Monday, June 29, 2009

If You Can't Beat Them, Forgive Them ...

You have probably read/heard about the Nigerian Federal Governement's Proclamation of Amnesty to the militants in the Niger Delta. What we do not know is if this amnesty extends to kidnappers and militants in other parts of the country -like Jos for instance but if I know Nigerian politics well enough, we will be hearing something about that very soon.

I am not usually this cynical but seriously, I will want to wait and see how effective this pardon will be. Nobody has said anything about addressing even the remote causes of the militancy in the first place. We are still expecting the Niger Delta 'Marshal Plan' that had been promised for so long and now we have an Amnesty. I just love this country.

Listening to the President proclaiming the Amnesty, something rang insincere in the words. A kind of bravado to mask a helplessness. What I will call 'ogboju of the highest order'. I believe even Yar'adua did not believe what he was reading. MKO Abiola would have called it 'clapping with one hand'. A resounding silence.

Some respected voices in the Niger Delta have suggested that that there should have been an Armistice before the Amnesty. Instructively, the MEND struck Shell again a little while after Yar'adua read the Amnesty Proclamation.

Some others have began to define who is a militant and who is a criminal in the context of the Amnesty. This has already set the stage for all manner of creatures to come crawling out of the rotten woodwork of the Niger Delta -bearing all kinds of rusty flintlocks and dysfunctional dane guns and machetes - calling themselves militants. It is boon for the criminals.

According to my extremely learned friend, Abadingo Abadanga ESQ of the illustrious firm of Abadingo, Abednego and Co, this simply buttresses his time-honored maxim of 'Ist nolle prosequi im ceteris paribus'.

That is to say, 'If you wan commit offense, e better make you commit de one wey be say when dem carry you reach court, the Judge sef go just look your case free you ; because your matter don pass the Law or in other words, your case is Over-the-Bar'.

Some other sources say that there is more to this than meets the eye. That is, knowing the family politics of the Niger Delta, it is possible that someone, somewhere may not want to be seen as aiding and supporting militancy in the Niger Delta particularly if it is close in the family.

No be my mouth dem go hear say Oga brother na criminal - sorry, militant.

Abadingo also told me that not all criminals are outlaws, some are in-laws.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Honour Among Thieves

It was perhaps the greatest heist in the history of 419. At $750 million for 51% of a company valued at $260 million, it must have been a bargain. But wait o. 419 is about advanced fees. Nobody knows exactly how much was paid in advance. Do you? Maybe we will call it 'Reverse 419'.

When the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp) was launched on July 21st 2005 as "a Nigerian world-class mega-corporation managed by Nigerians and wholly owned by Nigerians" at the Presidential Villa, Abuja by Obasanjo - who owns 200 million shares of the company, the company had no operating office.

When it launched an IPO in 2006, it had no product or track record or histroy to analyse. The prospectus was full of typographical and design errors. Obviously even the directors did not see it before it got out. Its share pricing was based on projections. Yet the Nigerian Stock Exchange allowed it to go to market and Nigerians bought it. Of course, Madam Do Good also chairs the Transcorp board.

Transcorp was supposed to be the Nigerian equivalent of the Daewoos, Chaebols, Misubishis, Sumitomos, Toyotas, Toshibas and the other mega-corporations that raised the economies of the Asian countries. Its a strange analogy as these companies did not start out as mega-corporations, but rather as started as SMEs. Talk about leapfrogging.

Strange things started happening. Third term whispers and all that.

Obasanjo tried to stifle possible competition to Transcorp (he is the major shareholder). Ask the Ibetos how long a shipment of cement can stay in port. The Bull became a refugee in Ghana and that usually astute wheeler-dealer, Jimoh Ibrahim, almost lost his fortune but for GOD and his mother's head.

Gen-gen! they bought NITEL.

Gen-gen! they bought the NICON NOGA Hilton.

We siddon dey look, action dey go.

It was like a man who has a confirmed gold mine in his backyard but decides to plant ugwu on the land instead. With all due respect to Tom Iseghohi and his band of technocrats -with their much touted pedigrees (as if they were dogs), they did not know what they were doing in Transcorp.

Buying NITEL is like marrying a king's widow. You don't complain about her tastes in food, clothes and jewelry, you simply gird your loins and work harder to provider for her. Managing NITEL required more than Harvard MBAs or experience working in the safe corporate environments of the mutlinationals, you need a lot of street smarts. Unfortunately, the Transcorp board lacked that.

When Transcorp took over NITEL there was a deafening silence from the major telecoms industry players. It was like there was a conspiracy afoot. Indeed there was a conspiracy. A conspiracy of silence. Transcorp should have been worried but they probably felt they had won. If they could run The Bull out of town, who dem be?.

After all, how many refugees could Ghana take?

They forgot that there may be a day when Obasanjo would not be in power. They forgot that the same people you pushed off the ladder on your way up, you will meet again on your way down.

They forgot that kaka ki eku ma je sese, a a fi sh'awadanu ni. Mice may not eat salt, but they can waste it by making it unpalatable.

They forgot that there is honour, even among thieves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The New Polygamy

How important are children to a marriage?

When I was much younger, I had this girlfriend with whom I had agreed not to have children if we got married. We had this belief that marriage was for companionship and not necessarily for children. We decided that kids would be a distraction for us. Not letting us live our lives to fullness.

Back then, I personally could not understand why people would marry more than one wife or live polygamous lives just because of children. I had believed that polygamy was a problem of the old and uneducated folks and largely a generational problem that will pass away as more and more people become educated.

I was wrong.

In the last three months, I have experienced, at close quarters a seeming surge in polygamous tendencies amongst people who I will classify as young, educated and upwardly mobile in all senses of the word. In all these situations however is a common decimal. An inability to have a child.

Ade works in a bank while Toun, his wife of thirteen years works with a government agency in Lagos. I was at their wedding and I believe that both of them wanted children in the marriage so this was not a case of family planning. Besides, after thirteen years, the excuse of family planning becomes untenable.

Sometime in December 2008, I met Ade in the Isolo area of Lagos dressed to the nines in lace agbada and all that. He told me he had come for an engagement ceremony somewhere in the neighburhood. Toun was not with him.

In April, I was preparing a bid for which I needed some input from a bank and I called my friend to vet it for me. He was quite busy during the week and asked me to see him at home during the weekend so that we can go through it together before presenting it to the bank on Monday.

On Saturday, I called to confirm our meeting and he asked me to meet him at an address in Isolo. I know he lives in Ikeja with his wife but I drove down to Isolo and I met my friend very much at home with a young woman and a baby girl.

He said 'Nimmo, meet my daughter'. I could not hide my shock. My jaw almost hit the floor.

He explained that when I saw him in December he had come for an engagement alright. His engagement to his second wife, Dupe who was pregnant at that time.

'Does Toun know?'

'No she doesn't and I know you will not be the one to tell her.'

Wetin concern agbero with overload?

Kenneth is a lawyer and Tina, his wife works as an HR Consultant. They'd been married for ten years now without a child. To all intents and purposes, they are happily married. Kenneth is the quintessential husband and Tina is the dutiful wife. A perfect couple if there was one.

I have known Kenneth since our university days and he has always been a gentleman. You know the law student who was always in shirt and tie while you all wore jeans and t-shirt to classes. That was Kenneth.

On the fateful day I was in his office when he asked me to 'escort' him to a school in Ikeja GRA. To see the Headmaster who was a friend, he said. In the Headmaster's office, they kept talking about 'his son' and I was confused. Well, that was until I saw the boy in question. At about three years of age, he was a spitting image of my friend.

Does Tina know?


My mouth shut up.

I have known Shade since like forever. My area girl to the core.

After getting her Diploma from the polytechnic, Shade got pregnant for and married to - or got married to and pregnant for (whichever came first) - a Camerounian guy, we will call Jules. They had a son but it was a turbulent marriage and after three years they seperated. Jules died shortly after. He had taken his son to live with his relatives in France.

Shade remarried about five years ago to Ahmed, who was married before but had no child from the previous marriage. Everything was good. Right?

A few months ago, we were at a function where Shade was introduced as Mrs. Kamala. Now this Kamala was known to be married with children.

Shade, how come?

Wo, Nimmo free my hand joo. I cannot continue to live with a man who cannot give me a child.

That was the long and short of her story.

But you are not divorced from him yet, and you're already living with another man. This is bigamy you know.

Biga kinni? Did he tell you that I married him in court? No be only traditional we do? In fact, the only person I was ever legally married to was Jules and I still have my marriage certificate.

What about Kamala? You're Mrs. Kamala now.

Kamala? Mschewwwww .. .. Abeg, Nimmo stop lawyering me, na pikin I dey find.

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