Tag Archives: Nigeria

Two rather scary tweets

Everyone has been celebrating our ‘Ebola free’ status given by the World Health Organisation. While that is perfectly understandable, and evokes a sense of national pride, it could also be a double edged sword, as shown by this tweet:

Further confirmed by this tweet:

The argument may be that internal checks may not be a high priority, since there are no cases left in the country. However, the creeping suspicion is that this laxity has spread or could spread to the international airport and our land borders.

For as long as the situation in Liberia and Sierra Leone is not brought under control, and the rate of infections begins to decline, we cannot relax on preventive measures for Ebola. For once, Nigeria is in the headlines for something positive. Let us ensure it stays that way.

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.

Time to enforce campaign finance laws

Image‘There are two things that are important in politics. The first thing is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is’ – Mark Hanna.

With the just concluded merger of opposition parties and reaction to the development sure to dominate political commentary for some time, it is safe to say that the 2015 election season has unofficially begun. 

As we once again contemplate elections, it is worth remembering that elections cost money. Democracy costs money. Campaigns cost money. Lots of it. Anyone who knows anything about the way politics is done in Nigeria, knows the huge cost of a campaign for public office. This cost is so high as to be prohibitive to all but the richest men, or those who have rich benefactors, or those who have their hands in public funds.

The figures are truly shocking. In the PDP, for example, to pick a nomination form for the State House of Assembly, you must part with the princely sum of N1m. Yes, N1m. For a form. If you wanted to be a House of Representatives candidate, you part with N2.5 million. For the Senate, N3m. Governorship, N5m. And for the Presidency, it is N10m. This is not counting other fees like the ‘expression of interest’, ‘formalisation of intent’, administrative charges, and all such levies which combine to make elections a game won by the highest bidder.

It can therefore not be surprising that after being elected, a public official’s first port of call could be to recoup all the investments made in his campaign, replenishing both his own funds, and those of his benefactors. The prohibitive cost of seeking public office in Nigeria, is a major reason why corruption continues to thrive.

This cost is actually enshrined in our laws. The Electoral Act in 2010 doubled the campaign spending limits in the 2006 Act. Someone running for the Presidency can spend up to N1 billion, a Governor can spend up to N200 million, N40 million for Senate, 20m for House of Representatives, N10 million for State House of Assembly and local government, and N1 million for ward councillor. Even with these limits, there is no enforcement of them from INEC, which has powers to monitor campaign finance, audit the accounts of political parties, and make that information available to the public, as enshrined in Section 153 of the Constitution, as well as Part 1 of the Third Schedule.

The lack of attention paid to this crucial area is of grave concern, because the unchecked influx of money into politics will produce governance that has been captured by a tiny minority, to the detriment of a majority. The result is a political process captured by special interests, resulting in an undue influence on government policy, distortion of political discourse, and a reduction in political participation. Whenever a waiver is granted, or foreign goods are banned, it is often to pay back a generous donor and wet the ground for the next cycle.

Another of the main dangers in money politics is that it becomes an arms race. The other party is doing it, so you have to do it too, or risk falling behind. In the run up to the last US elections, Barack Obama initially rejected donations from SuperPACs, groups who were recently allowed to use unlimited funds in support of a presidential candidate by the US Supreme Court, but he later accepted their support because Mitt Romney, his challenger, was already profiting from the organisations which backed him.

With just over 2 years to go till the next general elections, civil society groups need to impress on INEC the urgency of putting in place measures to track campaign expenditure in all political parties, at all levels, and enforcing the spending limits contained in Section 91 of the 2011 Electoral Act. Limits should also be placed on how much any one person can donate to a candidate, and information on donors to political parties should be in the public domain.

There is little hope of stemming the tide of corruption, while the stakes for public office in Nigeria remain so high. In the end, it will not matter whether an election is free and fair or not. He who plays the piper dictates the tune. If only those who are rich or have rich benefactors can run for office, the electorate is deprived of new faces and fresh ideas. That cannot be a good thing. 

A different kind of law enforcement in Nigeria.

On the wall at the entrance to Adeniji-Adele police station, the number of the D.P.O. (Divisional Police Officer) is prominent, to enable residents get in touch with him. At the gate and inside the station, the aggression so often exhibited by the police is absent, with people going about their business freely. It is almost as if this particular police station is not in Nigeria, where the brutality of its law enforcement agents is legendary.

A different kind of policing is in operation there, where Monday Agbonika is in charge. He first came to attention in an article by the Wall Street Journal a year ago, for his work in Agege. At his new assignment, which started in March this year, he continues to implement what he learnt from a DFID programme aimed at providing a new template for policing in Nigeria, one focused on forming partnerships with stakeholders in the community to improve service delivery.

Agbonika was part of a pilot programme called ‘Security, Justice and Growth’, which involved 129 divisions from across the country, and used role based training to introduce new policing concepts. The aim, as he explained, was to ‘discuss how we’ve been doing things, discuss problems we have been encountering and how we can do things better. It is like teaching ourselves’. The follow-up programme, called ‘Justice for All’, uses model police stations to implement those new concepts. He admits that ‘what they (the government) expect from us is different from the way we do it here’, but it makes his work so easy that he cannot imagine going back to the old ways. ‘I wonder why anyone should work differently’, he says.

This approach was a success at his former station at Isokoko in Agege area of Lagos, where, in addition to drastically reducing the crime rate, a new police station was constructed through community partnership. Accountability and transparency was key to achieving this, and he even got the governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola to assist. Isokoko was chosen as one of the model police stations in the ‘Justice for all’ programme, and Adeniji-Adele has just been included, apparently because he has applied the tools and principles consistently. ‘Someone said they are following me’, he says with a smile. ‘But I am not complaining’.

Throughout, he gives the impression of calmness, a kind of relaxed focus, inspite of his responsibilities. He deals with several visitors, one of whom was an elderly man who is an old boy of his former school, St John’s College, Kaduna. He communicates with his men a number of times as well, receiving reports from the field.

Just like Isokoko, Adeniji-Adele’s main problem concerned ‘area boys’. He solved the problem by employing a variety of tools like ‘crime mapping’, which keeps record of incidents with the help of notebooks, which are submitted on a daily basis. These reports form the basis for the ‘DPO’s briefing sheet’, submitted by the Divisional Intelligence Officer at the start of the next day. ‘This is how intelligence-led policing starts’, he explains. ‘It’s the small things. It is about collecting little bits of information and putting them together to form a picture. You don’t wait to get high-tech equipment’. The incidents are put on a map, resulting in hotspot patrols and neighbourhood patrols designed to boost police visibility, deter potential criminals and breed trust between the police and the community. Vigilante groups in the area under his command are encouraged and trained in partnership with the DFID and CLEEN foundation. Traditional rulers in communities with restive youth are also involved in warning them to desist from crime and in settling disputes. In the event of any disturbance, response teams are trained to arrive on the scene within 60 seconds of a report to disperse crowds and make arrests if possible. In addition, there is a Prisoners’ Lockup Register, designed to keep track of suspects in custody, and check the excesses of the men on duty.

Taken together, this approach aims to renew the faith of residents in the rule of law and make that the first source of redress. When suspects are charged to court, he notes the reforms going on in the Lagos state judiciary, which make for quicker dispensation of justice.

Another area in which progress has been made is regarding domestic violence and rape, which is a cause he champions. A lot of physical abuse goes unreported and steps have been taken to make victims able to come forward and receive care. ‘Before now, people used to think only about how to prosecute the suspect, but no one cares about the victim’, he says. ‘I have gotten training for them to focus more on the victims, because they are the most important. Some of them will never be the same again’

At the entrance to the station, there is a private area manned by a female officer trained to identify and respond to women in distress. A number of CSOs like Project Alert work with the police to provide counselling and shelter. In cases of rape which are reported within 72 hours, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is administered which can prevent HIV infection, even if it is reported at the weekend. ‘More women are willing to come forward, but we still need awareness for them to know we have this in place and their identities will be secure’.

It has not been progress all round, however. A lot of officers have transferred out, because there is a lot less room for extortion. He has about 50 men less than when he took over as DPO. As a result the Ilubirin area is underpoliced, making it a haven for robbers despite attempts to clear the area under that section of the Third Mainland Bridge. He is less upbeat when discussing personnel issues, emphasizing the lonely nature of what he is trying to do. Poorly paid policemen often become corrupt in order to make ends meet, and Adeniji-Adele used to be seen as lucrative. ‘In the past, they used to pay N10,000 to come here’, he said. ‘Now, they pay N10,000 to leave’.

Going forward, a community safety partnership will be developed consisting of relevant stakeholders that will find out the concerns of the people and try to resolve them. Also planned is a solictors’ forum made of lawyers who will have access to the cells, make observations, represent suspects in court and ensure their rights are not violated, serving as checks on the police.

This method of policing which focuses on service and partnership can go a long way to reverse the years of hostility Nigerians feel towards those supposed to protect them, conferring the legitimacy necessary to preserve order, without which society will slide into chaos, as graphically expressed in the ALUU 4 incident and numerous other examples of jungle justice which take place all over the country. Intelligence led policing can also help with combating Boko Haram, winning hearts and minds in order to deliver crucial information, as against the crude and counter-productive tactics of the Joint Task Force.

Lasting reform will take time, but maybe one day, the police in Nigeria will truly be your friend.

Thoughts on the US elections: Making democracy beautiful

Every 4 years for quite a while, the world has been increasingly held captive by the US Presidential Elections. The fact that the US has been the richest and most powerful country in the world for the last century means that whoever becomes their leader has an impact on the rest of the world, especially as we become more connected.

Four more years.

While some may scoff at the focus and interest shown by the rest of the world, the fact is that the US elections in many ways represent the pinnacle of democracy in style and in substance. For months in the build up to the elections, the world has been captivated by debates, campaign speeches and convention speeches that are as much about spectacle as they are about specifics. In a sense, American democracy works almost too well, with everything choreographed even to the slightest detail. The issues of the election are analysed almost ad-nauseam until a Nigerian can repeat almost verbatim the issues in a US election cycle.

It is still strange for Nigerians to compare what happens in the US – with terms like ‘swing states’, ‘electoral college’, ‘early voting’ and all that comes with such a highly developed democracy – to what we have back home which is infantile at best, but this is because the US elections carry an aspirational quality. Every nation wants a democracy where all voices are heard and seen to be heard. America’s democracy is a celebration that the rest of the world joins in every four years.

Today’s election was a referendum of Obama’s four years, but more importantly it is an insight into the future of US demographics and the future of electioneering as a whole. As the percentage of white voters reduces, the Republican party’s base goes with it. Democrats have done a great job with capturing women, youth and minorities. Coupled with the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado and same sex marriage in Maryland, Maine and Washington, the GOP finds itself on the wrong side of a long term trend which will put them in retreat for the foreseeable future, unless they take back control from the Tea Party fringe. The role of the government in disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy and the bailouts which saved a lot of jobs in Ohio, also directly contradicts the GOP’s obsession with small government as against government that works.

Another interesting aspect has been the use of data to accurately predict the outcome of the election, as well as the targeting of individual voters to influence their choice for president. Data science is an emerging field that is being shown to have a vast range of uses. More and more, we are seeing that if you ask the right questions and collect data based on those questions, there is a lot you can do with it. Four years ago, Nate Silver on his fivethirtyeight blog, correctly predicted the presidential election results in 49 out of 50 states. This year, after being engaged by the New York Times, he was so sure of his model that he bet on it publicly. This time, he correctly predicted 50 out of 50 states. This is the power of data which is showing itself to be stronger than conventional wisdom and everyday punditry. This is the future of electioneering and could very well be the future of most things.

Barack Obama has run his last race, morphing from a charismatic leader to a pragmatist before our very eyes, while still convincing enough people that he deserves a chance to finish the job. To do this, he has had to maintain the same coalition that brought him to power in 2008, which also looks like the same coalition the Democratic Party will rely on for years to come, one which is ‘broader than it was deep’ as Nate Silver put it.

The Democrats will not mind much, and neither will Obama. He has four more years to consolidate his policies and learn from the mistakes of his first term. It also shows the utter failure of the GOP’s bitter and divisive campaign, designed to obstruct rather than point a way forward.

After the victory and concession speeches were given and the analysis of results begins in earnest, I would be lying if I said I was not inspired. The Americans are far from perfect to be sure, but they make democracy look so beautiful. I want my country’s democracy to be beautiful, too. Some day, I want elections in Nigeria to be watched like this, to be analysed like this, to be predicted like this. I want Nigerians to celebrate democracy like this. I want elections to be free from rigging, with results known a few hours after polls close. I want a knowledgeable electorate that will hold their leaders to account and turn up at the ballot box, rewarding good governance and punishing the bad.

When will we have a democracy like this? Can we have it? I think we can. I think that if we each took personal responsibility for it, it can happen. It won’t be in a day or a year, but watching how it is done elsewhere in the world can serve as the inspiration necessary for the perspiration that is vital to create a real democracy within our shores.

God bless Nigeria.

How to control your population – without drama

At the inauguration of the new board of the National Population Commission – which has

Global population is now projected to hit 10 billion by 2050. Nigeria will account for over 400 million of that.

former Nigeria Breweries MD Festus Odimegwu as Chairman – President Goodluck Jonathan spoke about the possibility of introducing legislation to reduce births. Nigeria’s population currently stands at 160 million, and is projected to hit 433 million by the middle of the century. Looked at in that light, the need to control population is an important one, especially as the challenges of taking care of current responsibilities is daunting. People have to have access to food, water, and other resources to live decent lives.

However, trying to legislate a reduction in the number of children a woman can have will run into unnecessary opposition, and bring controversy where there shouldn’t be any. One of the key drivers of high birth rates is infant mortality. When a woman knows that her children are likely to die or be deformed due to disease or conflict, the motivation to have many children is high. The highest birth rates in the world today are from countries with high infant mortality and constant war. If you are going to ask people to have one or two children, infant mortality must be drastically lowered.

Ending extreme poverty will reduce the need to have many children, so that they can work for the family. We see them every day: hawking, wiping windshields, in the markets, and so on. Only the reality of grinding poverty makes that possible, especially since they could be in school. Prosperous countries show a consistent decline in birth rates. Germany and Japan are just two examples.

There is a need to get religious leaders on the same page with the government. Religion plays a disproportionately important role in Nigeria, and the message of having only the number of children a family can cater for will gain traction faster if religious leaders are enlisted. Religion is also a barrier to having access to and knowledge about contraception. Less than 10% of Nigerian women aged 15-49 use modern contraception, and this is another thing that must change.

Watch Melinda Gates’ excellent TED talk on the need for better access to contraception here.

Perhaps the most fundamental step that can be taken is to focus on educating more women, and make more women part of the labour force. Educated, working women tend to marry later and have fewer children. This is the interesting conclusion Hans Rosling reached at the end of this TED talk.

Already, opposition to any proposed birth control legislation has begun to build from religious leaders, but no matter what faith anyone belongs to, there is no dignity in having more children than one can care for. The Federal government must do all it can to let everyone realise this.

It will not be achieved by legislation, however. The President has done very well to bring the issue of our population explosion to the forefront, but his handling of it will determine whether it becomes part of our national consciousness, or disappears into the fog of religion and empty politics.

A more educated and empowered female population is the key to slowing down a population growth rate that is among the highest in the world, but we must allow women make their own choices, and give them the information necessary to lead healthy lives.

Doing, not talking

Increasingly, the consensus is that Nigerians like to talk, everywhere, every time and mostly about Nigeria. Whenever a few Nigerians are gathered for more than a few minutes, the discussion almost inevitably turns to the state of the nation and at times, being a Nigerian feels like an endless rant, with bits of life in between. For this reason, an event tagged ‘Conversations for Change’ immediately gets a roll of the eyes from those who feel like we should be acting, instead of talking. One person on my Twitter timeline even called it ‘another gathering of ranters and rantees’.

Except that it wasn’t. Guests at the event listened to young people who are busy trying to make change happen in their own way who came to share, and inspire others to action.

For instance, Bayo Omoboriowo went from wanting to end up in Shell or Chevron, to teaching during his youth service, and eventually taking pictures that tell compelling stories. Orondaam Otto left his job in a bank to get over a hundred children from Makoko into school. Tolu Sangosanya’s work at Ajegunle’s ‘Dustbin Estate’ may be more well known, and is just as powerful. Tosin Jegede plans to put a book in the hands of every child.

All the speakers have a few things in common: They became passionate about a cause, they moved from talking to doing by overcoming initial trepidation and fear of failure to make a difference to those around them, and they started with what they had.

Indeed, there are lots of initiatives started by young people all over Nigeria, but there are a lot fewer young people in politics. That’s why the presence of Pastor Kemela Okara, who was the Action Congress of Nigeria’s governorship candidate in Bayelsa in February, was important. He casts himself as an outsider who is getting involved in politics because of his passion for Nigeria. He asks more to do the same, and to move beyond conversations for change, to mobilising for change.

I put to him my opinion that the youth might need an alternative political platform, instead of joining existing structures. His response was that the platform does not matter, only that a person needs to get involved on his/her own terms, and bring something to the process that no one else can. He comes across as very knowledgeable, approachable and down to earth, and he seems to have his heart in the right place. May it remain so.

Timi Dakolo is one of those who uses the gift of music in the service of change, and he gave another amazing and passionate performance that got everyone on their feet. Few things have the power of music to stir the soul, and after he was done, the compere said he would love to hear Timi sing the national anthem. I couldn’t agree more. He is a blessing to this country.

Change comes in different forms, and Chude Jideonwo said it best: ‘pick a spot and start digging’. It also takes resources, and another key observation was how these young people got help from unexpected quarters, once they had made a commitment. The world stands aside for, and gets behind, a (wo)man who knows where (s)he’s going.

The best thing about Conversations for Change is that it brought together young people making a difference, connecting them to others in the process. As more bonds are formed and collaborations entered into, the chance of achieving even greater impact increases.

The Future Nigeria was a collaborator in making Conversations for Change a reality, as a lead up to The Future Awards in August. They have done a lot in the last 7 years to showcase all that is good about Nigeria, that all hope is not lost. Probably more than ever, we need this hope now.

In his book ‘A people’s history of the United States’, Howard Zinn wrote about the ‘countless small actions of unknown people’ that are the foundation for ‘those great moments’ that enter historical record. These small actions are happening all around us. May many more occur.

7 domain names Nigerians should buy right now

If you are not into tech, you might not know that the internet’s domain system will soon be expanded to allow for more domains. A domain name is the [dot]com, [dot]org, [dot]edu and so on that is added at the end of web addresses. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – no reference to the Nigerian accountants exam or Nas by the way – that manages these domain names, is currently accepting bids for specific names like [dot]app, [dot]home, [dot]inc, [dot]art, [dot]blog among others.

The expansion of domain names brings with it a rare opportunity to buy standout domains and of course, this should hold a lot of interest for Nigerians. What follows is a few suggestions for specific domain names from a Nigerian perspective.

The most obvious is [dot]naija, and by extension [dot]nigeria. The latter could be used for more formal communication, perhaps by the government, and the former for more informal uses. I expect .naija to be of major interest to techies, and people in the entertainment industry as an expression of our unique identity. Good people. Great nation.

A less obvious one might be [dot]pdp. Africa’s largest party – or so they say – really should have a web presence that makes it standout, especially since they want to be in power for 60 years.

Something slightly more controversial one could be [dot]corruption. Obviously, we don’t have a monopoly on this character trait, but we have taken its practice to perhaps legendary levels. It only seems fair that someone of Nigerian origin acquires this domain name.

A group of ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ boys could pool their electronically acquired resources together, and buy the [dot]419 domain name, just for the heck of it. It is not as if one would ever have a website like FredAjudua.419 or anything like that, but why take the chance that a foreigner will buy it and have all the fun?

Then, there is [dot]federalcharacter. Such a fundamental part of our national life really should not go unrecognised, because it determines our political outcomes. At every stage, reference is made to balance in federal appointments, allocations, and so on. The Federal Character Commission should set themselves this task of buying this domain name, in the national interest.

Lastly, there is [dot]owambe. You will be hard pressed to find nationalities that party harder, or more extravagantly, than Nigerians. Everything is cause for a party, and Nigerians throw some of the best ones. This distinctly Nigerian export surely deserves its place on the Internet.

I’m almost sure I’ve missed some good ones. Suggestions welcome in the comments.

In God’s hands

This is what my neighbour and friend says every time he enters a plane. Quite apart from a strong faith in God, which it shows, it is also a realisation of something much deeper: life, especially in Nigeria, is like a throw of the dice.

On Sunday, June 3rd, the dice were thrown, and over a hundred and fifty people were not so lucky. What should have been a routine flight from Abuja to Lagos, with no bad weather, was the end of so many. An avoidable end.

It is easier to cling to the involvement of a higher power if the process is satisfactory, but the outcome is bad. In such a situation, all that could be done was done. But when you are confronted with evidence of systemic failure all around you, contempt for those who are negligent in the discharge of their duties is the dominant emotion.

What is most painful is that had anyone been pulled from the wreckage of Dana Air Flight 0992 alive, there is no guarantee our moribund healthcare system wouldn’t have killed them. It really doesn’t matter how you travel in Nigeria. Every single movement from point A to point B is an exercise in faith. We can do so much better.

As such, some questions must be asked:

1. The last 6 plane crashes in Nigeria going back to 2002 have happened on either a Saturday or Sunday. To what extent are safety standards enforced at our airports on weekends? Is safety only a priority from Monday to Friday?

2. The particular plane that crashed, the MD-83, had a horrible safety record. Why was it still operational? Who has the task of ensuring that such planes don’t fly? Shouldn’t that person be in jail soon?

3. In 2012, why are emergency services not more responsive? Why are they not better equipped? Eye witness accounts say that when the plane crashed, it was on the ground – and largely in one piece – for about 30 minutes before it exploded. The fire truck that was at the crash site first, ran out of water. It is becoming an all too familiar story.

4. People who gathered at the scene, could they have done more? How many people there called the emergency hotline as soon as the crash happened? The huge crowd also obstructed rescue workers when they eventually came. Why was this allowed to happen?

5. How many more aircraft are in operation right now, that shouldn’t be? How many more metallic coffins are there?

6. What is the relationship between aviation regulators and airlines? Are they too close for comfort?

The worst thing we can do now, is to restrict this inquest to Dana Airlines alone. What we need is an industry-wide probe to make sure we and our loved ones aren’t boarding flying caskets. In March this year, our aviation industry had cause to celebrate 60 months without a crash. Complacency may have set in, or it might be that the problems never really went away. The answers to the questions above, as well as others, will give some insight to that.

As recently as 2010, the US Federal Aviation Authority gave Nigerian airlines clearance to enter US airspace. This crash is likely to bring increased scrutiny. Perhaps whatever was done right after the horror period of October 2005 to October 2006 has stopped.

It was heartbreaking to see the reactions when the names on the passenger manifest started trickling out. Lots of people in the same circle knew someone on that flight. There really is no insulation from the consequences of a broken government, and at some point we will have to confront it head on, lest the carnage continue.

How to use a honeymoon

There are a couple of similarities between Joyce Banda and Goodluck Jonathan. Both were vice presidents of their respective countries, and both became president despite some opposition from those who wanted to subvert the constitution.

The similarities end there, however. In less than two months in office, Joyce Banda has begun clearing out the loyalists of the late president Mutharika and followed IMF advice to devalue he country’s currency by a third, but is now making headlines by deciding to sell the jet bought by Mutharika in 2009, as well sixty Mercedes limousines. Malawi’s president will fly commercial from now on.

Malawi's first female president

Now, Africans know how their leaders love their jets and their cars, and it makes what Joyce Banda is doing a rare occurrence, but it also makes perfect sense. She has put in place tough reforms, and is merely taking the same medicine she gives her people in order to win their support. It remains to be seen if she will continue in this direction, but Joyce Banda is making the best possible use of the ‘honeymoon period’ all politicians enjoy.

Her Nigerian counterpart, Goodluck Jonathan, has frittered away his honeymoon period, to the extent that one year of his presidency feels like three years. Instead of leading by example, preachments and platitudes are the order of the day from Aso Rock. Every day, patience wears thinner.

Here’s hoping that Malawi’s first female president builds on her good start early on. This continent needs all the good leaders it can get.