My Nigerian Dream

A collection of personal thoughts and ideas on the Nigerian political situation.

Category: Vision

Case Number 04062021: Twitter vs. Nigeria

If this incredulous situation went to court, I guess the case name might sound something like the title of this piece. Ha! But guess what? Nigerian Courts are currently on strike, so no chance of that. When we sit idly by, while our courts are not sitting, then we can be certain that something is seriously wrong. That level of irrelevance combined with a paradigm of ruling rather than leading, may well provide the causal links necessary to understand how and why we would suspend Twitter Operations in Nigeria – on…wait for it…Twitter no less! Personally, I’m no fan of big tech over/mis-stepping, but what signals is this move sending across the world?

Initially, it wasn’t clear what it meant to “…suspend Twitter operations”. Was it to stop in-country activities? Or would the platform itself cease to function on users’ devices? Well, now we know better. The knee jerk nature of the suspension bypasses the need to provide a clear basis for its own existence. It rather seems like an ego bruise that led to a disproportionate response. Borrowing from warfare, the Doctrine of Proportionality says that ‘a state is legally allowed to unilaterally defend itself and right a wrong provided the response is proportional to the injury suffered. The response must also be immediate and necessary, refrain from targeting civilians, and require only enough force to reinstate the status quo ante‘. I will now induct you (yes, you reading!) into the jury for this case; what say you – proportional response or not? As you decide, it would help to consider whether or not ‘civilians’ were caught in the crossfire.

I love history, particularly of World War II, so please permit me to use this as a parallel to the ongoing face-off between Twitter and Nigeria. This is NOT a comparison of the actors, but rather of the nature of the escalation of events. After WWI, there was the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which Germany found utterly egregious. 20 years later, Germany invades Poland and thereby flags off WWII. Then the Axis powers including Italy and Japan dig in ahead of the Allies; UK, France, et al. Other countries align allegiances, some stay neutral. However, after the Allies wobble a bit, America enters the war, and the Allied Forces go on to win, again, just as they did the first time in WWI. That’s 2-0 to the Allies, meaning if it were best of 3, thankfully for the sake of world peace, there is no need for a third match!

Twitter deletes a ‘presidential tweet’ for violating its policies; Abuja moves to suspend Twitter. Aptly put, Matthew T. Page tweets: “Shutting down Twitter is something dictators do, if I’m not mistaken” and compares Nigeria with Iran and South Korea. Is this our cohort now? Facebook also steps into the arena by deleting a ‘presidential post’. Who owns Instagram? And WhatsApp? Facebook! So if it comes to it, their allegiances are clear. How will other social media platforms align? Your guess is as good as mine. Big-tech may well be rivals and competitors, but where their interests align, I suspect it’s like NATO’s principle of ‘collective defence’ – an attack on one is an attack on all. So, is Nigeria on course for a Trump-like persona non grata status with the social media giants? We’ve seen what social media can do through the Arab Spring. Moreover, bear in mind though, that just as the Allies had the moral high ground in WWII, so now does Twitter have the market; Nigerians want to be on Twitter and they are already finding ways to keep tweeting.

More strategically, what does all this mean for Nigeria? Specifically what does it mean for Nigerian business? On the global Ease of Doing Business Index, Nigeria currently ranks 131 out of 190 countries, which is sadly beneath potential. As a strategy professional, I did a quick P-E-S-T-E-R (Political-Economic-Social-Technological-Environmental-Regulatory) mental analysis and concluded that the only dimension that the #TwitterBan may have ignored is the Environmental. I can literally posit how the ban can regress the nation’s standing on all the others, and I’m sure you can too if you consider it for a moment, so I won’t bore you with that. Needless to say that Nigeria as a nation just became a lot more risky to foreign investors as an investment destination. Between the policy inconsistency, lack of legal recourse, and apparent arbitrary nature of decision-making, the likely outcome is unfortunately capital repulsion, which will ultimately undermine FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) and consequently GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

The ongoing saga, in which the baby is thrown out with the bath water, therefore, appears to be resulting in self harm. There are Nigerian businesses that advertise and survive on Twitter, it is a news and entertainment source to millions, and even public sector ministries, departments and parastatals including the Presidency, military and the Information ministry use it as a mouthpiece to inform citizens of their good deeds including suspending social media platforms. By the way, that reminds me of President Trump sacking appointees on Twitter, perhaps wherever he is, learning that Nigeria ‘sacked’ Twitter on Twitter, he might say: touché. Nigeria is neither the first nor the only country to be in a running battle with Twitter; India and China would have lots to share about their experiences, for any Juror who may find a reference useful. Even as the Wiki page titled “Censorship of Twitter” has already been updated with a Nigeria entry, the question that remains is will Nigeria walk back its decision, and if so how can we do so and yet save face? Twitter on the other hand, stands accused of “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s (the plaintiff) corporate existence”. So, as a member of the jury, how do you find for the defendant? Guilty or Not Guilty?

Admittedly, in this piece I ask more questions than I give answers, but hopefully it encourages us all to seek consensus on the answer to one of the greatest questions of our time – the right to free speech. For now, it appears while freedom of speech is still a fundamental right (at least constitutionally), there is no guarantee of freedom, AFTER, the speech! However, at a time when our national headlines are too often being hijacked by violence, let us focus on the fact that PEACE is an endowment that God left with us, to share with one another as a gift.

Is Societal Equity just a dream?

Equality vs. Equity
Source: Unsure (but used with appreciation)

Imagine a fixed object on any surface, say a table, with your hand also in a fixed position in which your ‘middle’, ‘long’, or ‘third’ finger just about touches the object. Well, I see “EQUALITY” as expecting each of one’s other fingers to also be able to touch the object without moving one’s hand despite all being shorter, whereas “EQUITY” is moving your whole hand toward the object such that all your fingers can wrap around it easily to grab it! So, the question is, who controls the hand?

Personally, I believe a key part of the role of government is to distribute and balance societal resources to create EQUITY for all. That vast and disproportionate distribution of wealth in #Nigeria remains a major challenge to every federal administration throughout the nation’s history.

How do we lift millions out of poverty? How do we raise the standard of living for large sections of our population who would be considered ‘working class’ or ‘poor’? What radical mass job creation strategies can we employ? What factors e.g. education, vocational training, etc. are critical to successful job creation and uptake?

These are some of the questions that ought to occupy the collective minds of any government that is truly empathetic to the Nigerian state of affairs.

To solve such grand problems though, it still goes back to one thing – the right leaders. With each passing day, I come across amazing Nigerians who are more than capable of doing the job, yet as a nation, we more often than not do NOT lead with our proverbial “best foot”. That, right there, is the change Nigeria needs – radical leaders that will deviate from the status quo in their thinking, policies and integrity.

As we exit a tough 2020 and enter into the hope laden vessel of 2021, let us resolve, as Nigerians, each and everyone, never again to compromise on our ideals, dreams and visions. Let us resolve to diligently seek out, support and follow selfless leaders, whose first concern is what they can give to their country and not what they can find for themselves. It is not impossible, and perhaps not as elusive as it seems; for such leaders do exist amongst us, but it is up to us to make it their era!

“To bless a nation undeniably with overwhelmingly vast resources, is the work of God; to employ those resources diligently for the good of all citizens, is the work of leaders”.

~ Ayobami Akinyode OLUNLOYO

GOD | Family | Country 🇳🇬

For the Love of 🇳🇬 #Country…

I often say (to myself) that the best songs in the world have already been sung. This is my own personal way of appreciating truly iconic and classic songs and elevating them to a status of “untouchable” when compared with more recent songs. I do however acknowledge that this is a matter of preference and taste, and that great music will always evolve greatly. You might wonder about the relevance of these opening statements to a blog entitled ‘My Nigerian Dream’. It’s simple, just like one of my recent blog pieces, this one has also been inspired by a song. In this case, it is a song by an artiste who left us a rather clear message; one that is deeply relevant to societal events in Nigeria today.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston (1963 – 2012) certainly came, saw and left, but not before she conquered the R&B, pop, soul, gospel and dance music scenes. One of her most iconic songs is “Greatest Love of All”, the lyrics of which I saw in a totally new light on a fateful October evening. As I drove back home late at night with my wife after an all-day outing, the song came on and for some reason, this time, unlike the usual subtle blend of musical instruments and voice, the lyrics seemed to jump out at me more than the melody. It wasn’t the usual characteristic sound one would associate with an A-rated artiste like Whitney; except it actually was, and it was my ears that were just playing tricks on me, or better put, they were decoding a hidden message that was there all along. I can only suppose that this was one of those moments when one’s mind was acutely focused on one’s most recent thoughts…and indeed that day, up to that very moment, Nigeria had been heavy on my mind.

And so, my analysis of the lyrics and subsequent drawing of parallels with Nigeria’s situation began. Permit me to modify the lyrics ever so slightly to make my point. Original lyrics have been kept in and struck through while additions are underlined in bold CAPS. Other emboldened text are sections I would like to emphasise. I shall focus on three key stanzas of the song, and leave you to enjoy the rest of it via the video below. Here we go…

I believe the children YOUTH are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's THEIR laughter remind us how we used to be

First of all, you’ll notice that I replaced the word ‘children’ with ‘youth’. Clearly, I’m steering clear of a Desmond Elliot style social media onslaught. Having swiftly jumped over that messy puddle, let turn our attention fully to the above stanza. It is a clear validation of the desires of Nigeria’s youth population today. They are indeed the future, and we all as a nation must not only believe it, we must accept it. More precisely, the government must accept it. It is a responsibility for seasoned leaders, NOT to try to maintain ‘power-for-life’, but rather to develop following generations at the appropriate time. To do otherwise is not only irresponsible, it is also a dangerous dereliction of duty that upsets a delicate balance and creates a needless gap. Today’s youth ought to be encouraged, galvanised, empowered, and ultimately unleashed. They ought not to be referred to as lazy, looked down upon as having nothing to contribute, and they certainly ought not to be underestimated. Despite the absence of a common enabling environment, they have shown, repeatedly, that they have all it takes to flourish in the most trying of circumstances. This is as true for the young vocational worker learning a trade as it is for the entrepreneurial founders of Paystack. It is true for the young commodities hawker as it is for the passionate, intelligent and well-intentioned organisers of the recent #EndSARS protests…the ‘official’ protests, not the mayhem and chaos that followed. Rather than our leaders to show the youth ‘the beauty they possess inside’, Whitney’s words have been overturned to the extent that it is the youth who have so far had to scream to get themselves even noticed. That shouldn’t be; their journey should be made easier by all of society singing in unison about the greatness of our youth, willing them on, and thereby instilling a sense of self-belief and patriotism in them. Then when our youth have come into full bloom, the ‘elders’ can sit back, enjoy the view, and watch the nation progress into its next era and an assured future in trained, tested and trusted hands. This is how it should be.

Everybody's searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone who fulfil my needs
A lonely place to be
And so I learned to depend on me

This next stanza could easily be a letter from today’s 207 million Nigerians directly to every level of our government. This is not a youth-only message; if you think about it, it’s “our” story. We’re searching for th/at(ose) heroic leader(s) for whom ‘we the people’ will be the priority. Leaders of integrity, who are great role models, who exhibit deep empathy and who stand up and relish the opportunity to serve, not to be served. Instead, Nigerians have been subjected to a cycle of disappointment as we continue in search of the elusive front runners who we desire to follow. What a lonely place for such a huge population to be; and while the coming of Nigeria’s ‘messiahs’ remains delayed, Nigerians are simply left to do what we do best – to survive – against incredible odds. As a people, Nigerians have an exceptionally resilient spirit, which I believe to be both a blessing and a curse; the former because it’ll get us out of any jam, the latter because it causes us to accept what I call ‘injustice by bad governance’, rather than confront it. We excuse it, we adapt, we settle, we compromise, but we also neither fix the problem nor start the process. However, the tide is shifting, and it isn’t so much a ‘generation’ as what I would rather call a ‘wave’ of Nigerians of all ages, faiths, genders and ethnicities, that are coming full steam ahead, no longer willing to sit by and accept the status quo.

I decided long ago
Never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I'll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity

Rather than depend on themselves for provisions and services that ought to be provided by the state, they will build structures, design systems, and define processes that will help shape an innovative #newNIGERIA. These Nigerians will not walk in the shadow of (many of) our leaders past, but they will acknowledge and appreciate the labour of our true heroes past and present. They are willing to try, even if those that ought to guide them neglect to do so. At least they would be held in honour for lending their hands to the plough when their nation really needed them. They are the sort who would tell anyone who expects that they can be intimidated, harassed or bought out of their convictions, to perish the thought, for this is a ‘wave’ of Nigerians who will not sacrifice their dignity, integrity or vision.

So, what do we take away from all this? First of all, that Whitney Houston sang a phenomenal song – make sure you catch it below. More relevant though, is that it is time for youth all over Nigeria to take responsibility for the change that we want to see as a nation. I believe that elections are really contested and won on porches and at front doors. The hard work of pulling off a great win is performed door to door, hut to hut, and shack to shack. If we are to change Nigeria, the vehicle of choice is and must be our politics and particularly at the grass roots. Moreover, there are many ‘movements’, whose combined efforts will be key to getting there. These include non-partisan civil society organisations such as “Enough is Enough” and the “#FixPolitics” initiative, which was publicly launched earlier today. Why support such? Because when we amalgamate the impact of all those ‘movements’, the result will be that ‘wave’ that will defy precedent.

A constitutional amendment has lowered the age of candidacy, meaning that individuals as young as 25 years old can run for office. Please read Nigeria’s 1999 amended constitution to find out more. In Nigeria’s public sector, official retirement is at age 60 or after 35 years of service. It has been 37 years since the termination of the 2nd Republic; by that logic, for example, anyone who has been involved in our politics since then, perhaps ought to have ‘retired’ from active service by now. Maybe this could be a practical guide for how we decide on candidates and for whom we choose to vote.

A tribute to a great artiste who left sooner than the world may have liked; enjoy “Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston – Greatest Love Of All (Official Video)

So, to conclude, and repeating the title of this piece, ‘for the love of country…’, to all leaders of yesterday, please heed these words and allow the natural circle of life to propagate itself, so Nigeria can benefit from fresh minds, opinions and perspectives. There comes a time when all “good” things must end, and it is ideal that power is relinquished and passed on to the next generation. There are those who would say that my appeal is pointless and perhaps even naive because it will fall on deaf ears; perhaps so. However, on the odd chance that someone is actually listening, and also especially because as Whitney sang, “the greatest love of all is easy to achieve“, is it not worth trying? For the love of country…because right about now, we all as a nation, could do with the greatest love of all happening inside of us!


The Nigeria 🇳🇬 #ISee

What does the future hold for Nigeria?

I ask myself…would it be too much? Too much to ask for things that seem so simple and achievable, yet so elusive? Is it wrong to dream? Do we not have the right to imagine a nation more united than it is divided? These are my musings, day and night. Truth is, I don’t know what will be, but I do know that I will never give up “seeing” and I will never give up trying! If all we have the chance to do is to begin the process, that in itself would have been a part worth playing.

In no particular order or grouping, I see…

A Nigeria where “the child of nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody” [Borrowed]. But I would dare extend this by saying I see a Nigeria where everybody is somebody and no one ever need be referred to as ‘a nobody’.

A Nigeria where a good education is not a privilege, but the fundamental and available right of every child and young person. Indeed, a right that is equally available for older people who wish to avail themselves of further education.

A Nigeria where all citizens, young or old, have access to easily affordable and excellent quality healthcare.

A Nigeria that is safe and where all citizens can live in any part of the federation without fear of persecution, attack or any other kind of danger.

A Nigeria that emphasises the person and character of citizens, not their tribe, religion or State of Origin.

A Nigeria where any individual from any part can hold positions of responsibility or public office in any other part, because they are qualified to do so and are genuinely committed to the wellbeing of their adopted communities.

A Nigeria whose citizens are tolerant of one another, and accept each others’ peculiarities and differences even if they don’t necessarily agree with them.

A Nigeria that celebrates diversity in culture, and in which no cultural group is deemed ‘minor’.

A Nigeria where crime is controlled and kept to an absolute minimum by humane and socially friendly government policies.

A Nigeria that is NOT synonymous with crime, fraud or corruption.

A Nigeria where the electoral process is guaranteed to be free, fair, credible, and peaceful.

A Nigeria that is respected abroad for positive contributions to the global village and that maximises its potential amongst the league of nations.

A Nigeria where leaders seek to ‘do for their country’ rather than to be served.

A Nigeria whose President is respected at home and abroad and where the Presidency is the ultimate symbol of ‘freedom, peace and unity’.

A Nigeria where human talent is supported to flourish because the nation provides foundations, incubators, and opportunity.

A Nigeria where citizens are recognised and rewarded for curious and noteworthy achievements that enhance the nation’s reputation.

A strong Nigeria, that is worth dying for, where our military serve with ‘heart and might’ for the safety, unity and integrity of our nation, our neighbours and our world.

A Nigeria where justice and the rule of law are paramount and always prevail.

A Nigeria that once again produces world class athletes that compete successfully at the highest global level.

A Nigeria where everyone looks forward to ‘tomorrow’ because today always leaves us with a common gift of hope that is free to both rich and poor.

A Nigeria where brutality by any officer of the law toward another citizen is a thing of the past; where security agents uphold citizens’ rights rather than take lives. #EndSARS

A Nigeria where achievements in Science, Technology, Innovation and Creativity lead the world. #WakandaForever

A Nigeria that is prosperous, affords a decent standard of living to every citizen, and where no one needs to live on less than $2 a day – a well publicised statistic that I have come to abhor.

A Nigeria that is truly Africa’s leader; morally, economically and in governance, and that champions the cause of the continent globally.

A Nigeria that is generous to less privileged nations especially in Africa.

A Nigeria whose citizenship status is not shunned but sought the world over, and that is a haven for the world’s marginalised and persecuted.

A Nigeria that is environmentally sustainable and fit to be left to our children.

A Nigeria where the best of us get to lead the rest of us.

A Nigeria that all Nigerians are proud to call home – even while they’re away.

This list is not exhaustive and may well continue in a separate post, but if you read this far, thank you – for your patriotism (if you’re Nigerian) and passion for our nation (either way). It only remains for me to charge all Nigerians with one thing: “Arise O Compatriots”, for to ‘see’ this Nigeria, requires us all.

Please play your part, do all you can, make sacrifices, pray, speak up, listen, and most definitely vote if you’re eligible. Nigeria needs you and we all need each other. Thank you.

God bless you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


%d bloggers like this: