DEMOCRACY IS THE BEST SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT

ower to the people

BEING A DEBATE TOPIC PRESENTED ON THE 27TH OF JUNE, 2014; AT AN LnD MEETING, FACULTY OF LAW, U.I.


As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master; that expresses my idea of democracy

~ Abraham Lincoln.

…..………… [GREETINGS] ………………

Today, we have countless systems of government in the world which we can choose from, while some are just on paper, others operate in the corners of true power. We have hyper-anarchy [government by no one], barbarocracy [government by barbarians], foolocracy [government by fools], chrysoaristocracy [government by the wealthy], diabolocracy [government by the devil], kleptocracy [government by thieves]; and as put by our own political analyst and verbal contortionist, Patrick Obahiagbon, we also have kakistomoboplutocracy [government by the worst of mobs who are rich]. But then, ladies and gentlemen, I stand here today to tell us that the best of all these governmental systems, which has been tested and trusted for centuries, is nothing but Democracy [rule by the people]. Just as Ronald Reagan said; ‘it is the most deeply honourable form of government ever devised by man.’

Before I proceed to stating the premises on which I base this assertion, I would like to define the term democracy. We may say it is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally – either directly or indirectly through elected representatives. It is, according to Aristotle, when the indigent and not the men of property are the rulers. When we say ‘power to the people’; when we say ‘putting people over politics’; that is democracy. And by saying, democracy is the best system of government; it does not mean it is perfect, just that it is better than all others. There is no better substitute for it.

Democracy is the best form of government because:

  1. It respects and promotes human rights, and even gender and animal rights. The self-evident and God-given rights of man are easily secured in a democratic system. These rights are even entrenched in a written code, just as we have in Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  2. All are equal before the law. This is because democracy incorporates elements of nomocracy [the rule of law] and pantisocracy [the rule of everyone equally]. It is undoubtedly only in a true democratic system that we can find a fisherman suing a multi-national oil company, or a lowly citizen suing his president.
  3. Equal representation of both majority and minority interests. Unlike in some political dispensations where only a certain gender or household can be in found in government, where people like me and you may be crucified for dreaming to become head of state; democracy gives all and sundry including the minority a voice. If not for democracy, someone like President Goodluck Jonathan couldn’t have become a Deputy Governor, let alone considering running for a second term as President. Democracy is a system of equality, not a system of only-he-is-quality, it is a system of justice, not that of just-us.
  4. In a democracy, people get what they deserve, they get what they desire. If there is corruption and insecurity, it is because the people are working towards them. It is as a result of their overall decision, and not because some persons forced it down their throat. Thus, the people not only get to decide who is authority, they also get to decide what is their destiny.
  5. Finally, democracy paves way for man to have fundamental freedoms. The freedom of movement, the freedom to vote, the freedom to school, the freedom to use Facebook, twitter and so on. And above all, it also guarantees the freedom of speech because if not for democracy, we will not be here today, debating about democracy.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is no coincidence that Norway tops the Global Democracy ranking in 2013 and again tops the UN Human Development Index of the same year. In fact, the top 10 countries in the former ranking except one are among the first 21 in the second.

Tomas Garrigue once said: ‘Democracy has its faults because people have their faults; like owner like store’ – in Czech, ‘jaky pan, takovy kram’. So whatever fault we find to malign democracy is not because of the system, but those running it. Thus, the efficacy of democracy may be got only from the sincerity of humanity.

To conclude, I hope, just as Abraham Lincoln hoped on November 19, 1863; that the ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’

Thank you!

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INSECURITY AND AMNESTY: A JOLLY RIDE TO LAWLESSNESS

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ABDUL FATTAH ADEBAJO ADEKUNLE, LAW, 100 LEVEL

Winner of the 1434AH superior pen writing competition

[Published on pages 38 and 39 of Adh-Dhikr Magazine, February, 2014]

Written: several months back…

At times, I wonder how it is that we find ourselves in the current predicament. What have we done or failed to do as a nation that causes us to deserve this ‘punishment’? Are Nigerians that distinct from those in other lands, that we are bedevilled with insecurity?

It is quite demoralising that, today, the word ‘Nigeria’ is coterminous and equated with fear, insecurity and loss of lives. Nigeria is, today, a no man’s land. No tourist wishes to see our mouth-watering cultural artefacts. No company holder dares attempt to extend his investment to Nigeria. In fact, the ones already here are, so to say, running for their dear lives. That is not all; presidents and government officials now publicly announce their apprehension in paying Nigeria a visit. A quintessential instance is the recent case whereby President Obama of the United States visited African nations such as Ghana, Senegal, South Africa and deliberately put Nigeria aside.

The pivotal genesis of their lugubrious status-quo is not far-fetched. It all started with militant activities in the Niger-Delta region, which perhaps was made possible during the civil war of 1967-1970 that left myriad arms in the hands of individuals. As an offshoot, we also have innumerable cases of high-profile kidnappings; those being most rampant in the South East and South West on the other hand are infamous for harbouring petty thieves and notorious armed robbers. With the intervention of late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s regime, the militants in the Niger-Delta, and activities of MEND were considerably checked. This was mainly due to the introduction of amnesty, which is a process in which violent individuals are disarmed in exchange for education, employment or wealth. This recession brought untold joy unto the hearts of Nigerians, but little did we know that we are yet to get to the end of the beginnings of the burdensome quest.

In 2009, a group popularly referred to as Boko-Haram came into the limelight. Jama’atul Ahlis-Sunna lidda’awati wal-jihad (Boko-Haram) is believed to have originated from the activities of Maitatsine in the 1970s and 80s. its fame also rose when Mallam Alli was heading it around 1995. Thereafter, he passed the leadership to Muhammad Yusuf, a radical whose extra-judicial death in 2009 gave rise to the blood thirsty side of Boko-Haram and the death of more than 10,000 Nigerians – most of the innocent.

The federal government has for too long a time turned a blind eye to the activities of the sect, allegedly because some of the members have rich backgrounds with links to top government officials. However when the situation appears to be getting out control, albeit it never was in control; the government deemed it fit to offer a friendly arm to the sect; taking as precedent the Niger-Delta militants saga. This offer was, sadly and unexpectedly, harshly turned down, with the remarks that it is the government that actually needs amnesty.

Relentless, President Goodluck Jonathan shows that he is still ‘on top of the situation’ by putting to use another trick up his sleeve, a declaration of the state of emergency. This he did on May 14, 2013 in four states of the federation including Adamawa, Bornu and Yobe states. He imposed a 24-hour curfew in these states and sent thousands of military personnel, with the aim of fishing out and crushing the sect members. In addition, telecommunication and GSM were disabled to disorganise the sect. despite the strict measures, we still hear incidents of bombing (of religious institutions and market places); a very fresh case is the killing of juveniles in Yobe by setting a school ablaze. Up to 20 people were reportedly killed. Those who fled from the inferno were shotdown in cold blood. This is to point out that, truly, no real progress have been made.

All said and done, what can we say is the panacea to this precarious situation? The answer to this is very simple, but the implementation, not quite so. Indubitably, the root cause of Boko-Haram and other shapes insecurity is taking in Nigeria is simple and straightforward: poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. In the case of Nigeria, these are most obtainable in the North.

At this juncture, it would be apt to cite one of the remarks of a famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle – he said: ‘poverty is the parent of revolution and violence’. A hungry man does not think of anything but his hunger; and an idle hand, they say, is the devil’s workshop. The only rational explanation for a case in which a teenager in Lagos killed another individual with a knife for 10,000 naira is poverty.

I hereby submit that no level of military expedition or amnesty can salvage us from our predicament; Muhammad Yusuf was able to gain supporters and disciples because people were ignorant and because he strongly preached against corruption and police brutality. Thus, if we must restore sanity, safety and self-dignity in this nation we must set out to tackle corruption, fight illiteracy, and combat poverty with all available means, lest the aftermath becomes ineluctable: a jolly ride to lawlessness.

‘BUT MAKE SURE YOU DON’T BLOW UP ANYBODY’

May 10, 2014 – 03:30PM

Remember the ‘old’ joke of there being no difference between Blacks and Monkeys? I believe today, it has re-surfaced in many countries, but now it talks about Muslims and Terrorists.

I was in need of internet connection earlier today, whence, I went to the Faculty of Agric. and Forestry, University of Ibadan; as the Wi-Fi service is still operational. I was about having my sit in the relaxing arena when suddenly one of the security officials, popularly known as ‘Abefele’ sitting nearby beckoned on me. This is the conversation that ensued between us.

Note: I was putting on ‘jumping trousers’; a symbol of Islam which is pants that are not long enough to cover the ankles.

Note again: I will only attempt to paraphrase the expressions used in the actual dialogue, except of course the punch line in the whole story which has stuck to my mind since the incident.

Him: Hello, why are you sitting there?

Me: Good evening sir.

Him: What are you doing here?

Me: I’m only here to make use of my P.C. sir.

Him: Can I see your school ID card?

Me: I’m not with it sir.

Him: So, how do I know you are a student of this school?

Me: I’m sorry but I don’t have any document with me for proper identification sir … but.

Him: Well, you know this is a very critical time for the nation. This Boko-Haram menace, in particular. Seven countries are even here now to render assistance.

Me: Hmmm, yes, I only know of four though.

Him: They’re seven.

Me: Okay sir.

Him: May Nigeria be rid of those terrorists o.

Me: By God’s grace.

Him: So, where’s your ID card.

Me: It’s in my schoolbag sir.

Him: Go and bring it. Where’s your bag?

Me: I actually left it inside the mosque.

Him: Can you go and bring it?

Me: But sir, can you allow me to sit under the Coca-Cola shed over there, since it seems you’re uncomfortable with me sitting behind you

Him: Hmm, okay, no problem. You can sit there.

Me: Thank you sir.

Him: ‘But make sure you don’t blow up anybody o       !

Me: [leaves faking a smile, and thinking what an idiot he is]…

FIRST SESSION IN OFFICE

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FIRST SESSION IN OFFICE

Ante-Ante-Scriptum: I believe the topic for this article ought to have read ‘first year in office’. However, no thanks to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, that caption has been automatically rendered inappropriate.

Ante-Scriptum: Created this document on my PC since June 28, 2013; opened it on several occasions hoping to add something to it. However it remained unchanged and substantially incomplete for many months. All thanks to God that today, May 10, 2014, almost a year later, I finally am able to be done with it.

It’s been up to a session now since I was saddled with the great responsibility; and perhaps opportunity too, of serving in the position of a class representative once again. Well once again, because I have had a taste of such honour in the past, only that now it is not as a leader of some kindergartners or captain of a class of high school lads; it is as the head of an assemblage of whiz kids, prodigies, soon-to-be jurists and exceptional scholars in Nigeria’s premier university; the University of Ibadan.

The first surprise came when I heard someone shout Kunle; after Mrs Olomola, our first Law 101 lecturer, declared the ground open for nominations into the positions of male and female class representatives. ‘It can’t be’, ‘it has got to be someone else’, ‘who could possibly know me by name’, my thoughts rolled in. But my hope turned vain when nobody else stood up, and the lecturer called for a second time; ‘who is Kunle?’

The second one came when after the voice vote; as if fate was bent on disappointing me, I emerged as the class representative, despite my shortcomings, both overt and covert; and despite the presence of many, better than I am in many aspects, in the same class.

I was even more surprised because I never aspired to or intended to be in such position, even though my action on the morning of that very day, which unexpectedly turned out to be the Election Day, may have triggered the outcome.

I had always wanted to be one who is not easily noticed. One who would come to class quietly, receive lectures, sign attendance registers and leave without anyone’s interference. One who would sit at the tail-end criticising whoever the class rep. was and dishing out my opinions, for the progress of the class, whenever expedient. However, with that singular turn of events, all those hopes were dashed, quashed and short-lived like the Hobbesian state of nature.

I was (and still am) not the most brilliant in the class. I was not the most experienced. I was not the most charismatic. And I certainly was not the most outspoken. How then, I wondered, could I be chosen as the one to lead a class of intellectuals, studying the noblest of professions in Nigeria’s ‘first and best’ university of learning?

The ‘modus operandi’ of what is called ‘destiny’ amazes me at times. What you think could least happen, will happen daringly and remorselessly, and vice versa. I remember that, weeks back, during our medical test [one of freshers’ many rituals] at the law clinic, I was in the gathering of some of my course-mates. One thing led to the other, and a particular lady, I’m not certain of her identity now, said in my presence that I’m ‘not the class rep. type’; and I totally agreed with her. I still think I’m ‘not the type’ though, but then, as the ‘Grand architect of human fate’ would have it, here I am.

Days turn into weeks, and weeks into month. It’s been up to a year now, and I still answer to the title: Class rep. of [now] 200 level law students class [a.k.a. LLB octal-final]. The journey from day one till this moment has been filled with the good, the bad and, of course, the ugly. I have had to do things I ordinarily would not. I have had to meet people I ordinarily wouldn’t move close. Again, I have had to forbear many things, that if I were an ordinary member of the class, I would not have.

WHAT WE HAVE DONE: My appointment into the position is not, so to speak, a political one. I did not engage in campaigning, pleading or manifesto declaration. I was not bound to ‘achieve’ anything through the office, except representing the class, connecting with lecturers and ensuring a smooth ride through our five years in the university. But then, I think it necessary to mention the few things I [and/or we] did in the past year that deviated a little from the routine practice of an average class representative. They are not exceptional, but as this is a recount of my experience in the first session, I will share them still.

  • ‘The Class Directory’: This is where it all started from, I guess. The class directory is a document I prepared before resumption, containing an almost-complete list of names of members of the class along-side spaces to fill-in other details, using the admission lists released by the university. I compiled and designed it solely based on the doctrine of necessity and a spirit of generosity, with no ulterior motives in mind. But then as it turned out, the directory which I publicised on the day of the election, was, more or less, what first endeared me to my colleagues. Anyway, the document has proved useful on many occasions, to both members of the class and non-members alike, in getting the needed contacts.
  • ‘Class versus Congress’: one of the most unforgettable events experienced in the class’s fresher days is the ‘clash with the congress’; the protest of some members of the class at the second (or first?) congress sitting. In short, we were denied our franchise, contrasting what is expressly provided by the LSS (Law Students’ Society) constitution. And rather than argue based on facts and law, the members of the class present that very day decided it best to ‘make them know’ we aren’t docile idiots. They allegedly stood on the chairs, and then some staged a walk-out. The congress was offended, and I eventually had to tender a formal apology before it weeks later. This satisfied them and, in a way, cooled their ego. End of story (or is it … well … not really).
  • ‘Gentleman of the week’: this is another of the projects I embarked on for the class. Every week, I would choose a particular member of the class (male-female-male-female, in that order, week after week). The chosen one would fill, in a form, information such as nick, favourite food, best friend, role model, hobbies, best day on campus, message to colleagues etc. And this would then be uploaded on the Facebook group, as well as the Whatsapp group for others to see. The aim of this apparently is just to bring members of the class into one accord, by facilitating familiarity.
  • ‘Public Address Item’: Aha, well, this came up close to the close of the session. I thought since most of the time, my colleagues complain of not being able to grasp my vocal announcements properly. After I have spoken, many would still ask for what it was I said. Hoping to find a lasting solution to this hitch, I decided to get a mini-public address system; a device that resembles a radio and has a mouthpiece to speak into. I didn’t think to use it several weeks after we resumed from the strike, but when I did use, it really felt awkward, plus it turned out not to be of much use too.
  • ‘Unbeaten Soccer Champs’: one thing that makes me really proud of being a coordinator of the class is that, it is no ordinary class, it is one jam-packed with intelligent, yet equally talented, folks. My course mates are not only bookish, and stylish, they are ‘sportish’.Consecutively, our soccer team has won up to two soccer tournaments and one soccer match, unbeaten on the field of play. First, it was our seniors that challenged us to a match, hoping to welcome us by showing us who’s boss at the faculty. But then, their plot backfired as we turned out to be no rookie at the game. After that, proving our first victory was not a matter of luck, we went ahead to also win the CBN cup and Dean’s cup.

CHALLENGES I CONFRONTED:

  • ‘The Class’: the class has, in a way, been a challenge for me in my capacity as the representative. But then, this is perfectly understandable since we are speaking of learned (or if you may, learning) scholars here; who are perfectly aware of their rights, even the most insignificant, who best know the law and again, how best to break it.

When I say the class has been a challenge, it is primarily in the aspect of cooperation and attentiveness.It is usually frustrating, standing before an audience with an important notice, and then majority of them are making one distracting noise or the other.

Another instance to buttress this challenge is in the area of attendance registers. On one or two occasions, with respect to LAW class I have had to plead with the lecturer not to input the registers. Why, because I would not be able to get back all the lists I passed, God knows why. Maybe, aliens are pilfering them in order to create a database of humans. Just maybe ;-).

  • ‘Finance’: thanks to the Almighty, this hasn’t been much of a challenge. Even though I’m from a humble background, I’ve, thus far, found it bearable to expend money on things such as transport, stationeries and recharge cards (for making calls and browsing); most especially recharge cards.
  • ‘Time management’: sincerely, if I were not in this position, I might have been one of the perpetual late-comers of the class. If I were not the class rep., I would not have had to attend to countless extemporaneous calls from the Faculty Officer, lecturers and students. I would not have had to sacrifice my time for many things that my position requires of me, or that I have made it to require of me. Maybe, this has made me a more responsible person, or maybe it has only succeeded in making not to succeed enough in my studies, I honestly do not know.
  • ‘The Whatsapp group’: this has somewhat been an issue to me since its creation. The problem is: I created the group to serve solely (or basically) as a platform to disseminate information that concern our academic life, I added as many class members as I could to benefit from this, BUT some prefer to convert the status of the group from ‘strictly business’ to ‘fun-for-all’. The group was so anarchical eventually that many leave persistently, including me, during the mid-second semester break (ASUU strike i.e.). I created another one after resumption but the same problem, of getting hundreds and hundreds of chat messages daily, resurfaced. In the end, I came to shape my mind-set into subscribing to the Utilitarian proposition that what is most important is seeking the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number of people’. I have come to accept that this is a democracy, and the will of the majority must be respected. When the same people that you think you are fighting for turn against you, then you are only wasting your time. Like a Greek philosopher once said; to help a man against his will (e.g. preventing a suicidal person from dying) is, in fact, same as murdering him.

THE GOOD SIDE:

  • ‘Rapport with lecturers and other students’: this is one major reason why many crave to be in the position of class rep. And it is true that my being there has ignited rapport between many lecturers and me. However, I know many students who are closer to all our lecturers than I am. So, I guess it’s never about the position, it’s about the ambition and determination. I have also interacted with many other individuals [e.g. LSS officials, and excos of student organisations], not because they find my personality likable, but because they find my rank instrumental.
  • ‘Public speaking practice’: my public speaking and audience facing skills have been improved, I guess, as a result of the incessant cases where I had to address a class of hundreds for one thing or the other. But I must add, that even though I’ve done it times without count, I still hesitate, most times, before taking those steps to the front of the class.

CONCLUSION: That I may not be criticised for writing something not too far from being a facsimile of ‘So long a letter’, I will promptly conclude by, first appreciating my course mates for understanding and bearing with my inadequacies all these while – all the times I failed or forgot to pass attendance sheets, all the times I could or would not check for results and time-tables on time, all the times you called and I didn’t pick, all the times my voice was not audible enough for the whole class to grasp, all the times I did not speak when I was expected to and the times I spoke when it was uncalled for, all the times it seemed I deliberately shunned some person(s) or that I was not amiable enough, all the times I have, in one way or the other, offended either an individual, a caucus, or the whole class in general, and all those other times, in which I did other things, my frail brain would not remember. I thank you all for understanding; and indeed I am sorry for all those times.

I want to use this medium to enjoin everyone reading this not to hesitate in sharing prickly, but constructive, criticisms whenever necessary, directing them to whoever is concerned, and not minding whose toe is stepped on, not caring whose ox is gored.

What I am trying to say is: censure, reproach and lash the leader whenever he does something that is, in your honest opinion, wrong; whenever his attitude is becoming unbecoming and his actions are turning untoward.

My religion has made me to understand perfectly that the position of leadership is a very crucial and consequential one. It is one which one holding it will be made to compulsorily account for, if not in this world, in the next. My job is to promote the good of the class, and to satisfy its needs. If anyone is aggrieved as a result of my actions or decisions, I cannot possibly know unless I am told. Just like mens rea is no crime and a mere cerebral or wishful acceptance is no acceptance; a mental dissatisfaction, which is not expressed or even impliedly indicated, is no dissatisfaction at all; it is useless.

Verily, the tasks before us are much greater than the ones we left behind. Let us learn from our past mistakes, especially respecting our academic concern, and apply the lessons therein to better our present with a view to inheriting a desired future.

Let us face our studies squarely, yet also remember that facing it only will merely educate us partly and not roundly.

Let us make unity our watchword; sustain the spirit of camaraderie that has kept us thus far; and do away with all fissiparous factors, whether via political affiliations, behavioural polarity or academic envy.

And with the God of Justice on our side, like He has been on our side in all those soccer tournaments, we will get to our preferred termini; and we will be glad, in the end, that we did not get there with another set of great young minds, different from the one we are with now.

Thanks for reading; LOVE YOU ALL!

NIGERIA: A FAILED STATE?

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NIGERIA: A FAILED STATE?

Presented As A Debate For The Purpose Of The “In-House Speaking Championship”, The Semi-Final.

Courtesy: Faculty Of Law, UI, Literary And Debating Society.

Date: 28th February, 2014.

MAIN SPEECH

I almost wept when I saw a picture of a newspaper headline that says ‘NEPA: No more black-out!’ I was sad, not because I’m seeing such promise for the first time or because I do not want the power supply in Nigeria to be stable. I was sad because the article was published as far back as 1988.

And we all know the condition of the power sector till this very date.

Nigeria: A failed state?

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, Adebajo Adekunle Adefisayo is my name, and I am here on this occasion to propose the bitter but factual submission that Nigeria is a failed state.

Before I delve deep into speechmaking, I think just as it is pertinent that we know what leadership truly is before we publicly declare Mobutu Sese Seko the Mandela of D.R. Congo, we also need to know what ‘a failed state’ means before we can wear its cloak for Nigeria.

A failed state, according to the Fund for Peace, means ‘a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government … [1] the central government is so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory [2] non-provision of public services [3] widespread corruption and criminality and [4] sharp economic decline.’ Now, let’s take a look at these one after the other.

One, the central government is so weak that it has little control over much of its territory. The validation for this is simple. Let me ask us, if the federal government asks us to resume school for the next session on June 1st, and again, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko haram says nobody must go to school, whose order will we comply with? The answer to this goes to show that that the state has not only lost control over its territory, it has lost control over its citizenry too.

Two is the non-provision of public services. It is well known that Nigeria is such a country where the people are the government. Not in the sense that they decide how the affairs of the state are administrated, but that they provide virtually everything for themselves. It is the duty of the government to provide electricity, but we find people struggling to buy generators, struggling to ‘better pass their neighbours’. It is the duty of government to provide tap-water. Yet we find boreholes here and there dug buy private individuals. It is the duty of the state to give us good roads, but we still find people building bridges themselves and collecting tolls, we see people filling potholes with little stones.

Thirdly, we have widespread corruption and criminality. Nothing can be truer than this. The country is so corrupt that on typing ‘Nigeria’ on the Google search engine, it quickly suggests ‘a corrupt country?’ A country where the President can afford to spend 1 billion naira on food per annum, even though he vowed to be eating Cassava bread and majority of populace is starving to death. A country where 20 billion dollars can vanish into thin air and no one will raise an eyebrow. A country where armed robbery, kidnapping and bombing are the orders of the day. If such country has not failed, then perhaps I need to go back to my dictionary and check the meaning of failure.

I wish to sum up my points with the result of a recent survey conducted by the United States think-tank, an independent research organisation; the Fund for Peace and the Foreign Policy magazine. Nigeria was ranked as the 15th most failed nation in the world out of 177 countries. Even, she has moved upward 3 places from the 18th position in 2008. Meaning Nigeria is not just a failed state, she is gradually on her way to overthrow Somalia and hence become the king of failed states in the world.

This survey goes to show that the fact that Nigeria is a failed state is not only a well-grounded opinion of Nigerians; it is a universally acclaimed, globally established, self-evident truth.

In conclusion, I wish to seek validation in the sagacious diction of Demosthenes: Res ipsa loquitur, the facts speak for themselves, if only we will pay attention.

REBUTTAL

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it’ – Flannery O’Connor.

My contending debater has said that Nigeria can be said not to be a failed state because we have remain united. But let me ask. If I manufacture a vehicular contraption, a jalopy so to speak, that cannot move an inch. It does not work. Can we say it is a successful invention just because of the fact that the spare parts hold on together?

Again, he said Nigeria has produced numerous elites and scholars renowned world-wide. But I must say that this is in no way a function of our being successful, it is solely a function of our large population.

Ladies and Gentlemen, with all these facts, I am forced to propose that it will not be out of place if we rechristen the state from the ‘Federal Republic of Nigeria’ to the ‘Failed Republic of Disaster’.

Confucius said ‘do not use a canon to kill a mosquito’. Thus, I will rest my case here believing we are convinced beyond any inkling of doubt that indeed Nigeria is a failed state.

ASUU STRIKE: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?

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ASUU STRIKE: A BLESSING OR A CURSE?

An entry for Roulette III, 2014.

It all seemed like a dream when my ENG 112 lecturer announced on the afternoon of July 1st that the class will not be holding. This unanticipated development was not because he was having another commitment or because the day had, without warning, turned out to be a public holiday. It was due to nothing save that the ‘almighty’ Academic Staff Union of Universities had decreed that activities be discontinued in about 70 federal and state universities all over Nigeria, affecting nothing less than 1.5 million Nigerian scholars.

For 4080 hours, between the days of Monday, July 1st and Tuesday, December 17th, students of most Nigerian universities were forcefully exiled to their mothers’ homes, all because of what has now been termed an ‘annual festival’.

In the words of William Arthur Ward, ‘change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk.’ Thus, a change, a digression from normalcy, as far-reaching as the recent 6-month ASUU strike must have fallen under one of the said categories. So which is it?
I hold the view of the enlightened majority, the view that appears to look beyond the newspaper headlines and government propaganda. I believe, and strongly so, that the regretful saga, in the form of the recent ASUU strike, is more a curse than a blessing. In fact, it seems more and more, from occurrences over the years, to be a generational scourge, which we may never free ourselves from if the necessary sacrifice is not made.

While the strike lasted, it is generally known that most students were academically inactive. I myself, and many others, found it difficult to study or even engage in other lucrative ventures. This was so because of the incertitude that surrounded the whole event. Many thought, ‘what if I subscribed to a driving/computer school today, and the strike is suspended the next day?’ Or ‘what if I study myself to death now and the strike’s end is not even close?’ In essence, while our counterparts in private universities and foreign institutions were busy making good use of their time, increasing in erudition and adding great feats to their records daily; we were very busy in our fathers’ homes, watching one season film or the other.

Also, I am aware of the fact that, solely because of the strike action, several students lost the opportunity to further their studies abroad with all expenses catered for. This loss ran into millions and millions of naira. Opportunities they say come but once. I wonder if after getting their demands attended to, the union plans to undo this colossal damage by sponsoring the affected students.

Aside from this, we also have cases of students, finalists in particular, adding a year to their academic calendar all because of the insensitivity of our ‘parents’ in government and those in the zenith of the ivory tower.

Instances abound of law students who, after spending a whopping 5 years (or more) in school, hoping to start fending for themselves soon, were disallowed from going to law school at the right time.

In addendum to these is that the accursed strike also saw the death of many giants, prominent of whom is Professor Festus Iyayi, a past president of ASUU, who died while making efforts to see that the strike ends favourably. Also, I personally know of students who passed away while trying to make ends meet during the course of the strike, most being in their final year. It is simply unimaginable, the agony their parents must have passed through on hearing the news of their children’s demise.

After all these shortcomings, akin to applying salt to injury, the much awaited positive upshots of the strike are yet to be seen. Our lecture theatres still lack adequate ventilation; our halls of residence are still, in a way, overcrowded; our lecturers still use lecture notes composed in the 70s to teach us; we are still mandated to pay exorbitant amounts as school levies; and to top it all, our universities are yet to start experiencing an infrastructural turnaround.

No doubt, the federal government is blameworthy for not putting their all-in-all into the nation’s education system, and ASUU is justified by speaking against this injustice. However, the manner in which their dissatisfaction is exhibited goes a million mile in determining whether they get compensation or crucifixion, whether the students will be contented or frustrated and whether the whole exercise is a blessing or the opposite. Quite unfortunately, the union was so autocratic, the government, so unyielding, and the strike so unconscionable, rendering the whole event a huge let-down.

After all is said and done, the incontrovertible truth and irrefutable fact is that the 200 billion naira claimed to have been handed over for the development of universities can never equate with the long hours wasted in inactivity, it will never be utilised to mitigate the damage caused from lost scholarship awards, and most important of all, it can never restore the many lives that have been lost consequent to the strike action. It is therefore visible to the blind, audible to the deaf, and in fact, smelly to the anosmic that the recent ASUU strike is nothing but a downright misfortune.

THUGGERY: A SILENT THREAT TO PEACE IN NIGERIA

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THIS IS AN ORATORY PRESENTED AT THE GROUP STAGE, LITERARY AND DEBATING SOCIETY (UI) IN-HOUSE SPEAKING CHAMPIONSHIP.

DATE: February 7, 2014.

THUGGERY: A SILENT THREAT TO PEACE IN NIGERIA

In 2003, the policemen in Anambra state shot dead four persons, just because the driver conveying them refused to offer them gratification.

In December 2010, violence erupted in Plateau state, in which victims, including children, were hacked to death, burned alive, kidnapped, dragged off buses and murdered, leaving more than 200 people dead.

Again, In April 2011, we also witnessed the ‘post-election-violence’ in Northern Nigeria, which after 3 days, according to Human Rights Watch, left more than 800 people dead.

Apart from these, many a time too, we hear of 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds, being defiled by persons old enough to be their Great-grand-father.

What is common to all these events: Hooliganism, Gangster-ism, racketeering, violence and thuggery! Sadly, they have all become deeply woven into the great fabric called the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

We live with them every single day of our lives. We see their corollaries on the news on an hourly basis. We go to our schools and work-places not with the fear of God but in the fear of thugs. No single protest takes place without it been hijacked by scallywags. No single election holds without us recording death tolls to the tune of hundreds of souls.

It is so disheartening that thuggery is not only found amongst the unemployed, illiterates and youthful. We also see its traces in the police force. The police which are supposedly responsible for safeguarding the populace are the ones we find battling with the army, harassing and, in fact, slaying the people at the slightest opportunity. We see its traces in the parliament. The parliament, ideally the assembly of best intellectuals in a state, in Nigeria, is nothing but a gathering of professional boxers. We see its traces in the academia and university environment. An environment famous for civility and erudition is in Nigeria, infamous for cultism and intimidation. Students are not, therein, educated but instead, masticated.

The heart-breaking truth is that the youths are the main tools and instruments of turbulence and instability in this nation. That is why I have come to this stage, on this occasion, to deliver this talk; with the hope that we when we get to the crossroads of history, when we reach the moment of truth, we will choose civility and moderation above thuggery.

Let it be known that: When next you ‘sag’ your pants, know you are an inch closer to thuggery. When next you raise your voice on others, know you are an inch closer to savagery. When next you use curse-words, when next you abuse drugs, when next you assault another creature, remember the interest of this great nation. And please take a step backward.

The motto of this Nation says: Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. Meaning if we are disunited enough to fight against one another, and intimidate one another, engaging in despicable acts of thuggery, there will naturally be no peace. And in a place where peace is inexistent, progress is a far cry as well.

From my years of research, I have made a discovery that wherever it is we have larceny, debauchery and thuggery; it is a matter of inevitability that there shall be misery, instability and insecurity. For us to make a recovery from this malady, we have to do that which is not only necessary but mandatory. We have to shun thuggery and embrace unadulterated harmony.

Friends, Let us put an end to thuggery before thuggery puts an end to us!

Thank you.

THE RECENT INDUSTRIAL ACT EMBARKED UPON BY ASUU: WHO IS TO BLAME, ASUU OR FG?

BEING A DEBATE PRESENTED AT THE 2ND PROFESSOR FRANCIS EGBOKHARE UCJ INTER-PRESS DEBATE.

VENUE: MELLANBY HALL SCR, UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN

DATE: JANUARY 24, 2014.

 

 

PREAMBLE.

Truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. Ignorance may deride it. But in the end, there it is – Sir Winston Churchill.

Greetings, Ladies and Gentlemen, standing before you is Adebajo Adekunle and I am representing the Mellanby Hall Press Organisation.

I am here on this occasion to address the resolution which says, ‘the recent industrial act embarked upon by ASUU, who is to blame, ASUU or FG?’

I remember it as if it were yesterday. On a Monday afternoon, while in ENG 112 class, the lecturer declared to our chagrin and dismay that the class will not be holding. Why? The Academic Staff Union Of Universities had suddenly decided to embark on a total, complete and indefinite strike action. About 1.5 million Nigerian Youths, university undergraduates, were forcefully exiled to their mothers’ homes between Monday, July 1st and Tuesday, December 17th. For 6 months, equivalent to 170 days [or if you like 244,800 minutes] we were very busy at home, doing absolutely nothing related to academics.

Graduation years were unjustly delayed. We even witnessed the adjournment of wedding dates. Scholarships worth millions of naira became a waste. and most sadly of all, some, who while trying to make ends meet, passed away. So, I ask, who are we to blame?

Seneca once said; it is rash to condemn where you are ignorant. Meaning we cannot constructively evaluate what we do not critically appreciate. The recent ASUU strike had a genesis. In fact, It had a basis which we must all figure out before a move can be made for scrutiny and finger-pointing. Thus, I ask. What is this basis?

On the 14th of December 2006, the then Minister of education, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, on behalf of the federal government, inaugurated the Federal Government/ASUU re-negotiation committee with the aim of looking into the union’s  clamouring for a revitalisation of the academia. It held series of meetings between the years of 2007 and 2008; and in January 2009, came up with a 51-page Memorandum of Understanding, duly signed and considered binding on the parties.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS TO BLAME.

It might be argued that: since the federal government was not present in the meetings in which the what, where, when and how of the industrial strike were discussed, then we should not hold them accountable for a decision they had no hand in making.

However, as a student of logic, I know of the fallacious genre called ‘non causa pro causa’ (false cause), which holds that the immediate cause is not always the culpable cause, but the pristine, prototypical one. And as a student of law, I equally know that ‘metus in lege excusat’ (duress in law excuses). I may use my hands to murder another person, and yet go scot free, if I was under duress to do it or it was in self-defence. The same common-sense is applicable to the recent industrial strike, as I believe the union was under duress to embark on strike due to the lackadaisical attitude of their yearnings.

How exactly the union was directly under duress by FG to go on strike leads to my second point. Nigeria is a country where, according to all ranking systems, none of our universities is among the world’s top 1000. Even our dear University of Ibadan which prides itself as the first and the best is number 24 in Africa and 2109 in the world. Nigeria is a country where ward councillors, who may be secondary school drop-outs, earn more than diligent professors. A country where you will never find the children of your local government chairman in the same school as you. Where 10 classes may hold simultaneously in the same lecture hall. Where kerosene stoves are used by science students in lieu of Bunsen burners. Where our education system is only getting better at getting worse … and someone still has the nerve to say that the Federal Government is not blameworthy of making protest inevitable?  That ASUU ought not to have gone on strike?

Think about it. Ghana, a country not as rich as Nigeria, for this fiscal year, budgeted 31% of its total revenue to the education sector, while the “Giant of Africa” struggles to budget a meagre and disconcerting 8%.

Lastly but most importantly, Common sense and natural justice demand that FG executes the 2009 pact, and not wait for a strike. The Federal Government wilfully made a pact with ASUU in 2009, refreshed it 2012, and yet inconsiderately failed to execute it several years later. This is simply ludicrous, and blatantly contravenes common standards of professional ethics. Just as it is summed up in the Latin maxim, ‘pacta sunt servanda, quamvis absurdum.’ Meaning, agreements must be kept, contracts must be honoured, though they may be absurd.

To conclude, I’d say, it is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf that the Federal Government is to blame for the regrettable and demoralising strike saga we witnessed last year. For in Marcus Tullius Cicero’s words, ‘salus populi suprema lex esto’, the welfare of the people is to be the supreme law. Hence, the federal government has the duty, primary responsibility, and in fact the capability to provide for the socio-academic necessities of the community. If they fail in this regard, someone has to speak up, as well-captured in the words of Edmund Burke: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.All ASUU has done is speak up. Are we going to crucify them for this?

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we are truly seeking for someone to blame, then I say it is only rational that we blame the man who had no shoes, and his cohorts.

Thank you!

 

 

ASUU IS TO BLAME!

First and foremost, ASUU’s demands are out rightly outrageous. Reading this memorandum, I came across some of the most ridiculous demands ever in the history of unionism. For instance, the unionists are clamouring for a plethora of unrealistic and undeserved allowances. Postgraduatesupervision allowance, teachingpractice/fieldtrip allowance, examiners’ honoraria, postgraduatestudy grant, Externalassessors’ allowance. Apart from these, they are also demanding for what they call fringe benefits. Vehiclerefurbishing loan, housing loan… research leave, sabbatical leave, annual leave, sick leave and maternity leave. I wonder if we will still have people to teach us if all these leaves are granted. How can a reasonable man down his tools, his main source of income, because of allowances. Allowance is allowance, not the main wage.

The music maestro, Stephen Osita Osadebe, in one of his hits said, ‘if one’s salary is not enough to meet his needs, is it allowance that will do?’ It is unthinkable that the payment of paltry sums is allowed to disrupt academic activities for several months. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.

Again, the ASUU/FG fracas should have been buried in previous strikes. One thing ASUU has failed to recognise is that incessant striking is not the solution to Nigeria’s educational drawback. In fact, it is one of the problems. Industrial acts are so frequent that non-Nigerians are forced to think it is an annual festival. And then, freshers are always sermonised that the years they are to spend in the university is ‘n + x’. ‘n’ being the years written in JAMB brochure while ‘x’ is the unknown, the added years as a result of strikes… Imagine, 5 months in 1999, 3 months in 2001, 6 months in 2003, 3 months in 2007, 4 months in 2009, 5 months, 1 week in 2010, 3 months in 2011, and the most recent 6 month strike, to mention a few. They all culminate into almost 3 years, yet what is there to show for it? Except, of course, more decay in the system.

Moreover, I believe ASUU has no moral standing whatsoever to embark on a strike with so much audacity. Before they start point fingers at the FG and accusing them of dereliction of duty, have they looked within. Or have we not seen lecturers who come for classes only twice in a semester? Once to give out scheme of work, and the second time to invigilate the examination. Have we not seen lecturers who use lecture notes compiled in the 1970s for students in 2014?

Last but not least, the union has no right whatsoever to disrupt the free flow of academic activities to the students’ detriment. Sir Oliver Wendell Holmes Jnr once said, ‘Your right to swing your arms ends where another man’s nose begins.’ And in Latin, ‘Tuus ius finibus ubi alterum incipit.’ You cannot take another man’s life because YOU are tired of living. Neither can you say because the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, you now slander another man with impunity. Thus, the Academic Staff Union Of Universities has no right to deprive students of their entitlement to be edified, no matter the circumstance.

No matter what is done, the 200 billion naira Federal Government handed over for the restructuring of the academia and 45 billion given as lecturers’ earned allowance, can never restore or equate with the thousands of long hours wasted in inactivity. It cannot restore the delayed graduation years, and weddings. And most particularly, it can never bring back the invaluable, lost souls.

I end with the sagacious words of Demosthenes, ‘res ipsa loquitur’; the facts speak for themselves… IF ONLY WE WILL LISTEN.

Thank you!

 

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THE LAST DOSE?

STRIKE NO MORE.

 1…7…0, 1…7…0, what is it again?

I try and try, but all ends in vain

1…7…0, 1…7…0, I can’t seem to remember

Those six little figures… my poor matric number!

 

I am the unfortunate Nigerian student

Hardworking, ambitious, always compliant

I am the bone-eating son of a butcher

Who none cares for a second to look after

 

While busy sipping from the Pierian Spring

The fountain went dry, an event unforeseen

The unions cut short our bid to know

Even ‘IFA’ oracle insisted we must go

Confused and dejected, we packed our bags

Thinking that the next day, we’ll be back

But days turned to weeks, weeks to months

We waited and waited, all came to naught

 

At first, to the union, we showed sympathy

But then, the issue became just too lengthy

No more were some on the fence

To all, the strikers were now in defence

 

Some learnt teaching, bricklaying and carpentry

The rich ones, out of fear, swiftly left the country

Some hurriedly settled down to marry

Some could not endure, that they got heavy

 

Alas! At this time, many were buried

Here and there, you hear a student’s obituary

But no! We did not suffer alone

The great union also lost one of its own

 

Our market women cried enough is enough

A Lagos lawyer said we can’t take it no more

Igbo youths were paid to pressure the union

Vanity upon vanity, we were left in confusion

 

The government issues threats of no pay

When union protests, they chase them away

Go back to work, we have no money

So says the vile and chubby Harvard lady

 

 Promise after promise, offer after offer

Yet the union’s stance stands, it does not falter

Then came Goodluck, like a Deus ex machina

Union got thrilled, and forgot the grounds for fracas

 

Or so we thought…

Sadly, the royal meeting yielded no result

After 13 hours of nocturnal discourse

The season-film just never halts, not even a pause

 

The media mediated,

Sending us neither here nor there

Even a silly fella under @ASUU_Nigeria

Misled much through his twitter gear

 

The game is no longer interesting

The movie, no longer amusing

The union has lost its radiance

The students are no longer concerned

 

The government again issues threats

We will sack you all, they declare

Pro-Chancellors too did speak

Resume in a week or forever have your break

 

When all hope seemed buried and lost

The authorities agreed to pay somewhat

The union knew it the best they can muster

And to all’s joy, re-opened the Ivory Tower

 

When two mighty whales brawl

It is the planktons that really hurt

The strikers have gone on another repose

But I ask, is it a stop? Have we had the last dose?

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THE PARABLE OF RAJI AND MAMA ALAKARA

RAJI AND MAMA ALAKARA: FOOD FOR THOUGHTPrtScr capture_4

Mama, sell akara for me now… I have been standing here since… you no wan make I chop ni?”, rants Raji, a student of the University of Ibadan, and a member of the hall of Mellanby. Raji, on this very night, around 09:30pm, is at the front of a long queue of students who are waiting to buy the quite popular bread and akara of Mellanby hall. He uses every means available to convince the elderly lady at the centre of attraction. He would shout, plead and even argue against the others by telling those belonging to other halls of residence to return to their halls and buy akara there. Why must he queue with them as he is a stakeholder in the premier hall, he says. However, despite all these, the akara vendor refused to attend to him. Why? Because he jumped the queue. Not just this, but because he does so, every night.

A few minutes before this time, coming from a programme, I arrived at the hall. I decided to branch at the stand, to get a space, before proceeding to my room. I had to do this because it was of utmost importance to me to charge my cell-phones and laptop, due to the unpredictable and sporadic nature of our electric supply.
While going to my room, I saw the same Raji just moving towards the gate, that is, towards the akara seller. I did all I needed to and headed back to the place. There, I met the situation earlier described.

Raji was relentlessly demanding that he be attended to, and the “mama” kept refusing, firmly I must say. Everybody thought there was no way she would give in to his request, there was no way she would unfairly attend to him before others who have patiently stood up for several minutes, for the same purpose. I could hear the individual staying behind me saying if the akara vendor sells to Raji, then he would be vexed as ‘ese ni o’ i.e. ‘it is a sin’.

But we were wrong.

In a little more than no time, what I can say was anticipated but still is to everybody’s amazement, she eventually gave in, and sold akara to him. Adding that if he behaves the same way the next night, he will not get the same result.

Raji got what he wanted; he succeeded in breaking the protocols, delaying the others and infringing on their equitable rights. YET, nothing was done about it. Nobody got angry, or at least, nobody showed it. Nobody strongly protested it. Nobody said anything or did anything to correct the corruption which has just been committed with impunity.

This got me thinking.

The truth is that, in every country, there are dominant traits. Traits that seem to define the people of that country. Traits that are inextricable from the actual existence of the people. Once these traits are observable in the all the affairs of the people, they will get to the centre, the leadership. And once they are seen at the centre, know that they originated from the grassroots.

In Nigeria, these traits unfortunately include lateness (African time), nonchalance with things that are not ours, the spirit of forgiveness (which does not always work for us), the belief that ‘laws are made to be broken’ and of course, corruption.

The word Nigeria is today synonymous with corruption; this is because it is so widespread in the economy that those in the government are nothing but advocates of corruption and selfish interests. It is now thought that anybody going into politics, no matter how saintly, is automatically going there to fill his pockets. We now find youths publicly asserting that if they find themselves in the seat of power, they would not “dull” themselves, they also would not hesitate to have a long-lasting taste of the symbolic national cake.

Just like Raji, politicians, who are established monsters, incessantly demand to buy the masses’ votes and mandate. And just like the akara vendor, the electorates always eventually give in, mostly due to their forgetfulness, ignorance and spirit of forgiveness. Even those who promise hell if this happens, are in one way or the other, silenced. This cycle of corruption getting rewarded with forgiveness by its victims, keeps rolling and things keep getting worse. This will indubitably go on until somebody rises to the task of breaking this vicious cycle, until ‘mama alakara’ stands her ground and refuses to sell her akara to criminals and deceitful persons, until Raji realises that you cannot always get what you want by whatever means you utilise, you cannot ‘fool all the people, all the time!’

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