Monday, May 22, 2006

It Got Over While Away

I heaved a deep sigh of relief as I watched the Senate President, Senator Ken Nmamani pronounce that the constitution amendment bill has failed to scale through for a second reading in the house.

And all these happened while I was away on official assignment and did not have a dedicated system to keep you informed of all the nitty gritty happening in the power houses Senate and House of Representative as the debate ensued and till its final demise.

But then, I'm sure you kept up with the news through other means. Did you hear of the N50Million bribe story for senators? The straight 6-year term suggestion by a senator? The non-debate of ALL the other agendas on the 1999 Constitution Amendment Bill?

I also watched President Obasanjo's address his ruling PDP party (PDP.........'share the money!'). Here is an excerpt from the speech which must have been prepared by the eloquent yet garrulous Fani Kayode, a one-time ardent critic of Obasanjo and his government.

Well, for those that might have been missing in action, you can at least catch up by reading this piece from His Excellency, The President of the Federal Rebublic of Nigeria, The Democrat, Nationalist, Statesman and most importantly International Figure, Chief General Olusegun Obasanjo.............. (Applause......)

"When the National Chairman of our party, People's Democratic Party (PDP), decided to call the emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC), I decided to alter my long-standing programme to be able to address you and, through you, members of our great party and, of course, by extension, the nation.

"The National Assembly as the constitutional and legitimate body for making laws for this country including the supreme law of the land -- the Constitution -- has just concluded as it deemed fit, especially the Senate, the exercise on the amendment to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The outcome is victory for democracy. There is no absolute right and absolute truth except God. And in any argument or debate, there is bound to be an element of right and wrong or truth and untruth on either side. And we must respect each other no matter the human verdict and human foibles. Respect, of course, begets respect.

"At the last NEC meeting, our party took a position as a major stakeholder in the constitution amendment debate, as normal in a democracy. And again, as a democratic party, it did not impose its decision on its members in this respect; no matter what office they hold. Members were allowed to discuss freely and to act or vote according to the dictate of their conscience. That is democracy at work. And it must be hailed in spite of alleged imperfections.

"Many derogatory statements and unfounded allegations have been made about me and my position concerning the so-called third term in the National Assembly and in the media which are false, incorrect and uncalled for. Of course, that is part of burden of leadership in our own type of society. However, I believe that in all situations, decorum must be maintained and different arms of government must perform their functions with mutual respect and dignity.

"Just as the National Assembly and the distinguished and honourable members should be respected, they too must learn to respect others and other institutions. Tolerance is a mark of maturity.

"Throughout the period, I resisted the invitation to be drawn on either side and I maintained studied silence. I was maligned, insulted and wrongly accused but I remained where I am and what I am and I remained focused. However, one thing is clear from the exercise, the constitution has been operated and it stood the test of democracy.

There are some regrettable reports from all accounts that I received, and that is the threat of, or actual use of blackmail, intimidation and violence on both sides. Once debate and discourse are being substituted by intimidation, blackmail, threats and violence, then democracy is in great danger. I have also received allegations of bribery which EFCC is investigating. Apart from these unsavoury allegations, the exercise is another process in the operation of our Constitution. The Constitution should hopefully be strengthened by the process and the exercise that have just been concluded. As a political Party, we should accept the verdict of the National Assembly even though the two Chambers initially concluded differently.
The Constitution must be held hallowed and sacred. And, on the basis of the Constitution in hand, we must start to plan for the next elections.

"I have no doubt in my mind that the acrimony, threats and media excesses that accompanied the constitution amendment exercise, must have created or deepened conflicts and divisions within our Party. As a matter of urgency, Mr. Chairman and members of NEC, I believe that we must embark on fence-mending, soothing of relationships, closing gaps and reconciling and ensuring inclusion wherever possible. Setting up a team of three eminent men and women of great maturity and integrity to carry out the exercise in each zone with the Zonal Vice-Chairman accompanying may be the way to deal with the issues expeditiously within the next two weeks.

"Again, I want to congratulate the proponents and the opponents in our party of the constitution amendment exercise that the National Assembly has just concluded. As a party, we should put the issue behind us, heal the wound of acrimony and together march forward. Once again, it was democracy at work and it was victory for democracy. And all Nigerian democrats are winners.

Personal Notes.

I think we have watched a film, which was no doubt, very interesting and it has by far beaten the standards of most Nollywood movies.

Whoever cooked it up, wrote the scripts, auditioned and chose the actors and actresses, directed, ensured continuity, took care of props, managed lights and sound, transportation and all location assistants, I say KUDOS. It was a job well done.

You have successfully re-directed the attention of all Nigerians away from whatever valuable stories we should have witnessed and kept our focus on 'the third term saga.'

Now the story is ended, NEXT FILM…........

Friday, May 12, 2006

See how it goes: Obasanjo and Third Term

I came into my office this morning making up my mind not to talk about the third term saga anymore. But, on carrying out my morning ritual of reading headlines of Nigerian newspapers with global presence, I had a rethink of my plan.

My first visit was to Guardian newspapers and it had a story on the proceedings of the national assembly debate on the constitutional amendment and it was obvious that the hot topic they were focused on and discussing in all of this was the term elongation (a.k.a Third Term) even though, there are other items being considered for amendment in the constitution.

You know, I had planned to just rap away at another topic today, like write a love poem (since I am love sick at the moment) or write on a new topic that has been on my mind for the past week, The World Bank.

But, after reading from the Guardian Newspaper this morning, I made up my mind to delay all of that heart and world bank talks till maybe, the end of this drama.

I want to be able to fill you in on all of the happenings particularly on the floor of the house (since that is where the action is now) and any other developments that come up.

Well, thanks to my blog host, Blogger, I can do all of the above while still being able to write my love poem and other interesting stuffs by starting a new blog on the third term story. So, today, I will be starting a new blog which I call, “See how it goes: Obasanjo and Third term”.

I think the heading clearly identifies the protagonist in this act. I have great faith in his adept acting skills and I will need to tell you to prepare yourself for a ride you've never been on before, because it promises to be rib-cracking(that's what he loves to do most to make sure Nigerians forget about their lacks) and I think full of suspense.

I am sure you will never be disappointed or short of amusement throughout your period of watching this drama. Make sure you always tune in to to enjoy the show. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Heart Beat of the People

I cleared my desk for the week and prepared to go for the usual Friday evening prayer meeting in church. When I got outside my office, a different idea set into my mind and I found myself contemplating whether to board a vehicle to church (spend approx. N700 for a return journey) or go home free of charge by following a senior colleague.

There was a strong battle between my flesh and spirit. Whaoo... the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, but at the end of the day, The spirit always wins! Shout Halleluyah somebody!

The spirit won and I got on the next cab to attend the church service. At the entrance the flesh set in again, I saw a guy conversing with an usher at the entrance of the church and he was asking series of questions about what was going on inside the church, from the discussion, I discovered that the usual prayer meeting was not holding and the church building was being used as a venue for a special programme.

Oh, oh, I had missed my free ride for a service which was not holding. I stood by till the guy finished with his questioning and with dismay, I asked the usher, can we attend the program? To my amazement he said yes...... but with a but...... I had to register. I was already calculating the remaining money I had in my bag which was what I had left for the weekend, I asked how much it would cost me to register and with a churchly smile, he said.... 'Nothing, just put down your name and address'. I ran to the registration desk, did as was directed and went back to the entrance and the usher ushered me into the church.

I got in and joined in the praise and worship going on, after a while into the service, a man in flowing agbada accompanied by a number of people entered the church from the entrance at the back of the altar. I was able to recognise the man as Prof. Jerry Gana, a member of the Obasanjo cabinet.

Well, the service was fantastic particularly because it was on issues which were of great importance which burns with passion in me – Nigeria. We prayed and prophesied into Nigeria and we had horns to make declarations.

After about three prayer sessions, the main coordinator of the program, Pastor Kure came on and said he would like to introduce someone that was suppose to 'prophetically declare the program open with a message from Mr. President. He called on Prof. Jerry Gana to come up to the pulpit ....few claps and many murmurings from the congregation....

Prof. Gana began his speech, spoke about the guest minister who came in from the U.S and how it was important for us to continue to pray for Nigeria. At a point he mentioned that the President was inviting the guest minister to come to Aso Rock, the presidential villa to attend their monthly prayer meeting, the guest minister stood up and took a bow, reaction from the congregation........

I guess Prof. Gana was astonished at this reaction, he reiterated the message of the president and added that he expected us to rejoice at the mention of Mr. President .......VERY few members of the congregation stood up and clapped....... excluding me.

I looked around the building and saw sullen faces, angry faces, numb looks etc, the atmosphere was COLD. Just with a look, you could decipher what the majority of the people were thinking. Certainly, not good thoughts about Mr. President and most likely not about his acclaimed dividends of democracy either.

I think we got that reaction because we were not a pre-organized crowd and not in a political incited gathering, we were real people, the real Nigerians and we gave the real reaction to what millions of Nigerians think about the impact of our President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on our country.

That was the heart beat of the people of Nigeria.

Mr. President, please take a pause and feel the pulse.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Nigerians, Shine your Eyes!

I just needed to put something down today again on my country. Have you heard about the One-Stop shop for foreign company registration in Nigeria and the visit of the President of China (read more about it here)?

If you ponder on the vast difference in the treatment the Nigerian government metes out to Nigerians and the treatment meted out to foreigners on Nigerian soil, it leaves you to only marvel.

For me, I do not only only marvel, I ask myself a question that I do not know who or where to direct it, but my head (which frequently results in aches in the head) and to you, hoping you would find an answer,

"Who does the Nigerian Government owe its ultimate allegiance to? Nigerians or Foreign Investors?

The Government is working tooth and nail to put all required infrastructure and system in place to make the country conducive for foreign investors and for a desirable International image. This ambition has helped the Obasanjo government to clearly define its priorities and this is reflected in the committees and boards that are set-up, executed/executing projects, commitments made, the pattern of expenditure and the system of justice in the country.

This is why the government can think up a one-stop shop when it comes to the issue of foreign investors in order to ease their stress, but will not have the initiative available to develop at least a three-stop shop for company registration by Nigerians and also build a stadium for N60Billion while neglecting school teachers and university lecturers' request to invest in the eductaion of Nigerians.

The foreign investor is given every opportunity to milk as much as he can from the country's resources, but while making sure he 'shares' the politicians and their allies. The system is tilted to favour all of his moves because he has come as our savior which gives him the right to treat employees at his own discretion (be it crude, cruel or cute).

When the foreign investor has enjoyed all due to him by our government, we, common Nigerians are left to build wings, create a sky and fly on our own. We are advised not say to ourselves, we wait on our Government.

We are not surprised though, because it is clear, the government careth not and maybe knoweth not that we sleep under the bridge, go to school under a tree, drink water from the gutter, beg the foreign investor for food and money on the streets, wear clothes that have been worn by the people of the foreign investor, drive on roads that makes it easy to get killed and live on less than $1 of the foreigners currency per day to mention a few.

Hmm... this makes me cringe. I am scared and wondering if we are not on the way to being sold to Civilized Slavery. There are no obvious sign to provide basic social needs for the 1.3Billion Nigerians that live in this country, instead we only see ostentatious plans that will accommodate the foreign investors, politicians and their allies.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in sourcing for foreign investor at all cost, it sure brings with it many benefits for the economic development of the country, but please, not while neglecting your own growing population and their social needs.

Does the government want the Nigerian citizen to remain poor and helpless so we can beg more, work more, earn less and not question their decisions? Why are there no concrete plans and not just plans but projects being executed to empower every, not some Nigerian citizen to become an independent citizen with the capacity to make choices.

I guess this calls for a sober reflection and I'll say to Nigerians, Shine your eyes!