TEX’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND

I have just returned to Nigeria after the longest holiday of my life (not counting the ASUU-induced ones). Three weeks of relaxation and de-stressing in two #ThisIsACountry countries. No generators to fuel or put on, sanity on the roads, round-the-clock electricity, no one worried that the witches in his mother’s village were jinxing him. It was truly a pleasant time away. I’m back now and, in addition to the needing to provide my own electricity, the fuel queues and police checkpoints are back. Anyway, here are some stories from my summer wonderland.

 

Passport Renewals

My Texinas are dual-nationals and one of them needed to have her Wonderland passport renewed while we were away. I’d filled the application form online before we got there and chose the one-day express walk-in renewal service for a date two days or so after our arrival. All the Wonderland folks required for the renewal were her old passport and birth-certificate. We spent less than 10 minutes with the document-checker and less than 30 overall including going through security and getting a ticket number. “Come back at 5 for the passport”, we were told. I kept waiting for her to ask me for her “something for the weekend” but she didn’t. Got back at 5.30, the passport was ready. Simples.

 

At the Ikoyi passport office, even after you’ve paid the tout for “express” service, you still have to endure a 1-hour inter-religious prayer session with the 300 or so other applicants under the waiting canopy. “These passports you are collecting today, the Lord will never allow foreign embassies to stamp refusals or rejections on them.” “AMEEEEEN”, the people chorus back…

 

Then someone yells out applicants names from a pile of labelled files stacked on the table. Every applicant called must then collect his file from the yeller and personally take it into the processing room. In the processing room, someone checks the documents in the file and signs something which you need to quickly dash out to photocopy, then somebody shows you your data on the screen for your approval, warning you that mistakes cannot be corrected after this point. Then another person takes your picture. Long story short, four hours and two weeks after you arrive, your passport should be ready. If you didn’t pay a tout though, I bet you’re still under that waiting canopy, earnestly expecting the yelling immigration guy to call out your name.

 

The Lord’s Army

Still on the Texinas, I’m a firm believer in the importance of children growing up listening to wholesome music. This is mostly because I did and, every once in a while, a nice melody from primary school bursts into my consciousness and I have a nice bask in the nostalgic waterfall. I therefore have loads of music from CBBs and Disney and this is what we listen to in the car on family outings. None of all that nanananinanaininono stuff. I decided to add nice children’s Christian music to the mix in Wonderland and got a CD named ‘Action Bible Songs’. One of the songs on this album is ‘The Lord’s Army’, which most of us learned at Sunday School, way back. You know, “…for I am in the Lord’s Army. Yessir!!” yes, that one.

 

Now here’s a teaser for you. Do you know the actual words of the verse? Chances are, like me, you’ve been singing “I will never whoomp on the enemy, grunt on the nanini, ride on the fillary…” No, you’re not like me? Well, thanks to this CD, I now know that the real words are –

                I may never march in the infantry/Ride in the cavalry/Shoot the artillery/I may never zoom o’er the enemy/But I am in the Lord’s Army

 

The sound of all those pennies dropping. You’re welcome.

 

 

Dinner with the Cabal

I informed His Royal Overlordness King Feyi XVIII (@doubleeph) that I would be in his neck of the Wonderland Woods and he very graciously invited me for an evening of Roast Pheasant and Arcanian Cheese with Akin Oyebode (@AO1379), Dapo Adesanya (@DapoAdesanya) and [Uncle] Akin Akintayo (@forakin).

 

Okay, so it wasn’t really pheasant and cheese but it was an extremely pleasant Wonderland evening at a restaurant owned by one of the truly great Nigerian musicians of yore. Now, I have the habit of imagining what people I’ve never met sound like, from their appearance in pictures. @AO1379 is a regular contributor on ynaija and the voice I’d made up for him in my head would’ve made Barry White jealous. He wasn’t that baritone but he is a great ‘conversator’. Plus, contrary to what I think he’s said before on the twitter, he paid for non-1759 drinks, so hearty cheers to him.

 

You may have noticed that I referred to @forakin as ‘Uncle’. This is because in the middle of one of his stories (in his ever so posh manner) he mentioned the year in which he finished secondary school. The rest of us at the table did double-takes, remembering how old (or more correctly, young) we were at the time.

 

A nice evening of great conversation and made in Wonderland Nigerian food.

 

LCC Bollocks

When LCC announced the arrival of electronic tags for users of their toll road, I promptly took the papers of mine and Mrs Tex’s cars to register for the e-Tag. Unfortunately for all concerned, Mrs Tex’s car was still registered in her maiden name (“You need to bring the marriage certificate…”) and mine was still registered in the name of the leasing company (“…and a letter from this company on the papers.”).

“But it’s my bank account that I would be linking the tags to.” I protest.

“No o, Oga. It haff serious legal implication.”

“Really? Someone will sue LCC for letting me pay for e-Tag on their car?”[raised eyebrow]

“Hehe. Oga, it seems like you don’t understand what I’m saying. It haff legal [read “legggal”] implication.”

 

Of course, I wasn’t going to bring a marriage certificate to get a sodding e-Tag and that was that.

 

In Wonderland, in the Baltimore-Washington DC axis, you will find 2 short parallel Velcro stickers on most people’s car windshields. Johnny Just Come (Johnny Come Lately, in proper English) initially prevented me from asking what they were for but I found out soon enough. On this same commuting axis, you see, are a couple of toll roads. The LCC in Wonderland also have e-Tag equivalents called EZ Passes. The Velcro stickers are how you affix your EZ Pass onto your windshield to pay tolls. Drivers transfer EZ Passes between vehicles; that being the reason why in many cars you’d see the bare Velcro stickers but no EZ Pass. No legggal issues whatsoever in a #ThisIsACountry country.

 

Returning From Wonderland

As a great sage recently informed us, everything that has a beginning must have an ending. On this, he was right and I eventually found myself in the MMIA  – the land of “What do you have for us?” Typically at MMIA, you’re on the immigration queue for about 30 minutes and spend the next hour and a half gathering your luggage (unless you flew First or Business Class). If, as frequently happens, the baggage carousel breaks down and luggage has to be transferred to another carousel your wait could be much longer.

 

However, on the day I returned from Wonderland, Immigration fast-tracked us on the queue because of the Texinas, so our passports were stamped roughly 10 minutes after disembarking from the plane. While waiting for the usual “so, oga lawyer, what did you bring for us?” from the immigration fellas, I spied a carousel churning out luggage. I didn’t think, in a million years, it could be for our flight but was I glad to be wrong. Another 30 minutes and all our luggage had been collected. Now for the customs people.

 

I was bracing myself for “What’s in the boxes? Open one, let’s see. Okay don’t open, just find something for us and you can go.” But the lady just pointed out to us that exits had changed because of ongoing renovation and that we were to head in a different direction. Hang on, I thought, isn’t this a #ThisIsNotACountry HQ? Right on cue, probably just to make sure I wasn’t permanently disorientated, PHCN struck and there was a power cut, accompanied by that usual groan that people make when that happens. The lights soon came back on and, as I left the terminal, I heard a different customs officer remark to an expatriate grabbing the last of his baggage, “Welcome to Nigeria.”

 

Indeed, I thought.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Of Bullies and The Fickle

In our country, there is a customary acclamation that follows the writings of some people, regardless of the depth (or otherwise) of their summations. Such writers are usually either people who have paid their dues in theie profession (or the public eye) and whose reputation therefore precedes their publications; or they are people who generally produce populist material (populism, of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing but that’s probably a discussion for another day). I think that in Chief Dele Momodu, we may have a combination of both. The good Chief’s most recent piece on the “bully” that is the Central Bank Governor, in my opinion, fully supports my belief.

The article starts with the propositions that Mallam Sanusi is a poor student of history and that Nigerians are fickle (these may very well be so, but that is not my grouse with his piece). He proceeds to recount Nigeria’s political upheaval from Shehu Shagari to the second incarnation of the Obasanjo presidency, to illustrate how today’s political darling is tomorrow’s scorned lover. Thereafter, the article places Mallam Sanusi firmly in its cross-hairs and fires salvo after salvo at Sanusi’s character, with absolutely no effort made at any analysis of the policies being decried.

According to Chief Momodu, Sanusi is all of the following – lord of a fiefdom, a reckless spender [on outlandish projects], academically brilliant but unbridedly radical, someone who does things in the extreme and lacks the tolerance to persuade others, a loose canon, a sword of Damocles against his foes, vainglorious, rabblerousing, sharp-tongued, attention-seeking, a bully. Of course, in the traditional way that one public figure criticising another usually does, he pays him a (nearly paradoxical) compliment – Sanusi is also princely and charming. Awwww.

We are then treated to an encyclopaedia’s definition of “bullying”, which as most people now know, is a faux pas in academic documents as well as those of the rather serious nature that public commentary is. It is insightful too to read that while Sanusi “[took] on and sacked otherwise brilliant bankers” (emphasis on ‘otherwise’ mine), Chief Momodu also refers to him as “… a Sanitory Inspector in the cesspool of banking mess.” (So, which is it?) Finally, the article ends with Chief Momodu’s opinion on why the N5,000 note palaver has reached its current position, which is the issue that precipitated the article.

I believe that a man who would be president needs to make a more strenuous effort at public/economic commentary. We can surmise from the good Chief’s summation that he disagreed with Sanusi on the N5,000 note. However, because all we see is a list of what he perceives as Sanusi’s character defects, we can only conclude that Momodu disagrees with the N5,000 note because of Sanusi’s character; because Sanusi is an unbridled radical (or attention-seeking, or rabblerousing, or any of the other choice words he used).

There is also the suggestion that that Sanusi did not gauge the mood of Nigeria before embarking on his “N5,000 note misadventure”. For me, this is the most worrying line in the article. Apart from side-stepping the statutory corporate governance structure of the Central Bank (and making this a wholly Sanusi issue), I disagree that a regulator must only use its statutory power in line with the public mood. Think of the stagnation and anti-development this would cause in immigration or taxation or enforcement of health and safety standards, for example. Being a good leader sometimes requires making the unpopular choice.

 

The truth is that, by law, the CBN has a Board of Directors “responsible for the policy and general administration of the affairs and business of the Bank.” The Board comprises the Governor (who doubles as its chairman), four Deputy Governors, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and five directors. The five directors are to be appointed by the President of Nigeria and each of them is required to be “a person of recognized standing in financial or banking affairs”.

In matters of the country’s currency, the CBN Act states that “Currency notes and coins issued by the Bank shall be in such denominations of the naira or fractions thereof as shall be approved by the President on the recommendation of the Board.” This suggests that before the announcement of the dates for the introduction of the new currency was made, the Board must have recommended it to the President and President Jonathan must have approved it. I am therefore surprised at the direction in which populism has steered discussion on this policy.

Am I suggesting that every government policy should be accepted? Of course not. Do I think the introduction of the N5,000 note would have been good for Nigeria? I am not an expert in economics and my personal feelings are irrelevant, although I cannot help but notice the deafening silence and lack of suggested alternatives to the CBN’s clear and present cash handling and cash management issues and costs.

When people who do not know better ask dodgy questions such as “how do you reconcile the cashless/cashlite CBN policy with the N5,000 note?” I say, leave them, for they do not know any better. Educate them, if you will. However, when a figure of Chief Momodu’s stature, history and leanings doesn’t separate the character of the CBN governor from whether or not we have an efficient vibrant central bank today, then more than the plaudits that followed that piece, eyebrows must be raised and questions asked.