By Felicia Okoh
In Nigeria at the moment, there’s a word, or more appropriately buzzword that resonates everywhere: It is a word that even children in nursery school may be familiar with given every usual reference to it at the slightest opportunity.
Indeed, there is hardly any news item from Nigeria these days that does not make mention of it. CORRUPTION! If it is not about how Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is prosecuting some corrupt people by charging them to court, it is about monies the government is seemingly recovering or has traced and recovered as was observed with the N13 billion stashed in a residential flat in Ikoyi, Lagos.
At times it could even be the tale, as we are ever so often regaled with as well, of corruption fighting back! That is a familiar line from both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, a.k.a spokesman for the Federal government. Of course, people fight to protect their interest.
Far worrisome on Nigeria’s corruption fight is that even an ignoble man who had looted the public treasury and uses it to fund his bogus lifestyle would not give it up without a fight or scheme to destroy his accusers.
This complicated gambit is definitely not strange in most developing economies with long history of sleaze in governance but Nigerian citizens seem exceptional in strategies to discourage corruption fight.
Emphatically, in Nigeria, long before now, any credible polity watcher would have noticed how promoters of corruption in government fight back with distortion of facts and attack those that exposed them with unimaginable impunity.
Even recently, there is no better example of a victim of corruption fight back narrative for me than what happened to Abdulrasheed Maina, the former Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team, PRTT, whom recovered trillions of naira, yet was forced out of office under largely politically motivated circumstances.
When Maina was appointed to head the presidential task team on pension reform some years ago, few people gave him any chance of succeeding as it was not the first time Nigerians would be seeing someone lead an intervention transformation task team in the country.
But the young intelligent Maina had a clear idea what needed to be done to reform Nigeria’s rotten pension scheme that was hampered by decade long corruption involving powerful figures with a hold on the system.
He went about his work quietly and before long was able to recover humongous sums of money for the federal government, money running into trillions of Naira.
But just when you asked for more, the story changed. The hunter suddenly became the hunted as the very people who had for decades been making a kill from pension money, feeding fat on the sweat and blood of fellow citizens thereafter smiling home with tens of billions of Naira, turned the heat on him, alleging that he was corrupt.
They came up with stories that Maina had embezzled N195 billion from the trillions he had recovered, and soon the narrative changed from the issue of the monies recovered by the Borno State born reformer to what is allegedly missing.
The Nigerian Senate of the then 7th Assembly decided to investigate the allegations and soon set up a panel to probe him.
After Maina’s preliminary appearance before the Senate Committee, he claimed that he was not given fair hearing as he was only allowed to provide a yes or no response to issues that demanded explanations.
Most likely, Maina might have perceived a premeditated verdict, thus opted for a legal battle. However, the police later declared him wanted over his failure to honour further invitations of the Senate Committee.
Fortunately, for him, the court quashed the warrant issued by the police with even a perpetual injunction restraining the police from arresting him on related issues. This is just the background to what was later discovered as clear ruse to destroy Maina’s reputation.
On record, a man who was being praised to high heavens by many for reforming Nigeria’s pension system was now suddenly being accused by some, including the Senate Committee, of shortchanging the system.
Following the senate inquiry, the EFCC hurled their net at him. Determined to save his name, Maina filed a N1.5 billion suit against the National Assembly and police claiming abuse of his fundamental human rights.
The unfortunate part of the drama is that the same EFCC under its former leadership which also participated in the entire Maina Led Biometric Exercise that was being queried, later succumbed to pressure from the 7th Senate to declare Maina guilty as charged.
Before long, Maina was attacked but he escaped death by the whiskers. The devious act happened at his residence but he was a lucky victim of failed assassination of near death as widely reported in the media.
Fearing for his life, it was also reported that Maina travelled out of Nigeria. By every sound logic, it is afterall, a living being that has a chance to defend himself.
However, like any assumed innocent man, the accusation of embezzling money is worrisome and it is wise to clear your name of any wrongdoing, particularly when you know, like Maina does, that the allegations against you are contrived and false, cooked up by people with an agenda to protect their crooked interest.
This is easily buttressed by quick recall that one of the senior members of the panel that probed the Maina led PRTT had since confessed to insincerity on national television.
Unfortunately, it is now almost four years that these series of events unfolded, culminating in Maina losing his job as the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration later replaced him with Olabisi Jaji, following pressure from the same 7th Senate.
Indeed, it is shocking that even the then Head of Service cowed in and sanctioned Maina for failing to report to work a day after he was shot or was proposed to have been killed, an incident which was duly captured in the media.
At times like this, it is best to put an unfortunate past behind and focus on the dream of a collective prosperous future especially when the present led Buhari administration of Nigeria, as obvious, is firmly committed to addressing corruption headlong.
However, what the country needs is to bring on board its best hands to collaborate with existing government efforts for successful and rapid tackle of fraud monster.
Good that Maina has not been proved to be corrupt, he was simply a victim of a system possessed of cabals bent on destroying him. He was, as his short stint as pension fund recovery boss shows, a vastly experienced reformer and goal getter who changed the pension system in Nigeria and ended up recovering trillions of Naira for his country.
Indeed, Maina it was who introduced the Smart Card Biometric system of payment for pensioners that revolutionized the sector.
Before him, pensioners used to travel long distances from their communities and respective states to come to Abuja to collect their monthly pension payments only to be forced to queue in line to collect their entitlement due to the sheer number of people that had come for the same purpose.
Such reports of beneficiaries queuing and even dying in the process of waiting to collect their entitlements were common.
Nevertheless, under Maina’s direction and with the Smart Card instituted, no one needed to queue again to collect his money.
Certainly with gross elimination of almost a hundred thousand ghost pensioners, Maina sanitized the Pension system, saved Nigeria billions of Naira but put his life at great risk as evinced in his unfortunate encounter.
Candidly and succinctly put, for a country like Nigeria to grow, it needs men of courage with traits of patriotism like that exhibited by Maina.
No doubt, Maina has demonstrated capacity and he still remains very qualified to continue helping recover more of Nigeria’s stolen wealth.
The fact that the major allegation of embezzlement against him has been dismissed is sufficient proof that corruption was fighting back at him.
Nevertheless, if there exists any other allegation on Maina, it could just be another distraction promoted by those opposed to his work.
Indeed, such should not be permitted to be a strong reason for the government not to engage and tap from his knowledge in detecting and exposing fraud. It is very obvious but sad that the pension thieves that Maina tried to stub out would not like this view and even few reasonable people may disagree with me on Maina.
However, I believe that in this era of economic recession, the Nigerian majority would recognize the absurdity of ignoring stolen trillions of Naira from our national treasury in the hands of few criminals whilst focusing on uncertain allegations against Maina is of no quality reasoning.
More so, there is nothing abnormal with putting on hold or temporarily ignoring the seeming bogus existing accusations against Maina until he completes this vital national task of gross common good.
In fact, I believe this approach of avoiding unnecessary distractions is just about applying wisdom to stop those that wish to frustrate the Buhari’s Anti-corruption fight especially on Pension reform.
This piece was written by Felicia Okoh, Ph.D, a lecturer at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
Checkmating The LGBT Incursion In African Politics: The Nigerian Case Study And Consequences
By Kwame lbrahim
The number of Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) persons in Nigeria, though largely undocumented officially, has continued to rise exponentially, especially among teenagers, youths and adults.
According to several projects related to fact-finding research and spontaneous polls conducted in some institutions of higher learning and amongst clusters of young people in social media groups and platforms, this is common everywhere but more pronounced in cities of Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Abuja, Maiduguri, Ibadan, Kaduna and Owerri.
This is even spreading all over the country at a growing rate despite the legal statutes and social responses, which have clearly red-flagged the queer preference and defined homosexuality as illegal in Nigeria and punishable by up to 14 years of prison in the conventional court system.
Nigeria is a largely conservative country, and the very Western proclivity towards openly embracing gay rights and LGBT penchants are deemed not only as anathema but also an unacceptable negation and disrespect for the very foundation on the mores and decency which its cultural, religious, traditional and secular communal existence have been built and have continued to thrive over the years.
As Nigeria evolves into a more post-modern and more globalized society, credible findings have revealed that the fundamental threat that this surge in queer attitude poses for its secularity is disturbingly manifest in the deliberate and determined effort by LGBT advocates to take over the political, legislative process in its 2023 elections.
The basic aim of such financiers is to subsequently secure sufficient representatives in its National Assembly to push for and promulgate the law legalising and legitimizing homosexuality.
In the past, such an attempt was resisted by communities in Kenya through the support of community leaders and its government, but the Nigerian situation seems different because of the present unholy silence that has greeted many aspirants for senatorial and House of Representative positions of some political parties that have well known LGBT sympathizers and practitioners as their candidates.
This is indeed a worrisome phenomenon which, if allowed to become a reality, will not only erode the very fabric of Nigeria’s original existential identity but would dangerously affect the acceptable balance of decency and straight relationship, which have been the hallmarks of a majority of traditional families in Nigeria and Africa.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria society will be confronted with dire consequences if this queer LGBT advocacy gains traction in its National Assembly, especially when such a law would embolden the gays and lesbians to openly challenge and even violently rubbish any real or perceived rational and normal counter-argument against this quite uncharacteristic behaviour in its society.
Furthermore, there is no doubt whatsoever that a law legitimizing LGBT tendencies would result in uncontrolled homophobia, which will radically disrupt peaceful existence and dislocate many straight people, who will be subjected to unprovoked assaults by those gloating to endorse the new legislation on the streets, schools, bars and restaurants, churches and other places where the need to impose the law would be deemed necessary and patriotic.
This sad intent through politics by introducing and sponsoring LGBT members into the National Legislative System of Africa’s most populous Nation will, of course, come at a great social, existential cost and unleash in its wake major destructive consequences to all African societies, the Nigerian nation and most developing communities of the world.
Against the backdrop of an anticipated backlash of violent and berserk orgies of unprovoked violence by members of the LGBT community, who had hitherto felt constrained, the need to sensitise the general public through the various channels of communication becomes highly recommended and inevitable, especially in recognition of the fact that this behaviour and the attendant defensive fightback, will definitely escalate if such is not checked at this 2023 election period in Nigeria.
All well-meaning Nigerians must act swiftly at this point of the electoral and voting process, where all the gains already achieved from the existing bill prohibiting and stipulating penalties for such queer practices can be reversed if they allow the pro-gay and LGBT sympathizers to dominate the National Assembly with their presence as elected Representatives as they would have a voice on the floors of the two parliaments to destroy its moral standards and religious beliefs.
The accommodation, maturity, peaceful, harmonious coexistence and decency which exist in Nigerian society would all be eroded once the legislation to legalise same-sex and LGBT relationships are achieved. A stitch in time saves nine. This is a time for community, traditional and religious leaders to speak up. This is the time for the electorate to grow in proper awareness of the consequences of making inappropriate choices.
Already, findings from credible investigations conducted to ascertain the next strategic ploy by the Queer community to accomplish the deliberate agenda of forcing legislation that would favour their cause indicate that the LGBT community in Nigeria has set its target at producing twenty House of Representative members from four states, namely: Sokoto, Kano, Rivers and Lagos, during the 2023 election.
In states where party tickets could not be secured in the two major political parties, sympathetic aspirants were sponsored with huge amounts of funding to join fresh parties with the clear intent to attract followers, which is a major catalyst for political mobilisation in a country like Nigeria.
Specifically, Kano, Lagos and Rivers states are said to have recorded huge success for this aspiration. However, the extent to which these plans work out would largely depend on the acceptance or rejection of these aspirants by the level of awareness created for the voting public, especially through their leaders.
Kwame lbrahim, PhD, is from the African Research Institute and Doctoral School of Safety & Security Services, Budapest, Hungary
Buying Naira with Naira, Rantings And Musings
By Prince Charles Dickson PhD
Under pressure we wail under pressure, under pressure black people under pressure, under pressure Nigerians under pressure. No food in we belly, no money in ah we pocket, no bed we lay we head.
The people dem are suffer, in ah ghetto, in ah city, everywhere dah me go oh, me see them, some are cry, some are die, some are weeping! Some are wailing! Everywhere dah oh eh. Under pressure we wail under pressure, under pressure everybody under pressure, Ras Kimono Under Pressure
You see the Nigerian looks upon Nigeria as a theatre and the entire population representing and manifesting the full spectrum of acts and actors. In this revelry, life is the theatre; the nation is the stage upon which we perform. The politicians and a few of us are the actors, very often mediocre. When stars appear, it is more often because a play must have a star rather than because the player is possessed of some dramatic genius. We saw it with Obasanjo, we saw it with Mr Yar’adua, and with the shoeless one, we are seeing it with the soon-to-end Mr Buhari. We falter and we muff our lines; sometimes our performance takes on an aspect of the grotesque-nobody takes this seriously because it is perceived as being the nature of the play. Our people become the audience.
I once watched with bemusement a deaf and dumb boy who caught his mom with a stranger in bed. When his father came home, the poor young boy was at a loss on how to communicate his discovery. After several futile attempts, the boy ceased trying. The father, on the other hand, patted him, walked into the bedroom and was scolding the wife, he asked her why she was sick, rolling on the bed and could not call for help from the neighbours or the family doctor.
I am not going to talk about the currency redesign brouhaha, because as good a policy as it supposedly is, again, it has exposed the gross behavioural nature of some Nigerians. The central bank, the commercial banks, the bankers, the PoS Operators and the general populace are guilty of varying degrees of culpability.
And, then the fuel palaver, the same one that once upon a time Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said: “This is the winter period. There is always more demand for refined products from petroleum during winter in colder countries. This is what we are experiencing now.” Today, I guess it is winter in those places again. And at the black market, the usual trend, is certainly high petrol prices, unavailable and weak Naira, low minimum wage and increasing poverty.
Legislators are neither here nor there; governors’ are not sure where they stand. In all the noise the product disappears. Transportation fare increases, food prices skyrocket…a nation that has a disconnect between the ruled and its rulers, like the deaf and dumb boy, his mother, the stranger and his father.
The fact is, our currency wahala, and fuel palaver are not the government’s problem. What are we really subsidising? Is it the high cost of energy or unavailable petroleum products? Nigerians are tired, hungry and not in protest mode. There’s no fuel scarcity but fuel criminality because leadership lacks the will.
Where are the refineries promised, all gone with the wind called Turn Around Maintenance! There is no PMS in the fuel station, but unregistered marketers/blackmarkers all have the commodity… a continued rationalisation and justification of absurdities like a commentator put it. It is even more disheartening when the intellectual effort and voice of elites are at the heart of such theatricals due to ethnoreligious cleavages birthed by economic disenfranchisement.
Our major problem is the lack of leadership manifesting itself in every facet of our human endeavours. Some of these areas may be fixable in future if we get the right people with the right policies but how do you fix the future of the mass population of our children who are not getting educated today?
The future of Nigeria is bright, and interesting but scary if we reflect on it. Teachers are illiterate; students can’t go to school because schools are closed down, and alternatives are unaffordable, the change is bleak…
The fuel management chain is a lucrative cankerworm of corruption, our banking system is not exactly different, a serious government can yet tackle it, it’s beyond committees and white papers. It’s action; only action can stop the rot. Nigerians can, I believe we can but we don’t know that we can, and doubt if we are ready.
The reason is simple…we are not just part of the problem, in some cases, we are the problem, when Sunny Okunsun sang;
Which way Nigeria, which way to go? I love my fatherland, o yeah, I want to know; Yes, I want to know. I love my fatherland, which Nigeria is heading to? Many years after independence, we still find it hard to start. How long shall we be patient still we reach the promised land? Let’s save Nigeria, so Nigeria won’t die. Which way Nigeria? Every little thing that goes wrong, we start to blame the government. We know everything that goes wrong, we are part of the government.
Which way Nigeria is heading to? Inefficiency and indiscipline is ruining the country now; corruption here there and everywhere, inflation is very high. We make mistakes in the oil boom, not knowing that was our doom. Some people now have everything, while some have nothing. Which way Nigeria, which way to go?
I end with this encounter, a politician was charged with profanity for calling an opponent a bastard: the politician retorted, “When I call him s.o.b I am not using profanity. I am only referring to the circumstances of his birth”. What is the circumstance of the birth of Nigeria, can anything be done to bring destiny and fate to conjure up some good for us all?
The elites are having a field day, but with each fleeting moment, three facts of life beckon, the rising of the sun, the setting of the moon and truth, only time will tell.
AI Could Completely Transform Interactive Advertising
By Marcellus van der Merwe
In recent months, you have probably seen a plethora of image and text posts produced by artificial intelligence (AI) applications, with DALL-E and ChatGPT featuring as the most popular in their respective fields. For the curious-minded, you may well have already experimented with these or other AI apps. Inevitably, as is the case with any new attention-grabbing app, follows a lot of media speculation on how the application could transform a variety of jobs and industries.
But what about interactive advertising? This is a question worth asking. The sector is, after all, poised to be worth $123.3 billion by 2030. Advertising has also been at the forefront and the driving seat of many major technological shifts that have defined the past two decades. Search and social media, in particular, owe much of their growth and profitability to advertising revenue while also forcing the industry to evolve in new and exciting directions.
AI has the potential to be similarly transformative. While many marketing companies already use AI for numerous functions, including data intelligence and analysis, it’s also clear that marketing is just beginning its AI journey. In the coming years, AI could result in unprecedented evolutionary leaps forward for interactive advertising, especially in creative execution.
Digging through the data
With that in mind, it’s worth reiterating how big a role AI already plays in marketing, with its ability to understand and analyse large amounts of data, in a condensed amount of time. Remember, to provide truly personalised experiences expected from advertisers, large amounts of data are required. However, the task of manually pulling apart data and extracting useful intelligence can be incredibly time-consuming and expensive. AI automates a lot of that heavy lifting whilst ensuring that data is kept accurate and up-to-date.
As a result, marketers alike gain a clearer idea of which channels are able to best deliver against the spend placed on them, as well as the types of messaging working for which segments. This is highly beneficial for an industry that historically had a hard time demonstrating precise value.
It’s also worth noting that many of the platforms so successfully used by marketers are making successful use of AI. Spotify, for example, uses it to ensure its position in the market as the preferred audio streaming platform. AI analyses listener habits and builds custom playlists based on previous listening and serve them to the user on a daily basis, ensuring the music served is curated from previous preferences of audio chosen.
The creative element
AI is already starting to go one step further. Increasingly, it plays an important role in helping marketers deliver creatively excellent, interactive experiences that meet the needs and wants of consumers.
A number of companies, for instance, are already making use of AI-powered chatbots to ensure their consumers are directed to the correct products or services. This approach recognises that marketing can play an important role in providing great customer experiences. It is also one that we can expect to see employed more frequently in the future, having been successfully applied to sectors as diverse as make-up and DIY.
But the text and image creation capabilities of applications such as ChatGPT and DALL-E could easily take those crucial steps further. The conceptualisation would still be done by humans, of course, but there is massive potential for a big shift in interactive advertising. Imagine, for example, being able to provide text, visual, and even audio-visual marketing experiences (the same AI tech used in deep fakes has legitimate uses, too) that are truly unique to every consumer who sees them.
With those abilities locked in, advertising agencies can surprise and delight customers in new and innovative ways. For example, with in-store or event activations, if consumers were able to see their own customised creative in just a few prompts, customers would feel like they’ve created something truly unique for their favourite brand.
Fostering individual connections
Ultimately, you have the potential to achieve a huge shift in how people perceive companies advertising to them. Whereas previously, questions may have arisen from consumers on exactly how companies know so much about them, instead now, they’d simply feel that a company actually ‘gets’ them as individuals. And essentially, instilling feelings of relatability and understanding is foundational to building the kind of real, meaningful, and lasting relationships that every company should strive for.
It’s a future vision on the cusp of becoming a reality. As such, it’s something that all advertisers and marketers should be moving towards and striving to achieve from the get-go.
Marcellus van der Merwe is the Spotify Sales Lead at Ad Dynamo by Aleph
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