Sweetie, Lets Relive Europe

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Where do we start this journey? If we start from the ages, where everything was without form, we realize that we are placeholders in the long span of this terminal universe. If we truly have to begin, to see Europe, in the previous length of 200 years, we should start from Greece, the cradle of Western Enlightenment, where democracy was carved out. We should see the ruins of Athens and how vulgarity paled her into the present, holding on to life support of Germany.

We should transit to see Berlin and hear marching sounds of the Prussia and behold the horrific remnant images of the holocaust, the ruins of the World Wars and also the crumbling pieces of the Iron Curtain. We should have that kiss, the new kiss of freedom seen around the world.

In Vienna, we relieve the antique of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now cut in chunk of states deciding their destinies. We should not forget Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo of Serbia, the villain who sparked the war by assassinating Archduke Ferdinand. We should stand where he stood and marvel how the rolls of the tanks roared after those shots.

 We should go France – Paris and Normandy –  and see Le Louvre, Eiffel Tower and its signature of its classic past. At Normandy, we should peer at the brave soldiers who smoked their blood in the hail of gunfire. We should kiss their tombs and listen to their chuckles dipped in freedom.

We should go the Poland to see the horrors of Auschwitz and how the beast in man raged so loudly. We should gaze at Constantinople of the Ottoman Empire and its reign that reached the Mediterranean Sea. Dearie, we will take sights on Brussels right from the footprint of King Leopold to the administrative center of ailing Europe. We should never forget the beast of the East and leap to St Petersburg and relive the October Revolution – how the Lenin rolled the tanks in Winter.

 We should fly to Moscow, sober at the fiefdom of Stalin, behold the paragon of modern belligerence and adore the Red Square from where Yeltsin winked at the rolling tanks.

We should see good old shopkeeping London, and ask how this island once controlled two-thirds of the earth. Lets find the steamy coal plants of Newcastle, the cotton-loading ports of Liverpool, the royal palaces of WestMinster shining across Thames and the abiding legacy of Rothschilds. Lets ask the cyclists of Amsterdam how the ancient finance left their floors to the glassy walls of the Swiss.

 We have seen everything but we have not seen Europe. What’s being in Europe without seeing Rome, Milan, Turin, Florence and Venice. We have not seen the obscene creativity that litter the streets of Rome and the enduring magnificence of Michaengelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. We should not miss Barcelona, we have something to learn from the Catalans and their forlorn dream of separation.

It is time to go home dearie, back to Africa, but we should feel some breeze and where else if it’s not in the playground of the rich – Monaco.

Maybe down the road, this our sojourn is an opening chapter of a book to come.

First Term Governors: 4 Things to Note

RaufThis post is part of an interrogation from within and views are subject to change with a superior argument. Actually, it is not linked to my firm principles but only a conversation with current reality. 

Recently, I have been ruminating on what kind of leadership thrives here. I am still thinking about it and I assume only a mix of populist and visionary leadership can actually work.   Nigerian voters are not that sophisticated to stay on policy issues and if politician arrives with a grand plan typical of one bred in the West, it will be shocking that nothing will be achieved. A politician has 2.5 years to work. The first six months to settle down and the last one year to prepare for another election.

Here are some of my recent thoughts though with frail conviction on how to be Governor that wins the second term in Nigeria. The only person I think may disrupt this formula is Governor Ibikunle Amosun who applies reverse approach that will ‘bully’ voters to vote him in 2015. He has made a ‘wreck’ of the state in pulling down structures and at that grand scale, I doubt if the electorate will take chances to replace him. Here are quick four steps:

1. Forget FAAC, Go & borrow: The reality is that if you are not in Lagos, Kano nor in the Niger Delta with a bucket of derivation funds, you will hardly impress anyone in four years. There are salaries, pensions, government overheads, existing debt service payments to be paid and when a Governor makes all that payments, you might have less that N500m left. Grand scale thinking on improving IGR is a medium term approach and don’t forget that you have just 2.5 years to rule. So find quality projects that can dazzle the public – roads, schools, hospitals – and borrow against it. No one remembers that Aregbesola in three years raised N11.4bn bonds to build model schools nor Jonathan regime has doubled national debt using borrowed funds to refurbish airports, Abuja-Kaduna rail, raise counterpart funding Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and 2nd Niger Bridge. They will sing your praises, you are really performing. The data is obscure to most people. Oyo State has been planning N30bn bond for two years, looks like they wont wake up.

2. Let the people ‘eat’: Don’t be too elitist and remember that N10,000 monthly wage has a cascade effect on the society. Look at Aregbesola, he was ‘A’ at his populism game which is not a bad tag, he is only responding to his environment. He did OYES, set up a mass sewing school that employs at least 3,000 people, gave free school uniform and free daily meal to pupils. Mimiko has used the Abiye programme to endear himself to the Ondo people. PDP also in that mode has SURE-P alerts for the most vulnerable and agric subsidies for the farmers. It’s nice that you are building roads, schools, hospitals but the self-interest in quantitative terms that people can latch on or aspire to also matters.

 3. Beware of Civil Servants: The context matters but don’t play with civil servants especially if they are a power bloc in a state. In most societies they are the enlightened few and grassroots seek aspiration with them. If a politician wants to reform the civil service, wait till the next term. If there are bad old teachers, send them on a training to improve them but have tighter controls on the new recruits. Small raises such a leave bonus, 13th month, have workers’ solidarity rallies, you need them on your side.

4. Religion & Traditional Institutions: Never tamper with these institutions, it raises a whole of emotions. Don’t touch traditional rotation structure nor come close to being labeled an extremist on the divide. Dont descreate religious institutions, remember Ohakim. It could be the single reason why a politician is going down.

 In all, be a noisemaker. Make sure everything you do is amplified and your party members don’t stop singing your praises. Make sure you consider your perception at all time because half-truths become the reality. Don’t listen only to those you employed as your assistants so often, soar and hear from the streets to always tweak your perception.  No matter what you will still have to campaign hard.A comeback is never easy.

Chibok Girls: Two Nights and 110 Days

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It was a night. It was in 2006, sometimes in March. It was close to 11:45pm and I was cracking jokes with friends. There is a stocky woman who sold food on Awoyokun Street. She sets her wares around 11:30pm, mostly for the tired bus conductors. Most times I go there for a late night meal before I finally go to sleep. I love dinners a lot. I thought without eating one, it’s an sign of poverty. While we argued on football on the whispering night ready for that short walk to the roadside restaurant, I heard a voice.

“Seun nnnnnnnnn”

It was my father calling. He spoke only once. Once was enough. It was of a man soaked of in tears within but controlling the outpour. My soft-spoken father never called me that way. He spoke so loud only in cases my disobedience reached the brim.

My sibling was yet at home and the clock raced toward midnight. We sat in the room on bended heads. Phones rang from Lagos to Ibadan, where my mum and other siblings lived. No one, no single soul could sleep that night. With my suspended head, I dozed off waiting for dawn as he got ready waiting tirelessly for the clock to complete every hour.

Before Lagos woke from its deep slumber, he was on that first bus to Ibadan. The next morning I was to take a test with Phillips for my internship. My Dad encouraged me to go. It was with mixed feeling and an unclear head. My sibling walked back to the house in the morning. What a night – of tarnished souls full of dread and imaginations of any possibility.

******

The next scenario was while in the University. My lovely mum with endless ocean of care, heard we just had a riot a in school. She learnt it was ‘bloody’ with soldiers shooting rapidly. She was always suspicious of my activism but she never knew I was so deep into  it, that I aimed to contest for Student Union President.

She left Ibadan to find our where I was. She came to Abeokuta. She asked where I was yet no one to tell. My neighbours knew I was in my engineering compatriots’ house in Eleweran but no one knew the exact address. It was an epileptic phone with tall straight receiver but with low power to receive signals. That night, my mum slept in my room. For my Mum, that night, walls turned to fences, fences to gates and gates into borders. She could not sleep still not convinced of my location. I came home that day by noon only to hear the tale of her misery. I called her and left for Ibadan immediately. She had no cool words for agony I put her through. She had no cool words till dusk.

***

On two occasions, my parents doubted where my sibling or I was. It was nothing to delight about. Imagine those without their daughter for 110 days. Those who have been caked in dusty swirl of hope waiting for when they will feel the embrace of their daughters. Imagine seeing a terrorist and a psychopath lay behind armoured tanks dress daughters and sons in long satin using them as tools for negotiation. Imagine the unimaginable – of what insurgents weary from a battle can do to hapless girls. Imagine the trauma of those who count days into months and time has lost its essence. It is a cruel world where humanity seems like an activist tag and the government with the all the resources seems helpless to protect its own. How long shall we wait? How long shall we tarry with long faces for the Chibok Girls? We want them back NOW & ALIVE.