Sunday, August 25, 2013

Christian, know your God!

I think that Nigerians (and Africans) are deeply religious and serve God because of the things He does for us and not because of His ways. I believe that if this was not so, our attitudes ( corruption, lack of integrity, honesty, civility and cleanliness) would be reduced. Thus, I read with indifference then sadness the recent "fall of a man of God". This is not first neither would it be the last that would happen. Stories like this are to be expected because the Bible warns that "in the last days, there would be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money....they would act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly [another version of the Bible says "having a form of godliness but lacking the power thereof]. Stay away from people like that. They are the kind who work their way into people's homes and the win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires (such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth)- 2nd Timothy 3:1-7.
Therefore, the onus is on Christians to know Who they believe and Why they believe. Our Christian race is PERSONAL and we are to "fear God and keep His commandments"(Ecclesiastes 12:11). Yet we are not to ignore the fellowship of the brethren for reasons I would mention later. We should know who we believe so that:

  • We do not lose our faith over issues like this and offences perpetrated by the Church. The Bible again cautions us to "beware so that we are not carried away by the errors  of the lawless and lose our own secure footing" (2nd Peter 3:17)
  • We do not fall prey to the foolishness happening in the name of God. The Bible warns us "not to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Ephesians 4:14).We see invitations to programmes like "automatic blessing, automatic answer", "Satan let me drive that car"or become oppression-conscious that every bad occurrence is the handiwork of people that do not want us to succeed. We are lazy Christians who unlike our Berean brethren do not "test everything we are told and hold on to what is good"( 1st Thessalonians 5:21)
  • We know God for his ways- that makes us better people and the salt of the earth- rather his awesome acts. If we know his ways, He would perfect us and  there would be no need to judge others or point out the speck in their eyes because the light in us would reveal their flaws to them  draw them to Christ
  • We do not give God's glory to men by worshipping them. To some people, their pastors can do no wrong and I wonder if their salvation is of God or of their pastor's. Pastors are humans who are to be honoured and prayed for because of the spiritual covering they provide for the church but are not meant to be worshipped. We are doing ourselves and men of God a disservice by hero- worship because God would not share His glory with any man. 
  • to"motivate one another to acts of love and good works... and encourage one another especially now that the day of his return is drawing near"(Hebrews 10:25)
  • because "from him the whole body (the church in all its various parts) joined and held together by every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love as each part (the individual) does its work.

As I mentioned earlier, as Christians we are to fellowship with other brethren that is, attend church
Fear God and keep His commands for this is the whole duty of man

On National Development

Expenditure of the Federal Government of Nigeria, 1961-2012.
Source: CBN Statistical Bulletin: Special Anniversary Edition& CBN Annual Reports 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

I have pondered when our development issues as a country began to degenerate and our public expenditure has given me an answer. Previously, I had thought that the excessive spending on overhead and administrative public expenditure was a recent development but history proved me wrong. Since 1961, the chunk of our annual budget has gone into administrative costs (wages, salaries for elected and civil servants maintenance, contingencies and subventions) i.e recurrent expenditure. 

The only periods capital expenditure (defense,education, agricultural and social sectors e.g roads, housing, education infrastructure etc) exceeded over heads was between 1975-1983 and 1996-1999. Apart from the FESTAC 1977 quarters, I cannot remember any other tangible projects associated with those periods.

Chinua Achebe in his "There was a Country" noted an Igbo proverb that "A man who does not know where the rain began to beat him cannot say where he dried his body". In the light of the constant strikes in the health and education sectors, our government needs to identify where the rain of under development began to beat us so we can begin the process of drying our body or changing our clothes.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Misplaced Priorities

I am yet to understand why Nollywood seeks and demands financial government intervention in its affairs- I don't even think the government should regulate it. If government wants to help, it should address issues that inhibit profit-making- piracy! 
Acting and related industries are private businesses meant for entertainment and profit purposes. I do not see the government doling out intervention funds to doctors, teachers, bankers, bakers, caterers, tailors, artisans... you get the drift. Nollywood teaches us little or no morals, as we tend to reject "preachy" films and pick up bad mannerisms. Otherwise Mount Zion Faith Ministry movies, Mainframe movies Oyin Adejobi films would be block busters. I think Nollywood should approach financial institutions to fund movies and survival of the fittest should take its course. Producers like Mainframe and Kunle Afolayan do not produce their high quality movies on government funds.
This is why I was surprised when I read that there is a 3 billion Naira grant for Nollywood "capacity building". First, what capacity is being built? Capacity to act, direct or produce? Second surprise is that the fund has caused a ruckus in Nollywood.  Our art practitioners are fighting over who has access to the fund! This fund shows how misplaced our priorities are. In 2010, there was a $200 million dollar grant to Nollywood. The only visible outcome of that grant is unsuccessful "Dr Bello". Yet the government has in its wisdom deemed it fit to add another 3 billion Naira ($18, 520, 800) 
As much as we love Nollywood movies, this 3 billion can be used to renovate 60 barracks (at 50 million naira each), build 300 block of four flats housing units (at 10,000 million naira each), declare an intervention in Accidents and Emergency units in Government hospitals across the nation or fix the roads leading to the East. 
Misplaced priorities. 
I rest my case

On Prince George

The Royal baby has been born, named and the euphoria surrounding the pregnancy and birth has subsided. The lesson of this birth is the human need and craving for good news- any good news and, surprisingly, the voluntary subjection to Monarchy inspite of the rise of other forms of government. Who would have thought that after the Glorious revolution of 1688 through the 20th century scandals and derision, Britain's royal family would still command the reverence given to it? Indeed, the royal house of Windsor has come back new and improved. First was the royal wedding  in 2011, the Queen's golden jubilee and now the birth of Prince George.
The fanfare that greeted birth reminded one of the reverence given to Yoruba traditional rulers of yore . Unlike, Yoruba kings that were unquestionable, Brits expect to and do have a say in the lives of the Royals. For Britain's royal family, it takes a village.
People are quick to judge and mock them as they are to idolize and ascribe virtuous, faultless attributes to them (this also applies to celebrities and public officials). We put them on a pedestal and quickly pull the rug under their feet when they falter. We should realize that these people are human and imperfect.
I wish Prince George well and hopes he settles into the path Providence has bestowed him without the troubles that followed those before him. On the part of we the subjects, Hilary Mantel's advice is apt in how we should treat those we admire (in the light of Kate's pregnancy, Princess Diana's death and the treatment of the Royal family) she wrote, "the pen is in our hands, a happy ending is ours to write". Here's to happy endings.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Lessons on Constitutional Amendment

According to President Babaginda's doctrine of settled issues some aspects of Nigerian politics are no-go areas for discussion. They are: Nigerian unity, Republican constitution, federalism and capitalism. The contention and outrage that followed the re-inclusion of Section 29 subsection 4b in the ongoing constitutional amendment by the Senate shows that some issues are not settled after all. 
First, It  shows that if the Twitter and Facebook loving Nigerians want to take up a cause, they can. Whilst people have agreed to disagree on whether or not the section supports child marriage, the incident  is another example of our fault lines as a people and the use of religion and ethnicity as tools of manipulation. A question that this constitutional amendment should answer is whether we are a multi religious or secular state. If we are a secular State, are the tenets of any religion superior to the Constitution? If we are a multi-religious State, how would the Constitution capture the essence of all recognized religions? This segues to what religions would be recognized and on what basis?
Second,the Child marriage outrage also reveals how we sometimes focus on the minor as a nation. The quote on the  National Archives building, DC reads "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty". The ongoing constitutional review gives us the chance to have a truly "we the people"constitution and we are not  fully taking that chance.
Along with the sub section 4b that was re-inserted, the Senate also
1) refused autonomy for local government finances: the impact of this refusal is  important because if the funds go to LGs directly, there is no excuse for non- performance and our attempts at Citizen-led democracy and Federalism is further solidified
2) refused to separate the office of the Attorney General from that of the Commissioner for Justice and give the AG increased powers- powers similar to that of a Special Prosecutor
3) refused six year single term for the President, governors and their deputies
4) passed life pensions for the National Assembly leadership.
5) passed the motion that allows a bill become law if the presidents fails to assent within 30 days  (this section is interesting in the light of  yearly budget politics between the Executive and National Assembly)
On the bright side, some items for amendments passed in the House of Representatives i.e the Reps passed LG autonomy, allowed for independent candidates, removed immunity clauses for the President, Governors and their deputies. However, the House retained life pensions for the National Assembly leadership.
The above issues reveal the need for active citizen involvement in the on-going constitutional review process. Both houses have to reconcile the amendments that they passed, and the 36 State Houses of Assembly also have to pass these amendments before there can be any changes. We need to be involved at all stages.  We need to treat all issues with great importance as loopholes give room for ambiguous interpretations - re the controversial section 29. We also have to ensure that important fiscal issues (the life pensions for NASS leadership and budgeting) are addressed the way WE want it to.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.