Friday, December 31, 2010

How I Joined The Nigerian Ruling (Eating) Class!

  [A Rejoinder To The Article: "How I Became A Prominent Lady"]

Dear Ugochukwu,
I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading the piece you published last week, captioned, “How I Became A Prominent Lady,” written by one of the  greatest and most patriotic   daughters of our great nation, a highly placed and well-respected lady who, incidentally, is a very close associate, my very good friend and fellow distinguished member of the nation’s political and ruling elite.

Even though you withheld her name (that was very thoughtful of you), I know her very well, and I can confidently tell you that she is a thoroughly groomed and well polished lady, totally above board, whose every action is motivated by an unfathomable sacrificial love for her country.
 I am thoroughly overwhelmed by her disarming humility which made her to stoop so low to tell Nigerians without blushing the various ‘sacrifices’ and ‘prices’ she had to pay on her way to join us in the Ruling Class from where she believes she would be able to serve her fatherland very well.  And on this, I can testify that she has acquitted herself very well.

 An example of her lack of vanity could be seen in the fact that despite our endless prodding and even harassment, she has bluntly refused purchase more than one house in London or another in the United States or even Dubai , even when some of us had offered to buy them for her. She is such a unique lady that naturally attracts kindness, and knows how to appreciate kind gestures too.

She is well loved among us, because she mixes very well, is always very cheerful and vivacious, has an exceptionally generous heart; and that is why she is excelling with incredible speed.  Eternally loyal, she could have dumped the Chief (on whose back she rode to fame and prominence) for a long time now without any fear of repercussions since she now has many other even more powerful political heavyweights around her, but her heart of gold would not let her hurt even a fly.  
As we talk now, the leaders of our great party in her geo-political zone have pencilled her down as the next deputy governor of her state, a move we at the national level have readily endorsed because of her profound integrity, moral soundness and our great trust in her ability to deliver with unrivalled speed. I was present recently when she launched her NGO to promote moral uprightness, honesty and hard work in youths.

 She is equally a very regular face at youth forums and ethical revival conferences where she draws from her wealth of experience and exceptional personal example to admonish her hearers on the dangers of cheating, waywardness and corner-cutting. She is indeed a role model, and it is good that many people, especially the young people now look up to her for direction and mentoring.

Please, permit me to follow her excellent example and also share my own success story before another lady beats me to it again, because, we have among  us many other successful ladies, whose ‘prices’ and ‘sacrifices’  on their way to the top would even greatly diminish my friend’s own. While at the University, which, by the way, I had entered with results obtained through very fraudulent means, academic work held no attraction for me.
I wanted to make money fast and live big. As I saw on television and newspapers these mostly thirty-something olds and early or mid-forty emergency billionaires who I was so certain I was more intelligent and more hardworking than, brazenly seizing the limelight, flaunting their opulence and throwing their weight about in a way that seemed to ask the poor to simply get lost, murderous thoughts welled up in me against anyone trying to disturb me with foolish questions about why I skipped classes or shunned my books.
Soon, I had to leave campus in search of something meaningful to do with my life before others left me behind in the lonely pit of grinding poverty. Fortunately, one day, a friend told me at the joint where we usually congregated to smoke weeds that an aide to a top and very powerful political figure was hiring ‘strongmen’ in preparation for the forthcoming elections.
 I immediately jumped at the offer. That singular move was to usher me into an exciting, easy life of limitless opportunities and cheap pleasures that I never imagined could just suddenly come my way. My ‘oga’ later came to know me more closely and to appreciate my special abilities and talents. I had a perfect understanding of my job, and never failed to deliver. I tried hard to suppress the fire of greed raging in me, and accounted for every kobo given to me. Although I was such a ruthless person, I was not foolish and so knew quite well that if I must attain my targeted height in politics, I must school myself to keep my greed in serious check.

  The Logo Of PDP --Nigeria's Ruling Party

Fortunately, I always delivered on all fronts with efficiency and precision, and equally acquitted myself well when in the business of ‘arranging’  very beautiful girls from the neighbouring Universities each time my ‘oga’ hosted dignitaries for top political meetings. Oh, there were always so much to eat, drink and enjoy, but I never forgot myself and what I was aiming at. My eyes were on the top, and any price was worth paying to get there.
My stars began to shine brilliantly when my ‘oga’ lifted me from the scummy pond of violent and murderous existence where I had wreaked tremendous terror as one of his most effective and ruthless thugs and promoted me to his personal aide, which enabled me to follow him to very important political meetings, where I met many other very highly placed Nigerians, many of whom also began to like me as time went on. Although, I could be such a ruthless and implacably destructive beast when any occasion required my exhibition of that aspect of me, I have this very warm, amiable and overly harmless personality that easily earns me the unreserved affection of many people.
Soon my ‘oga’ began to test me with money, several times, but each time, I surprised him by not falling. Unlike my colleagues who always allowed their greed to make them lose his confidence, I already knew I needed to keep mine on leash in order to win the undying trust of one those who decided the direction, future and how the resources of this incredibly rich nation were shared. Already, I had arranged a degree certificate for myself and managed to let it enter ‘oga’s ears that I was a graduate.

Before long, he began to trust me with bigger money, some of which I took abroad to deposit for him in designated accounts. I always resisted every temptation to run away or tamper with even the smallest part of them. My oga wanted to appoint me into the ministerial position allotted to him, but later changed his mind, and instead registered a company and appointed me its Managing Director/Chief Executive. And soon countless juicy contracts I never even knew when and how they were applied for began to pour in, and although we rarely executed any, we were usually paid in full upfront.
And because I had learnt early to keep my greed in check, I shared out the percentages as instructed, and paid them in the various bank accounts I was given, before taking the percentage allotted to me. And because we were so reliable and efficient, and did our business without any risks to our clients’ good names and political lives, business boomed amazingly. I became very rich as the company prospered. Soon, I began to hobnob with the high mighty from the president to governors, lawmakers, ministers, diplomats and fellow business magnates.
Billions of naira were always easily laundered through us without any hassles or incidents that could embarrass our esteemed clients, and we were always prompt to neatly deposit such funds into any accounts supplied by our clients in any part of the world. I have eventually  achieved my ambition of joining the ruling class, and boy, life up there is    just pleasantly exciting and really good!  Although, I am not holding any public office, I am, no doubt, part of the decision-making process since I am a generous financier and prominent member of our great party.

 The secret of my success, if I must restate that, was my commendable ability to continue resisting the temptation to tamper with my ‘oga’s money even when a lot of it was always with me and around me. Indeed, I was quite aware that he never bothered to even find out how much each ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ sack contained, or how much had been removed from a particular bag and how much remained, but I kept my cool. Well, if I must tell you also, highly influential and respected political stalwarts like my oga have no time to count money. Moreover, its uninterrupted flow into their houses, offices and bank accounts was always guaranteed, so why bother?
 Although, I wanted so much to be rich, I also desperately wanted to also secure the distinguished membership of the ruling elite, where I can help decide the direction and future of this country. And if I must achieve this, I knew it quite early enough that I required much patience, restraint and loyalty to one of the key custodians and sharers of the very sweet, richly garnished National Cake.
I was relieved when my ‘oga’ eventually shelved the idea of having me fill the ministerial slot allocated to him and instead established the flourishing company which I now manage for him. Although with such a highly influential personality of repute like my ‘oga’ behind me, all the Senate would have simply done if I had appeared for screening would be to simply ask me ‘Take A Bow!’ and move on, but I did not want the overwhelming searchlight such an event would most likely beam on my past. Moreover, I don’t trust you, journalists, Ugochukwu. One of you might come up with the crazy idea that I was a University dropout and so could not have earned the degree I was parading, or that I had unresolved cases with the police. So, I was glad to be spared that kind of exposure.

 Well, all I can say now is that I am doing incredibly very well. Although I have become very rich beyond my wildest imagination, with properties in countless choice spots in Nigeria and abroad and shares in blue chip companies around the world, I still have refused to do anything to make my ‘oga’ feel I have grown some wings and was now capable of being my own master. I have been very careful. His numerous women (mostly married), especially among the top echelon of our great party devour me daily with undisguised lustful attention, but I have refrained from letting them come between me and my very kind godfather. No, how can I be that stupid when countless women, including top actresses and models are throwing themselves at me?
Former Senator Iyabo Anisulowo was right after all!
Well, right now, I can confidently tell you that I am now and fully and perfectly established as a distinguished member of the ruling class and a stalwart of our great party. I sponsor candidates into high public offices and have continued to reap, in season and out of season, the juicy fruits of my endeavour. I have also taken practical steps to polish my personality and give myself an urbane, intellectual image. Recently, I got a backstreet (some say unaccredited) college in the United States to package an honorary doctoral degree for me at an impressive ceremony attended by highly placed Nigerians.
Do not be misled into thinking we are indifferent to corruption. In fact, my ‘oga’ was one of those who first mooted the idea of setting up very vibrant anti-corruption bodies in Nigeria to cleanse the country of corrupt elements. I can confidently tell you that it was his idea that they borrowed and set up what we have today as the EFCC and ICPC. And to his further credit, he has never failed to seize any forum available to him to denounce corruption and urge the anti-graft agencies to root out the monster that has ensured Nigeria is kept 100 years behind civilisation. All we want from Nigerians is patience; they should give us more time to deliver the democracy dividends. We are on course. We sincerely mean well for this country.

Who Cares About The Powerless Majority? More Than 80%
Of Nigerians Live  Below Poverty Level...

Ugochukwu, I am always amused each time you describe us in your column as a ‘Criminal Class.’ Apart from the fact this betrays your total ignorance of how government business is managed at this level in this country, I also think you are being very unfair to a body of distinguished, credible Nigerians with very impeccable records of invaluable services to their fatherland who spend sleepless nights thinking of how to move this great country forward and usher in an era of prosperity and massive development.
Well, next week, I will be presenting a paper (written for me by a retired professor who is on my payroll) at a high profile seminar in Abuja on anti-corruption and good governance, and I have already despatched an invitation to you. Be our guest and discover for yourself how determined we are to battle this monster of corruption to the ground. Surely, with Nigeria in our hands, the masses of this country would have cause to smile very soon.
Thanks for this opportunity to tell my success story despite your obvious unreserved disdain and fierce contempt for us.
We will eventually prove to you and several others that we mean well for this country.
Chief (Dr.) …… (Name Withheld)
Abuja, Nigeria

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Second-Hand Smoking Kills 600,000 Annually

Study published in UK medical journal Lancet finds that more than half a million people die a year from 'passive' smoke.

 The study finds that a third of those killed annually by passive smoking are children [EPA].

Second-hand tobacco smoke kills upwards of 600,000 people every year, nearly a third of them children, according to a global assessment in The Lancet, a British medical journal.

The Best Way To Be A Wicked Parent!!

The findings, released on Friday in the first ever global study, indicate that unlike "lifestyle" diseases, which stem largely from individual choice, the victims of passive smoking pay the ultimate price for the health-wrecking behaviour of others, especially family members.

Among non-smokers worldwide, 40 per cent of children, 35 per cent of women and 33 percent of men were exposed to second-hand smoke in 2004, the most recent year for which data was available across the 192 countries examined.

In addition to 5.1 deaths caused by active smoking, the final death toll from tobacco for 2004 was more than 5.7 million people, the study concluded. Nearly half of the passive-smoking deaths occurred in women, with the rest divided almost equally between children and men, according to the study. Some 60 per cent of the deaths were caused by heart disease and 30 per cent by lower respiratory infections, followed by asthma and lung cancer. All told, passive smoking accounted for one per cent of worldwide mortality in 2004.

What A Mother!!!

 Adult deaths caused by second-hand tobacco were spread evenly across the spectrum of poor-to-rich nations.  But for children, poverty made things much worse, the study found. Adult deaths were spread evenly across the spectrum of poor-to-rich nations. The adult-to-child ratio of deaths in high-income Europe, for example, was 35,388 to 71 while the ratio in Africa was nearly reversed: 9,514 to 43,375.  "Children's exposure to second-hand smoke most likely happens at home," the researchers noted. "Infectious diseases and tobacco seems to be a deadly combination."

The tragedy of children impacted by others' smoke is even greater when calculated in years of life lost, rather than lives lost. One reason twice as many non-smoking women die is simply because they outnumber their male counterparts by 60 percent. But in the developing world, they are also 50 percent more likely to be exposed to harmful smoke. Enacting smoke-free laws for public spaces could significantly reduce passive smoking mortality and health care costs, said Annette Pruss-Ustun, the lead researcher.


Currently, only a small fraction - 7.4 per cent - of the world population lives in places with stringent smoke-free laws, and even in these jurisdictions, compliance is spotty. Earlier research has shown that where laws are enforced, exposure to second-hand smoke in high-risk settings such as bars and restaurants is cut by 90 per cent.  Anti-smoking regulations also lower cigarette consumption, and improve one's chances of kicking the habit.

The researchers recommend fully applying the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which includes high taxes on tobacco products, banning tobacco advertising and the use of nondescript packaging. "There can be no question that the 1.2 billion smokers in the world are exposing billions of non-smokers to second-hand smoke, a disease-causing indoor pollutant," noted Heather Wipfli and Jonathan Samet, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.  

  "Broad initiatives are needed to motivate families to put their own policies into place to reduce exposure ... at home."

--Nigeria Today Online


 Were You Once A Smoker? Or Spent Time Regularly With A Smoker, Or In An Environment Where People Or Someone Smoked Often? You May Consider Undertaking A Mammogram Check Up   


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Tobacco: The Ruthless Killer Next Door

Alcohol Is More Harmful Than Heroin - Study Reveals

 Alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack, according to a study published in medical journal the Lancet. The report is co-authored by Professor David Nutt, the former UK chief drugs adviser who was sacked by the government in October 2009.  

Dangerous Content Only!

The Report ranks 20 drugs on 16 measures of harm to users and to wider society. Tobacco and cocaine are judged to be equally harmful. Prof Nutt refused to leave the drugs debate when he was sacked from his official post by the former Labour Home Secretary, Alan Johnson. He went on to form the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, a body which aims to investigate the drug issue without any political interference. One of its other members is Dr Les King, another former government advisor who quit over Prof Nutt's treatment.

Members of the group, joined by two other experts, scored each drug for harms including mental and physical damage, addiction, crime and costs to the economy and communities.  The modelling exercise concluded that heroin, crack and methylamphetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals, but alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others.

Living Dangerously!!!

When the scores for both types of harm were added together, alcohol emerged as the most harmful drug, followed by heroin and crack.  The findings run contrary to the government's long-established drug classification system, but the paper's authors argue that their system - based on the consensus of experts - provides an accurate assessment of harm for policy makers.

"Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm," the paper says.

"They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harms is a valid and necessary public health strategy."

This Could Be Your Last Glass Of Liquor! 

In 2007, Prof Nutt and colleagues undertook a limited attempt to create a harm ranking system, sparking controversy over the criteria and the findings. The new more complex system ranked alcohol three times more harmful as cocaine or tobacco. Ecstasy was ranked as causing one-eighth the harm of alcohol. It also contradicted the Home Office's decision to make so-called legal high mephedrone a Class B drug, saying that alcohol was five times more harmful. The rankings have been published to coincide with a conference on drugs policy, organised by Prof Nutt's committee.

Prof Nutt said: "What a new classification system might look like would depend on what set of harms to self or others, you are trying to reduce.  But if you take overall harm, then alcohol, heroin and crack are clearly more harmful than all others."

The Lancet paper written by Prof Nutt, Dr King and Dr Lawrence Phillips, does not examine the harm caused to users by taking more than one drug at a time.   

-Nigeria Today Online  

*Alcohol Gravest Threat To Society --Scientist

How I Became A ‘Prominent’ Lady

(Letter From A Woman Leader Of A Nigerian Political Party)

Dear Ugochukwu,
I was sufficiently provoked by your last week’s column captioned, Criminalisation Of Poverty,to share my great and exciting success story with Nigerians who throng this page every Wednesday to read you. Let me start by proudly informing you that I am a prominent, highly-placed lady, a distinguished member of the nation’s ruling elite, highly-connected political leader, a super organiser and one of those who decide the future and direction of this great nation. I worked really hard to attain my present exalted status, so no columnist should be jealous of me.

I am very happy and fulfilled. Today, in my community, State and nationally, I am highly respected and always applauded as one of the “illustrious daughters” of the land and role model, despite what some of you journalists may consider as the unflattering route I took in my rapid journey to the top. Well, not all of you are unappreciative of my person and status.

I regularly read brilliant reports full of flowery descriptions of my person in the media, especially, when I hold my usually great parties or attend public functions. But whether you would choose to accept it or not, in this our great country, once someone has “made it”, that is, achieved real financial, political and social success as I have done, and is also willing to occasionally dole out some crispy Naira notes, the person would become an instant celebrity, and anyone trying to question his integrity would be impatiently dismissed as an irritant and insufferably jealous.

Right now, I have two highly-rated chieftaincy titles, one conferred on me by the traditional ruler of my community (where I was practically a ‘nobody’ only a few years ago) and the other by a highly respected traditional ruler in another State. I am equally arranging to have a reputable University offer me an honorary doctoral degree to add more dignity, sophistication and intellectual colour to my already high status.

My Special Assistant, a former University lecturer, obtained his PhD from a very reputable University in the United States. And my driver? Well, he was always on top of his class while at the University. I have choice properties at highly coveted privileged spots in Lagos and Abuja, and my country home stands out as an exquisite palace befitting my status. I have no interest in owning houses abroad, so I only reluctantly agreed, after a lot of pressure from my friends and associates,  to purchase a ‘little mansion’ in London.

I am not ashamed of my very humble beginnings. When I finished secondary school, my father had dismissed me as a horrendous disappointment because of my dismal performance. And just like I had failed at school, I also was unable to learn to sew very well, and was always quarrelling with customers I had messed up their dresses at my shop in the State Capital where I had relocated. My boyfriend was the personal driver of a prominent politician. He lived in the Boys Quarters in the man’s massive compound where they stayed each time he was in town.

One day, he agreed I should visit him at home, but on the condition that I introduce myself as his cousin. That suited me perfectly, because I had my own plans too. Everyone agreed I was a very beautiful girl, an asset that helped me through secondary school since I was a favourite of my male teachers. And so as the Security Man admitted me into the massive compound and called my boyfriend, his boss suddenly appeared and barked at his direction:

“Who is she?!” he asked with a malevolent scowl, which could not obscure the undisguised lust with which his eyes devoured me.

“My cousin.” My ‘bobo’ answered almost quaking.

“Okay,” the man said, smiling nicely. Later, he invited me into the massive mansion “to welcome me properly,” and from there I entered a good, exciting life I never imagined existed…

Chief was simply mad about me and took me to many important places in the country and around the world where I met very important people. My (former) boyfriend complained once, but I silenced him by reminding him of his wife and children in the village, showered him with gifts, and occasionally allowed him to sleep with me when Chief travelled without him. Trust me, I can be that generous.

Moreover, you never knew with these drivers; he could pull a surprise one day and Chief would just show me the door and all the good life would suddenly end! One day, I told Chief I wanted to be a Council Chairman. He was shocked. A prominent, formidable godfather in our State, even our governor was anointed and installed by him.

“But you don’t have adequate education?”

“What do you mean, Chief? I have a School Certificate. The person who just vacated the office, what had he?” Then, Chief smiled, and soon after I was anointed and installed as the Honourable Chairperson of my Local Government Area. My father could not believe it. A great tumult occurred the day I rode into our community with my convoy to receive a distinguished Chieftaincy title conferred on me by our traditional ruler at a very impressive and well-attended Civic Reception organized by the community in honour of their “illustrious daughter.”

I didn’t want a second term, so Chief got the Governor to appoint me a Senior Special Adviser on Youth and Cultural Affairs, and later Honourable Commissioner for Women and Youth Affairs.

 Then, my foreign trips increased tremendously, some with Chief, and many others to attend any conference on anything (no matter how insignificant) that had to do with youths or women even in the remotest part of the earth.

Although I owed my appointment to Chief’s awesome influence, I nevertheless lured my Governor to my nest, and soon, he also became my active supporter, although he pretended he did it because of Chief, since he knew he could be impeached the very next day if Chief found out about our affair. Chief soon announced me widely at the national level as a “Women Leader” and powerful “grassroots mobilizer” from his State, and with his support, that of my Governor and State Party Chairman (whom I also was sharing very secret moments with), my visibility and prominence at the national level in our great party grew with incredible speed. Chief wanted me to the go to House of Representatives, but I preferred a national appointment (which I still retain).

I have an excellent Press Secretary who ensures I am in the news always, and everything I say or do gets duly reported, and prevents my ‘secrets’ from getting into soft-sale magazines. I have invested massively and wisely. Apart from Chief, I have also used other powerful party bigwigs who had lusted after me to get the things I want. They have already anointed me as the next Deputy Governor of my State.

I have also acquired significant influence of my own so much so that it is only on rare cases now that I require Chief’s intervention to get whatever I want. I recently launched an NGO to promote morality, honesty and hard work in youths, and regularly speak at youth forums where I draw from my exceptional personal example to warn them on the dangers of prostitution and corner-cutting.

This is my story, Ugochukwu.

And I must tell you, as a prominent member of the ruling class, the present Administration is on course, serious about its war against corruption, and has the capacity to make this nation one of the greatest in the next couple of years. I therefore solicit the support of vocal Nigerians like you, for the president’s excellent Seven Points Agenda and war against corruption.

Very soon, our nation will be ushered into a glorious era of unimaginable prosperity. We are here to ensure that happens.

Thank you.

I am Chief (Ms.)……[Name Withheld]


Friday, December 24, 2010

Dinner From A Dustbin In Lagos

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

It was a very beautiful evening in Lagos. I was in the car, waiting for my wife to get her bag from her office so we could go home together.

Impoverished Nigerian: Feeding From The Dustbin
While His Leaders Squander Billions Of Naira Of The 
Common Wealth  With Reckless Abandon

Then, I saw him, as he passed, looking very hungry and haggard. The general consensus here is that he is not mad. At least, not yet.

But he is clearly traumatized by the impossible condition in which he struggles to exist each day. 

Suddenly, his hungry eyes caught the dustbin, outside the office complex, a few meters away from where my car was packed. He appeared so elated at his find. His face creased into an awful gesture, which he probably meant to be a smile.

President Goodluck Jonathan: Not A Laughing Matter

Then, with a quickened pace, he made for the dustbin, and began to desperately rummage in it, among its decayed, putrid, stinking contents.

He seemed afraid that someone might come out to drive him away before he was through. 

An idea occurred to me immediately. Nigerians ought to share this heart-rending image with me. Yes, my camera was at the backseat, I remembered.

I quickly reached for it, and with a greater part of me hidden behind the windshield, I took two shots of him while he was still busy searching and collecting some items triumphantly

Then my third shot caught him as he made to move away with his booty.  And within a few minutes, he went down the street and was gone. 

A Meal For Today From The Dustbin

This, too, is a Nigerian. Like you and I. Like General Ibrahim Babangida and his 'cousin' Atiku Abubakar out there. Like late Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Like President Goodluck Jonathan. Like David Mark. Like former House Speaker, Patricia Etteh. Like (former) House Speaker, Dimeji Bankole. Like General Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (the one they call the founder/father of Modern Nigeria). Like National Assembly Members. Like former and serving State Governors. Like former and present ministers and Super Special Advisers. Like some Local Government Chairmen. All now incredibly wealthy after just a few years of “self-less service to the nation”! 

If this hapless Nigerian had heard that under Patricia Etteh as House Speaker houses were renovated and/or upgraded in Abuja with a mere “ paltry sum” of N628 million, he didn’t show it.

Nor did he show that someone had ever mentioned near his ears the insufferable profligacy represented by the N3.2 billion car purchase scandal that has forever tarred the Dimeji Bankole-led leadership of the House of Representatives.

Olusegun  Obasanjo: Not The Time For Laughter

He was just content to invade the dustbins, to fill his stomach with its putrid contents, until life, his life, reaches a T-junction, where, his candle would be cruelly extinguished by the violent wind of the unspeakable callousness of Nigerian leaders. 

By the way, is Umaru Dikko reading this? He can feel fulfilled that his prediction has come to pass, that Nigerians are now feeding from dustbins!

Where is Olusegun Obasanjo? Shouldn’t he come out to see an undeniable evidence of the marvellous success of his economic reforms?  

Dimeji Bankole: Laughing At The Victim?

That is the reality of present day Nigeria. And make no mistake about it, there are several others like him out there, who would never have anything to eat today, until they are able to find a dustbin rich enough to yield them a meal. 

Perhaps, this fellow voted in the last election. Perhaps, he did not. But those who are supposed to take care of him are out there in Abuja and other points of power engaging in unspeakable profligacy, with the commonwealth, from which they have carefully insulated him.

While he dies slowly, and miserably. 

What a nation.

TOBACCO: The Ruthless Killer Next Door

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Today, as I allow my mind to endure the oppressive thought that tobacco still remains the ruthless killer next door, what then shall we call its producers and distributors? The answer can only be simple and straightforward: They are people who prosper at the expense of other people’s lives. They make their billions by ruining other people’s health, and eventually terminating their lives. They should therefore not complain if anyone refers to them as proud, happy, licensed murderers.

Packs of Killer Poison

How these people are able to deaden their conscience to go on prospering and sustaining their own lives by producing and marketing a scientifically confirmed poison whose only benefit is its ability to cruelly terminate the lives of their fellow human beings beats me hollow? Tobacco never adds even the tiniest value to life; it only destroys it completely. Without mercy. This is a fact nobody has even attempted to deny.
The Nigerian president should put the concern for the lives of many Nigerians above his often whispered personal tastes and habits and take another look at the massive freedom granted by his predecessor to tobacco companies to fill Nigeria with their neatly wrapped and attractively packaged killer poison called cigarettes. If he cannot immediately ban the production of cigarettes in Nigeria, he should, at least, put in place stricter regulations that would ensure that tobacco manufacturing would automatically become a very unprofitable venture in Nigeria. 

I call on Nigerians with lively conscience and genuine friends of Nigeria, to join this clearly winnable battle, to flush these heartless fellows out of Nigeria. The question I have always asked cigarette producers is: can they boldly come out in the open and assure me that the commodity they manufacture and distribute to hapless individuals cannot be rightly classified as poison? Again, they should tell me one single benefit the human body derives from smoking cigarettes. Has it not been convincingly proved everywhere, and publicly admitted even by tobacco producers, that tobacco is a merciless killer, an unrelenting cannibal that devours a man when his life is sweetest to him?  If then tobacco is a proven killer, can’t those who manufacture and circulate it in society be classified as murderers? Hasn’t even our own Federal Ministry of Health been shouting and warning us with passion, sense of urgency and alarm that TOBACCO SMOKERS ARE LIABLE TO DIE YOUNG?
Stop For Good

What the Health Ministry here is saying is very simple: Anyone offering you a cigarette is only wishing you an untimely death. In fact, he is just saying to you: May you die young! That is exactly what tobacco companies, including the government that issued them the license to transact their deadly trade in Nigeria are wickedly wishing their Nigerian victims! Yes, tobacco companies manufacture products that make people to die young. How wicked and heartless could they be!

Before now, these tobacco companies would erect fresh, beautiful billboards, and fill several pages of newspapers and magazines with glossy adverts. Unfortunately, that option is no longer available to them, because of the ban on outdoor advertising of their lethal products. I am glad that those pleasant pictures of vivacious achievers smiling home with glittering laurels just because they were hooked to particular brands of cigarette which used to adorn glossy billboards and magazine pages, and which had proved irresistible baits to several people, especially youths, have now vanished from the public domain.

As a youth, the elegant, gallant, athletic rodeo man whose image marketed the 555 brand of cigarette was my best idea of a handsome, hard-working winner. My friends and I admired him, carried his photographs about, and yearned to smoke 555 in order to grow up and become energetic and vivacious like him. One wonders how many youths that have been terminally impaired because they went beyond mere fantasies or obsession with their cigarette heroes and became chain-smokers and irredeemable addicts. Managers of tobacco adverts are so adept in this grand art of monumental deception that their victims never suspect any harm until they have willingly placed their heads on the slaughter slab. Indeed, only very few are able to look beyond the meretricious pictures and the pernicious pomp of cigarette promotional stunt and see the blood-curdling pictures of piecemeally ruined lungs and other sensitive organs, murky, chimney-like breath tracts and heart region, the looming merciless and spine-chilling fangs of an all devouring cancer, tuberculosis, sundry lung and heart diseases, and their associate unyielding killers.

Smokers Are Burning Their Lungs!!!! (pix: pulse2)

I want to challenge tobacco companies to come out and tell Nigerians that tobacco, the product they manufacture and circulate in Nigeria, is no more the resilient, implacable and silent killer, the lethal poison and heartless cannibal that seeks accommodation in the midst of hapless humanity with the sole intention of effecting their eventual decimation. I want to hear that cigarettes are no longer generous distributors of devouring cancer, tuberculosis, sundry terminal lung and heart disease, etc.

 I have heard tobacco companies pay huge taxes to government, award scholarships to indigent students and embark upon several projects to better the lot of the common man in several communities. But how many people have their lethal product sent to their early graves? How many widows, widowers and orphans are they producing with alarming rapidity?  How many people have been lured to calamity and painful death with their tantalizing and deceptive adverts? How many cancer TB lung disease patients do they produce in a year? How many among their hapless employees are gradually ruined daily because of the insidious fumes they inhale during production of cigarettes? It is so saddening that while in several countries of the world, tobacco companies and their owners are being isolated and choked with harsh laws, they have been allowed to invade Nigeria and other African countries with their filthy billions because we have incompetent and insensitive governments that have no qualms welcoming urbane, but ruthless killers in the name of "foreign investors."

A Poison-Manufacturing Giant

I will never be tired of referring to an interesting development in the United States on June 7, 2001 where a Los Angeles Superior Court slapped an unprecedented $3 billion in damages on Phillip Morris, another giant tobacco company, in response to a suit by a tobacco casualty, Richard Boeken, who had developed incurable cancer of the brain and lungs after smoking two packs of Marlboro cigarettes every day for 40 years. This should serve as eye opener to Africans that with several class suits from victims of tobacco, these evil merchants of death can be forced out of the continent. According to the New York Post editorial of June 9, 2001, 56-year-old Boeken who began smoking as a teenager in 1957 claimed that "he continued smoking because … he believed claims by tobacco companies that smoking was safe." He told reporters in a post-trial interview: “I didn't believe they would lie about the facts that they were putting out on television and radio."

Now, that is exactly the issue. Tobacco companies deploy beautifully packaged lies to lure people into taking their fatally poisoned wraps called cigarettes. Their billboards do not present cancer patients treading the cold, dark, lonely path to a most painful, slow death, which is where tobacco happily leads victims. Every society has a responsibility to defend its unwary and the ignorant, and Nigeria and the rest of Africa cannot be an exception. The argument that smokers ought to be dissuaded from smoking by the hardly visible warnings they put out on their packets, and that people are merely being allowed to exercise their right and freedom to make choices, is akin to endorsing suicide as a lawful expression of freedom? Why allow a killer-poison to circulate among humans in the first place? Do we all have the same capacity to discern and resist the allurement of this clear and present danger called cigarettes?

Cigarette Manufacturers Want You To Die Young!!!!

It is widely known that many tobacco producers are non-smokers because they know too well how deadly their products are! In court and in several enquiries, tobacco producers have admitted that their product contains very harmful substances. So why should the government not protect its citizens against it? Tobacco is a killer. So are its manufacturers. Nigerians should rise with one voice and unified strength and resist this cannibal in our midst. The battle is winnable.

NIGERIA: This House Is Not For Sale!

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye  

“Why do I ever think of things falling apart? Were they ever whole” – Arthur Miller, Late American playwright and essayist    

I am forced by some very discomforting thoughts to remember today Bessie Head, the late South African writer and her 1989 collection of short stories entitled, Tales Of Tenderness And Power. I remember particularly one of the stories in that collection captioned,  “Village People,” especially, its opening lines which reads: “Poverty has a home in Africa – like a quiet second skin. It may be the only place on earth where it is worn with an unconscious dignity.” 

Now, this is one assertion that immediately compels one to start visualizing images of scenes and objects that readily constitute benumbing evidences of “dignified poverty” spread all over Africa, where people try to give some form of shine and panache to a very horrible situation they have somehow convinced themselves would always be with them. In those two brief lines, Ms. Head states a truth about Africa which we may find very demoralizing and objectionable, but which would remain extremely difficult to contradict. 

But is poverty the only thing we appear to have accepted as inevitable component of life in this part of the world? What about crime? How come crime appears to have gradually become too natural with us in Nigeria here, that we even go ahead to put up notices to moderate its operation? We appear to relish more the very unpleasant job of merely alerting people to it than doing anything to stamp it out. Now, if I may ask: what usually occurs to your mind each time you enter a hotel room in Nigeria and on the wash-basin, dressing mirror, bed-sheet or towel you see the following inscription: “Hotel Property, Do Not Remove!”   


If you ask me, this warning simply takes it for granted that guests would naturally wish to remove those items, and so to forestall that, care is taken to advise them not to remove those particular items as the hotel is still in need of them. In other words, the absence of such a warning on any other item should be construed as an automatic authorization any guest requires to move those things together with his personal effects, if he so wishes, at the expiration of his stay.  That’s just the implication.  Or have we not also thought about that? What are we then, by this practice, telling numerous foreign visitors that use those hotel rooms daily about ourselves?  

Yet such warnings abound everywhere, but I doubt that it in any way bothers anyone, even those public officers spending billions of naira on their so-called efforts to manage the nation’s image. Indeed, it no longer shocks us to see daily on virtually every building, even rickety, dilapidated ones, this inscription, usually written in very bold letters, even at the risk of seriously defacing the structures: “This House Is Not For Sale!!” And in most cases, they usually add, for maximum effect: “Beware of 419! Beware of  Fraudsters!” For goodness sake, is Nigeria the only country that fraudsters can be found?

 Is this the only country with records of incidents of people selling properties that do not belong to them? Are there no better, more decent, less socially destructive ways of protecting people from fraudsters than screaming on virtually every house out there: “This House Is Not For Sale, Beware of 419!!” Are these houses not properly registered at the appropriate offices where prospective buyers can go and verify their real owners? Today, almost every undeveloped, refuse-ridden land on every street hosts at a prominent spot an imposing signpost informing people the land is not for sale, plus the usual warning screaming to prospective buyers to beware of fraudsters and 419.

President Goodluck Jonathan

 The impression the continued proliferation of these warning signs can only convey is that most Nigerians do nothing else than wander all day looking for each other’s properties to sell to unsuspecting buyers; that our society is filled with so many rich, dumb buyers without the slightest awareness that checks ought to be run on properties before paying for them; that the system here is so chaotic and unreliable that people prefer to rely only on this very crude, people-diminishing method of discouraging potential property buyers with mostly badly written notices.    

Out there, my beloved sister, Dr. Dora Akunyili, is shouting herself hoarse in a determined effort to convince us that she is re-branding Nigeria or its image; she claims that she is striving to give Nigeria a positive image, but I doubt if it has ever occurred to her that this unwholesome phenomenon alone can easily destroy the best cultivated image. What for instance would a foreign visitor think of us, after observing this inscription on virtually every building he saw on a particular street he visited? There are some crooks in Nigeria, like in every other nation, but, for goodness sake, this is NOT a nation inhabited by only fraudsters! Decent people like me also exist here, okay! And it is somebody’s job to ensure that this point is cleared underlined to every ear that can hear.  

And because we appear to demonstrate through our indifference to the whole thing that these vulgar displays are in order, foreigners living among us have gone ahead to add some really ruinous sophistication to the ugly    phenomenon. In front of even some hardly known, struggling foreign companies today, you must find notices screaming: “No Waiting; No Loitering.” The next time you visit an embassy, try and look at the kind of notices placed in front of the buildings.  Indeed, United States Embassy in Lagos here appears to be the most enthusiastic offender in this regard. Only recently, while visiting the US embassy, I was suddenly moved to look at the number of large, gleaming notices in front of the compound warning people against patronizing touts, submission of fake information and documents etc. I can’t really recall now how many notices I saw in front of the same embassy gate saying the same the thing in the same words, and standing gallantly near each other, in silent competition.

Robin Sanders: Former US Ambassador To Nigeria

I have not tried to investigate whether this is what obtains at the US embassies in other countries, but I am willing to guess that this proliferation of demeaning notices may not be the case in other lands.  Inside the US embassy building itself, the rooms are generously splashed with well illustrated notices warning people that fake visas or passports or false information or documents can open many doors and but close one permanently. Even warning notices meant for the blind and deaf could not have been so generously pasted! 
Indeed, the thing is so gratuitously done that I am forced to wonder if the aim is really to discourage fraudsters or to advertise a well-cultivated opinion about Nigeria to visiting Americans and other foreign nationals who also visit the embassy as often as Nigerians. 

 I am tempted to suspect that the latter is the prime motivation, and as I look at Ms. Robin Sanders, US Ambassador to Nigeria, and observe the facial features she shares with me, I am forced to wonder how she is able to allow this clearly unhealthy profiling and stereotyping to continue flourishing during her tenure against the land of her ancestors.    

Yes, we can say that after all we asked for it by failing to contain the vile activities of some Nigerians that clearly portray here as a country of crooks. Indeed, there are fraudsters in this nation, as in any other country, but this is by no means, a nation peopled by ONLY fraudsters. It ought to be clear that fraudsters constitute only a negligible minority in this country, but their evil deeds seem to speak louder than the good works of the decent, hardworking majority.

 And although the fellows ruling us are mostly very low characters who care very little about reputation and self esteem, and whose understanding of being in public office is to loot the treasury pale, I refuse to accept that any nation’s politicians should form the basis for judging the people’s character.

Else, why do Americans still speak contemptuously about the “Washington crowd,” and yet hallow their country at any given opportunity?

Yes, we have the Dimeji Bankoles out there, the Iboris, the Bode Georges, Governor-General Alams, Big Tafas, Obasanjos, IBBs, Dariyes and the rest of them, who know only how to rubbish the country and give it a monstrous image, but for goodness case, this does not automatically consign all of us to the refuse dump reserved for low, dishonourable characters. The time to do a rethink and act accordingly is now.

Enough of this debilitating profiling, please.       
August 2010.

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