you learn to compromise and admit that your ideas are not always going to be implemented exactly the way you want it, and best of all, you get to see the end product: the culmination of all your efforts, an achievement which, hopefully, if you picked the right teammates, is way better than anything you could have done by yourself.

Let's take this lesson from one individual's personal life and apply it to our lives in general and Nigeria in particular. Find a project you're passionate about. Find people who are passionate about it too and can come into agreement with you (so that you're not just going round in circles). Create a team, and actually be part of that team. I tell you, it's a beautiful thing, when done right.

Nigeria yii ti gbogbo wa ni.... Gbe, K'emi gbe
(This Nigeria belongs to all of us.... Lift her up, and I'll lift her up too).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Project Play Your Own Part (PYOP): Naija Monday Series

Theme: Teamwork

This was how the revelation came to pass. My mother came to see her kids in the United States just a couple of weeks ago, and we had a fabulous time with her. But I remember something that happened so vividly. We were driving back home after church on Sunday, and decided to stop by a famous fast-food place (disclaimer: fast foods can kill). And so it was that this place also had one of those luxurious drive-thrus, where you can just sit back and relax while your food is served on a platter of silver and you just need to swipe that card. On the verge of our relaxation, next thing we knew we heard our mother muttering to herself, "if this was Nigeria now, nobody will stay in line will hear people even in this small drive-thru saying, "abeg madam, pls we get children for back...make we pass na, abeg oga...madam...biko!"

Well, as you can guess it was a bit funny so we giggled a little. But then I was aggravated in my spirit not too long after laughing. Why can't we as a people play our own part? Why can't we as Nigerians work as a team? Why, why, why? In my head, I imagined that the honest people of the country are being terrorized by those who don't care. If there was such a drive-thru, let's say in Victoria Island, Lagos, and there were people trying to jump the line, those ones who were initially waiting for their turn would get mad and also try to do the same. But a continuous cycle of revenge will never turn any country around.

So, my people, it is with the little strength I have left that I am asking you to join our team on a mission to bring back honesty and teamwork. Teamwork is thinking about those "few" people who are trying to make a change, and even when these changes can't be seen yet you still take the time to join the mission and play YOUR OWN PART.

1) If you see people littering the streets of your city, please don't join matter how dirty the street was before you got there. Your empty bottle of aquafina water will only add to the pollution of the atmosphere.

2) If you see traders in the so-called 'black market' selling expired products or things of less quality than the originals, please don't buy them just because they are cheaper. We are diminishing the worth of our own land.

3) If you see a street dented with pot-holes and you are the owner of a company, please plan to sponsor at least that one street. You don't have to sponsor all the streets in Lagos, there's a team of other people out there who will take the other streets.

4) If you work in one of those oil companies, try to talk to authorities to see if they are working exactly according to the laws of the land. Teamwork is doing your own part, unless you're scared of getting fired.

There are so many things I can list if I spend time thinking clearly, but I hope this message is very clear. We notice a lot of disparities just by driving down one street in a city, but we do nothing about anything. Teamwork is playing your own part, whether or not you see the others working.

To join one of our project teams on N4C, please visit our facebook group (link on the left). When you get there, just click on the "Message Board Topics," and you will find a topic that says: "N4C Project Team Assignments."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dinner and a Movie!!!

(Naija Mondays, Theme: Teamwork)

Teamwork!! Hmm…reminds me of my soccer team in church. Wonderful young, energetic girls with two goals in mind: first to win, second to have fun! I was gonna tell you all about how we work together as a team, defenders, midfielders and attackers alike to accomplish these two goals. But some hours ago, as I was flipping through channels looking for Heroes on NBC, I came across Ocean’s 12 on AMC.

So yes I am one of the 3 million females on the planet that think that Brad Pitt is extremely fine. I also think George Clooney is absolutely beautiful. So when the producers of Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13 decided to cast both of them in the same movie, I agreed it was a wonderful idea. So even though I had seen the trilogy before, I decided to watch it again just this time.

And then I realized how ironic the situation was. The Ocean’s trilogy is a perfect example of teamwork on so many different levels. So I decided to write about it instead. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, I recommend you do and to that effect, I promise not to include too many spoilers in this piece.

Ocean’s Eleven in general is about a group of thieves led by Danny Ocean. Their thefts involved well thought-out plans in which every team member had a specific part to play. As a disclaimer, I am not endorsing any kind of criminal activity but I just have to admit that there are many lessons one could learn from this unique team.

Unity in Diversity
Their team was unique in the sense that it was diverse. There was a young Asian whose remarkable flexibility served as an asset. There was Danny Ocean himself whose intelligent mind thought up the genius schemes required for every bust. Likewise every other team member brought something different to the table. Reminds me of Nigerians. We are so different yet so similar in the sense that we have a common goal: greener grass, a better life, wherever that may be found.

What stereotype defines you or are you an exception to? Are you the stereotypical Ijebu man considered by others to be stingy? Or are you the stereotypical Igbo man cunning like a fox? Are you the naija hustler in a foreign land that would do any thing to afford the next meal? Are you a straight-A student always buried in your books? Are you the popular rock star life-of-the-party? Are you a neat freak whose room almost appears not to be lived in? Are you a talkative always eager to share something new with whoever’s willing to listen?

Whatever category you fall into, you are unique. You are necessary. You are an equal.

Playing Your Part
I remember a scene from Ocean’s 12 where they went over their master plan to steal a relic. Each team member in turn recited what part he would play and they did this minute by minute. They were so precise and every detail counted. In the same way, we all have a role to play in Nigeria’s greatness whether or not we currently know what it is. Needless to say, the earlier we find out the better. Every unique trait- stereotypical or not - is an asset to Team Nigeria!!

Indulge me for a moment and let us journey to the Nigeria of my dreams. Imagine the stingy Ijebu man as minister of finance; no wasteful spending. Imagine the neat freak as minister of culture/tourism; museums, beaches, zoos, historical sites kept in good shape, instead of rundown establishments. Imagine the talkative as minister of education or information; eager to share knowledge, and enlighten the masses. Imagine Mr Popular as minister of foreign affairs; quick to learn new cultures and ways of interacting with all sorts of people; excellent international relations and fair international trade. Imagine our straight-A genius as minister of science and technology; Nigeria at the forefront of alternative forms of energy (solar, wind, nuclear) instead of our shameful oil dependence. Imagine our cunning Igbo thinker as president co-ordinating and harnessing the talents in all the other team members to achieve a common goal. Maybe a little Utopian- but possible, even probable, practical and priceless.

Having an Inside Man
Another special thing about Ocean’s 12 was the inside man. By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, you may want to skip to the next section. Consider yourself warned. Major spoiler on the way.

LaMarc, “the greatest thief of all time” was their inside man. Because of him, Ocean’s team was sure to win against the Night Fox, the other thief that had challenged them.

My point is there is value in wisdom that comes with age and experience. Despite the ineffectiveness of recycling old people as our leaders in Nigeria, let us not devalue the wisdom of our elders. Wole Soyinka and Gani Fawehinmi are a few examples of older people we can learn from.

Indulge me again but this time not in dreamland. Whenever you get a chance, don’t hesitate to talk to your parents about Nigeria in its glory days and how things worked at the time. Don’t hesitate to share your own ideas with them and get their perspective. Never hesitate to read an inspiring book whose author’s life reflects a zero-to-hero kind of journey. Never hesitate to once in a while, sit in serenity and be inspired from within. I believe that our leadership is in desperate need of young, fresh minds and ideas. Nevertheless our elders are essential parts of our team so that we do not repeat our past mistakes as a country.

Nigerians in Nigeria also serve as inside men and together with Nigerians abroad, we are sure to make a difference.

Before I conclude, I have to mention this essential ingredient for progress. Peace is essential for teamwork. We need to learn to embrace one another as fellow Nigerians regardless of ethnic group or religion. We need to put our country before ourselves instead of voting for leaders based on where they are from. We need to stop inter-tribal wars and realize that our real enemies are corruption, ignorance, nepotism and complacency.

That said, I repeat “Whatever category you fall into. You are unique. You are necessary. You are an equal.” In addition, you are Nigerian. Nigeria needs you. So step out of your comfort zone. Step out of complacency. Stop waiting for someone else to do it. Teamwork is what we need. Welcome to Team Nigeria. Welcome to N4C!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who is Nigeria's Savior? We All Are!

Theme: Teamwork
[Naija Mondays Series]

Who is Nigeria’s Savior? We All Are!

When I think of ‘Teamwork’, I think of my intramural soccer team in college, the N4C group, my work group, my support system, and many more basic life dimensions. Basically, almost everything we do relies on some level of teamwork. Tiger Woods plays a so-called individual game, but he has a team in his caddy, his trainers, and his coach. In some sense, even a combination of Tiger and his competitors form a team because that is where we get our entertainment from. I am not sure I want to watch only Tiger Woods swing a golf club for an entire weekend, but add some rivalry, and a bunch of other characters, and you now have an audience. Even the human body functions as a team of parts.

Some people are very impressed with the job Governor Fashola’s administration is doing in Lagos, Nigeria. I hear some people say they are “impressed with the job Fashola is doing.” While this is not a false statement, Fashola cannot get anything accomplished alone! In fact, his most difficult task is to surround himself with people that share his vision and are competent enough to hit their goals.

I joined a team of individuals that started a Foundation to empower indigent youth through education. The group is called Merry Hearts Foundation. I have come to appreciate the importance of teamwork and the need for trust because no one individual can do it all. When a team sets forth to achieve a worthy goal, the results are a joy to watch. While I could probably have helped a few students if I embarked on the journey alone, collectively we have helped over 50 students and orphans, and provided infrastructure worth about $10,000 within 2 years.

When I read through the N4C blogs, I realize that each writer brings a unique style that sort of defines their writing. By combining the different styles, we leverage each other’s strengths and appeal to a broader audience. The N4C group is a lot more than our blog! So even as we strive to accomplish greater things for Nigeria, we will need to leverage the strengths of people other than the group administrators. We need to tap into the ideas, experiences, intellect, courage, network, and personalities of the greater Nigerian community – especially N4C members.

But it is very important to note that the idea of creating a team is a subset of the bigger picture when discussing ‘Teamwork’. More important is the ability to create a functional team that draws on individual strengths to elevate the performance of the team as an entity. In fact, my favorite teams are ones that bring together diversity of ideas, thought, background, experience, skills, approach, and ideologies. Diversity brings forth more holistic results when the diverse team members contribute to the end product because there is less likelihood of pigeon-holing team ideas and actions to restrictive paths. Obviously, this depends on the team dynamics.

This brings me to another important point: selflessness of team members for the greater good. Assume I were elected leader of ‘N’ state and you were elected leader of neighboring ‘M’ state. If your state is prospering and mine is floundering, it is probably easier for you than any other state to provide some level of support because we are part of a neighboring team of states that form a country. Unfortunately, many people will rather beat the other party (or state) down to selfishly benefit their party. The problem arises when you do nothing and my state’s economic turmoil starts affecting the national economy. Imagine bitter, jobless people from my state crossing over into your state and partaking of criminal activities to sustain their families. While no one justifies such, you will probably spend more resources trying to secure your citizens when you could have shown a worthy gesture by providing support. Selflessness also means that the individuals that make up the team do away with their egos/personal agendas and welcome strategies that benefit the team.

When I think of Nigeria, I think of a team of capable and courageous individuals that will stand together to fight the tides of failure, beat down the culture of corruption, and raise the hopes of a nation. Nigeria’s success is not a ‘1-man’ job so do not wait for a savior – it requires a collection of productive individual efforts. I envision a leadership team that is void of ethnic prejudice and embraces a balance that protects the interests of the nation as a whole. I pray for a government that includes people from every corner of Nigeria. How can you design a car for pregnant women without women (preferably women drivers that have been through pregnancy) having an input in the design? How can we resolve the issues of the Niger Delta if we don’t have people in leadership who share the vision of finding a resolution? Imagine going into the Nigerian government and trying to curb corruption all by yourself – it is impossible! You need a team of individuals that share your vision and are up to the task.

We urge you to be ‘functioning’ team members of Nigerians4Change (N4C). We will be rolling out some projects in the near future and your uniqueness is all we seek! Small team member contributions add up to great team successes. We welcome your participation, ideas, and action as we trudge forward as a TEAM of Nigerians (or otherwise) thirsty for groundbreaking successes for the great nation of Nigeria!!!

Humbly written by Tomiwa Igun

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Naija Mondays (Theme: Teamwork)

Title: Who Will Bell The Cat?

For about seven weeks, different individuals have written from various perspectives of what being Nigerian entails as well as the outlook of Nigeria from the present political facet, to what we hope it would be. Going back through these passionate and well written opinions and hopes, one major condiment was salient. Everyone in one way or another made mention of this very important attribute, a must have if we look forward to a developed and efficiently habitable Nigeria: Teamwork.

The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of the term did do justice to what I was thinking in my head: Work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole. Isn’t that what being a part of building a country that works is all about? This is what N4C is about, and I can just see President Barack Obama’s face as he persistently employed every American to join in the effort to rebuild America. I carry such hope for Nigeria, where the citizens would be apt to asking questions and getting involved with the affairs of the country, where corrupt policies would be thrown out the door for the overall gain of the populace. It doesn’t take just the president or his cabinet to achieve; it takes every Nigerian working in their own small way, targeted at the same goal and purpose; rebuilding Nigeria.

Don’t think I and N4C are being Panglossian in reasoning thus over looking some intricate issues, but we can’t help but be optimistic about Nigeria. And as Benjamin Franklin puts it, we must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately. This is in response to those who believe Nigeria would be better as separate entities and thus do not wish to participate in the progressive development of the country but speak ill of certain units of the country. It’s our duty as a country to work things out together irrespective of our locality and ethnicity.

Vince Lombardi knew a thing or two about the positive outcome of teamwork when he opined that people who work together will win, whether it be against complex defenses, or the problems of modern society. If we all take a stroll down memory lane, we can all attest to the fact that healing Nigeria is fighting against complex defenses and problems of modern society, so do we come together as patriots with a keen sense of duty, or would we let these vicissitudes, tackle us and make us listless? I throw it at us to go back to the tenets of our being Nigerian, back to the days when neighbors helped neighbors and when raising a child was the job of the community. Back to the days when youths respected their elders and would stand up to let an elder seat instead, back to the days when the ratio of WE’s surpassed that of I’s, a great indicator of development. And as was displayed by Prof Chinua Achebe in his classic Things Fall Apart, when the center doesn’t hold anymore, then things begin to fall apart. It becomes imperative we as Nigerians need to come together to work on our country. The proverbial stick of broom when compared with the bunch cannot stand the test of being a cleaning agent, and same goes for us as Nigerians. I cannot do it alone, we need to come together as a whole: The south letting go of their grief with regards to the exploitation of their land and working together with the west while the east and the North can also come together in harmony.

In Closing, I would reiterate the words of Sir Henry Ford: COMING together is the beginning, KEEPING together is progress, and WORKING together is success. That is my dream for us as Nigerians, for our generation. It’s not good enough to talk, it’s not good enough to idealize these things, it’s not enough when we choose to become part of organizations and groups; We need to start COMING,KEEPING and WORKING (DOING) TOGETHER as NIGERIA. The era of the rugged individual is giving way to the era of the team player. Everyone is needed and no problem is insurmountable. With a little courage, teamwork and determination, Nigeria can OVERCOME Anything.

Written by Seleipiri Iboroma Akobo

Monday, April 13, 2009

Defending Nigeria: A conversation with a German Girl

(Naija Monday Series. Theme: Destiny)

There was nothing remarkable about the girl I was talking to. She was in her third year of a PhD program, and had graciously agreed to be my host for a night while I visited the school. We had taken an instant liking to each other: when we first met at the department, all through the tour of the campus and the drive around town, and were now at dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Then the dreaded question came: Why were so many of the 419 crooks out of Nigeria?

It always takes me aback when I have to answer these questions, and I’ve had to answer them quite a few times. The first time it had come up, it’d been at work. My all white-male team and I had been gathered in a conference room, ostensibly to review design files, when someone had gone online and started projecting overhead humiliating images of my country men from I wanted to cry. Why are your country people crooks? They’d asked me. And why are they so stupid they’d actually take these pictures of themselves and send it abroad? Are they that desperate for money? I looked away in shame and stuttered an answer I can barely remember – something about how all countries had crooks and poverty and unemployment drive people to extremes.

Now, however, I looked Helga full on in the face, and smiled. "Because they’re smart," I said. "And sharp but temporarily idle minds find things to do. But surely you will not judge an entire nation by the mistakes of a few?" She smiled back at me. "Of course not," she said. And we continued our conversation.

I don’t know if my answer was completely true. But I do know that my days of being ashamed of Nigeria are over.

During the course of the same weekend I had to answer several questions about government policy with regards to Science and Technology in my native home, and some of the projects being done. I proudly pointed them to the Science and Tech University in Abuja, crossing my fingers and hoping that the website would not be down. How about industry in general? I was asked. What progress had been made? Although I privately railed about the low quality of the wireless telecommunication infrastructure that had been installed – low because prepaid plans offer carriers little incentive to deliver quality service as they have few contracts to maintain – I waxed poetic as I described the fact that communication isolation was quickly becoming a thing of the past, and painted delightful pictures of the numerous possibilities that awaited my generation. How about power? I smiled. The power problem has already been solved, I said. All that remains is to figure out how to deploy these small scale alternative power sources and make a real impact.

Some of the professors were amused, others downright cynical. How will you deal with the vested interests? They asked. You have all these dreams. How do you hope to accomplish them? And why you?

Because this is what I was made to do, I answered. This is my destiny. And it's not just me, I continued. I told them about this generation, our generation. About the murmurs of unrest that have been echoing from the congested islands of Lagos to the rocks of Abuja... The echoes that had reverberated and birthed foundations and non-profits and businesses from Atlanta to Seattle, to London, to Kiev. I told them of the things I had seen – the businesses making profits even as they competed in a landscape rife with uncertainty, but showing the kind of resilience and creativity that only Nigerians are known for. I told them about my friends and frenemies, about icons and politicians who were using their positions and their stature in community to make a difference. And as I spoke, I realized something:

This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill, tell-them-what-they-want-to-hear BS to get the offer. This was really what I believed.

I am proud of Nigeria. Of the faceless Nigerians that go about their business everyday, and of the famous CEOs that now serve as role models. I am excited about Nigeria. And I am excited about this generation.

The winds of change are coming. It is destiny. Even if we try to run, we cannot avoid it. If we sit back and watch, and refuse to help, it will simply consume us. We have a unique chance to shape the future, to make an indelible mark on our Nation. Won't you come join us, and fulfil destiny?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Naija Mondays (DESTINY)

Wait, it’s my turn!

For the past few weeks (Mondays in particular), you’ve been blessed to read from various extraordinary young people about their views, their hopes and dreams for Nigeria. Their posts were based on the theme DESTINY. This week, I’ve been given a rare opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

I’m not a writer and was sincerely not too keen about writing but then, I looked at my life and considered the theme, DESTINY! Destiny is what brought me to the point of writing this post, believe it or not. I’ve had a very long while to think about what to write, so here we go!!

Destiny: What It Means to Me

Destiny can be described in many ways but I choose to define it as: the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events. I’ve been through various stages in my life, tried to go certain ways to avoid certain things but always seem to end right where I should have been initially. It took me seven years to attain my bachelor’s degree in Chemistry but seven years that led me to my destiny, where I’m supposed to be. And you know what I tell people, those seven years were just the beginning of the best of me.

Nigeria, My Love.

I see the same for Nigeria. Greatness lies in the country in so many ways and in so many people that it is tough to pick where to start from. We’ve been known to be so smart and intelligent, blessed with natural resources that many countries long after, attitudes, characters and personalities that only point toward great things. But very few have stepped up to their destiny to bring Nigeria into the lime light of its greatness. We’ve talked and talked and talked that talking now just seems like me bringing in air. Words have no more effect on the greatness of the country. I’ve lived in two other African countries, United States, visited some other countries and everywhere I’ve been too, the consensus seems to be the same. The way forward for Nigeria is in us, you the person reading this article, and me the writer. In addition to talking about it, we need to start doing; doing in the sense of stepping up and facing our destiny and leading Nigeria to where it needs to be.

Which Way Forward?

You know, every individual has his/her own plan to change Nigeria for the better but I have learned over the years that working together as a team ALWAYS yields the best results. It means helping one another achieve what is best for Nigeria. What are you doing to lead Nigeria towards its destiny? Are you one of those that like to talk and talk and talk but never have any action to show for it? Are you one of those that would agree with everyone but when it boils down to getting work done, you come up with excuses? (I used to be like that a few years ago…but my destiny caught up with me). Are you preparing for the next stage for Nigeria’s greatness?

Final Words

I’m a believer that one must continue to push forward positively and work hard and smart to attain their destiny. That could mean stepping out of the comfortable box, which you’re used to. Take that leap of faith in facing your fears and working towards your destiny. You might as well start now, because sooner or later, your destiny is going to catch up with you and you won’t want to be left wondering why you hadn’t stepped up to it a long time ago.

So I leave you with these words of hope: “The Struggle continues, Victory is Certain”.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nigeria's most valuable resource

Naija Monday Series

Life on the streets

After celebrating in my previous post about how much Nigeria is improving, this video about Nigerian’s street children lets me realize how far away we are from reaching the full potential of our country.

Where did we go wrong? How many of us have seen these children and yet done nothing about it? Is it safe to say we as a country are all to blame for the state of Nigeria’s street children? Is it safe to say many of these “area boys” started with dreams of wanting to be a pilot, doctor, or the president of Nigeria, but some how their dreams got deferred by life circumstances?

The Nigerian government has turn their back on these children by their inability to provide adequate safe havens and by not supporting them with quality free education so they can maximize their potential.

While there are many organizations that are committed to helping Nigerian children, many of these organizations are under-funded with limited or no resources. This is where you can help as a citizen or friend of Nigeria.

Nigerian children are our only hope for the future, but we are their only hope for their present and their future.

Help Nigerian Children:
Get list of orphanages and find out how to help them. The more resources you are able to provide for them, the more children they can help.
Get more information on how you can help this organisation, whose mission is to rescue deprived and destitute children from the street and give them the opportunity to develop into self-reliant and responsible citizens.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Who Takes the Very First Step? (Naija Mondays Series):

Theme: Destiny
Photo: by redbubble

Destiny is the sound of someone calling your name. That silent knock on your door, or that heavy pounding in your head. It is the sound of your own heart beat, beating at twice its normal rate. It is the feeling you get when someone confirms something that you have already thought about, or something you are already thinking. It is what happens when you meet someone, and you know instantly that meeting that person was all a part of the master plan of the universe, which already existed before you were born. But if destiny is something that will eventually take place, who should take the first step?

Mandela: His Painful First Steps

Long before he received his more than one hundred awards which include the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, Nelson Rohlilahla Mandela took the first step against apartheid in South Africa. Pretend for a moment that you are in the same place as he was, right there looking on at the various unbalanced scales in your country. Would you decide to speak out? What if no one else is on your team and you are the only one with the vision? Would you still decide to take the risk? Just like Rome was not built in a day, Mandela's Nobel peace prize was not attained in one night. It took him years of learning about Mahatma Ghandi and emulating his principles; it took an arrest in December 1956 for treason; it took years of a non-violent approach in resisting apartheid, of course until the Sharpville Massacre where he decided to go through the violent route of protesting (several acts of sabotage); it took one very bold statement in which he said, "If need be, [the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities] is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Not too many are prepared to die...

CNN Heroes: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Steps

Anne Mahlum took her first step when she decided to start running with homeless men every morning, as part of her "Back on My Feet" program in Philadelphia.

Liz McCartney took her first step as she made that decision to form a non-profit project to rebuild the homes of more than 120 families who were survivors of the hurricane Katrina.

Viola Vaughn took her first step in helping young girls in Kaolack, Senegal, who were initially failing in school, to learn the secrets to success and business through her "10,000 girls program."

Yohannes Gebregeorgis took his first step when he established "Ethiopia Reads," bringing free public libraries and literacy programs to thousands of Ethiopian children who lacked books and literacy.

So What Will Your Own First Step Be?

Would your first step be to think about a plan? To design a proposal for action? To participate in the Nigerians For Change group? To write about change? To create a non-profit organization? To create an awareness group? To be a role-model?

What would it take for you to actually make a move?

No plan is ever achieved without action. No great destiny came without an awareness of a sense of direction. The city of Lagos will remain the same if no one does anything about it. So will the country of Nigeria. The first step is usually painful and insecure, but your great destiny begins with that one step.

N4C may appear as an optimistic child with big visions and dreams, waiting anxiously for something out of the ordinary. But the truth is that this very second...this minute...this hour is crucial. The destiny of Nigeria is sure because we are taking the first steps today. Will you dare to take these steps with us? If your answer is "Yes," then you need to watch this space. Dream with us...let us make this a reality.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's All About You!!!

(Naija Mondays, Theme: Destiny)

If you are a heroes fan like me, you’ve probably heard Mohinder Suresh ask the million-naira question: “Why are we here?” I’ve asked myself this question a number of times. And since nothing happens by chance, I believe there is a reason for everything. To that effect, I always ask “why?”…

Answers don’t always come back to me but the process of reflection is sometimes as helpful as the answer itself. So I ask why? Why am I here? Why am I female? Why did I come through the Nanna family? Why am I Nigerian? Why does one patient have diabetes and the other a perirectal abscess or whatever else?

Have you ever felt so different from everyone around you even though you manage to fit in? Have you ever wondered why YOU are here, why YOU are Nigerian, why YOU have your parents, why the cock crows and the horse neighs? You may be skeptical and asking yourself now, “Who cares?!!” But believe it or not, there is a purpose to everything, including your life which you value so much.

I wish I had all the answers. By the way, if you’re still reading because you think they will come toward the end, you may as well stop now. The purpose of this post is not to give you answers but to raise relevant questions. To open your mind to possibilities that you may have never considered.

I remember when I first came to the US for college. I was so homesick. I felt so displaced. What on Earth was I doing on this side of the planet? I decided I had to go home as soon as I had a chance. So I got a part-time job, saved and got the chance to go home two summers later. Looking out the window during liftoff, I marveled at the beauty and obvious planning that went into building the District of Columbia (U.S. capital). Flying into Lagos, the scenery was completely different. Buildings were jumbled with no planning whatsoever. Air pollution made it hard to even identify some structures. Hmm…is that a car or a horse-driven carriage?

But hey I was home!!!! So I was excited anyways. I hugged my parents like I had never seen them before. I had a blast, reconnected with old friends and managed to have the time of my life despite NEPA, horrendous traffic and all the other woes that I don’t need to mention. I felt a sense of fulfillment. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had been missing in the first place. “Is this the Nigeria my heart had been desperately longing for?”… I mean for a 3-week vacation, it was wonderful but this is someone else’s reality all year.

There are Nigerians all over the world, doing well in different fields of life. In the new environments in which we find ourselves, we manage to work hard and blossom. So why is our very own Nigeria so bad? Are we products of our environment or is our environment a product of our actions?

In the parable of the talents, God gave different portions of talents to different people. When He came back, the man He gave the most talents had made the most out of them and was rewarded by God. On the other hand, the man with the fewest talents decided to be unproductive and was rebuked.

Sometimes, I think of Nigeria as a talent that we have been given. Even though a good number of us were not born during its glory days, there is still so much potential in our country. So many resources dying to be tapped. Bright young Nigerians. Intelligent minds. Wise elders. Natural resources- crude oil, natural gas, agricultural potential (cocoa, rice, coffee, palm oil etc). Tenacious, fun-loving people. Diverse cultures. When the talent-giver returns, what will we present to Him as our product? Will we hide in shame? Or will we boldly present a country that we can be proud of?

As a reward for reading this long abstract post, I have some suggestions. Maybe it’s really all about YOU!!! Maybe YOU are the sleeping giant that Nigeria has been waiting for. In what field are you a student or an expert? Are you constantly seeking to improve yourself to become an asset to the world you live in? Or are you satisfied with mediocrity and just getting by?

Wherever you decide to settle in the world, do you plan to use your expertise, your voice, at least some of your time and money to effect positive change in Nigeria? There’s a reason you are Nigerian. There is a reason you are intelligent, rich or otherwise endowed. Our destiny as a nation is to be great. Unfortunately or should I say fortunately, the missing link just might be YOU!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Visiting Lagos!

Theme: Destiny
My 2008 Visit to Nigeria (Lagos)

My People
Leaving for Nigeria from London, I felt like I was already in Nigeria by the time I got to my terminal at Heathrow Airport. I was hearing the different wonderful dialects and felt at home already. My feeling was accentuated when the call for boarding was made, and everyone rushed to the gate as if the plane won’t fit all the passengers…Naija mentality! After alighting from the plane at Murtala International Airport in Lagos, the heat wave overwhelmed me and served as a sharp contrast to the cold in London (or the US for that matter). I was officially home. I waited for my luggage for over an hour and couldn’t reach my dad because the phone network kept failing. One would expect all this to diminish my excitement but I was just too happy to be returning ‘home’. I guess you learn to embrace certain faults within the system with the hope of progress. Ironically, I was amazed when I didn’t have to bribe any of the customs officials to exit the airport.

What's the situation?
Having been to Lagos in December 2007, returning in December 2008 didn’t bring much expectations regarding progress. Some ills are still overwhelmingly present: traffic, NEPA, corruption, poverty-stricken neighborhoods, etc… However, as I assimilated the state of affairs, I realized a paradigm shift in the way things were being done. It seemed like someone woke up and decided to revamp Lagos. Governor Fashola should be commended, and Tinubu deserves a part on the back just for selecting Fashola. I heard a young kid from Ogun State on TV (during one of those shows where they ask them to give shout-outs) say Fashola was his idol...I can't recall when last I heard a Nigerian say a politician was his idol. Obviously, there is still plenty of room for improvement, but I was just utterly impressed by the amount of positive change that had taken place within a year. Would I dare say “Lagos is now in alignment with its destiny”? I wish I could speak for the whole of Nigeria, but my experiences were limited to Lagos State.

I had a chance to reunite with some old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in almost a decade…it was a thing of beauty. Attitudes just remain upbeat even in some very disturbing circumstances. I heard some good stories and some bad ones. However, just from my interactions with these people, I couldn’t have discerned who was going through hell and otherwise. I guess that’s why BBC reported a few years ago that Nigeria had the happiest people on earth.

We are bankers!
Maybe it’s the fact that everyone’s a banker that makes them happy…lol! Seriously, it bothers me that so many talented individuals who studied engineering, medicine, biology, and other ‘non-commercial’ majors in university work at banks. Although the pay situation encourages such, it doesn’t bode well when people aren’t practicing their professions. The problem will arise if the banking sector dies down, which is possible; in that case, the nation will have a bunch of intelligent individuals with virtually no experience in their educated fields seeking employment. How can people fulfill their destinies if they can’t even explore their passions?

Naija Music
The first thing that got me hooked in Lagos was the Naija music. The radio stations seemed to play more indigenous music over foreign ones and it was refreshing to have some originality in the local music scene. In fact, I hadn’t listened to hip-hop for a while before my trip to Nigeria; that changed once I heard music from a certain Nigerian artist called “Mr. Incredible (M.I.)”. The guy is Naija’s version of Kanye West in the diversity of his style and the deep message he delivers. In addition to the better Naija music being produced, the quality of the music videos has improved dramatically. I’m now a proud fan of Naija music. I believe it’s time for Nigeria to start exporting some of its music…it’s time to align with our entertainment destiny!

Party like Rock Stars...
I quickly realized how much partying ‘Lagosians’ did as there were multiple wedding / birthday invitations every weekend. In fact, some parties were held during the week because locations were overbooked on weekends. Some of these weddings were so elaborate that I wonder how much sense it makes to spend so much money on a wedding. Does it make sense to spend upwards of N20 million (approx. $125,000 depending on the exchange rate) on a wedding? I leave that to the families involved to decide. I just think it would serve the couple well if they received some of that money to start their family. A portion of that money could help propel a newly wedded couple into their destiny.

I attended a conference here in the US where a panelist said Ethiopian food is the best. Although I haven’t tasted Ethiopian food, I was confident that he was wrong. I must confess that I am biased toward Nigerian food. Even at parties, where the food is mass-produced, the delicacies are impressive. The fast foods also present very well-dressed and delicious meals.

On to some more serious issues!

‘Nigerian Electric Power Authority (NEPA)’, the term many are familiar with to mean “Never Expect Power Always” has now been transformed into ‘Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)’. While the idea to privatize the Electrical entity is great, the implementation of the idea has been lackluster. Power still fails Lagosians daily as many people have to rely on generators and candles to light up their homes. In fact, when I approach our estate at night, I can’t determine from afar whether or not there is Power because everyone seems to have a generator. Now, imagine how much noise pollution is generated at night when everyone has their generator on. I don’t even want to imagine how much air pollution is taking place with all the fumes from the exhausts of the generators. But then again, the Power issue is actually a national issue. The idea of Independent Power Plants (IPPs) seemed plausible, but for reasons beyond me, it is a dead horse. The whole idea was to create independent plants to power regions as opposed to the National grid. However, since so much has been invested into the dysfunctional national electric grid, the Federal Government obviously has reservations towards the IPPs. Alongside education, I believe Nigeria’s destiny is tied to consistent supply of electricity. So as long as this issue is not fixed, we cannot tap into our true potential in terms of industrialization, small-business development, and growth.

The Tourist's Perspective...
So as I took pictures of basically everything I thought was fascinating (which was pretty much everything), it made me more aware of my surroundings. I noticed that many of my friends had come to terms with certain inadequacies and I constantly heard “you know I never thought about that.” Basically, many of them had reached a point where they now considered abnormalities to be normal.

On the flip side, many good things are happening. In fact, my overall impression of Nigeria is that it will model after Lagos and progress is already inevitable. Forget corruption! The Lagos State government is performing in spite of it. The state roads are in drivable conditions, the highways were beautified for the holidays, street lights were functioning, traffic lights were operating and obedience enforced, waste management efforts are purposeful, coordinated public transportation system has been implemented, and dedicated public transport (“BRT” – Bus Route Transit) lanes were effectively utilized. There were also less noticeable elements such as the “meat carriers” that transport perishable meat products under ideal temperatures, “emergency response locations” that are strategically placed on certain roads, a revamped fire department, the publication of government officials’ contact information to create direct communication with citizens, plans for light-rail, and plans for a “commercial island (Eko Atlantic)” to act as a business hub.

We want development, but where's the money?
One thing many people forget is that each state has a budget and with the enormity of issues that need to be dealt with, there are insufficient funds. However, Lagos is being creative with fundraising by partnering with private entities and selling bonds. While this is a plausible way to raise funds, there is obviously risk involved because the government now has to pay the interest on the bonds. Let’s not also forget that some of these private entities are foreign institutions (mostly Chinese) that have ulterior motives. In my opinion, these foreign entities should partner with local organizations, or at least hire a certain percentage of local staff so that our own people could be employed and learn. In the name of growth, we can't sell our destiny to the Chinese!

With all the good, I still had to deal with the exorbitant amount of money spent on calling cards and the spotty networks that cause many to patronize multiple phone service providers simultaneously. I also witnessed a mindset that said it was ok to litter since there were state employees that cleaned the roads. The dumbest thing I witnessed was the federally mandated rule that stated that all passengers on motorcycles needed to wear helmets. The problem with this rule was that it didn’t take into account the fact that helmets are not conducive for sharing (and passengers can’t carry personal helmets around since they may not even anticipate utilizing motorcycle transportation). Another gaffe in the rule is the fact that it didn’t provide any clear guidelines regarding the helmets; this meant people using construction helmets and hard hats, which probably pose a greater risk in the event of an accident. While the initiative was sound to try to protect motorcycle riders, it is a very ineffective policy.

When it was time to return to the US, I felt very reluctant...but money was running out fast so I made the long trip back. I started hearing the saying “Eko o ni baje; o baje ti” meaning something like “Lagos will not go bad; it never will.” I say “Amen” to that and add that “Nigeria will reach its destiny!”

Monday, March 2, 2009

Naija Mondays: Fulfilling Destiny- Nigeria's Past, Present and the Future

God does not carve out a Destiny He hasn’t equipped us to fulfill....Seleipiri Akobo

"We know that where poverty, disease, injustice and misery abound, they exist solely because some people manage to regulate the personal and commercial lives of others." Fred Stitt.

Questions to Ponder: Do you think Nigeria has fulfilled its destiny, is fulfilling its destiny, and/or is capable of fulfilling its destiny?

Before I delve into my views on Nigeria’s Destiny, I would love to define the concept of destiny. The Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines destiny, a noun, as a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency. Destiny also happens to be synonymous with the word fate: The will or principle by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are. While dwelling on this definition, I would take into consideration what a friend of mine who happens to be a political scientist said to me about the issue. She said it would be unwise to throw such words around, and opined that destiny is unchangeable and is what a people (organization, group, country etc) make for themselves.

Therefore in retrospect, I perceive Nigeria to be a great country. From our natural endowments to our diversity, our innate resilience and desire to succeed, our phenotypic make up and our potentials as a nation, I would not hesitate in stating categorically that we as a people are destined for greatness.

I am however perturbed by the goings on in our country: The epileptic power situation which serves as an impediment to the growth and development of many small businesses, the lack of security which deters foreign investors from coming in to the country to help increase our GDP and per capita income thus driving us farther away from the iconic developing country tag, and instead making us an industrialized nation exporting more manufactured products than we import. Poverty which affects about 80% of the populace is the order of the day in the face of abundance in natural resources and trained manpower.

Nigerians pride themselves in their preternatural ardor for education, but what happens to the youths who after spending years in impoverished educational institutions called colleges and universities are eventually let out into the job market ill prepared and not trained for what they should expect. With unemployment rates above 30%, I can’t help but wonder what extrinsic motivations exist for the average Nigerian youth. Why would they rather sit in class and study hard than become truants who carry guns and disturb the peace of the universities? Why focus on making good grades when god-fatherism is the order of the day in the real world? Lots of Nigerians in Diaspora hope and pray for the day they return home, with choice education that cost their families their life savings to acquire. They hope that their acquired knowledge would be put to good use in their country and that they too can feel good about making a change in their homeland. But like all other dreams of average Nigerians, these people are made to regret their decisions, some of them actually go back to their lives in diaspora swearing never to come back home.

The above and many more crises have arisen because of the people who are meant to be in charge of our day to day affairs. The very ones who make decisions about how much money reaches the poor farmers in the villages and how much is used to renovate our schools, build new roads, renovate the failing structures that aid our existence; they are our leaders.

Our leaders are more concerned about enriching themselves and feigning ignorance to the deplorable and dilapidated systems we see in the education, health, information, cultural, transportation, and financial sectors of the country. They also are very ethnocentric that they put a deaf year to the plight of those whose cultural views or religious convictions are different than theirs. Nigeria’s resources are siphoned into foreign accounts and are used to purchase industries that add to the GDPs of the countries where they are lodged instead of providing for jobs that would ease the rate of unemployment in our own country.

The mauling of innocent people, the burning of houses and cars, churches and mosques seems to be the modus operandi. It is a pity that we engage in barbaric acts in the name of religious and/or ethnic affiliations. What happened to National Pride, what happened to solidarity and love for ones’ nation and country? What happened to loving all of mankind irrespective of our various heritages, languages, differences in height and girth? What happened to simply being Nigerian?

Inspite of the negativities, Nigeria has been labeled among the Next 11(N-11), countries identified by Goldman Sachs investment bank as having a high potential of becoming the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. These countries were chosen because they had promising outlook for investment and future growth on Dec 12, 2005. In addition to being a part of the N-11, projections have been made that would place Nigeria’s GDP as the 11 largest in the world by 2050 right below The UK and Germany, an incredible leap from where we are right now; nowhere near the top 50 GDPs.

These feats cannot be achieved until we as a people decide to work in unity and be selfless in our approach to life; we have to imbibe a penchant for corruption and theft of public funds. Our daily existence should be hinged upon National pride and cohesiveness and like President Barack Obama stated in his inaugural speech, public office holders need to be accountable to the people they serve, and be very transparent in all their dealings.

In conclusion, one day Nigerian parents would not be reluctant to send their kids to school in Nigeria, one day Nigerians who graduate from our Universities would be confident enough to compete with their peers from all over the world, and one day Nigerians in Diaspora would be proud enough to pick up their suitcases and walk into Murtala Muhammed airport without months/years of consideration and careful planning of what ills may befall them. One day.........

That is the Nigeria I believe in, The Nigeria whose call I would gladly obey and happily yield, whose course I would serve and whose story I would tell with gladness in my heart and no quivering in my voice. I believe in the stripes of our flag and the color of our entity. That is the destiny I believe in. I see a Nigeria whose IT capabilities would exceed that of China, India and the United states as well. That is a destiny we can make for ourselves and despite our short comings, work hard to achieve.

Written by: Seleipiri Iboroma Akobo
Theme of the month: Fulfilling Destiny

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Changing Lagos

As Nigerians return to the "States" from the "Christmas exodus to Naija", the one thing they all seem to echo about Nigeria, particularly Lagos is that Lagos is changing.

"This has prompted a couple of my friends to move back home, and a few to start serious considerations about moving back home.

As a true lagosian, I'm proud of the Governor and all the changes he has made. I pray this is the beginning of CHANGE for not just Lagos but for Nigeria and Nigerians as a whole by encouraging other governors, minister, and politicians in the country to do their JOB, which is to serve the people!

Thought of the day
Today's Greed hurts Tomorrow's Generation ~ Lola O
Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.~ JFK

Lola Olaseinde
N4C Crew

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's a Matter of Cash.

(Response to NIGER DELTA, Planet in Peril, INDEED!! By Wilson.)

As an avid reader, a former resident of the area and concerned citizen, it would be remiss of me not to start any discussion on the Nigerian Niger Delta with one name. Kenule Saro Wiwa.
As a child my favorite TV show was Bassey and Co. This was a screen adaptation of plays written by Ken Saro Wiwa. It was about a wise cracking young man called Bassey and his friend Alale and their varied antics. The show was all about their varied attempts to evade their landlady, a formidable character called Madam the Madam.
Madam the Madam was well known for her catch phrase. Whenever someone called her name, she would respond; “it’s a matter of cash” and sometimes “cash is power”
The man died
Unless you live under a rock in Nigeria, the tragic tale of Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni leaders is a well known one. As a former resident of the area, I quickly realized that the Ogoni’s despite being the people who’s lands produced a huge chunk of Nigeria’s revenue were the least educated. They were the security guards, cooks, gardeners cleaners and ‘odd job jack’ to the rich.
So he (Saro Wiwa) got talking, and they (the people) started thinking. Not good for the then military government. The only way they handle resistance… Kill them all.
Several sanctions, embargoes and boycotts later, the situation has only gotten worse.
To properly address the Niger Delta issues and problems, I have to use a popular cliché. Follow the Money!
Law and effect
Under the Petroleum Act, Oil and Pipelines Act and other available legislation on Oil in Nigeria, All minerals belong to the Federal Government of Nigeria. It does not matters if it’s your residence, ancestral, sacred or burial ground. If there’s oil underneath. It not yours. It’s for the Federal Government. If you lose your land due to oil explorations, you may claim compensations. However where money is concerned, the land all of a sudden has several owners waiting to be paid.
The paying authorities cashes in on this and the compensation money is lost in bureaucratic and corrupt process.
Oil money runs the country.
The Federal Government of Nigeria will do everything to protect the goose that lays this eggs.
Everyone comes here to become rich, I still live in squalor. Where’s my share? It’s not the wrong thing to say. How do we get what we all know should in any circumstance should be ours?
I know! Like every civilized society we’ll send representatives. Talk with the government and talk with the multinational companies operating here. Well they returned. They told us they got nothing but they look richer.
Look at the mess they’ve made. The gas flaring has ensured that we can’t even drink rain water. The waterways are polluted and nothing grows after the last spillage.
There are a lot of white guys around here, they’ve got plenty of money to go around. All the pretty girls run after them now we’ve got a lot of mixed race babies we can’t explain.
The roads are bad. The solution to this, buy helicopters. If you fly over the problem, you don’t see it. If you don’t see, it won’t bug you. If it doesn’t bug you, you don’t have to do anything about it.
The money trail.
The Federal Government gets all the cash after the multinational has taken their huge chunk. The appropriate order is to pay to the states and local governments from the federal account. And there the money ends. A few months as a government official in any of the Niger Delta states and you’re made for life.
The states sued the federal government. Resource Control they shouted. Well, in the court room we were declared winners. What happened to the allocation sent in, what was done with? How come I still don’t see or feel the effect of this victory?
We only saw the foreign bank balance of our governors, their wives, kids and other relations grow.
And so we fight. The rise and rise of militant groups. That’s how to MEND it.
Last year, on national dailies the top government regulatory body on petroleum matters admitted to spending millions of dollars paying off militant groups to “keep the peace” Well, no one’s admitted to getting the money.
Do they take our protest serious? No. They know that once we make enough noise and we’re paid off, there ends the struggle. What about the environment? Who cares.
The last freedom fighter was on a glossy magazine. Beautiful house, lovely bride and what a car!
If we kidnap some of those white guys maybe they’ll pay attention. If we shut down a few plants and blow up stuff, the government will do something.
They did. Send in the army. Shoot first ask questions later.
The foreign media needs a story. We supply enough.
How do you change the mind? I’ve seen money thrown around. Don’t tell me there’s more to life than money because there nothing else to this place than oil money. Should the Federal government walk down the street handing out money to every citizen? The bad examples have been set. The past military regime and the immediate past regime compounded it. They have created a situation whereby the multinational companies can be as irresponsible in their practices as much as they want. As long as they keep the money coming.
The former resident
In the late eighties and early nineties, I lived with my parents in Port Harcourt the biggest city in the Niger Delta.
It was and still is one city I can’t afford to live in anymore.
It’s so expensive. You could never haggle prices with traders in the market. There’s always someone willing to buy at the inflated rates. How could we compete on civil service pay scheme as poor as it was then and still is till today?
It was the first city I lived in(and I’ve lived in a lot of them) that I had to walk a distance to get fresh water at a public tap suitable for cooking.
I once had to run out of my home with the other members of my family because one of the helicopters belonging to one of the multinational companies was going to crash into our home. Only my father was wise enough to have his pen and cheque book in hand. The rest of us had only the clothes on our backs. We were lucky, it went else where to crash, we would have made the news.
Port Harcourt the largest city in the Niger Delta lacks what other state capitals in the country have. The average state capital in Nigeria can’t compare to most cities in the world in terms of infrastructure. Now to think Port Harcourt is way below average. The rural areas will then be described and depicted as the hell holes that they are. An area that has produced multibillions of dollars in oil revenue that still looks the way it does is a hell hole where innocents have been condemned to by evil and greedy leaders.
Now back to where I began
To a much admired writer, who fought and lost his life to the cause,
To my friend Wilson who’s upset about the way his home is portrayed,
To anyone who bother’s to read this,
Should I say that it’s ironic that all the problems in the Nigerian Niger Delta has been reduced to a catch phrase in a book written by Ken Saro Wiwa himself.
Wilson, sorry to say, IT’S A MATTER OF CASH.
By Comfort,
Blogger @ Till I Sing's

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

NIGER DELTA, Planet in Peril, INDEED!!

Well thanks to the Cable News network, (CNN) Nigeria once again made a major story on one of its special program, Planet in Peril. What is it this time? Well it’s the now world famous Niger Delta story, that’s what was on the news again.

Well this post is actually not about CNN and how it would rather show the ugly or troubled side of Nigeria to the world, and not try to balance those stories with all the Good or great things happening in Nigeria at the same time.

My issues here on this post, is this our so called Niger Delta issue, fight for freedom or what ever they call it, that is now rageing on in the region for some time, because to me I really don’t know anymore and can’t make sense of the whole thing.

If I had grown up in another part of Nigeria, well my ignorance can be excused, but I grew up in the Heart of the so called Niger Delta, and I come from within the region, born and raised up in Warri, Delta state Nigeria and having lived and worked in Port Harcourt for the last four years before leaving the country to return soon, I ought to know better about what the problem in the region is but the truth is that I don’t, and nobody really knows what the problem is, as obvious as it may seem, because if we all know, why are we not solving it?.

Just in case you are reading this and, think why is he saying this? Well here’s my reason.

CNN will make the average world viewers and even some Nigeria’s oblivious of the Niger Delta issue, think it looks like Hell out there in the region, and that Nigeria or the Niger Delta is just one big hole on the face of the planet, possibly another Sudan or Sierra Leone in the making. Well it’s not, at least not yet, the Niger delta is actually what we can call a very complicated case of Evil, done to a group of people or region.

First off, we have a Government, and by that I mean, the Nigerian Federal Government since independence from the British till the present day, that has been so insensitive, greedy, and corrupt and far from the reality of what is really going on in the Niger Delta.

Secondly we also have state Governments and Local Governments within the region that, sadly enough have toed the same line as the Federal Governments both during Military and Civilian regime.

Thirdly we have the major multinational oil companies, that have been the forefront investors that have spent Trillions of dollars and will go the length to protect and sustain its investment and business in the ground in the Niger delta,

Fourthly, MEND and all the other 1001 militant / criminal groups springing up everyday

Fifthly , many community leaders / youths within the region rather unfortunately acting as a catalyst to prolong the problem, and last but not the least, possibly me and you .

We all have created this MONSTER! That we see today, called the Niger Delta crisis.

However, my list above tries to be an encompassing one, I will make two exception, First the Federal Government of the day because it seems to have a good intent for the region, but they are saddle with over 40 years of neglect to deal with, lack of trust and to make matters worse the people within the region just cant wait anymore, so this young Government is left to deal with a monster that past Governments in the Military era and the Obasanjo government created.

Well CNN report got one thing right, the Niger Delta, is where the thirst for oil has created a deadly situation, the wealth created by the Black gold over the years has gone into pockets of some of the most wicked, greedy and corrupt people on the face of the earth, Presidents, Governors, Local government chairman, state and federal legislators, community leaders, certain foreigners, some of the elitists group etc, and has eventually created a problem with a hydra head.

I for one believe the wealth underneath the earth in the Niger Delta, is meant to be a blessing, for Nigeria. First for the people within the region that are feeling the direct effect of the exploration activities, and also for the common good of the entire Nigerian state, but sadly enough this is not and has never been the case.

The wealth is in the hands of a few, some of them in Government, others out of Government and these people are everywhere round the country, from up north, to down south, from the west and to the east.

They have profited from the oil wealth in government purse through their corrupt days in office or out of office, through political connections etc, these are the people that will do any thing for things to remain the way it has always been, and rather unfortunately we have a lot of these people either still in government at one level or the other, or they are godfathers behind the scene. These groups of people, are like wolfs in sheep’s clothing, they are like killer bees and will always be a part of Nigeria’s problem.

The so called military or is it militant group we see in the Delta, some are even groups that represent the interest of this same people mentioned above, because since the agitation in the region is growing, they now had to look for other means to continue to milk the wealth from the region, and one of such is to have or sponsor groups in the Region through this so called Niger Delta struggle, so that with the instability in the region they can profit, either through bunkering of oil, or for those in government securing heavy security vote from national and state budget that they can plunder, that’s why for me, the credibility of a whole lot of these groups within the Niger Delta that go by one name or the other, is questionable, most are just a masquerade.

The ones that are really up in arms for a genuine struggle are few, indeed if any.

The Situation in Port Harcourt, capital city of Rivers state in the last few years, tells you a story of how politicians helped in providing young men with guns to enable them rig elections, these young men becoming wise, kept the guns for themselves, and in some case split into factions because they too have had a taste of oil money, power and respect by the gun, and over time we now see, what we see in Port Harcourt and surrounding town and states, such as kidnappings , bank robbery, jail break, and the tussle for power by some of these gangs, that spilled into the street late 2007, and yet some of these same gangs, (YES!! Gangs), have the nerve to call themselves freedom fighters, fighting to free who? Definitely not I or the millions of Niger Deltan’s that so eagerly want to see a change in the region.

MEND, on the other hand, is still hard to place, they make strong statements and claims, sometimes blow up oil installations, and threaten the oil companies , but at the end of the day leaves everyone wondering, what do they really want ?, where do they want to take this fighting to ?, is it Henry Okah release they are fighting for or The Niger delta? because to me, I see nothing so far that is constructive about the fighting, yes we all agree that the Federal Government, and the Oil companies have for so long robbed the Niger Delta people and we just cant take it anymore, so that’s why they (MEND) fights.

What about the many state governors from within the region that have also looted state treasury while people in the region suffers, what about some of the so called elders that have parleyed with Government, and oil companies to become rich and influential, while its people and the region sufferers, and now are the ones calling themselves elder or leaders that want to mediate for peace, are these people not known as part of the problem in MEND books?

To Me, I feel If MEND must raise its profile as a true fighter, then its should not just be up in arms, and enjoy clips like the one shown on CNN where they call them “ One of the most Notorious or Violent militant in the world”, No! to me I think such report do more harm than Good to the cause of MEND, which if am correct is to liberate the Niger delta from years of poverty and neglect, then it should not let itself be called a Violent group on international TV, but more importantly they should tell the Niger Delta people and the world, want they want for the region and what they have achieved so far?.

So back to why I say the problem is complicated, you have groups within the region, some fighting each other, over who should be the Underground warlord e.g. Tom Ateke and George Sogboma mini war, we have some groups that are just ethnic fighting, e.g. Okrika- Eleme clashes, and the many other inter and intra ethic squabbles that comes up every now and then, amongst the hundreds of tribe within the oil rich producing region.

We have the Oil bunkering groups some of which are from the group mentioned above and in some of the text I will write below

we have the criminal group or some time petty thief’s that take advantage of the situation and kidnap, expatriates, or wealthy Nigerians and sometimes regrettably little children also.

We have groups like the well known Militants groups MEND fighting the government Military forces protecting oil installations.

There are
groups that are always on TV, especially private TV stations in Lagos state, talking about the problems in the Niger Delta and how they are going to fight to the end to liberate their people, e.g. Joseph Eva, Asari Dokubo etc, and yet you will hardly see them on local TV or radio stations in the Niger delta region, at least the private radio stations, if they will want to argue that we only have mainly state run TV in the Niger delta region. (Maybe the state run media is not allowed to broadcast them.)

We have the state Governors, most of whom were planted by their predecessors, so they really can’t investigate the past government as we have seen in the last one year plus , none so far has even accused the immediate past government of corruption, maybe an exception will be in Rivers state where the Governor came into office via a court verdict in his favor.

And last but not the least we, have the everyday individual and the millions of Niger delta people group, who just sit and watch all the various actors or groups mentioned above do the siphoning of cash to foreign accounts, the cat catch mouse scenario, finger pointing, blame catapulting, propaganda war, and the shelling, shooting, bombing, that go on in the creeks, or water ways of the Niger delta region.

All these brings me back to where I started, which is : Where do we go from here now that this problem has gotten this complicated and seems to be going from bad to worse? How can this problem be solved? how can the legitimate groups above be pacified and the criminal and evil one be clearly identified and totally alienated and flushed out, well its hard to tell, because sometimes, the boundaries within each of this groupings are not a clear cut one.

The CNN report is just meant to do one thing, and as Lisa Ling the CNN reporter said : To show that a source of crude that is vital to US economy, is being threatened, and with the pressure already in the US economy, if it should lose oil supply from Nigeria, with out argument that loss very well, you can just imagine what will happen, that’s just it

So it’s not like CNN really wanted to show this region to the world, so that world leaders or the UN will debate, or pressure the Nigeria government to act, in the most expeditious and bold manner to address the biggest issue facing it nationhood, but that Nigeria’s oil is not a dependable source for supply. However Lisa ling personal statement, on the news show, hit the point again, it is greed that’s at the bottom of all this suffering and trouble in the region

Despite the picture I have painted, I believe there’s hope for the region to change, to rise and to grow, the reason I believe this, is because of what we see today, it is bound to get worse, before it will get better, although it would have been better if everything had worked well from the start, when oil was first discovered at Oloibiri in 1956, well that didn’t happen, but we are at the turning point now, lets keep hope alive and keep praying.