Monthly Archives: March 2013

Nigeria and the Societal Immunodeficiency Syndrome


Nigeria, our beautiful and great country made headlines in international media again recently. This time, it was not the reports of the activities of the local terrorist group, Boko Haram, but instead, it was about the presidential pardon for some ex-convicts including those who were jailed for corruption. In the course of discussions on political developments in our respective countries, my foreign friends from Ghana, Brazil, Kenya, Philippines, etc have hitherto expressed their admiration of Nigeria for jailing high-profile corrupt officials, something they said is relatively rare in their own countries. However, a couple of them drew my attention to the widely reported news of the presidential pardon granted to two ex-convicts of stealing from public coffers. It is a development I’m ashamed of, a decision I strongly disagree with and one that should not be repeated.


Let me introduce a virus that incapacitates any society it infects. I call it Societal Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). It has HIV-like effect; it pervades the entire system of the society and makes it sick. Let’s compare a society with the human body; the immune system helps the body to resist infections and keep the body healthy. HIV attacks the immune system, weakens the body’s defense system and makes the carrier vulnerable to all kinds of infectious organisms. If HIV is left untreated or treated wrongly, it progresses to AIDS which is characterized by symptoms and signs of illness from every system of the body. Similarly, the values of a society help it to resist vices or negative acts and keep the society healthy and prosperous. When SIV is left untreated or wrong treatment applied like presently being done in Nigeria, it attacks the value system, weakens the society and makes it vulnerable to atrocious acts. The signs and symptoms include weak health system, poor quality of education, worsening insecurity, lack of potable water, dilapidating infrastructure, high unemployment rate, etc. I call this condition Societal Immunodeficiency Syndrome (SIS). Corruption is the Societal Immunodeficiency Virus I described.

Like HIV, SIV is largely preventable but is not curable. HIV rapidly replicates in the body but can be stopped by post-exposure prophylaxis medication if administered within hours of an exposure to the virus; antiretroviral drugs also suppresses the replication. In the case of SIV (corruption), transparency and accountability serves as pre-exposure prophylaxis. Unlike HIV, every society is infected with SIV but the degree of infection differs depending on the strength of suppressants. Fear of God, severe punitive actions prescribed by law and societal stigma serve as good suppressants for SIV/corruption. How has Nigeria faired in applying these suppressants?
Corruption in Nigeria is as old as the country’s existence. During my participation in LEAP Africa’s Integrity Institute 6years ago, we were handed copies of pre and post independence news reports of corruption in public offices involving some of our founding fathers. It was a time when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was prosecuting lots of high-profile corruption cases; one was hopeful that corruption which has become endemic in Nigeria would be on a downward trend. Unfortunately and regrettably, the opposite appears to be the case today.

Let me attempt to answer my earlier question on the application of prophylaxis and suppressants to corruption, beginning with this question, how transparent and accountable is public service in Nigeria? I would argue that there has been an improvement since the return of democracy in 1999; however, relative opacity persists. Business of government at all levels is still largely shrouded in secrecy. Even with the existence of the Freedom of Information law, government agencies still find it difficult to make non-classified information available to Nigerians. Recently, a former Federal Minister and Vice President of World Bank, Dr Oby Ezekwesili asked a legitimate question which demanded to know how the country’s reserves were expended over the last 6years, and the response of the authorities was everything but satisfactory. What about the fear of God? This phrase has probably been re-defined in Nigeria. A “God-fearing” person in Nigeria has become one who goes to church/mosque and makes lots of donations to the religious institution. In many churches today, rich folks with wealth of questionable sources are the ones who occupy the front seats and made elders, deacons, etc. Pentecostal Christian preachers focus their teachings mainly on riches/prosperity with minimal emphasis on good morals and diligence. Someone who slept a poor man and wakes up a millionaire is celebrated in church as a beneficiary of God’s ‘miracle’, that’s ridiculous.

Furthermore, does our reward and punishment system deter one from stealing from public coffers? Recent developments in the polity show it does not. I expressed my deep disappointment and displeasure on my facebook timeline over the presidential pardon granted to the former Governor of Bayelsa State, DSP Alamieyeseigha and former Managing Director of Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama. Although the presidency claimed they have shown remorse, their remorse is not obvious to majority of Nigerians. My opinion is that Bulama and Alamieyeseigha deserve the pardon only if they are known to be promoting transparency, accountability and good leadership ideals; teaching others to learn from their mistakes. In this case, they were not. Expectedly, the post elicited interesting debate with folks on either side – supporting or condemning the pardon. Many suggested that we should direct our energy and pressure to the National Assembly to increase the jail term for corruption. I agree absolutely, and have repeatedly canvassed this. It is incomprehensible that our laws provides only 2-year maximum jail term for corruption with an option fine for corruption. I would want the jail term increased to a minimum of 20years with no option of fine. However, this increase will be useless if the president can wake up any day and grant pardon to such convicts before they spend 2years. Who would not want to steal billions and pay fine or simulate sickness, spend few months jail term in hospital, support the president and get pardoned?

The words of the present administration are tough on corruption but the actions suggest high tolerance and romance with corruption. The infamous pardon for Bulama and Alamieyeseigha is causing the country an underserved ignominy, embarrassment and ridicule among comity of nations. It has set a very bad precedence that constitutes severe erosion of our lofty values and institutionalization of impunity at the highest level of governance. Although it didn’t come to me as a surprise, I was terribly saddened. I discussed the issue with some friends who are PDP members and public servants and they expressed huge disappointment and frustration. Corruption is ubiquitous but the difference is how culprits are treated. We can learn from other climes, for instance, the immediate past governor of the State of Illinois in United States was impeached and is now serving a 5-year jail term for attempting to sell President Obama’s senatorial seat, this would deter people from making such attempts in future. Sustainable development is not compatible with severe SIV infection or SIS. Every Nigerian must be part of the efforts to stop corruption, and it begins with individuals. The religious institutions should stop practices that are abetting corruption albeit unintentionally. Our traditional values abhor stealing and other forms of criminality and we must stop the rapid erosion of these values. Let’s transfer the stigma held for HIV/AIDS to SIV/SIS. The time to act is now. God bless Nigeria.

This ‘Enemy’ called Water


When the legendary Afro-beat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti did a song titled, “water, e no get enemy”, little would he imagine that water would ever become an enemy in Nigeria. But why would one of the most important free gifts of nature become an enemy? The reason is not farfetched. Nigeria has become a country where anything can happen by ‘miracle’, just as billions of naira can develop wings and disappear from public coffers, politicians have through their actions and inactions made water appear to be an enemy.

You may be thinking about the 2012 flood disaster and the predicted heavy rainfall of 2013, no, that’s a story for another day. Water has a major ‘enemy’ of students in Nigeria. Last week, the country was shocked with the news of the terror unleashed on the students of Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK) allegedly by armed soldiers. The unarmed students were reportedly carrying out a peaceful protest over the lingering poor water supply in their campus. The news was highly devastating. At first, I was in disbelief and waited for a possible rebuttal. Rather, the news report appeared on more news channels with gory details of the murder of four students with many others sustaining various degrees of injuries. As if that was not enough, National Mirror reported that nine students were killed in an auto crash involving a commercial bus they boarded to flee the school campus when they were being chased away from their places of abode by security operatives as directed by the university authority. So far, thirteen students were killed by water.

Water don become enemy?

Water don become enemy for Naija?

Yes, water refused to make itself available in the first place for the students to use. Then water also metamorphosed to bullets, wounded and killed some students and chased others to die in accident. The university administration can’t be blamed for this. After all, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Shamsudeen Amali, OFR in a press statement expressed “deep regrets” over the incident. “He further regrets that the protest on the federal highway against shortage of water supply in Keffi town embarked upon by few students staying off-campus was hijacked by some hoodlums. The incident is regrettable because the off-campus students rejected the water supplied to them by the university through water tankers, insisting on having pipe-borne water”. Doesn’t that statement give him a clean bill of health?
Would you blame the police? Why would you do that? They were probably ‘maintaining law and order’ before the ruthless soldiers arrived and some dead bodies were later identified. What about the soldiers? Their spokesman has already cleared the air, “”our soldiers were not involved in any shooting so we could not comment while live ammunitions were used to quell the riot. Who else would you blame, the governor? No, his excellency must have been ‘committed to providing regular water supply to the good people of Keffi and the entire Nasarawa State’. He has also taken further actions following the incident. According to his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Public Affairs, Sani Mairiga, “the State Governor, UmaruTanko Al-Makura, has approved the suspension of the General Manager (GM) of the State Water Board, Mallam Safiyanu Ibrahim, pending the conclusion of investigations.” You now see why no one but water is the enemy. Water is to blame!

It could be recalled that in April last year, students of the University of Ibadan also carried out protests over epileptic power and poor water supply. Some of the placards they displayed has this message, “we are tired of darkness, where is our right? University of Ibadan is the first but the worst and drought, no light, no water, no life, we are fed up”. I must state that Nigerian students are not irascible. As a former Student Union leader in the University of Ibadan, I know students don’t react until things get so bad. In a related development, students of the University of Abuja were reportedly flogged out of their hostels by soldiers on the invitation of the university authorities following their recent peaceful protest over non-accreditation of courses in the institution. The university security or the police is no longer powerful enough to manage civil unrest, to the imperial leaders and administrators, protests have become mutiny and soldiers are required to crush the heady students.
Following the developments of the recent past, some questions have been boggling my mind. Why would a university invite soldiers in a civil unrest? To the best of my knowledge, the approval of the commander-in-chief of the armed offices is required for soldiers to be deployed; did President Jonathan give such approval? If no, who deployed soldiers to UniAbuja and Keffi? What investigation did the Nigerian Army do before coming out to absolve its officers? Why is the presidency yet to give directive for the investigation of the ungodly act of government agents? Besides suspending the Water Corporation Director and promising to pay the bills of the injured, what other measures is the Nasarawa State government taking to identify the cause of the incidence and prevent future occurrence? Has any top government official visited the family of the innocent students whose lives and dreams have been cut short by government’s ineptitude and high handedness of security officials? What has Nigerian students in public schools done to deserve such inhuman treatment?

More so, it is very disappointing that water supply would be a serious problem in the only state led by the opposition Congress for Progressive Change. One would have expected the government of the state to prove that it is a better alternative to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). I’m deeply concerned about the apparent display of insensitivity towards the killing of Nigerian students by the presidency. I’m not aware of any formal response from the presidency to the gruesome murder of more than thirty students in Mubi and the four University of Port Harcourt students in Aluu, not even during a presidential national broadcast that took place within a week of both incidents. So far, no word has come from the presidency in the recent case of NSUK students involving agents of the state – the police and the army. One expects the presidency to demonstrate that it values the lives of Nigerians, particularly the youth and not keep mum when incidents like this happen.

The bloods of the innocent students are crying for justice. A worse tragedy will be to allow the killers to go unpunished. I believe the state and federal government know what to do and they need to start doing it without further delay. Besides punishing the murderers, learning environments should be made conducive for all students in all campuses across the country. The blood of the Nasarawa Four and many others who have died in struggle must not be in vain. Let water become a friend again.

Tweet me at @donlaz4u
First published on my column on The Newsnest on March 4, 2013.

The Demise of our Unsung Heroes


Dr Laz Ude Eze

Dr Laz Ude Eze

Nigeria is a blessed country endowed with rich natural and human resources. We have potentials to be among the most developed countries of the world. Paradoxically, we lag behind in most of the global development and health indices. It is no longer news that Nigeria is one of the only three countries in the world with polio virus; the other two are Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact, Nigeria accounts for about a half of the global burden of polio. This is shameful.

According to a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, continued polio transmission in 7 of Nigeria’s northern states has led to the re-introduction of the virus in at least 12 African countries previously declared polio free, repeatedly dashing hope that global targets for eradication – first in 2000, then in 2005 – could be met. Multiple factors hamper polio eradication efforts in the north but the most potent one are the escalating terrorists’ attacks that has created an atmosphere of pervasive fear and insecurity. These attacks have scared health workers away from the troubled areas and therefore undermined local accessibility to the polio vaccine. But some health workers still risked their lives to save our children from polio virus. That is a heroic thing to do. Tragically, they have now become the targets of the cannibalistic terrorists.

A few days ago, the national and international media was awash with the devastating news of the gruesome murder of nine health workers who were carrying out polio vaccination in Kano State by yet-to-be-identified criminals. It may be recalled that a similar thing occurred in Pakistan in December 2012. Expectedly, the killings have attracted spontaneous outrage and global condemnations. In his reaction, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Muhammad Pate said, “We are invariably left dumbfounded by this dastardly act of cowardice that has not spared the very people who have paid the ultimate price because of their commitment to humanity and the love of their profession. These nine health workers and those injured are our heroes in the fight against maternal and child mortality in the country”. HAPPYNigeria, a youth-led health advocacy group also condemned the killings and called for the immortalization of the slain health workers.

As at the time of writing this piece (48 hours after the killing), Nigerians were yet to know the identities of their heroes. It kept me wondering whether those slain heroes would end up as mere numeric figures in our heads. Don’t they deserve more than press statements? Don’t Nigerians and the international community deserve to know their names, lifetime’s stories and contributions towards polio eradication – a cause they’ve laid their life for? Why is the mainstream media not telling us more about these heroes? Why is the social media relatively quiet? Has any top government official visited the families of the deceased or the injured? Will government go beyond describing them as heroes and treat them as such?
Within the last couple of months, Professor Hyacinth Mbibu, a surgeon and head of the Department of Surgery of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was shot dead; 27-year old Dr Irawo Ademolekun was shot dead on the street of Lagos in broad day light; and one Dr Chinonye Nwishi was assassinated in Imo State (just last week). While writing this article, the new of the killing of 3 foreign medical doctors in Potiskum, Yobe State broke. Many health workers have fallen victims to kidnapping and senseless killings and the occurrence appears to be increasing. These folks are dying in the course of saving others – that’s heroic, but they are going uncelebrated. Same goes with policemen, soldiers and other security personnel who lose their lives almost every week while trying to secure the rest of us. They go uncelebrated and their families abandoned to languish in pains and hardship. That’s not fair.

I think as a people, Nigerians should develop a culture of focusing more on the positive than the negative. Understandably, negative news sells better but we should not fail to acknowledge and celebrate the heroic acts of many compatriots who lose their lives in active service o the nation. In such situations one expects the government to disclose the identities of people – rich or poor, literate or not, nationals or foreigners – who get injured or killed while in active national or humanitarian services. These people include but not limited to the security personnel, health workers, fire fighters, corps members and public servants. The media should tell us more about the lives and times of these heroes. We need to know the people they left behind. The Nigerian people should also recognize and celebrate these heroes. This is the least that can be done to encourage people to take such risks in national interest.

Kano and many other part of the Nigeria have very low number of health workers serving the population, these targeted killings portends grave danger to an already beleaguered health system. More effective action is needed. Government needs to more to protect lives and properties. We as a people must not continue to leave our heroes die unsung; they die for us and deserve to be celebrated. We should celebrate everyone, dead or alive who engages in selfless service to humanity. May God bless the souls of our departed heroes and strengthen their families. God bless Nigeria.

Tweet me @donlaz4u

First published on my column on The Newsnest on February 10, 2013

Letter to Nigerian Youths : A new time is coming! by Lai Labode


Lai Labode

Lai Labode

Dear Nigerian Youth , I hope this letter meets you well .

There is one very powerful fact that many of us don’t seem to give much cognizance; that fact is that all governments in Nigeria’s history were brought to power by young people of between the ages of 15 and 35 .

Young Nigerians have played powerfully at the round-table of political power over the last sixty years , the youths have acted as coup plotters to seize power , acted as thugs for politicians who steal the people’s votes , the power of youth votes have also swept the good, the bad and the ugly into positions of authority. Our young girls have been warming the beds of both political jingoists and those engaged political jihad all through the years , the youth constituency of today also have a ready army of the Unemployed & Dangerous (AU&D) to do anything as may be directed by those who understands it potency. The Nigerian youth poses all the tools for political success and genuine transformation and so does it also poses all the excuses for defeat and failure.

The youth constituency boasts of 70 percent of the population and clearly has the brightest minds on the continent . Many have wondered why such a massive resource base has not been able to organize itself effectively for sustainable nation building. Some Leaders have attributed the failures to unpreparedness, some have attributed it to poverty and the struggle to survive . Some others never agree any excuse is good enough, they have called the Nigerian youth the ‘disgrace’ of a nation. I met Dr Sam Amadi through a very dear friend, a young lady who by every means is one of the most genuine advocates of early investments in youth development, a truly passionate lady called Bella Ndubusi. Bella had introduced me as a youth leader making some decent effort to harness the potential of Nigerian youths for nation building. While Dr Amadi was very polite to me as we discussed the numerous issues with the youth constituency, he didn’t mince words about the failure of Nigerian youths to help fast track Nigeria’s growth with its population and potency. He seemed rather appalled by the ease at which the youths are misguided by money or the hope of some advantage . While he tried to encourage me to keep the fire burning, his body language didn’t show much hope for Africa’s most potent but sleeping force.

The Nigeria youth must share a big part of the responsibility for all that is wrong with this country . How can we explain the inability of the youth constituency to rescue Nigeria with all the powers at its disposal despite the fact that it is the hardest hit by the rot in our political, economic and social system? There is enough evidence in world to show that every nation eats from what its youth constituency cooks. If it cooks right, the nation eats right and when it cooks unpalatable food , the nation eats unpalatable meals.

Despite the short comings of The Nigerian youths to properly organize and design a selfless vision , the Nigerian youths still have all it takes to re-invent Nigeria. I see it , I feel it and I am in no doubt about what will happen eventually . Nigerian youths will rise to the occasion in no distant time. There is a fire coming , a new time is approaching , new interests are aligning , the bells of true reformers are already chiming in the youth constituency. All those who take the youths for granted will have a lot to regret in the new coming order. What we need is a new big thinking, a will of steel, very high perseverance coefficient, competence, dedication and a thick political skin and some real shock absorbers.

The Nigerian youths must abandon the illusive search for saints to take political leadership, no one is going to drop from heaven .What Nigerian youths needs is a new leadership that has discovered the power of selfless service and glory that comes with its administration. The Nigerian youths must define a new time. Now is the time to lift our country from the depth of cynicism , mediocrity and despair. It is time to close the doors of shame, want and smallness of thoughts. These are times for big ideas and big commitments , it is the time for big decisions and sacrifices that will shape the destinies of generations of Nigerians to come.

Dear Nigerian Youths ,there is no better time to ensure our political leadership make unprecedented investments in the education of our children to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Now is the time to push our government to invest massively in research & innovation that will break new grounds the world can be grateful for in technology, green energy, health care & economics.

Now is the time to see the Dangotes , Otedolas and Adenugas establish the largest and most modern research centers in the world here at home to help prepare Africa for the knowledge wars to come.

The time has come to begin the fight against corruption from within our homes and offices before we point fingers at thieves outside our comfort zones.

Now is the time to reconnect ourselves to the power of selflessness and foresight and rid our communities of hate, acrimony and all forms of self deceits that has held our progress back all these years .

Now is the time to fuse the energies of all ethnic nations within our country to show the world that Nigeria is ready to lead Africa to a new time of collective responsibility and prosperity .

The time has come for the Nigerian youths to open a new page in this country’s history and usher in a new era of good , competent and responsive leadership that connects itself to the aspirations of its people .

Nigerian youths , this is our time . Let us embrace it with vigor and unyielding faith.

Lai Labode is the Chairman of PDP Youth Circuit. Tweets @lailabode

Chinua Achebe: Okosisi (Iroko) adaa!


Okammuta Chinua Achebe

Okammuta Chinua Achebe

Ihe emee! Okosisi adaa!!
Chi e jiri ututu jie!!! O bu onye ka anyi ga akoro?
A si na Okammuta Chinualumogu, ezigbo nwa Achebe anabago?
Anya mmiri juputara m anya. Onwu olee ebe ike gi di?

Chei, Onwu e mee anyi aru!
Chinualumogu; Dike anyi ji eje mba! O ji mkpisisi akwatu mgbidi!!
Onye Ndigbo ji eme onu. Onye umu Africa ji anya isi.
Onye mba uwa na akwanyere ugwu puru iche.
Ihula nu ka ebe niile dere duu?

Akwaa akwuru! Ude gi dezuru mba! Ijele ka ibu.
Chinualumogu; Onye edemede ka ibe ya! Akpa uche!
Ebelebe egbuola, ewooo! A ga m ekwu zi ole hara ibe ya?
Onu na-ekwuru oha! Onye ga-ekwuchiziri umuafo Igbo?

Chinualumogu, ezigbo nwa Achebe. Nwokeoma Chukwu kworochara aka keputa.
Odi uko na mba! Agbogidi! Okaaka odumodu!!!
Ude gi na ndu, ude gi n’onwu. I ka si m kwuo?
I ma na i kuziri anyi ihe e ji mkpisi eme. Ka m dekwuo nw’obere.

Ndigbo ebezina. Nigeria ebezina.
Africa ebezina. Mbauwa ebezina.
Maka na Chinualumogu, ezigbo nwa Achebe anwubeghi.
O ga na-ebi ndu n’ime obi anyi rue mgbe ebighebi.

Nnanyi Okammuta Odenjinji Chinua Achebe jee nke oma.
Biko kelee EzeIgbo Gburugburu. Keleere anyi Owelle Onicha (Zik).
Gwa ha ka imi jiri debee onu na Naijiriya.
Kelee ndi nna nna anyi niile ebe ahu.

Daalu maka otutu akwukwo nke ideputara anyi.
Daalu maka ezigbo ndu nke ibiri n’uwa a.
Anyi ma na I ga-eso dinwenu anyi Jesu Kristi n’agoro anyi ofo oma.
Chineke onye okike, daalu maka ikere anyi ezi nwoke di ka Okammuta Chinualumogu Achebe

Soro m ma o bu zie m ozi na twita – @donlaz4u

Dibiabekee Laz Ude Eze

Dibiabekee Laz Ude Eze

Yesterday’s Youth vs Today’s Youth by Lai Labode

Lai Labode

Lai Labode

“Despite the undeniable humongous potential of today’s Nigeria youth , the youths are largely individual champions traveling narrow paths in a very large terrain.” Lai Labode

In the late 30s , a few young men who had been lucky enough to have tasted western education decided that all Nigerians deserved to have same . The young men began a coordinated demand for education for all Nigerians and better standards for higher education of the time. The assemblage of these visionary young men led to the birth of the LAGOS YOUTH MOVEMENT  in 1938 . A  political movement that would later challenge  Herbert Macaulay’s Nigeria National Democratic Party  for political power had been born . The NNDP prior to the time  had dominated Nigeria’s politics for many years .

The Lagos Youth Movement possessed the power of organization and resilience to power a political platform that history now remembers very fondly .  The power of Nigerian youth and their creativity  fused together in an unprecedented manner and within  the spate of four years , the Lagos Youth Movement had become the most influential political organization in the country . It’s name was changed to Nigerian Youth Movement to establish a truly nationalist credential thereby attracting more vibrant young people and better prepared for coming elections.

By the turn of the next election in 1938 , the candidates of the NYM defeated Macaulay’s party in the legislative council elections and thereby kick started a new era in NIGERIA’s politics . We can say unequivocally that between 1938 -1941 the Nigeria youths established  Nigeria’s first Nationalist movement . The core focus of the NYM was to unite all peoples across ethnic lines to forge a common front in the bid to get a better deal for the people . Their efforts solidified the foundation that eventually wrestled authority from the colonial masters for the Nigerian people in 1960.

After the Nigerian youths had joined forces under National Youth Movement ,they decided to set-off very powerful campaign for  better representation of Nigerians in the civil service , they also demanded better wages and working conditions for the people of Nigeria. The NYM pan-Nigerian stance spread like wild fire across the country. By 1939 , the NYM had presence in Kano , Ibadan , Zaria , port harcourt , ijebu ode , warri , Enugu , Aba , calabar , jos and kaduna . It had become a leading political force everyone had to reckon with . The NYM was particularly forward looking , it paraded men like Earnest Okoli , Samuel Akinsanya , Dr JC Vaughan and HO Davies . The young men also recognized the power of the media if they were going to maintain their newly found political leverage , they set up a newspaper called ‘Daily Service’ . It became the ‘This Day’ of that era.

These days , too many people are worried that the Nigerian youths cannot pull of any grand and noble idea politically ,  they  say the Nigerian youths do not have the discipline , temperament and conviction to stay  cohesive long enough to transform a country like Nigeria . I do not blame the cynics, after all there too many examples in our history to show that the Nigerian youths have not been able to cohesively progress or chart a common goal in the larger interest of Nigeria . It seems  spirit that inspired NYM of the 30s had taken a flight from today’s youths . We have a had more than one faction of NANS for so many years , the National Youth Council has ever been a house of war and disorganization . The Nigerian youths had been reduced to mere tools for political thuggery and other social vices . The Youths  in politics are also easy tools in the hands of the ruling class that systemically destroy the future to feed their today’s greed and love for power.

Despite the undeniable humongous potential of today’s Nigeria youth , the youths are largely individual champions traveling narrow paths in a very large terrain . Sometime in 2010, the then honourable minister for youth development , Bolaji Abdulahi had  selected 50 youths from across the country to a meeting aimed at setting a tone for a new agenda for Nigerian youths . He called the gathering ‘Nigeria 50 Youth Champions’ .
I had just been elected leader of a Youth political platform called the Peoples Senate at the time . As far as I and many of us present were concerned , it was a great initiative . I remember many great ideas were shared with the listening minister by different brilliant men and women present . However ,one of the participants said something that seemed to resonate powerfully with everyone . She said “The Nigerian youths can’t see anything grow to maturity, they are too eager to pull down . The love of money , mutual hatred , jealousy and jostle for spotlight will destroy the best of ideas,we can’t just seem to come together.”

The lady got a thunderous clap from the crowd . I watched the minister closely as the claps thundered , I watched his body language ,he seemed genuinely worried for the Nigerian youths , he shook his head and looked for a second much older than his age. The meeting ended well with a common agreement that the Nigerian youths could rescue Nigeria and we all agreed to work together with the minister to achieve something great for Nigerian youths . The lady’s words however stuck with the participants as we left .

There is no doubt Nigerian youths have the potential  to bring down the sun if the constituency applies itself . We have the tools that can guarantee enduring progress for our people. What we must do is to organize and be consistent in our convictions and efforts , we must also begin to reduce the animosities , prejudices , people judgement and mistrust that has driven wedges in our relationships with one another over the years. Our country bears the brunt .

Despite all the challenges faced by Nigerian youths , it still remains the most potent  hope for change in this country . Every nations destiny is written many years earlier in the hearts of its youth . What do you think is written in the heart of today’s youth?

Lai Labode is the Chairman of PDP Youth Circuit.

Corruption, Accountability and fight of Yesterday vs Today’s Men


Laz Ude Eze

Laz Ude Eze

I love my country, Nigeria. It is such an eventful place, so eventful that writers never think of what topic to write on but rather, there’s usually difficulty in choosing from a litany of important events happening in the national polity. Corruption is not a new topic but like the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), it has continued to mutate and present itself in different forms. Nigerians empowered by the social media are using their rights to free speech optimally. The events of the past week have kept folks busy (updating twitter/facebook profiles or at least reading other people’s updates).
The ongoing debate on corruption/accountability was provoked by two major events: the lecture by the immediate past Vice President (Africa) of the World Bank, Dr Oby Ezekwesili at UNN Convocation and a judgment of the Abuja High Court that convicted Mr John Yakubu (who stole N23.3billion from the Pensions Fund) but gave him an option of seven hundred and fifty thousand naira. Both developments would lead to a better outcome for our beloved country if handled properly. But would the right thing be done?

Like many Nigerians, I was very upset when I read that the pension fund thief was given an option of fine. It reminded me of a similar judgment in the case between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion; where Federal High Court, Enugu in December 2010 convicted him for embezzling N2.9million and gave an option of N3.5million fine which he paid and walked with a slap on the wrist. The public condemnation that followed the case led to an appeal by EFCC, the outcome has remained unknown to the Nigerian public. I didn’t expect any judge to deliver a similar judgment barely two years after. Is Justice Abubakar Talba legally wrong by giving such judgment? Most like not! The lawmakers are to blame. It is baffling that that the law would provide 2year maximum jail term for looters of public funds in a country where examination malpractice attracts 21year jail term. More so, it is disappointingly paradoxical that same institution is legislating 14year old imprisonment as punishment for gay marriage. In my opinion, Justice Talba is legally correct but morally wrong. I expect the National Assembly to go beyond its directive for an appeal of the judgment; they should apologise to Nigerians and begin the process of amending the law to provide for stiffer penalties for corruption.

On the other hand, Dr Ezekwesili’s call for accountability in governance attracted unsurprising but disappointing responses from senior officials of government. The first response came from the government’s spokesman, Mr Labaran Maku. Rather than provide a responsible answer to the allegation, his statement suggested that Dr Ezekwesili probably mismanaged funds allocated to Education Ministry while she was minister. Presidential aide, Dr Doyin Okupe told the media that Dr Ezekwesili “lied shamelessly”. Presidential spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati in a skillfully written piece explained how “loosely bound group of yesterday’s men” have gone offensive on the administration. His lengthy article also chided the critics but failed to provide answers to the questions raised. Rejoinders have followed from various quarters. Twitter has been busy with varied opinions in favour of “yesterday’s men” and largely against “today’s men”.

It is a universal practice for citizens is to raise allegations of mismanagement of funds rightly or wrongly against government. While some may have genuine intentions others may not. But should we focus on the intention of the accusers? I don’t think so. Should the government attack the personalities of the accusers? A responsible won’t do that. An important requirement for public office holders is tolerance to scathing and sometimes malicious criticisms. I don’t know whether Dr Ezekwesili is right or wrong but I won’t ignore her allegation. She is a respectable woman and a model to lots of young Nigerians. But if government has established any case of official misconduct against her, let them prosecute her. The attempt to smear her reputation appears irresponsible to me. Former ministers like Femi Fani-Kayode and Nasir Elrufai are undergoing prosecution, but that has not denied them their right to ask questions. Personally, I’m not inspired by the duo, but I respect their right to free speech. I respect their right to demand good governance and accountability. I didn’t agree with Elrufai’s disregard of judicial pronouncements as minister but I’m pleased with many of his achievements. It is arguable if any of his successors have matched them.

Furthermore, it is unarguable to an objective mind that the power supply has improved under the present administration, modernization of airports is taking place and the railways system is beginning to work again. These among other achievements are commendable but even the most corrupt administration would still have some good things to its credit. Nigerians are becoming more informed and must not be taken for granted. It is in the interest of the nation for President Jonathan’s administration to create a more transparent system and stronger institutions. Nigerians deserve to know about every kobo that the country earns and how it is expended. That is not too much to ask for. Government officials should begin to respond to issues responsibly and desist from attacking personalities. Reuben Abati was a chronic critic until his appointment as presidential spokesman. I would never have imagined that he would kick the opposition the way and manner he’s doing. All Nigerians, including the opposition deserve some respect. Similarly, critics should also focus on issues, desist from name-calling and making frivolous allegations that may heat up the polity unnecessarily.

Finally, I commend Dr Ezekwesili on her advocacy for accountability. I commend all Nigerians who condemn and stand against corruption. It is my expectation that government will explain how the revenue that has accrued to the country under this administration is being expended. I also expect the National Assembly to make laws that would strengthen the Reward and Punishment System in the polity. God bless Nigeria.

Tweet me @donlaz4u
(First Published February 4, 2013 on my Column on The Newsnest)

National Development: Are Nigerian Youth doing Enough?


Decades ago during the colonial era, young people with the support of some elderly ones fought and gained independence for Nigeria. The expectations were high and Nigerians looked forward to rapid development. However, this was not to be. The first republic had myriad of crises that resulted in coup d’état, counter coup and civil war; the rest is now history. A major group that is still suffering the consequences of our beleaguered experience is the youth. But the challenge of rebuilding the country also lies on the youth. As major stakeholders in our national development, are Nigerian youth doing enough?

In the foregoing, who is a youth? “Youth” is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community. The age range that defines “youth” differs from country to country and is often considered to be between the age when one leaves compulsory education, and the age at which one finds first employment. The latter age limit has been increasing particularly in Nigeria, as higher levels of unemployment and the cost of setting up an independent household puts many young people into a prolonged period of dependency. Meanwhile, the African Youth Charter defined “youth” as “every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years”. This is the definition used by most African countries including Nigeria.

Youth are one of the greatest assets that any nation can have and undoubtedly, the greatest investment for a country’s development. Whether Nigeria is investing properly in her youth is debatable but there is no gainsaying the fact that a lot of young Nigerians had made and continues to make sacrifices for national development. I am privileged to have met, interacted and on many occasions worked closely with young people from many parts of the world. I have also for most part of my adult life played active roles in many youth led initiatives within and outside Nigeria. At all times, I see reasons to be proud of the Nigerian youth. I’m very proud of our contribution to national development.

I had my undergraduate studies in the University of Ibadan where I met some of the most intelligent and patriotic young Nigerians. We wanted change in Nigeria, but we felt we had to start from campus. But one platform that brought some of these great minds together was campus journalism. The likes of Tolu Ogunlesi, ‘Bimbo Ojenike, Ohimai Amaize, ‘Buchi Akpeh, ‘Fisayo Soyombo, Olaiya Templer among many others were veteran campus journalists who have continued to make meaningful contributions towards nation building. Despite the harsh investment climate and near absent support system, the Nigerian youth have built and sustained a flourishing entertainment industry. The youth have repeatedly brought honours to the country through sports. My friend, Olukayode Ajayi-Smith has mentored hundreds of teenagers through his organization, Joint Initiative for Development. Agwu Uchenna Duke and his team have been promoting academic excellence in his home town using the Okposi Education Initiative. There are a numerous youth-led initiatives in every part of Nigeria and the impact of their activities on national development cannot be overemphasized.

More so, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is the biggest single platform that actively engages the youth on nation building. Although the scheme’s unsatisfactory performance in recent past has triggered calls for its disbandment, it is heartwarming to know that some youth have continued to use the platform to improve lives. An exciting case is that of Kanayo Okeke-Eweni, a physician and corps member serving in Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory. Unlike many who would have seen their posting to a very remote part of Abuja as punishment, Kanayo considered it an opportunity to make positive impact. He was stunned by the number of residents who lacked access to healthcare in their communities and then developed a comprehensive health development plan which he has executed within the past ten months. Kanayo planned to carry out health outreach, give health talks, train primary health workers, and most importantly build a clinic in Fuka, a village in Kwali. There is no access road to Fuka; during rainy season, residents walk or swim through a river (depending on the water level) to get there. Also, there is no health facility in the area and the closest one is hundreds of miles away. With the support of HAPPYNigeria (an NGO that mobilizes youth for health development) which he now heads and a couple of other NGOs, Kanayo was able to implement the entire content of his Kwali Health Project. Within this week, the N3.9million five-room clinic in Fuka will be officially commissioned. This young man is worthy of celebration.

Regardless of the remarkable impacts made, there still remains a minute segment of the youth population that engages in devious and nefarious activities. Some even think the only way they can contribute is to do nothing but spend all their time to malign and castigate every public office holder using social media without coming up with alternative ideas. The question now becomes, are the youth doing enough? The answer will depend on what one considers as “enough”. But there is one thing I’m convinced about, we will surely do more than enough when the government strengthens the economy and jobs are available for the teeming youth population. It’s time for expedient action to institute transformational leadership at all levels of governance within the polity. Let us do more to make this happen. May God bless the Nigerian youth!

Tweet me @donlaz4u.
(Published on my column on The Newsnest on January 21, 2013)

A Political Party for Nigeria Youths : A Good , Bad or Ugly Idea?


Lai Labode

Lai Labode

I fielded a lot of questions this past week about what I thoughts about the prospects of a Youth Political Party for Nigerian youths , especially the new Youth Party called SNC.

To begin with , we must commend the different groups and persons who have advocated this for even proffering solutions to the myriads of problems facing the youth constituency and our country. There thought process isn’t so different from ideas we have toyed with in the past and seen its potential power , challenges and implications. While many have condemned the idea as a tall dream , I cannot but disagree on the notion that anything is impossible when it comes to politics and the potential of a visionary , consistent and competent united youth constituency. If you study the Nigerian political system very deeply and dispassionately , you will realize that its successes and failures depends very largely on the ability to mobilize the youths to carry out its bidding .

Since the return of democracy in 1999 , the political class have never failed to ‘engineer’ youth organization to push its agenda . Under the OBASANJO administration , we witnessed the birth of Grand Alliance of Nigeria led by Hon Abdul, the group paraded men like Dino Melaye and a host of student union leaders . They were so well funded . While most Nigeria youths perceived the group as pawns for the PDP government and focused only on the monetary gains it would bring to those who ran the organization , they failed to see the opportunity the group missed by not been able to transform the structure to a sustainable platform for youths in politics. We all remember the negative but powerful movement put together by the young Kanu for Abacha; Youths Earnestly Ask For Abacha . The demonstrated that a united NIgerian youth constituency could do a lot of good or bad for a country . There has been many groups like that focused on a short term agenda .

The government at different times have successfully courted the lame Nigerian youth council to endorse it at one time or the other to the detriment of what the organization was really meant to stand for . Many Nigerian youths know very well that the Nigerian Youth Council can easily pass for a political arm of our party . It’s structure is defective and doesn’t represent the Nigerian Youths on this planet . Urgent reforms is needed if the youths are to get any leverage from the Nigerian Youth Council.

The youths have been active tools in the hands of those who plunder and terrorize our people for too many years , there is enough evidence to show that no election has been won or lost without the full endorsement of the youth constituency whether through our actions or inaction .

While we cannot and will never be able to divorce politics from money , the use of money in our political field is predominantly negative , deceiving and morally devious . The politicians simply take advantage of the depth of desperation for survival of the youth constituency. In a country where less than 5% of its youths are poverty is the surname of many , you do not need a seer to tell you that most people will care less about good governance when they are is pervasive poverty.

While we pursue our vision for Nigeria within the PDP under the PDP Youth Circuit , I cannot but see the possibilities that are there for a political party for the youths even if all it does is to galvanize more youths to get involved . Who knows if the PDP can do the grandest merger that will be the envy of ACN , LP , ALGA and CPC put together! A youth political party may help rally those who don’t like my party or any of the other political parties under one umbrella to participate in politics .

There are many challenges in politics irrespective of the age of the players , the youths even have a bigger challenge; there is justifiable widespread mistrust , many can not stand the rigors of growing a political platform , many are genuinely concerned but cant fathom the need for consistency , perseverance,discipline , strategy and firm leadership. Most are unconsciously too cynical and are too focused on the immediate , others share no ideas but focus on compulsive criticisms , many cant stay in an organization if they don’t have the position of power they want . There is as much problem and obstacle for youths who lead youth groups as the people who lead the political parties in Nigeria today.

The PDP Youth Circuit provides an opportunity for those young People who want learn the dynamics of politics in a bid to contribute their quota to nation building. I remember the attacks on Ohimai Godwin , Tomi Araromi , Taiwo Adepoju and my friend Ojugo Onyeluka when they decided to join the PDP , many have called them all sorts of names for frolicking with the PDP without any recourse to their legitimate reasons , drive or convictions . I am happy that many of them have replaced their fear of ‘what people have to say’ with ‘what can we do to make a difference’.

Many have predicted the PDP Youth Circuit will die like other youth organizations , many expect us to be in court soon, many don’t know why it isn’t dead yet. The point is irrespective of what happens , men who have character and understand the need to change the status quo will remain resilient , consistent and focus .

Take it to the bank , there will be many obstacles within our the PDP Youth Circuit like any other group , however , the leadership will not blink for a second until our collective dream for our nation is achieved and can be entrenched institutionally for future generations to follow .

Good luck to the advocates of A YOUTH POLITICAL PARTY , the PDP YC will have its does open to you when you think of a merger .

Lai Labode is the Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party Youth Circuit (PDPYC)