Poverty, productivity and the National Assembly

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Nigerian senators are worried about a “looming revolution”. And they’ve identified the cause: the poverty tsunami the country is facing. Last week they spent 90 minutes debating how to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots. They talked about the chicken coming home to roost, the revolt of the downtrodden, the elites under siege and the dictatorship of angry drug-addled beggars. They blame it on, “…long years of neglect of the welfare and future of younger generations and unwillingness by both the government and the elites to plan for the future, or read the signs of upheaval.”

Not a single senator, however, mentioned the disparity between the mammoth salaries and allowances of lawmakers (a tiny elite; 0.002% of Nigeria’s population) and the minimum wage. This is one of the factors that drive extreme inequality in Nigeria.

In Nigeria where political and economic power is intertwined, inequality is worsening. Public office is not only considered a quick route to riches, politicians have become a self-perpetuating and self-serving clique. Capturing political power gives access to economic benefits, and given the high cost of financing a campaign, officeholders are less interested in policymaking that favour the majority. Nigeria’s legislature has become a career path to quick riches. It is plagued by careerism. Political careerists see the legislature as a means to opulence rather than minimum comfort required to serve their country.

Based on some calculations a Nigerian lawmaker earns 10,000 times more than national minimum wage and 200 times more than Nigeria’s GDP per capita. Only highly paid CEOs earn so much.

Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart and one of the highest paid executives in the world earned $23 million in 2017 – over 1,000 times more than the median salary of an average staff at the … Read More...

The tangled web of NASS rules on media access

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 The pithy declaration of Walter Scott is a usually reliable handle for understanding some of the utterly confusing actions of the government. Poet and essayist Scott declared, “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”in the poem Marmion. New rules released by the National Assembly Monday, May 20 represent a complex and tangled web that hides its intendment in highfalutin requirements.

To underscore its deceptive nature, the two principal officers of the National Assembly on behalf of whom they issued it, have denied knowledge of them. Both Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara say they have no hand in drafting them. They saw them in the public space as with other citizens.

Yusuph Olaniyonu, special adviser on media to the Senate President, stated, “It is perhaps a new policy that will be in force from June 11 when the new National Assembly will be inaugurated. In any case, I will still try to advise the relevant people on an issue which I consider as bordering on press freedom and access to information.”

“Show the light, so the people will find the way”, the West African Pilot (1937-1972) declared of its mission. Shining the light remains the mission of journalism everywhere, more so in a democracy. Darkness detests the light, though, and always seeks to block it from shining on the dark motives and actions of officialdom.

The National Assembly released out of the blues new regulations to correspondents and media houses on coverage of the National Assembly. The rules covered individual and organisational qualification, the number of persons to represent each medium, reach of the print and online media but not broadcast organs, and corporate governance issues such as tax clearance for two … Read More...

Businesses and lifestyles of a declining mind and nation

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Let me start by asking you to list just five entertainers you know from China. How about their churches or religious brands? I bet you couldn’t even list three (remember they have over a billion people) but I bet the list would be endless if I asked for the biggest entertainment brands that shut down stadiums during jamborees. The same goes for the biggest cathedrals and churches we see here. If we run a regressive and correlation analysis by mere statistical hypothesis, you’d see that actual growth of a human being or even a nation is inversely proportional to any lifestyle too dependent on entertainment and religion. These two variables seek to transfer or suspend a present pain or unease to someone else without exactly solving it. The truth is that no serious county grows or rides on the back of movies, jokes, music, religious events and merry without tangible value.

In the table of men, entertainment is on the menu after what they actually came for. It’s profitable business beyond reasonable doubt till you do a balance score card assessment with cause and effect on our value system and actual ability to grow and lead a society right. Maybe it can make more money for the champagne brands, concert organizers, radio stations, strip clubs, lounges and liquor stores. Direct labor will always be slim while the rest of the crumb goes to the artist and their entourage, full stop. If there’s structure, it can do more.

I had an interview for fresh graduates this week. There were over 20 of them so we put them all in a group to have a lateral group think with a series of questions. One of the questions was for each person to quickly run us through 5 … Read More...

Nigerian health: Circa 1948

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Idly trawling through the internet, you happen upon a short black and white film-clip about Nigeria on YouTube.

The clip suddenly fills your mind with visions of what the Nigerian health system was like seventy years ago.

The narrator is an English Medical Officer who introduces himself as ‘Faulkner’.

As the film opens, Faulkner informs his viewers that his first introduction to the Nigerian system is in Lagos where he has a meeting with the Director of Medical Services, Dr Samuel Manuwa. The date is shortly after the Second World War.

In the footage, Dr Manuwa is a middle-aged man in long-sleeved shirt and tie. He looks quietly authoritative behind his large desk. He welcomes his visitor and proceeds to instruct him on his assignment. The office of the Director of Medical Services is located in a stately old colonial building somewhere on the Lagos Marina.

Faulkner is reporting for duty with another English doctor, whose name is Langdon.

Dr Manuwa rises from his seat and goes to large map of Nigeria mounted on the wall. He explains to each of the men, pointing at the map, the different locations to which he has posted them.

The Nigeria Medical Service, he explains, is decentralized through Regional Offices to Districts, each of which is supposed to have a District Medical Officer. Dr Langdon is to take over a field unit covering a vast swathe of territory in the north of the country. Faulkner, for his part, is deployed to Calabar as District Medical Officer.

The day after the meeting with Dr Manuwa, the two doctors depart Lagos for their new bases. Dr Langdon sets off by train, from Iddo Station, to travel six hundred miles to the North. His travel is guaranteed to be in a … Read More...

African socialism: The bad dream Nigeria can’t seem to wake up from

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Sometime in September 1984, my dad and his pregnant wife drove to Abeokuta with my older brother in the car, pretending to be on a family getaway. The real purpose of their trip however, was to buy the only brand of baby food that my then 18 month-old brother would eat. Just under a year ago, a certain General Muhammadu Buhari had seized power from Shehu Shagari in a coup, and one of his signature policies was to establish a top-down price control directive that penalized traders and shop owners for selling certain items above the government-directed price.

At the time, it was not uncommon to witness the absurd spectacle of soldiers dressed in full combat gear storming street markets and stores to catch and punish errant shop owners for selling so-called “Essenco” (Essential Commodities) above the prices dictated from Dodan Barracks. Regardless of cost price and the havoc wreaked by a sliding naira, selling prices were to be strictly adhered to on the pain of seizure and destruction of goods, or even prosecution.

Predictably, traders and other business people quickly caught on to the game being played and adapted in typical Nigerian fashion. Soon, shortages of all such goods became the norm as shop owners adopted the methods of drug dealers, surreptitiously letting people know how to get their contraband commodities away from the prying eyes of the military government.

One of such commodities was my brother’s preferred baby food brand, which could no longer be found in Lagos. With the benefit of being among a handful of Nigerians with a telephone at home, my parents were able to find out that the “contraband” baby food could be found in Abeokuta, and so commenced the least cheerful family roadtrip ever according to the story … Read More...