Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Discovering ISLAM- On Separation of Sexes

Adejoh Idoko Momoh

One of my first experiences with Islam was in my mother’s reading room; as she busied herself in the corner reading and chanting verses from her Koran, I picked up a bright purple and yellow book. Its title startled me:
‘Islam forbids the free mixing of men and women’

I remember fondly then I wanted nothing to do with a religion that would seek to forbid my association with my mother and sisters: the only females I had come to see as role models at the time.

It was not until 2007 when I travelled to the Islamic holy land, visited the holy shrine and stood at the foot of al-Hajar al-Aswad or the black stone in my ritualistic dress that I realized this doctrine is tradition at best. Adopted by a few, practiced overtime and has come to be accepted as right.

First off, there is no separation of sexes in the holy Ka’abah: I walked with and took instructions from my mother as we performed the tawaf - the circular walk around the Ka’abah, we were together during prayers and several other men and women prayed alongside each other. This was particularly refreshing for me, in some way, it made me more interested in the religion, in learning its tenets. 
I began to wonder, the Ka’abah and the rituals surrounding it are relics of Islam in its purest form as observed by the Holy Prophet (SAW), if there was any need to separate sexes in Islam wouldn’t it be obvious in this holy mosque? Would efforts not have been made to build a female section behind the male section in the Ka’abah?
My mum had constantly told us that her aim was to read the Koran wholly from cover to cover inside the holy Ka’abah before we had to return to Nigeria, so when hunger began to whirl in my brother and I, she suggested we have lunch at a Kentucky Fried Chicken close to the mosque. I grumbled a bit, wanting to eat some home cooked food but that trip to KFC would eventually provoke some curiosity in me, make me interested in the religion and its truths.
Inside the restaurant, there was a partition with bright red labels that read ‘Men’ and another that read ‘Women’- I sighed to myself and muttered ‘the separation of sexes Nigerian mosques are so familiar for finally shows up here’. A giggle would later escape my lips as we sat to eat.
My brother would ask why I laughed and in dismissing his questioning, I would simply nod and say I just remembered something funny. In reality, I thought of the irony and hypocrisy inherent, it is okay for men and women to mix when they prayed and it is not okay for men and women to mix while they eat?

Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh

Friday, November 15, 2013

Finding Fit

Adejoh Idoko Momoh

First it was at the Wal-Mart, then the Premium Outlet would follow. It would be the same thing at the local Wendy’s or Burger King: all fat people.

Some riding automated carts so they didn't have to walk about shopping for their groceries or ordering the most fattening item on the menu irrespective of their balloon-sized-weight. It wouldn’t be too long before I would ask myself:

‘Where’s all the fitness, sexiness Hollywood has made me believe is synonymous with America?’

I would go to Food Courts, look around for a snack: candy, frozen yoghurt, sugar coated Danish and I would conclude America is a society that encourages obesity among its young. A society that charges a higher premium on small soda packs only so you are encouraged to purchase larger ones.

I would see this first hand when with a Nigerian friend training as a doctor in Florida at the time; I would go to the Altapointe Mall in Winterpark. Tired from seeing ‘Elysium’ and window shopping, we would settle for a blizzard. I would ask for a mini cone and my friend a medium, the red haired server lady would ask:

‘a mini?’ wearing that look sales people wear when they think you made the wrong choice and can do better. ‘if you’d upgrade your mini to a medium, you could get both cones for 99 cents each as opposed to the $1.30 cost of a mini or $2 medium’.

My friend, himself a few pounds heavier now would say;
‘Take the upgrade, whatever you have left over, I’d finish’.  I would look to him and smile. Run my palm over my now slightly bulging tummy and say, ‘I’d take the upgrade’. The lady would smile back as though I had made the wiser choice.

She would turn the cone up-side-down as though to show the blizzard was frozen stiff and I would remember my friend saying to me earlier nothing is quite as good as a blizzards frozen deliciousness.   

As we took our seats to enjoy our blizzards, I would notice a white haired lady with her American accent bent to reach the lowest layer of a phone case booth, her thighs about half the size of my waist and I would wonder: how in a society with unlimited options and organic food, people still couldn’t make the simple choice of living healthier lives.

Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh

Saturday, October 19, 2013

What Would Victoria Do?

BY Adejoh Idoko Momoh

There’s something about the worship here; the church amazing in its construction: paved rocks like waterfalls leading to doorways that in themselves lead to a really expansive football- field -like arena with very high ceilings of public address systems, air-condition vents and beautiful art.

With arguably the largest congregation of any American church, Lakewood Christian Center seats a remarkable 40,000 people; the building was once Houston’s Compaq Center before the church bought it at $7.5 million and then started an ambitious $93 million worth of renovations, the church as it stood before me, justified every expense.

‘I am a mess sometimes. I might be a mess tomorrow… And you know what? God-says- it- is- okay to- be- a- mess, provided- I don’t- stay- that- way’ Victoria Osteen would say. Picking her words individually, in that voice white people use when they are overtaken by amazement or the sudden realization that whatever troubles they have has been mysteriously relieved.

I would loose concentration, think to my local church: Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo’s Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, Abuja. His church, much like this: in branding, the motivation- like sermons, the largely youthful, hopeful population with excellent service of songs and praises: the ideal picture of a progressive church.

I would allow my mind wander. Ask what Victoria would do if like Pastor Modele Fatoyinbo, Joel Osteen had an ‘Ese Walters’ leveling allegations of a weeklong affair against him. A weeklong indulgence in fornication which Pastor Biodun fully aware of his actions lured her into, first by asking her to join his pastoral care unit, offering personal spiritual counseling and encouraging her to try alcohol. 

His ‘Ese’ would probably say he spoke in his very charming Texan accent, saying: ‘I’m gonna teach you a level of grace mankind doesn’t understand’ his eyes sparkling with the glow of a teacher eager to school his student. He would then threaten just like Pastor Biodun did: ‘I see premonition in which you leak details of our affair to the press. When such a time comes, remember that the bible requires you to hurt not Gods anointed’

Bringing myself back from thought, I would see her. Light skinned and very pretty in her above-knee-length blue dress accentuated at the waist by a metallic black belt, I imagine she would say to Joel, our marriage is for better and for worse, but mostly she would realize that he didn’t just sin against her, but against his church, against the part of Christ’s body he shepherds and therefore owed more of an explanation than the ‘Leave it to God’ posture Pastor Biodun has currently adopted with the people of COZA and the larger public.

For every one worker who would labor every Sunday, every weekday making sure services run smoothly,
she would demand that he apologizes. Not because by his apology he admits some form of guilt, but because by his actions, he has brought them embarrassment.

She would probably ask him to take a back seat from church activities, let other pastors who were content with their wives and didn’t see the need to desecrate their flesh with adultery, shepherd the church.
She would know that he is human, probably forgive him after she overcomes her own anger. She would know that because of this humanity, he would make mistakes sometimes and would need the direction a good wife should provide.

She would pull herself together: show that she is a woman in control and not just one who is lingering in the background, gleefully playing the victim of a cheating husband. She would take a stand: publicly stand by her husband, help him find God again or walk away, but all she would do, she would do boldly.

Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh

Monday, October 7, 2013


Adejoh Idoko Momoh

I do not remember the date, what I do remember is that it was on our way from Orlando to Atlanta. The trip registers fondly not only because it was a 7 hour drive but also because on that trip I had a fight with my sister.
After everyone tired of hearing my hunger complaints, we stopped at a local Wendy's just on the highway to get a burger and a coke. I had gone in, placed and collected my order and returned to the car when my sister in her usual calm demeanor asked why I didn’t ask if any other person wanted to eat. I do not remember if I did ask, what I do remember is that I was so focused on my own hunger that I probably would have forgotten to ask.

'Supreme Chicken burger and a coke please'

I said to the red haired lady behind the counter. I was going to laugh at the very silly looking bright red hat that held her hair up the middle and had the word 'Wendy's' inscribed on it in white, but I decided not to at the thought that she might be rude if I did.
I ordered the most basic item on the menu so I didn’t have to speak a lot of English and have the lady annoyingly say 'excuse me' intermittently in her silly American accent that to me sounded very un-english.

'So, if you’d take a seat over there, your order'd be up in 5 mins'

She pointed to a sitting area splattered with color it looked like a child’s playground. I didn’t sit, I felt like it would be wrong to sit there so I stood.
This is one thing that confused me about Americans: the practice of ordering you to do something and making it sound as though it was merely a suggestion.
As she handed me my order, she finally asked:

'Where are you from?' I would hesitate and she would continue 'I ask cos your accent is so cool'. I would say Nigeria and thank her.

In about a week, I would leave Atlanta and head for Chicago where I would visit the Northern Illinois University to consider graduate school options, I would meet a dark skinned Cameroonian- whom I would first refer to as my African sister and therefore think her easy to relate with. Before I would notice her beauty.
Very sightly both in looks and features: humbly small breasts that would fit perfectly in the palm of my hands, healthy round hips and those kind of legs you only see in catalogs.
In the course of conversation, I would describe Igbo girls as light skinned and pretty. My Cameroonian would say:

'I enjoy listening to you, Momoh'

Her hands holding mine as we stared forward in the realization and discomfort that it was the first time we held hands.

'Here the 'T' is blurred such that it sounds like an 'L'. The 'R' is rolled off your tongue such that it sounds somewhere between an 'R' and a 'W'. If you’re considering graduate school here, you really have to learn to fit in, to sound like us'

I tightened my grip on her palm as though signaling that it was okay to hold hands and she tightened hers too in agreement. I looked at her and felt pity for this green card holding African. Despite being here 10 years, I could see she still tried to fit in. She was trapped between a country that would forever label her foreign and one very rich in culture and hospitality that lost her 10 years ago.

 Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh

Thursday, August 15, 2013

TEDxYouth@Maitama Review

The odds surely were not in my favor on Friday the 19th July, 2013. I was already running close to the 5pm submission deadline for an NIPP bid when the internet decided to stop working, then power would follow and like cherry atop the cake, the generator would not start. This all would leave me in thought, if we succeeded in acquiring the desired power plant, would Nigeria’s power situation be any better? Would we do a better job than the government has done at managing the generating plants? Just when I thought it could not get better, it did.

I very lazily flung my drawer open and I saw it, a printed out invitation for the 20th to an event that would compensate for what had now become a hard-work-filled-week with no results to show. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, Aisha Babangida, Simeon Ononubi and Okechukwu Ofilli all people who I considered role models were going to speak.

Dressed in smart brown pants and a slightly off-white corporate shirt complete with cufflinks, I left at least 15 minutes early to the Sheraton Ladi Kwali hall venue of the event- as this event would be a gathering of people who lead twitter protests demanding change in Nigeria, I had expected it would start on time. 

My excitement quickly paled; I registered, a really nice name tag was printed and pasted on my left breast pocket- this is how organized events should work I thought. I took my seat and after what must have been a good 45 minutes behind schedule the MC- very young in his demeanor, would come with apologies, he would assure that the event would start soon.

The lights would go off and in a matter of seconds focus on a projector from which the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 2009 Oxford TED talk ‘Danger of a single story’ would play. Not minding that this talk is about 5 years old and probably is the most watched Nigerian talk by Nigerians, everyone in the hall sat watching: knowing what would happen next, but watching nonetheless.

Bringing with it relief, the very refreshing Sir Ken Robinson talk on Education stifling Creativity would start. Just then, the MC would rudely interrupt again; tell a tale of how time was a scarce resource and go on to explain the video like we were not capable of watching and understanding it for ourselves. 

Aisha Babangida would give the first talk. I was amazed at her simplicity, there was humility, kindness in her voice, qualities that I previously did not think would be present in someone who was born to a military ruler who is said to have single handedly destroyed Nigeria’s future and squandered all the fortune that would come with it.

She went on to give a talk on values, respect and mentorship. She would speak of her mother’s NGO Better Life program which she now runs and is still focused on empowering women and youth. She would end her 18 minute talk with a tale of how someone who accused her of being rich and therefore not in touch with the poor people’s plight would later become her press officer and co-worker on a few people oriented programs.

Then Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in his impeccably tailored safari and usual humility would take the stage, give a stimulating talk on overcoming the fear of vested interests, talk about his experience with firing bank chiefs and how everyone was sure he would loose his job and/or life immediately afterwards.

He would speak of a certain female bank chief and Usher in her local church who stole more than a billion dollars and owned more than 200 choice properties in Dubai. A male bank chief and pastor of his local church who was handed over to the EFCC for prosecution and was mandated to pay back about N47.1bn in looted funds, with the intervention of some Northern leaders he was eventually discharged of all liabilities- At this point, I thought to myself, if you have any thoughts that suggest that a woman cannot out perform a man, just look to the story of the female bank chief.

He would quote really gory statistics and warn that if we do not demand change for fear of loosing security, we should know that in a matter of time, we surely would loose the same security we seek to preserve.

The MC who at this point sounded more like a bearer of bad news to me would announce that Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai was not going to come.

Simeon Ononubi who is CEO YouWin and has found start-ups since he was 16 would give a talk on business innovation, he would tell his experience with starting ‘Back Up My Phone’ with as little as a hundred dollars, only to sell the application a few months later for about Twenty thousand dollars. He would also talk of ‘Simple Pay’- Nigeria’s equivalent of Pay Pal. His talk was easy flowing, sensible, nice. I remember leaving the venue with new found respect for the man.

Nasir K Mohammed who was Secretary General to the ‘Nigerian Model UN’ and is just as impressive with his qualifications spoke on Entrepreneurship. Bright Jaja followed with the story of ReDance Africa and how the organization he founded with very modest expectations has grown beyond all he thought. Fatima Dansamaila talked on youths in sustainable development and Engineer and dedicated blogger, Okechukwu Ofilli who also is creator of the Okada books application would give a very lively talk on innovation.

In the end, despite its flaws, it would do what a TED talk should do: there was a richness and abundance of ideas exchanged amongst speakers and participants that is bound to see anyone walk away with one or two of his or her own ideas. Personally, the event would leave me inspired, motivated and with zeal to go break barriers, be the best I can be.

Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nigeria and the irony of it all

By Adejoh Idoko Momoh.

The relationship between Nigerians and irony did not start recently as far back as the 1970’s, Gowon came up with the ‘No Victor, no Vanquished’ slogan after receiving the instrument of surrender from the Biafran Head of State following a Civil War that lasted 30 months. Apparently, the phrase was supposed to appease the Biafrans who at various times had accused Nigerians of genocide and Gowon himself of war crimes, make them feel like they really were not defeated and that the war only helped to re-unify the country.

In the 1980’s, a Nigerian more famous for his weed smoking, near naked dancing and mass marriages crooned the ‘suffering and smiling’ rant.  Years down the line, Nigerians would appreciate the prophecy contained in his lyrics, look past his promiscuity, recklessness and crown him King of Afro pop. Isn’t this in itself some form of irony for a society that prides itself as being moral driven?
If you are Nigerian and you still have reason to doubt our national love for irony, let me walk you through recent events that put our obsession in perspective.

Perhaps you remember the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill recommended by President Olusegun Obasanjo and first considered in the Senate in 2006?   Yes, the same one – or a variant of it- whose passage Senator David Mark has since adopted as personal crusade. The bill would among other things prohibit the union of persons of the same sex and public displays of affection. The irony here is that this bill is passed at a time when there are other bills that require urgent attention.

As example, there is the Aluu 4 Mob Justice Prohibition Bill sponsored by Okechukwu Ofilli in the wake of the Aluu 4 killings that seeks to classify gleefully watching or partaking in mob justice as a crime in Nigeria’s current criminal act, this bill that would potentially protect most Nigerians has not been debated upon. Also, the National Health Bill that would guarantee easy access to healthcare is sitting pretty on a shelf somewhere also not attended to. What our legislators would rather do is make it more conducive to marry child brides.

The Senate President himself is some form of irony; he would come on national television and passionately say crude oil theft in Nigeria is alarming, robbing the nation of much needed revenue and should be punished with the death penalty. Funny thing is corruption does as much harm even in the bureaucracy he presides upon, yet not once has he recommended the death penalty or expulsion for members who have corruption charges leveled against them. If you are still in doubt, let me say this plainly, this is the picture of a man who gets irony completely.

Not wanting to be left out, the Harvard/Massachusetts Institute of Technology trained Minister of Finance Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala outsourced in 2006 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration along with fellow handlers of our economy would delude us with tales, say our economy is one of the 6 fastest growing in the world and flaunt a Transformation Agenda while a record number of Nigerians are out of jobs, homeless and suffer from poverty and hunger.

As recent as the 25th June her colleague, the London School of Economics trained Minister of National Planning Dr Shamsudeen Usman, himself a very bright Nigerian who has at different times occupied the positions of Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria and Minister of Finance since 1999 revealed that Nigeria moved 8 steps upwards in global G.D.P rankings. We should ask ourselves what this means? Has it translated to a reduction in poverty among Nigerians, or an improvement in living standards? For all we Nigerians who remain silent amidst all these ironies, the joke would in the end be on us. Is it not funny that all these statistics are presented glowingly, yet Nigerians profit nothing from them?

In education, the picture is no better:
In spite of the fact that according to a 2013 Ministerial review put together by Thisday newspapers, education under her shows no signs of improvement, the bright eyed Minister Professor Ruqqayatu Rufa’i would talk of a needs assessment committee for universities set up by her administration and increased budgetary allocations under her watch.

The irony is that the reality on ground and therefore measurable by Nigerians is that an almost 11 million unschooled children population exists, a 0.0006% pass rate of 300 and above out of a possible 400 was recorded in the 2013 Universities and Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, 1.7million Nigerians applied this year for an inadequate 500,000 university slots, a record low female enrollment rate and an increasing school dropout rate persists.  

It is the same irony with health, power and the petroleum sectors. Consider that the JTF is even mandated by the government to locate and destroy illegal refineries built by poverty stricken Niger Deltans, the irony is that the same government would turn around to say Nigeria does not have the capacity to build refineries. Would it not be a better alternative if the expertise of these illegal refinery operators is exploited towards building numerous low or high capacity refineries across oil producing states?

At least twice in the last decade, Nigerians have been adjudged the happiest people on earth. While it is a wonder how happiness indeces are carried out, the thing is, an oil rich nation with the highest rate of oil theft worldwide who losses some $8bn annually to this theft has no business being happy. A country with about 80% arable land but still incurs an annual rice import bill of N23trillion, or a bill of N635billion and N100 billion for wheat and fish imports has no business being happy. 
A country with very large tomato belts but is the highest importer of tomato paste worldwide is no place to be happy. A country where you can simply go to retrieve a debt and see tyre wrapped around your neck, have strangers mercilessly beat you and set you ablaze is no place to be happy. Neither is a country where your young promising children or brothers go to bed in supposedly secure schools and get burnt to death at night a place to be happy in.

There are numerous reasons to be unhappy and the international community has taken notice, from xenophobia in South Africa to 48 Nigerians seating pretty on death row in Indonesia and the N750,000 bond Nigerians may have to pay before embarking on travels to the United kingdom, the sooner we end our dangerous infatuation with hope, contentment and irony, the better it would be for us.

Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh

Thursday, June 13, 2013

For Nigerians, it may be time to panic

By: Adejoh Idoko Momoh

Consider these scenarios: 50,000 teachers cannot pass a basic test in elementary English; illiteracy rate of about 70%; only 10 out of 1.6 million candidates that sat for university entrance examinations scored a pass mark of 300 and above out of a possible 500. Add this to a situation where 10.6 million children are out of school - the highest school aged children out-of-school population in the entire world, then relate these to the fact that all these take place in a nation with a GDP growth rate higher than all other African nations except South Africa.

This conundrum is representative of the inherent contradictions in Nigeria, where the government keeps brandishing largely useless growth figures in our faces, but where people are confronted daily by an increasingly divided citizenry, deteriorating security conditions, decaying infrastructure, rising unemployment, unprecedented corruption, impunity and falling standards of education.

Ordinarily, the scenario depicted above would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious. Unfortunately, for 170 million Nigerians who normally should set the pace for the rest of Africa in human capital development and educational attainment terms, the reality on ground is that they are plagued with a largely dysfunctional system that encourages an ever growing population of young people who would constitute an uneducated, unemployable generation with little useful roles to play in society.

The Ministry of Education would be quick to come up with excuses: attribute its many failures to a lack of finance and complain that it is not allocated some 26% of Nigeria’s national budget as is recommended by the United Nations. Yet of its dismal 8% budgetary allocation in 2012, the ministry only expended 20% of its capital provisions as at September the same year. This simply points to the fact that the ministry itself has no vision to accommodate the resources they often put forward as needed.

This immediately brings questions to mind, can this ministry that cannot implement an 8% budgetary provision wholly be trusted with 25%? Can the government afford to fund this ministry as much as it deserves? Is it not a fact that a former Education Minister, Dr Oby Ezekwesili admitted the above, and included the ‘Adopt A School’ program as part of Corporate Social Responsibility? Sadly, no sooner than she left office was her ‘Crisis’ reforms document thrown out too. What place does alternative education have in our current education system? How did our technical schools that served to train experts at skilled work loose relevance?

The truth is Nigeria’s education sector is in need of reforms and every Nigerian should take up this responsibility, demand an education revolution from our government. Peaceful protests like the Occupy Nigeria or the Project Cure rallies that have been beneficial for fuel subsidy as well as currency restructuring would do just as good for education. The creation of specialist universities may prove to be more beneficial than universities that aim to offer all courses. Would it not be a more informed thought if the President considered strengthening the capacities of existing universities as opposed to building new universities in every state? 

Challenges abound with reforming our education system. Time for one; reforms would take a little more than 4 years focused on planning, training, implementing and some more training. Take China as example, the country has had over 50 years of mandatory 9 year basic education and various laws guaranteeing access to education for minorities, women and the handicapped, yet the country has not totally attained universal basic education coverage. Nigeria has not even started. Discouraging as this may be, it is not reason to delay the reform process that would benefit generations of Nigerians to come.

Yes, there is a Universal Basic Education Board and 35 other state versions called State Universal Basic Education Board but what are these SUBEBs doing? Take a state like Kaduna for instance with a school aged out of school percent population of 51.6%, the state SUBEB has a zero capital allocation for the years 2013 and 2014, while there is a recurrent expenditure of N116.5m and N128.2m respectively. In view of the above, you decide if this demonstrates political will to curb the education menace?

This lack of political will to train and develop the people we refer to as Nigeria’s future goes beyond formal education; we see it even in the field of technical education too. The 2013 National budget has a capital provision of N40 million set aside for the National Business and Technical Education Board while its recurrent provision is N1.2billion, also there is a N300million capital provision for the National Board for Technical Education Secretariat while its recurrent expenditure is N1.3billion- about 300% above Capital Expenditure. With miserable capital provisions as detailed above most technical schools are shut down, the few that function do not have updated curriculums and therefore offer training that is of very little relevance to modern trends and realities.

For Nigerians who belong to the dwindling middle class and are rich enough to afford foreign education or training for their children and perhaps feel like the dearth of education infrastructure in Nigeria should not bother them, they are sadly mistaken. I conclude with the tale as narrated below, it is my hope that from it we all have a rethink. 

A man wise beyond his years once said, ‘the children we do not train now would kill those we have trained.’ He then explained how a Harvard trained student came visiting his parents in Lagos for a week and how on a hot afternoon made worse by the failure of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (P.H.C.N) to provide electricity, he decided to take a walk. As he walked, he saw a miscreant steal a lady’s purse and sought to challenge the man. The man simply pulled out a gun, shot this foreign educated student and rode off on his motorbike.

Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh

Friday, May 10, 2013

Soludo’s Solution of Anger and Innuendo


Long before the publication of The Accidental Public Servant, I had decided to resist joining issues with whatever commentators wrote in response to the book by way of either attacking the author or its contents. It is a narrative of my experiences and views, and   I would simply invite others to document theirs. Many of those that commented on, or ‘reviewed’ the book had not even read it in full.
Others had decided long before it was published that they would attack El-Rufai and whatever he writes, while a few others were simply going to be unhappy with how they were presented in the book as being less than perfect. When one writes a 700-page book, one has to take a deep breath and allow others the slack to write a few pages in response, however disagreeable or abusive.
When I wrote The Accidental Public Servant, there were no illusions that its account would be uncontested. As I have said repeatedly, it is simply my account of the people and events that defined my years in public service. I took several precautions (such as double-checking from the copious notes and diaries of events that were taken after every major encounter – about forty seven note books in total) of ensuring that it is a truthful, balanced and fair account of my experience.
I do not have a professorial memory, so kept daily journals of events including verbatim records of statements. I am delighted that I took the time to write it, and I once again encourage others who have been privileged to be in the public service to similarly record their experiences. Those who may choose not to write books can still contribute by responding to specific issues mentioned in my narrative on which they may have other information, however critical or contrary to my account.
Professor Charles (I have always called him Charles because that is how we were introduced. I have never gotten used to calling him Chukwuma) Soludo approached me at the end of the recent thanksgiving service for my sister, Oby Ezekwesili, to complain about some of the assertions in my book concerning him. He denied that he owed his consulting jobs with the World Bank and other institutions to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. He denied being mentored or taught by her father. He added that he had not read the entire book but would send me two pages of his initial observations. I encouraged him not only to do so, but publish it and work on a book documenting his experiences. Knowing Charles as I do, I had no doubt that he was already doing that and the first episode has now been published in his fortnightly column in Thisday.
Thus, his rebuttal did not come as a surprise; given  that I encouraged him to do so as I have nothing to hide. Even so, it is shocking that he chose to sensationalise his version of events by describing The Accidental Public Servant as intellectual fraud. There is a question mark in the title of his article, but the last sentence of Charles’ diatribe restated his magisterial conclusion. He went further to provide his own definitions of fraud as “an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual” or “as course of deception, an intentional concealment, omission or perversion of truth”; only to stop there! Fraud has a technical and legal definition and if Charles had bothered to consult his lawyer, he would have gone beyond the ‘online definition’, but that is another matter for now.
It is illogical to contest someone’s CV with him in the absence of contrary and superior information. I therefore concede to Charles’ account of his professional odyssey prior to his being introduced to us in 2000 by Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, long before joining the Obasanjo government in 2003. The logical question therefore is how any of the examples he gave of the errors in his resume would without more, rise to the level of fraud? Why would I intentionally deceive the world that Soludo’s tenure as governor of CBN started in mid-2005 rather than May of 2004? This only occurred when one of the book’s editors thought the 2004 date was wrong and ‘corrected’ it but that escaped subsequent editorial reviews. What is the personal gain to me in describing Soludo as a protégé of Professor Okonjo or how did the description damage him when he just referred to the same Professor Okonjo as “respected”? So, Charles needs to substantiate how any assertion, error or omission in the book amounts to “fraud” per his definition.
After that, I do not see much that is significant to warrant a clarification from me. One friend on Twitter observed that Charles’ polemic had so much anger and little substance that he truly sounded as angry as a woman scorned!  Much of Charles’ response is enlivened by innuendos. He repeats the frequent charge about my ambition for the presidency in 2007, a charge that is untrue but that is often echoed as if that ambition, if it existed, is akin to treason. Charles knows that I do not consider illegitimate his desire to be governor of his state or his current hopes to be a presidential running-mate. But he should know better than most that ambition for office is not the only reason for being active in politics. Since Charles has claimed that I ‘schemed desperately’ to succeed Obasanjo, he should please tell all – inform Nigerians what I did, who was involved and spill the beans! Virtually all the narratives in The Accidental Public Servant about Charles involved others that are still alive, and if he said I made them up, perhaps he should state his version and invite others mentioned to invalidate my claim instead of calling anyone a liar just because he did not like the way his conduct appeared in the book.
Charles was introduced to me by Ngozi, and that was the foundation of our professional relationship and friendship. As far as I know, it was also Ngozi who proposed his name for economic adviser and Oby (and her husband) took him to Obasanjo several times before he was appointed. If Charles is denying that this happened, that is fine. It does not change the facts, and those that did what they did know what they did or did not do! Why is Charles so hurt that others have helped him?  Is he suggesting that he had won the Nobel Prize in Economics and that is how Obasanjo got to meet and appoint him?
Charles presented his jaundiced interpretations of what I wrote in clear language as my views in his piece. For instance, there was nowhere in the book that I wrote that ‘Ngozi was power hungry.’ She was pragmatic and realistic about power relations. How does that equate to being power hungry? Charles is playing with words in a patently dishonest way, knowing that many that will read his piece have not read the book, but he is not the intellectual fraud! Charles also asserted that I forced myself on the economic team and “destroyed it”! Was it El-Rufai that composed the membership of the team? When and how was the team single-handedly destroyed by me? As far as I know, warts and all, the economic team kept on working till May 29, 2007. Again, I invite Charles to educate us all now, bearing in mind virtually all the team members are still alive and around, even after he stopped attending its weekly meetings.
In the book, I wrote that Charles did many things to ingratiate himself to Obasanjo, one of which was to attribute every good ‘idea’ to the latter; not actual achievements, since there were few in the early days. Charles’ response was to misrepresent what was written, just as he knows that there is no weight to the claim that appointees under a presidential system cannot claim credit for their work. To acknowledge the opportunity President Obasanjo gave me to serve, and the support he provided to help us succeed at the FCT is very different from pretending that only the boss had any ideas on how to administer Abuja, or that he oozed perfection, presidential system or not.
Charles also came out guns blazing questioning my narratives of events involving his new mentor Atiku Abubakar, and Nuhu Ribadu and Obasanjo. In Charles’ views, these three people made me tick in government and I should be eternally grateful. Charles has not read the book. If he did, he would have come across all the instances in which I gave each of them credit for what they did right and how they contributed to the work I did. Unlike Charles who makes people believe they are perfect when he needs them, I was consistent in and out of office in pointing to those I worked with where I believe they went wrong Just as I was self critical of my own shortcomings. In Charles’ vocabulary, that is ingratitude. In mine, it is simply utilitarian sycophancy to attribute perfection to imperfect mortals because they are likely to help one’s career next week!
Charles claimed that I pleaded with him to provide technical assistance to BPE. That is false. That conversation just never happened. Those familiar with BPE know that we hired people either as regular public servants, individual consultants called ‘core team’ members that work full time in the organization or investment bankers and consulting firms like lawyers and accountants that provided periodic transactional services as needed. Charles and his economic consulting firm did not fit into any of the three categories.
I appointed him to the membership of two reform steering committees – Competition and Anti-Trust and the Industry and Manufacturing Reform Committees along with persons of the calibre of Pat Utomi, Oby Ezekwesili, and Aliko Dangote. I was the coordinator of both committees as DG of the BPE, with Ibrahim S. Njiddah, now a presidential assistant doing the day-to-day management. I am now learning from the Charles’ piece that he single-handedly did the work of the Competition Reform Committee for free. I did not realize that all the other notable members did nothing! Well, thanks Charles, but Steering Committee members got hotel accommodation and were paid sitting allowances by the BPE, so I do not quite understand what was meant by asserting that you did the work free of charge.
That leaves us with asking Charles to detail the fraud he alleges was attendant to the efforts we made to restore the Abuja master plan. He claimed that my ‘vindictiveness’ nearly ruined the exercise. Really? There is need to say more right on this away. I am challenging Charles to substantiate these innuendos with names and details of my alleged vindictiveness in his article since everybody knows that my service at the FCT is a matter of public record that has been investigated by several institutions unsympathetic to me, and all Abuja residents know about and still comment upon it.
The rest of Soludo’s article was spent blowing his trumpet of banking consolidation with his characteristic modesty! The dismissal of Charles’ over-hyped banking consolidation in The Accidental Public Servant therefore appeared to upset him more than anything else. He is still under the illusion that his ‘revolution’ changed our lives the way GSM licensing did! No one needs a single 234Next to see through the hype and the disingenuous comparison. Banks like First Bank, UBA, Union, Zenith IBTC, and GTB needed no consolidation. They had sound business models and were doing well without it.
Soludo’s consolidation abolished investment banks and regional banks, while creating a few ‘big’ banks with funny names many of which were either comatose by 2009 or had to be subsequently saved by the Sanusi Lamido Sanusi rescue exercise. It is pathetic to measure the success of consolidation by the number of banks in the top 1,000 banks in the world. Did that ranking translate into increased lending to the real sector, greater employment opportunities for our people and intensified mobilization of savings in the way the GSM revolution did? No way, only massive margin loans to create a stock market bubble, engender insider lending and incestuous relations between regulators and operators in the industry.
The kind of targeted interventions needed to fill the gaps sustained by some of such policies were opposed by Soludo unless the ideas originated from him. As CBN governor, Charles did all he could to frustrate the attempts to establish a national mortgage system and was openly critical of Ngozi’s drive and contributions in getting the Paris Club debts written off for the simple reason that the the credit might go to others not Soludo!
Charles is free to beat his chest and claim that the deformed baby called consolidation was a revolution, but today many of the the poster-children of the policy like Intercontinental, Oceanic, Finbank and Spring Bank are history, the banking-stockbroking rock stars are facing prosecution, and with N4 trillion spent to prevent the collapse of his revolution.
When Charles’ memoirs are published, those that either witnessed it or had to clean up ‘the world’s fastest growing financial system’ will have their own views. And it will be good for the country. After all, it has been said that every story has at least three sides, my version, your version and the truth which lies somewhere in between the two. If one refers to a book one finds disagreeable as intellectual fraud while insisting that a cancer one created that has cost nearly the annual budget of the federal government to treat, so far, as a resounding success, then what more is there to say? It simply points to the moral and psychological mind-set of such a person.

Friday, May 3, 2013

El-Rufai on Friday: These Cowards 
Olusegun Dada

The rising popularity of social media among young people has become such a nightmare for Nigeria’s rulers that are afraid of openness and information symmetry, that the Jonathan administration is spending a whopping $40 million to read their emails, romantic exchanges and other ‘subversive’ exchanges. Interacting regularly with young people on Twitter and Facebook gives the older generation both hope and concern.
‘Dada Olusegun is one of those young people that have been making positive contributions in cyberspace. He is just 25 years old! He attended Awori Ajeromi Grammar School in Lagos and graduated from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Ogbomosho with an honours degree in Pure and Applied Chemistry! Yet like many of the multi-talented youths we have introduced on this column, Dada writes as if he studied humanities, the social sciences or even literature.
Dada was very active along with Yemi Adamolekun, Japheth Omojuwa, Chinedu Ekeke, Seun Fakuade, Zainab Usman, Momoh Adejoh and Amina Saude Mohammed and numerous others during the #OccupyNigeria movement that successfully resisted the imposition of the surreptitious Jonathanian tax called ‘fuel subsidy removal’. He is a talented writer cum social change advocate. He is a regular political columnist on #EkekeeeDotCom and contributor on numerous online blogs and newspapers. He is a gifted public speaker who is also involved in youth empowerment and enlightenment.
Today, Dada issues a call to action and appeals for Nigerian citizens to end their lethargic acceptance of bad governance, looting and impunity by claiming to be neutral. Indeed, Dada thinks such people are simply cowards. Do you agree? It is my honour and privilege to introduce another vigorous young voice, Mr. ‘Dada Olusegun for your weekend enjoyment.
                                    – Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

Let me put it this way: I have seen many things in my life. I have seen certain people who treat passivity as some kind of heroic action. There are people who say, “I just want my job, my family, and my religion and I will leave politics out of my life.” Passivity isn’t heroic, it’s cowardly! It’s the lazy man’s easy way out. But I see it beyond laziness.

Let me say this to those people: you’re idiots! While you’re asleep in front of your own life, they are screwing you. While you shut your mind to national issues, they are mentally gang-raping you. While you’re living out your life, they are ripping you off; they’re pulling the carpet from under you, tripling national debts that your children and grandchildren will not be able to pay till they die.

You’re idiots for closing your eyes exactly when your eyes should be open. You’re morons for thinking that the present day government will take care of the people if not put on their toes and forced to do so. You’re blind for thinking that the corruptly rich will not do everything in their power to keep their stranglehold on you; you cannot be passive while the missiles of corruption fall on your head and the heads of your children. You cannot be passive while they destroy your life and the lives of your children. You cannot sit there and pretend to be neutral. You cannot be passive when people thousands daily die due to negligence of government. You cannot be passive when the military sworn to protect your lives and properties kill and maim you and your children on the altar of the war against terror. You cannot afford to be passive. No you cannot.

Your destiny is in your hands, the destiny of your generation and the generation after yours. Let me tell you this: it’s either you become politically active or you risk a complete destruction by those in power. You either become politically active or your unborn children and grandchildren will curse you even in your grave because politics is too important to be left in the hands of “the politicians”. It is even worse to leave it in the hands of criminals who know no difference between state purse and personal pocket. Who will loot the entire treasury, in the drop of a hat.

Our direct participation in politics both now and during and after every election is compulsory for the growth of the society and the welfare of the humans living in it. Our contract must never stop with voting anyone into power, but prevailing upon them to perform. Only with our direct participation in politics will power truly belong to the people.

Enemies of Nigeria are on the prowl, only our combined voices can throw them out. The Edo and Ondo state gubernatorial elections have shown that it is possible for us as a people to resist all forms of electoral malpractices.

I also understand that your ilk, the Mister-mind-my-business, didn’t participate in the Edo election. Your church and family and job and business and holiness and righteousness were all more important to you than the good of the society you live in.

When the vigilance of those you call fools now cause those in power to get responsible and build roads, you will want to drive past them. When they build good schools, you will want to pull your kids out of the low-quality but unreasonably expensive buildings called private schools, to put them in the government owned ones.

We saw how your ilk in performing states pulled their kids out of those private schools when they saw that a responsible government can actually build good schools.
You sit under your religious leaders who enjoin you to honour thieves in government with their silence and you swallow such messages without thinking them through. What they fail to tell you however is that without the Reverend Martin Luther Kings’ of yesterday, there could never have been a Barack Obama today.
You are an enemy of this country.

But the country must move on with or without you or your cowardice masked in passivity. We will defeat all the enemies and put our nation back on the path of growth and change.

Did I hear you say I insulted you? Well, whatever I say here will be better than what your great grandchildren will say on your grave, if this nation fails.

Wake up, my friend, wake up!

Olusegun Dada can be followed on twitter @DOlusegun

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chopsticks Chinese Restaurant: Not so Chinese afterall!

By Adejoh Idoko Momoh

I had complained to a friend earlier about my lack of a social life, his response was to write out a list of about 5 restaurants including Maitama’s Chopsticks and Chez Victor, Wuse 2’s Wakkis, 805 and Reno’s. He advised that every other weekend we would visit one of these restaurants, split the bill so we both didn’t feel the pinch of expensive dinning. I finally beat him at going to Chopsticks: my office had decided to host us to dinner. I believe my office managers exact words were ‘prepare for an evening of fine Chinese dining’ imagine my excitement. 

Carefully tucked off on plot 66 Missisipi Street Maitama and open from 7am -10pm every day, Chopsticks is an upscale Chinese restaurant that offers really spacious, fairly fine dining. The décor is suitably stylish: bright lights complemented by subtle Chinese features and a wall of slightly off white.

Even more impressive than the décor is the impeccable and timely service which is evident from the moment you walk in. A staff member politely welcomes you; shows you to your table if you have a reservation. One thing I noticed is that there were reserved signs on most tables, such that even paying customers had to wait for tables to free up before they got seating.

While the service was timely and impressive, it is the expected standard for every restaurant which caters to the class of diners Chopsticks caters to; in the space of about 30 minutes I saw 2 ex ministers and a serving governor.

As for the food, Chopsticks offers a contemporary spin on traditional Chinese dishes such that if you really want to eat Chinese it might really not be your best option.  I came with a group of about nine colleagues so we had a pre-ordered menu.  I had made a mental note to pick up a meal list complete with prices on my way out, but I didn’t. My reason, I would never with my money return to dine at Chopsticks.

The appetizer was spring-rolls served with pepper sauce which was really nice. The vegetables in the spring roll were fresh, nicely prepared and crunchy. The sauce oozed with flavor: doing what an appetizer really should do, it awoke my taste buds.
Done with that, we had a delectable chicken and sweet corn soup. Dinner was white rice and shredded beef in black bean sauce with extra options of chicken with green pepper and cashew nuts and prawn in hot Sauce.
The taste of dinner itself did very little good for my now ‘awake’ taste buds; devoid of the usual Chinese flavors everything tasted too sweet like a good helping of sugar was a primary ingredient. Dessert was fruit salad: pineapples, bananas, watermelon. Basic fruits all, for a restaurant of its clout, one would have expected more exotic fruits like kiwis, berries.

If you are like me and prefer fine dining at not very exorbitant rates this is probably not the best fit for you; when our bill eventually arrived, I thought

‘How so?’  Dinner amongst the 10 of us cost a hefty N110, 000 that would calculate at some N11, 000 per head! Not cheap, going by any standards.

My advice is ‘While Chopsticks was good, it was just that; good! The food was nothing more than decent generic modern Chinese food and not bursting with all the flavors and aromas Chinese cuisine is known for’

 Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh

Thursday, April 18, 2013




1. History is upon us, asking something bold of us. Those who hear must respond to its call because history is impatient. If we tarry, history shall not. If we fail to act as the situation requires, history will still move forward and its pen will write an unanswerable verdict against us. All the prior achievements and feats we have recorded in the past will matter little unless we now answer the challenge now facing us.
We have come to the place where things must change or we shall sink. For the nation to continue as is constitutes nothing less than an invitation to doom. Such a fate we shall not abide.

2. The hour is late and our chance for national progress reduces with each idle moment. The way Nigeria is governed must change and change dramatically. This means the shape of politics must change. Nigeria must be a prosperous, secure, safe nation that helps weaker nations attain peace and stability. Instead we are beset by woe on all sides. Boko Haram falls upon our people in the North. MEND in the Niger delta falls upon us. Kidnapping and robbery encircle the nation as if we have become a training ground for criminal misconduct.

3. Rich in manpower and material resources, Nigeria should set the agenda for economic development and broadly shared prosperity on the African continent. Today, the opposite is the case. Instead of having a wealth of domestically produced goods in our manufacturing basket, we hold a virtually empty basket. As such, we have become a basket case.
More Nigerians than ever before suffer under the daily grind of poverty. Unemployment is so rampant among our youth that finding a job is no longer the natural progression of life. It is seen as a miracle.

4. Even then, upon finding work, too many people soon discover they labor for wages below the subsistence level. For them there is too many days left until the end of the month after the money is finished. With too little food and more tears in their eyes than drinkable water in their cups, they stare into the darkness of   despair on a constant basis.
This is not the way of a great nation. It is the way of heartless and mean governance that puts the interests of small elite above the interests of the common working man and woman who are the soul and backbone of this nation.

5. We should have a vast land transportation system that moves our active, energetic population safely and moves our goods and produce cheaply. Instead, our roads have become portals of death where people perish by the dozens -- one accident after another.
Yet, those in command do nothing for the average Nigerian who is forced to run this gauntlet of death for his daily crumbs of bread. Instead, those who could improve this situation for the good of all do just enough to make things better for themselves.

6. Where the road is bad, they budget for it, still the road gets worse off. Where the road is impassable, they offer excuses and empty promises. The touted improvement in electricity supply is now a mirage. In the midst of petrol dollars and abundance of natural gas Nigerians are without a commensurate standard of living. Our billions are embezzled and shared to cronies. The slogan of the ruling party is power, but corruption is the fuel that powers their government. In a prior age, an arrogant ruler reportedly once scoffed regarding her starving population, “let them eat cake.” Today, our rulers scoff at our people “let them face death.” The current way of governance makes nation building impossible.  What it does is make poverty and the erosion of a just society inevitable.

7. We have gathered at this hour and in this place to put an end to this national corrosion. We have assembled to bring a new day and a new Nigeria to our people. The Nigerian people are decent and hard-working people. They also are long –suffering.  Just because they are long –suffering does not mean they should be forced to suffer until death comes.Our people have had enough of having nothing. The current government’s trademark is to throw empty words and hollow action at our problems as if doing nothing will cause our troubles to leave from sheer boredom.  Instead, trouble mounts.

8. If this is the government’s idea of transformation, I will have none of it. It seems their notion of change is to go from slow motion to no motion at all. If they want to stand still, that is their right. However, they have no right to force the whole nation to stagnate with them. We have things to accomplish and progress to make for the good of the people.
If they have nothing to offer except the nothing they have been giving us, let’s join hands with others to sweep them aside. so that we can keep pushing through and move this nation upward and forward.

9. This is why we hold our convention today. This convention portends the coming of great political change. A storm is brewing. Don’t be frightened. It is a positive storm with a positive wind. Those things that have no roots and offer no solution to the plight of the people shall be swept away. This storm will change the political terrain forever.  I am not afraid of this storm. I welcome it because the storm is us- our new vision. Our new party.

10. I stand to tell you that for the good of Nigeria this must be the last and final convention of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.  As one of the national leaders of this party, I have dedicated myself to our political collaboration. I am attached to it in the strongest way. I am proud of what we have accomplished. Had we not held fast in the southwest against onslaught and intrigue, Nigeria would effectively be a one party state. When history rights its tale of the past decade, it will say the ACN preserved Nigerian democracy when it came under great threat.

11. But we must enter a new phase if poverty and want are to be lifted from the backs of our people. Given the destructive nature of PDP governance, we can no longer be satisfied with preserving democratic practice and with serving as the opposition. The first step in changing Nigeria for the better is to change government for the better.

12. Weighing all things in the balance, if I must decide between the existence of this party and the improvement of Nigeria, I must choose the improvement of Nigeria. That is our duty and responsibility. While it would be most comfortable to remain with our party as is, with its unique symbol, manifesto and constitution, we are not here to do what is comfortable. We are here to do what is right for our people and our country.We are here to answer to a greater, higher calling.  That calling is the love of Nigeria.

13. To rescue Nigeria from the blight of misgoverance, we must join hands with like-minded progressives in other parties and organizations. We must sacrifice our current partisan identity to create a larger one capable of assuming leadership at the national level. This and only this offers the best chance for Nigeria at this stage. We dare not miss this chance because we cannot be sure of another.

14. I ask you my brothers and sisters to take pride in what ACN has accomplished but to have the vision and courage to see that our national imperatives require us to enter a new phase of political maturity, sacrifice and cooperation in order to bring an era of progressive governance to the whole of Nigeria and not just part of it. If we must end the ACN identity to form a new party so that Nigeria can survive and our people can live better life and face a rewarding future., then so be it. We shall do this with serious yet happy purpose and no regrets.  May your chests fill with pride at what we have done and may your hearts fill with optimism at the better future that we shall create.

15. Join me today in voting to move our party into merger with the ANPP, CPC, other parties and organizations to form the All Progressives Congress, APC.
I assure you that the place we are going will be your house of political fulfillment. We shall have a meaningful voice in the APC. The principles of democracy, justice, visionary governance and liberty that shaped the ACN shall carry over into the APC. The new party will be as welcome a home as the ACN. It will just be a bigger house for a larger political family.
It shall be this family that saves Nigeria by bringing to the people the creative policies that promote wide prosperity, employment, infrastructural overhaul, education, health care, civil rights, peace, stability and justice.
Thus vote with me to close the historic and noble chapter on the ACN so that we can begin a new and bigger book called the APC.

16. For us this is not a sad ending, it is but the beginning of a great beginning. Let us do what is right so that when history writes its account of this day, it shall write that we lived up to our moral duties by doing what the moment required.

For a better Nigeria, the ACN must join with other parties to merge into the APC.
This is our last best hope. There is nothing else to do. Thank you and God bless this convention and God Bless Nigeria.

Adejoh Momoh (momoh.adejoh@gmail.com) can be followed on twitter @adejoh