FEATURE ARTICLE

Babs AjayiSunday, January 12, 2014
Babsajayi@yahoo.com
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

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A FAILED PROMISE, A GATHERING STORM AND A HOPELESS NIGERIAN HIGH COMMISSION IN OTTAWA

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ecently Mr. Goodluck Jonathan promised the nation that he will reduce foreign travel in 2014. That in itself was an admission of excessive and needless travels in 2013, the year that has gone down in Nigerian history as the year of unassailable looting. But a few days later newspapers reported that the government that promised to reduce overseas travels in 2014 had actually ordered a new presidential jet. Deposit of a whopping 1.5 billion Naira had already been paid, which means that the purchase had already been concluded even before seeking the approval of the National Assembly. The latest jet will be the eleventh in the presidential fleet. Haba! Wetin! How selfish, how reckless and how hopeless is this former shoeless boy. Mr. Jonathan's words and promise to reduce overseas travels has not matched his deeds; words are empty, mere promises count for nothing when actions are millions of miles at odds with the words. This has been the hallmark of this regime, a regime that has refused to focus on the myriads of problems facing the Nigerian people, their predominantly life of lack, poverty, diseases, homelessness and unemployment. I guess ten jets are not enough to travel the length and breath of Nigeria and that is why an eleventh plane is needed. Is this a fair deal for the citizens who are going without and who are living very difficult lives. It is very difficult to get the basic necessities of life in Jonathan's Nigeria. The queue for kerosene in every nook and cranny of the nation is so endless and it does not give you the feeling that Nigeria is in fact an oil producing nation. The budgetary allocation for the Presidential Air Fleet far surpasses the money spent on feeding in a decade by all the families in Mr. Jonathan's Ituoke, and that itself is a dubious achievement.

Foreign and local trips predominantly by Jonathan (and most likely his wife) will cost Nigerian tax payers the sum of 2.4 billion Naira for a man who just a few days ago promised to reduce foreign trips. One is left with no choice but to agree with the Kano State governor who concluded that Goodluck Jonathan is incompetent. I truly believe that more than 90 percent of Nigerians are in agreement with Rabiu Kwankwaso on that. Obviously, it was not the desire to make a difference and to serve that brought Jonathan to where he is, which is why he is such a monumental failure and a deadbeat office holder, but he does not mind and does not care for as long as all the goodies are there and his assets are pilling up. Nearly all the shareholders of the Nigerian Nation Plc are denied any dividend from their individual and collective investments while the hopeless and greedy chairman is eating with both hands and feet. The Looters Incorporated has been the stumbling block to national development and the provision of social services to our people. A president who is not prepared to live the very same way his people are living and ready to suffer power outage like every other citizen is not a responsible leader. When he shares and feels his people's hardship and pains he will know how important and crucial it is to find a lasting solution to a problem like power supply.

How will Jonathan or his erratic and irrational wife appreciate the inability of the average Nigerian family to eat two meals in a day if they have a billion naira to eat with in a year? May our nation never again have a president who will live way beyond his own personal means and who will find it very easy to live off the people and the nation even in difficult times. That is one prayer we should always pray and that is what we should demand of anyone who wish to aspire to the position of president, governor, senator, legislator or even local government chairman. Anyone who is not ready to make sacrifices for and on behalf of the people is not fit to serve or rule them. Anyone who want the state to pay him outrageous wages and allowances to sit in the National Assembly in service to his people is not fit to be in that assembly. The National Assembly should only pay reasonable sitting allowances of no more than 10 million Naira a year (everything inclusive) to a senator and 7.5 million Naira to a Representative. We all see how the members of the British Parliament and the US Senate and House of Representatives spend weeks and months working on bills, how they stay stuck in the chambers and eat there, and debate for long hours until resolutions are reached, and they are not paid like the legislooters in Abuja. The cost of the executive and legislative arms of government to tax payers must be peg to about 0.5 per cent of the nation's annual budget, and this should apply at the state and local government levels. One would have thought that the minister of finance, who had worked at the World Bank and ought to know better, would have stepped in and counseled Jonathan how things are done in civilized climes. I was shocked that she actually read and presented the budget at the National Assembly. She seemed to have made very little difference since Jonathan took over and started moving the ship of state into troubled waters.

Troubled waters are here and Jonathan is steadily moving the nation into raging storms. He is still doing everything possible to unseat an elected governor in Rivers State, and at any cost. The storm is gathering and the end is very uncertain as we get close to the elections. I said it about 14 months ago that Goodluck Jonathan did not join politics because he wanted to serve; his motives and reasons were entirely about the benefits that will accrue to him. A man who probably never left the creek to see the beauty of Lagos until he was probably in his thirties is now so opportunistic and selfish to the extent that you are left to wonder if he has a conscience. The conscience issue is so important now considering his determination to hang in at all cost and his obvious readiness to fight-to-death and to kill and maim. The bombing of the Ahoada East High Court in Port-Harcourt on January 6, 2014 took the desperation and determination of Jonathan and his errand boys under the control of Mr. Wike to another level. The fact should not be lost on anyone that Ahoada East High Court is the court of Justice C. N. Wali who ruled that a member of the minority wing of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Mr. Evans Bipi cannot parade himself as the speaker of the House. The Jonathan team of 6 thugs and house members are not happy that the judge would not recognize one of them as the speaker of the House against the other 26 members in the majority. They have a grudge against that court and must be held accountable and prosecuted. They should have been arrested now, but where is the lame duck commissioner of police when you need him to act and prevent crimes against a constituted office?

If Jonathan fails to ensure that his sidekick who sits in Port-Harcourt as commissioner of police arrest and prosecute the 6 thugs in the House of Assembly who are fomenting trouble in Rivers State, then he would have inadvertently set the ball of confusion rolling and opened the door for a free-for-all fight. Justice and peace will desert the state for as long as a few thugs in the minority are allowed to do what they like, allowed to break the law, allowed to harass and intimidate the majority, and allowed to do so with the connivance, cooperation and support of the police. For how long can Jonathan act like a man who can do what he likes and willfully break the law of the land and make the chief of police and a police commissioner break and disobey the law?

The storm is gathering and the ship is sailing into man-made storms that are created for the purpose of giving undue advantage to a desperate man and his co-travelers who are equally desperate for offices and positions they least deserve. This is one battle the Jonathan-Wike gang of miscreants will never win because history is not on their side, the people are not on their side, and they are doomed right from the start. But will they listen and back off? Will they put a stop to their wanton agenda? It is getting too late as it were and all eyes are on them. They will pay a price and they will all be consumed by the storm they engineered. We hope that their case will not be like that of the dog that is determined to get lost and as such will not hear the whistle of his master.

The Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa, Canada operates no differently from the people in Abuja. The visa section at the High Commission is doing very well in making the lives of Nigerians living in Canada as miserable as possible. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a Nigerian to obtaining a Nigerian passport at the hugely corrupt Nigerian High Commission. Several families and individuals had been given confirmed appointments to obtain/renew their passports at the High Commission only to travel from places such as Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Halifax, London, etc., only to get to the High Commission and be told that there is no passport booklet in some cases and in a worse scenario find the office closed for the day! How wicked are these people who are paid by the tax payers to offer simple passport service to Nigerians living in Canada only to turn it into an opportunity to rip everyone off and to make money off the innocent and the unwary such as Ms. Oluwakemi Ola. One of the victims of the corrupt High Commission referred to the commission as a "fraud." The inefficiencies and horrible services of the High Commission attracted the attention of the Canadian Broadcasting Commission (CBC) recently as shown in this link: http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Ottawa/ID/2402356610/?page=5&sort=MostPopular

The Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa is worse than a fraud. It is nightmarish, the place you don't want to go or be, and it is truly representative and a microcosm of how things are being done in Nigeria. Government offices and positions are mere opportunities to extort, make money, and make citizens miserable. The head of the High Commission Mr. Ojo Maduekwe was formerly Nigeria's Foreign Affairs minister who was removed but later offered the position of High Commissioner to Canada, a demotion no one worth his/her salt will accept because this is a huge demotion, but the any-office-will-do mentality of those who live by government appointments is the driving force. It was Ojo Maduekwe who as External Affairs minister of Nigeria recalled the then Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Brigadier-General Oluwole Rotimi from Washington in February 2009, but today he is an ambassador! It is shameful and disgraceful that Nigerian families and individuals are given passport issuance and collection dates to come to Ottawa after completing all formalities and payments online only to be denied the passport. For people to pay thousands of dollars to fly from Calgary, Edmonton, the Greater Toronto Area, or to drive 5 hours from Toronto, London, St. Catharines, Brampton, Oakville, Burlington, etc. along with their children and be treated with so much disrespect, without courtesy, and denied the passport they came for is callous and a transfer of the corrupt meanness from Nigeria to Canada. Nigerians are better off applying for a travel certificate at a cost of $70 from the inefficient High Commission than apply for a new passport or a passport renewal in Ottawa. It is better and easier to obtain or renew your passport in Nigeria when you get home and avoid the extortion in Ottawa. Lastly, one major change that is urgently required is the removal and recall of the Immigration Attaché in Ottawa, Ms. Helen Onwuzulike from the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa. Her recall and departure will bode well for the work of the passport section at the High Commission in Ottawa, Canada. She is not adding value and the office will function better without her.

A few years back a very responsible, upright and compassionate senior staff of the High Commission Mr. Habu Ibrahim became the go-to guy for many frustrated Nigerians who applied for passport and suffered untold hardship after making multiple online payments without getting returned confirmation. As for the lame reaction and weak response of the Nigerian High Commissioner to the myriads of complaints by Nigerians in Canada, it is better to note that the man was just doing his job. The best thing to do is to totally ignore him. He is inefficient and the High Commission under him has become a place no reasonable Nigerian wish to visit. Sadly, the Ottawa office is the only one in the whole of Canada, a nation that is ten times the size of Nigeria.

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