Monday, 23 July 2012

(16): Disaster Relief, charitable work and Nigerian Muslims

To call the situation in Plateau pathetic is simply stating the obvious. And it is not the only state in Nigeria that suffers from this kind of treatment. The amount of people that now live in refugee camps in Kaduna and other states affected by the recent breakdown in law and order can only be described as shameful, especially where there is supposedly a government in place.
For Nigerian Muslims, who are the majority of the victims of these disasters, even though the media, both local and international, presents a completely different picture, this presents an opportunity to learn something that we neglect. Or in some cases it is done, but the effort needs to be professionalised. And this is nothing more than engagement in charitable activities. 
For too long, people are used to relying hundred percent on government for all social services. That in itself is not bad, and it is also not an excuse for the government to relax and suggest that people should be responsible for themselves as we are seeing in the healthcare debate in the United States. But engaging in charitable activities has so many benefits. First, it is a means of seeking the pleasure of Allah. Secondly, it is a means of helping fellow human beings afflicted by disaster. Thirdly, it is a way of building the capacity of the members of the community into resourceful individuals. Fourthly, it will help in reducing enmity and misconception, especially if the charitable work is extended to people of other faiths or a different nationality or ethnic group.
Somebody might think that you need to be rich to engage in the charitable activities that I am talking about. No, you don’t have to be rich to engage in charitable activities. All you need is a combination of sincere intention, getting few like minds to work together, discipline and organisation.
Let me mention briefly the story of one of the most successful Muslim charities in the world, which provides relief to so many people around the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, as Allah commanded in the Quran chapter 21:107, “We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures”.  In the exegesis of this verse, ibn Kathir stated clearly that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to be a source of relief and mercy to the entire humanity.
The Islamic charity I am referring to is Islamic Relief; perhaps we can learn one or two things about this charity and see how we can work towards putting into practice the meaning of the above verse. Islamic  Relief was established  with less than  one British pound or less than N250 in 1984, according to information available to me. An excerpt from an interview with Dr Hany El-Banna, the Egyptian medical doctor who co-founded the charity and was its president until his retirement recently carry some lessons for us. “It started with the famines and food shortages that affected Ethiopia and Sudan in the mid-1980s. The images of starving people shocked me, like people around the globe, profoundly,” said Dr El-Banna.
“I visited Sudan in December 1983, and was shocked to see with my own eyes the suffering there. I decided then that I had to do something about it. It was a challenge for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. So I came back with my story and photos and began speaking and working to raise money in Egypt, the United Kingdom and beyond. I presented it as a moral issue, and our response as a duty, not just for Muslims and Christians, but every single human being. It is an issue of basic responsibility”, he continued.
In fact, according to EL-Banna, “We had no place to work, no vision, no strategic plan, no policy statements, nothing except will and determination. We began working with grass roots individuals, and raised money penny by penny, then pound by pound.  Our message was about need and responsibility, and we stressed the need to help our fellow human beings”.  The key motto of Islamic Relief today is the Qur’anic verse which states: Whoever saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind" (5:32).
Today the charity that started with few coins is a multi-million dollar non-governmental organisation working in different locations from Palestine, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and many parts of the world some of whom are not even Muslims by faith. So, what is the learning point here? In the last few days there have been some efforts to generate assistance, especially for the victims of the unfortunate disaster, particularly in Plateau state. The people who are engaged in this effort, just like Dr El-Banna, are not rich; they are simply Muslim professionals who are tired of the neglect of their brothers by the government that should help them. Such effort should be commended, but it shouldn’t stop there, they should continue, but they also need to professionalise in the process. It also provides an opportunity for Nigerian Muslims to extend the mercy of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to other human beings. Those who engage in this should also know that they are not alone. Here in the UK, the Nigeria Muslim Forum  (, which is a young charity, has recently made some fundraising to support the victims of these disasters in Nigeria. Engaging in charitable work should be a venture that we should all embark upon for the good of humanity.
Newcastle upon Tyne

(15): New generation, new Nigeria: Your feedback

I am deeply humbled by the responses I received on the article I wrote last week entitled, New generation, new society, new Nigeria. I therefore decided to publish some of them this week. Most importantly, I have converted the article from a journalistic piece to a scheme of work for teaching in our primary and secondary schools. Feel free to read it:  and distribute in schools as well as share it with policy makers. Before then, here is a selection of your responses.

Very good piece.  Nevertheless visionary leadership is still needed to initiate or accept/approve these changes.
That notwithstanding, teachers among us should not only teach chemistry, engineering or whatever, they should also find 10 minutes of their lessons to sensitize their students on these issues. Be logical and help them see reason/the individual and collective benefits of changing the society for the better. I have really found students to be very much concerned about our present predicament. May God help us ameen.

Aminu Bayawa

I was going to discard your article as one of such, but somthing urged me to read on.
I think I must admit your write up on the above is one of the best opinion pieces El-Rufai has shared since the wake of the various terrible scandals tearing Nigeria apart.
It was like my thoughts being voiced by someone else. I believe Nigerian schools need to be forced for them to include such in their syllabus. Nobody listens unless it’s a voice of authority with no alternative choice.
I believe people of like minds should team up with you to effect such changes. We can start somewhere. I will send you ideas and suggestions of how we can start in our small way to help Nigeria back to its feet. And we can table and deliberate on this.
Mrs Tee

In response to your article New Generation, New society,New Nigeria, It is pertinent to mention that the problems confronting our country today are hydra-headed, hence a holistic approach is urgently required to address our  systemic failure without which the Hutu and Tutsi-Rwandian experience is staring at us which is becoming rooted already by the Jos-Plateau experience. Am not being pessimistic, but stating the facts as it is.

That Nigeria is a failed state is a stale news, that we can revive Nigeria and how we want to revive Nigeria should be the concern of all and sundry if truly we believe in the sovereignty of our country.

Your ideas and suggestions will work to bring about an infinitesimal change that will produce a tree(child) that can be easily bended or destroyed by the producer(parent)or caretaker(guardian) as the case may be. The teachers that will teach this same students are not properly educated, oriented or motivated, they are products of this same fraud system, hence can only offer little or no help instead passing down a dysfunctional message to the brains of our kids.

Great nations are built by great families,but alas! great families are in short supply in Nigeria..."Prof. Wole Soyinka",great leaders are born and also made through proper mentoring. How many of such great leaders do we have in our country today, instead we have an array of politicians, business-men, petroleum subsidy agents(who have concurred and  mortgaged the life of the average man in the country). It is a pity Mallam.

The home is the first step to learning before the societal learning is inculcated. What are we teaching our children at home, no teacher teaches morals in the schools that supersede what the same child sees and engage in the home on a daily basis. Responsible parents bring forth responsible sons and daughters that will ultimately become change agents in the society. A parent that beats the traffic light when the red light is on, while the child is in the car, a parent that refuses to queue in the bank because his or her friend is the manager and whose kids are accompanying to the bank is rooting a sense of indecency in that child. A parent that steals government money and the court frees, is definitely setting a record of fraud in the minds of that child through plea-bargaining mentality.

All this aforementioned will likely hamper your new classroom generation ideology. The kids of today have not learn much good from their parents because their parents are not too proud of their fatherland, because their leaders are milking them dry in-spite of the richness bestowed to their land by Allah.

In summary, We need an urgent social-mindset orientation, we came to this world naked and so shall we all return to our creator nakedly without anything. Our leaders must take the responsibility of making Nigeria work, the followers must show commitment towards ensuring that everything works because what we all sow, we shall all reap.

We need to build strong institutions and not strong individuals. Only strong institutions can truly deliver our generations and not any classroom effect.

Adesina Adebola Ganiyu (ACIB)

Monday, 16 July 2012

A Free Scheme of Work for Primary and Secondary Schools

On July 10, 2012 I wrote an article entitled New generation, new society, new Nigeria. I was really humbled by the responses I received from different individuals. The responses came from different segments of the society. From Muslims to Christians, students, friends, policy makers etc. This strengthened my believe that people generally want something good for Nigeria.
But I also believe that the responsibility of making Nigeria a better place is not the responsibility of government alone. It is an obligation on each and every one of us. The article in question actually started as an informal discussion on Sunday 8th July, 2012 at Mera Hall in Newcastle upon Tyne. We were attending an African Food Fun Fair in support of orphans in Nigeria organised by the wives of the members of Nigeria Muslim Forum, UK, Newcastle branch. We were having a discussion with Sheikh Ibrahim Khalil, chairman of the Kano State Council of Ulama, and members of the NMF (UK) Newcastle chapter, when I informally suggested that for Nigeria to be good, we must have a long term approach by inculcating the values we need to see leading our lives in the younger generation. This is something that has to start in our schools, otherwise we will just be making noise.
In the evening after the event, Shekh Ibrahim Khalil suggested if I can write something about this idea, so that it can be used in our schools, and I told him insha Allah the weekly column which I write for Premium Times, and Blueprint Newspapers will be on that topic. After writing the article I continued to receive suggestions and words of encouragement. This is what informed the decision to convert that newspaper article into a teaching scheme of work so that teachers can break it down into their syllabus and use it for teaching purposes. I intend to distribute it free to our primary and secondary schools. The management of the schools can decide under which subject to teach it. They can also modify it to suit their needs. This is just a general guide. I pray to Almighty Allah to accept this work, and include it in the scale of our good deeds. If you happen to come across this scheme of work, kindly contribute also by giving it to the school in your neighbourhood.  If you can afford, print copies and distribute in schools.
If you are already a teacher, please think of the way you can use your skills to imbibe these qualities in your students. The journey of a thousand miles, start with a step, do what you can at your own level.
Thank you
Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u
Newcastle upon Tyne  
22nd Shaaban 1433=12th July 2012

Aims and objectives
  1. To prepare Nigerian youths on how to become responsible citizens in the future 
  2. To teach the younger generation basic etiquettes needed for the emergence of a responsible society
  3. To practically demonstrate to the students the effect of bad behaviour and how that reflects on the larger society
  4. To prepare the youth into responsible adulthood so that they can become exemplary members of society
  5. To inculcate those values like obeying traffic rules, selflessness, and respect for rules and procedure so that they  grow with them
  6. To make the youth understand that the quality of the younger generation will determine the success of that society
  7. To make the youth understand that addressing the needs of fellow human beings is a way of securing the pleasure of God.
Learning outcome
  1. Practically learn the basics of hygiene such as washing hands after toilet, speaking with respect and selflessness
  2. Learn those attributes like self esteem, respecting elders, sympathy and the importance of charitable work
  3. Become disciplined in whatever they do and recognise merit over favouritism
  4. Understand the value of knowledge and how it can guide the individual into a purposeful life
  5. Demonstrate leadership qualities and love for justice ,  community cohesion and voluntary service
  6. Learn the effect of breaking the law and assisting others to be responsible citizens
  7. Understand the value of human life and that saving it from harm is like saving the entire humanity

Teaching strategy
  1. Dedicating at least two hours per week depending on the level (s) to teach this course
  2. Invite  healthcare officials to schools to teach the pupils/students the importance of hygiene and its effect
  3. Use videos, games, competitions to demonstrate the values enumerated
  4. Organise special sessions in schools by inviting Road Safety Officials, the Police and other law enforcement agents to demonstrate to students the imperative of respecting the law and the consequence of breaking it
  5. Introduce prizes at each level for the best student in the course
  6. Organising trips to hospitals, orphanages, villages and other places where pupils/students can appreciate how lucky they are in life
  7. Asking students to write essays, poems, short stories on how they can make the society a  better place for everyone

Primary school

Primary  1-3
  1. Basics of hygiene
  2. Speech etiquette
  3. Self confidence
  4. Queuing culture
  5. Traffic rules 
Primary 4-6
  1. Respecting parents
  2. Valuing neighbours
  3. Community engagement
  4. Charitable work
  5. Voluntary service 
Secondary School

JSS 1-3
  1. Dignity of labour/entrepreneurship
  2. Self reliance
  3. Recognition of merit
  4. The essence of knowledge
  5. Assisting the underprivileged

SS 1-3
  1. Valuing human life
  2. Honesty and transparency
  3. Social justice
  4. Abhorrence for corruption
  5. The family as the most important unit of society.

  1. For primary 1-3: the teacher should have a log book indicating how the pupil (s) respond to the subject using a grading system to be decided by the school
  2. Primary 4-6: Write short stories, essays, drama and poetry
  3. Junior Secondary School:  Giving presentation in class on how to help the community. The presentation should outline what he intends to achieve
  4. Senior Secondary school: community projects: there should be a week dedicated to the course. Each student should select a community project like teaching in schools, raising funds to support the underprivileged, organising the youth in the community to clear waste, voluntary lessons in his neighbourhood etc and submit a short report on what he has learnt from the project.

Twitter: @jameelyushau
Facebook: Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u

Monday, 9 July 2012

(14): New generation, new society, new Nigeria

There are so many ways to conduct a revolution and change the society. Some of these ways include visionary leadership that understands the needs of the society and leading people in that direction. The examples of Singapore, South Korea and China tell us that when you have visionary leadership there is no success that people cannot achieve. Other revolutions can start from the people as we are witnessing today in the Arab awakening. But not every revolution is successful.
If there is one country that needs a revolution today, I cannot think of one better than Nigeria. Mentioning what is wrong with Nigeria has now become a boring cliché. That is what dominates the pages of our newspapers. And whenever Nigerians meet each other, they cannot be short of a topic of discussion. The state of affairs in our country is normally the first item on the agenda.
In our discussion today, I would like to look at one critical area in which we can bring change and provide direction to our country. That area is not far away from you. It is called the classroom. I do not think the might of the United States is in its military weapons, nor is China an economic power because of its political system that recognises capitalism as the bedrock of the economy while communism controls its political affairs. India is not emerging as a world power because of the size of its land or the entertainment of its movie industry. These countries have become successful because of their investment in the classroom. Despite some concerns about quality, China and India are producing more than 1 million graduates every year in the field of engineering alone, compared to 170,000 produced in Europe and the U.S. What this suggests is that irrespective of the way change is brought to the society, for it to make meaningful progress, investment has to be made in the classroom.
So, in the case of Nigeria how does the classroom play a role in addressing our problems? When we find ourselves in problem as a society, attention is normally focused on short-term solutions. In some cases short-term strategies such as establishing anti-corruption agencies, interim security measures, societal reorientation programmes and many more could work. But for change to last it has to build the values that are necessary for the development of that society in the younger generation, who will grow with those values and then continue to pass them to generations after them. This is not something that can be achieved within two to five years. It is something that takes much longer.
We complain about violating traffic rules, people not following queues in public places, excessive use of favour in official matters, lack of respect for privacy and other public etiquettes such as putting rubbish in the dustbin or washing hands after using toilets. There are other values as well, such as honesty, helping the needy, punctuality and respect for merit. These are not values that can be inculcated overnight. People have to imbibe and grow with them right from childhood. That is where the classroom becomes important. Someone might ask that our schools are not functioning, that the government is not serious about education. This is an area where individuals can make a lot of difference. Private primary and secondary schools have overtaken or are in the process of completely overtaking the ones that are publically funded, and there is no reason why those who manage those schools cannot consider making a difference by inculcating these values in their students.
One attitude that seems to be common among Nigerians is the desire to see results immediately. Perhaps that could explain why our politicians see the construction of roads as the only viable project that can benefit the people. There have been so many laudable programmes in the past, such as Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, Back to the Land, War Against Indiscipline, MAMSER, etc. But these were programmes that targeted people whose personality had already been formed. As such without strict law enforcement, the programmes vanished with the regimes that brought them, or waned with time because of the top-bottom approach employed by the government.
Some writers have suggested that for things to be right in Nigeria, you have to completely replace the current inhabitants of the geographical location called Nigeria. Some have spoken about the Rawlings option, in which those leaders suspected to be responsible for the current mess are eliminated. But to be honest, are the followers in Nigeria better than the leaders?
So, how do we go about it? First of all, our colleges of education, and education departments in our universities, should review our teacher training philosophy by looking critically at our primary and secondary school syllabus, particularly social studies and health education. These subjects should be broadened to be value-oriented rather than the current approach which is more theoretical than practical. For instance, from primary 1 to 3, children should learn about the basics of hygiene, speech etiquette, confidence-building, and respect for rules and procedure such as queuing culture, and respecting traffic rules. These are things that are very practical and since the school is a community, using its structure to achieve this will not be an impossible task.
From primary 4 to 6, the focus should be on family and community involvement. Such values in our society like respecting elders, helping the neighbour, engagement in community service, looking after the younger generation, charitable work and voluntary service should be inculcated. At secondary school level, when these kids have grown up, the focus should be on the larger society. The values that should be focused on should include respect for the dignity of labour, self-reliance, recognition of merit over mediocrity, understanding the value of human life, the essence of social justice, honesty and transparency and an absolute abhorrence for corruption.
As you can see, just to achieve these values in our youths, the training process has taken about 12 years. The strategy is by the time they reach university level, they have become fully responsible citizens and will be ready to lead themselves and the country. Those who may not go to the university have also acquired enough skills and discipline to lead a purposeful life. It is this new generation that could produce a new society and a new Nigeria that we should all be proud of.
Newcastle upon Tyne

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

(13): Traditional authorities and security challenges in northern Nigeria

During the 50th anniversary celebrations of Nigerian independence in 2010, the BBC aired some documentaries about Nigeria. One of the documentaries featured a report transmitted in 1960. The reporter of the programme finished with a statement which I think is relevant to our discussion today. He said the British came to Nigeria and found a different system (traditional system), they operated under a different system (indirect rule) and they left a different system (parliamentary system), and he wasn’t sure how that is going to work in the future.
For a political system to be successful, it has to integrate the cultural values, belief system and family structure of the people. For instance in the UK, despite the political apathy that is growing gradually, there is a strong linkage between the individual no matter how poor he is, or how distant he is from the city, and the Local Council. From the time a person is born, the Local Council or in Nigerian case the Local Government has an interest in him. The local hospital will immediately pass the information to the council, after which the parents will go and register the child.
The council through the healthcare authorities would look after the welfare of the child, providing some allowances to cater for the child for those who are citizens, attach a healthcare visitor who will be visiting the child at intervals. When the child reaches school age the council ensures that he goes to school. This process will continue until the child is 16 years old. As such once it is election time the people will decide which political party cares for their needs, if they are not happy they will simply oust it and bring another one. In fact some people when they go to vote, they don’t even care who the candidate is, they simply look for the logo of their party of interest and vote for it. The point here is the state had taken over the entire process of socialisation and economic well being, and that is why people have loyalty to the state, and when there is a problem in their local communities they will be the first to report it to the relevant authorities. Because the state has their loyalty even if they may occasionally disagree with it.   
Now let us come to Northern Nigeria, and in this case I will use a bottom-top approach in my analysis. In our local communities, three people are the most respected. The village head, the Imam and the Attajiri, Maisukuni or Dan kasuwa, roughly translated as the businessman. The village head is the main symbol of authority; he oversees the resolution of dispute, ensures stability and is seen and accepted as the representative of the people. When you purchase a piece of land, he has to approve it. When somebody divorces his wife or refuse to look after her, the woman may choose to come to the house of the village head, because she knows he is the one who would look after her interest by reinstating the marriage or take punitive measures against the husband. The Imam is the spiritual head of the community. He leads everyone in prayer at least five times a day, does the marriage solemnisation, the naming ceremony, leads the funeral service and when the village head struggles to find solution to problems, the Imam will intervene by bringing scholarly opinion and useful references on how such disputes could be resolved from the perspective of the Qur’an and the Sunnah (sayings and actions of prophet Muhammad peace be upon him).
The businessman is the economic hub of the community; he provides loans, gives out the Zakkat (charity) and his businesses help in providing employment to the people. The loyalty of the people to these leaders is genuine and unquestionable. They do not see them as politicians who steal money and therefore they should go and get their own share of the cake. This structure which is available in every village has a hierarchy and is replicated at the district level with a district head (Hakimi), and the Emir (Sarki) at the state or provincial level. To date, once you go beyond the headquarters of local governments, the moment you move an inch to the village, you hardly notice the authority of the postcolonial state structure. The local structure that works for the people is the pre-colonial one. The beauty of this structure is that if a stranger comes to town, even if it is at the middle of the night, the village head or the ward head will know immediately, he will provide shelter and food for the guest until he leaves, if he decides to stay in town the village head will get a portion of the farms under his care and give it to the guest to use and look after himself. If the guest proves to be trustworthy he might be honoured with a girl in the village so that he can marry her thereby being co-opted as a full time member of the community. The village head knows the societal misfit in every household. It is this structure that can check who is competent to provide religious guidance. It is the one that can identify those who influence the youth. It is alleged that some of the governors who rigged the elections in 2011 in northern Nigeria actually used this structure to manipulate the polls in the villages.
Now let us be honest with ourselves, the traditional institution is not perfect, it has a lot of problems, particularly the deficit of trust because some of them have auctioned the dignity of the institution to money bag politicians. But the truth is, this is the system that works for the average person. Yet the village head and the Imam who have the loyalty of the people have no say in their affairs because we operate a cut and paste democracy that neglects our local values. So when the society faces security challenges as it does at the moment, I wonder how the postcolonial state structure will solve it when the loyalty of the people belongs to another structure. It is time for traditional rulers, opinion leaders, intellectuals and politicians in northern Nigeria to think critically and devise ways in which this structure can be revived, modernised and make it work for the people.
Congratulations to Professor Yusuf M Adamu
I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate Professor Yusuf M Adamu on his promotion to a Professor of Medical Geography at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria. It is an honour well deserved.
I would also like to extend my condolences to the entire Bayero University community on the death of Dr Haruna Salihi of political science department. May Allah forgive his shortcomings and give his family the fortitude to bear the loss.

30th June 2012
Newcastle upon Tyne

(12): 2015: Let’s have referendum not elections

Data fromWorldatlas suggests that Sierra Leone has a population of 5-6 million, Somalia 10 million, and Liberia 3.5 million. Why are these countries important? Sierra Leone and Liberia are located in the West African sub-region, the same region as the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Somalia although far away from Nigeria is suffering from a conflict that was caused by elite failure and government ineptness in dealing with internal crises despite the homogenous nature of the country. Liberia is still recovering from civil war that started more than twenty years ago; Sierra Leone is similarly trying to stand on its feet after the civil war that erupted in the 1990s.
But before making comparison with the current state of insecurity in Nigeria, look at the population of these three countries once again. Somalia which suffers from one of the most devastating civil war for about 20 years has a population just the size of Kano or Lagos States going by the 2006 census. Yet today large parts of the population of these people have no country to call their own. You only need to look at the growing population of refugees and those on asylum in the United Kingdom or visit Norway, Sweden, Denmark, United States and Canada to see what bad governance has done to Somalia. Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda are equally suffering the impact of this conflict. Liberia’s population is just comparable to Osun State, while Sierra Leone’s population can be equated with that of Kaduna State.
The state of insecurity in Nigeria gives too much sleepless nights to anybody who cares about its future. Nigeria has had so many lucks in the last fifty years of political independence, surviving a bloody civil war, military leadership, societal injustice and ethno-religious conflicts etc. Despite the current unfortunate state of bloodshed that consumed the lives of innocent people in many parts of the country, just pause for a while and think of the future of Nigeria if the country goes into the 2015 general elections amidst the current state of lawlessness.
A culture had already been established called rotational presidency even if it is now being followed at the convenience of the incumbents. Those who lost out in the power games from whichever part of the country they are will invoke the same rotational argument to pursue their political aims. The post election violence that followed the unthinkable rigging of the 2011 elections, could as well happened if Goodluck Jonathan was not declared the winner by INEC, because the people of Niger Delta would have claimed that the election was rigged to deny Goodluck Jonathan the chance to rule the country.
With the polity sharply divided along ethnic, religious and regional divides, and the likelihood of Goodluck Jonathan once again becoming the candidate of his party increasing by the day; and assuming that INEC could change its colours and conduct free and fair elections, how acceptable will the outcome of the election be to the section of the country that lost out? Particularly if the country goes into the election period under the current state of insecurity, God forbid. Nigeria is not Somalia, it is not Liberia, neither is it Sierra Leone, Nigeria is simply Nigeria, and only Nigerians can come together and solve its problems.
In order to avoid further bloodshed and bail out this great nation from collapsing and putting neighbouring countries into turmoil, I will suggest to all Nigerians, and in the interest of each and everyone that we do not have an election in 2015, but a referendum that will give options to every citizen to chose on what will be the future of Nigeria. It may not be as easy as it sounds, but it is better to embark on this difficult journey when we have the chance to do so before it becomes too late. The National Assembly, civil society organisations and opinion leaders should lead us in this debate.  
As a contribution to this debate, I will suggest that the current leadership of the country complete their tenure till May 29th 2015, but should not lead the country into an election, rather they should hand over to the Chief Justice of the Federation to lead a Government of National Unity that will organise the referendum within their first year in office, and a general election 6 months later or a year afterwards based on the outcome of the referendum. The GNU should not stay longer than two years in office. Of course this will require a constitutional amendment, but it is not impossible for the National Assembly to embark on that process.
As for options for the referendum, it is my humble opinion that three options should be given. The first option is to maintain the existing presidential structure but with a modification to the tenure of executives from two terms of four years to a single term of 5 years. If we take Nigerian universities as a microcosm of the entire country, we can say this structure is workable, as reducing the tenure of vice chancellors has contributed a lot in reducing the tension of succession and bringing stability. Under this option also, the national assembly should be merged into one with a reduced number of representatives.
The second option is to restructure the country completely into autonomous units nearly similar but not the same as the old regional structure. Each of the six geo-political zones can become  a unit within the federation with a premier for each zone, but instead of the States all major cities should be managed by a mayor while local governments should remain. The idea of a mayor for major cities will reduce power of state governors but at the same time remain influential. Each zone should manage its own resources. At the federal level, there should be a president who should also serve as Commander-in-Chief; defence and foreign policy should be under his watch, while a Prime Minister should be appointed from an elected parliament. To avoid the headache experienced during the death of late ‘Yaraduwa, in case of power Vacuum, the premier from the region of the president should step in and complete his tenure.
Under this arrangement let the Niger-Delta region have 100 control of their oil. Let there be an atmosphere of competition among the regions, let each region generate its own revenue and contribute a portion to the federal government. Other regions should never fear from lack of resources from oil revenue. Let everyone do his homework as Lagos State is doing at the moment. Singapore was not made great by oil money; Japan did not become an economic power by receiving handouts from oil proceeds nor is China an economic horse because of petrodollars. This is particularly important to northern Nigeria, and as I said in one of my earlier writings, let the region exploit the richness of its land, the potential of its population and ensure religious harmony.
And finally, the third option, which is the most difficult, if the people feel that all this could not work, then let there be a peaceful divorce. Although very few divorces are peaceful, but in many occasions divorce is the right solution to a chaotic marriage. Many countries especially those in the former Soviet Union have tested this bitter pill, but at the end they are experiencing a gradual cure to their predicament. And it is better for Nigerians to do it themselves, before some imperial powers exploit the weakness of our union and intervene to brutally tear us apart.
It will be sad to lose Nigeria, because despite the internal problems, its potential for being a great country is in its diversity, population and land mass. Just look at the United States, India, China, Russia and Brazil. I rest my case.

Newcastle upon Tyne

(11): Corruption industry and the political future of Nigeria

It will not necessarily be a swift generalisation to suggest that corruption is the largest industry in Nigeria. Data from the World Bank suggests that the corruption industry in the world is worth $1 trillion. Coming closer home, the African Union stated that corruption costs African countries $148 billion every year, which represents 25 percent of the continent’s GDP. During his testimony to the US House of Representatives on May 19, 2009, the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, told the US Congress: “Between 1960 and 1999, Nigerian officials had stolen or wasted more than $440 billion. That is six times the Marshall Plan, the total sum needed to rebuild a devastated Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War”.
Following this statement was another one on May 25, 2009 by General Muhammadu Buhari in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service where he mentioned that between 1999 to 2009 Nigeria made more money from oil proceeds than it had generated between 1914 when the country was amalgamated to 2009. Yet there is nothing to show on ground that matches those figures. The data that one could not lay his hands on is, how much of the one trillion dollars generated from corruption the world over, is Nigeria contributing annually?
This entire amount was generated before the world came to know about the probe conducted by the House of Representatives committee under the chairmanship of Farouk Lawan which found that about £12.6 billion or at least N2 trillion vanished from the so called fuel subsidy. Added to that was the new allegation that the committee chair who led the investigation was promised $3 million bribe, of which $620,000 had already been collected.
Corruption is an old business. The word itself originated from the Latin word ‘currumpere’, and it entered the English dictionary in the fourteenth century. Its original meaning refers to a state in which a substance is completely dissolved, spoilt or disintegrated. This meaning was then applied to the human behaviour in which there is loss in the integrity of the individual in discharging public responsibility.
In the modern age, as discussed by some of the leading theorists in the study of corruption such as John Thompson, James Lull and Stephen Hinerman, the corrupt behaviour of public officials in using public office for private gain leads to what is called scandal. Although newspapers have made the word into a cliché in describing certain aspects of corruption, it will be important to make a clear distinction between corruption and scandal. This will help us to understand the current state of confusion about the stories that dominated the pages of Nigerian newspapers involving Farouk Lawan.
According to John Thompson, “If corrupt activities remain hidden from the view of others, if they are consigned to a shadowy existence in a world that is shielded from public scrutiny, then they will not and cannot become the focus of scandal. A scandal can arise if and only if the veil of secrecy is lifted and the corrupt activities become known to others or become the focus of public investigation”.
In this case the allegation made against Farouk Lawan by Femi Otedola has qualified to be called a scandal, even if the amount allegedly collected is just one dollar, because what is important is unveiling the shadowy nature and the secrecy of the deal. The moral outrage from members of the public, as well as the mediation of the story in the media, qualifies it to be a scandal. Some cases of scandal require thorough investigation and the involvement of law enforcement agencies.
But an additional dimension to the story about the Lawan bribery allegation is its tendency to divert attention from the scandal that gave birth to it. That is the House Committee Report which indicted some ‘untouchable’ individuals in Nigeria. Both cases of abuse of public office whether directly by those in position of authority or by their proxies parading as businessmen are abominable. But the Machiavellian tactics employed by Nigerian politicians on issues as important as these allegations will only sink the country further into political turmoil.
An important aspect of investigating corruption scandals is the consequence that follows such behaviour. Richard Nixon lost his office for getting involved in corrupt activities. The growth of the corruption industry in Nigeria in recent months, coupled with the state of insecurity, causes a lot of concern. When you combine these two evils together, you begin to wonder whether those in the position of authority are interested in having a geographical location called Nigeria.

(10): For the attention of Nigerian parents

This piece is targeted at Nigerian parents who would like to send their children to study in foreign countries, particularly the United Kingdom where I am writing from. Since the collapse of our educational system, particularly tertiary education, a lot of parents are in dilemma on whether their children should remain in Nigerian universities or be sent to other countries that offer quality education.
But before suggesting the dos and don’ts of studying abroad, it will be relevant to discuss the attitude of parents who send their children out of Nigeria for higher education. For the purpose of this discourse, let us categorise them into three. The first group are the old guards among the Nigerian elites who have held positions in the country, have amassed so much wealth and have developed a thirst for anything foreign. They are the variety who own houses in the cosiest areas of London and, to be frank, some of them have contributed in killing our educational system.
The second group are politicians and senior civil servants who have amassed so much wealth by holding public office and who would also like to compete with the first group so that their children could also not be left out in the scheme of things. The third group are the average businessmen, middle cadre civil servants and other members of the public who understand the value of education and would not like to see their children left out or become second class citizens in their own country.  
Whichever category you may fall into, parents are generally interested in working for the success of their children. However, the challenge is parents do send their children, a lot of them teenagers, to foreign countries without fully diagnosing the implication of their action. Preferably, I will suggest that Nigerian parents should encourage their children to have their first degree in Nigeria. At least, they will develop contact with people who share the same country with, and in the future they are likely to become the leaders who will manage the resources of the country. Secondly, by studying their first degree in Nigerian universities there is the likelihood they will understand the weaknesses of the system so that when they take over leadership responsibilities, they may try to address the inadequacy of the system. In addition to that, by studying in local universities, they may not suffer from cultural alienation. In foreign countries they are likely to become isolated or be easily swayed by the temptations of foreign cultures. The resources spent by parents can also be an investment within the Nigerian economy.
If you decide that the preferred option is to take them abroad, for example the UK, here are some dos don’ts.
First of all as a parent, to what extent do you understand the country you would like to send your kids to? You know your child better than anybody else; are you confident that he/she cannot be easily overtaken by the artificial beauty and temptations attached to foreign countries? Secondly, do you have contacts in that country? People whom your children can respect and listen to their advice? Some parents do of course identify some people as guardians; unfortunately, not all the children see things from the perspective of their parents, as such once the father/mother joins the next flight to Nigeria, that is the last time the guardians would see them.
Thirdly, one of the mistakes made by parents is in the choice of universities. As a father or a mother, do your home work by identifying the best universities that offer the best courses you would like your child to study. Some parents think that as long as a university is in the UK or the US, then it is good. But it is not so. There are a lot of dodgy institutions whose certificate is not worth a dime. They are simply money-making ventures that will come to Abuja, Lagos or Kano, distribute the best brochures in town, while the quality of their education is not worth the glamour of the public relations effort.
Fourthly, when you make the decision to send your kid abroad, do not just give him money as if he is out shopping rather than coming to learn. Many parents lose their children this way. A frequent visit to your child, maintaining contact with him/her on phone will all be helpful. In fact, in this age you should sign on Facebook and Twitter and join the list of his contacts.
Fifthly, you should have a copy of his timetable, his assignments and let him send a copy of his results to you once they are available. And when he has finished his exams let him join the next available flight home. This is still not enough. Your prayers will be useful, so also your mentoring by making him understand that the essence of sending  him abroad is to help him build a successful future, not to brag before his friends back home that he is no longer in their league.

Newcastle upon Tyne
10th June, 2012