Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yardy's new cabinet and Why politicians steal

I have been doing serious internet research to find out who was named to which ministry, but apart from the information about the Finance Ministry and that Yardy is keeping the Oil portfolio to himself with three junior Ministers, nothing has been so far forthcoming. Please if anyone has access to this list, post it o make we see.

I found this interesting piece from Simon Kolawole via

Simon Kolawole is the Editor of THISDAY newspaper. He holds a B.Sc. in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos and a Master's degree in Governance and Development from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.His predecessor, Olusegun Adeniyi was appointed a Special Adviser in President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's cabinet.

Nigeria: Why Do Nigerian Politicians Steal?

Simon Kolawole

Why is there a mad rush for public office in Nigeria ? Let's toy with a few guesses. One, the desire to serve "my people". I have heard a lot of politicians say this a million times. It is always the preamble to the declaration of intent. Even those who go for second term usually say that it is the "wish of my people". A slogan that is becoming increasingly popular is "one good term deserves another". Good poetry, that is. Two, the desire to "make a difference". Politicians say things like they have seen the afflictions of the people and they are offering themselves for service so that they can put their expertise and experience to use for the sake of "my people". Three, "it is our turn". The other village has had it, the other ethnic group has had it, the other senatorial district has had it. It is now "our turn". Four, and most interesting: it was "my people" that asked them to run.

How do you now actualise your ambition, having decided to run for office? It depends. If you have a mighty godfather, you don't need to start from the scratch. He will do all the spending and handle all the logistics. The bill is usually in billions of naira, and you are expected to pay back as soon as you enter government, and then pay "compound interest" for as long as you are in office. In other words, you are imprisoned for the life of your tenure. If you are your own godfather, or you hire a godfather but you are picking the bills yourself, you will still be indebted to the tune of billions of naira. Perhaps, you raised a group of rich persons to fund your campaign, you are morally and financially indebted still. In a situation where you paid your bill all the way through, you are indebted to yourself. And there is no limit to how much you pay yourself back.

And then you are sworn in as, say, governor. The last thing on your mind is your campaign leaflet, with all the promises to construct roads, provide clean water, rebuild classrooms, provide healthcare facilities and transform your state to " London ". It is not your fault that you can't remember your campaign promises again. There are more important and urgent issues to deal with now. The first item on the priority list will be to build a new government house, which is modern and befitting for a governor anywhere in the world. You also need the latest bullet-proof cars, preferably imported from Germany . You may not need another wife, but it is becoming glaring that your wife can no longer handle your libido so you look for several "helpmates", especially as you now have to be travelling abroad often to look for foreign investors. You are usually alone in First Class aboard the aircraft, so it makes sense to go with a company. No, not your wife all the time.
What next? You start thinking of the next elections so that one good term can deserve another. You need to build up funds. You need to create youth associations that will be singing your praise over the place. You need to have significant interest in the media and entertainment industry so that you can celebrate yourself as much as possible. You need to "encourage" the private sector so that you can round-trip public funds to finance your re-election campaign. You need to reimburse your godfathers and financiers. You need to keep your party very happy. In fact, you have to seize the party machinery as quick as possible. You must be in charge from ward level to state level. You must "settle" the security chiefs and electoral commission bigwigs ahead of the elections. You must buy the latest cars for traditional rulers and their chiefs. You must buy over politicians from the opposing parties so that they can defect or make their parties available for your use. It's a matter of cash, Your Excellency.

With this huge bill on your neck, it makes sense that you have to raise funds to satisfy your libido and ego. Will the money fall from heaven? Not yet. Will it grow on the trees behind your house? Not sure. Most likely, it will come from the state treasury. So you sit down and prepare a budget for education, health, electrification, ecology, security and other items of interest. You also make sure council funds don't go to them; just give them enough money to pay salaries and settle a few bills. Prepare a very good budget. Send it to the legislature for appropriation. Meanwhile, you must pay "appropriation allowance" to the lawmakers, if not the budget will not see the moon of the night. Or the light of the day.
All contracts must be awarded by you and through you. If you budget N3 billion for health, make sure you take half of it and transfer it to some personal accounts. Then the remaining half should be judiciously shared among your commissioners, directors in the ministry, the permanent secretary and other leeches. Make sure at least N50 million gets to the state hospital. The Chief Medical Officer will have to cut his own share, as well as his fellow directors. Therefore, there will be no drugs in the hospital, even though, officially, the drugs have been "purchased" and "disbursed".
Also, if you want to award a road contract worth about N1 billion, increase the bill to N2.5 billion. Award it to your politician friend or your front who will kick N1.5 billion back to you instantly. The best way to go about it is to make sure no road is constructed, or the same road is constructed again and again, perhaps 20 times during your first time. That will fetch you a handsome sum.Having built up significant funds ahead of your election, you can now begin to spend more time abroad. You visit South Africa . What a beautiful country compared to yours. The best way to make sense out of it is to buy one or two houses there, so that when you run into some harsh climate at home, you can escape for fresh air, even if only for one week, in company of those tiny girls who fly first class with you. Who likes stress? You come from a country where the roads are rough, the hospitals are horrible, the electricity is erratic (to use a mild word), and education is empty. So why not send your children to school abroad? Why not spend more time in Europe , America and South Africa to escape the stress? Will you allow humility to kill you? Even ordinary mortals send their children to school abroad, much less Your Excellency, the Executive Governor.

Oh gosh, you also forgot to build for the future. Having amassed enough financial resources to run for another term in office and having bought houses abroad and stashed a couple of millions of dollars away for "official use", you need to make sure you are not like the governors of the First Republic or Second Republic who shrank in size after their terms of office. You must have enough wealth to last you for a lifetime. So, buy a bank. Set up an airline. Buy up shares in telecoms companies. Secure your future and that of your children and grand children, and great grand children. Start a wealthy dynasty. Your descendants must not know poverty again!
After serving "my people" for two terms, you can now relax and enjoy the rest of your life. On your way from the parade ground after handing over to your successor, please close your eyes. Don't see the potholes that have become deeper and broader after your eight years in office. Do not look at the children hawking on the streets to keep their families alive. Do not give a damn in the world about the schools that remain dilapidated after eight years of budgeting and appropriation. Do not bother yourself about dozens of communities without water, access roads and electricity-eight years after you decided to answer the call of "my people". Find better things to do than to start worrying about the fact that the billions of naira you "made" while in government could have turned your state into the "mini-London" you so much admire and nearly bought up. Please, there are more important things to worry about in life. By the way, if you are called upon to serve again, do not hesitate. Your country needs you. Heartless looter.

Kidnapping is Child's Play (II):
My argument, last week, was that nobody should be surprised with what is happening in the Niger Delta today. The seed of marginalisation and neglect was sown over a period of forty years, and the wildest seed was sown in the Abacha years when he used the military to repress the Ogoni people. Obasanjo contributed his own quota with the destruction of Odi and the mass murder of innocent people in the Ijaw village in 1999. Also, the Niger Delta politicians, with unbridled access to petrodollars, recruited gangsters and cultists to help consolidate their hold on power. These factors combined-that is, the neglect by oil companies and government, the official repression and the politicians' heartless greed-are responsible for the increased agitation and criminality we have today. To focus on the criminality, which is just a symptom, and gloss over the root causes will not be helpful in this matter.
Relevant Links
West Africa Nigeria
To stem this calamitous slide which has led to the kidnapping of toddlers, I suggested, last week, that all tiers of government in the region must, as a matter of urgency, embark on massive public works by engaging the services of the local people, not foreigners who may not wish to go there anyway for the fear of being kidnapped. Employing locals should produce at least two results: one, reducing the recruitment into militancy and hostage-taking gangs; two, giving the people a sense of ownership (I don't expect Niger Delta "militants" to continue to kidnap Niger Deltans who are building Niger Delta roads, schools etc to the benefit of Niger Deltans and with Niger Delta's money. There is an extent the criminal elements can go before facing opposition from their own people, I think).
I want to add today that I fully support the "constructive engagement" approach of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. Many people will be uncomfortable with this strategy. Some will ask: Why negotiate with "criminals"? The military in particular may not be happy. They would never like to be seen as being overpowered by militants. They would want to be seen as all-powerful and as conquerors of the Niger Delta militants. It is a matter of pride! But as the American experience in Vietman and Iraq has shown, military might does not win a war all the time. A more workable way of handling conflicts is to look at the root causes and negotiate as much compromise and consensus as possible. If you are dealing with armed robbers, you may need to fire bullets to cage them. But when you're dealing with ethnic, religious and other sectional agitations, you must win the peace to win the war.
I also advocate that the Niger Deltans must begin to ask their political leaders questions. The amount of money that has gone into the Niger Delta since 1999 is enough to turn the whole place into a Dubai . There are too many wastages and leakages in the system, and having more money seems to have aggravated the condition. This same argument can be extended to the rest of Nigeria . How many governors are truly accountable to the people? But because it is said that to whom much is given, much is expected, the people of the Niger Delta must show particular interest in the management of the extra billions that get into the hands of their governors and council chairpersons

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


As we sat having breakfast on Sunday at our favorite pub, where you can have a "Hammer" breakfast consisting of cheese, a boiled egg, ham, fruit, a small glass of orange juice and some bread, all for 2,5 euros(I wonder how they make a profit, its much cheaper than eating at home), we discussed a wide range of issues, inevitably getting round to the controversial pronouncement made by the Catholic church last week. Apparently, I had been deceiving myself in thinking that heaven is my destination. I have it on the authority of none other than Pope Benedict XVI that I was deceiving myself.

I am Pentecostal, although I begin to feel less and less at home in the disorderly services that are sometimes credited to the Holy spirit. Don't get me wrong, I believe in the manifestation of God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I even speak in tongues and believe in miracles. Yet, I do not believe that God can reside in the midst of the chaos and personality worship that many pentecostal churches have become. Maybe I have backslidden without knowing it? Somebody help me here.

How does this have anything to do with the Catholic church's pronouncement? My hubby has a deep respect for the Catholic church, even though he is Lutheran, because he says it is the only church that has remained unappologetically "conservative". Some of the Catholic church's doctrines are very impractical, and have definitely not stemmed from the bible- at least not the bible as I know it- maybe they have developed sometime in the almost 2000 year history of the church. However, unlike most of the other churches around, and the worst of all are the unregulated pentecostals, especially in developing countries, the Catholic church is not moved by every wind of doctrine. Its changes are usually well thought out(at least compared to the other churches). I guess the political clout of the Catholic church, not to talk of its huge financial resources make it easier for it to have an independent voice.

The Yoruba say, only God knows them that serve him, I do not dare to judge any church, all I wish is that every once in a while these religious "leaders" would pause and take a look in the Book they claim to live by.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Hello. I'm still here, just too much happening and its been difficult putting pen to paper. Doing the seven things post after being tagged by Chxta:

1) Sometimes, my brain moves too fast for the people around me. So we might be discussing topic a, and I make a random statement about topic b. Can be embarassing.

2)I have a peculiar birthmark in the middle of my chest. I always wondered if it has any meaning, and if it does, what it means.

3) I sucked my thumb until JS1. My parents despaired- they tried all they could to stop me- from rubbing bitter leaf to plastering my finger to rubbing hot pepper on my thumb. Nothing stopped me until I found out how embarassing it is to be caught sucking your thumb by classmates. After I caught my cousin sucking her thumb, at 21, I wondered what it would be like to suck my thumb again. It was comforting.

4) One of my greatest wishes is to find my best friend in primary five again. Her name was Janet Quijano, she was Philipina and we did a lot of stuff together. One day she could not go for P.E. and when I asked why, I learnt for the first time what a period is. She also told me how to stop your period if you want to. You have to drink a very strong saline(salt)solution. It works. I tried it once when I was 13 and on holidays at my grandma's. I was too shy to ask for a sanitary towel, and besides I wanted to go out with my uncle. I took this saline solution, and my period stopped. Never mind the excrutiating pain. Jane and I started to write our first novels that year of primary five. She moved back to the Phillipines with her family after primary five. Someone stole the only letter she wrote to me, so I could not reply her.

5) I am a sucker for underdogs. I take other people's pains too personally. Sometimes, the person is not even as bothered.Its like that Yoruba proverb- a lara lara o roun, o lo ku arun......(the person whose body it is says its doesn't ache and you are saying sorry....) - i'm not sure about the ending of that proverb, but you get the gist.

6) I always wanted to adopt a kid. As a teenager, I would say, mummy, I am going to adopt a kid someday. Typical Naija style, my mum would try to discourage me, saying "God will give you your own kids". I plan on having my own kids, God allowing, but I would also like to make a difference in some kid's life. I feel it doesn't make sense having four kids when you can have two and adopt two. Not that I want to have four kids.....

7) Wow, I'm already at number seven. I would love to blog as me, but I'm not yet sure it's the right thing for me.

I tag....

April, whenever she returns
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