Archive for June, 2013

TRIBUTE TO MY DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER
AbdulAzeez AbdulQuadir U10MM1161

AbdulAzeez AbdulQuadir U10MM1161

Dude, when the news of your demise reach me this morning, I just waved it aside, calling it, “ a huge joke in high place” but when the reality dawned on me, I couldn’t but marvelled on the essence of life?
Why still contemplating if to write this piece, I remembered that it will be too bad of me if I do not honour you. I can’t but remember the good, bad and ugly times we shared, one that even made people to wonder what brought us together and made us become very close pals, despite our difference in faith. I can vividly remember how our journey to friendship began, I remember meeting you then in our 100 level, one morning as we were trying to tidy up Mallam A.B.Umar’s MCOM 108: African Communication System, our first baptising of fire (assignment), and going through your work and telling you my view on the work and you giving me the mandate by handing over your system to me, to effect the necessary changes.
What else should I say? I can’t forget you doing all my assignments for me when I did not resume school for half of our 2nd semester 200level due to health ground. What more should I say, is it how we plan to write professional examination together? Is it your encouraging words about not giving up despite the hard times?
The world is truly a stage where every mortal would pass through, what truly counts at the end of the day is how you live and spend each day as stated in the Holy Bible (Psalm 90:12). Despite your few days on this plane, your achievements and character speaks volume for you, that is why am comforted.
You left behind your family, colleagues and friends, without a moment to say goodbye. You left with your dreams unfulfilled. Today, the world mourns your exit. I pray for the repose of your soul, rest well dear friend and brother. I will miss you….
TRIBUTE TO MY DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER
Dude, when the news of your demise reach me this morning, I just waved it aside, calling it, “  a huge joke in high place”  but when the reality dawned on me, I couldn’t but marvelled on the essence of life?
Why still contemplating if to write this piece, I remembered that it will be too bad of me if I do not honour you. I can’t but remember the good, bad and ugly times we shared, one that even made people to wonder what brought us together and made us become very close pals, despite our difference in faith. I can vividly remember how our journey to friendship began, I remember meeting you then in our 100 level, one morning as we were trying to tidy up Mallam A.B.Umar’s  MCOM 108: African Communication System, our first baptising of fire (assignment), and going through your work and telling you my view on the work and you giving me the mandate by handing over your system to me, to effect the necessary changes.
What else should I say? I can’t forget you doing all my assignments for me when I did not resume school for half of our 2nd semester 200level due to health ground. What more should I say, is it how we plan to write professional examination together? Is it your encouraging words about not giving up despite the hard times?
The world is truly a stage where every mortal would pass through, what truly counts at the end of the day is how you live and spend each day as stated in the Holy Bible (Psalm 90:12). Despite your few days on this plane, your achievements and character speaks volume for you, that is why am comforted.
You left behind your family, colleagues and friends, without a moment to say goodbye. You left with your dreams unfulfilled. Today, the world mourns your exit. I pray for the repose of your soul, rest well dear friend and brother. I will miss you….
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And God is able to make all grace (every favour and [a]earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need [b]be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. 2 Corinthians 9:8 (AMP)

Religious organisations in Nigeria have come under fire, some of it deserving while some of those are just a form of misplaced aggression. Many have designed the craft of abusing religious bodies, saying they are the bane of the society. While that is increasingly a popular path to take, it will never be the right path. The purpose of engagement is productivity and if we cannot say or do the things that’d make these organisations get better, we’d indeed be wasting everyone’s time by just blowing hot air without adding value. This piece is about how religious organisations can raise the ante and help bring about the much-needed change our country craves. I’ll be speaking mostly about what the church can do hoping that a reading Moslem or other believers can find a place for their beliefs in my ideas. This is for those genuine religious organizations that are interested in doing things better and improving on the good they already do. It is unfortunate that bad eggs in the midst make all the eggs look bad but the reason we have adulterated forms of anything is because the authentic forms thrive.

Contrary to some opinions, the Nigerian church has indeed done a lot! Many have had their lives transformed by choosing to apply some of the principles they picked up in church. People say they teach about prosperity but I’d rather that than poverty. People say churches collect people’s money but can we sit down and think; if the members had no money to give, would these churches be sustainable? That people give and give every week says something about the church and its style; it works! The church creates millionaires and billionaires who in turn give back to it. Like everything else, there’d be those that make money illegally who’d give to the church. I don’t think the church would start dividing its members into those who make legal money and those who make illegal ones. In my opinion, everything rests on what the church does with what it gets. That is the essence of this piece.

More often than not, those who knock the church are not those who make contributions to it. I am a Christian http://omojuwa.com/2010/09/god-does-not-exist-the-complete-edition/ and I believe I have earned the right to say some of the things I’d be saying because I am a Giving Christian. I do not give because I want God to bless me, God does not bless me because I give. I give because that’s who I am. God blesses me because that’s who He is.

The Nigerian church is doing a lot but the church is not doing anything near enough. Compared to its potentials, the church could start a revolution in this nation. By revolution I do not mean that of bullets and blood, that’d never work and Nigerians will never agree on those to kill anyway – federal character will end the debates about who to kill first (1966?). I expect the church to start a revolution of wealth creation and the development of education.

It is not always about the big system and its macro solutions, there is a lot the microcosms of the system can do in making the society a better place. In Germany, 25 per cent of the nation’s energy supplies come from renewable sources, while 51 per cent of the said renewable sources come from private homes. These are citizens essentially powering the nation from their homes. These numbers are expected to rise decade upon decade till the nation gets to source 80 per cent of its total energy needs from renewables. Citizens can indeed start revolutions and until we understand that the best revolution is that that places the responsibility of development in the hands of every citizen, we’d not have even started our march forward.

What if each religious organisations – in this sense I mean specific churches and mosques – have institutionalized systems of giving to the society? By giving I am not talking about the conventional ones that are often cosmetic in nature. We give clothes and food to the poor but as long as these ones remain in a position where we’d have to give them the same thing the following year nothing would have been done. We need to do better. We need to give in such a way that those who receive from us will not need alms again. A friend of mine told me of how her dad said and I will paraphrase “you should give so that they can come again tomorrow, if you give them too much they will grow wings and you will not see them again.” Our job is to give in the opposite sense of these words; give so that others can have enough to fly themselves. Give to productive activities.

What if we had a LIBRE Foundation dedicated to Education, Women and Entrepreneurship by a church called LIBRE? There is the Real Woman Foundation http://therealwoman.org/index.html that provides shelter and rehabilitation for abused women and the orphaned children. Projects like these should not be outliers; they should be the norm. The work starts from within. There are dedicated members who are able to attend University but are indigent. We can create an Education Fund for dedicated members in this situation. There is a chance they will stop attending your church/mosque after such benefits but you have to understand that you are doing this for the society and not your church. Nigeria has the world’s highest number of children out of school. If we reduce this by half, we would have reduced by an even more percentage the number of armed robbers, sex workers, potential terrorists that’d be unleashed on the nation in the coming years. If churches build schools, they should have a dedicated admission percentage slot for indigent church members. It is essential to charge the rich while building world-class self-sustaining institutions but what is the essence of a church that does not give back?

What if we had a fund for small businesses to grow bigger after training the owners of these businesses? Imagine the revolution. When businesses grow, they engage more hands and more hands mean more productive activities. The engaged hands even save enough to start their own businesses. You eventually have a domino effect of productivity and job creation. We can decide as a church to grow a particular number of businesses to a certain size per year. The funding could be in form of single digit loans – for sustainability – and in some cases even equity funding.

What if the church had a food bank where at least indigent members of the church can access food in times of food shortage? Where other members who have “more than enough” can give of their abundant food, new clothes and what have you. I once attended a church during my University days where everyone was allowed to come for food if in need during the examination period. I knew I’d never need such but I felt glad knowing that whoever was in need of such would find a way out because the church made a way. I know Nigeria’s Lagos based Daystar Christian Centre does this.

What if each religious organization reduced poverty in its midst to say less than 10% of its membership? Yes Jesus Christ did say the poor you will always have in your midst but He never said “the poor shall be the majority in your midst.” The most important thing is to start. How many poor people do you have in your church? How many of them have jobs? How many of them can be empowered to start businesses? We cannot reduce the numbers effectively if we don’t know exactly how many people are in the poverty box we need to lift out. When your members succeed, your church succeeds!

Considering the number of Nigerians that go to church and the mosque every week, we can go beyond the promises of the intangible. I know these promises of Heaven are real but we need to attend to the issues of today. If we could do this, we will bring back the souls lost to the world that felt the church was too big but too big for nothing. We would win even more souls for the Lord because it is easier to convince a man you’ve just fed to “come to the House of the Lord” than it is to convince a hungry man. He is angry. It is also easier for cynics to see the essence of the church beyond promises of Heaven. What is the purpose of a church without earthly relevance?

We need a revolution in Nigeria, no not a revolution of guns and bullets – we will never be united enough to have a nationwide revolution of this kind – but we can always be united to fight against poverty.

What if we sold the private jets? Would the monies be useful to educate more children? to help more mothers? to make the society a better place? Yes religious fathers need private jets, only that need is not as needful as the fact that the brethren is hungry, angry and needs convincing that this service to God is not about a few fathers instead of being about the children of God. What is the beauty of a Limo-stretch riding pastor’s wife in a church of mostly poor people? Do not be deceived by ceremonial Sunday attires, there are more poor people in your church than you’d imagine. We have competed enough on who has got the most beautiful church and the most modern backdrop, it is time to compete on who has lifted more people out of poverty. This would be a holy competition indeed!

The giving of the church should not be about giving for the recipients to return for another morsel tomorrow, it should be about giving to empower the recipients to survive on their own and become givers themselves in a matter of months – the 8th level of giving. We’d not have fake pastors if there were no original ones, we’d not have fake churches if there were no original ones. We’d not have the adulterated version of anything if there were no original ones. I believe there are true men of God and I believe it is time these ones shine the light on this country’s seemingly perpetual darkness. Thank you for the prayers, it is time to work!

The purpose of being blessed is to bless. Blessings are designed to flow not to be stagnant. It should flow from the blessed to bless others and the flow must never stop. Blessings should not be destroyed by being hoarded; we can create even more by blessing others. The symbolism of Jesus feeding 5000 is that He cares about the tangibles of this world. It matters to him that stomachs are filled with food, as it matters to Him that our spirit is filled with Him. He gave examples of giving clothes to the naked, food to the hungry etc these examples even came in parables concerning the way to Heaven.

For Christians, the fundamental part of our faith is the tangible reality of a gift: God gave His only begotten son and that son gave His life. There’d be no Christianity without giving and it is time we use this to address Nigeria’s unwholesome socio-economic realities. The church has the powers to raise men, women and resources to help lift more Nigerians out of poverty than any system in Nigeria apart from may be the Nigerian government.

 

The politicians are too busy planning to capture power to reform the bureaucracy and block opportunities for civil servants, who seems to be the main beneficiary of corruption, to routinely steal hundreds of millions of naira.
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At a meeting in the early 1960s, the leaders of a poor nation just exiting colonial rule gaily informed colleagues visiting from another developing country how well they were doing under self-rule. They had acquired huge palm oil plantations through the state agriculture agencies they controlled. They invited their visitors to a club where party leaders treated themselves to exotic drinks and food and pretty women at night. The visitors, members of a political party obsessed with clean government, slipped away from the merriment, also politely refusing offers to acquire plantations. The visitors built the far more economically successful nation whose per capital income of $60,410, according to IMF 2012 figures, is the 3 highest in the world and which is the 3 largest refiner of crude oil despite not having any oil deposit. The hosts built a country which now has the 56 highest per capital income in the world despite being 460 times larger, 5 times more populous and being a major exporter of rubber, palm oil and petroleum. Singapore is the tiny highly successful economy. The larger country is Malaysia, a relative development laggard, and not Nigeria, a development basket case.

Malaysia, like many other successful emerging economies, is not an epitome of democracy, honest government or social justice. It has being ruled for 56 years by a party which is widely detested for corruption, having used ethnic quotas for public procurement considerably to enrich influential political families. Yet Petronas, the Malaysian state-dominated oil company was 68 in the 2012 Fortune Global 500 ranking of firms in which it also secured the world’s 12 most profitable company position. Its Nigerian counterpart, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, remains mired in corruption and debt. Nigeria has tried and failed to pass the critical legislation to clean up and increase investment in its oil sector for almost ten years. Attributing the cause of Nigeria’s dismal failure to corruption, a problem often mentioned as if it is a genetic ailment, is a severe misdiagnosis. The real ailment is much worse.

State of Emergency (SOE) Politics

The key difference between Nigeria and countries such as Malaysia is that the latter are sufficiently coherent nations. The political leadership is much less prone to fragment disruptively in the quest for power. This is partly because ethnic homogeneity or the dominance of a fairly homogenous historic “state class” (which the Hausa-Fulani would be were Northern Nigeria a sovereign country) severely constricts the opportunity to build up rival bases of political following. These factors also facilitate the extension of hegemony of political parties through national territories. Where there’s ethnic heterogeneity such as post-colonial Nigeria, no matter how well Tafawa Balewa’s party ruled at the Federal level, his rivals would have employed identity-based mobilization (aka ethnic scare mongering) to take the votes of vast numbers of Igbos and Yorubas out of its reach. Conversely, any attempt by the regional leaders to build disciplined or developmental statehood would have been severely undermined by corrupt politics practiced at the Federal level and the option available to regional politicians to cross carpet to the “mainstream”. Hence, in a sense, post-colonial politics were “too” democratic.

Nigerian politicians built contending power bases by actively coaching Nigerians to distrust each other. The constitutional framework which created highly distinct regional administrations and placed regional economies under the full control of regional political parties encouraged and empowered identity politics. A political culture came into being in which the rules of the game of democracy were constantly attacked; elections were rigged, census figures were inflated, state funds diverted into party coffers, losers encouraged military coups etc. It was easy for politicians to incorporate others in perpetuating these infractions because the ostensible purpose was to prevent the emergency of one’s ethnic group being “enslaved” by parties controlled by hateful rivals. This politics of extreme contention between multiple “nations” could not build the sort of cohesive states that promoted development in Singapore or Malaysia. All organs of the state required to initiate development-the Ministry of Education, Housing Corporations, State Economic Enterprises etc- were tools and spoils that were used to fight and reward followers. Contrary to the frequent assertion that the problem of development has been executing policy, Nigerian economic policies historically have been atrocious. Policy has promoted distribution and consumption through subsidies and other forms of administrative allocation (of land, foreign currency etc) rather than long term investment. They facilitate the creation and capture of astronomical rents by elite rackets rather than investment and competition.

Still Chopping at Very High Speeds

Nigeria no longer has ethnic parties controlling big regional governments with which they could plan secession or promote economic development. But politics remains first and foremost a competition to distribute and consume state resources by politicians on the basis of ethnicity. We thus simultaneously suffer both the ills of excessive centralization and excessive decentralization. It is not clear if Nigeria is negotiating ownership of crude oil with the communities in which they are found or if Nigeria, or a section of it, is to tell the communities how the income from oil should be shared. Meanwhile, despite the almost uninterrupted decade-long high oil prices, more than 60% of Nigerians continue to live in absolute poverty, evidence that the billions of dollars injected into national and state budgets have not translated into better education and health care and the physical and bureaucratic infrastructure which drive investment and growth. Extensive weakness of state institutions generates and fosters communal violence, kidnapping, oil theft and terrorism. While direct elite action has been prevented from directly rupturing the nation at the centre through the powerful regions, the actions of people below are tearing the nation apart from many points at the seams. The politicians are too busy planning to capture power to reform the bureaucracy and block opportunities for civil servants, who seems to be the main beneficiary of corruption, to routinely steal hundreds of millions of naira.

Clearly, Nigeria is drifting at a very high speed. While our deep-seated problems cannot be solved in 4 or 8 years, clear measures can be taken to pull the country back from the brink and bolster state capacities, especially its ability to support economic growth, provide security and basic public services to citizens. The most important measure is to diminish the incentives and opportunity for Nigerian politicians to disrupt the rules of the game of democracy through ethnic-based political organization and mobilization. It is clear that modifications to the rules of the game meant to engender respect for them, such as federal character and zoning, have promoted corruption and waste, intensifying the political feeding frenzy and thus, the attacks on the rules. The premature and violent arrival of the 2015 elections is incontrovertible evidence. Attacks on the rules of the game have almost become the very rules of the game. An informal association of Governors seeks to usurp the policy-setting and candidates’ selection prerogatives of the party and it is itself rendered incapable of conducting elections amongst just 36 members.

A new constitutional architecture which creates larger units of sub-federal government and intelligently devolves political power and economic resources based on the widely recognized but informal six geo-political units will have the merit of localizing tensions rather than generating and diffusing them from the centre. There will be more adherence to the rules of the game at the federal centre where the incentive to attack them is diminished and the “regions” will develop varying levels of adherence to the rules, and thus varying capabilities but uniform incentive to promote social and economic development.

The argument is not that the arrangement of First Republic was perfect but that it could be improved. The tragedy is that the structure of Nigerian politics is far more shaped by the pursuit of personal power and profit than principles and programmes related to solving problems. President Jonathan has been extremely conservative, reinforcing the methods and structures of the politics of ethnic-based distribution as the battle between regional cliques to keep or win power in 2015 consumes his party. Rival parties have an equally stunted constitutional imagination, driven as they are by the obsessions of individuals to rule Nigeria without any thought to whether Nigerian can be ruled successfully the way it is constituted. The major parties and political leaders profit too well from the way Nigeria is designed and run to seriously mobilize for, rather than merely mouth, a significant restructuring of Nigeria. Kenyan politicians in 2012 redesigned the country’s constitution, seeking to tame fractious ethnic politics with far-reaching devolution of political power. In another move to address a well-known malaise, the new President, Uhuru Kenyatta, reduced the number of Ministers from 42 to 16, thus swiftly and decisively addressing a source of corruption and public disaffection. There’s nothing to suggest that any of Nigeria’s opposition parties (whose lawmakers are quite happy to receive pharaonic salaries along with their PDP counterparts) will in power take decisive steps to address demands to make Government in Nigeria smaller, less expensive and less centralized.

Constitutional redesign apart, the parties are hardly a fount of ideas on economic policy and effective government. They are not driven by proven technocrats such as Nasir El Rufai and Babatunde Raji Fashola who remain only class captains of Nigerian politics. The principals are individuals who have either acquired enough state resources to build wide networks of agents or politicians who can build a fanatical, chauvinistic ethno-regional following. The proposed opposition merger is the ultimate insult to Nigerians. At a time that the nation needs clear plans for a host of economic policy, administrative and constitutional reforms that the PDP Government has proven incapable of initiating, all that the All Progressives Congress has arrogantly offered are the usual vacuous promises. The intention is to use the party to grab power rather than build a genuine party that invites millions of citizens as members (as opposed to being agents of party barons) with a real say in who gets power and how it is used. It is not even pretending to offer a genuine alternative to dominant political practices. Even on the serious threat of Boko Haram, it seems APC leaders have asked themselves, “how can we profit from this crisis” rather than think about real solutions. Nigeria desperately needs politicians who can imagine and fashion a new nation. It has been sent politicians who are just desperate to acquire power, live in opulence and control people through the same old cynical State-of-Emergency politics.

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Abimbola Agboluaje, a Lagos-based consultant, is a visiting member of the Editorial Board of the Guardian.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.