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Before The Human Flow was published, Jonathan, one of Europe’s most accomplished foreign affairs columnists and journalists, had talked with excitement about the book. It was his first novel. Like a woman who became pregnant when she thought she was past child-bearing, Jonathan, 82, couldn’t wait to make Mary Wesley look like a child prodigy.

Sam Omatseye’s book, Beating All the Odds: Diaries and Essays on How Tinubu Became President, on the other hand, is part diary, part essay. The diary would have been difficult to script even if a fiction writer had tried to imagine the outcome of events in the months leading up to the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

The thing about diaries is that you never know. When the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), a legacy member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was compiling A Witness to History, for example, the party could not have imagined that it was writing the final chapters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government that had lost its way for good.

This gift of the unknown is also exemplified in The Diary of a Young Girl, the story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl caught up in the turmoil of the Second World War, but who in spite of it produced a diary that has become both a record of history and also a work of moral philosophy.

Damned either way

From the first part of Sam’s 349-page book, it’s improbable that he knew exactly which way the wind would blow when he started journaling ahead of the February 2023 presidential election, two months after the APC presidential primary in 2022. 

Unlike former military president General Ibrahim Babangida who famously said he didn’t know who would succeed him but he knew those who wouldn’t, President Muhammadu Buhari appeared confused about both. His body language, which became a metaphor for his government’s malaise, suggested that the front-runner, Bola Tinubu, the subject of Sam’s book, was not his preferred candidate.

Even though Tinubu had picked the APC’s presidential ticket when Sam started his diary and decency required that Buhari would rally the party behind its candidate, the party became Tinubu’s worst enemy. It wasn’t just the usual horse-trading, feather-ruffling, and back-stabbing that come with internal party politics. It was a betrayal of Judas-like proportions, plotted to swallow Tinubu alive. 

“I have looked at the whole situation,” Tinubu tells Sam, “I told myself, if I didn’t run, I’m damned. If I ran, they may want to damn me. So, I had to run, anyway.”

Inside Ota lair

Sam’s diary opens with an entry on August 19, 2022, about Tinubu’s pilgrimage to the Ota, the lair of one of Nigeria’s political gods, President Olusegun Obasanjo. Whatever the sacrifice Tinubu offered at the Ota shrine on that visit, his token may have fallen short. 

In spite of the photo-ops and pretensions of ethnic solidarity, Obasanjo whom Sam describes as “the old fox of Nigeria’s politics,” later cast his lot with the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, reopening old memories of mutual distrust between Obasanjo and Tinubu.

Three main issues dominate the diary: One, the conspiracies within the APC, right up to the Presidency, to subvert Tinubu’s ambition; two, the division within the PDP, which split the party into at least three irreconcilable factions, the Nyesom Wike faction being the most potent; and three, the bitter pushback by anti-Tinubu groups – masquerading sometimes as the religious police, sometimes as ethnic tin-gods, and yet at other times as the youth avantgarde – all sparing neither mud nor kitchen sink in their desperate attempts to stop him. 

“It seems obvious,” Sam says in his February 17, 2023 entry, “that the worries that Tinubu expressed about efforts to scuttle his path to victory have never been better revealed than when Buhari went on national television and defied the Supreme Court ruling (on the currency crisis) …the president gave ammunition to the other contestants.”

The Atiku Syndrome

The bulk of the entries however centres on the Atiku Syndrome, a condition that makes the sufferer utterly unable to see or seize an opportunity even if beaten on the head with it; and the unrestrained bitterness of “Obidients” towards the Tinubu campaign. 

Sam, whose diary makes no pretence of his support for Tinubu, not only highlights the misery that the division between Atiku and Wike’s G-5 brought upon the PDP, he also invokes the worst of Atiku’s politics, and takes no prisoners amongst “Obidients” who wanted his head on a platter, especially after his controversial article, “Obi-tuary”.

Even though the opposition’s divided house set the ducks of Tinubu’s victory on a row, Sam had his anxious moments not a few. At one point, he asks Tinubu if there is a Plan B, because, he says, “I knew Buhari did not want him and the vampires around him did not want him.” 

The rest is history, enriched by the second part of his book – a careful curation of a decade’s worth of some of his most engaging weekly columns in The Nation.

Love story

In The Human Flow, Jonathan took a different tack away from – but enriched by – his commentary on foreign affairs published for decades on many platforms across the world. The novel is a love story expressed as a tragedy of our modern existence: the trafficking of West African migrants.

In some ways, the book reminded me of Sina Odugbemi’s Japa,a slim but horrific personal account of the author’s search for greener pastures through the Sahara Desert, complete with tales of his Maghreb nightmares. 

Or perhaps Olusegun Adeniyi’s From Frying Pan to Fire, a searing account of the human tragedies experienced in the elusive chase for a better life in Europe by thousands of African migrants who are consumed by the unforgiving desert or trafficked as slaves long before they can achieve their dreams.

The difference, perhaps, is that while Odugbemi’s and Adeniyi’s accounts are based on real-life stories, The Human Flow is a narrative prose fiction of the life of a Tanzanian-based white British journalist, Jon, whose quest to expose the evils of human trafficking led him into an odyssey of a complicated romance, adventure and tragedy.

Complicated affair

The main characters in the book are Jon, and his Tanzanian girlfriend, Agnes. In their pursuit for truth, they fall in love. Their affair is deepened by Agnes’s brief kidnapping and the search for her that led Jon into romantic entanglement with a married Spanish journalist, Ana. 

The quest also reveals a web of human traffickers comprising religious leaders, local chiefs, border police, hustlers and deadly gangs. These forces sometimes work for or against each other, but unfailingly prey on the desperation of their victims for that basic human instinct of a better life.

In the end, Jon and Agnes are captured by a deadly guerilla movement in Morocco and murdered in Libya. 

In the former world, European migrants to Africa were impeded by geography and tropical diseases but they overcame by guile and gunpowder. In today’s reverse migration, hope and dinghies are the main vessels for African migrants. 

Conclusion of the matter

Unfortunately, as we see from The Human Flow the brutal realities confronting African migrants range from human traffickers to deadly gangs and compromised or hostile border police, leaving the migrants with forlorn hopes and broken dreams, if they survive.  

There’s a place where Sam’s poetic prose and Jonathan’s enthralling story-telling meet: leadership. The failure of leadership is responsible for the booby traps and chaos thrown on Tinubu’s path in the runup to the 2023 election on Buhari’s watch. It also explains why African youths are risking everything to escape the continent. 

Both diary and novel meet at the crossroads of Africa’s biggest problem: leadership.

** Ishiekwene is Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP

 

I dread having a busy schedule.
Often, it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to fulfill my work obligations, spend time with loved ones, have a hobby and dedicate enough time to self-care without crashing.
As a result, dinners with friends I haven’t seen since college get pushed back, appointments get rescheduled, and there’s no time for the dance, pottery and piano classes I used to take. 
Lori Santos, a Yale University psychology professor, called this a “time famine” at SXSW in early March. It can lead to poor work performance and burnout and even harm your mental health, Santos added.
The good news: You can up your feeling of “time affluence,” as Santos called it, and end up happier.
Here are three ways to do it:
1. Stop crowding your calendar. While it might look impressive, it can make you feel like there’s no time to eat lunch or chat with colleagues. Save the larger, more pressing tasks for your calendar and the smaller ones for your to-do list, Santos recommends.
2. Celebrate unexpected breaks. When a meeting ends early or you finish a task a little quicker than you thought you would, use those short, leftover minutes to do things that make you happy, such as meditating or taking a quick walk.
3. Spend money to get time back. Some of the best ways to rest, recover and reward yourself do cost money, Santos noted. If you have to work late one day, don’t feel guilty eating leftovers or ordering takeout that night, she said.
I’ve already started implementing the first tip, and I have stopped scheduling short chats and lunch breaks on my calendar, which made it more daunting to look at. 

The next time I have to work late, I might pick up a quick dinner to save myself the time spent standing over the stove, and hit the gym instead.

 

CNBC

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), manufacturers and energy experts have flayed the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (NERC) decision to hike electricity tariff for Band A customers from the current N66 per kilowatt hour to N225, representing a 240 per cent increase. They described the move as insensitive, discriminatory and predatory.

Band A consumers are those who have electricity supply for upward of 20 hours daily. NERC had in 2020 introduced Service-Based Tariff (SBT) to improve service delivery to end-user customers and ensure that electricity tariffs paid by end-user customers are a reflection of the services delivered by the Distribution Companies based on the number of hours of electricity supply per day.

Other categorization under the SBT are Band B: Minimum of 16 hours daily electricity supply, Band C: Minimum of 12 hours daily electricity supply, Band D: Minimum of 8 hours and Band E: Minimum of 4 hours daily electricity supply.

A statement by the NERC Executive Vice Chairman, Musiliu Oseni, however, assured that customers on Band B to E would not be impacted in the new tariff adjustment.

He disclosed that customers in Band A account for 15 per cent of the 12 million electricity consumers in the nation.

Reacting, NLC Spokesman, Benson Upah, in a telephone conversation with our correspondent, said the move was clearly insensitiven and cruel and should be immediately reversed.

He argued that the increase would negatively impact businesses, leading to food inflation, company closures, and job losses.

Upah stated that those likely to  benefit from  the electricity price hike are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), not the citizens.

He said: “The government’s decision  is not only insensitive, it is callous.

“It’ll further pauperise consumers, especially workers whose wages are fixed and insufficient.

“It similarly makes the operating environment more hostile for manufacturers with potential for an astronomical rise in cost of goods and services or in the worst case scenario, more closures and loss of jobs.

“The only people who stand to gain from this mindless social  violence against the people are the World Bank  and IMF.”

In his remarks, the former Director General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry(LCCI), Muda Yusuf, said electricity is a social service and that the current increase was discriminatory in approach.

He said the increase still represents what he called cross subsidy by making the elites pay more electricity in order to subsidize the average and poor Nigerians.

Lawal lamented that no matter how much they increase tariffs, the service delivery level by the Discos will still remain poor because the majority of them lack the financial and technical capacity to drive the sector.

Yusuf, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Center for Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), said the Federal Government must still find ways to continue to fund the power sector, warning that it cannot afford to leave it entirely in the hands of the private sector whose main motive is driven by profit.

He further stated that due to the failure to meet the necessary electricity supply hours, the commission has moved some Band A customers to Band B.

“We currently have 800 feeders that are categorised as Band A, but upon reviewing those feeders’ performance, the Commission has now reduced it to under 500. This means that 17% now qualify as Band A feeders. These feeders only service 15% of total electricity customers connected to the feeders”.

The former Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Frank Onyebu, expressed shock over NERC’s decision.

“My first reaction was disbelief, total disbelief. This couldn’t be true. I thought that this had to be one of those social media fabrications. There’s no way our government could be so insensitive to slam this kind of tariff on manufacturers.

“Band A, which by the way, is populated by mostly manufacturers. It is manufacturers who are going to bear the brunt of this totally ridiculous tariff hike!

“I am really lost for words. I can’t believe that anyone could even contemplate such a thing at a time when most of our members are barely keeping afloat. This is the height of insensitivity. This could, in fact, be the final nail on the coffin of manufacturing in this country.

“I just hope that the government will have a rethink. I also hope that, in the future, the government would strive to consult manufacturers on issues that affect them. We all need to understand the implications of an extinct manufacturing sector to the economy of our country. We need to realize what harm would befall the country if half of the existing manufacturers fail.

“We are already living with the effects of high unemployment on our security. The security situation would get a lot worse if many factories shut down and more people are forced into the unemployment market. We also have to think about the impact of factory closures on government revenue. A shut factory cannot pay taxes! It is in our collective interest as a nation that the government quickly rescinds the very insensitive tariff hike”, he explained.

Also speaking, a former Chairman of the Renewable Association of Nigeria, Segun Adaju, said the latest hike by NERC has further shown that the current pricing mechanism was not cost reflective.

He said this remained one of the major challenges in the sector that is scaring away investors, assuring that with this increase, there should be hope for new investments.

But to create a sustainable option for consumers, Adaju said that Nigerians should begin to explore the option inherent in renewable energy, especially solar which, he said, is more cost reflective than grid power.

Also commenting, the Managing Director, Idfon Power Engineering Consultants (iPEC) Limited and former Chief Technical Officer of FGN Power Company, Idowu Oyebanjo, said that if NERC is increasing power based on regular supply of electricity, how would it monitor that a customer who’s supposed to have 20  hours does not get less?

“It’s meant for just only a few people who are on Band A. The only challenge I have there is, how do you ensure that those customers get 24-hour supply? There are things the distribution companies can do to ensure reliable and safe supply and we can help them to achieve this”, he said.

 

Sun

President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday signed the student loans re-enactment bill into law.

The signing of the bill by the president came after the announcement of a temporary suspension of the commencement of the student loan scheme.

The law will allow Nigerian students in tertiary institutions to access low-interest loans for tuition and other academic needs.

Signing the bill at the State House, Abuja, the president said no one would be excluded from quality education and opportunity to build their future regardless of their background.

The executive bill is titled “A Bill for an Act to repeal the Students Loans (Access to Higher Education) Act, 2023 and Enact the Student Loans (Access to Higher Education) Bill, 2004 to Establish the Nigerian Education Loan Fund as a body corporate to receive, manage and invest funds to provide loans to Nigerians for higher education, vocational training and skills acquisition and for related matters was signed at the State House in the Presence of the leadership of the National Assembly, Ministers and Major Stakeholders of Education”.

“I have just signed a bill proclaiming the student loan effectively. First of all, I must thank members of the National Assembly for their expeditious handling of this bill considering the children of Nigeria, that education is the tool to fight against poverty effectively,” Tinubu said.

“We are determined to ensure that education is given the proper attention necessary for the country including skills development programmes.

“This is to ensure that no one, no matter how poor their background is, is excluded from quality education and opportunity to build their future.

“We are here because we are all educated and were helped. In the past, we have seen a lot of our children drop out of college and give up the opportunity.

“That is no more, the standard and the control is there for you to apply no matter who you are as long as you are a Nigerian citizen.”

 

The Cable

ISRAELI REPORTS

IDF: IDF troops are continuing to operate in Al-Amal and the area of Khan Yunis, locating weapons and terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

In the area of Khan Yunis, IDF troops located numerous weapons. During the activity, IAF and engineering forces struck terrorist infrastructure and weapons storage facilities.

In Al-Amal, IDF troops killed and apprehended a number of terrorists, and an IAF aircraft also struck and eliminated a terrorist. During a targeted raid in the area, IDF troops located numerous weapons, including weapon parts, explosive devices, and grenades.

Furthermore, in Al-Amal, IDF troops in a close-quarters encounter eliminated a terrorist cell with tank and close-range fire.

Over the past day, IDF fighter jets struck a number of compounds rigged with explosives and terror tunnels. In addition, IAF aircraft struck dozens of terrorist infrastructure, including weapons storage facilities, launch posts, and military compounds.

** IDF: Earlier today (Wednesday), the Hezbollah terrorist organization launched rockets at the Har Dov area in northern Israel from a military post in the area of Kfar Hamaam. Within a few minutes, IAF fighter jets and aircraft struck Hezbollah terror infrastructure and military posts, including the post from which the rockets were launched and the operatives who fired the rockets.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the IDF struck Hezbollah military structures and terrorist infrastructure in the area of Blida and Aynata.

Earlier today, IDF artillery struck to remove a threat in the area of Ayta ash Shab.

A short while ago, IDF troops identified a number of launches fired from Lebanon which crossed into northern Israel. No injuries were reported.

** IDF: A senior Hamas military intelligence officer in an ISA interrogation: "Units of the military intelligence operated from Shifa Hospital. The Interior Ministry, the Emergency Committees and the government of Hamas also worked from there. It's a safe place.”

Many terrorists affiliated with terrorist organizations were apprehended in the IDF's targeted operation, led by the 162nd Division and the ISA, at Shifa Hospital. This includes the Deputy Commander of the Rocket Unit in the Islamic Jihad, commanding positions in the Hamas Military Wing, and senior operatives in the Ministry of Internal Security and Hamas' Emergency Committees. The apprehended suspects were transferred for interrogation at the ISA and Unit 504 in the Intelligence Directorate (J2).

Among the apprehended are also many operatives from Hamas’ Military Intelligence, who in their interrogations bring valuable and important information for the continuation of the fight against the terrorist organization. Among them is the Deputy Head of the Information Department in Hamas' Military Intelligence, Ashraf Ibrahim Samur.

Samur describes in the ISA interrogation the many branches of Hamas that operated out of the hospital, starting with the Military Intelligence, the Interior, Security and Administration branches of the terrorist organization.

Attached is the ISA interrogation of the Deputy Head of the Information Department in Hamas' Military Intelligence, Ashraf Ibrahim Samur: https://bit.ly/3TDzTjg

 

HAMAS’ REPORTS

European Union:

⏺The Israeli army's killing of World Central Kitchen team members in Gaza is horrific

⏺ We urge Israel to commit to conducting a comprehensive investigation and ensuring that those responsible for the incident are held accountable

⏺ We expect the implementation of the Security Council resolution of an immediate ceasefire and the measures of the International Court of Justice.

** A number of occupation vehicles and bulldozers were stationed in the vicinity of Al Awda Schools, east of Khan Yunis, in conjunction with strong clashes and artillery shelling.

** Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades: We bombed with mortar shells a position of Zionist enemy soldiers and their military vehicles north of the city of Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip.

** Major General Fayez Doueiri:

The occupying state has historically (due to American and Western protection) used to ignore international laws and ignore them, so the day before yesterday it bombed the aid distribution convoy returning to the World Cooking Center, which led to the killing of seven relief workers, including four Britons, after that shameful behavior. What is unacceptable is that some countries that reject this immoral and inhumane behavior moved to condemn the actions of that rogue state. We all condemn and reject those actions and demand that those responsible for them be held accountable. But does not the killing, wounding and arrest of one thousand five hundred Palestinians in the Shifa Complex and its surroundings a few days before the fateful incident deserve the same condemnation, or is Palestinian blood cheap? Damn those condemnations that distinguish between people’s rights to life on the basis of religion and race, unless it is enough to kill, wound and lose more than one hundred and twenty. Alpha to move the conscience of the world (if it exists at all) to stop the war of annihilation being waged against Gaza. Are the painful scenes not enough to awaken the conscience of the resident of the White House to say enough is enough and stop supplying the Zionist gangs with weapons? Isn’t what Britain (which is the root of the disease) done sufficient in the Arab region and other regions sufficient? To ask herself what her civilization has offered to the world other than tragedies, but we are living in a stage of moral decadence despite technological progress.

** Al-Qassam Brigades - West Bank:

Our fighters engaged in clashes with the occupation forces in Al-Faraa camp at dawn today

- During the past week, we carried out several offensive operations by shooting and detonating homemade devices targeting enemy vehicles and some of its settlements in the northern and southern West Bank.

** Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades :

We carried out 36 operations on the fighting fronts in the Gaza Strip during the past 72 hours, which led to deaths and injuries among the enemy’s ranks.

** Saraya Al-Quds: In conjunction with the Al-Amoudi Brigade - Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, we bombed a position of enemy soldiers and vehicles south of Gaza City with a barrage of heavy-caliber mortar shells.

#Al-Aqsa Flood

** Hamas:

What UNRWA said today about the occupation continuing to prevent its teams from reaching the northern Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid; It confirms the insistence of the leaders of the terrorist occupation on the fascist war of starvation against Palestinian civilians, and the policy of preventing and systematically targeting all means of providing relief to them and delivering basic aid to them, with the aim of punishing our people and pushing them to emigrate from their land, under the weight of famine and continuing massacres.

We call on the international community and the United Nations to take immediate action and put pressure on the criminal occupation to stop its declared crime of using starvation as a weapon, preventing the arrival of aid, and targeting aid workers, and the need to stand up to its targeting of UNRWA, and take actual steps to hold it accountable for its ongoing crimes against defenseless civilians.

** Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades: After their return from the battle lines, our fighters confirmed that they had targeted a house with anti-armor shells in which a number of Zionist soldiers were holed up, confirming that there were deaths and injuries among the ranks of the occupation, in the Al-Amal neighborhood area, west of the city of Khan Yunis.

** Al-Quds Brigades: We bombed "Sderot", "Niram" and the settlements surrounding the Gaza Strip with a missile barrage in response to the crimes of the Zionist enemy against our people.

#Al-Aqsa Flood

** Hezbollah: We targeted, with appropriate weapons, a building in which the occupation soldiers were stationed in the Metulla settlement, and we killed and wounded those inside it.

** Resistants throw homemade bombs “elbows” towards the occupation army in the town of Silat Al-Dhahr, south of Jenin.

** Resistants fire at the occupation forces before they storm Jenin, and violent clashes take place in the Sahel areas and the vicinity of Haifa Street, west of the city.

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Russian troops destroy over 18,500 military drones in Ukraine operation — top brass

Russian troops have destroyed over 18,500 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Wednesday.

"In all, the following targets have been destroyed since the start of the special military operation: 581 aircraft, 270 helicopters, 18,538 unmanned aerial vehicles, 495 surface-to-air missile systems, 15,684 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 1,262 multiple rocket launchers, 8,644 field artillery guns and mortars and 20,576 special military motor vehicles," the ministry said in a statement.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Russian drone attack kills at least four in Ukraine's Kharkiv, officials say

Russian drones hit high-rise apartment blocks and private homes early on Thursday in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, killing at least four people, including rescue workers in a repeat strike at the site of one attack, officials said.

Kharkiv Regional Governor Oleh Synehubov, writing on the Telegram messaging app, put the death toll at four, with 10 injured, one in serious condition.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov, also writing on Telegram, said four people died at the scene of one attack, at least three of them drivers of emergency vehicles killed after they had arrived at the scene and a new strike occurred.

Terekhov said there had been five drone strikes. One had triggered a fire, part of another building had collapsed, and at least three vehicles were seriously damaged.

One person was killed in a strike on private homes in another city district, Terekhov said.

Synehubov said one of the injured was a nurse caught in a later, secondary blast.

Pictures and video posted online showed ladders from fire trucks operating under floodlights and extending up to shattered apartments at the top of high-rise blocks.

Terekhov told Suspilne public television that signs of life had been detected from one person beneath rubble.

Suspilne reported one of the strikes seriously damaged apartments on three floors of a 14-storey building. It said emergency crews had been unable to work for at least an hour for fear of impending new strikes.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the accounts. Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians in the 25-month-old war in which it is focusing on capturing eastern and southern parts of Ukraine.

Kharkiv has been a frequent target of Russian drone and missile attacks.

Last week, Russian forces used an aerial bomb on the city, killing one person. A missile attack on an industrial area earlier in the month killed five people.

Terekhov said some city districts could be hit by power cuts. Russia in recent weeks has intensified its attacks on electricity and other infrastructure.

 

Tass/Reuters

Recently, the CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, got on the wrong side of the internet when he said anyone earning N200,000 monthly in Nigeria is better off than someone earning £2,000 in the United Kingdom. According to him in a TV interview, the Nigerian with a mere N200,000 can afford a maid, a driver, and other domestic staff while the person who earns £2,000 in the UK can barely get by. His superficial comparison somehow reminds me of Nigerians who conclude they live a better life after comparing the cost of Coca-Cola in their country to the US/UK.

Now, thanks to the internet, Onyema has received more than enough riposte to warrant him thinking hard and long (if he cares to anyway) about the degree to which he is out of touch with the Nigerian reality. If he believes that a person earning N200,000 in a country with a bag of rice around N80,000 can hire at least three others, it also tells you how poorly he thinks wage workers should earn. Yes, he is a private individual with the right to his opinion, but he also hires people and that is why his opinion on wages matters.

But what I find interesting about his comparison between England and Nigeria and the subsequent pushback from the inhabitants of social media is that it leaves off the important question of how much Nigerians should earn. What amount would be sufficient for an average household in Nigeria to live? Without an empirical determination of what people should be paid to live, the best we can do is to resort to facile comparisons about what a sum of money can buy under regimes of their respective currencies without factoring other intangibles being bought along. The way Nigerians—particularly the ones who cannot get over other people’s “japa” decisions—talk about how hard life can be abroad because people there pay bills, bills, and more bills makes you wonder if they are even aware of the extent to which their own supposedly “bill-less” society relatively over-taxes them. Nigerians probably pay far more—at least relative to their income—in social services than their foreign counterparts.

While a society like the UK might pay people a sum as low as £2000 (in Onyema’s estimation by the way), hardly anyone is left to live on just their income. Their public infrastructure and social security are so relatively excellent that even though one might not have enough cash to stack up in the bank, one is unlikely to be shouting “ebi ń pa wá!” on the streets either. In a place like the United States, a person with that low an income will qualify for public health insurance, food stamps, and possibly even rent assistance. So while they might be considered “poor” by their society’s (and Onyema’s) standards, their poverty is not as stark as that of a society with no such provisions.

The question of what a Nigerian household should earn to live is complicated by differing ideas of what constitutes a standard household in Nigeria and what it even means to “live.” In a culture where there is a high percentage of polygamous marriages and our family structures are largely communal, it is hard to benchmark a standard household. For one, “household” here is unlikely to be a nuclear family arrangement. Then, what it means to live varies because of the increasing privatisation of our entire lives. Those who live in societies where they earn a measly £2,000 monthly do not generate their own electricity and water, provide their own security, send their kids to third-rate private schools, or even be called to donate money towards ransoming an abducted relative. If they do not hire a driver, maid, and maybe even a gateman on their salaries, it is not simply because their incomes are too poor. It is because, despite their mere £2000, their system allows them to own a car (or at least have access to an efficient public transport system); they have home appliances that eliminate the need for a maid; and their mode of securing society does not involve high fences and metal gates manned by a “gateman.”

There are practical implications to not knowing what is a just and fair income and thereby making silly comparisons. One of my observations when hiring workers in Nigeria is that most lack an idea of proper calibration of their wages. Because they have not developed a statistical sense of value for what they do, they place the moral burden on you who is hiring them by telling you to pay what you consider fair. Value for their labour is thus negotiated, and contingent on moral considerations and sentiments rather than a standardised measure. Recently, I spoke with someone who pointed out how “corruption” was distributed through every aspect of our society. His example was an instance of price gouging by “pure water” vendors, but what came through in his complaints was the problem of not calibrating value. That is why even the modest attempts of a low-income vendor to make a living looked to him like a rip-off.

In 2019, I talked with some friends regarding the standard of living. There are a family of six (two parents, three children, and a relative). During our conversation, I argued that, for a household like theirs to live a relatively comfortable life, they should earn nothing less than N500,000 monthly. Husband and wife, both school teachers (in a public and private school), understandably laughed. They agreed their lives would considerably improve with a higher income, but who would ever pay teachers that amount? Of course, the question of who can pay such an amount as average income in the country is pertinent. Nigeria simply does not have enough economic activities for any employer, public or private, to pay people enough for them to live well. The minimum wage proposals the Nigeria Labour Congress has bandied about ranged from N500,000 to N1m, and people think the union leaders are being ridiculous. At the bottom of those figures being thrown up is the unsettled issue of how much people should earn in order to live and how to standardise it.

Meanwhile, about five years after I spoke to that couple, their income barely increased but the cost of living leaped up by many miles. Nigeria is no longer where it was in 2019; most people are barely coping. When people seeking to justify the Nigerian dysfunction mention the high costs of living in Western societies that drain their poor £2,000 salaries, I also remind them that as hard as things might be over there, they do not spend 80 to 120 per cent of their income just buying food. Nigerians earn so little that people even take loans to buy food. Not luxurious feasts, just enough food to survive. That does not make any sense.

Through the experiences of this couple and several others I would argue that to the matter of what Nigerians need to earn in order to live should be appended the question of how frequently those kinds of figures need to be updated. The Nigerian costs of living change so frequently that the income that hired three domestic wage workers years ago can barely sustain a four-person family now. Whereas the hypothetical person earning the £2,000 pittance can still do most of the things they were doing years ago. Their reality is not upended as quickly as that of Nigerians.

That is why, instead of wasting time and absolving responsibility by talking about what the person living abroad and ensconced within a system with tight social security and welfare benefits ultimately lacks, we should focus on fellow Nigerians and define what it would mean for them to really live.

 

Punch

Thursday, 04 April 2024 04:36

Tinubu’s dying presidency - Steve Osuji

CRISIS DEEPENS: President Bola Tinubu announced a no-confidence vote on himself last week, unknown to him. He inadvertently admitted that he is unable to do the job and that his administration is in crisis when he inaugurated two hurriedly cobbled up, new-fangled economic committees to run things and revive economy.

The one is a 31-member Presidential Economic Coordination Council (PECC), while the other is a 14-man Economic Management Team Emergency Task Force, code-named (EET).

If Nigerians noticed the move by Tinubu, they didn’t seem to give a damn. Many had long given up on the Tinubu presidency anyway and they have switched off its activities. They have come to the eerie realisation that Tinubu is not the man to get Nigeria out of the morass of poverty and underdevelopment, so many have long moved on with their lives, leaving the man to continue with his extended blundering and shadow-boxing.

The teams are made up of the usual culprits: the jaded Dangote-Otedola-Elumelu circle; the Bismarck Rewane-Doyin Salami-Soludo celebrity-economists and the same raucous crowd of  governors and ministers. The same motley crowd of people who brought Nigeria to her current tragic destination has been gathered again!

Apparently, Tinubu forgot he had just last February, assembled the Dangote-Elumelu hawks as his Economic Advisory Council members. Scratch! That was just another presidential blunder out of so many. Now PECC and EET are Tinubu’s NEW DEAL. Call it “peck and eat" if you like but that’s the new buzz in Aso Rock. But for discerning minds, this is a clear sign that crisis has deepen in Tinubu’s administration.

SELF-INDICTMENT: But which serious president sets up a new economic management task force after 10 months in office? What about his cabinet? Has it been rid of the failed ministers and aides whose apparent failure warranted a side team like this?

What has the new government been doing in office all this while? What about the election manifesto and the president’s economic vision?

Could it be that all these have been forgotten in 10 months to the point that outsiders are needed to give direction and “revive" the economy?

Now some ministers and state governors have been co-opted into this  new TASK FORCE. They are mandated to meet twice a week in Abuja for the next six months. So what happens to the governors’ duties back home? What about the ministers’ core assignments? All of this seems quite weird right now.

The simple message here is that the president has lost focus and direction. Vision, if any, has failed him. The presidency is weak and puny (see EXPRESSO_PRESIDENCYWATCH ...Puny Presidency) nobody is holding forte in case the president falters.

BLANK SCORECARD: Now almost one year in office, no scorecard, nothing to report. All the positive indictors the president met upon inauguration have all crashed to near zero. Even the deposits in the blame banks have been exhausted  - there’s nobody to blame anymore!

LOW CAPACITY, LOW ENERGY: This column has warned right before election that Tinubu hadn’t the requisite mental and physical capacities to lead Nigeria.

As can be seen by all, Tinubu has not managed to tackle any of the fundamentals of the economy and the polity; the very basic expectations in governance are not being attended to.

For instance, the corruption monster rages on afield, with Tinubu seemingly not interested in caging it. Official graft has therefore worsened under his watch. About N21 billion budgeted for his Chief of Staff as against N500m for the last occupant of that office has become the compass  for graft in Tinubu’s Nigeria. Today,  the police is on a manhunt for the investigative journalist exposing filthy Customs men while the rogues in grey uniform are overlooked.

The president personally ballooned the cost  of governance by forming a large, lumbering cabinet and showering them with exquisite SUVs, among other pecks.

Insecurity is at its worst with no fresh ideas to tackle it.

The country is in semi-darkness as power generation and distribution is at near-zero levels.

Importation goes on at a massive scale, productive capacity has dwindled further and living standard of Nigerians is at the lowest ebb now. There’s hardly anything to commend the Tinubu administration so far.

WHO WILL RESCUE THE SITUATION? As Nigeria’s socioeconomic crises deepen, and the president’s handicaps can no longer be concealed, who will rescue the polity? All the stress signs are there; the fault lines are all too visible to be ignored anymore.

Recently, we have seen civilians brazenly butchering officers and men of the Army and the army brutishly exacting reprisals almost uncontrolled. We see the escape from Nigeria, of the Binance executive who had been invited to Nigeria and then slammed into detention. That a foreigner could slither out of the hands of security personnel and slip out through Nigeria’s borders, suggests unspeakable ills about the country.

The other day, so-called MINING GUARDS in their thousands,  were suddenly ‘manufactured’ -  uniforms, boots, arms and all. They are conjured into existence ostensibly to guard the mines. Which mines? Whose mines? How much do the mines contribute to the federation account? Are we using taxpayer’s money to fund an army to protect largely private and illicit mines? Why are we committing harakiri by throwing more armed men into our unmanned spaces? Even the Nigerian Navy has been unable to protect Nigeria’s oil wells!

The Mining Guard is yet another  symptom of an insipient loss of control by the President.

Finally, for the first time in a long while, an editor, Segun Olatunji, was abducted from his home in Lagos. For two weeks, no one knew his whereabouts and no arm of the military cum security agencies owned up to picking him in such bandits-style operation. It took the intervention of foreign media and human rights bodies for the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) to own up they abducted him,  and eventually release him. Not one charge was brought against him.

Not even under the military junta were editors kidnapped by security agencies in this manner. The point is that the so-called democrat-president is losing patient with the media.

There shall be many more abductions and media mugging in the coming days. When a government fails, it kicks the media's ass for reporting the failure; that’s the historical pattern!

Things will go from bad to worse and government would respond in more undemocratic and authoritarian ways.

Lastly, it’s unlikely that Dangote and Co can rescue the dying Tinubu presidency? These are fortune-hunters craving the next billion dollars to shore up their egos.

To mitigate the looming crisis, Tinubu must quickly reshuffle his cabinet that is currently filled with dead woods and rogues. Many of them are too big for their shoes and they are not given to the rigour of work.

In fact, Tinubu must as a matter of urgency, fortify the presidency by changing his chief of staff to a Raji Fashola kind. As it is, the hub of the presidency is its weakest link.

** Feedback: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Excerpts from a conversation with The Group Managing Director of IMC Holdings Limited in Ikeja, Lagos, Segun Adewale, as he turns 62 today April 4, 2024. A Fellow of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) bares his mind on the journey to becoming a successful Advertising Practitioner, his foray into politics and more.

 

Happy 62nd birthday, OSA! Interestingly, you‘re known and referred to as “OSA” everywhere you go. How did you come about that alias?

Thank you so much. OSA is an acronym for Omooba Segun Adewale. I am from a royal family in Yewa South Local Government of Ogun State. So it simply means the Yoruba adaptation of the English way of saying Prince Segun Adewale. But the alias didn’t just emerge like that. The role of strategy and creativity in making sure that that acronyms become what it is today in various household in Ogun state cannot be over-emphasized. You know being an Advertising practitioner, communication is key. Strategy is key, and with creativity, you can achieve anything you want and even surpass it. So, it is the strategy plus creativity that made it possible to link the real local or traditional meaning of OSA, which is salt to my person for its acceptability amongst the political class in Ogun State. Salt is a valuable household item. It took serious brainstorming and strategy sessions for us to come up with that. So, everything is about strategy and creativity, be it personal life, in an organisation or government. We must give priority to strategy, creativity and strategic communications.

 

Let’s talk about your career in Advertising and Communications. You are a Fellow of the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON). Kindly tell us how you got to that height as a professional?

(Sigh…) To God be the glory! I say that because I know it is only God that determines what the destiny path of any human being will be in life. I must say that I am very grateful to God for planting my feet in the advertising industry because I am very proud of what I have gone through so far in the industry: the challenges, successes and innovations. The Nigeria advertising industry keeps evolving, and having practiced for about 35 years, I can say that I have been part of the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry.

I started advertising practice with BTAS communications Ltd in 1990, and thereafter (two years after) joined STB & Associates, which later became STB-McCann, Lagos. I was there for nine years and became the Group Head in the Client Service Department. You should understand those period I am talking about, the days when Advertising agencies were fewer but very creative and competitive. There are proliferations of advertising and marketing communications agencies all around now compared to those days.

Also, I have had the privilege of working with veterans like the Chairman of STB Group, Steve Omojafor and the late Nike Alabi at STB-McCann, also Chairman of Centerspread & DKK group, Kola Ayanwale; the Group Managing Director of Bates Cose Group, Yomi Onabolu; and several others too numerous to mention.

I recall that in the 90s, I happened to be one of the few agency staff with knowledge and skill in computer, and on several occasions, I became a sought-after staff during strategy sessions and top management meetings and briefing, as well as when the use of computer system was needed to deliver agency tasks.

But to answer your question, it wasn’t just easy getting this far in the advertising industry. Infact, before I got into advertising practice, I worked as a Taxi driver – known locally then as “Kabu-Kabu driver”. After my service year, I left Ibadan (where my parents resided) for Lagos. My childhood friend, who had earlier settled in Lagos accommodated me in his one-room apartment at Oke-Odo area of Alimosho Local Government. That was where I started driving Kabu Kabu. It was during my hustle as a cab driver that fortune smiled on me when I picked a passenger that would later linked me up with the first advertising agency that interviewed & employed me.

 

So, would you say that the current unemployment and under-employment problem graduates face in the country is not a new thing?

No no no, it wasn’t the same. The abysmal unemployment situation we are having now which has invariably  brought new lexicon to our local vocabulary in the African continent like ‘Japa’; an unpleasant situation where our youths gather millions of naira to relocate abroad to look for job opportunities didn’t exist that time. The fact that I worked as a taxi driver then doesn’t mean that unemployment was high. I did that in the process of waiting for when the opportunity would come to get my first break in advertising practice, because I was so sure that advertising was what I wanted to do - being a creative person right from childhood. Infact, let me tell you this, as at the time I was leaving the NYSC in Niger State in 1990, I was a recipient of the NYSC President’s Honour Award. The event took place at the prestigious Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers. I got a Federal cheque of N20,000, a gold medal  and certificate as well as automatic employment in the Federal Civil Service from the then Head of State, President Ibrahim Babangida. This was in recognition of several self-help and community programmes I initiated and implemented as a Corps member. People persuaded me to take the automatic employment offer but I rejected it basically because I did not see myself pursuing that career path.

 

How did you come about establishing your Advertising agency, 24-7 Communications Ltd., and the rationale behind the name itself?

I would say it’s all about determination and focus. You see from late 1990s when I was an Account Director at BatesCosse and later Group Account Director at Centrespread Advertising down to the beginning of the 2000s, and the journey back to democracy in the fourth republic in Nigeria, we had government policies having direct impact on the economy and infrastructural development, then advertising took the center stage as brands and multi-national companies engaged agencies to achieve set business and communication objectives. I then had the opportunity of working with several notable brands. I was part of the launch of Globacom into the Nigeria’stelecommunications landscape. I was also part of Globacom’s sponsorship of the All African Games hosted by Nigeria in 2003. The Globacom brand recorded exceptional visibility and 100% brand awareness and recall both within Nigeria and throughout West Africa. I also worked on Vodacom, the biggest telecoms company then in Africa. After Vodacom left, I led another telecommunications brand called Vmobile, and was responsible for developing the iconic “It’s all about you” Vmobile campaign which was met with both national acclaim and the accompanying brand success.

It was after being fulfilled - achieving those feats as an employee that I was inspired to established a young and dynamic advertising agency, 24-7 Communications Limited in June 2004. Our mission and vision then was simply to offer well thought-through creative and communication solutions for brands and organization within a twinkle of an eye and limited time frame. That was why we came about the name 24-7. The company has however grown from a single entity in 2004 to a group of companies including an Out-of-Home agency, a media planning & buying agency, an experiential marketing agency, a digital marketing agency and investments into solar energy company and travel & tourism company.

 

At what point did you consider joining partisan politics in Nigeria?

My political journey started at around 2010 though I had been involved since 1993. I would ascribe my involvement in politics to God’s direction, and my late mentor, the former Chairman of IGI insurance, Remi Olowude. I missed him a lot and will forever do. He saw great potential in me, and introduced me to politics (story for another day). He was very instrumental to my Advertising business expansion and existence in African countries like Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda. So, having being fullfiled as an Advertising practitioner, the quest to inpact the lives of people aside what I was doing with proceeds from advertising led me to going into politics. So, the reason for joining politics is to continue to positively impact the lives of people of Ogun State but most importantly Ogun west region where I come from. Before I declared for Senatorial and Governorship seats in Ogun State, I had, for many years between, 2005-2010 championed the empowerment and uplifting of the youths from Yewa-Awori in Ogun West Senatorial District. I established a Yewa-Awori Engagement Strategic Initiative – YES INITIATIVE.  The focus of Yes Initiative was borne out of the necessity to position young, talented and able-men - Yewa Awori indigenes for opportunities while also helping in achieving their set goals. Besides, we implemented strategic empowerment programme at improving the state of health of our people by providing free medical checkup and drugs during medical outreaches in the five local government areas of the zone.

 

Can you recall the outcomes and lives affected by these initiatives since joining politics …?

There are countless testimonies of the YES Initiative and OSA Foundation that I don’t even remember until sometimes when beneficiaries and, at times associates whom my support initiatives impacted their lives come out to share them, including from those I engaged in the management of those programmes began to tell those testimonies. I recall when I was building my house in Ilaro around 2006, many of our people in town said it was the first modern house to be built in Ilaro then. But where I am going is when I wanted to roof the building, and the roofing technician that I gave it to from Lagos came to the site. There was a young man in Ilaro who came to me asking to be involved in the roofing, and I directed the technician from Lagos to include the young man in his team - which he did. As soon as the project was completed, the young man never stayed in Ilaro anymore as he was absorbed by the technician from Lagos and has been on his own travelling around Nigeria doing the business of roof building. Whenever I call him anytime I needed to hear from him regarding his area of expertise, he's always busy travelling from one part of the country to another roofing buildings. I also recall I was at a gathering where one of the managers of my empowerment programmes told me about a music entertainer in Ilaro who was introduced to me and that I assisted and who has become a star in the country. There was a day my people went out to deliver a message in my name at a community in Oko Baba area of Ilobi-Erinja in Yewa South local government of Ogun State, and one of the community members, I was later told, spoke glowingly about me; recounting how I had intervened in a community project by assisting them with funds and bulldozer to work on their bad road. Many of those interventions I couldn’t remember until people around me share them. But the one I mostly relate to is when I move around the Ogun west zone and I see people still wearing the OSA foundation T-shirts, fez caps and gift items while chanting my alias, testifying about how our medical outreaches impacted their health and life. When I see these, then I do have a sense of fulfillment that I have indeed made impact in the lives of our people. You don’t have to wait till you have political appointment or in elective positions before impacting lives.

 

What do you say about the Politics of Ogun State in relation to the quest for your senatorial district to produce the next Governor.

My experience about the politics of Ogun State and the agitation for a Yewa Governor is very wide. I happens to rank as a key stakeholder who committed resources, time and all that I have in pushing for the Yewa agenda. I am not just talking about being on the ballot as a governorship candidate from Yewa because a political party must present you as its candidate. I mean when it comes to being deliberate in my decisions to risk a lot of things and jettison several great personal opportunities for the sake of the human and zonal development of Ogun west, I am the man to beat. The commitment and sacrifices are such yielded more insights and revelations about the agitation for the Yewa for governor agenda. Therefore, since 2011 that we lost that opportunity due to internal crisis and deliberate gang-up of some people. The journey to attaining that position as a zone subsequently appeared to me as rather far, and at other times very short depending on the circumstances surrounding the movement at every point in time. But I can tell you that as a major stakeholder in the Yewa for Governor, and based on my experience, there are three clear things that need to be done for us to clinch that seat amidst our challenges that a lot of people from the region still don’t know about. It is not by omission or mistake that when the Late Buruji Kashamu was to pass-on two years ago, he did call some people asking for forgiveness for what he did to them and all that. He called me, I was surprised when I saw his call. I never knew he was going to die. I think I should just stop here for now.

 

On the last note sir, how do you fine time to relax and enjoy yourself?

I am a socialite and I always find time to recreate by going to social clubs anywhere I find myself. I am a member of the premier club in Nigeria, The Island Club, Ikoyi Club 1938, a member of Abeokuta Sports Club, Yewa Metro Club Ilaro. I am also the publicity secretary of Egbe Omo Ogun Rere (EOOR) in Ogun State. I also find time to engage in church activities, I am the current vice president of Egbe Itesiwaju Society of Cathedral Church of Christ Ilaro.

 

How do you intend to celebrate this 62nd birthday?

Well, in showing appreciation to God for life, I intend to  reach out to the less-privileged. Those at the orphanage homes in the locality. It is what my immediate family used to do. Whenever my children are having their birthdays, it has always been the family culture and trend to package foods and gift items to the orphanage homes and celebrate life with them. So, I am doing same thing this year, while praying that the Almighty God continues to be gracious to me in order to continue to impact lives.

 

In 2016, I was working two jobs as a senior web developer and an adjunct professor. On the side, to help me get by, I was a freelance web developer. I knew almost nothing about business.

Today, I’ve built more than 10 passive income streams, including multiple e-commerce brands, a YouTube channel and an online school. Combined, these businesses bring in about $49,000 a month in passive income. I’ve learned a lot about how to create a profitable company.

I always tell people that if they want to build successful side hustles and passive income streams, they need to stop believing these three myths:

Myth #1: You need to spend money to make money

This is a common piece of business advice. If you want to open a retail store, for example, your expenses would include monthly rent, purchasing goods — to stock shelves and then re-sell to customers — and employee wages. That’s a traditional way of doing things, and an expensive one.

My favorite online business model is print-on-demand. I started my print-on-demand side hustle on Amazon in 2017 for $0 and I’ve since expanded it to offer my products through Etsy, Walmart, and eBay.

Print-on-demand lets me sell items like t-shirts and coffee mugs with custom designs on them. I don’t pay a dime for any of the inventory until after a customer places an order, which helps me keep costs low. 

After I get an order, I pay a company likePrintful, which specializes in printing and shipping products to fulfill the orders for me. After paying the printer, and marketplace referral fees for Amazon and Etsy, then I have a profit left over. 

Myth #2: You can make passive income without putting in the work

Outside of dividend investing, building passive income streams will always require time and dedication. There is no shortcut to success. I worked many early mornings and late nights on my side hustles, especially early on.

While I am still very involved in the day-to-day management of my businesses, I know many people who have been able to step away from day-to-day operations — after they hit an income threshold they were happy with — while continuing to benefit from their previous work. 

Building my profitable passive income streams required a lot of discipline. I had to learn to be okay with the idea of delayed gratification. But in the end I’m so glad I put in the effort. 

Myth #3: You need a team to help run your business

I’m not against having a team, but in my experience, it’s not necessary to have one to be successful. Seven years in, I’m still able to do this on my own, thanks in part to how many different tools are available for entrepreneurs right now. 

For example, for the first two years I ran it, I spent three to four hours every day on my Amazon Merch business in order to help it grow. Today, thanks to advances in automation, I only work one hour per week on it.

I’m a big fan of tools like MyDesigns. It uses AI to automate design creation, generate SEO-friendly product listings and publish my products in bulk online. All of this makes it possible for me to come up with and offer more new custom items, and it’s cut the most tedious work out of the equation. 

Being strategic with these tools have helped me stay on top of everything, while also letting me leave work behind whenever I want or need to. That way I can truly live the life I want.

** Ryan Hogue is a former web developer and adjunct professor who quit both jobs to run his e-commerce business. His YouTube channelteaches people how to earn passive income using “Ryan’s Method.”

 

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