The Benevolent Dictator Theory

Idi Amin

Idi Amin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When people gather to discuss the future of Nigeria, the consensus is usually 2-pronged. The first is that the brand of democracy we have now clearly is not working. The second is that we are probably screwed if we don’t address our fundamental deficiencies. The third (yes, I know I said two) is that we need a benevolent dictator to set us right.

The mind that proposes a benevolent dictator has probably considered that  returning to military rule would not be a bad option, given how slowly we have moved since 1999. However, that is not a thought that we are allowed to entertain, as constitutional law jingoists insist on drumming it into our heads that “the worst civilian regime is better than the best military rule”.

I think we can agree that the evidence suggests to the contrary. The world’s oldest democracies are in the middle of economic decline (yes, there is the argument that boom and bust are cyclical) and oligarchies like China and the Sultanates and Emirates of the Middle East are prospering. -Ish. We could even throw a Cuba into the mix. Of course, it doesn’t help the argument that Oligarchies and constitutional monarchies (at least the ones referred to here) are totalitarian and slightly repressive but the economic and public administration metrics seem good.

This benevolent dictator matter though. He will be armed with his singularity of vision and purpose, ensure that his corrupt predecessors are forever prevented from returning to public office (many point to Jerry Rawlings and his purge), and not be impeded by the obstacles of democratic checks and balances in achieving the fullest impartation of his benevolence.

How would we choose him, given that choice already negates the concept of dictatorship? And if we don’t get to choose him, how do we determine the level of his benevolence; that he is in fact not malevolent? We might end up celebrating his ascension to power, like the Ugandans did Idi Amin, before realising that we’ve ended up with, well, an Idi Amin.

Further, philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau who gave us the theory of the separation of powers, identified (rightly, in my opinion) the pervasive, heady effect of having absolute power.  It corrupts absolutely. Not going to point fingers at anyone, relax Mr Mugabe.

Which brings me to the matter of the African dictator. This will probably be racist, in as far as a black man can demonstrate racism towards his own ethnic group, but I am thoroughly convinced that a [black] African benevolent dictator cannot stay so for very long. His culture, his family, his friends, his religious ministers, will ensure that he becomes parochial and nepotistic. And nepotism is a cancer – it cannot remain “little” – it will burgeon beyond the control of our benevolent dictator friend. And once our benevolent friend begins to exercise his absolute discretion and power in the favour of a select few…well, history is replete with examples of what happens next.

I usually argue in these discussions that the theory is a reflection of our laziness. We want the finished product without any fire of refinement whatsoever. We want to sit in our corners, minding our own business, tending to our own onions, while our “elected” representatives extort us, pilfer from the public purse, rob us blind and then, flash, bang, a saviour drops out of the sky and delivers us from all the evil. I don’t think this will happen. We are only to get out of this democracy what we put into it. Apathy will ensure that we are governed by the intellectual dregs of society. Abstinence will ensure that we remain infected by the malaise of corruption and maladministration. Indifference will only lead to continued daylight robbery under our very noses.

My riposte to the Benevolent Dictator Theory is the Democratically Aware and Engaged Citizen Theory. What say you?

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SOS to NASS – We are not Cashcows

One of the reasons that corruption blooms, grows, flourishes and abounds in Nigeria is the acute, ongoing state of uncertainty concerning most laws and regulations. Many regulations are actually no more than directives – the head of an MDA (governmental Ministry, Department or Agency) wakes up and “proclaims” a new law, upturning the status quo and, many times, bearing penal consequences for violation. See here on the danger in “legislating” by directive.

This is the reason why, if you run into trouble with the law and call your lawyer, he cannot come to your rescue with the swagger of an Alan Shore or a Harvey Specter. He’s never 100% sure of your rights – 99% maybe, but never 100%. He will, most likely, begin to bargain with the POLICE/LASTMA/FRSC/VIO/whoever, trying to call their bluff or negotiate the bribe you need to pay to procure your freedom. Corruption thrives and lawyers turn to bluffers – and that is where we are as a country. That, and the fact that every single government intervention becomes a racket, frustrating Nigerians (like here) – the official route is guaranteed, nay, structured not to work.

The current competition between MDAs to carry out “new” registrations and be the first to tout “biometric data capture” as the be-all and end-all to all our security problems (cue laughter) is leading us down a precarious precipice. Knowing our temperament though, enough will never be enough.

The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has ensured that we all cough up a mandatory N60,000 or so, to procure new vehicle license plates and new driver’s licences. The official cost is closer to only half that amount but good luck and patience to anyone going the non-racketeered route. I remember clearly when my dad changed the number on his Renault 9 GTL from OY 727 X to BF 77 BDJ, circa 1989. Olu Agunloye was the head of the FRSC then, and the change was ostensibly an upgrade to a modern, computerised database. Osita Chidoka, citing incomplete records (I monitored one of his interviews on BeatFM Lagos) and the need for an overhaul of the system, set 30th September 2013 as the deadline for the new plates. Government/the civil service screwed up the record-keeping (if he’s actually not merely arranging his golden parachute) but we are carrying the can for them. The same inefficient civil service will administer this new system so, we can expect more laxness and a need for revamping in another 20 years’ time. And, in any event, the “new” plates changed the format from AB123CDE to ABC123DE, and there’s now a splash of green paint in the background. Never mind the fact that, with regard to the “new” driver’s licence, people are being given dates four months into the future (well beyond the implementation/effective date) for their data capture.

Not to be outdone, the Nigerian Police has launched a Biometric Central Motor Registry (BCMR). The BCMR will cost us only N3,500 officially, though experience suggests it will also turn into a racket and we will probably need to pay at least N10,000 and we won’t get the BCMR cards for at least 3 or 4 months after paying. See here for the step-by-step guide to procuring the BCMR.

What are the reasons for the BCMR? According to the Force spokesperson, CSP Frank Mba,

“the decision informing the introduction of the BCMR comes against the backdrop of contemporary security challenges bordering on terrorism, high incidence of car theft, carjacking, kidnapping and other acts of crimes and criminality in our society.”

The newspaper report quotes him further on the features of the BCMR thus –

“BCMR will operate on smart-cards and portable hand-held receiver and is a specially developed technological means of attaching automobile owner’s unique traits and personal data to their vehicles for proper identification and protection purposes. With this forensic analysis, the police claimed that it is designed to match 20 million fingerprints per second which speed depends on the size of registered prints, adding that the system can match 500,000 pictures per minute if you have a registered database of 150 million; the likely match time for facial recognition is about five hours.”

I think this is nothing but a pile of utter bollocks (pardonez-moi). I clearly remember when we had to get ECMRs. We repeatedly pay a government not bound by any data protection law to collect our personal details and hope that they treat it with due care. Not only that, we become criminals if we do not pay the government to correct its own fundamental record-keeping errors. Successive administrations emerge with new schemes to tax us, to permit their staff to extort us on the roads, without giving us assurances of a minimum time-frame before they are allowed to (illegally) tax us again.

Why do you want to tie biometrics to a vehicle? What does the involvement of your vehicle in the commission of a crime actually prove, beyond the fact that it was used in the commission of a crime? People transfer ownership of their cars all the time. Will the BCMR back-end accommodate transfer of ownership? People borrow and drive each others’ cars all the time. Will the BCMR prevent car theft? Unless the driver’s biometrics are required to start the engine, I don’t see how. Tolu Ogunlesi was car-jacked and thrown in the boot of his car while the armed robbers with their armour-piercing artillery used the vehicle in their operations. Would a BCMR have helped the police in identifying the bandits after the operations? Where are the old ECMR records and what verifiable use were they put to? We cannot keep stumping up for unlegislated taxation and here’s what I think we should do. You should be warned though, depending on your location, that it will cost you about N500-N1000 to participate.

Here is a list of the current members of the House of Assembly. Here is a list of the current members of the Senate. Below is a short letter that everyone can copy and paste (or amend as liked) and send to each of the legislators representing their State. Will it work? Unlikely, but I think it beats merely tweeting, blogging or getting worked up about it.

[Date]

[Name of Legislator]

National Assembly Complex

Three Arms Zone, Maitama

Abuja, FCT

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: Frequent Levies by the Nigerian Police and the Federal Road Safety Commission

I am a resident/citizen of the State you represent at the National Assembly and I write to bring to your attention the hardship being caused by the recent changes being made to driving documents by the Nigerian Police and the FRSC.

The processes are convoluted and cost more than the official fee, the documents are not issued in good time and the legislative basis on which the agencies in question seek to exact levies on us is questionable. While the FRSC is indeed empowered by law to regulate vehicle/driver licensing, this should not mean that we can be mandated to procure new vehicle or driver identification at the Corp Commander’s every whim. The Nigerian Police, on the other hand, has even less ostensible power to “register” anyone, much less exact a fee for doing so.

I call upon you, in conjunction with your colleagues, to stand up for the Nigerians you represent and, at the very least, amend existing laws to stipulate the minimum time-frames permissible between regulatory interventions of this nature. Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

[Sender’s Name]

Dubai Diary

Dubai at Night. Taken with my Samsung SIII

Tex has been travelling again. This time, I went to Dubai with a large group of family and friends, to celebrate my sister-in-law’s wedding. I know Segun Adeniyi has railed against destination weddings but, usually, what the couple wants, the couple gets. Here, hopefully for your reading pleasure, are my bits and bobs from the trip.

Curses for Horses

My mum was there to represent the Texano familia, together with my aunt and a few of their friends. It was the first trip any of them would make to Dubai and, two of them being Waffi Girls, I was not surprised at their exclamations as we walked into the airport terminal.

Shuo!?! Na de same oil wen we get na hin dese people take build airport?”

“Ewooo!!! See as e big, fine!”

“God must punish all our leaders! Everybody wen don rule us before!!”

It didn’t get better after we cleared customs and drove into town, or later during the trip when we gathered for the wedding festivities. I then made the grave error of trying to play devil’s advocate, or Sanusi’s per-capita-oilwealth-gambit (he was on the flight to Dubai, coincidentally). “Well, there’s more of us in Nigeria, than in the emirates, and…”

Go joo! Ogbokodo lawyer.  Have they even sincerely tried to build anything?”

Another guest at the wedding concluded that the difference was leaders with(out) vision; no idea of anything really worth achieving or of leaving their office better than they met it. I think I agree.

The Heights are the Window to the Soul

I’ve heard many seasoned business travellers describe Dubai as “a city without a soul”. I have no idea what this actually means but I suppose it’s because of the contrived, rapid development. There’s very little history by way of organic growth and it’s mostly huge skyscrapers punctuating what used to be a blank desert canvas. Perhaps the Emiratis themselves, as a people, are not the most friendly, and immigrants making up the majority of the workforce also has something to do with this worldview.

In contrast, these travellers love Nigeria, with its crinkum-crankum, yanpanyanrin, jagajaga, and all the other things we Nigerians love to complain about. Our bad roads, our lack of stable or regular electricity, our acute leadership deficit, our endemic corruption, our suya, the way we drink and drive – the things that make Nigeria what it is.

I say SOD THAT!!! If it was within my power, I would gladly sell Nigeria’s soul to the devil, if it would make us as soulless yet as efficient as the UAE. My first visit to Dubai was in 2006 and I know how much has changed infrastructurally since then. I’ve lived in Nigeria all my life and, well…to hell with the soul.

Compare the Comperes

I made my debut as a wedding reception compere and I think, with the experience, I have new-found respect for those who make a living keeping the tempo upbeat at wedding receptions. I suspect it was my sister-in-law’s way of keeping the reception nice, intimate and family-ish, asking me to compere with her Uncle. It was by no means a disaster but we didn’t really get the audience to engage with us, at least not at first.

Things came to a head when, in order to fill the dead air caused by the bestman and the DJ searching for the music for the former’s speech, I was forced to resort to a collection of sayings and quotes on marriage. You know, of the “By all means marry. If you find a good wife you’ll be happy, if not you’ll be a philosopher” variety.

I unleashed the first one. Crickets. Except for my darling Mrs Tex who laughed. I unleashed the second and still, dead air, apart from a few sarcastic guffaws.

Deliverance was sent to me from on high through my Texinas, who’d been running around nearby and demanded to have a go on the “micra phone”. I was struggling, so I readily agreed, placing the mic under the 4-year old’s mouth.

“Hello Everyone…”

“HELLOOOOOO!!!” I couldn’t believe it – the crowd responded.

“Ehm…if you want to have a baby, first of all you need to get married.”

Raucous Laughter.

Then it was the 6-year old’s turn.

“Hello Everyone…”

“HELLOOOOOOO!!!”

“My name is [Texina One] and I’m very excited!”

“AWWW…. WE’RE EXCITED TOO!” More laughter.

“Shall I continue with my boring jokes?”, I asked.

“NOOOOOO!!!!” But now there was laughter.

Luckily for me, the bestman was ready.

The Middle-Eastern World Cup 

On the last morning of the trip, I had to take a walk to a pharmacy to get some meds. It was 10am and, while I had no idea of the temperature at the time, I swear I was close to fainting, after an extremely leisurely 10-minute walk. I’ve read about air-conditioned training centres and match venues as we prepare for Qatar 2022 but unless, they’re planning to air-condition the entire country for the duration of the tournament, I have to ask, WHAT THE [CENSORED] WERE THEY THINKING!!??

All in One Place: Limericks of August

They gathered from far for Aliko

Days after the rip from Atiku

To honour the man

Their oil masterplan

No plans of their own, brains like Tico

 

Le Prof has finally spent

On class, and not just on rent

From Madrid a thrill

They gave us Özil

To thrive, from whence Gareth went.

 

Did you see the fantasy sale

That’s making all football heads wail

The priciest man

In Galactico land

Is Gareth (not Christian) Bale

 

He’s fully recovered they say

In wholly opprobrious way

But if he returned

To the cockpit he burned

I bet none of those guys would stay

 

There once was a team warchest

S’posed to make squad the best

But something is wrong

For all summer long

The cheque-book’s been under arrest

 

The House has declared him unfit

His sackings not likely legit

The vultures unyielding

His signature wielding

The absurdity makes one spit.

 

Danbaba’s case is a weird one

His Deputy must be a feared one

For stupidest prank

His handlers we thank

As Suntai’s becoming a jeered one

 

ASUU went on strike, now been struck

In Delta, Kidnappers amok

One score Dons abducted

A ransom expected

Kidnappers are in for a shock.

 

Once Martin LK had a dream

That coffee’d be equal to cream

A half century past

Now free, free at last

The coffee and cream are a team.

 

There once was a toll concession

Made Lekki an exception

Now down has been struck

Is Gidi in luck

Or the buyout’ll buy out an election?

 

Assad is the bossman in Syria

Now ravaged by war & hysteria

Provoking the West

To clean up the mess

But ‘Raq,’Ghanistan still infernia

 

There once was a coach named Wenger

Been on an 8yr-long bender

Determined that he

Miraculously

Would win without being a spender

 

Mikey & Catherine have split

It doesn’t surprise me one bit

When he said his patch

Was caused be her snatch

I knew before long she would quit

 

The governor that fell from the sky

Expected by many to die

Is back on his feet

Incredible feat

But ready to lead? Pls don’t lie.

 

Suntai though now mute is still writing

Sack letters (less bark and more biting)

But deep down I expect

The thought or prospect

Of being flown by him’s not inviting

 

Like Yardy,Danbaba is conscious

But to ask him to speak is presumptuous

Political dance

In macabre trance

And nobody finds it obnoxious

 

In the creeks once lived a warlord

By amnesty to society restored

From arms, bayonette

To owning a jet(!)

Late Yardy we must all applaud

 

There broke a holy scandal

“That preacher is a vandal”

Salacious surcharge

For Grace-ous discharge

Brethren, let’s light a candle.

 

The salacious saga’s crescendo

The Grace-Powerups like Nintendo

To levels unknown

My mind has been blown

Wow, see pastoral innuendo

 

There once was a Gyptian Pharaoh

Ruled, feared like Emperor Nero

Imprisond’pon Spring

That Arabs did bring

Released, cos Gypt’s at ground zero

 

The start to the season was patchy

But ‪#Wenger is wise, like Apache

Redeem us, he must

Or ‪#InArseneWeRust

So Gunners, defeat Fernebache!

 

Old Rob of new Rhodesia

Black King of maladmesia

Has done it again

Now in 7th reign

All cheer? It must be amnesia.

 

The proud red men of London

Are faced with a conundrum –

To flourish or dry

To spend or to die

In glare of White Hart bunkum

 

Here’s more presidential porn

From the’appendage heaped with scorn

Our oxes are gored

Tim’s Vice-Man ignored

Cos with her they didn’t mourn

 

His article, overly retweeted

Salacious parts now deleted

No Hector of Troy

The sad little boy’s

Apology futile, defeated.

 

The author of tribal trilogy

Adduced “non-tribal” biology

The lesson is learnt

His fingers are burnt

And hence the quick apology.

 

There once was a “ceasefire”

By men who were pariah

It’s puzzling how

They fooled that old cow

As death-count keeps on getting higher.