Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My fears and aspirations for Nigeria in 2014

Happy New Year and a joyful centennial anniversary of Nigeria, Dear compatriots! It’s the first day of 2014 and congratulatory messages are in order as we usher in a brand new year. Even though I do not have a prior knowledge of President Goodluck Jonathan’s New Year speech, some things are discernible and worth discussing. I am not Nostradamus, the man credited to have a prescient knowledge of tomorrow, yet, I can hazard some guesses on the issues that will define 2014.They are largely carry over issues from last year.

Such issues include  this year’s budget which was laid before the National Assembly on December 19 by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi  Okonjo-Iweala; the centennial celebration of Nigeria’s amalgamation; the corruption scourge; the insecurity challenge; the “rofo-rofo” fight within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and between the party and its main nemesis, the All Progressives Congress; the proposed national dialogue; the inclement business environment; and the pitch darkness that still envelopes Nigeria  in spite of the conclusion of the sales of generating and distribution companies last year.

Others include the  forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil; the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games; the recurring industrial actions in the health and education sectors; the unacceptable unemployment and poverty rates in the country; the frosty relationship between the Presidency and the National Assembly, especially the “rebellious” House of Representatives; the lingering Nigerian Governors’ Forum crisis; the mutual suspicion between the states and Federal Government; the protracted constitution amendment exercise; the preparation for the 2015 General Elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission; the infrastructure deficit beleaguering the country, and many others.

Let me first discuss some of my nagging fears about these issues and then conclude with my hope for the year.     The first major issue I see beyond the euphoria of celebrating 100 years of Nigeria’s amalgamation is that of this year’s appropriation bill. The N4.6tn budget estimate is likely to generate a lot of ruckus when the Senate and House of Representatives begin the debate on it, especially during the Ministries, Departments and Agencies budget defence. The inkling that the passage of the budget might not be smooth sailing lies in the fact that there was a bitter argument between the executive and the legislature about the poor capital budget performance last year; the oil benchmark controversy as well as the late presentation of the estimate compared to that of 2013 that was presented in October 2012.

It will be recalled that it was not until two days to the budget presentation that the two chambers of the National Assembly agreed to $77.5 oil benchmark from their initial differing positions. While the executive proposed $74, the Senate chose $76.5 while the House of Reps pegged its benchmark at $79. The slight edge that the All Progressives Congress now has in the lower chamber on the aftermath of the cross-carpeting of 37 Peoples Democratic Party members into the party in December will also make things difficult for the Federal Government to get its programmes and policies through.    Lastly, on this particular issue, the snippets published by the media on the 2014 budget estimates have shown our leaders as insensitive to the plight of average Nigerians. The humongous amounts that the Federal Government has earmarked for its upkeep and fantasies including travels, pets, and acquisition of additional aircraft for the President’s use as well as maintenance of the Presidential Air Fleet attest to this.

Another contentious issue that will dominate headlines in 2014 is the proposed national dialogue whose advisory committee’s report was submitted to the President in December after it was inaugurated in October.  Many, including this writer, had observed that it was a needless distraction and a right thing being done at the wrong time. Governor Martin Elechi of Ebonyi State on Friday, December 27 referred to the conference as ”a big joke and a waste of time”, even though he reportedly recanted his stance.   Many political watchers are waiting to see if this conference will not impact negatively on the preparations for the 2015 General Elections.

And talking about elections, 2014 will give Nigerians a foretaste of what to expect from the Independent National Electoral Commission during the 2015 general elections. There will be two governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states. INEC also hopes to conduct a Continuous Voter Registration exercise and distribute permanent voter cards among sundry other groundwork for the 2015 polls.   It had requested a sum of about N93bn to enable it prepare for the next general elections which it planned to hold either January or February of 2015.  If it is true that only N45bn has been earmarked for INEC in 2014 budget, it then means that the electoral body will only get less than half the amount it needed to conduct the 2015 polls. Invariably, this will affect the effort to hold elections early 2015.

Another major fear I have for this year is the overheating of the polity as the power-game between the APC and the PDP becomes intense. Already, the newly registered APC has successfully poached five governors and 37 House of Representatives members from its arch-rival, the PDP. News reports have it that about 22 senators are also set to dump the party in January 2014 or thereabout. Top members of the APC have also boasted that more PDP governors would soon defect to the party. Should this come true, the import on the polity may be both salutary and ominous. The emergence of the APC has brought about balance of power which then means that the ruling party, the PDP can no longer treat the electorate and the general public with levity.  However, inflammatory statements are already being bandied by the two main parties with the APC calling for the impeachment of President Goodluck Jonathan.  There will be worse spat as we get close to the elections and my fear is that if the leaders of these parties do not desist from hate speeches as well as inciting statements, the country’s security situation may take a turn for the worse.

Concerning my aspirations for the New Year, I wish the Super Eagles will get to the final of the World Cup in Brazil (this is not impossible if we prepare well) and that our contingent to the Commonwealth Games   at Glasgow 2014 (23 July – 3 August) will do the country proud. I also hope that we will start to reap the benefits of privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria and that there will be more light than darkness this year. I wish that government will genuinely surmount the nagging security challenges  currently facing this country and that we would have better road networks, no aircrash, better investment climate, no more strike in the health and education sectors and that our economic growth will result in palpable development particularly in terms of better employment opportunities and poverty reduction.

As we celebrate today, may we as a nation, family and individual never experience a better last year. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas, a celebration like no other

It’s Christmas Day and I wish my dear readers happy celebration. It’s a season of love, sharing, caring, holidaying, indulgence and festivities. The Yuletide better known as the Christmas season is unique and special. Celebrated every year on December 25, the date is sacrosanct even though some theologians have come out to say that the birth of Jesus Christ which is celebrated on that day may have been miscalculated.

However, Christmas is peculiar in many respects. It is one celebration that is heralded by so much pageantry. The greetings during the season are special as people say to one another “Compliments of the season”, or “Yuletide” while the most common greeting style  on the D-Day is Merry Christmas! During the season, churches (both orthodox and Pentecostal), government at all levels, schools, and many private and public institutions take turns to organise Christmas carols where choirs engage in rendition of well-composed and rehearsed songs in commemoration of the birth of Christ. From about November 25, which is a clear one month ahead of Christmas, branded gift items in celebration of the season are usually offered for sale.

In fact, there are special offers with huge discounts for purchases made of some items during the season. Promotional music is also played on television and radio. Evergreen Christmas songs from Bonny M such as Silent Night, Feliz Navidad, Mary’s Boy Child, Noel, Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angel Sing, and many others trend during the Yuletide.   GSM operators also cash in on the season by asking their customers to download the many special Christmas songs as their ringtones for a token. Mobile telephone operators also smile to the banks during the season as people make endless calls and send season’s greetings to friends, colleagues and loved ones via text messages.

Also unique to the season is the Santa Claus popularly known as Father Christmas where children especially are taken to grotto where a supposedly old, heavily bearded man dressed in the traditional Christmas attire of Red and White dishes out well-packaged gifts to those who come to visit him. A small access fee is paid to partake of this bonanza.  I recall with nostalgia the tale told us when we were young that Father Christmas lives in Jerusalem and only visits other parts of the world at Christmas time to give people gifts. There is also Christmas light and tree. Pine tree or its synthetic version wired with multi-coloured singing strobe lights are used for interior decoration at Christmas. Some state governments even go to the extent of beautifying major roundabouts with Christmas trees and lightings all in a bid to add fun and glamour to the season.

 There are equally Christmas colours which are red and green. Many public and private institutions as well as churches decorate their premises with well-designed chiffon materials. It’s all part of the celebration.  Yuletide is vacation and reunion time. It is a time for rest and recuperation.   Schools close for their first term during the season while many workers often fix their annual leave for the period. Some corporate organisations even close their offices during the period. This affords the workers who have been separated from their extended family members to travel home to reunite with them and share the joy of the season with kith and kin. Some organisations also do pay what is called 13th month salary to their workers which is one month salary bonus. This largesse enables many workers to have extra income to celebrate the time of year with their friends and loved ones.

Peculiar to Yuletide is the Christmas card and sale of hamper. As earlier said, it’s a season of giving and people strive to share with both the loved ones and the less-privileged. Thus, it is not uncommon to see people buying specially designed cards and picnic baskets packed with groceries and wines which they give out in appreciation to loved ones and well wishers. It is not only these that are given out at Christmas; foodstuffs, clothing materials, utensils are also shared out according to the giver’s level of grace. One can safely conclude that Christmas’ food is rice and chicken as this is the most popular menu on Christmas Day. Wrapped gifts received at Christmas are supposed to be opened on December 26 which is internationally recognised as Boxing Day.

Also synonymous with the Christmas season is the end-of-year parties, musical concerts and carnivals. The ones that readily come to mind are the Abuja Carnival, Port Harcourt Carnival known as Carniriv organised by Rivers State and Carnival Calabar organised by the Cross Rivers State Government. Many towns and communities, especially those from the South-East, also seize the opportunity of the Christmas season to set aside a day for fund raising for community development initiatives.

Another practice at Christmas is the use of fireworks. Bangers and knockouts are among the most popular fireworks on sale. Unfortunately, the uncontrolled and reckless use of these fireworks has wreaked havoc in many communities. These fireworks had set ablaze many houses, shops and offices as well as maimed and killed many people. This had made law enforcement agencies to ban the use of fireworks at Christmas in Nigeria. Despite the ban, these substances are still smuggled into the country and offered for sale.

Why is Christmas so unique? It’s simply because the person whose birth is being celebrated in that season –Jesus Christ – is himself a peculiar Being. His unique conception, His birth in a manger, His celebration by the Three Wise Men from the East who offered Him the gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, His eventual death at the age of 33 and His resurrection from death after three days and ascension to Heaven are all pointers to the fact that Jesus Christ is an unusual Being. Any wonder His birth is widely celebrated in an uncommon style?

Unfortunately, many celebrate Christmas without knowing the essence. They indulge in all manner of abuses – overeating, alcoholism, womanising, flaunting of wealth, etc.  They lack spiritual understanding of the celebration which is indeed the most important. Some also put themselves under undue pressure during the season as they strive to cater for the special needs of their families. They use up their little savings celebrating, forgetting the more important school fees they would have to pay barely a week after celebrating the Yuletide. Some parents even resort to borrowing to buy new cloths and prepare special dishes for their families and friends. Others indulge in crimes and criminality in order to source funds for Christmas celebration. This is against the spirit of Christmas.

Thus, as we celebrate another Christmas today, let us seek the spiritual understanding of the day and celebrate in moderation. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another look at Obasanjo’s epistle to Jonathan

Opposition is true friendship. The man who tells you that you have a stinking rear is your friend. He is only drawing attention to your bodily filth and asking you to do something about it. He is better than a sycophant who says you can always come out of the sewage tank and smell of roses!

—Aristotle, in his Analytics

in the last one week, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s December 2 letter to President Goodluck Jonathan which was leaked to the media on Wednesday, December 11 has generated a lot of furore and brouhaha in the media. Opinions are divided on the propriety or otherwise of the 18-page missive. While many believed that it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black and that the ex-president has ulterior motive rather than patriotic reasons for writing the memo; others have also recalled the many woes of the Obasanjo administration while some others said he should not have made the communication public.

Yet, there are those who say “focus on the message and not the messenger”.  I belong to the latter group. There is a saying in Yorubaland that, ‘eni jin si koto ko ara yoku logbon’, which literally translates as, ‘he who falls into the pit serves as a moral lesson to other passersby’. While it may be true that Obasanjo committed quite a lot of missteps during his cumulative 11 years as Head of State and President, it should be instructive to his successors’ to learn from his mistakes. For those who think the letter should not have been made public, Obasanjo gave 10 reasons why he chose to make it an open letter.

I have twice read the letter from Obasanjo and should say that the Ota farmer should be commended for being courageous enough to say the truth that many people on the corridors of power would not want to tell the President. Indeed, Obasanjo’s antecedent as a military General robs him of diplomacy. He is always frank, blunt and fearless when saying his mind. This is not to say that the former president is always right. Yes, his record in office may not be as impressive as we may wish as Nigerians. Of course, if he had performed creditably, perhaps he could have won the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. However, whatever may be his governance or performance deficit, he is still very popular and is a sounding board for the international community who continues to engage his services as head of election observer mission and international mediator, among other international assignments.

I found the contents of the controversial letter didactic and instructive. It is an eye-opener on many national issues. The former president has put the issue of President Jonathan’s promise to do one term in office beyond speculation. It will be recalled that Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and several others had said that the president promised or even signed a pact to do one term in office. Now, Obasanjo has come out boldly to mention the communication on the matter between him and Governor Gabriel Suswam and the confirmation of President Jonathan to him to do one term.  Lest we forget, it is this second term ambition of President Jonathan that is at the heart of the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party. As chronicled by Obasanjo in the letter, it is the second term aspiration of the President that is making him to do deals with opposition parties in the South-West Zone particularly in Lagos State during the 2011 elections and in Ondo and Edo states during the 2012 governorship elections as well as in Anambra State during the November 16, 2013 governorship poll.

On the issue of insecurity which Obasanjo said is very discomforting, it is only someone living in a fool’s paradise who will deny that assertion. I have said previously that Nigerian leaders, past and present,  have failed signally to secure lives and property of the citizens as enjoined by Section 14 (2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended which says “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. I therefore couldn’t agree more with the analysis of Obasanjo that  “Drug,  indoctrination, fundamentalism,  gun  trafficking,  hate  culture,  human  trafficking,  money laundering,  religion, poverty, unemployment, poor  education,  revenge  and  international terrorism are among the factors that have effect on Boko Haram”. Prescription of a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the menace of insecurity cannot also be faulted.

The former president was also on point when he said, “To  allow  or  tacitly encourage  people of ‘Ijaw nation’ to throw insults  on  other  Nigerians from other  parts of  the  country  and threaten fire and brimstone to  protect  your interest  as  an  Ijaw  man  is  myopic  and  your  not  openly  quieting  them  is even  more  unfortunate”.  I shudder at the mere thought that Jonathan’s government may have put about 1,000 people on political watch and that snipers are being trained surreptitiously to deal with perceived enemies of the federal government. Like Obasanjo said,” If it is true, this cannot augur well for the initiator, the government and the people of Nigeria”. The insinuations that the Presidency may have remotely controlled the judiciary to allow someone to evade justice also leaves a sour taste in the mouth and further erode people’s confidence in the judiciary.

The former president was as well on point when he observed that:” Most  of  our  friends  and  development  partners …are worried about issue of  security  internally  and  on  our  coastal  waters,  including  heavy  oil  theft, alias  bunkering  and  piracy.  They  are  worried  about  corruption  and  what we  are  doing  or  not  doing  about  it……    They  are worried  about how we  play  our  role in  our  region  and,  indeed, in the  world”. There is no gainsaying that the world has become a hamlet and events in one country have implications on others. If it is true that some of Nigeria’s   development  partners  were  politically  frustrated  to  withdraw  from  the Olokola  LNG  project, and that the  major  international  oil  companies  have withheld  investment  in  projects  in  Nigeria or divesting,  then it’s a real cause for concern. .

 It is also bothersome to note that   the Port Harcourt water project, originally initiated by the Federal Government and to be financed by the Africa Development Bank, is being put in the cooler by the former because of the Amaechi-Jonathan face-off. Obasanjo said a director in the ADB informed him about this. If it is true, it goes a long way to confirm what Governor Rotimi Amaechi has been saying that all the Federal Government projects in Rivers State have been put on hold because of the misunderstanding between him and the President.

I find no fault in Obasanjo’s assertion that the most dangerous ticking bomb is youth unemployment, particularly in the face of unbridled corruption and obscene rulers’ opulence. Obasanjo was also spot on when he admonished that, “We  must  all remember  that  corruption,  inequity  and  injustice  breed  poverty, unemployment,  conflict,  violence  and  wittingly  or  unwittingly  create terrorists  because  the  opulence  of  the  governor  can  only  lead  to  the leanness of the governed.” I have said time and again that 10 aircraft in the presidential fleet, the countless bulletproof cars of the elected and appointed political office holders and ostentatious living of our leaders have contributed immensely to the worsening security situation in the country be it in terms of kidnapping, oil theft, pipeline vandalism, armed robbery and other acts of terrorism. We cannot continue to celebrate growth without development and watch as unemployment and poverty soar.

I do hope President Jonathan will adhere to the worthy counsel of Obasanjo when he urged him to, “Move  away  from  culture  of  denials,  cover-ups  and  proxies  and  deal honesty, sincerely and transparently with Nigerians to regain their trust and confidence.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A vote for road tolling in Nigeria

On November 6, 2013, the Federal Ministry of Works unveiled a draft Green Paper on federal roads and bridges tolling policy at a consultative forum in Abuja. I have perused the 24-page document and found a lot of interesting and exciting proposals which if carefully, diligently and effectively implemented will go a long way to reverse the road infrastructure deficit in Nigeria. Tolling of roads and bridges is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria, we have treaded that path before between 1980 (or thereabout) and 2004, and it was a sad tale.

The new policy identified three challenges faced under the previous toll collection administration. They are:  Legal disputes, revenue leakages and unmet requirements for maintenance of the tolled roads. I recall that tolls were collected from the many plazas built on major federal highways but the proceeds went largely to private pockets. Allegations were rife that toll managers printed their own tickets and were issuing more of theirs to motorists instead of that of government. It was thus a honey pot for some powerful elements in the Federal Ministry of Works. With the attendant loss of revenue from the toll plazas, coupled with dwindling budgetary allocations, the roads were left to decay as there was little or no funding for road maintenance, rehabilitation or construction.

According to the draft Green Paper, “Nigeria has a total road network of 193,200km of which the Federal Government owns 17 per cent while the states and local government councils own 16 and 68 per cent respectively. Nineteen per cent of the main road areas are paved. As of 2007, only 35 per cent of the Federal roads were rated as being in a good or very good condition. The most recent visual and qualitative condition assessment of federal roads by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (March 2011) revealed that only 26.5 per cent of the federal roads are rated as “being in a good condition”.

Yet, “the road sector not only accounts for an overwhelming percentage of passenger and freight movements across the nation, but also for over 95 per cent of non-oil goods conveyed to and fro the Nigerian seaports”. That is straight from the horse’s mouth.  In terms of the number of vehicles plying the road network, the number has risen geometrically from 2,781 in 1937 to 7.6 million in 2007.  The draft tolling policy also rightfully observed that “Nigeria has long suffered from a sub-optimal road network that imposes significant costs in terms of travel time, vehicle wear and tear and high accident rates. Limited access resulting from underdeveloped networks also discourages investment and economic development in many regions of the country”.

The aforesaid makes tolling an appealing and desirable option. As the draft paper affirmed, the benefits are enormous. It observed that, “Provided the programme is well-managed, federal toll roads and bridges can reduce journey times and travel costs and ensure safer travel for road users on the selected roads. It can also encourage more investment and diversification of commercial activity to outlying areas that are currently closed off by poor access. Tolls are also equitable because they are paid by those who use a road or bridge rather than from general taxes, and are reinvested in the road or bridge itself.”

Before someone will develop high blood pressure because of the reintroduction of road and bridge tolling, the proposed policy has made it abundantly clear that not all roads will be tolled. It says: “Not all roads and bridges are viable propositions for tolling. The majority of Nigeria’s roads – especially subsidiary roads and roads with low traffic volumes – will continue to be managed and funded by the Federal Government, as well as state governments and local authorities”.

Three cardinal guides for the proposed tolling are as follows: Toll concessions will only be considered  only where such concessions are financially-viable; permitted only  in respect of roads and bridges where the related investment results in significant improvements to road user so as to promote willingness to pay; lastly,  tolling of roads and bridges formerly financed by public funds will be allowed but the  tolls will be  “ring-fenced and dedicated to defraying the costs of rehabilitation/ upgrading, maintenance and operation of such roads.”

Besides, the new policy seeks the establishment of the Federal Roads Authority which will take on operational responsibilities to champion tolling and contract for road and bridge concessions while the functions of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency will be taken over by the FRA. The Green Paper also seeks to give policing power to concessionaires to enable them combat toll evasion effectively. It likewise intends to license the concessionaires to erect and operate weighbridge infrastructure (including mobile weighing) at the expense of the concessionaires in order to control heavy axle loads and to provide an enabling framework for such arrangements in the Federal Roads Authority Bill. Indeed, I am excited by this provision. Since 2004 when ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the demolition of the toll-gates across the country, the weighbridges went with the demolished plazas. Ever since, many articulated vehicles breach the load limit for their vehicles with impunity. What that does is systematic destruction of our roads as many of these trailers doing haulage businesses carry far more than the capacity of luggage meant for their vehicles thereby putting undue pressure on the road.

On the whole, the policy on tolling of roads and bridges is a welcome development. It is good that the Federal Ministry of Works has come up with this new idea of public private partnership financing of road infrastructure and has deemed it fit to consult widely before the re-introduction of tolls. There is no gainsaying that lessons from the past failed attempt have been factored into the new policy. I will however, in addition, state as follows: The ministry must robustly engage the National Assembly for the quick passage of the proposed Federal Roads Authority bill before it. This bill, as I understand, will give legal backing to the new policy and straighten the grey areas between the powers given by the Federal Highway Act and FERMA Act on who has the authority to introduce tolls on our roads.

Second, there is the need for synergy among the three levels of government on this issue. This is because they control different trunks. While the Federal Government controls Trunk A roads, the states and local governments control Trunk B and C respectively. It therefore makes economic and political sense for them to have an integrated policy on road and bridge tolling. Additionally, no road should be tolled unless and until they have been maintained, rehabilitated or upgraded as the case may be. I do not want the current logic being applied in the area of electricity to be used in the road sector. Right now, Nigerians are paying more for electricity they are not enjoying. Only motorable roads should therefore be tolled. Also, in order to encourage motorists to pay, the toll should be pocket friendly while the toll plaza should be big enough and fully automated to allow for smooth flow of traffic.

There should be proper disclosures on the terms and conditions of the contracts to be signed with the concessionaires as well as full accountability on the invested sum, revenue generated, operational cost, and what percentage of  the income is being ploughed back to maintain and upgrade the tolled roads and bridges.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are you really the father of those children?

My man, can you answer this simple question:  Are you sure, really sure, you’re the father of those children in your house?  I mean, are you their biological father? Do they carry your genes? Was it your sperm that impregnated your wife resulting in the birth of those children? Pardon my meddling in what clearly is your family affair. However, you do have a right to know that you’re not raising other people’s children under the illusion that they are yours. Recent revelations about disputed paternity of children brought to mind the agelong belief that it is the mother of a child who knows the real father.

Dr. Murray Conrad, remember him? He was the personal physician of the music idol, Michael Jackson. In a recent interview he granted a US news medium, the doctor said Jackson was not the father of his three children as he claimed he never slept with their mother, Debbie Rowe.  (See: http://www.tmz.com/2013/11/24/dr-conrad-murray-michael-jackson-penis-interview-daily-mail/). The dust raised by that revelation had hardly settled when a newsbreak in Ghana revealed that Ghanaian football superstar; Nii Odartey Lamptey, is embroiled in a divorce suit with his wife, Gloria. Ghana newspaper, Daily Graphic of November 30,  2013 reported in its online edition  that  Gloria Lamptey has “filed for divorce at the Accra High Court on the back of marital problems arising out of alleged infidelity on her part, after the football star discovered through paternity tests that he was not the biological father of their three daughters”.

According to the 38-year-old Lamptey, “The issue is in court… it is a legal issue I don’t want to go into it now….but I am 100 per cent sure that the children are not mine after 20 years,” he was reported to have told Accra-based NEAT FM. However, Mrs. Lamptey allegedly claimed the husband was infertile and it was upon his consent that she proceeded to undertake InVitro Fertilisation, a claim the footballer is contesting.

Lamptey, a midfield maestro was a member of the Black Starlets team which won the 1991 FIFA Under-17 World Cup and went on to win a historic Olympic bronze medal with the Black Meteors at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and a silver medal at the 1993 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Australia. A former Aston Villa and Coventry City player, he was 1991 world’s best juvenile player. The Lampteys’ case is said to have come  on the heels of a recent divorce case being heard at another  Accra High Court involving a former Black Stars captain, John Mensah, whose wife of 10 years, Henrietta, is seeking a break-up of their marriage on the grounds of infidelity, among other accusations.

Before we think there are no similar paternity issues in Nigeria, let me bring to our attention a celebrated case involving the late business mogul and colourful politician, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. The Nation in its August 7, 2007 edition reported that  a DNA test conducted on the order of  the administrator of Abiola’s estate and in compliance with the instruction in Abiola’s Will dated October 29, 1989 showed that  some of his 113 children might not be his children as 25 of them were alleged to have failed the DNA test.

The question is why are cases of paternity dispute on the increase around the world? The simple answer may be due to increasing infidelity in marriages. However, that will not explain the entire phenomenon. The act of infidelity is itself driven by a number of factors. Among them are pressures from the extended family, fear of divorce as a result of woman’s inability to bear children or giving birth to only girls, lack of sexual satisfaction, and many others.

I have been married for over a decade and should know some of these things. Family pressures, if not properly handled may lead spouses astray. Though companionship should be the primary reason for marriage, however, in our traditional African society, children are placed over and above companionship. Mothers and mothers in-law especially want their daughters or daughters in-law to give birth nine months from the wedding date; that is if she’s not yet pregnant before marriage. Some mothers do tell their sons to be sure their fiancĂ©es are pregnant before fixing date of marriage because of fear of infertility. Those who believe that the marital bed should not be defiled before marriage start putting their daughters or daughters in-law under intense stress once a year passed by without signs of pregnancy in the wife. In some cases, the husbands too join in mounting the pressure on their wives to bear them children.

Similarly, there is another category of married women who do not have male children. They do have children but they are all girls. In some traditional societies, particularly among the Igbo and Yoruba, male children are preferred to female. For some reasons, such as a male child being the one to carry on or preserve the names of the family; a male child being stronger and hard-working and so on, some husbands and their extended families therefore mount undue pressure on their wives to give them male children.

Medically, it has been proved that men carry X and Y chromosomes while women carry X chromosome. A male child is produced only when a male sperm produces Y chromosome to fertilise the X chromosome of the woman. Invariably, it is the man who determines the sex of the child. Unfortunately, many men who blame their wives do not know this or rather choose to ignore the medical truth. In search of children, particularly male children, some women do silly things such as having extra-marital relationships including having sexual affairs with their husband’s friends, office colleagues, drivers, gatekeepers, etc. Some of them even resort to buying children from fake and mercantile maternity clinics and orphanages that dot our landscape. They do this in the vain hope of making their husbands and families happy and saving their marriage from collapse.

The Nigerian law may not recognise bastards but the Yoruba despise them. They are called “omo ale”, that is a child from concubine. There is an adage that “agbo ile to ba ntoro, omo ale ibe ni o ti d’agba” that is if a clan is peaceful, it’s because the bastard in the family is yet to be of age. Perhaps, if husbands and the extended family of spouses will stop putting their wives, daughters and daughters in- law under pressure, maybe, we will have fewer cases of disputed paternities. I do hope that women themselves will stop this nonsense all in the name of preserving their marriage. If they or their husbands are infertile, they should insist on written agreement or having a witness if they are to go for artificial insemination, in vitro fertilisation, child adoption or any lawful means of resolving their infertility.