Category Archives: Politics

An open letter to Buhari’s supporters

“I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians” Gandhi said once. He must have read about Jesus in the Bible, but found his disposition at sharp variance with his discoveries when interacting with Christians, who were supposed to be followers of Christ. I wonder what Gandhi’s thoughts might be were he alive today, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

A lot of our disposition to certain brands and brand names, are as a result of experiencing them through proxies. For example, if there are 12 call center representatives for a bank, and 8 of those representatives are courteous and helpful, while 4 are not, the perception of that bank will be shaped by which of the representatives we encounter. If this experience remains consistent, then eventually an impression is formed which can be difficult to change in any direction.

Gandhi never met Jesus Christ, just as many of us will never ever meet the CEOs behind the companies that produce the goods and services we use on a daily basis, but that does not stop us from forming impressions about those goods and services, based on our experiences on a regular basis.

This has relevance for the current season of campaigning in Nigeria, especially as it this relates to interaction on social media. The APC recently picked Muhammadu Buhari as its Presidential candidate, and his supporters have gone into overdrive pushing for their candidate. A lot of the time, however, the way they engage leaves a bit to be desired, so much that I have seen tweets from people saying that they do not like Buhari on account of his supporters. On first look, this comes off as a lame excuse, but just as the conduct of some Christians can turn people away from Christianity, the conduct of Buhari supporters can turn people away from voting for him in February.

Too often, there is a resort to insults and other extreme language in support of the Daura-born politician. It is true that he inspires a fervour among supporters rarely seen, but that fervour should be channelled toward re-introducing Buhari to the electorate, and highlighting the aspects of his record that put him in a good position to get Nigeria back on track, rather than alienating those disappointed in the current administration and who are open to voting another way, but still have legitimate questions.

Rather than combative, the tone from his supporters – many of whom have a lot of followers – should be much more persuasive. Buhari will do interviews, be on the campaign trail and maybe even do a couple of debates, but he cannot reach everyone. Whether online or offline, incendiary and uncouth language should be shunned in favour of a narrative that sells their candidate, a narrative which is much stronger than it appears at first glance.

This is not to say that the many failings of the current administration should not be pointed out. Far from it. The issue is that even those criticisms can be made by merely presenting people with the facts in a way that can change minds.

 

Following a very well organised and fair primaries exercise, the APC has begun to gain momentum as the year comes to a close. More and more, this is looking like the best chance for a ruling party to be voted out for the first time in our history. As the Presidential candidate, Buhari is leading that charge, and every interaction his supporters have with others contributes to that effort. May it not be said that he lost votes because of them.

 

An open letter to APC delegates

I wonder how many of the delegates who will vote to decide the APC’s presidential candidate will see this. They will probably be too busy having last minute discussions with emissaries of the candidates, who are trying to win them over. That is the beauty of democracy. At this stage, I am sure that only a few people really know what will happen today. It will be a close race, and rightly so.

The two leading candidates are Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, and as the delegates finalise their choices and approach the booths over the next several hours, they must ask themselves not just who is likely to give President Jonathan the best fight at the polls, but also who is most likely to be able to execute his agenda in office.

Muhammadu Buhari, now in his fourth presidential race, is perhaps the only national figure consistently aligned with the opposition since 1999.  He has never flirted with the ruling party at all, and that is much harder than it looks. His reputation for integrity, established since his time as military head of state, remains intact. He also enjoys very strong support from the Northern electorate, and has a strong anti-corruption stance, which is a good one, given the extent to which it has destroyed our nation.

In addition, he is expected to be strong on security issues, given his success with the Maitatsine in the 1980s.

The problem however is this: once you move beyond these plus points, there is not a lot besides. While corruption is a big problem, it is not Nigeria’s only problem, and so far, Buhari’s plans to fix these are not obvious. In fact, there is no detailed plan from him to deal with issues of insecurity and corruption as they are currently manifest, given that these problems have metastasized over time.

His capacity to pass delicate legislation is also in doubt. He will have to work within a democratic structure, and a National Assembly that is often indolent and obstructionist, to say the least. Even if corrupt officials will be tried and jailed, that must also take place within the our broken judicial system.

At this point, the issue is obvious. There is little evidence that the General has taken the time to examine Nigeria’s problems and craft solutions to them.

On the other hand, Atiku Abubakar has done so in a very detailed document, which you can find here. He appears to possess all the tools to make a success of governance from day one. Under the Obasanjo government, as Vice President, he was instrumental in putting together the economic team that improved Nigeria’s position, and put the country on the path to sound growth.

This eye for talent is also evident in the way his campaign is being run, which everyone agrees, whether they like his person or not, is the best in this election cycle. It is a mix of new school social media savvy and old school campaigning, which has seen him visit delegates from 35 of 36 states, trying to sell them on his agenda.

This kind of 36 state campaign is the kind of national outlook and mentality that Atiku has cultivated over three decades of political activity, and will serve him well in a national election. He was a high ranking member of the SDP in 1992, and nearly became Abiola’s running mate. His networks and resources were also important in creating the PDP as we know it today.

These networks and resources have already been put at the disposal of the APC, in order to make it a second national party capable of holding its own and standing the test of time.

As presidential candidate, Atiku has the ability to split support for Jonathan in the South, something Buhari does not have. His influence will not be limited to a particular sector of the country. In addition, Atiku has demonstrable capacity to hit the ground running from day one, based on his manifesto, his ability to build crack teams, and his ability to work with the various arms of government to achieve objectives.

The former Vice President has pledged to support whoever the APC picks as its candidate today. It is a promise I hope he keeps, but as the delegates approach the ballot boxes later on today, they must ask themselves which of the candidates has the best chance in a general election, AND the ability to govern effectively. The answer to both questions in my view is Atiku Abubakar.

The inevitability of Tambuwal’s defection

Throughout this political transfer window of movements between the PDP and APC, the announcement by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal that he was moving to the All Progressives Congress was treated with rather less surprise than a casual observer would have expected, considering that he is the fourth in line in terms of constitutional succession to the Presidency, and is hence the APC’s biggest defection in its one year of existence. Close watchers of Nigerian politics would not have been surprised. In fact, it has been perhaps the worst kept secret of the past one year, and there are a number of reasons for this.

Flashback to 2011. As the dust settled after the PDP’s victory at the 2011 elections, the speakership of the 7th house of representatives was zoned by party bosses to the South West, despite the decimation of the PDP in that zone at governorship and federal legislative levels. The choice of the party was Mulikat Akande-Adeola from Oyo, who secured another term as representative while most of her PDP colleagues fell away, but Tambuwal made his moves, ran against her and won. He did this with the assistance of then ACN lawmakers.

The result of this was a House of Representatives that stood relatively free of Presidential influence, and Tambuwal himself free to speak his mind at critical moments like during the fuel subsidy probes and monies unremitted to the Federation Account by the NNPC. The price for this was a Speaker who never quite fit in with his party. He was, to paraphrase the Bible, ‘in the PDP, but not of the PDP’. His absence at major events, together with his criticism of the executive branch meant that as soon the APC became a reality late last year, it eventually became an issue of when, not if, he would switch parties.

The current governor of his home state of Sokoto, Aliyu Wamakko, also moved to the APC, together with 27 of 30 members of the state house of assembly. This provided further incentive, especially as Tambuwal is rumoured to want to become governor. In fact, reports surfaced in January that Tambuwal would be offered the PDP governorship ticket, in order to prevent his defection. However, 3 house members, together with the deputy governor of the state Mukhtar Shagari (Yes, Shagari’s son) stayed with the PDP.

So, the PDP knew it was coming for some time. As soon as Tambuwal declared his switch on Tuesday, he promptly adjourned sitting till December 5th, ostensibly to secure his position. The PDP counter attack was to promptly remove his security detail, and the Inspector General of Police was quick to justify this move by quoting Section 68(1) of the 1999 Constitution:

A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if – (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.

There are a number of issues here. First, the Inspector General has quietly moved from being a law enforcer, to a law interpreter, since he obviously serves at the pleasure of the Executive arm, separation of powers be damned. It brings up all the familiar fears about a federal police that is too close to the Executive for comfort, and is merely a continuation of the pattern seen in places like Rivers state – where Commissioner Joseph Mbu was used to intimidate Rotimi Amaechi – and several other examples. Clearly, the message remains that falling foul of the executive arm will see the police used against you.

Second, the IG is clearly poorly suited to being an interpreter of the law, because of all the cross carpeting done, no seat has been declared vacant by the courts, nor is it likely that will happen soon. In addition, in the specific case of Tambuwal, the Constitution has this to say in Section 50(2):

 The Speaker the House of Representatives shall vacate his office –

  1. If he ceases to be a member of the House of Representatives otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or

  2. When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or

  3. If he is removed from office by a resolution of the House of Representatives, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.

Therefore, as my learned friend Tex points out here, Tambuwal can either declare his own seat vacant, or be removed by two-thirds of the 360 members (240), a number the PDP do not currently possess.

The foregoing will then make it obvious why the Speaker chose to delay his defection till this moment, and embark on recess immediately after. The recess will allow for the necessary politicking by house members in their constituencies, but also allow Tambuwal to secure his position for the remainder of his tenure, by co-opting the support of his colleagues. He is no stranger to such an exercise, having out-flanked the Presidency’s chosen candidate in 2011.

Many agree that the honourable thing to do would be to resign as Speaker, pending another vote in the chamber, and a very likely conclusion to this particular 2015 sub plot could be a renewed vote of confidence in his leadership of the house, either through voice vote or actual casting of ballots.

While it is not certain that is how events will play out, Tambuwal’s reputation as a rather shrewd and savvy politician will only be enhanced should he retain his place as Speaker up till the elections.

Because Pastor Adeboye says so

I was reading Feyi Fawehinmi’s most recent post about the possibility of a luxury tax, and this line jumped out at me:

Most of the owners of private jets in Nigeria for example, already use all sorts of sophisticated ownership structures to avoid the jets being traced back to them.

That line serves as the starting point for this train of thought.

Nearly all of you will be familiar with the case of $9.3 million being carried in a private jet to South Africa, allegedly to acquire weapons for Nigeria’s security agencies. That is, at least, what the Nigerian government would have us believe.

The excuse for such a crude way of conducting business was that the Americans refused to sell our government weapons, citing human rights issues and other concerns. It is not the first time such an excuse has been put forward.

It is clearly not the first time that money has been moved into South Africa in this manner, so we can only wonder what led to the cat being let out of the bag.

The private jet used in that ‘movement’ was leased by a company in which Oritsejafor has an interest. Combined with his closeness to the Presidency and the President, the choice to use a private jet and not any in the Presidential Air Fleet (for a supposedly legitimate arms deal), as well as the fact that these days, money can simply be wired from one central bank to another (again, because it is supposed to be legitimate), raises more questions than answers.

Those questions would need answering in a transparent manner, especially as we enter a period of increased political activity, an ongoing insurgency in the North East, continued militancy in the Niger Delta, a pervasive climate of insecurity that has never really left.

There are also lots of concerns about the readiness of our Armed Forces to defend our territory, and the tools they are given to carry out this task. None of these concerns have been definitively addressed, and rather than having influential members of society call for an investigation into this matter, we have this from Pastor Adeboye:

Pastor Ayodele Joseph Oritsejafor is a man of God I trust and I can personally vouch for him. I believe on the issue of his aircraft being chartered and the purpose it was used for he had no prior knowledge […] One anointed cannot attack another anointed. A pastor cannot attack another pastor. Touch not my anointed is what God said.

This kind of sentiment is a dangerous one, because we have heard it so many times before. In the Stella Oduah matter of procuring bullet proof vehicles, some quickly muddied the waters by saying it was because she was Igbo.

That is the way it goes whenever a public servant or someone in the public eye is supposed to be held to account or asked questions. It becomes an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ argument, effectively taking important questions and relegating them, in favour of creating a circus of endless accusations and counter-accusations on the pages of newspapers, and these days, social media.

Sundry issues of the state of Nigerian Pentecostalism, while important, are not the main issue here. The issue is that the connections between the principal actors involved are too close not to call for an investigation. That is what Pastor Adeboye should have done, were he to speak publicly, otherwise he may have decided to hold his peace on such a sensitive issue, while supporting his friend in private.

He has chosen not to hold his peace, and, while he is quite free to express himself in public, he should therefore be ready for whatever criticism will come his way.

The facts surrounding the seizure of that cash in a jet belonging to Oritsejafor, warrants questions which cannot just be waved away with the banality of ‘touch not my anointed’. Pastor Adeboye is not a judge, or a law enforcement agent. There are processes for determining the guilt or innocence of anyone, and none of those processes have been applied here. That is why people will continue to talk, and why some will now link him to Oritsejafor directly, in the absence of such a transparent process.

Rather than absolve his friend, Pastor Adeboye has now taken up the role of a ‘heat shield’, placing his credibility on the line for someone who, for all we know, is actively involved in arms smuggling.

But we may never know the truth, because no investigation has been, or will be, conducted. So we might as well take Pastor Adeboye’s word for it.

3 quick thoughts on Buhari’s ‘loan’

This from the Vanguard is generating quite a bit of discussion:

Buhari meanwhile, yesterday procured the party’s N27.5 million expression of interest and nomination forms at the national secretariat.

Lamenting that the costs of the forms were high, he said that it took the understanding of his bankers in Kaduna and Abuja to raise the money.

“It’s a pity I couldn’t influence this amount to be put down  as in the case of ladies and the disabled that intend to participate. I always looked left and right in our meetings but I could not read sympathy, so I kept my trap.

“But I felt heavily sorry for myself because I don’t want to go and ask somebody to pay for my nomination forms, because I always try to pay myself, at least for the nomination.

“N27 million is a big sum, thankfully I have personal relationship with the manager of my bank in Kaduna and early this morning, I put an early call (and) I told him that very soon the forms are coming, so, whether I am on red, or green or even black please honour it, otherwise I may lose the nomination.

“I was about to go to Kaduna this morning and I told the Chairman (John Odigie-Oyegun) but he said in that case, you better pick your form and keep a straight face. That means there is no excuse,” Buhari said.

Responding after handing over the forms to Buhari, the national chairman of the party, Chief Odigie-Oyegun explained that the N27.5m was carefully chosen to “separate men from the boys”.

“Let me say that the N27.5m is to separate the men from the boys. It is quite clear. We know you. I don’t expect you have N27m under your bed. But I expected that there are Nigerians who will vouch for you any day and who are ready to stand for you any day and that is the result that we have obtained today”, he said.

There are a number of issues here:

1. The cost of nomination forms is clearly too high, and has been for a long time. The nomination form for the PDP, for instance, is N10 million. It creates a barrier for entry and along with an absence of independent candidacy, these are two of the most serious obstacles to get better candidates, especially at lower levels of governance, which are just as important as the Presidency, if not more so. This needs to change, and it will be a better use of our time than seeking a percentage of political positions for young people.

2. It is unclear what game Buhari was trying to play here, if any. The quotes above indicate that he did not have the cash on hand, for whatever reason, at the time, hence the need for a facility from the bank. In  addition, from the quotes above, there is no mention of the word ‘loan’. Any number of reasons could have led to a situation where he had to call his bankers. The bottom line, of course, is that he wanted the form, and he got the form. No matter the cost.

3. The APC is barely a year old, competing with a party in power for 15 years, along with all the advantages that come with that position. They need to raise funds for a national campaign. A lot of funds. The presence of campaign finance regulations and their enforcement by INEC would have levelled the playing field somewhat, but that has no chance of happening soon. So, it is an arms race that accounts for the high cost of the forms. To those who bother with these things, it is a worrying sign. But most do not. So there.

A twist in the Ekiti tale

The case was supposed to have been closed.

The nation had spent months trying to figure out how an incumbent governor who was said to have been ‘performing’ by all accounts, could lose in every local government to a man who had been impeached years earlier, and whose antecedents are colourful, to say the least. Much of the discourse centered on the phenomenon of ‘stomach infrastructure’, which essentially held that certain things – like not being ‘stingy’ and ‘connecting with the grassroots’ – mattered more to the electorate than good roads and other social services.

Those terms are euphemisms for the kind of governance that got us to where we are as a nation, and expose an irony about the Nigerian electorate: For all the weeping and grinding of teeth about corruption, most of the people that cast their votes at elections would like their own piece of the ‘cake’ – however small or badly baked – whether in form of rice, contracts, tips, and any of the legion ways by which favours are dispensed in our society.

Of course, there are those who would disagree. There are those who hold the opinion that it is demeaning to say the people of Ekiti sold their votes for rice and other things, and that maybe the government of Kayode Fayemi is not as good as ‘outsiders’ make it out to be. Fayemi certainly made some missteps, like taking on civil servants and teachers in reforms, and also not developing his own political structure (read, ‘patronage networks’) in the state. The former could have been left for his second term, and he paid the price. Furthermore, educational reforms in other APC states were scaled back, for fear of creating discontent that will have an effect at the polls. Sacked teachers were recalled, and planned assessments of teachers were cancelled.

However, it seems there remains a twist in the Ekiti tale. After the initial statements that implied we would have a peaceful procession to a change of government, the atmosphere has gotten to boiling point. A suit was filed by a group called E-11, challenging the eligibility of Fayose to even run for office at all. First, let us also establish that there is grounds for a suit in the first place. Section 138(1)(a) of the 2010 Electoral Act says:

An election may be questioned on any of the following grounds, that is to say:

  1. That a person whose election is questioned was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election.

Section 182 (1)(i) of the 1999 Constitution says:

No person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if:

He has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Tribunals of Inquiry Law or any other law by the Federal or State Government which indictment has been accepted by the Federal or State Government.

Now, Fayose’s impeachment as Ekiti governor in March 2006 on charges of corruption certainly falls under this umbrella, a fact which would disqualify him from running. In addition, if he did not state that he was impeached in the nomination form submitted to INEC, it would go against Section 31(5) and (6) of the 2010 Electoral Act which say respectively:

A person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by the candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by the candidate is false may file a suit at the High Court of a State or Federal High Court against such a person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false

If the court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false, the court shall issue and order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election.

The above would explain recent happenings in Ekiti, where the judge presiding over the case brought by the E-11 was manhandled by thugs loyal to Fayose, and property vandalized. Such behavior means that there is a real fear the ruling could go against the governor-elect. It also casts serious doubt over Fayose’s claim to be a different person the second time around. His first term was littered with incidents of intimidation of political opponents, as people like Femi Bamishile, the family of the late Ayo Daramola, and many others can attest.

The events between 2003 and 2006 in Ekiti were clearly not enough to convince a majority of people to deny him a return to power, and even before taking his oath of office on October 16, we have probably been given a foretaste of things to come.

But for this little matter before the court.

We squabble, they suffer

I wanted the perspective of a doctor on this latest strike, and Dr. Chijioke Kaduru has obliged. I thank him for this contribution. Feel free to add your two cents below.


Doctor and healthcare worker strikes are a global phenomenon with the potential to negatively impact on the quality of healthcare services and the doctor-patient relationship. Strikes are a legitimate deadlock breaking mechanism employed when labour negotiations have reached an impasse during collective bargaining. The right to strike is considered a fundamental right whose derogation would be inimical to the proper functioning of employer/employee collective bargaining in democratic societies.

According to the World Medical Association (WMA) Statement on the “Ethical Implications of Collective Action by Physicians” adopted by the 63rd WMA General Assembly in 2012, in Bangkok, “Physicians may carry out protest action and sanctions in order to improve direct and indirect working conditions that also may affect patient care. If involved in collective action, National Medical Associations should act to minimise the harm to the public and ensure that essential and emergency health services, and the continuity of care, are provided throughout a strike.”

In essence, it is both legal and ethical for Physicians to go on strike, contrary to what many claim. Physicians are however encouraged to minimise the harm to the public, where a strike has been embarked upon. This writer however, puts doctors on a pedestal, and therefore finds it difficult to swallow that doctors would take up industrial action for the reasons stated for this current strike, (though within their legal & ethical boundaries).

Our Complex Situation

The Federal Government (FG), the Nigerian Doctors and the Nigerian Allied Health Workers are appear to be blindsided by one of Nigeria’s worst kept secrets – Our health system is on the brink of total collapse. How else can one explain this mire of incompetent handling of negotiations by the FG, and recurrent strikes from both doctor and allied health worker groups?

The Nigerian health indices are among the worst globally, and our health services in the public sphere, are not nearly as good as it could be. Whilst recognising the efforts that have been put in by the FG and all healthcare workers, over the years to strengthen our health system, the current warring of the factions, does more to undermine the efforts of all these groups over the years, whilst leaving us with a huge gap that still needs to be met, in our health status.

The current industrial action by the Nigerian Doctors, is part of a complex situation broadly involving four stakeholders, that has been on-going for longer than some of us care to chronicle. This four-way situation involves the Doctors, the Allied Health Workers, the FG and the Nigerian Citizens. The complexities of this situation make any attempts to simplify it, laughable.

The FG have botched the debate, every step of the way. They have made some agreements that are difficult to implement, especially in the context of current practise and existing policies. They have made promises to both sides. They have left a lot unratified. They have underinvested in Health. The FG have ultimately not done what is expected of it, in ameliorating this conflict or in fostering the health of citizens.

The Allied Health Workers want better recognition, better entry levels and navigation within the civil service, and ultimately, the opportunity to also lead the tertiary hospitals and the health sector. Arguments have been put forward on the mismanagement of the health system by doctors in leadership over years, as well as examples of the leadership models of other countries, many of which do not have doctors at the helm, but are ultimately doing well. The Allied Health Workers blame the doctors for everything wrong with the Health System and blame the FG for always indulging doctors.

The doctors want to preserve their statuses as leaders of the tertiary hospitals and the health sector, want to limit the use of certain terminologies that connote ownership of patients to doctors alone, want to preserve a salary relativity that structures earnings within the health sector, want the FG to provide better financial support to working doctors, and are making certain key demands that will uplift health service delivery in the country (including passage of the National Health Bill). The Doctors accuse Allied Health Workers of trying to undermine their ownership of patients, leadership in the provision of care to the patient, and for most other issues surrounding the conflict. They also blame the FG for indulging the Allied Health Workers.

The FG gets the blame from both sides, obviously. And no one else is willing to take responsibility for their own shortcomings.

The Nigerian Citizen, the fourth stakeholder in this complex situation has become little more than mere collateral damage. I would like to point out that there is significant evidence, that contrary to popular belief, withdrawal of services or strike actions by doctors and healthcare workers will not automatically lead to an increased number of patient deaths or total failure of healthcare service delivery. However, all the research that provide this evidence, were conducted in mid-to-high income countries, with well-established emergency services and relatively advanced health-seeking behaviour. In context therefore, it is within reason to say that the Nigerian citizens are at risk of loss of lives and deformation, in the event of strikes by any of the groups of healthcare workers.

The citizen, who all the health workers swore to look after, has become collateral damage in the squabble. This is, at best, completely unacceptable.

Leadership in a Crisis

“We understood perfectly that the life of a single human is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth. And we learned it; we, who were not of the working class nor of the peasant class. Social medicine demands that it be well understood that far more important than a good renumeration is the pride of serving ones neighbour. That much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people. And each doctor, within the circle of his activities, can and must accumulate that valuable treasure, the gratitude of his people.” Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara

As a Physician in training many years ago, I was magnetised by the will and wisdom of Dr. Che Guevara, a doctor who became part of a revolution, following his experience as a doctor, witnessing illness, hunger, and poverty. He became a man defined by his need to push for the benefits of the masses. Such need to help the masses, continues to drive many to become physicians today. While recognising that we cannot create a utopia, it is important to point out that being a doctor is more than just a job and doctors, must remember this.

Doctors, are stakeholders in this society. Doctors cannot absolve themselves of all responsibility, in the mess that is our health system. They cannot pitch the people against the Allied Health Workers and Government, in the hope that they will come out of the situation smelling of roses.

When we decided to become doctors, we made a choice to live a life of sacrifice, with the intent to foster humanity. I hope we never lose sight of that. I hope we can take leadership of the health sector, and be the example. I hope we can look past the squabble and see the big picture, with a focus on building a better health system for our people. Our demands, no matter how reasonable they may seem to some, should not have to come at the cost of the lives of the poor, who are the ultimate victims.

Let us lead, in a crisis.

Attempting to define ‘stomach infrastructure’

In the first week of April, 2013, the warning signs were already there.

Over a year ago now, I attended a symposium organised by The Future Awards in Ikogosi, Ekiti State. At the session attended by the governor, Kayode Fayemi, one Ekiti indigene after another got up told the governor to pay attention to ‘stomach infrastructure’. That event is significant in hindsight, because if there was one danger sign ahead of a re-election push, that was it.

Now, people all over the country are trying to pick through the wreckage of a campaign that seems to have been dead on arrival. Instead of congratulations, there are post-mortems. The post-mortems are necessary because Fayemi was widely perceived as a governor who was performing. Some have even described him as the best pound-for-pound (apologies to boxing fans) governor in Nigeria. Why then did he lose?

The events on June 21st have confirmed to me that, were Gary Chapman to write the Nigerian political equivalent of ‘The Five Love Languages’, ‘Stomach infrastructure’ would be the top love language.

It is not like Nigerians do not appreciate good roads, hospitals, and other amenities. It is that there is something that matters to them a bit more than that. There was a lot of debate on social media about sharing rice to potential voters in the days before the election, but to restrict the idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’ to food, whether cooked or raw, is naïve.

Stomach infrastructure is simply the system by which political patronage is dispensed to various groups in a particular society. This patronage can take many, many, forms. For instance, putting in a good word for the relative of a high ranking party chieftain, approving a contract or an appointment for a close political ally or their relative, and so on.

Stomach infrastructure means honouring an invitation to an important social club in Ekiti, and ‘declaring’ for its members. It can also mean turning a blind eye to a racket, or several rackets, for that matter. Other times, it is simply dispensing hard currency.

I am sure by now you begin to get the point. Grassroots politics, as far as Nigeria is concerned, is more or less a fancy term for building and maintaining stomach infrastructure. Having a strong ‘political structure’ is more or less the means by which this political patronage is consistently dispensed, the means by which it reaches the ‘masses’.

It is this (infra)structure that sustains you when you try to do unpopular things like take on the teachers and civil servants, as well as reform the civil service in general. It is this structure that enables you to call in favours on election day. It is this structure that enables you to ward off challengers like Ayo Fayose, backed as he was by a rejuvenated PDP.

Ibrahim Babangida, to name just one example, understood this idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’ very, very well. MKO Abiola understood it too. Both men were famed for their generosity and people skills, traits which kept them relevant in Nigeria’s power play for decades.

My best guess about what happened, is that the culture shock of moving from the governance style of Niyi Adebayo, Ayo Fayose and Segun Oni, to the style of Kayode Fayemi, was so great that it produced a backlash. Overnight, the people of Ekiti went from experiencing one extreme to another, and they just could not take it. Then, along came a familiar face at just the right time, with just the right people skills, who had just the right party behind him.

The reason why Ekiti cannot be used as a barometer for the rest of the country, is that what happened there was a perfect storm. It does not take just one factor to bring about the defeat of an incumbent, especially by such a margin.

Fayemi took on the teachers over competency tests, and implemented the results, leading to the demotion of some who had served for decades. The rest of them never took the tests and punished him at the ballot box. This fight may have been better left for a second term. There was also a lot of friction over the payment of the new Teachers Salary Scale, which he said the government could not afford. Again, scaling back on ambitious goals to focus on ‘bread and butter’ issues could have saved the situation.

The biggest fall-out of this election is that it might cause many who want to seek political office to pause and wonder what the point is, if someone who is performing can be so summarily rejected. The best thing to do is learn. The majority of Nigeria’s electorate are preoccupied with basic issues of survival, and this affects everything else. No amount of political correctness can change this.

Democracy remains a popularity contest, and for as long as everyone above 18 can vote, then the wishes of the majority must be taken into account to a significant extent. If the people in a particular place want to be governed in a certain way, then that must be accommodated, even if it means deviating a bit from a pure focus on the traditional indices of governance.

 

Getting into the World Cup groove

The World Cup starts in 2 days, 20 hours, 42 minutes and 30 seconds. Make that 29. 28. 27. 26. 25.  As is usual with these things, everyone wants to get in on the act of predicting how far all the teams go.

I have watched the application of statistics to quantify football over the last few years with great interest, primarily because I am a lover of both.

One thing that strikes me in all the models I have seen so far, is how nearly all of them are united in the conclusion that Brazil will win the World Cup. It is not even really close, as Brazil are about three times more likely to win than anyone else.

As far as Nigeria is concerned, the pre-tournament prediction models make for slightly disturbing reading. Only one model, done by EA Sports, has the Super Eagles qualifying for the second round. Incidentally, it is that same model that has Brazil not winning the World Cup, losing to Germany in the final.

You can see the EA Sports predictions here. The others, by Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, Five Thirty Eight, and a chap called Andrew Yuan, whose work was cited by the Economist, can be viewed here, here, here, and here.

Also, if it is your thing, you can play World Cup Fantasy Football here. Picking 23 players from 736 is insanely hard.

In addition, there are very, very good previews from FourFourTwo, WhoScored, and the Guardian UK.

I really can’t wait.

Homeland, Person of Interest, and the limits of impunity

Now is the time to expose the truth to our fellow citizens

The truth that has been lurking beneath the shadows for so long

That their country is no longer theirs

That their freedoms have been stripped away

One camera, one cellphone, one megabyte at a time

Now is the time to pull back the curtain

Welcome to your trial ladies and gentlemen

Welcome to the trial of the United States government

Court is now in session

 

I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but two shows I have always kept up with are ‘Homeland’ and ‘Person of Interest’, because of their relevance to the times in which we live. I will have to do a quick summary of both shows for those who may not be following, in order to make my point. Stick with me.

Homeland is about a US Marine by the name of Brody, who switched sides while in captivity. The event that led to his ‘radicalisation’, was the killing of his host’s son in a drone strike in Iraq. Brody had developed a bond with the son of Abu Nazir (the man with whom he was staying), and Nazir used his son’s death to first, convince Brody to wear a suicide vest, which didn’t go off, and eventually to kill the Vice President, who authorised the drone strike and eventually its cover up. Up to that point, Homeland was essentially a critique of drone warfare, which eventually became slightly overshadowed by a love affair between Brody and Carrie Matheson, two of the show’s main characters.

Moving on swiftly to Person of Interest, the main theme of which is the good and mostly bad sides of a surveillance state. The American people are watched over by a surveillance programme called ‘Northern Lights’ created by Harold Finch. This machine churns out Social Security numbers of people linked to all kinds of violent activities, including, but not limited to, acts of terrorism. Finch takes it upon himself to help people in mortal danger, with the assistance of a couple of others. The dialogue has a particular brand of humour which I quite like.

This takes me to the opening lines of this post, said by Leslie Odom Jr’s character, Peter Collier, in the final 45 seconds of Episode 22, Season 3, of Person of Interest. A few episodes earlier, Collier’s group ‘Vigilance’, no doubt with a nod to that famous quote widely attributed, incorrectly as it turns out, to Thomas Jefferson, exposed the existence of Northern Lights to the world. Those revelations led to a cancellation of the Northern Lights programme, opening the way for a privately owned surveillance system called Samaritan, to be put at the service of the US government. The pitch for Samaritan was being made to a top presidential adviser when Collier and his group took them hostage,with the aim of putting them on trial and broadcasting it on the internet.

In that same episode, Collier’s motivation was also revealed. He had an elder brother who was a recovering alcoholic, and had been sober for nearly two years. While at dinner with him one evening in 2010, his brother was arrested on grounds of ‘national security’ and detained for weeks. After his release, he lost his job and took his life. Collier went looking for answers, and was presented with four photographs showing his brother talking to an Arab man, whose cousin was linked to terrorist activity. That Arab man showed up at the funeral, and  told Collier that his brother helped him on his own journey of sobriety. It turned out that there was no reason whatsoever to detain him. Filled with a desire for revenge, Collier joined Vigilance and resolved to expose the government that took his brother from him.

That is that for the background. The common thread running through both shows is a government that suffers serious consequences as a result of hurting one too many people, and not providing any means to seek redress. In a word: Impunity. It is that impunity that was foremost in Edward Snowden’s mind when he released information exposing the extent of America’s surveillance apparatus. It is that arc of impunity that every government and corproration, left to its own devices, ultimately bends toward.

In another example, the drone programme which has gone into overdrive during the Obama administration, could be creating as many enemies for the US as it eliminates. There is yet to be adequate transparency and reform in the ways targets are chosen, disclosure about innocent people who are killed, and most importantly, accountability for those deaths. While both shows contain messages about the need for thorough reform in the US drone and surveillance programmes, other countries, like Nigeria, also have lessons to learn.

Extra judicial killings and unlawful detentions in Nigeria are a way of life. These crimes are committed by the Army, Police and other security agencies, and the victims of these crimes have no recourse. For example, no one was ever brought to justice for the killing of the Ogoni Nine in 1995, just as no one ever went to jail for authorising a reprisal attack in Odi, Bayelsa state, in 1999. To what extent did these and other events lead to the violent militancy and costly amnesty in the Niger Delta?

The current violent strain of Boko Haram can be traced to 2009, with the extra judicial killing of then leader, Mohammed Yusuf. To what extent did his killing, along with many others, by the police, lead to the situation we have today? In trying to fight the insurgency, several crimes have been committed by the Nigerian Army against innocent civilians. Many people have been unlawfully detained and killed, with no one answering for these crimes. Such events inevitably lead to sympathy for terrorists and obstruct moves to resolve the insurgency.

It is this same impunity which makes it possible for soldiers sent to the front lines to be treated in the worst way, paid pitiful amounts of money to put their lives on their line and are poorly equipped to boot. If they get injured or killed, they and their families are on their own a lot of the time. Yet, no one answers for it.

There are only so many wrongs a nation, a government, can commit before the chickens come home to roost. While the world rightly screams ‘Bring Back Our Girls!’ from the rooftops, it is merely a manifestation of several atrocities over many years. I for one would like a trial of the Nigerian government. It would be prime time stuff.