PEN 2011: The Presidential Elections, Nigeria 2011

Tomorrow is going to be a big day in the history of Nigeria. The Presidential elections will be holding on 16th April, 2011 and an unprecedented turnout is expected at polling booths nationwide. I just wish I didn’t have to wake up very early on Saturday or any Saturday for that matter. Accreditation starts supposedly around 7am and this equates to queues more complex than the hamster-friendly mazes at Disneyland Paris. Not to mention, I would most certainly be forced to endure a ‘manicure’ from the polling officers as they paint my left thumb cuticle with some purple dye (I’ll be sure to upload pictures this weekend for you to gawk at). My only joy will be that the sunlight will not be intense during these early hours. Ever been outside in Lagos at 12 noon between March and June? Temperatures climb up to 92⁰F and with that kind of heat you’d probably be able to fry two things: your eggs and your brain. But I’m going to make sure I arrive there well-prepared; Voter’s registration card, Comfy slippers with good uptime (i.e. capable of enduring my weight as I stand on my feet for the next 2 hours), Chilled bottled water, a newspaper and my Camera + WordPress enabled Blackberry…you know, the essentials.

From L-R: Jonathan, Shekarau, Buhari and Ribadu

In the Presidential (rat) race there are 4 aspirants who stand out amongst the rest: Shekarau, Ribadu, Buhari and last but not least, Goodluck Jonathan (the current president who was appointed after the inevitable death of Yar’Adua). The billboards, the magazines, the local TV stations, the radio waves, and bulk SMS/text messages have all been suffering from a severe case of Electophobia – I mean, four corny political jingles every hour is complete overkill. Whilst I wouldn’t want to stick my neck out and complain directly to the presidential candidates the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is making sure that they behave and that the overall elections are carried out transparently and as boring as possible (but I believe the more popular term is ‘fair and square’). Movement will be restricted nationwide as resident Nigerians, expatriates (and illegal immigrants) are expected to uphold the curfew – 10pm tonight until 6am tomorrow, and then from 8am till 6pm (which leaves a small window of 2 hours between 6am and 8am to dash nowhere because all the shops will be closed anyway, sigh). The revolution will be televised and I want to appeal to all Nigerians out there to go out and exercise your feet and your democratic rights. Vote for your desired leader. The power is in your thumbs! 🙂

See pictures of the polling zone on The Other Side

2011 Elections: Why Nigerians must register and vote

If you’re a Nigerian residing in Nigeria (excluding the enviable residents in Abuja) then you would agree that we have a lot to complain about; epileptic power supply, the potholes in most of our busy roads, and daily traffic caused by poorly planned road networks. Let’s also not forget the misappropriation of national funds and the high rate of corruption in general. What is the root cause of these problems? Bad leadership. In April 2011 however Nigerians will have a say in deciding who governs this mineral-rich country over the next 4 years.

It is time for Nigerians to stop the whining and quit worrying about updating their Facebook status. Nigerians need to switch off the Africa Magic channel on their DSTV Decoder and step away from the remote. They need to go beyond PINGing and use their Blackberrys Blackberries more efficiently by spreading the word, ‘VOTE OR QUENCH!’. As long as you are 18yrs and above you  are eligible.

I’m off to go register in the next few minutes but in case you’re wondering where to register and vote just look around you. Registration points range from most school premises (hence the closure of schools by the Federal Government till January 29th) to corners within Government Reserved Areas.  I’m not going to tell you who I plan to vote for but all I’ll say is that I wish all the presidential candidates goodluck 😉

Just imagine #ifnaijavotes


Entry #78 – Prelude to Christmas

Last year the build up to Christmas was the dullest I’d ever seen in Lagos. There were all the usual antics of course: Some shop owners hiring breakdancing clowns (complete with the colourful make-up and the ridiculous jumpsuits) and strategically placing them right outside their shops in order to lure in/annoy customers (I don’t know); Street hawkers in the scorching sun wearing red & white santa hats and selling the same to drivers stuck in traffic (as if seeing ‘red’ would help in that heat); A few live rams and goats seen stuffed into (but still hanging out of) half-opened car boots on their way to being slaughtered (Animal Cruelty laws don’t apply in Nigeria); Battle of the Banks as each compete to put up the most blinding Christmas light display on their respective bank branches (more glare for night drivers means possibly more accidents); Christmas hampers including such items as Non-alcoholic wine, Digestives, St.Louis Sugar and a bottle of groundnuts all packaged for N20,000/$133/80GBP (rip off!!!) etc. Like I said, just the usual antics you’d expect to see in Lagos around this time.

 Well if you’re not in Lagos you’d probably be curious to know how things are faring so far this year. For starters, the public’s attention has been diverted to the upcoming National Elections in March 2011. Campaigns are being aired on TV 24/7, usually featuring some Nigerian artists or actors singing some cheesy jingle e.g. “No vote for Bad Luck, vote for GoodLuck!” (N.B- that’s the last name of our current president). As a matter of fact, I can’t recall hearing any Christmas song on the local TV stations till now. 

And in the race to extinction I don’t know who will make it first – Koala bears or Christmas cards. I’m not talking about cards online (more commonly referred to as ‘E-cards’) but the old-fashioned, cardboard/paper-based ones. I remember when I still lived with my parents we’d get up to 200 Christmas cards, 3 gigantic hampers and a live turkey. A few years later the turkey dropped off. A few years after that the hampers stopped coming and then the Christmas cards being issued dropped gradually – as at last year my parents got about 20 cards between them. It seems the new trend is the use of impersonal text messages to send Christmas greetings/prayers. I say ‘impersonal’ because the message is usually a forwarded message from another contact (and your name is usually not included in the message so that proves my point). Last year I got more Christmas text messages than I got cards and phone calls combined. Besides that, most homes didn’t bother to put up Christmas decorations or trees. What is this city coming to???

Don’t even get me started on Christmas presents! I once heard a wise man say, ‘You have to give in order to receive’. My take however is that the wise man is probably not respected in Lagos because I didn’t see a lot of giving last year. Truth is, I saw a bit of rationing. One of my past employers, as a Christmas bonus, would give employees bags of rice. In my first year of employment I got a full bag of rice. In the second year I got half a bag. Last year nobody was given rice. What was to blame? The recession? That excuse is getting pretty lame.

Thank God I’m an optimist. It’s been a great year for me – more good news than there has been bad news (knocks wood). I think I’ve been a good boy too this year so Santa might just send me a few prezzies this season (crosses fingers). But unless I don’t see a drastic change in the Christmas spirit in Lagos which appears to be fast fading into oblivion, then I’m afraid I’d have to go to Ghana or something (at least there will be constant power supply, Woo-hoo!) 😀

Dear Mr. Acting President…

jonathan goodluckFirst of all I would like to congratulate you on  your recent promotion transition from Vice President of Nigeria to Acting President. As much as I would like to see Yar’Adua recover from his illness I’m sure you would like to capitalize on make the most of this unique opportunity thrusted upon you.

Jonathan, things are progressively getting worse in the economy. In case you didn’t notice, the just-concluded fuel scarcity crises  lasted for nearly a month! The queues have caused traffic and road rage. Worse yet, the black market sold the fuel (sometimes contaminated or watered down) at exhorbitant prices. What did Yar’Adua do? Nothing. What did YOU do? Nothing. 

Electricity supply isn’t getting better either. Yar’Adua promised electricity generation of 6000 megawatts by December 2009. Today Nigeria is only generating 2900 megawatts. The consequence – some companies have moved their operations out of the country and the rest of us have resorted to using noisy generators and wasting more fuel in the process…even adding to air pollution and endangering our young ones with the fumes. What has Yar’Adua done? Nothing. What have YOU done? Nothing.

I don’t know if during the President’s unauthorized sick leave you have been trying to calm the the unrest in the Niger Delta region. What have you really been doing with all your time? I’m sure I’ve come across you on Facebook somewhere but now is the time to make your legacy felt. You’re the acting president but may I remind you that (assuming Yar’Adua kicks the bucket) you’ll only have until May 2011 to make any changes to the economy.

Like you, I am an Ijaw man and I expect that you will give a good impression of our tribe. This is your chance to make history in Nigeria. Have a vision. Take a cue from Obama if you have to. Give Nigerians a reason to want to see you stay in power. Look at Mandela’s case – Today marks 20years since he was freed from prison and the world honours and adores him. That could be you so get off your ass behind and do something meaningful and don’t depend on Yar’Adua’s return. All this didn’t happen by accident.

I hope you will consider all that I’ve said and start making plans to re-energize this economy. The country is behind you. More oil grease to your elbow and goodluck! (no pun intended).

Yours Sincerely,

The Crazy Nigerian 🙂

P.S – I will not accept your Facebook Friend request until I start seeing some results.