Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cheering news in the midst of national gloom

Nigerians seem so accustomed to man-made tragedies, bad governance and routine negative news that we fail to acknowledge little positive steps and achievements when they occur. We are inured to negative news so much that nothing shocks us anymore. When there are tragic events like terrorist attack, road accident, flashflood, epidemic and so on, we shrug it off and go on with our business as if nothing has happened. The common catchphrase is, “And so what? Life goes on! Today, I have decided to recall some of the positive, soul-lifting stories that happened in the recent past. I have decided to chronicle the silver lining in our nation’s dark sky.
The first is the increasing use of law as an instrument of social engineering and the incremental positive output from public interest litigation and judicial activism. Not long ago, a Lagos-based lawyer, Festus Keyamo, won a case against the Federal Government over the appointment of military service chiefs. Delivering judgment in a case instituted in 2008 by Keyamo, Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court, Abuja, issued a restraining order against the President from further appointing Service Chiefs without first seeking and obtaining the concurrence of the Senate.
The judge, in a July 1, 2013 ruling, nullified the appointment of all Service Chiefs of the federation on the grounds that their appointment was carried out in violation of the constitution. Bello consequently declared their appointments unconstitutional, illegal, null and void. The Service Chiefs affected by the court’s declaration were the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika; the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba; and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, all of whom have since been replaced.  The lesson learnt from this is that when President Goodluck Jonathan appointed the current Service Chiefs, he sent their names to the Senate for confirmation thereby obeying court order and righting the wrong of the past.
Scenario two: On March 26, 2014, a Federal High Court in Lagos held that it was unconstitutional for the Federal Road Safety Corps, to impose new number plates on motorists in the country. The judge, Justice James Tsoho, delivered the judgment following a suit by a lawyer, Emmanuel Ofoegbu, challenging the powers of the FRSC to issue the new number plates. Ofoegbu had challenged the power of the corps to impound vehicles of motorists who failed to acquire the new number plates.
Scenario three:  On  March 27,  2014, sequel to a suit filed by a civil rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, against the Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Inland Waterways Authority, the Lagos State Government and the state Attorney-General, the Federal High Court Lagos barred the Lagos State Government from further collection of tolls from users of the Lekki-Ikoyi Suspension Bridge. Justice Saliu Saidu, in a judgment declared that since the bridge was built from public funds, imposition of tolls on motorists using it was illegal. The court later granted a stay of execution brought before it by the Lagos State Government just as the case is also on appeal.
Scenario four: On Monday, April 14, 2014, a Supreme Court judgment voided the Igbo customary law which denies daughters inheriting their fathers’ estate. The Supreme Court said it was discriminatory and in conflict with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The judgment was given in a family dispute between Gladys Ada Ukeje, who was disinherited from the estate of her deceased father, Lazarus Ogbonna Ukeje. She sued her step-mother, Mrs. Lois Chituru Ukeje, and her son, Enyinnaya Lazarus Ukeje. A Lagos High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court all reached the same decision on the matter.
Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, JSC, who read the lead judgment stated, “No matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, such a child is entitled to an inheritance from her late father’s estate. Consequently, the Igbo customary law, which disentitles a female child from partaking in the sharing of her deceased father’s estate, is a breach of Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution, a fundamental rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian”.
Scenario five: On April 17, 2014, an Abuja High Court declared the “Park and Pay Policy” introduced by the Federal Capital Territory Administration as illegal. The policy required motorists in Abuja to pay fees whenever they parked their vehicles in designated areas. In a judgment delivered by Justice Peter Affen, the judge held that although the policy may be laudable, it was not backed by the law. The suit was filed by a firm, Sun Trust Savings and Loans Limited, which approached the court to challenge the legality of the policy. Through its lawyer, Ekene Okwubanego, the plaintiff had sued the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and two companies commissioned to operate the policy, asking the court to stop the collection of fees from motorists through the scheme.
What is the import of these landmark judgments and why are they cheery news? They are heartwarming because they signpost the fact that the Nigerian judiciary is working and that aggrieved persons or organisations can still get justice using the instrumentality of the law rather than resorting to self-help. These judgments will help to bolster people’s confidence in the judiciary. Moreover, this is one of the “software” dividends of democracy in Nigeria. Civil liberties that enable an aggrieved citizen to approach the court for redress are only meaningful and impactful during civil rule. If the military were to be in power, they would have suspended the Constitution and ousted the jurisdiction of the court to entertain some of these suits which have made individuals to defeat their government in courts.
These are not the only cheery stories though. Others include the recent rebasing of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product by the National Bureau of Statistics.  As a result of the GDP rebasing, the size of the Nigerian economy has grown by 89 per cent to N80.3tn ($509.9bn). This ranks Nigeria as the world’s 26th largest economy, the largest economy in Africa, bigger than Angola, Egypt and Vietnam put together, and 12 times the Ghanaian economy. Also worth celebrating is the Thursday, April 24, announcement of two eminent Nigerians, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala , and the President, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, among the Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.
In his citation, Dangote was referred to as “Africa’s richest man who does good, in addition to doing well.” Part of Okonjo-Iweala’s citation read that “Ngozi has made corruption her enemy and stability her goal. She is fiercely intelligent…” Lest I forget, our entertainment industry is the best and largest in Africa. In fact, Nollywood is the third best in the world, bettered only by America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood. Furthermore, about seven of Nigeria’s musicians are among the richest in Africa going by Channel O and Forbes’ list released in 2013.
To round off the chronicle is the soothing news from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation naming the city of Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital for 2014. Port Harcourt was reportedly chosen “on account of the quality of its programme, in particular, its focus on youths and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates”, so said UNESCO Selection Committee. Who would have believed that something this good can come out of the capital of Rivers State which has been engulfed in a war of attrition between the state government and the Presidency as well as some Abuja politicians of Rivers origin. This is congratulating all the lawyers who won their public interest suits; Okonjo-Iweala and Dangote and the Rivers State Government on their awards and recognition!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A toast to Olubadan of Ibadanland at 100

In him you find the discipline of a trained soldier, the consummate nobility of a gentleman and the astuteness of a man of honour” – Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State paying tribute to Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade 1 on his centennial anniversary. .

Hearty felicitations to Kabiyesi, Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade 1, the Olubadan of Ibadanland on his 100th birthday anniversary. In truth, I have never physically met the Olubadan but I have been attracted to the royal father by few similarities we share. First is that we were both born in Ibadan. Second, we are both Christians. Third, we were both educated in Ibadan. Fourth, we both taught in Ibadan and lastly, we were both born in April; while he was born on the 14th, I was born exactly two weeks after.  Beyond the comparison, the life and time of Oba Odulana is a moral legation. He has been aptly described as a living legend. A man of many parts. He has been a civil servant (teacher and administrator), a parliamentarian, a soldier, a philanthropist, an elder statesman and a royal father. Oba Odulana is the 40th Olubadan and the only one to live up to 100 years on the throne.

In these days of terrorism, epidemic and unending tragedies, I cannot help but wonder how some people still manage to live up to 100 years of age. It is a great feat. It must be a divine grace. In order to appreciate the very rich, inspiring and exemplary life of the Olubadan, let’s take a look at what his biographers have to say about him.

“Born at Igbo Elerin in the Lagelu Local Government Area of Ibadanland on Thursday, April 14, 1914 to Pa Odulana Ayinla, he began his elementary education at Saint Andrew’s School, Bamigbola, in the present Lagelu Local Government Area in January 1922 and obtained a transfer to St. Peter’s School, Aremo in 1929. He completed his middle school education at Mapo Central School in December 1936. He equally strengthened his education via correspondence college”.

“He had a brief stint with United Africa Company as a produce clerk before taking up teaching at the Church Missionary Society Elementary School, Jago, in the present Ona-ara Local Government Area in 1938. He also taught in several schools from 1939 to 1942. He however, willingly relinquished the chalk to pick the more challenging duty of Army officer during the 1939 World War 11. …… Upon the end of the war in 1945, he was put in charge of the demobilisation of returning soldiers in Lagos, which earned him an exemplary character award of the Army Fourth Brigade and this climaxed into an immediate appointment with the Colonial Office Education Department in 1946”.

“While in the civil service, where he was until 1959, Oba Odulana actively assisted in the establishment of both primary and secondary schools in various parts of the old Western Region of Nigeria. He voluntarily retired and embraced politics to represent his people in the 1959 pre-independence federal elections, as a member of the House of Representatives. This led to a string of political achievements, such that he was appointed the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in the country’s first independent cabinet”.

“In 1963, he attended the epoch-making Commonwealth Conference in London. He also became the country’s Minister of State for Labour. In 1964, he led the Nigerian Parliamentary delegation to the London Constitution Conference to restructure the then British colonies of Rhodesia and Nyasaland now known as Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia”.

“Oba Odulana’s political career was truncated by the 1966 Nigeria’s first military coup, but he evolved to become a philanthropist and community icon……These laudable achievements, no doubt, contributed to his conferment of a honorary degree of Doctor of Management Technology by the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, in December 2005”.

“His ascension to the throne kick-started with his appointment as the Mogaji (Head) of his Ladunni family compound, at Oja-Igbo in 1972. In 1976, Olubadan became the Jagun-Olubadan. Thus, with a steady rise, moving 22 steps on the ladder of Ibadan’s unique chieftaincy succession system within a period of 31 years, Oba Odulana became the Olubadan of Ibadanland on Friday, August 17, 2007”. This was at the ripe old age of 93! This is a classical case of a crowning glory after an adventurous life.

In celebration of the royal father, a weeklong activities spanning Monday, April 14 (his birth date) through to Saturday, April 19 were held. These include a church service, carnival show, symposium, Jumat service, stage play, chieftaincy award, a grand finale party and homage by his subjects. A docu-drama titled Olubadan of Ibadanland: The Living Legend, The Pride of Africa produced by CEO Africa was also unveiled in celebration of the monarch who is regarded as the oldest king alive in Africa, if not in the entire universe.

Many notable Nigerians have been showering encomiums on the paramount ruler of Ibadanland. Amongst them is President Goodluck Jonathan who personally led a team of eminent Nigerians to rejoice with the king on April 15. According to the President: “Oba Odulana is a man of impeccable character, whose tenure has witnessed peace and tranquillity”. In the opinion of Oyo State Number 1 citizen, Governor Abiola Ajimobi “Those who knew him, even pre-his ascendancy to the throne, speak eloquently about a man who typifies honour and nobility. In the Olubadan is a demonstration of the elusive concept of Omoluabi. The Omoluabi, for the purpose of clarification, is that man who carries nobility, human goodness and trust around him like a pouch. With Kabiyesi, you know where you stand as he does not suffer fools gladly. In him you find the discipline of a trained soldier, the consummate nobility of a gentleman and the astuteness of a man of honour. His own (brand of) politics transcends the type found on the streets today”. 

One of his chiefs, the Jagun Balogun of Ibadanland who is also a seasoned lawyer, Chief Lowo Obisesan, described Oba Odulana as a rare breed of royalty, whose kind was rare to find in any clime. According to him, “He is a honest and truthful leader, with very high integrity and sense of value. He says it as it is without fear or favour…” Chief Obisesan noted further that a hallmark of the king’s integrity was that he never based conferment of chieftaincy titles and honour on pecuniary consideration unlike other traditional rulers.

My prayer to God is for Him to grant me sound health and longevity as He has done for our revered monarch. My wish for Oba (Dr.) Samuel Odulana Odugade 1 is that God in His infinite mercy will grant all his noble heart desires. 100 hearty cheers to you Kabiyesi.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nigerian Civil Service at 60

On April 1, 2014, the Federal Civil Service Commission rolled out the drums and celebrated with pomp the 60th anniversary of the Service.  There were a lot of speeches, backslapping and conviviality at the event. All of these are in order. However, it is also the time for introspection and retrospection; a time for stock-taking. What is the scorecard of Nigerian civil servants in the eye of the public? How efficient, effective and professional have the average civil servants been in performing their assigned duties? How significantly have Nigerian civil servants contributed to national development? These are some of the posers the management and members of staff of the Nigerian Civil Service must find answers to.
In principle, civil service is the engine room of policy as well as project formulation and implementation for any government. It forms the nucleus of government bureaucracy and ensures continuity in governance. There are administrative, executive, professional and clerical cadres in the Service. Nigerian civil servants work in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies. As there is federal civil service, there are also state and local government civil services with their respective commissions established to deal with issues of recruitment, discipline, promotion and retirement. Civil servants are broadly divided into junior and senior positions. The junior positions are Levels 01 – 06 while the senior positions start from Levels 07 – 17. Although the senior position is also sub-divided into middle level (Levels 07 – 14) and management position (Levels 15 – 17). Curiously, there is no Level 11 in the civil service as members of staff are promoted from Level 10 to Level 12, thereby skipping 11.  The civil service is a career position where appointees are expected to spend a maximum of 35 years or retire on the attainment of 60 years of age.
Ordinarily, the civil service operates under some core values such as integrity, meritocracy, discipline, professionalism, patriotism, impartiality and secrecy of government information, except where the information divulged conforms to the Freedom of Information Act. In truth, however, many of these core values are observed in the breach in spite of the existence of the General Order which sets out the rules and regulations guiding the activities of the civil servants.
The Nigerian civil service is integrity deficient. Many civil servants are not persons of honour. While they are supposed to resume work at about 7:30am and close by 4pm, many of them are habitual latecomers while some others only come to work at irregular intervals. Sometimes, once or twice a week. Some forge their service records in order to gain undue advantage or stay longer in service. Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Bukar Goni, recently said that through the Integrated Personal Payroll Information System, his office and that of the Accountant General of the Federation were able to discover about 1,050 personnel that had tinkered with their records of service. The Delta State House of Assembly Commission last month also dismissed 26 of its staff for certificate forgery.
It is not uncommon to read of the phenomenon of “ghost workers” in the civil service while all manner of recruitment scams, fraud and sharp practices have come to be the defining factors of the Nigerian public service. One of such is the pension scam where billions of naira meant for the payment of pension of senior citizens who had retired were diverted into private pockets. Corruption has so much permeated the Nigerian civil service that most of its officers occupying sensitive positions take advantage of such offices to corruptly enrich themselves. It is an open secret that many of the civil servants live above their means despite complaints of poor remunerations. For a fact, no political office holder can successfully engage in corrupt practices without the active connivance of civil servants.
Meritocracy in the civil service has also been sacrificed at the altar of greed, cronyism, ethnicity, tribalism, federal character, quota system and religious affinity.  Appointments, capacity building and promotions are sometimes done on the basis of whom you know within the system. It is no longer news that appointments in some MDAs are for sale. Foreign and local training opportunities are sometimes extended only to those in the good books of their bosses and the lackeys who are ready to bootlick.  The same for promotion. There are allegations of cash and sex for promotion in the service just as some are reportedly promoted based on some extraneous, primordial considerations.
Can anyone be bold to say that contemporary Nigerian civil servants are apolitical? Far from it! They are no longer politically neutral. They are indeed grossly enmeshed in polittcs. Some of them are mobilised to join the campaign train of their political bosses during electioneering. This is untoward and is tantamount to abuse of state and administrative resources.
The issue of professionalism in the service is also a serious one. In the last six decades, the Federal Government has tried ceaselessly to reform the Service in order to make it more effective and efficient. Some of these reform committees include the 1959 Justice Mbanefo Commission on Public Service Salaries and Wages; Justice Morgan 1963/64 Commission; the Simeon Adebo Commission of 1971; the Jerome Udoji 1972 Commission; the 1985 Dotun Philips Reform Committee and the Steve Oronsaye Reform Committee of 2009. In spite of these reform measures and despite the establishment of the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, and the Public Service College for manpower training of Nigerian civil servants, the Service has yet to demonstrate the requisite professionalism.
The Nigerian civil service has not been able to effectively integrate Information and Communication Technology into its operations. It still operates on an analogue platform in a digital age. The use of computer, e-mail, and other ICT tools for maximum performance is still limited. Files are still being pushed from one tray to the other when such communications could have been done via e-mail. Bureaucratic bottlenecks and red-tapism associated with civil service need to be dismantled for greater service delivery.
The civil service is too important to be allowed to flounder. Concerted efforts need to be made to redeem the battered image of the civil service in Nigeria. The Nigerian Civil Service needs administrative and financial independence. To my mind, the political office holders are interfering too much in the affairs of the service and this is hampering its service delivery. A conducive work environment with good remuneration, adequate working tools and right exposure to international best practices will help to increase the performance of the Nigerian civil servants.  There is also the need to enforce discipline within the service. Primordial sentiments must be eschewed in the appointments, training, promotion and discipline of civil servants. It should be clear to these bureaucrats that they are people’s servants and not their masters and as such should do all within their power to justify their employment.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tasks before the new CBN Governor

On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, Nigeria’s Senate confirmed the nomination of Mr. Godwin Emefiele as the Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor Designee. The consummate banker who was head-hunted or poached from Zenith Bank Plc where he was until his new appointment the Group Managing Director has his job cut out for him. He succeeds the incumbent governor of the bank Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who was on February 20 suspended for acts of financial recklessness among other crimes.

If a book will be judged by its cover, one would say that given Emefiele’s conservative mien he would most likely not want to introduce radical reforms the kind of which typifies his successor, SLS, tenure. But one could be mistaken on that. The new CBN governor has however promised to face core functions of CBN and has specifically said he would maintain strong exchange rate and not devalue the nation’s currency. He most likely will see to the full implementation of the CBN’s reforms such as the introduction of cashless policy, know your customer policy, etc.

I do not see Emefiele as someone in the mould of SLS who will be making political statements and drawing unnecessary attention to the institution he heads. We’re also not likely to see the ‘Father Christmas’ gesture of CBN which is part of what defines the tenure of Sanusi. In fact, donations to academic institutions and victims of terror may not continue under Emefiele but I do hope that the CBN commitments on Corporate Social Responsibility made under Sanusi will be honoured even if new pledges will not be made.

Emefiele needs to check the soaring inflation, maintain financial stability and come up with fiscal policies that will be salutary to Nigeria’s economy.  His administration would need to ensure that Nigerian banks and other financial institutions are fully operating on good corporate governance and obeying all CBN financial regulations to the letter. If need be, he should conduct another round of test to ascertain the health of the banks operating in Nigeria. He must have robust and professional rather than adversarial relationships with the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Asset management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), Federal Ministry of Finance and Chartered Institute of Bankers among others. The high mortality rate of Nigeria’s Microfinance Banks must be of concern to him as the MFBs have not been able to effectively play the pivotal role assigned to them in the economy. CBN under the new governor will have to introduce measures that will strengthen the operations of the MFBs. Same for the Bureau de Change (BDC). Operators of the BDC have been accused of being involved in money laundering. This has to be thoroughly investigated and if found to be true checkmated.

The new CBN governor must follow through the allegation of missing or unremitted funds from NNPC into the federation account made by his predecessor and ensured that the truth is unraveled. Another issue that should be of concern to Emefiele is that of high interest rate charged on loans by money deposit banks and their refusal to lend to critical sectors of the economy. As an insider, I expect that he would be in a better position to ensure that banks are able to give loans to customers at a more friendly   terms and that interest on savings is also increased by banks in order to promote saving culture.

On the whole, it is good that the new CBN Governor has about three months to understudy the current acting governor, Mrs. Sarah Alade so that when he gets  sworn-in in June he would be able to hit the ground running. Generally speaking, he would need to build on the noble legacies of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and other predecessors in office while eschewing their pitfalls. He should be rarely seen, sparsely heard and allow the Corporate Affairs department of the Bank to do the job of public relations and enlightenment.

A tourist impression of Ikogosi warm spring

Beautiful! Awesome! Scintillating, are some of the adjectives I used to describe my experience at the Ikogosi Warm Spring during my visit to the tourist site on Friday, April 4, 2014. I did not have it in my plan when I left Abuja on Wednesday, April 2 to attend the national conference on how to ensure credible governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States as well as during the   2015 general elections. Organized by the Centre for Civic Education better known as Transition Monitoring Group, the conference was held at Fountain Hotel, Ado Ekiti on April 3. It attracted wide range of participants from the academia, civil society, media, political parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission. We deliberated and came up with potpourri of recommendations which we believed will lead to the conduct of credible gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun States come June 21 and August 9, 2014 respectively as well as the February 2015 general elections.

With the day’s event over, a friend, Biodun Oyeleye who is the Executive Director of New Initiative for Social Development, a non-governmental organization based in Ado-Ekiti baited me with the idea of a visit to Ikogosi Warm Spring. He offered to take my wife and I there free of charge. Biodun kept to his promise. By 9am he was at my hotel. Promptly, we set out on the about 40 minutes drive to the flagship of Ekiti State tourist centres. As we left Ado, the state capital, we passed through Ilawe and Erijiyan-Ekiti before we berthed at Ikogosi where the warm spring is located.

The sight that beckoned to us as we passed through the gate of the Ikogosi Warm Spring was breathtaking. Uniform security men, well paved lawn, street light, and warm reception by the management and staff we came in contact with settled us in. Biodun played the role of a tourist guide. His organization, NISD, has held several workshops and conferences at the centre and he was well known by the managers of the spring. An official guide and a cart were later assigned to take us round the resort.   We were shown the conference halls, some of the well equipped chalets, the amphitheatre, the volley ball court, the natural warm water swimming pool, the gymnasium, the shopping mall, the palm-wine drinking joint where bush-meat is served with original palm-wine and then the mother of all scenes, confluence point  of the warm and cold spring. There we met some primary school children who have been brought on excursion to the place by some of their teachers. I was ecstatic. By my right is cold water and by my left is warm water, what a wonder! A professional photographer was on hand to capture the moment for a fee. No dulling! I asked him to take some pictures of me and my team.

 Close to the confluence point is another wonder. A palm tree and an Iroko tree sharing same root and growing like a Siamese. What a splendid work of God. We went further up the hill to the source of the warm spring. Exhilarating! The vegetation surrounding the spring is evergreen and the entire landscape is simply exquisite. As we leave the magical spot for the restaurant to have lunch, staffers of one of the telecommunication giants in Nigeria who had come for possibly a workshop or a conference filed in to have a look at the wonder of Mother Nature. On our way back, we abandoned the cart that brought us and decided to walk our way back to the reception area via the wooden bridge that once served as footpath for visiting tourists possibly before the road constructed for vehicular traffic.

Information garnered from the website of Ekiti State government says that there are many stories from the indigenes of Ikogosi town regarding the origin of the warm spring. A version says that both springs (Warm and Cold) were wives of the same husband who turned to springs water in the wake of rift and rivalry between them. The hot and ill-tempered first wife is believed to have turned to the popular warm spring while the cool-tempered second wife turned to cold spring water. The husband became the undulating hills that encompass the springs. A more tenable scientific explanation is that the deeper a body of water goes underground, the hotter it becomes and if by chance it is forced back to the surface through some earth fault, the temperature will be relatively high. The natives believe that the water has therapeutic effect as it is said to have potency to cure some sicknesses such as arthritis and guinea worm, among others.

The Baptist mission in the early 50s reportedly established a youth and conference centre and other conveniences on a hill adjacent to the warm spring area. This started attracting different people from far and near, even foreigner started visiting the centre to see the work of nature. By 1978 the old Ondo State acquired this unique tourist site from Baptist Mission. It became the property of Ekiti State government when the state was created on October 1, 1996. Unfortunately, successive governments in the “Land of Honour” as the state is called allowed the ‘gold mine’ to fall into state of dilapidation and disrepair. Mercifully, the incumbent Governor John Olukayode Fayemi sourced for money to refurbish the centre, added additional structures and restored the flagship status of the place. The remodeled Ikogosi Warm Spring phase one was commissioned on October 19, 2013. We were informed that over 20,000 guests visited the place during the last Christmas season.

The Warm Spring currently has about 90 chalets and the atmosphere there is safe and serene. We were told that plans are afoot to revive the moribund zoological garden within the resort, build an heliport, 18-hole Golf Course, a sports centre (football pitch, lawn tennis and squash court), as well as water and sewage treatment plant among other expansion projects on the 116 hectare resort centre. Ikogosi is also the home of the Gossy Brand Spring Water. About ten minutes drive to Ikogosi is another tourist centre, the Arinta Waterfalls at Ipole-Iloro. Ekiti State also boasts of other tourist centres such as Olosunta and Orole Hills in Ikere-Ekiti, Ero and Egbe Dams, Fajuyi Park and the sacred lake of Erijiyan.

In my chat with the head of Strategic Planning of the Ikogosi Warm Spring, Mr. Tolu John Ajeyomi, the staff strength of the resort currently stand at about 150. I intimated him of the need for adequate maintenance of the state-of-the-art facilities at the resort which he assured me will be of great priority to his leadership. In addition, I hope politicians currently campaigning for the June 21 gubernatorial poll in the state will go about their activities without violence or breach of peace of the state. Security threat has the potential of scaring away tourists who may want to visit the state’s sightseer sites. As we took our leave after a sumptuous lunch of pounded yam, vegetable, bush meat and croaker fish, I told my wife that, someday soon, we must return to the beautiful Ikogosi Warm Spring.  However, next time around it won’t be a quick one by Mr. and Mrs. as we did last Friday but with the full complement of the entire family. So help me God. 


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The erosion of Nigerian cultural values

How do you identify an American, Indian, a Ghanaian, and an Australian? What tells them apart? It is their culture. Their geographical locations, languages, food and drinks, fashion and style, literature, music, names, mores and values, all serve as means of identity. Recently, I have been reflecting and getting worried at the way our African, nay Nigerian identity, is being gradually eroded by a largely western culture.
The affliction called neocolonialism has made us to despise our own customs and traditions while upholding American and European ways of life. The Information Communication Technology has been largely used by the western world for cultural imperialism. Through the traditional media (radio, television, billboard, newspapers, etc) and the social media (Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs powered by the internet), we’re being systematically and subtly brainwashed to jettison our own cultural identities. The more we watch western films, reality shows, beauty pageants, news, fashion and styles, the more we desire to be like them. There is no gainsaying the fact that cultural diffusion is desirable as no nation is an island unto itself. However, when there is a tendency and deliberate attempt to portray our culture as inferior and get us to believe that western values are the superior, civilised and acceptable norms, then we need to watch it.
Today, many Nigerians are no longer proud of their traditional names which were carefully chosen for them by their parents based on prevailing circumstances within the family. Nigerian and indeed many African names have meanings. Names are very symbolic in this part of the world and not just arbitrarily given unlike what is obtainable in the western world.  Our mode of dressing too has been badly affected.  Our traditional attires such as the  agbada, buba and sokoto, iro and buba, kaba, gele (headgear), fila (cap) which are the native attire of the Yoruba are being jettisoned for foreign designs. It is not uncommon these days to see our ladies indulge in all manner of artificial beautification that shorn them of their natural beauty. If you want to verify my assertion, take a look at some Nigerian ladies before they take their bath early in the morning and see the difference after they put  on their wigs, padded bras, fake buttocks, false nails,  fake eyelashes, concoction of bleaching creams for make-up and skimpy clothes to complete the dress up. Some have western tattoos all over their bodies while some, in addition, pierce and wear rings on their tongues, nose and navels. I thought it is called ear-ring!   We may not have jewelry but we do have coral beads and in Yorubaland, local cosmetics such as tiro, laali and osun.
Hair plaiting is now fading except perhaps in the rural communities. The different hair styles that distinguish and beautify Yoruba women such as suku, patewo, koroba, kojusoko have all given way to wigs, “perming” and jerry curls. Brazilian and Peruvian hair extension are now in vogue and I learnt these weaves do not come cheap. Some men have now joined ladies in ear-piercing, hair plaiting, tattooing, and skin bleaching. In addition, some also “sag” their trousers thereby revealing their panties. These, to my own mind, are unwholesome ways of dressing.
In terms of greeting, rather than the very respectful way we salute our elders in the Yoruba tradition (boys/men prostrating and girls/ladies kneeling), we now have a generation of “chop-knuckle”, “Hi dad” and “Hi mum” children. This is untoward and disrespectful. Call me old fashioned if you like, this mode of greetings depicts nothing but a lack of proper home training.
Our food menu these days is so exotic that one would think we do not have local dishes before the slave masters and colonialists invaded our shores. We now breed “Indomie children” who practically feed on noodles, custard, oats and pasta.  Yet, we have grains like maize, sorghum and guinea corn with which we make pap and other food. We also have yam, cocoyam, rice, plantain, beans, vegetables and fruits with which we make good meals.  Unfortunately, western nutritionists and doctors are today counselling us against eating pounded yam,  “eba” or “garri”, “amala”, and “fufu” made from our local flours. They say those foods cause diabetes and we should now be eating wheat which is produced by western farmers and imported into the country.
Contrary to what these western ideologues would make us believe, it is the exotic food, condiments and supplements that are gradually killing us. The preservatives used in many restaurants, fast food joints and hotels, the frying of many of our food in cholesterol filled oil, the sugar-laden  snacks and drinks on sale in many of our eateries that are the harbinger of diabetes and coronary heart diseases. Many of the local dishes we’re being asked not to eat again are what our grannies ate and lived till old age with little or no health issues.
While no big celebration in Nigeria is complete without Champagne (Nigerians are the second largest consumer of champagne in the world according to Euromonitor International in 2013. We spend an average of N41.41bn on the drink yearly), Hennessey, Schnapps, Whiskey, Beer and other foreign drinks; our indigenous Palm wine, Burukutu, Zobo , Kunu and Fura-de-nunu hardly get served at many parties. This is sheer imperialism!
What about our music and movies? An average educated Nigerian knows more foreign artistes and buys their works than their Nigerian counterparts.  Pop, Rap, R&B, Rock, Country, Jazz, Reggae music  are preferred by the Nigerian elite and youths  to traditional Nigerian music such as Juju, Fuji, Highlife, and  Afrobeat, with their philosophical and inspirational lyrics. The only Nigerian artistes who have gained some international recognition from the western music genre are those who are able to indigenise and give it their own local flavour.
Gradually, we are losing touch of our indigenous languages as more and more Nigerians take fancy in English as their primary means of communication. Many young children are hardly able to speak their parents’ local languages let alone speaking the dialect. Not even the government policy of making sure that a child learns one of the indigenous languages in school has been able to effectively address this uncomplimentary development.  Let’s not forget  that it is through language that we learn our societal mores and values, proverbs, idioms, folklores and oral history. English as a medium of expression cannot effectively communicate all of these to us.
This is a wake-up call for us all to start taking practical steps to redeem ourselves from cultural imperialism we’re gradually enslaving ourselves. Let us stop aping the West with reckless abandon. Let us take pride in our local delicacies, drinks, names, fashion and style, music, theatre, language and literature. That is our niche. It gives us identity. It markets us to the rest of the world.
I salute the management and staff of Daar Communications owners of African Independent Television and Ray Power for making it a company policy for members of staff to use their native names and dress in traditional attire while on official assignment. I have noticed this among their newscasters and presenters. Newscasters on the Nigerian Television Authority also wear native attire. These are commendable steps. I also thank the Nigerian Nollywood crew for producing films and movies that are rich in Nigerian culture.
On the whole, while I recognise that it is within our fundamental human rights to live our lives the way we want, it is in our overall best interest to showcase our rich culture and heritage and thereby let foreigners know that we are not people without history and that we take pride in our traditional values, mores and customs.