I received some messages last weekend sequel to the last two editions on sex matters. A 67-year-old woman lamented the plight of aging or older people especially women in loneliness and their sexless life in retirement. In a telephone conversation that lasted about 32 minutes, she explained how her ilk waited for so long for companions without getting any.
“It’s very thoughtful of you, Michael West, to have spared the time to write pointedly on a knotty and coded issue like sex. There’s no gainsaying about it, many homes are in storms today as a result of incompatible or dismal sex life. Some of us got to know better and appreciate the sweetness of sex when it was almost late. I quite agree with you that the only place where a legitimate sex should take place is in marriage; but the parental failure to talk to their children about sex ahead of time has wrecked irreparable damages to many promising homes.
“For the young women, they still have the ample opportunity to make the most of their time by managing their men in a way that they will stay together till the evening of their lives. I appreciate young women who persevere to keep stable homes while I dislike the nonchalant attitude of some other women to marriage. They will realise the harm they’re doing to themselves in their old age. I’m aware that some men are monsters in their homes. Women that are unfortunate to marry those brutes as husbands should be ready to endure or quit. Such men are difficult to relate with. However, I have seen two of such violent men become loving and faithful husbands after they encountered Christ.
“West, widows and single women in their 60s and 70s need love. Many of us are being consigned to becoming nannies or abandoned to fate. We still feel lonely. We need companions too. I have heard some people say ‘what do those grandmas need men for?’ I laugh because someday it will be their turn. Those who think a 70-year-old woman does not need cuddling or sex because of her age should know that we (Grandmas) still feel horny like they do.
“Have you wondered why White women scout for men even on the internet? We have witnessed younger men in their 20s and early 30s marrying White women who are old enough to be their grandmas. You may criticize the guys but they’re serving a crucial purpose for some women who are ready to pay their way through to happiness. But here in Africa, Nigeria in particular, culture and environment won’t encourage older women to do such a thing. Therefore, a ‘big mummy’ will remain lonely and sexless to her grave at an age she should still be her man’s sweet sixteen.
“Our children don’t help our situation. They’re fond of criticizing us whenever we share our feelings and desires with them on the need of companions. Conversely though, there are some considerate ones who do encourage their aging moms to find love or companions to make themselves happy and fulfilled. Even at that, where are the men?
“West, candidly, there are few, if any, available men that can truly fill in the void in our lives. Men who are our mates don’t look in our direction. They chase about the younger women. Incidentally, those girls also prefer the ‘daddies’ to their mates. This inverted pairing leaves us out of the equation. And if you decide to consider mature younger men maybe in their 40s or 50s, distractions and sundry pressures won’t allow them to give deserved attention.
“As for me, I don’t encourage married men to engage in extra-marital affairs. It’s sacrilegious to the sanctity of matrimony but there are many single men out there who are widowers, separated or divorced. I do discourage my friends who date some of these younger men to avoid married ones in order to keep their homes. However, the problem with many of the single men or single dads is that there are several women available to them as options. The unfortunate thing is that such men think they’re doing you a favour rather than appreciating the older women for who they are.
“I like to subscribe to your hook-up platform because I trust your judgement and diligence in handling relationships. Keep up the good work going, Mr. West. God will soundly bless you in return. I appreciate you. Thank you.”
Apart from the needful companionship, lack of warmth or prolonged abstinence from sex do have some health challenges as repercussions on the aging women. A healthy sex life will keep immune system humming, boosts libido, improves women’s bladder control, lowers blood pressure and reduces heart attack risk, lessens cramps, nourishes body skin and shapes, makes prostate cancer less likely while it is also considered as an exercise.
I know a 70-year-old woman who had been complaining of various kinds of ailments one after the other for over two years. Her nurse was almost running out of ideas to manage her condition. One day, her neighbour told her to stop “killing her system” with drugs she took every now and then. She advised the ailing woman to go for sex instead. The woman in question had been separated for about seven years and she remained sexless ever since.
Initially she discountenanced the counsel, thinking how sex could be the answer to her sickness that kept moving from one part of her body to another. In summary, after a reluctant date with a man, she allowed the fun to sustain until she no longer complain about ill-health. In a matter of months, she looked radiant, bubbling with life and excitement. That’s a practical way to keep ‘big mummies’ or grandmas healthy, happy and fulfilled.
Battle of the reds at Old Trafford: Mane, Firmino too hot for United
…James, Rashford, Maguire battle for pride
One of the biggest rivalry in English football is that of Manchester United and Liverpool. Both sides are the most successful in the country both at domestic and European levels. The two teams meet at Old Trafford on Sunday. In the past, a Premier League encounter between Manchester United and Liverpool is always crucial title decider in England.
Events have however changed the situation over the years for and against both sides. There was a good spell for Manchester United at some point when they either clinched the league or come second. At the time, Liverpool struggled to make Top Four or settled for Europa place. The reverse is the case in recent time as Jurgen Kloop has turned the Reds to title contend- ers every season while United either settle for Top Four or Europa place.
Manchester United have won the EPL title 20 times while Liverpool have clinched it 18 times. In the all-time head-to-head record between the two teams from 1894 to 2019, United are still having an edge with 88 wins against Liverpool’s 76 while both sides recorded 66 draws. In the past 12 meetings since 2014 till date, United have won five times while Liverpool have only recorded two wins and they both played draw five times.
In the past six meetings, there were four draws and one win each for both sides. On current form, Sunday’s encounter should be a no contest because Liverpool have not dropped one point in their last 18 EPL games. This season alone, Liverpool have won all their eight league games to be on top of the table with eight point difference between them and second placed Manchester City.
Their current run has placed them in pole position to clinch the league this time. Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are fully fit for this encounter while Mohamed Salah is expected to be ready. Alexander Arnold is solid in the defence with the big man, Virgil Van Dijk. The Kloop men look complete and ready for any opposition and this is their best opportunity to humiliate United at home. The reverse is the case for United, experiencing the most ridiculous start to a season in the past 30 years.
The Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men have won only two games and are just two points above the relegation line. Two key players – Paul Pogba and David De Geahave been ruled out due to injury. The team has lost to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, also lost to Newcastle and West Ham away.
With this spell, United do not have the quality t o ordinarily beat Liverpool but they could raise their game and snatch a draw, just as they did last sea- son at Old Trafford. Three new players Daniel James upfront, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan Bissaka, are solid defenders but can they stop the rampaging Liverpool’s attack? On a good day, Marcus Rashford and James could stun the visitors but overall, Mane, Firmino, Salah are too much for United, and so it’s advantage Liverpool.
The flipside of governor’s home
The nature of a man is easily detected through his interactions with people and perceptions of issues. Position and wealth are never concealers of weaknesses or character traits. Rather, power, influence and authority are the fermenting catalysts that usually get occupiers of exalted offices intoxicated through unpredictable utterances and behaviours. Incidentally, men with such raw mannerism usually turn out to be more dependable, loyal and responsible husbands.
True to their nature, they are not so romantic when it comes to love play. They rarely entertain prolonged wooing of women as they prefer to go straight to the point whenever or wherever they find love. Regardless of what others might think about their actions and utterances, they’re habitually candid, less tolerant of nuances of diplomacy and pretence. One of such maverick personalities is the immediate past governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi. These descriptions are some of the traits that signpost the character of the neatly mustached-politician, according to his wife, Florence Ajimobi.
The First Lady recalls with nostalgia how her husband proposed to her like a typical “Ibadan man” without the usual allure of romance and mollycoddling. He won her heart because they had been close friends for a while. The charming Ajimobi had never hidden his true nature for once. Being her gist mate, she’d been addicted to his attention, evening walks and doing virtually everything together.
Meanwhile, the common practice with the couple is to table every issue for discussion in order to arrive at the best possible decision. The practice was punctured in 2003 when, against their convention, he simply walked in and announced to bewildered Florence that “I’m going into politics.” Initially she thought it was a huge joke. She responded that she’s not in support, hoping he would table the matter for proper discussion but nay, “he said that’s his decision and there’s no going back on it.” That’s when it dawned on her that she hasn’t known her man enough.
Every great thing, level or status is achievable at a cost. It is rare to toil through to success or greatness without experiencing some challenges or giving up some things for the sake of the target. This is the stark reality of life as evidenced in the testimony of successful people and great achievers. Many of those who pray for positions of authority or influence forget to recognize that there’s a prize to pay. Incidentally, many people hate to suffer denials at their new levels.
The thinking that all is rosy and cozy for people in power and affluent positions is not always true. Some apprehension do accompany such status. What commoners do take for granted is often the envy of the high and the mighty. For instance, many people in leadership positions don’t enjoy privacy like other citizens. Whereas the affluent are envious of the freedom and social life of the common citizen, in the reversed order, the commoner would be praying for, dreaming and hoping of attaining the affluent status knowing it would better his/her lot. The former situation is the graphic description of life in many top political office holders’ homes especially at the state senator’s level upward.
Those at the receiving end of this chequered situation are the immediate family members of the executives. While the people out there are seeing glamour, wealth and perks of office, the family members are enduring circumstantial abandonment, loneliness, living in ‘confinement’, loss of social life, ebbed family life and restricted access to fun. These (and perhaps many more) are the lot of most First Ladies while in office.
According to the immediate past First Lady of Oyo State, Florence Ajimobi, while appreciating God for improved status through service to the people as offered by her husband, Senator Ajimobi, life as a governor’s wife is not what she desires again. Her husband’s two terms as governor was a big ‘loss’ to her family life.
“For eight straight years, I ‘sacrificed’ my friend to politics and public service. Our family life was at the lowest ebb. Meetings, work and politics took him away from me. He was nowhere for me as my husband or father to his children. In fact, the children hardly see him,” she said, adding that what she missed the most was his companionship because they were gist mates from the beginning of their relationship.
She explains that living in Abuja while her husband was a senator remains a dark moment of her marital life. The Abuja experience is not palatable for her at all. In her words: “I was lonely most of the time. My social life was gone. I missed everything a marriage should be. I wouldn’t want a repeat of such experience.”
If, as a senator’s wife she laments loneliness, being a governor’s wife was more challenging. The difference is that she engaged her time with supportive activities as First Lady and she’s within the reach of her people.
Life as First Lady was a harrowing experience for her. “I think eight years is too long. One term of six years should be okay. Our children missed their father because he’s rarely available. Even as his wife, he’s no longer available. Most of the time he came to bed at 3a.m. He would crash into sleep almost immediately tired and fagged out. Usually he would apologise saying ‘madam, I’m tired please.’ “The next moment, he’s deep asleep,” she explains, adding that life in Government House is not as pleasant, satisfying and desirable as people think. Indeed, not all that’s glittering is real gold.
Like the title of a popular television series: “The Rich Also Cry”, but in this case, “The Affluent Also Lament.” A typical governor’s home is sacrificed on the altar of public service. Mrs. Ajimobi was even luckier during her time compared to some of her contemporaries who live like “widows” not because they lack food to eat or money to spend (though some really don’t have enough to spend) but that the basic conjugal need like their husbands’ attention and sex suddenly become a luxury or near unavailable throughout their tenure. We can now understand why some First Ladies are emotionally hostile and harsh!
Florence Ajimobi is a beautiful, intelligent, articulate and confident woman. She oozes dignity with rich connection with her root. She’s not blinded by the perks of office to attract any scandal or demonstrate ostentatious lifestyle that would question her modesty. Despite bottled-up discontent brought about by her status, she stood firmly by her audacious man who kept heaping battles on several fronts for the most part of his tenure.
Whenever you see the glamour of a governor’s wife, remember the sacrifice she’s making for the people even to her own inconvenience. Therefore, women like Mrs. Ajimobi should be celebrated and saluted for the big prize they pay in the public interest. Her book offers more insight into the flipside of life in power as a governor’s wife.
Entitled “My Life Like A Rainbow,” the book contains her thoughts and experiences as a politician’s wife and First Lady. It is an eye-opener for those in public offices especially their spouses. The book demystifies opulence, perceived comfort and class associated with public offices, in particular, those of Senators, Governors and the President.
The politics in the other room
“A lie can travel half way around the World while truth is still putting on its shoes” – Mark Twain
Social media has a lot of minuses but its pluses still exceed, it all depends on where you are when they throw their stones. If you create enabling environment for them to fertilize in your domain, you are likely to find their sugar bitter in your mouth. Just like Nigerian Presidency that had sour tales to tell about social media last week over poor management of information. When you allow a very visible person like the First Lady of a nation to go off the radar for over six weeks without a word, you are indirectly the one throwing bones to the dogs; what the dog does with the bones can only be imagined. Turning round therefore to wonder why the dog is too savage at the bones tantamount to an alarmist who beats drum in the bush and rushes to the village square to ask who is drumming.
For keeping Nigerians in suspense for that long on the whereabouts of the First Lady, the Presidency should have itself to blame for the drama that trailed her exit and eventual return. It’s no mere paper work when it’s said that once you are a leader of a people you lose your privacy. As long as the seat of power is not at peace with itself, what results from it could be unpalatable like avoidable leaks as experienced in the last few weeks from Aso Rock Villa. It would amount to attention diversion to look elsewhere in search of the problems whose origin is right inside the main and the other rooms of the Presidency.
The living room of the First Lady otherwise called the other room or that of her son was thrown open on the Internet last week with her even confirming that truly the viral video on display on the social media was actually hers. From the fallouts, somebody sat somewhere, planned to provoke the First Lady knowing what her reaction would be and through to type she came out as predicted letting lose her temperament as the person recorded it for the public.
In journalism if you scoop a story that is exclusive to you, it can be kept to be released at the appropriate and fitting time and that was exactly what the ‘social media practitioner’ at the Aso Villa did. Many security operatives in Aso Rock were schooled to ensure that journalists more than any other group were prevented from coming close or prying into the first family’s home. But unknown to them that right inside was a more dangerous ‘reporter’ who knows nothing about off-record and can go to any length to destroy their target without factoring the consequences.
Too many security breaches have been recorded as a result of the political infighting in the Presidency. Indecorously, the highly venerated home of number one citizen in the country has been turned into an open battle ground by people who refuse to observe the etiquette of the place. Until recent happenings in the nation’s power base under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, he used to carry an image of a disciplined, no nonsense character who would not tolerate hogwash behaviour around him. But all that were demystified by the desecration of Aso Rock by family members who probably do not value the environment enough to appreciate and observe the required ethos.
Annoyingly, rather than look inwards for the originators of the mess, the Presidency is trying to gag the social media. But in going forward, we really need to find out who a social media practitioner is? Answer to this question will help those bent on attacking the freedom of journalists as a fallout from this marriage rumour episode. It’s certainly not in doubt that no journalist followed the First Lady to her room to record her screaming of being locked in, the recording as already confirmed was done by a family member who was bent on settling scores and who in this case is the social media practitioner. What social media practitioners outside did were just to help herald a finished story. We all know as Kathleen O’Dell said that “though there’s a grain of truth in every rumour, the worst gossip usually starts with something harmless.”
As a rumour this matter should not have merited a space as a Musing topic this week, but not with its wide implications especially against the backdrop of the government’s hinting of curbing the media.
As a weekly current affairs column that discusses matters arising from the polity, nothing could have been weightier even as a rumour than a 76-year-old President of a country whose 94 million citizens are in the threshold of extreme poverty going for a second wife last Friday and perhaps even more curious was that the lucky bride was going to be one of his newly appointed ministers.
It never sounded believable that a 76-year-old President would take a new wife but since a smell at the basement has a way of getting to the attic nothing could be easily disregarded. As a journalist who was also trained into believing that rumour could be a huge source of story, I knew that nothing would divert any other political discourse for the week. Not with the drama that accompanied it, the alleged protest from the current wife who incidentally is really the second wife since the President’s actual first wife is late. If this rumour had turned real the latest would have been the third wife to the President.
I am going to withhold what I would have said if the President had taken a third wife since it’s going to be conjectural. It’s however good to put on record one significant achievement of that dangerous rumour; it brought home our amiable First Lady Aisha Buhari from her hiding place in United Kingdom.
For over 60 days the irrepressible First Lady had disappeared from the radar as her husband’s second term was being “cooked”. When all those she wanted thrown away from the corridor of power began to return she vamoosed from the scene journeying from Saudi Arabia to Britain officially for prayers and medics respectively. There was no word from the Presidency on her whereabouts leaving room for rumour mongers in the social media to fish on. By the time the rumour peddlers were half way their mission, the First Lady appeared claiming she did not abandon her children and husband.
As she spoke on arrival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, less than 48 hours after the marriage rumour, the mood was mixed with all present on the edge expecting her to be herself and explode. But she was guided as she tried not to multiply the pressure the rumour already heaped on the Presidency; she chose her words cautiously to the surprise of not a few.
However, the revealing exchanges that have trailed the ill-fated marriage and the eventual return of the First Lady only have one thing to prove, that all is not yet glowing in the first family. Very clearly the politics in the other room is fierce, and as a result the room was locked for too long, a costly error that fed rumour hawkers and dented the image of our Presidency as a nation. Were it not Nigeria, if it were in other climes, Presidency would have apologized to Nigerians for degrading their hallowed seat of power? Just thinking aloud.
Sex predators: Is castration the answer?
The increasing cases of rape and defiling of little children in Ekiti require urgent attention. The amendment being sought may include imprisonment and medical castration of offenders, among others not stipulated in the existing law – Erelu Bisi Fayemi, First Lady, Ekiti State.
he human mind works in a mysterious way that confirms that man is more than the Matter that Marxists say it is. Man, truly, has a spiritual essence. A Marxist lecturer, a professor, was driving up North and, out of nowhere, thoughts of a secondary school classmate of his flashed through his mind. Since they left school decades ago, he had had no contact with or had cause to think of this classmate. He quickly perished the thought and continued on his trip. Not long afterwards, his car developed a fault and all efforts by the ubiquitous “road-side mechanics” to kick it back to life failed. He was advised to tow the vehicle to a nearby city where he was assured a mechanic workshop there would fix the problem. Getting there, he filled the job card and was ushered into the Manager’s Officer. Lo and behold, seated right behind the desk was his classmate whose thought had run through his mind a while ago! Was he stunned? Why the thought of this guy a while ago? Happenstance or was that God at work?
Days ago, Peter Abelard’s name suddenly crossed my mind and I immediately began to ruminate on some of his thoughts that I had read decades ago at Ife. I could never have thought that Erelu Bisi Fayemi, wife of the governor of Ekiti State, was going to make the quotes cited above a week after. Thanks for Google; I had no difficulty refreshing my mind on Abelard (1079 – 1142), French, born the eldest son of lesser nobility in La Pallet in Brittany. At one and same time a logician, ethicist, philosopher, and theologian; he was a leading thinker of the middle ages. He has been described as the pre-eminent philosopher of the 12th Century and, perhaps, the greatest logician of the middle ages. He was equally famous as a poet and composer and was ranked one of the most pre-eminent theologians of his day. In all areas, Abelard was brilliant, innovative and controversial. He was described as a genius. He knew it and made no apologies. His vast knowledge, wit, charm and even arrogance drew a generation of Europe’s fine minds in Paris to learn from him.
Philosophically, Abelard is best known as the father of nominalism. For contemporary philosophers, nominalism is most closely associated with the problem of universals but is actually a much broader metaphysical system. Abelard formulated what is now recognised as a central nominalist tenet: Only particulars exist. It is from Abelard’s claim that only words (nomen) are universal that nominalism gets its name. His pride or arrogance triggered a lot of jealousy in others and caused him so much grief and troubles but, perhaps, the greatest disaster of his life was self-inflicted: His love affairs with Heloise. About 1116, Abelard began an affair with Heloise, his student and niece of Fulbert, the canon of Notre Dame. She was to become one of the great minds of the 12th Century in her own right and theirs was the great tragic love story of the middle ages. They fell in love, had a child, secretly married, and exchanged a series of letters that have become the stuff of legends. Unfortunately, they kept their marriage a secret from Fulbert, Heloise’s uncle, who thereafter exercised the traditional right of aggrieved families in such cases and had Abelard castrated. Yes, Abelard got castrated!
The aggrieved parent of a child who was defiled recently demanded the castration of the vile predator. Readers of this column would also have read about my niece whose four-year-old daughter was defiled by the driver of the school bus conveying the toddler to school in Osogbo, Osun State. I would need Erelu Bisi to tell the quote above to Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State. Erelu Bisi should also please enlist her Osun State counterpart into the war against paedophiles and vile sex predators running rampant all over the country – and not only in Ekiti.
Back to Abelard! His foibles, hubris and academic excellence apart, I also far back then took interest in the polemics that set the thoughts of Abelard apart from those of, say, Anselm of Canterbury, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas of Aquinas. Not one given to unquestioning submission, Abelard posited that he asked questions so he could believe: “The key to wisdom”, he said, “is constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth…The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth… It is by doubting that we come to investigate, and by investigating that we recognize the truth” Abelard’s “Sic” and “Non” (“Yes” and “No”), a collection of 158 controversial theological questions and compiled writings from authorities, some for “Yes” and some for “No”, posits that readers should be able to dissolve the apparent conflict between authorities and come to understand the answers to the questions posed through rational discussion.
No doubt, Abelard preceded Martin Luther whose 95 theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences pasted on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Saxony and addressed to the Archbishop of Mainz, dated 31st October, 1517, sparked off the Reformation that effectively liberated Christendom. The freedoms, liberties, and fundamental rights that we enjoy today had their roots in ages and personalities past.
Regrettably, these rights are viciously on assault these days by sex predators. Rape is on the increase. Paedophiles are on rage. The impunity of these vicious elements is fuelled by the complicity of the law and duplicity of those in authority. Miffed, Erelu Bisi has advocated more stringent penalties, including castration of the beasts in human skins. I agree no less! Your head is on your neck, Ma’am! Castration as suggested by Erelu Bisi is not new or strangely out of place as Abelard’s example above shows. In the olden days, our palaces in the South-West had a retinue of the castrated called eunuchs, who kept the harem of the Obas. They were castrated so they would not “eat” Kabiyesi’s “yams” kept in their custody. Still, there is the saying that you cannot but find bastards in a big palace! I wouldn’t know whether the practice of eunuchs is still in place in our palaces today.
Society has been viciously assaulted by cases of sex-for-marks in our institutions of higher learning and the stalking of innocent students by predator-lecturers. At one end of the pole are randy and shameless lecturers who, like Abelard, would not mind sleeping with their students, negating the adage that elephants do not eat the grass under their frame. At the other end of the stick, sadly, are indolent, lazy, and indulgent students grovelling for marks and enticing debased lecturers not worthy of their academic gown. Both were there in our days on campus decades ago but operated in hushed voices. Today, however, they do their thing with impunity. When you add this moral laxity to the other paucities that whack the Ivory Tower, we shall have only appearance and no substance left in due course. While it is alright to punish randy lecturers, we will be making a grievous mistake if we allow their consenting liaisons to go scot-free. Except both are brought to book, the scourge will not be extirpated.
On January 15, 2019, the four-year old daughter of my niece was defiled by the driver of the school bus driving her from school. It was her second day in that school and the school – Charleston Group of Schools, Kelebe, Osogbo. My niece had just relocated from Ibadan back to Osogbo and the wife of the proprietor, one Mrs. Eniola Badmus Adeyemi, had been her acquaintance. The accused is one Oyelakin Oluwatomisin. He was arrested and sent to Ilesa prisons. The case, however, has (deliberately?) suffered diligent prosecution, with adjournments ad nauseam. Promises to move the case to the High Court have not been fulfilled. The magistrate had since granted the accused bail and he comes to court with his gang harassing, threatening, intimidating, insulting, taunting, tormenting and traumatising my hapless niece. Surely, it is not “Ileri Oluwa” that vile paedophiles be allowed to roam the streets of Osogbo free. The case comes up again on Monday, 21st October and the victims would wish public-spirited citizens and advocacy groups come to their aid by mounting pressure on the powers-that-be. No matter how highly politically-wired the accused and his godfathers are, justice will be served, God willing!
NFF should look inward to get young players for the Super Eagles rather than scouting for ready-made players from England. NFF wanted to reap where they did not sow! – Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia.
2020: Budget of consolidated suffering
By 2020, Nigeria was projected some 11 years ago to become one of the 20 largest global economies in the world. When the projection was made in 2009 during the tenure of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, Nigeria was ranked number 30th largest economy in terms of its GDP size. Nigeria, which has been in the wilderness of darkness could only boast of 3,500 megawatts at that time. Till date, despite huge investments in the power sector, we are still oscillating between 4,000 and 6,000 megawatts depending on who is presenting the data. Government apologists are quick to remind us that power generation has increased remarkably in the last two years but the same government has budgeted N9 billion for generators purchase and maintenance in several government agencies. While the Yar’Adua government set up the National Council on Vision 2020 to ensure that the expectations and objectives are followed through, there seems to be less work done to actually realise the gains of this noble agenda.
The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) was put in place as a launch pad for the actualisation of some of the key targets of this vision. Succeeding governments have come up with one idea or the other to drive the initiative. The energy sector which is key to jump-starting a productive economy has remained in its low ebb, with accusing fingers pointing in the direction of funds misappropriation, regime after regime. Within the last five years, unemployment figures have grown in a geometric proportion while job losses have become the icing on the cake. Whilst the Buhari-led Federal Government declares its avowed commitment to fighting corruption and making a lot of recoveries, the irony is that Nigeria and Nigerians are growing poorer and poorer by the day. Government has continued to complain of declining revenue, even when Professor Itsay Sagay says over N1 trillion was recovered within the last one year as an eloquent testimony to the anti-corruption crusade of the current government. Why the monies recovered are not apparently adding up to the figures remain a subject of curiosity.
Amid a plethora of issues begging for governmental intervention, government spokespersons are insisting that borrowing is the way to go since there is shortfall in national revenue to execute a considerable percentage of its annual budget. By 2020, when it would be 11 solid years since the official endorsement of the Vision 2020, on 1st October, 2009, Nigeria will still be encumbered by series of developmental challenges that have refused to go away. Presently, there is a huge gap in infrastructural development across the country. The roads are in bad shape, rendering mobility and commerce difficult to flourish. The education sector is suffering kwashiorkor as a result of poor funding in the area of infrastructure, learning and research. A paltry N48 billion budget in the 2020 budget year is a far cry from UNESCO benchmark. Given the huge challenges in the education sector, with incessant strike action by trade unions and its affiliate bodies, the education sector is presently traumatised. Added to this is the gloomy economy that has not shown any sign of recovery despite cooked up figures to whet the appetite of those in government as though we are making progress.
As if that is not debilitating enough, the unwholesome activities of kidnappers, armed bandits, armed robbery and other crimes, have had untoward impact on the wellbeing of the populace. The environment of insecurity that has become a perennial slur on the economic landscape has affected investment in remarkable measures. Rather than make a realistic budget estimates that would make us to cut our clothes according to our size, government is making budgetary projection that is almost dead on arrival. The projection of 2.180 mbpd on the oil front is undoubtedly ambitious, especially at a time when OPEC oil quota is hovering around 1.8 to 1.77mbpd. As if that was not enough, the oil price benchmark of $57 dollar per barrel is also uncertain. Rather than generate estimates that would seem positive on the outlook, government ought to set benchmark that would appear plausible and almost predictable. That Iran and the United States are presently in a muscle-flexing altercation which has raised oil price to $60 or $61 per barrel is not enough to sing hallelujah song. In a sector where Nigeria’s influence is not water-tight, over-shooting OPEC quota in budgetary estimation is a joke taken too far.
The minimum wage challenge on the home-front is another pain in the neck of government. The Buhari presidency played politics with workers by agreeing on a N30,000 minimum wage before the elections, ostensibly to shore up support and votes from workers across the country. Rather than implement, governors have been complaining of lack of funds to hit the ground running. Labour is spoiling for strike action to pressurise government to honour its own side of the bargain. There are states that are still owing several months of salaries, some pay negotiated percentage, while others appear helpless in their effort to generate increased internally generated revenue (IGR). With Federal Government’s decision to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT), which will mean more money for the states at the expense of the people, the mere fact that it is an item in the 2020 budget raises more posers to analysts. The VAT law has to be tinkered with if this increment is to take effect, but the constraint according to some analysts is that it is like taxing an already impoverished citizens. It is another way to consolidate their sufferings. When government ought to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive, it is making effort to take from the already down and out Nigerians, whose means of livelihood is tellingly affected by por economic realities.
When the Buhari presidency came up with the Social Investment Programmes in 2016 in response to finding quick-fix solution to poverty, suffering and deprivation, and lifting the poorly poor away from poverty, it budgeted N500 billion into the scheme. The following year, the budget remained at N500 billion and it dropped to N350 billion in the succeeding year. In the 2020 budget, it is now pegged at N38 billion, a far cry from its earlier 2016 budget. That means, those Nigerians who have been captured in government’s N5,000 monthly stipend will surely suffer in 2020. It will also mean that the school feeding programme which the government touted to be one of its legacy projects will also suffer. And those who have been captured in that supply chain will also be out of circulation. It is yet to be seen how this budget that proposes 20% capital expenditure, with N2.45 trillion debt servicing can actually launch the country on the path to economic recovery. While government apologists are raking up figures to justify the viability of the 2020 budget, it is left to be seen what investment N100 billion can attract in the defence and security portfolios, under a regime of insurgency and armed banditry. A deficit figure of N2.8 trillion is a clear indication of economic disaster, waiting to happen.
I had thought that with the announcement of the members of the Economic Advisory Council, that the President would create the opportunity for a robust synergy with the Budget and Planning Ministry in critically analysing the budget and taking informed position on it before it was hurriedly presented. This is a time that we need some level of uncommon approach to budgeting to get the figures right as well as the projections than the rush to impress the public on quick submission of budget. The ministers that were recently sworn in, needed time to study the books, make informed contributions before setting out to churn out a budget that could provide the right therapy for the economic ailments that confront us. Aside from the unrealistic nature of the budget, the complaint about lack of resources to fund the budget is another kettle of fish altogether.
Only on 1st October, 2019, the president told an already befuddled nation of N600 billion capital release to carry out capital projects. This is happening at the last quarter of the year. What baffles some observers is not the pronouncement, but that whether the government will be able to reflate the economy with such promised fund. That promised N600 billion represents 22% of the budgeted estimate in the 2019 budget, an indication that the 2020 budget may follow similar pattern of poor funding.
In an era when Nigerians are already groaning under the negative spell of poor budgetary implementation, with over 100 million amongst the world’s poorest, an unrealistic budget will be addition burden on the citizens. Government ought to cut down on its excesses and overheads. There is no justifiable reason why for example, the president will approve six Special Assistants and Special Advisers to an office that is not known to law; office of the First Lady. Government can also cut down on some items like president’s haircut, domestic travels, foreign travels, purchase and maintenance of generators and entertainment in the Villa. A dire situation that we find ourselves requires a serious austerity approach to cut down on wastes. This is the way to go in order to bail out Nigerians from their present economic predicament.
2020 budget proposals
n Tuesday October 8, 2019 President Muhammadu Buhari presented to a joint session of the National Assembly (NASS) the details of the 2020 Budget which is named; ‘Budget of Sustaining Growth and Job Creation.’ The first thing that struck someone is to ask what level of growth we are sustaining. At a projected growth of 2.9 per cent which is still below our purported population growth of about 3 per cent we are still a long way from the desired level of growth which ideally should be in the range of 6 to 9 per cent if commensurate impact is to be made on the prevalent levels of unemployment with the need for rapid poverty alleviation. The aggregate expenditure for the 2020 Budget is now N10.33 trillion at some point in time this total expenditure was almost a moving target.
There are immediately two remarkable takeaways from the budget presentation. One was the good spirit, the banter and camaraderie atmosphere that hallmarked the budget presentation contrary to the rancour, recrimination and bad spirit that was the case last year. In fact one must also quickly add the heckling, shouting, name calling and general demeaning behaviour. The other remarkable development surrounding the presentation of the budget was the timing of the presentation. For the first time in a long while we witnessed budget presentation not in December or early January but actually in October! You would have to pinch yourself to confirm that you are not living in dream land.
The President had repeatedly assured all that cared to listen that he would harmonize the budget year with the calendar year. And he is now all set to deliver on this promise and he pulls this off and we are able to sustain it, we must then put this down as one of the legacies which this President had bequeathed to this country. What happened in the past was very shameful and rather unbecoming for a country the calibre of Nigeria; the reputed largest economy in Africa. In reality there was no ascertainable budget year as budget implementation commenced whenever the budget was approved which in reality was often in the second half of the year which situation not only projected us as unserious but made particularly capital budget implementation a nightmare and largely accounted for the lack of commensurate growth of the economy. Little wonder unemployment became a veritable growth sector with the consequent rise in social crimes.
We are now poised to realise the January to December budget year as all stakeholders have demonstrated their resolve for this to happen leveraging on the existing cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature. The NASS has closed plenary sessions to now work in relevant committees to interact with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for speedily presentation and approval of their respective budgets and so bye to the previous, often heard name calling and posturing with the Legislature claiming that their work was being delayed because government agencies have refused to attend to defend their budgets.
But we have been on record with the recommendation that we could dispense with this unnecessary aspect of the budget approval process. It is a duplication and an abuse of due process for accepted best practice in reporting. Those agencies do not report to the NASS and have prior made their submissions to the Executive which approved them after due defense before inclusion in packaging of the national budget. And the experience has been that this is the window which is seized to arm twist the agencies to make provisions for third parties in their budget. So we invite the President to use his good offices and leverage on the existing cordial relationship to expunge this stage in the budget approval process going forward.
A growth rate of 2.9 per cent has been assumed. Whether this is attainable is in the womb of the future. A growth rate of 2.02% has been reported as recorded in the first half of 2019. With early passage of the budget so implementation could commence early and with the aggressive revenue drive now mounted, there is good expectation that an improvement in growth rate is well on the cards. What remains certain is that we must devise a means to record far higher growth rates close to a range of 6 to 9 per cent if the economy is going to get out of the woods, jobs created and poverty alleviated in not distant future. And this goal is not farfetched with consistent disciplined and focused implementation of the policies and programmes in the budgets. There will also be the need to plug all leakages to minimize misappropriations. The instruction in the budget that all workers must be registered on integrated payroll and personal information is therefore a move in the desired direction.
The assumptions in the budget appear mostly realistic. An oil benchmark of $57 per barrel has been used with a daily production level of 2.18 million barrels per day (mbpd). Oil price we have been informed averaged $67 last year with a daily production level of 1.86 million as at end June 2019. Therefor for this benchmark it is certain that we have erred on the side of caution. It must be recalled that the Executive submission was at $55 dpb and it was the Legislature that hiked the price up to the existing $57 with comments being now made to the effect that this price should be further increased during the review; the legislature should take over the budget from the executive as the allocation to capital expenditure is not adequate to facilitate the level of growth required to jumpstart the economy for the much awaited growth in job opportunities. We caution against such sentiments as it could contaminate the good relationship we have so far celebrated. The responsibility for budget preparation remains exclusively that of the Executive. The foreign exchange rate of N305 to the dollar assumed in the budget is cautionary as this is the base exchange rate and therefore exchange rate above this rate would be a bonus as it generates greater dollar inflows. But with the newly inaugurated Economic Advisory Council, this rate might not survive for too long.
The challenge on the expenditure side of the budget is real. With recurrent expenditure of about 70 per cent of total expenditure, there is not much scope to rapidly grow the economy. It is unfortunate that the relative balance between capital and revenue expenditure with all the gains made to redress these relative rates in favour of capital expenditure in the recent past would now seem to have been lost. The creation of five new ministries; power, aviation, special duties and international affair, police affairs, and humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development definitely has compounded the situation. Also the provision for the new minimum wage and enhancement of the salaries and wages of the Police and armed forces have also added to the problem. The capital budget at N2.14 trillion against a debt service provision of N2.45 trillion higher than the capital budget illustrates the extent of fiscal sustainability dilemma confronting the country. It has also been estimated that above 60% of revenue inflow is now used to service debts and therefore the challenge of growing revenue could not have been more pressing and urgent. It is in this context that the proposed increase in VAT rate must be accommodated by all even if we must note that VAT rates in Nigeria are the lowest when compared with rates elsewhere in the world.
Sectorial capital allocations have presented some challenges. An allocation to education of N48 billion even if there is the consideration of an additional allocation of N112 billion to Universal Basic Education would seem to be inadequate considering the importance of education for the future prosperity of the country. The economy of the future is the one that leverages on automation, robotics and artificial intelligence and no longer on the extractive sector. Also an allocation to the health sector of N46 billion offends all protocols which the country has subscribed to in this respect as it represents a far lower percentage allocation. But we must observe that in these matters there are no quick fixes. We must for now be content with achieving a measure of progress with the implementation of the budget to build on that as we make gradual progress while we offer supplications for the possibility of the realization of the harmonization of the budget and calendar year now staring us on the face.
λDr. Chizea, an economist, writes from Lagos.
Prolonged ‘single and searching’ (2)
Making the right choice of a life partner is the foundation of a successful marital life every adult desires to live. Last week, I listed three major factors that are considered to be responsible for the stagnated relationship status of many mature single women. They are: high-mindedness, desperation for instant marriage proposal, and lack of vision to know their ordained roles as life partners to their would-be husbands. I treated high-mindedness leaving the remaining two for this week.
Glossing over basic relationship issues often lead to confusion and inertia at some crucial moments in one’s life. Therefore, making a good and lasting choice depends largely on the G-factor (God-factor) as no human approach can guarantee absolute success. I always advise that the best time to pray is before searching for partners.
In the scriptures, Abraham’s servant prayed as he set out in search of a life partner for his master’s son, Isaac. His prayer point was that God should lead his way or direct his footsteps to the right woman that would meet his expectations and prescribed qualities. G-factor played out and his prayer was answered in perfect accuracy. Likewise, everyone in need of a life partner should pray ahead for God’s leading. The connection could occur through social meetings, online platforms, matchmaking or personal contact.
Back to the narrative, the craze for instant marriage proposal is a circumstance that several mature single women have created for themselves. Starting a relationship from friendship has become inconsequential to them. They allude to their age as the reason while claiming there’s no time to waste on friendship, whereas their hurried stance is another unsuspecting route to a prolonged single and searching status.
Befriending a man would afford the woman the privilege of knowing him better. Refusal to allow friendship before going into marriage is a catalyst for eventual failure. Men, like some women do, could pretend in order to win over a woman especially those who are desperate for the wedding rings only to dump the women after satisfying their urges. Desperate women do ignore wise counsel to their own hurt. They are blinded to glaring deception and fantasy. They feel ‘wiser’ than everybody else by disregarding opinions that seem not in sync with theirs.
The idea of “marriage or nothing” often prolong their journey to nowhere. It makes them vulnerable to all manner of manipulations from men. Sometimes they throw caution into the winds by becoming cheaply available to undeserving men who pretend to be husbands-in-waiting. They fall in lust with men that simply lash on their desperation through the Greek offer of marriage proposal which is actually a fluke. There’s no better alternative to going through friendship regardless of your age and how you are connected. It is not every short-cut that leads to the right way.
I want to believe that women’s lack of vision to know who they truly are and their ordained roles as life partners to their would-be husbands also account for making the wrong choices. I’m aware of the role and duties God assigned to the man in a marriage. I’m also in the know of what God says concerning the woman as a blessing and helper to her man but putting on the toga of a beggarly or needy helper to her husband has done more discredit to her.
Interestingly, God created some women to rule and dominate. They are leaders, pillars of support to their family members, they feed, provide and care for their people starting from their immediate environment. Such women are often referred to as Proverb 31 kind of women. Such calibre of women are in political, business, social or religious spotlights. They excel greatly as captain of industries, eminent scholars, experts in rare fields and professional consultants to global brands or international organisations.
This class of women earn big. They are accomplished and hugely successful in their careers. In all of this, they are still wifely to the core. They are the pride of their men and families. They exude enviable image of spousal grandeur to the admiration of everyone in the society. Although the man is obliged to provide for the needs of his household being the head of his wife, leader of his home, the defender and protector of everyone under his custody, yet, he needs his wife to ‘help’ him actualise his God-given roles and duties. There’s a huge difference between a woman who is a breadwinner and a woman who is helping or supporting her man when things are rough. They are not the same thing and I think it is the woman in the latter category that are often being misrepresented by some folks.
There are people who had wanted to achieve some goals or some levels of comfort for themselves before they get married but their efforts were not so fruitful; but shortly after they got married, things began to look brighter and easier for them. In a matter of months or a few years, they have surpassed their envisaged projections. That’s part of the double portion blessing attainable in a compatible and settled home.
With the look of things, today’s mature single women don’t seem to be patient enough in their quest for companions or life partners that they will build life together. It is either the man is “already made” to qualify him for a “deal” or “no deal” at all if he’s not there yet. I wish that many of them could face the reality and admit the need for a review of their perception and approach to relationship in their quest for new marital fulfilment. I wish them well.
Re: Prolonged ‘Single and Searching’
Your article: “Prolonged ‘Single and Searching’” is just another masterpiece. This is an eye-opener to them (women) if only they will hear. I pray one day I will have the opportunity to meet with you and narrate in details the ordeals I suffered in the hands of these women. (Na long tory no be matter for phone or message.) More power to your elbow Michael West. Thank you sir and well done. – Charles, Satellite Town, Lagos.
These men, many are uneducated. They never bothered to go to school. Their spoken and written English is beyond apology. How do you want a woman to marry such? You know you have to live with such a fellow and present him as a husband. Another category of men are those who refuse to work. I use the word “refuse” because there’s a job for everyone. Men do menial jobs abroad but feel too big here to do whatever job that would empower him to put food on the table. Many ladies are the breadwinners in the name of answering “Mrs.” – Liz, Lagos.
Cameron, Jonathan and Chibok girls
“The most serious failure of leadership is the failure to foresee” – Robert k. Greenleaf
Charleston Parker, the author of the book, ‘One Soul Many Faces’, admonished us to ‘quit believing in lies and to always search for the truth’. That is exactly what I urge us all to do as we chew what two former leaders, former Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron and former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan are presenting to us as part of their testimonial in leadership.
One interesting thing about leadership is that what you failed to do would continue to hurt you especially if it’s something you had the power and influence to do but didn’t. In Nigeria today all those who directly or indirectly failed to act for the rescue of Chibok girls from their abductors will have their conscience to contend with the rest of their lives.
Since last week two former World leaders have been on each other’s neck for actions they failed woefully to take when they were in power. Cameron and Jonathan have been taking on themselves over their criminal inactions over the rescue of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted from their school by Boko Haram terrorists’ sect in April 2014. As the two former leaders struggle with their ethics over their roles in one of the known global shame and international conspiracy of silence, they have each been stating their case in the public domain seeking to buy sympathy which they really don’t deserve.
Strikingly, the two former leaders have a lot in common. The duo lost power because of their constricted understanding of the politics of their various countries. The pair failed in their governance to take utmost advantage of their incumbency when it mattered most. The British Prime Minister soon after winning election lost his mandate for failing to gauge properly the mood of his country over their interests in the European Union. He could not read the disposition of Britons correctly and took for granted that since they just voted him into office his own interest was going to sway their thinking. It did not happen like that and he lost his position as majority of his nationals voted to exit the European Union against his own interest of staying. The Brexit group worked harder and had their way in the end. The Prime Minister was evidently forlorn as he misread his people and overrated his own influence. His Nigerian counterpart Jonathan even after six years in office as President and having acquired enough experience at the corridor of power, from deputy governor to governor, to Vice President and then President still remained provisional, timid and one who was evidently intimidated enough to lose his mandate cheaply.
As the two leaders state their positions publicly concerning the agonizing Chibok girls’ issue, one thing is clear; they are all thrifty with the truth.
President Jonathan remains liable for his poor, sluggish and regrettable response to the Chibok girl’s issue. This certainly will continue to hurt him the rest of his life. For Cameron he knows that he is not sincere in his book. What he failed or refused to say in the book is that he and his friend President Barrack Obama of the United States were engrossed in their ungodly desire to push gay to the rest of the World and forgot to do Godly things. Many anti-gay crusaders believe providentially that both Hilary Clinton and Cameron lost their ambition because of their inordinate drive on gay.
The former Prime Minister concealed the fact in his book that what was determining how they related with any nation particularly in Africa was on how receptive they were to the gay project. The refusal of President Jonathan to buy into it meant he was not going to enjoy any harmonious relationship with America, United Kingdom and their allies. Everything then was made to frustrate the administration including refusing to sell weapons to fight the insurgence.
If there was no other motive, nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted by international criminals and United Kingdom looked away because the President of the country did not cooperate. As strategic as United Kingdom is to Nigeria and the Commonwealth nations can the former Prime Minister say that looking away from saving lives was the best option for a leader of his status?
The truth remains that if Cameron and Obama had used the same zeal and energy with which they tried to push their gay project to the rest of the World in containing insurgency in Nigeria, even Boko Haram would not have grown wings as they turned out. If really Jonathan wrote Cameron and Obama concerning Boko Haram why didn’t he acknowledge it in his book?
It’s this type of half-truths as contained in the Cameron’s book that led to the vexatious allegation even from some Muslim leaders in Nigeria that President Jonathan engineered the coming of Boko Haram as a strategy to multiply confusion in the polity to enable him remain in office.
When Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry came to Nigeria and embarked on a divisive mission of meeting with governors of only Muslim dominant states in Sokoto and arranged similar meeting few days later in Washington, it was all intended to undermine Jonathan for his obstinate stand on gay matter. Just like Cameron, Obama’s memoir is going to contain a lot of fallacies concerning Africa where his unconscionable gay drive beclouded his vision of the continent notwithstanding that he is of African origin.
There has been too much had I known in this Chibok girls’ issue which began like a hoax in the morning of April 15, 2014. Everybody including security agencies that were trained never to take any issue for granted failed the girls. Their political leaders especially the then Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima also failed the girls disregarding the counsel of the then Minister of State for Education now Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike who advisedly directed the relocation of the school as examination centre based on intelligence report.
As the World continued dillydallying five years after, 112 of these girls are still missing and those who should have made the difference by doing what they were supposed to do but failed are busy struggling to extricate themselves of the muddle, this is an unfortunate fallout.
The administration that won election riding on the back of being the one to crush Boko Haram and release the girls has themselves worsened the situation by their insincere approach and apparent incapacity to copy with the matter. The situation of these girls certainly will distress Cameron and Jonathan a lot especially as insurgence under the watch of successive regime has grown from terrorism to hyper kidnapping and banditry.
Killings and bloodletting under President Muhammadu Buhari has become unprecedented only comparable to the 30-month-old civil war in the country from 1967 to 1970.
What international observers desire to see in any memoir of Cameron, Jonathan and Obama concerning Chibok girls is remorse and acceptance of failure in providing the needful leadership at the time. Cameron’s book therefore fell below par in intellectual corridor. No book hoping to enjoy a place among eggheads should be frugal with the facts of the matter under discussion. Cameron would have made more sense if he had recorded the Chibok issue as one of the draw backs of his era instead of looking for escape route in then President Jonathan’s own weakness for which he has been punished politically. In rounding off this discourse therefore I find Bill Gates’ counsel very handy that “it’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
Abraham, Tomori: Reaping where we did not sow?
huge tragedy befell Nigerian soccer lovers last week when Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, two promising Chelsea footballers, pledged their allegiance to England instead of Nigeria. It did not come as a surprise, though, because the youngsters had hesitated to accept offers to play for Nigeria and had patiently waited to see if England would come for them. With their present form for Chelsea, they had been hopeful that would be the case. Now they have been called up to the Three Lions’ senior team, they have happily obliged, ditching the Super Eagles in the process. Our only claim to the boys is that their parent(s) were Nigerians; nothing more! England, on the other hand, has a robust claim, the boys having been born/lived virtually their life abroad as well as having played for England at youth levels. They had also been products of the youth academy of foreign lands, something that is absent here, despite that we have heard of the importance of youth academies to the growth of football worldwide and despite that we, too, have parroted the need to toe a similarly line. As is characteristic of us not only in sports but also in other spheres of life, we seldom walk the talk.
Now we are left to whine and bellyache after suffering a disappointment only the most optimistic had failed to see coming our way. Now we comfort ourselves with such statements as “No one is greater than Nigeria”; “We cannot beg anyone to play for Nigeria”; “Nigeria has better players…” Sentiments! And I laugh! Had the boys pledged their loyalty to Nigeria, we would have been grinning from ear to ear. Had that happened, I would not have been surprised if any of Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu had issued a press statement congratulating the boys and soccer-loving Nigerians and claiming it as one of the “achievements” of APC/Buhari! Let’s stop bad-mouthing the boys; instead, we should wish them well in the choice they have made – and learn useful lessons to stem the tide of our sportspeople ditching us for other lands. It has happened again and again.
Remember sprinter Obikwelu? He ditched us for Spain and won an Olympic silver medal competing for his adopted country. The list is endless. Every now and then the media throws up new names of Nigerians switching nationality in sports. Why? Better facilities elsewhere to enhance their development. So, athletes that would have struggled here suddenly take advantage of such world-class facilities to horn their talents and skills and become world beaters. Better incentives from their adopted countries, unlike here where they beg and beg to no avail for peanuts to enhance mediocre preparations for events. Better technical know-how and expertise from coaching staff, which makes a world of difference as technology has taken over from raw talents in today’s world of sports. Better professionalism and commitment to duty by coaching staff, unlike here where everything is always reduced to politics and sentiments. Better commitment to training schedule unlike here where fire-brigade approach is the order of the day.
So, it is not that athletes elsewhere are better than ours but for the advantages stated above, which they enjoy abroad but which their counterparts who pledge their future to Nigeria lack. It is instructive that most of the athletes doing this country proud at the moment are foreign-based, be they footballers or athletes. Gone were the days when we produced world-class home-based sportsmen and women. Now, we struggle over those made ready by foreign systems. We failed to meet even our own expectations at the just-concluded World Athletics meet at Doha for reasons itemised above. Administrative lapses and incompetence; and disunity among the rank-and-file also reared their ugly heads at Doha, reducing the fabled giant of Africa to a minnow while Kenya, as always, made the continent proud, coming second behind almighty USA.
Abraham and Tomori are just two out of millions of young Nigerians who, any day, will choose other countries ahead of Nigeria. Even adults are voting with their feet every day in search of greener pastures! According to latest statistics, three million Nigerians were added to the circle of the desperately poor within the last six months, further cementing our pole position as the poverty capital of the world. So, it is unimaginable to expect that those who stand at an advantage, being citizens of “better” countries, so to say, would choose Nigeria over and above such countries. Let’s work to make our own country a good place and not a shithole, as President Donald Trump has described it. A lot of happenings in the country, especially Executive lawlessness and blood-letting run riot, give us bad image. Our leaders do not inspire confidence. And we often want to reap where we had not sown. Rather than run after ready-made stars, let us take interest in these boys – and girls – while they are still fledgling. Be a part of their success story and not just an opportunist. Rather than cry over spilled milk, there are many more Abraham and Tomori out there waiting for our proactive action.
Apart from the fact that we didn’t sow into the lads, how can we expect them to go against their gaffe, Frank Lampard, who, himself, had been skipper of the English team? Naturally, Lampard would want the lads to play for England and strengthen the team. It also makes his Chelsea management duties easier for him. Many a times, footballers go to represent their country and come back injured and the burden becomes that of their foreign team and its management. Our athletes have complained ad nauseam of being left to the elements when they most expected the country and our sports administrators to rally round them. It would have been suicidal for the boys to go against the “advice” of their gaffe. For one, after God, the coach had been instrumental to their meteoric rise in the pecking order at Chelsea and from what we have seen about players in the big leagues, coaches make or mar. They make or ruin the career of players. Many a good player had gone against the coach’s advice only to find themselves shoved aside – and that had been it!
So, head or tail, it made sense for the lads to listen to their coach. It makes sense for them to pick English over Nigeria. For the sake of their career at club and country level, I dare to say that they have made the right choice – at least, as far as human wisdom can carry us. The other side of the coin, however, is that more often than not, such players usually are not more than fringe players for their adopted countries. Conversely, those who choose their home country may have more playing time, especially in a Nigerian team that relies on big names and foreign talents than a foreign team where racism and knack for form are still potent factors. Mitchel Obi was almost a tourist at the last African Cup of Nations! Even if England drops our lads after just one game, it has effectively denied us their use forever! Weakening a likely opposition is also part of the game!
Two more points must, however, be made. One: That the boys could make more money playing for England than playing for Nigeria. Who can easily discountenance the primacy of money in human affairs! Two: Team mates sabotaging the best efforts of high-riding colleagues in the Nigerian team had been rife in the past. Hear one of such foreign stars: “It was most unfortunate because I noticed that most of the players, when they asked me to go to the right, I will go there but the ball will go to the left and if they asked me to go to the left, the ball will go to the right.” Which true professional will hear this and still want to play in such a national team? Wasn’t that how Rashidi Yekini was reportedly made a pariah by his team mates after he was said to have “selfishly” celebrated his – and Nigeria’s – first World Cup goal at USA ’94? More professionalism in our sports will encourage more of our foreign talents to vote Nigeria.
RE: Nigeria at 59: I am so sorry!
Good piece! Thank you! – Pastor Victor Okechukwu Esobe.
It is a betrayal of our collective sensibility. Come to think of it, how can we come out of this cul-de-sac? Can this man-child ever walk? Who did this to us – the British! – Uba Igwe, Badagry.
Don’t be sorry! Play your role by promoting and mentoring youths on their political, constitutional and fundamental human rights, as well as campaigning for INEC to conduct local government elections to bring governance closer to the grassroots. Followers also have roles to play. – Feyiseyan Akeeb Kareem; Ogwashi-Ukwu.
Minimum wage, maximum trouble
I woke up yesterday morning to run through the enormous space of the social media to catch a glimpse of what was trending. There were so many issues that caught my attention, but the particular piece written by Kunle Oyatomi from the State of Osun, entitled “Acknowledging what’s good, won’t diminish us” caught my fancy in the most bizarre manner. He had wondered aloud why civil servants in Osun State did not show animated appreciation for the “unexpected” salary that was paid on Friday, the 4th October, 2019 especially as many of them would have to pay school fees for their children.
Lamenting the deafening silence that pervaded the atmospheric polymer of Osun State, without any animated response, Oyatomi had observed that such behaviour was unbefitting of Osun people. I read over and over again to ascertain if indeed this piece of insult emanated from a seasoned journalist of Oyatomi’s configuration, but because I saw the piece in an online platform, I sort of believed it is authentic. I am still at sea in trying to rationalise why Oyatomi would expect workers in Osun State to celebrate and rejoice in ostentatious animation, the payment of their entitlements by way of salaries on the 4th of another month, when in fact it should be paid on the 25th of the due month.
This is the bane of Nigeria’s present predicament. I can understand Oyatomi’s pains when you juxtapose his present position to what obtained during Rauf Aregbesola’s tenure when workers were owed over two years of their salaries and entitlements. Even with bailout, I doubt if the present taciturn government has been able to liquidate the inherited backlog of salary arrears foisted on the state by his predecessor. In a game of collegiate symphony of guilt, complaints are never heard, it is usually a family affair. Oyatomi captured the scenario very eloquently when he said “it was “unexpected” because, payment of salaries has become a sacrilege in Osun State hence he expected the civil servants to celebrate, in animated fashion, to the “uncommon display of magnanimity” by a government that is manacled by delayed allocation, to have paid the workers’ salaries on the 4th October. That was like a ninth day wonder, a comet kind of, an oasis in the famished desert of work but no pay, that Osun State has notoriously become. In the fullness of that era of abandonment of the workers, former Governor Aregbesola still enjoyed helicopter’s ride each time he needed to visit nearby states of Ondo, Edo and Lagos.
Government business did not stop. He was still able to carry out some capital projects even when the workers became permanent debtors by no ordinary design of their own.
With the ugly scenario in some states that have become notorious debtors to their civil servants, one could understand the rigmarole that has attended the promised minimum wage by the Federal Government. Before the 2019 Presidential election, the talk about increasing the minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000 gained traction, expectedly so for its vote catching theme. Not long, the deals were brokered and sealed. After elections, tongues have started wagging as to the delay in implementation. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are already warming up for another strike. What would be the plight of some states that couldn’t pay N18,000 minimum wage and now being compelled to pay N30,000 new minimum wage? Where will the money come from? If at some point in the history of some states, civil servants were owed 30 months salary arrears under an N18,000 minimum wage regime, what would happen when the new N30,000 applies?
No doubt, we do have problem with salary regime in Nigeria. And our skewed federalism accounts for why so much disconnection exists within the system. Having equal or uniform minimum wage is first and foremost an antithesis to the letters and spirit of federalism. States are not equally yoked, hence states should be able to determine what they are able to pay their workers based on their allocations or resources. This way, it won’t be a huge burden defraying monthly salary payment. They should also be able to decipher the volume of their workforce. How many civil servants do states require to execute their policies and programmes? Often times, the services of consultants are sought after as a stop gap measure to the human capital inefficiency of the average civil servant. Often times, it amounts to waste because the huge expenditure on consultants could be applied judiciously to train and re-train civil servants in specific skills needed to drive governance across the states. Added to this, are the litany of needless commitments that states Chief Executives often undertake. Overheads are sometimes bogus. Security votes are often mind-boggling, yet they are drawn fully, even when they complain of delayed and poor monthly allocation.
Governors can cut down on some of these sub-heads to save money for salary payment and make room for better appreciation of the problems confronting state government and salary matters. The population of civil servants in some states is often too large, thus creating room for redundancy and inertia. When you visit some federal or state ministries, for want of what to do, civil servants engage in petty trading around their offices. In some cases, businesses thrive as though you are within a shopping complex. I am sure the situation in some states will be worse especially in an era when salary has become as scarce as gold or diamond to an average civil servant. States need to look inwards to generate ideas and measures that would increase their internally generated revenue (IGR). By capturing more people into their tax net, the possibility of increasing their IGR will also be high. Rather than wait in a beggarly fashion for the monthly allocation from the Federal Government, states should device ways and means of ensuring a holistic appraisal of opportunities that could up their drive for additional revenue that could cater for specific needs of the state. That way, the insufficient revenue from the monthly allocation will help to augment whatever they receive internally.
It is difficult to actually ascertain what money is adequate and sufficient enough to help drive their developmental initiatives. What should be of primary concern is for states Chief Executives to be prudent in the management and application of scarce resources. Once accountability is not guaranteed in the management of resources, you are likely going to see misplaced priorities. Opportunity cost rather than opportunity lost should be applied to deal with situations where projects are prioritised to bring the best out of every bad situation, to guarantee value for money in government business. “Acknowledging what is good, won’t diminish us” in the words of Kunle Oyatomi, should be to the extent that permanent measures are put in place to sustain a regime of prompt payment of salaries rather than waiting for civil servants to clap for a month’s salary payment when there are legion of arrears yet to be attended to.
Governors must cut down on their overheads and Duty Tour Allowances (DTA). In as much as they expect some level of understanding from the civil servants, they too must be ready to show a high degree of sacrifice by eliminating waste and unnecessary expenses that easily derail budgetary estimates during implementation.
Governors must stop the lamentation by generating ideas and initiatives that could put more money on the table to cater for growing needs of the people. This new minimum wage must commence immediately in the states in such assured manner to guarantee workers solidarity and enhanced welfare. If in an era of hyper-inflationary trend, one expects workers to jubilate and celebrate for paying a month’s salary of the old minimum wage regime, it demands further interrogation why the new standards are not applied across board. It will make more meaning to workers if the governors announce the commencement of the payment of the new salary structure than this present effort of wanting to celebrate old wine in new bottle.
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