The Nigerian Experience. We’ve all attempted, at some point in our colorful lives, to fully define what this phrase means to each of us, how it shapes our decision making, how it defines our perception and reaction to everyday situations, and above all, how it uniquely qualifies our experience in this dear parchment of land we call home. That’s all I’ve done here really. Now, walk with me through a few of those moments that make you exclaim every now and then “Why are Nigerians like this?”.
When you drive…
Imagine driving your car on a cool Sunday evening (best day to drive around Lagos really), negotiating a roundabout somewhere in the metropolis… don’t be caught thinking that vehicles approaching will give way to traffic at the roundabout. They rarely will. It’s left to you to know when to stop, inch forward, stop, jerk forward, give way and then move ahead.
At other times you’re driving behind a commercial bus or taxi on the highway… you’re a good and smart driver so you maintain a safe distance… a bus stop is just a few seconds ahead of you. To your utmost shock, the commercial vehicle driver does not ease off the highway into the bus lane… he stops right there in front of your car, while you watch the conductor jump out, hollering at potential commuters. You make the mistake of honking as expected… the conductor throws you a glance that implies to you that you must be crazy for expecting them to pull over in the bus lane … which is actually the right thing!
“If I’m not compelled or forced, I won’t obey rules!”
Ah! The other very typical scenario… it’s a hot afternoon and you’re just trying to drive down for lunch. You have been tailing this car for a few minutes and notice the driver starts to slow down and his indicator comes on, telling you he’s about to make a left turn. So, likewise, you hit the brakes and slow down, to allow him make his turn before you move on. But wait… the car behind you will have none of that… as far as that dude is concerned, you are slow and daft… no be so we dey drive for here, he thinks. So yea, he swerves out to your right and overtakes you and the left turning vehicle… not forgetting to give you that “Yo! You stupid?” look. The worst part? He’s probably a chauffeur and his ‘oga’ is seated behind giving him thumbs up because oga is late for a business meeting with a bank MD!
If doing it right will take longer, do not wait! Who waiting ‘epp?
Swerve your way till you get ‘there’! The end justifies the means!
When you’re trying to chill…
It’s Thursday night and Ade just got off work super stressed. So he choose to drive to the cinema to see a movie… something cool and calm… he really just wanted to relax. He gets to the mall and the car park is filled to the brim, so he drives out to park outside by some company building. Ade is barely done parking and some guy in a security uniform walks up to his side, taps on the window… “oga, no parking here sir”! Ade opens the door, attempting to alight and then asks him what the issue is. He replies “no parking here sir. It’s not allowed”. But you see… Ade is a ‘sharp guy’ and so he smiles and looks the security guard straight in the eye, and with a mastery of Pidgin English, he says “cool dahn! I go sort you!” The guard retreats while grinning ear to ear… then wait for it… he salutes Ade!
Money first… every other thing follows!
At the bank….
Jude misplaced his debit card and needed to do some urgent transactions. So he hopped out at lunch time aiming to dash in and out of the bank. After all, all he needed was a replacement debit card. To his surprise, he met a queue, some sitting, others standing, waiting in turn to be attended to by two customer service personnel who did not look excited about life in any way. Jude joins the queue. After about ten minutes of waiting, he notices a sleek range rover drive up close to the bank entrance, a young man steps out, clad in his sparkling white fitted traditional attire, his leather slippers all shiny brown, sunglasses on ‘fleek’, and wrist chains flashing in the bright sun. He walks in, approaches the customer service section, sweeps his gaze across the line of customers waiting and then beckons to the bank staff. One immediately stands up to greet him “welcome sir, please come this way sir”. Jude almost fainted. He had been there all these minutes, yet this ‘big boy walks in and gets premium service, not needing to join the queue!
“Queues are for mere men! Big boys don’t line up!”
Those annoying questions…
It’s another Monday morning and Fola just got to work. She’s still tired from the weekend but the bills have to be paid. So she parks her car at the office designated spot, does a brief ‘facebeat’ session, picks her bags and walks into the office building, hoping to avoid any trouble makers or work horses. She barely takes a seat at her desk when one of those office madams (who must always talk) stops in front of her. “How was the night?” she asks! Fola smiles in return but says nothing… but madam won’t stop. “You look stressed. Didn’t you sleep well?” Not waiting for a response, she continues “You need to take it easy o! All you these single girls… always attending parties abi… you better go and marry!” At that moment, Fola’s manager calls her phone. She was too glad to take the call.
“Your problem… is our problem! Your business is everyone’s business”
Every now and then, there’s the warm, welcoming Nigerian nature that meets you from the least expected, like having a road traffic officer assist you when your car breaks down in the middle of the highway, without asking for a dime! Or the occasional driver that stops at a zebra crossing for you and other pedestrians to walk across! It’s all part of the Nigerian experience. What are your experiences?
Don’t give up! This phrase has become the mantra of motivational speakers, spoken regularly to millions the world over. Many at their wits end have found life in it.
If there is anyone who has become a living example of this message, it is none other than the retired General, Muhammad Buhari.
Buhari was presidential aspirant on the platform of ANPP. Polling 19% of votes, he lost to PDP’s Umar Musa Yar’Adua.
Buhari contested the same number one position as flag bearer for CPC. He lost to PDP’s Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the incumbent Nigerian president.
Again, Buhari is listed as one of the the key aspirants contesting for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket.
Buhari started contesting for the presidency when he was 61 years old. At 72 years of age, 11 years and 3 tries later, he is still running – for the same position.
The question that lingers in the minds of many Nigerians is: ‘why?’ Why is Buhari running for the same position over and over again? Does this reveal a quest for ultimate power by any means? Did he forget something in the State House? Is he suffering withdrawal symptoms?
Recall however that this same man has led the country as Military Head of State (Dec 1983 – Aug 1985). Prior to that had served as Military Governor for the North-East, Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Chairman NNPC and Chairman PTF. Buhari is not new to Federal power! Been there, done that, with a much talked about record of integrity.
From the foregoing, it seems unlikely that the retired General is power-craving.
So is he bored? Or does he still feel shortchanged, having been sacked barely two years into his sojourn as Head of State in 1985?
Is there something the retired General knows that we do not? Does he hold the magic wand to the peculiar art of governance in Nigeria, ready to wave it on being voted in?
On assuming power via a military coup on the last day of December 1983, his speech commenced with what could be considered a mandate: “In pursuance of the primary objective of saving our great nation from total collapse…” He referenced Nigeria’s dwindling economy, national insecurity, legislative largesse, financial indiscipline, economic mismanagement, and a corrupt, inept and insensitive leadership. Is today’s Buhari driven by the same urgent call of duty to ‘intervene’ and save the nation from imminent collapse? An analysis of Nigeria today reveals a country unchanged from 1983. Politics is still a life or death game, legislative largesse goes without saying, financial indiscipline is still rife, corruption has escalated to sophisticated dimensions.
Is Buhari joining the race, again, because he thinks he has the capability and experience to fix Nigeria? What did he fix 1983 – 85?
The reality of that first stint in the presidency, thirty years ago, is worth exploring. It was tainted by public perception of his initiatives as being extreme and authoritarian. His ‘War Against Indiscipline’ (WAI) program, though noble in its intent, was brutish in experience. Nigerians were forced by whip-brandishing soldiers to queue up at bus stops; tardy civil servants were subjected to ‘frog jump’ punishment, and press freedom restricted.
In a bid to grow the economy, import bans were put in place, causing a rise in commodity prices, ultimately resulting in inflation.
Subsequently however, his stint as chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) between March 1995 and May 1999 demonstrated a level of prudence, and strength in financial management.
The general perception is that Buhari managed the excess oil revenue fund with transparency and efficiency, successfully executing projects nationwide, regardless of the impression that they may have been skewed towards the Northern region.
It ultimately remains unclear what exactly underpins General Buhari’s determination to return to power, what fuels his passion for dusting himself off again and again.
Why is Buhari running… again? Perhaps the weeks ahead will make that clear beyond doubt…
This post was first published via YNaija under the title “Our government has made things worse for us“
Our government has done it again! It is tough enough already for Nigerians who travel frequently to different corners of the world… the numerous cases of profiling, stereotyping and undue suspicion that meet any individual carrying that green passport, leave many wondering why they were born in such a country. The age-old stigma of being 419ers’ and intrinsically corrupt humans remains an every moment battle for those in the diaspora. Despite these prevailing circumstances, the Nigerian government has plunged the nation into an embarrassing scandal. On the 5th day of September, 2014, 9.3 million dollars was transported from Nigeria to South Africa in cash via a private jet. Thankfully, the booty was intercepted at a South African airport by Customs officials who were vigilant enough to observe ‘irregularities’ perhaps while scanning the luggage. A total of three bags were intercepted and cash, laid out in 90 packs, worth $100, 000 each, confiscated by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). The three passengers on the aircraft alleged that they transported the cash to procure arms in favor of Nigerian security services. $9.3 million is the equivalent of N1.5 billion, the worth of 40 four bedroom duplexes in Lekki axis.
Why was the cash seized? South African laws stipulate a maximum amount of cash allowed to be brought in country by an individual. According to the SARS, “Currency brought into or taken from South Africa is monitored by law. Should you have more than $10 000… this must be declared”. These three passengers transported over 900 times the limit… it does not take a prophet to guess that they did not attempt to declare same.
Was this cash movement, now deemed illegal by South Africa law, truly in favor of the Nigeria government? A known Nigerian newspaper details its findings from a ‘top intelligence official’ as follows “The security chiefs took time to explain that urgent security issues warranted the direct purchase of the arms”. There we have it. A government at the peak of the rollout of a cashless initiative, decides to procure arms via the movement of raw cash to the point of contravening the laws of another country. Fail! As if that were not embarrassing enough, worse still is the report that the security chiefs had to take time to explain to the President why this line of action was undertaken. For a country whose President is also named the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, it is shocking that such a decision seems to have been taken with urgent action implemented, oblivious to the C-in-C. Fail!
Where was the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through this process? What happened to wire transfers? Where was the cash withdrawn? The CBN? Or from wardrobes in a house as typified by one-time Governor of Delta State?
It is clear that there was no plan for transparency and financial accountability in the execution of this transaction, rather an obvious attempt to avert process and procedure to the point of illegality. The entirety of the story is clandestine.
There is also the issue around the ownership of the private jet involved. It is owned by a firm, Eagle Air Company, in which Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor has vested interest. Pastor Ayo is currently the president of Christian Association of Nigeria. However, the company has issued a statement indicating that the aircraft was leased commercially by a certain John Ishyaku for a Lagos – Johannesburg – Lagos flight. Was Eagle Air and/or Pastor Ayo aware of the purpose for which the aircraft was hired or not? Are there any guiding regulations by the NCAA requiring full disclosure of intent for aircraft hire? Is there a valid case of aiding and abetting or rather pure happenstance? In the country which we live in, the default mindset on such occurrences is that there is some form of collusion, no matter how passive it may be. It is pretty much a form of guilty until proven innocent. There is hardly any reason to alter this paradigm as yet. As usual, the country expects to hear that investigations are underway… but until one case of corruption is seen to completion, with the guilty charged and punished, the hope for justice remains just that, hope!
Here again, we are confronted with a leadership gaffe. True leadership ensures that urgent decisions with far reaching impacts, are taken at upper echelons, with full alignment of stakeholders and at least due notification to other affected parties. Actions are implemented in conformance with laid down guiding principles. Processes are put in place for efficient execution. For example, a procedure exists for transacting urgent huge sums of forex to foreign recipients, in favor of government purchase. Someone, somewhere in the chain of command, breached management procedure or as it is popularly dubbed, due process, and has plunged the country into an embarrassing scandal.
In the final analysis, the only thing to worry about is whether strong action will be taken against this leadership blunder. Yay or nay? Do the nays have it?
In the early hours of Saturday, March 15, 2014, thousands of job applicants made their way to 37 test centers nationwide as directed by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). The test centers comprised trade fair complexes, football stadia, high schools and tertiary institutions. Applicants were further instructed to come along with the following – acknowledgement slip, means of identification, writing materials and clothing suitable for physical exercise.
Matter of fact, the recruitment exercise did not start here. September 2013, the NIS published a notification for general recruitment. Applications were solicited from suitably qualified candidates (SSCE, NCE, ND, HND, BSc, PhD holders). The outlined process required interested applicants purchasing an ‘Access Code’ for a sum of one thousand naira (or more… the jury is still out on how much was required) via designated bank(s). This code was then to be used to complete an online application. Candidates who completed this successfully got an acknowledgement slip issued to them.
As expected, in November 2013, there was public outcry against this application fee charged to interested candidates. In response to this, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, explained that the one thousand naira fee “is the charge by the consulting firm to defray cost of accessing the website to fill forms. This is also intended to save the applicants the cost of travelling to Abuja to submit their application forms, as well as avoid other inherent risks, including unauthorized middlemen activities and other abuses”.
Furthermore, personnel in the same Ministry expressed reservations about this levy citing that a potential six billion naira would be generated from an estimated six million candidates. Was this a recruitment drive or revenue generation gimmick? Did the NIS not include recruitment in its plan and budget for this financial year? How was this to be funded originally? Where in the world do employers charge job applicants as little as a dime?
Nigeria’s unemployment rate is put at 23.9% (2012), on the increasing trend over the past couple of years. Too many Nigerians are unemployed. They are available and able to work but a quarter of the labor force is out there seeking employment on a daily basis. It therefore is a no brainer that the response to an NIS job vacancy advert would be in the thousands. People are looking for jobs, and for a country where government is perceived to be the biggest employer of labor, the quickest means to inexplicable wealth, and the leapfrog catalyst from grass to grace, it is only normal to expect such a massive response to a government job vacancy.
While there is no confirmed official count of how many attended the purported NIS job test, informal reports have it that football stadia in Lagos, Ibadan and Abuja were appreciably filled to the higher tens of thousands. When a thirsty man hears there’s water around the corner, he will expedite his steps in that direction. It is likely the NIS and its consulting firm anticipated this massive turnout, influencing the choice of test center types, predominantly stadia.
What kind of recruitment test is conducted at a football stadium anyway? What was the plan to structure the seating arrangement for candidates? Was the personnel supervision requirement for this large expanse even considered? There was going to be a written test as applicants were asked to come with writing materials. Are there desks or writing pads in a typical Nigerian football stadium? How were applicants supposed to write? How would they have prevented examination malpractice in such a large and porous venue? Applicants were also asked to come with suitable clothes for physical exercise. Was this to be conducted at the same venue, in the same duration as a written test? What manner of thought process failure seems to be demonstrating itself thus? Was there no option to conduct the test first in batches, and then in phases with the physical examination/exercise/fitness phase done on a subsequent date?
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exam is held annually in Nigeria, with well over a million candidates. Recently, JAMB announced the designation of 256 centers planned for the 2014 exam. Why couldn’t the NIS synergize its job test planning with such tested formats? What consulting firm was hired for this recruitment drive? Was there no plan to shortlist candidates from online applications as a crowd control measure?
Furthermore, candidates were requested to be at the venue by 7am. Access to the venues was definitely a challenge with the massive turnout and ill-prepared personnel. There are reports of candidates having to jump fences to get into the stadium. By the rule of convergence, when you have a large volume of substance approaching a narrow flow point, there is bound to be pressure build up. This principle is evident in traffic jams all over the country – 4 lanes reducing to 2, a jam results. Similarly, a few venue gates (say 8 hypothetically) serving a crowd of 20,000 people results in 2,500 people attempting to rush through 1 gate. This failure to plan and anticipate unknowns became a carefully orchestrated set up for a stampede. People desperate to get in, eyes on the prize – that government job with supposedly limitless opportunity, too few access points, more people trying to get in, impatience, fear, uncertainty, confusion, pushing, nudging, prodding … a breakdown of order.
Unfortunately, there were casualties. It is feared that there were as many as 7 fatalities in Abuja alone. Nigerians who left home in the morning, in pursuit of a job, ended up in the morgue. They came to the NIS for jobs, but got death in exchange. God rest their souls.
There are not too many words fit to describe this sham of an exercise than failure – Failure to outsource aright; Failure to leverage and synergize; Failure to protect; Failure to solve; Failure to execute; Failure to deliver! What a mess indeed. A peculiar mess. A national embarrassment.
Over the last few weeks, Nigerians have again been faced with an age old occurrence, commonly dubbed fuel scarcity. This is a national phenomenon that has recurred over and again. There are numerous and quite memorable accounts of people taking turns to spend days and nights at petrol stations, on endless queues, in the attempt to buy fuel for use. Many have honed additional driving skills learning to maneuver their cars into the smallest available spaces, outsmarting sleeping drivers, all in a bid to buy tens of liters of premium motor spirit, petrol. It is appalling, having this particular problem persist over the years, same manner, similar process, typical triggers, without a true solution. Daily national demand for PMS continues to be an educated guess and has consistently ranged between 35 – 40 million liters in the recent past. In basic economics, scarcity arises from a limited availability or supply of resources compared with the attendant demand for the same. So what suddenly truncated national PMS supply? For a country whose citizens depend squarely on petrol (Premium Motor Spirit) as fuel to power their vehicles and household generators, why is the supply chain periodically challenged?
It will be odd to hear a crop farmer complain of hunger when his harvest is obviously full, except his produce is being constantly pilfered under his very eyes, or the infrastructure required to process the crops into valuable food is unavailable, dilapidated or out dated. However, this is a clear picture of the national situation. Sitting on such massive hydrocarbon reserves, we have been unable to effectively operate and manage the infrastructure to harness value accordingly. The four refineries with a total refining capacity of 445,000bpd operated at an average capacity utilization of approx. 28% YTD Oct 2013 – processing 124,600bpd of crude able to yield approx. 10 million liters PMS/day.
Comparing this local supply to the anticipated demand of 40m liters, there is a significant volume left to supply. Where an organic solution to production fails, an inorganic intervention may suffice. As such, the nation constantly needs to import the shortfall of products to satisfy demand. When importation is impaired, delayed or truncated for the slightest reason, scarcity results. According to the head of NUPENG’s tanker drivers, “importers got their permits for the first quarter only last week and this has created a shortfall in supply“. Why should import permits for 1Q14 be issued at the end of February, when two-thirds of the quarter is already gone? Consequently, fuel depots across the country have been emptying on the go, and most ran out of product supplies by mid-February, according to the union head. As at January, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) had shortlisted 32 marketing companies for importing petroleum products including NNPC (with the highest import allocation) and other major marketers. Yet, there is a shortfall supply spanning February to March.
What kind of planning results in this? Who is responsible to issue import permits? Were import permits really delayed? Why were they delayed? What happened to the principles of demand forecasting and fulfillment? Is there some unseen angle to the story? The solution to this scarcity is not seen in the reactive measure of inspecting petrol stations to apprehend those selling above the stipulated pump price. Such opportunistic behavior is only typical of the market, where price goes up in the face of rising demand and dwindling supply, with businesses attempting to maximize an economic rent while they can. The root cause is a supply side issue. Cause and effect – Eliminate the cause, eradicate the effect. Supply! Supply! Supply!
Again, one of the core concepts of change management within any industry is communication and involvement. In the execution of projects and/or daily operations, changes are bound to occur to typical routine processes, whether anticipated or not. What makes the difference for the manager or leader is the ability, skill and will to proactively communicate change effectively to the workforce and affected stakeholders, keeping them abreast of the what, the why, the how and when of changes. Sometimes, our government agencies need to take a cue from this. Be upfront about situations irrespective of causes. Is it such an arduous task to make an unambiguous statement on national news, clearly keeping the nation abreast of when and why there is fuel scarcity, what exactly the mitigation interventions are in the short term, and what the long term solutions to prevent its further recurrence are? Unfortunately, this is a country where information asymmetry is pretty much the norm.
Is the leadership of the nation pleased to have its workforce wake up early Monday morning, with worries of how to get fuel to drive to work instead of applying same ‘gray matter’ to develop breakthrough ideas that can foster economic growth? Will we grow our GDP (leave rebasing aside for a bit) when majority of the labor force spends most of their productive time running up and about town searching for petrol stations selling fuel? Or commuters stranded at bus stops for hours because even the commercial transport system is paralyzed due to the same situation? Or researchers and technocrats spending their time at fuel queues when they should be churning out solutions and formulating policies?
Someone, somewhere, needs to fix this recurring issue once and for all! Yet, given the foregoing, one wonders when import permits for the second quarter will be granted! Scarcity continua?