Saturday, 17 October 2015

Nigerian Elite Connexion I

This is an old article that I never get tired of reading over and over again. It was originally published in Leadership Confidential, the subscription only publication by Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah, the publisher of Leadership Newspapers. Even though a lot has happened since the publication, it still makes a good read and throws light on how intricate the connections between the Nigerian elite are.

 To the casual observer, the events that shape and continue to configure what happens on Nigeria’s socio-political and economic firmament are either coincidental, mere happenstance or outright accidental.

Far from it, as Leadership Confidential can authoritatively confirm that many developments were/are carefully conceptualised, planned and implemented by the country’s elites, who are intricately entwined by either fraternity, business interests, blood relationships or marriage linkages.

Such marriages cut across ethno—religious boundaries and had pre—dated 1914, when the British colonialists through Lord Lugard amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates into the present day Nigeria.

For example, do you know that Governor Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno State, Yobe State Governor, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Ibrahim Bunu and former Nigerian ambassador to the US, Senator Jibril Aminu are all married to the sisters of Ammuna Lawal, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Nigeria’s Country Governor at OPEC? Ammuna is the wife of former managing director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Ibrahim Ali, who is the brother of former Governor Mala Kachalla of Borno State.

Similarly, Abba, son of the late General Murtala Mohammed, Nigeria’s former head of state is married to Ammuna’s daughter. You may also not be aware, but it is true that Umaru Mutallab, an accomplished banker is married to the elder sister of Mouftah Baba-Ahmed, former chairman of NAL Bank and director of NEPA, who in turn is married to the daughter of Mutallab from his other wife.

Leadership Confidential can also authoritatively inform you that former military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, his former Director of Military Intelligence (DMI), Brigadier-General Halilu Akilu, and Dr. Abdulsalam Mustapha, proprietor of Mustapha Clinics in Minna, Niger State are married to siblings.

From across the Niger, the first wife of Michael Ibru, (patriarch of the Ibru dynasty), Muriel, had a son, Nnaemeka, for Nigeria’s first president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. She was then the secretary of African Continental Bank (ACB), which Zik founded in the 1955. Nnaemeka, through the Ibru connection (maternal) set up Emene Motors Ltd, which is an offshoot of Rutam Motors, owned by the Ibrus.

Are you aware that Mohammed Ibrahim, former director—general of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Dr. Mahmud Tukur, a one-time vice chancellor of Bayero University, Kano and Minister of Commerce during General Muhammadu Buhari’s administration; and Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar (Mairago), Executive Secretary of Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) are married to the sisters of Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, former military governor of Kaduna State? Equally, the other wife of Dr. Mahmud Tukur is the elder sister of Nuhu Ribadu, chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Mairago's other wife is the daughter of the late Hamza Zayyad, chairman of the Technical Committee on Privatisation and Commercialisation (TCPC). Dr. Mahmud Tukur’s daughter is married to her cousin, the son of Bamanga Tukur, Awwal.

The daughter of Senator Isaiah Balat is married to the son of AVM Ishaya Shekari, former military administrator of old Kano State. Likewise, do you know that the wives of General Domkat Bali, Nigeria’s former defence minister and Solomon Daushep Lar, former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are sisters? Senator Aliyu Zego Aziz (Wazirin Jaba) and Air Commodore David Jonah Jang, former military governor of defunct Gongola State are also married to sisters.

Unknown to many also, is the fact that the wives of Mamman Daura, chairman of Kaduna Furniture and Carpets Company (KFCC), Abubakar Alhaji, former minister of finance and current Sardaunan Sokoto, General Aliyu Mohammed, National Security Adviser (NSA) and Munnir Ja’afaru, former director—general of Nigerian Maritime Authority (NMA) are the daughters of Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki.

Examples of marriages that cross the ethnic barrier include that of Ebitu Ukiwe, former number two to General Ibrahim Babangida, who married Amina, the daughter of Ahmed Talib, foremost Northern Nigerian leader and General Mamman Remawa’s daughter, Fati, is married to the son of Ambassador Tunji Olagunju, Nigeria’s ambassador to South Africa.

Leadership Confidential can also affirm that, the son of consummate politician, the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Murtala, is married to the daughter of Dr. Sadiq Wali, physician to five past Nigerian leaders. It is also true that General John Temlong and General Jerry Useni, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, are in—laws.

It is also authoritative that one-time General Officer Commanding (GOC), General Joshua Dogonyaro married the daughter of elder statesman Ali Monguno, Fatima, and they have five children. Also, the late General Joe Garba, former Nigeria’s External Affairs Minister was married to the sister of one—time Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, with whom they sired a daughter, Fatima, who got married to Omar Ado Ibrahim’s son. Ibrahim is the Attah of Ibirra.

Former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Murtala Nyako is married to Justice Binta, who is General Remawa’s very close niece. Engineer Nura Khalil, ANPP Katsina State gubernatorial candidate in the 2003 elections, Waziri Mohammed, chairman Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) and Ladan Lema Jibrilu are married to the daughters of wealthy Dantata family of Kano.

Edo State born Christopher Abebe, former chairman/CEO of United African Company (UAC) is the father of Stella, wife of President Olusegun Obasanjo, while the Lamido of Adamawa, Dr. Aliyu Mustapha, sired one of the four wives of Vice President Atiku Abubakar. General Buba Marwa’s first wife, Zainab, with whom he has all his grown up children (all lawyers), is the elder sister of Phil Agbassi, currently Vice President Atiku’s special assistant, who was married to Sonia. Chiikwuemeka Chikelu’s elder sister. Chikelu is the current Nigerian minister of information.

Chikelu himself is married to the daughter of Adamawa State born General Anthony Hananiya, Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).
Former Minister for Special Duties, Yomi Edu, is married to the daughter of Alfa Wali of Kano State, one-time Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence.

Governor Ibrahim Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State is married to the daughters of Dr. Awwal Ibrahim, Emir of Suleja and the late Mukhtari Bello, former managing director of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC). Likewise, businessman, Lawal Idris is married to the daughter of Justice Mamman Nasir.

Unknown to many also is the fact that Umaru Shinkafi, Marafan Sokoto, former head of the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO); Shehu Malami, one-time Nigeria’s ambassador to South Africa and Mamman Bashar, Emir of Daura are in—laws to the late Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello.

Mohammed Haruna, and the late Kere Ahmed, director of the NTA are in-laws, while the son of the late Mahmoud Attah, Bello, is married to the daughter of General T.Y. Danjuma, Gloria The daughter of one-time executive governor of Kano State, Dr. Mohammed Abubakar Rimi is married to the son of businessman, Isyaku Rabiu.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lessons Learned In Abuja

So it seems like Abuja is fast replacing Kaduna as my second home. In the last 12 months I've spent more time in Abuja while out of town than in any other city in Nigeria. However, unlike the case with Kaduna, I am finding it a little more difficult to fit into the everyday social lifestyle of the city. Even though, my personality is more inclined towards being an introvert, it still shocks me how individualistic people's lives are in Abuja. And from my little observation, it seems to be hurting most of them even if they are yet to realize that.

Good Children, Bad Adults
The kids seem to be doing better than the adults. For example, I may be standing outside the house within the estate where I stay, a little boy or girl may be passing by and will turn in my direction, smile and say "Good evening sir" and I always gladly reply them "Good evening, how are you?". In contrast, you'll see an adult who by all indications grew up in a village and should understand the social norms of any African community approaching, and even more absurd is the fact that he/she is walking a dog. He will pass so close to you at an uncomfortable proximity automatically assuming you are Ok with his dog being this close to you. So in trying to cut the awkwardness, you say "Hello." He then turns, look you straight in the eyes and then turn again, looking straight down the road and passing away without saying anything.
I was initially confused because I thought it was some form of arrogance. My confusion however is why would working class people living in a middle class neighborhood be this arrogant? I later found the answer, not in the neighborhood but on the streets.

 Traffic Jam Lesson
Traffic jams are now becoming a regular feature on most roads in Abuja especially in the evenings after workers have closed for the day. I came to observe, that most of the traffic jams I find myself are caused by someones inpatient and arrogant actions. The interesting thing however is nobody among the drivers will try to do something meaningful to unjam the traffic flow. The best people do is throw insults around. So one day in such a situation, I saw an elderly man got out of his car and started to direct the traffic, so I also got out of my car and helped him. In less than two minutes, traffic started flowing smoothly again. It was then that it occurred to me, that all that arrogance I have been experiencing from people in the city was actually not arrogance. It was an attempt to hide a feeling of helplessness and insecurity. Once somebody volunteered to step forward and take leadership in a difficult situation, the people willingly follow him.

Road Accident Lesson
In order, to compensate for my less than healthy eating habit while away from Maiduguri, I started some cardio exercise by taking long walks every evening. In one of such walks, an accident between a car and a Keke Napep occurred right in front of me. No life was lost but people were very injured and were lying helplessly on the road. This happened in front of a popular shopping mall but to my surprise nobody was doing anything to help them. You only see people holding their heads and saying things like "La ila!" or "Jesus!". This was really a shocker to me, if the same were to occur in Maiduguri, you would have seen people volunteering to help the victims by at least moving them away from the road. So I decided to take an action like the elderly man in the traffic jam. I stopped a man who is trying to maneuver his way around the victims helplessly lying on the road. I knocked on his window to wind down, but he only angrily looked at me without doing anything. I moved to the passengers side where his wife is, gestured to her to wind down the glass which she did. Before I could say anything he yelled "What!?" visibly pissed off by my action, I replied "When you reach the next junction, you'll see some police officers there, tell them about the accident here". To my surprise, he replied "Ok, I'll do that" and drove on. Then it occurred to me again, that it's really not arrogance that the man was exhibiting but a feeling of insecurity covered in a thin veil of arrogance. He was afraid of taking any action, but the fact that I took the risk of stepping forward and telling him what to do, he was Ok with doing something about the accident.

The Case Of The Missing Manhole Covers
I also observed during my many long walks the missing manholes covers in Abuja. This I have heard many people complain about. However, what came to my mind is not just the criminal act of stealing the covers. It may indicate that there is an informal metal foundry business in or around Abuja and the manhole covers may just be the raw materials for that industry. I wish I could investigate further to see how right or wrong my assumption is. However, a simple solution to the manhole cover problem is for the government to replace the metal cast covers with concrete cast ones. That will not only be cheaper and easier to produce, but it will be of little or no value to the thieves.

I guess, Abuja being a microcosm of Nigeria will be a wonderful place for researching and finding solutions to some of the problems common to every section of the country. Some of these solutions can be as simple as casting manhole covers from concrete instead of iron.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Things We Will Do After Our Careers Disappear

I recently read Tope Fasua's latest book titled "Things To Do Before Career Disappears". The book called the readers' attention to the fast paced change in technology and how it affects everything we do and how ultimately it will take many of us out of our current jobs. It also advised that individuals now need to be multi talented and be able to adapt fast or else they become dinosaurs.
As a software developer, I know I am one of the people that push changes that automate things that normally would require manual labor, so it got me thinking into how the world would look like when the innovations mentioned in the book become part of our everyday lives. The following are some scenarios I imagine when technology becomes even more pervasive in our daily lives.

Old Methods Turn To Art Or Novelty Instead Of Dying

First of all, though I know new technology almost always brings about some kind of disruption, it doesn't always kill previous technology.  For example, in the past people go to theaters for entertainment then the cinemas came into being and then the television. The cinema and the television didn't kill the theater but turned it into some kind of art. Broadway still thrives despite Hollywood and the TV industry but it's seen more as some kind of novelty than everyday cheap entertainment. And if we compare the ticket price of a movie in a cinema and that of a play in a theater we will find that the play costs much higher. This is because people are paying for the art and not just everyday utility.

The same goes for the cellular and fixed line telephones. Though in much of Africa we have little or no fixed lines compared to the millions of cellular lines, it's largely because fixed lines are yet to gain a good spread when the cellular technology emerged. So Africa leapfrogged and largely skipped the fixed line era. The western world in comparison still makes extensive use of fixed lines especially in offices and other business environments. This despite the super smart multi function cellular phones.

Also, though it has been predicted that the smart phones will eventually replace the PC, serious work is still being done on laptop and desktop computers. Most of the information being consumed on smart mobile devices are still created and developed on laptops and desktop computers.

3D printing. This both excites and scares me. If people can print real objects from design just like they can print on paper from an electronic document then the disruption will be beyond our imagination. But then, let's look into the recent past to try to predict the future. Printing used to be exclusively the preserve of the printing press, then the desktop printer was invented. Now we have desktop printers in our homes but that did not render the printing press extinct. It only cut down the printing industry to size. In the near future, we may have 3D printers in our homes and offices but it will not take manufacturers out of business. Because even if one has a 3D printer he/she must be very good with Computer Aided Design and must be a critical thinker in order to print anything useful enough to disrupt the manufacturing industry. I think 3D printing will only lower the bar for entering the manufacturing business by making it very cheap to make prototypes. But regular manufacturing will still be needed for mass production just like printing presses are needed for large scale printing today.

A new industry of manufacturing, repairing and maintaining 3D printers may also emerge creating opportunities for those who prepare themselves for the future. Another scenario might be as follows. With the lower entry bar into manufacturing, big corporations may focus only on innovation and then be outsourcing their manufacturing job to smaller businesses that may be using high efficient 3D printers.

Genetically Modified Food. GM Food may end up disrupting the last resort of poor people  and countries for survival; Agriculture. As the book said, there are now experiments to grow different fruits like mango, orange and apple all in one tree. GM food will take the most innovative companies and countries far ahead in food production. But I think that the spread of GM food will make organic unaltered food a highly sought after commodity which may end up playing to the advantage of the small scale organic food grower. The same way a shoe or a bag made from natural leather is more expensive and sought after than one made from synthetic material, organic food will be more expensive and sought after than GM food. And when the poor cannot afford organic food, they may go full cycle back to subsistence agriculture to grow what they will eat. This may hit back on the patent holding GM food growers.

Tools Don't Make People Creative, They Only Aid Creative People.

In general when one looks at the trend of technological innovation we discover that usually it makes it easier to access the tools that were previously exclusive to only a few producers of goods and services. Things like the 3D printer, the smart phone, the DSLR camera are simply tools that enable us accomplish tasks that were previously only available to large organizations. But access to tools doesn't automatically translate to creativity just like access to pen and paper doesn't automatically turns one into a great writer. But absence of a pen and paper will leave many talented potential writers undiscovered. So in the future it is the people that learn to creatively use the tools available to them that will float to the top of the food chain.

When We Pay For Services, We Are Either Paying For Our Time Or Ignorance

Another thing to note is that even if you make the tools available most people will prefer not to use them but just hire someone else, either because they lack the skills or the time to do it. This is the reason we hire a carpenter for minor repairs even though we may have a hammer, saw and nails in our homes. The same reason we go to restaurants to eat food we can prepare ourselves and pay even higher than what it would cost us to prepare it at home.

Bottom line, most humans don't want to learn how to fish. They just want the fish. Many will also prefer not to fish even if they have the tools and skills because they don't have the time. The future will be ruled by the few that go out of their way to learn to fish and actually go out to fish.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Drupal Translation Management

I recently found myself using the translation management module of Drupal. Unfortunately the module raises a few warnings like the following.

Warning: Parameter 1 to icl_content_node_prepare() expected to be a reference, value given in module_invoke_all()

Notice: Undefined index: method in drupal_prepare_form()

After some googling I was able to figure out where the problems are and even found some patches. After modifying the files concerned I thought my modified copy may save somebody some time and effort. So if you are using the translation management module with Drupal 7 and getting warnings like the ones above, you can download my modified version of the module below

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Balkanization Of Nigeria, What We Say And What We Do

Often you hear Nigerians saying that Nigeria as a country is nothing but a contraption created by the British and so it cannot work. Such statements come from people from every section of Nigeria who think that the "other guy" or the other ethnic group or region is responsible for their woes. Personally I think that is nothing but playing the ostrich. Before we blame that region or that ethnic group for our problems we need to first check to see if our local leaders from our own regions are doing a good job. But that is not the meat of this post. What I want to put forward here is a theory I learned regarding software development and marketing. The theory tells the software entrepreneur that what customers say they want isn't necessarily what they really want. The job of the entrepreneur is to find out what his target customers really want and surprise them with it.

So when some Nigerians say "Break up this country !", is that what they really want? I think not. There are many reasons for this conclusion but let's consider a few of them

First, the same Nigerians regularly insulting the country and calling it an artificial creation (is there a country that is a natural creation?) are the first Nigerians that flare up when a foreigner makes a rude statement about the country. Sometimes even if it is an honest and constructive criticism. Remember the outrage when late Muammar Ghaddafi called for the balkanization of Nigeria? Or the reaction to the current position of some international organizations that the Nigerian military are not fit to lead operations in Northern Mali? There is also a recent statement by Zimbabwe telling it's citizens not to come to Nigeria.

And then there is Football. Yes football. I noticed that when the Nigerian national team scores, all Nigerian celebrate whether it is Nwanko Kanu from Arochuckwu or Celestine Babayaro from Kaduna that scores. In fact we refer to the team as "we".

Quite a number of Igbos are still agitating for the breaking off of the South-Eastern part of the country to form the Republic of Biafra. I will not argue for or against that idea here but I will consider the actions of our Igbo brothers and not their words. I think judging by their actions, the Igbos believe in Nigeria more than any other ethnic group. Well, the Igbos are the quickest to buy land and properties in any area they settle. I recently learned that about 70% of all the land in Abuja is owned by Igbos. They are also found in every nook and cranny of this country doing business. That doesn't look like the action of people trying to secede.

And despite the efforts by some sections of both the local and the international media to paint the Boko Haram crisis in the North as a case of Northerners versus Southerners or Muslims versus Christians, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Igbo leader in Maiduguri urging for the amendment of the constitution to address the issue of indigenes and settlers. He argued that, many of his people have spent more than 30 years in Maiduguri and consider Maiduguri home and thus they shouldn't be regarded as settlers. I quite agree with him.

There are also Northerners that you hear saying that we should get rid of the South and bring back the groundnut pyramids. I still don't understand the logic behind that statement. Is any Southerner stopping Northerners from going back to the farm? Anyway I think the actions of those people speak louder and contrary to their words. Just like the Igbos, the Hausas who are the largest ethnic group in the North are found in every corner of the country usually engaged in petty trade. Do these pro-Balkanization Northerners think their ethnic brothers in South want to come back to the North? I believe anywhere in Nigeria should be home to any Nigerian. What these ignorant Northerners don't know is history. Before the consolidation of the Sokoto caliphate, the Hausa city states in that area often engage in wars between themselves. Hausas versus Hausas. Though they see it as something like Kano versus Zaria or Katsina versus Kano and so on. This alone tears the argument of finding Nirvana when we get rid of the other ethnic groups. As for the North-East, I believe that region whether it's the parts of the ancient Kanem-Bornu empire or the ancient Fombina has more ethnic groups than any other section of Nigeria. There is a local government in Borno state that has more than 40 different ethnic groups alone. Do we break that local government down to 40 countries?

When one considers points like the ones above you then wonder, why are some people still calling for the break up of Nigeria? Easy. Intellectual laziness. Instead of us spending time to discover and analyse our real problems, we take the lazy man's way out. We take to blaming the person that looks different from us or speaks a different language from ours for all the problems of the country.

I think by their actions, majority of Nigerians love Nigeria.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

No Apologies For Being Nigerian

I always say that most of the problems of Nigeria is manifested in our so-called educated people. They are the ones that worry so much about how the world think of us and less about how we really improve at home.The so-called illiterate rural dwellers who make the bulk of our population worry about real problems like getting fertilizer for their farms or getting a clinic close to their village. I've had this feeling for some time but didn't have the right words to articulate it in writing. So I am now reading Tope Fasua's book titled CRUSHED and just came across a chapter where he expressed just that feeling better than I can ever imagine to. He complained about the lack of deep analysis of the corruption problem in Nigeria by our intelligentsia and how we are unable to trace the root causes of the problem. We often prefer to ignore the powerful countries' roles in promoting corruption in Nigeria and Africa. We ignore things like Swiss coded accounts that facilitate the looting of Africa's money to Europe by corrupt leaders. He hit the nail on the head when he sited how a common foreign news anchor was bombarding Nigeria's then vice president Dr Goodluck Jonathan for all the corruption going on in Nigeria. And worse of all, the position of most people was like "Oh we are sorry we are corrupt". My point? I am tired of that attitude and have stopped accepting that holier than thou stance from any foreigner just because I am Nigerian.
So some days ago I tried to buy a hosting service from a U.S.A based company, all the process went smoothly until I tried to make the final payment. Their system suddenly blocked me out because my address is in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Instead of walking away from the transaction, I submitted a support ticket to them specifically telling them that I am Nigerian and that I understand that I cannot pay for their services because of that. Instead of apologizing for my being Nigerian, I requested that they delete my account since they will not do business with me. That I will go and find a hosting company that is ready to do business with me. Less than ten minutes I received a reply from them with an apology and an explanation that they have manually generated an invoice for me to make the payment.
My friend and co-owner of our startup software company is an ardent follower of a certain blog that revolves around a version control system. When the blog author gave out free copies of his book, people need to fill out a form on the blog site to show their interest. The form however has no provision for Nigerian addresses and doesn't allow alternate means of supplying such addresses. So my friend emailed the author and told him that he shouldn't ignore Nigeria because he has readers there. I do not know how the conversation continued but the author went out of his way to send him a copy of the book all the way to Maiduguri.
So I imagined if every Nigerian will try that method instead of getting a fake U.S address, may be with a few transactions we can change that attitude towards us. I think the world is like a playground. People will bully you when they think you are weak and have no options. I am not saying that we should be proud of Yahoo boys but I think I should not be held responsible for what Yahoo boys do. Afterall, no country ever decided not to buy Nigerian crude oil because of corruption. The psychological bullying will only stop when the victim stand up to the bully by proving his worth.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Compile To Web

One of the problems I have always had with web development is the looseness of the different technologies used to deliver a good result to your end user. For any body that has developed software using compiled languages like C/C++, Java and C# combining things like HTML, PHP and Javascript in the same source files feels so dirty and inelegant. Though there are various methods of seperating the different layers of web applications, I personally feel they are still not as efficient as what you get in non-web programming.
Luckily, my sentiment seem to be shared by the majority in the software development world and as expected better methods of developing web applications are emerging. Most of these solutions allow you to develop using compiled languages but your source code is translated into web languages like HTML and Javascript instead of the expected binary code that is generated by those languages. Here are three of such technologies I find most interesting.

Google Web Toolkit : This is developed by Google and basically let you develop your program using Java but generates Javascript application as the output. Just like most Google tools, Google Web Toolkit is free of charge.

VisualWebGui : This is an open-source tool but also seems to have a commercial version. It integrates with Microsoft Visual Studio and let's you convert a .NET programs to a web application.

JSIL : This is an open-source tool in development. It takes code in native .NET executable format (CIL) and converts it Javascript ready to run in a browser.

There may be others that I am yet to discover but this trend is good news for people like me that want to get desktop development experience in web development.