Saturday, October 20, 2012


This is a poem I love love and love.

If you can keep your head when all about you
 are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
 or being hated, don't give way to hating,
 and yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,

If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster
 and treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
 twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
 and stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
 and risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings
 and never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
 to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you
 except the will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, and - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

RIP Mama Sam,
The memory of the righteous is a blessing (Prov 10:7). Somehow we believe that some people can never die and that they would be with forever. Last week I was reminded  that we should tell those we love how much we love them because  tomorrow is not promised. Mama Sam I'm still trying to come to terms with your loss and I  can't believe you have gone. Sun re oo. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why we should care about Boko Haram

The high costs of food items like grains and tomatoes is one reason Nigeria’s government needs to deal with the Boko haram problem. I read this article and did not think much of it until I went to the market and the money I had to buy foodstuffs was not enough.  The insecurity in the North has caused a disruption in the farming and this has affected the economy. How you may ask? As Simon Kolawole mentions, farmers, transporters and other businesses are hampered. Tell also conducted interviews with some Northern farmers and transporters and they report that their number 1 problem is Boko Haram because they cannot farm or send agricultural produce to the South, and most non-northerners are migrating from the region. Thus the prices of items that make it to the South are increased.  Apart from exorbitant cost of food items, Boko Haram also hinders Nigeria’s economic growth in the area of infrastructural development. The activities of the sect have also caused infrastructural deficits for the Northern Nigeria as properties and roads are destroyed causing gaps. However, the greatest economic cost of BH is the loss of human capital.
In addition to economic reasons we should care about Boko Haram for political reasons.  At the root of the sect’s agitation is grievance. Nigeria comprised multiple ethnic groups and communities that do not see eye to eye. Every community feels aggrieved for one reason or the other. Nigeria and Nigerians have to tackle the issue of our existence as a country. What does it mean to b e a Nigerian? Are there any shared visions or dreams that make bring us together?  Yesterday, it was Niger-Delta militants troubling Nigeria’s Israel, today it is Boko Haram, who knows what group would emerge tomorrow? The political grievance of the sect has to be properly addressed and dealt with. The shoddy handling of the Niger-Delta problem and the throwing-money-at-the-problem syndrome would not suffice in this case and in other cases (I believe that the amnesty program is a fraud and a scam and the “peace” experienced in the region now is artificial)
Finally, we should care about solving the Boko Haram problem because the escalation of the crisis to its present level is an indictment on our enforcement  and legal  systems.  At the initial stages of attacks, members of the sect attacked police officers as retaliation for the treatment meted out to members (it’s a long but expository read). In the last week there has been outrage about the Aluu incident, unfortunately Aluu community is a microcosm of how the government and people of Nigeria treat alleged criminals. There is no opportunity to defend oneself and the first resorts are force and jungle justice.  Thus, the escalation of these crisis should cause a rethink about policing, intelligence gathering and how to deal with law-breakers. Killing them is not always the answer as proven by Boko Haram crisis.
In conclusion, Boko Haram is not a Northern problem. It is a Nigerian problem that needs to be properly and ethically addressed even if it only to reduce the price of tomatoes and beans. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

The economic benefits of conflict

      Historically, conflicts and crisis comprise the process of development and progress in a nation. Usually these conflicts are a means to correct perceived injustice and are not for economic benefits. However, in the case of the African continent, the occurrence of inter and intra tribal raids for slave trade to present day sponsoring of conflict in other African nations by African leaders to internal conflicts (Examples include Ghadaffi’s alleged role in training Niger-Delta militants, the rise of the Niger Delta warlords, Charles Taylor’s role in Sierra Leone’s civil war and Gourevitch’s critique of the humanitarian aid industry) prove that conflict is a lucrative business for its promoters. The existence of conflict and violence is gainful employment for all involved except the victims.
      Lives are wasted for nothing- and I mean that literarily. This begs the questions WHY? I have weighed the costs of a conflict- economic and productivity losses, emigration and capital flight, destroyed infrastructure, systems and values, and no growth- and benefits of a conflict situation – political gains, wealth, increased sale of weapons for manufacturers-and don't understand why individuals engage in this business. The greed versus grievance theory of conflict- in my mind- fails to fully capture the nature of violence and conflict in Africa.  I think there is the added dimension of cruelty. I believe that there is something inherently mean and vicious about our nature. This shows even in our everyday relationships. The other I observed an argument between an artisan and a cook over drinking water!
     Walter Rodney in “How Europe underdeveloped Africa” asserted that as at the time Europeans initially arrived in Africa, the whole continent was 400 years behind Europe. There are no prizes for guessing the gap now.
    As Nigerians and Africans, we rail about the slow pace of development, poverty, high cost of living, and rising food prices but fail to connect the dots on how these events are a consequence of our conflict and violence prone nature. For instance, in Nigeria we complain about the rise in the cost of tomatoes and yam but forget that the prices of these items must rise because the activities of Boko Haram is gradually shutting down the economy of the North. Also I wonder why we gripe about these issues yet are still willing tools in the hands of those who promote violence. We support them and call their activities noble whilst we suffer and they smile to the banks. I imagine what joy a militant derives from killing others or vandalizing property with no substantial benefits to him (he still lives in poverty) whilst his principal enjoys the good life.
     The one solution I can come up with is that individually we need to shed the culture and attitude of my way or the highway (tied to corruption) even if it is for enlightened self-interest.