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Opinion: Nigerian embassies of shame by Tunde Odesola (2)

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(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 20, 2021)

With a tongue roughly twice the length of its body, and a brocade of dubious colours for skin, the chameleon is the ultimate invisible animal predator.

Without premonition, small creatures like worms and insects searching for daily bread disappear suddenly into the Bermuda Triangle in the belly of the dodgy chameleon via a sticky, snappy tongue.

Like worms and insects, in June 2021 alone, 1,032 Nigerians met sudden death in the hands of gunmen and kidnappers across the country, according to a fresh security report.

Approximately, the 1,032 casualty figure translates to 34.4 wasted lives per day, excluding deaths by sicknesses, auto accidents, extrajudicial killings, ritual killings, etc in a peaceful country in pieces.

Home or abroad, the fate of the average Nigerian is mournful.

Home-based Nigerians are plagued by physical and psychological deaths just like Nigerians abroad are not spared psychological torture and humiliation in Nigerian embassies.

The overwhelming corruption yet pervading most Nigerian embassies despite numberless media reports in the last six years attests to the failure of the retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari led-regime in curbing dishonest dealings that have cemented the green passport in the hall of infamy.

Lamenting the nasty treatment she went through in the hands of officials at the Nigeria High Commission in the UK, a registered nurse, Kemi Samuel, who has lived in England for over three decades, said she suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder whenever she visited the commission.

A registered nurse with more than 30 years under her belt, Samuel recalled that every Nigerian in England, notwithstanding their locations, was required to physically come to obtain visas, renew passports or get new ones.

Samuel explained that it was ridiculous that she renewed her 10-year British passport within two hours at Her Royal Majesty Passport Office, Globe House, London, while she laboured to renew her five-year Nigerian passport after visiting the high commission on seven different occasions.

She said, “If you want your British passport to be done as an emergency, you need to visit the passport office, but if you want to follow the normal process, it will arrive in your mail within four to five days.

“The reverse is the case in the Nigeria High Commission, where officials allow applicants to shunt the queue after bribing them. The officials were nasty to young and old, and they’ve no regard for children, women and the physically challenged. I was breastfeeding my baby and I had to leave my work each time I visited, meaning that I was losing money.

“In 1997, an immigration officer wanted to steal my passport at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. He hid my passport among the documents he was clutching and he said I didn’t give him my passport, and he was trying to walk away. I raised my voice and told him to bring out my passport from among the papers in his hands.

 

“In 2010 when I wanted to renew my passport, they said there were no booklets from Abuja, so I had to use my British passport.

 

“Between February and August of 2016, my daughter and I visited the high commission over 20 times to renew our passports! Nigerians came from other European countries to renew their passports, too.

 

“There was the pitiable case of a female Nigerian student who needed her passport to renew her studentship. She said that was the 11th time she had come to the commission.

 

“When we got to Nigeria, the carousel didn’t work as there was no light at the airport, prompting passengers to use the light of the phones. All that was strange to my daughter who suddenly felt pressed to use the toilet. She ran out of the toilet when she saw heaps of maggots.”

 

A Nigerian resident in Houston, Texas, who doesn’t want his name in print, lamented that he was asked to pay an unreceipted $20 as car park fee at the Nigerian embassy in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

The 50-year-old applicant, who is from southern Nigeria, said, “The embassy won’t process applications for more than one year, and after the expiration of one year, the applicant will be required to pay a fresh $195 as passport fee. Since it was the embassy that failed to produce passports as and when due, applicants should not be made to pay twice for passports.”

 

Nicknamed BB, the sad Nigerian also alleged that his online application was changed and ‘sold’ by embassy officials to another applicant who had bribed them.

 

“I picked up my American passport that can enable me to enter about 200 countries visa-free in my mailbox. I don’t know why my Nigerian passport, which nobody wants to see, is so problematic,” he  said.

 

Complaining about the terrible treatment meted out to visa and passport applicants at the Nigeria High Commission in London, a Nigerian, Sunday John, said applicants were never given appointment when they apply online.

 

He said, “They won’t give you an appointment when you apply online because they make money by giving appointments to those who have bribed them.

 

“Passport fee is 75 pounds but they will charge you between 300 and 700 pounds through the backdoor. I refused to pay, and I’ve since not been able to take my wife and three children to see my mum in Nigeria.

 

“I wanted to open a business account but because I’m not British yet, my nationality was required. The non-issuance of a passport to me has put the business I’m planning to do on hold. I’ve vowed not to bribe them because if I do so, I’ll be encouraging corruption. Sadly, other African nationals in England get their passports in a matter of days.”

 

Sharing his ordeal, another Nigerian, Mr Frederick Oluwole, who has lived in New York for over 30 years, said passport production at the Nigerian embassy in Manhattan was delayed because of lack of ‘nylon’ covering for passport pages.

 

Oluwole said, “They took my unsigned money order from me. They didn’t allow me to write my name on it. What they would later do is to write their own name on it and collect the money on the order, and pocket it.

 

“They talk down on you as if they’re doing you a favour. An official had to fly to Nigeria to bring common ‘nylon’ which could have been sent through courier.”

 

It’s the same hopeless song in Ottawa where the Nigerian embassy in Canada is located.

Narrating his nightmare, a Nigerian, Valentine Abiodun, disclosed that calls to the embassy were never picked.

“When someone eventually picked my call after weeks of calling, I told him I had been calling the embassy repeatedly, the officer said he travelled. I was shocked, and I told him the embassy wasn’t a private business that should be held up by an official.

“I told him I had sent in my passport for renewal. He told me they’ve not received it. Because I was tracking the passport, I told him who received it at the embassy.

“Then, he said I should call back. When I called back, he said he had seen it, adding that he would stamp and send it to me through mail. I said he shouldn’t. By 2am that night, I got a car and travelled down to Ottawa, getting to the embassy in the morning to pick my passport.”

A young Nigerian living in Mississauga, Ontario, Emmanuel Ogunlade, said he just received his renewed passport, which he had been processing since January 2020, two weeks ago.

Ogunlade said, “It was a terrible experience. I travelled to the Nigerian embassy, Ottawa, a journey of 427km, thrice after uncountable calls that were not answered before my passport was renewed even as I paid $23 twice for prepaid envelopes. They sent an email saying that they’ve sent my passport to me, but it was false. They later admitted they’ve not sent it.”

An anonymous female resident of Dubai said Nigerians now go to Abu Dhabi from Dubai to obtain their passports because of the hardship encountered at the Nigerian embassy in Dubai.

Uhhmm, Nigeria, under Buhari, is rich in corruption, home and abroad.

Sai chameleon!

(Concluded)

 

Email: tundeodes2003@yahoo.com

Facebook: @tunde odesola

Twitter: @tunde_odesola

TundeOdesola.com

Opinion

Devaluation is grossly overrated, by Simon Kolawole

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On Monday, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo might have made his boldest pitch yet for his expected presidential bid in 2023. Speaking at the administration’s midterm retreat — with President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in the room — Osinbajo appeared to have broken ranks with the government over its forex policy, faulting the demand management strategy and declaring the exchange rate as “artificially low” and “negatively affecting” the inflow of foreign exchange into the economy. The solution, he proposed, was to move “our rates” to be “reflective of the market” to encourage an inflow of “new dollars”.

The VP also raised issues with CBN’s direct intervention programmes which, he said, make it look like there is a competition between the monetary and fiscal authorities. (Interestingly, Osinbajo is the chairman of the steering committee of the Infrastructure Corporation of Nigeria Ltd, another brainchild of the CBN). His call for synergy between monetary and fiscal authorities is definitely in order and his worries over the potential room for arbitrage with multiple exchange rates are valid. But my little concern was that these are basic house-keeping issues that the VP should not be discussing on TV. We outsiders may get the impression that this government is divided against itself.

By being publicly critical of this administration’s demand management policy — which seeks to reduce forex outflow by curtailing importation of goods not considered as essential, such as rice and private jets — Osinbajo might also have sent a strong message to certain constituencies that he is his own man. That is, “Osinbajonomics” is going to be different from “Buharinomics”. This should please the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) and some Nigerian experts who have always maintained that for the country to attract foreign capital and boost forex supply, the naira has to be floated. They argue that like water, the national currency will eventually find its level.

Osinbajo’s position was quite clear and unambiguous, despite the attempted clarification by his media team. My first response was: “Shots fired!” Buhari has spoken openly against devaluation since he came to power. Why would the VP be openly critical of a policy that clearly has the imprimatur of the president all over it? Why make such comments at a televised forum? Why shout at someone you can whisper to? Was it an error of judgment? The headlines thereafter said Osinbajo called for devaluation. No matter his intention, the ordinary interpretation on the streets would be that the vice-president was campaigning for more hardship on Nigerian masses.

Nevertheless, the clarification begged the question: is devaluation a dirty word? In my own admittedly limited knowledge of economics, there could be justifications for devaluation. Three instantly come to mind (1) to make non-commodity exports cheaper in the global markets (2) to stimulate foreign investment (3) to encourage forex inflow into the system — as the vice-president himself was trying to suggest when he said “we can’t get new dollars into the system where the exchange rate is artificially low”. That is why I still do not understand why his media team tried to take back or re-phrase his words thereafter, saying he was only talking about eliminating arbitrage.

My point of departure with the vice-president is that he committed the same error as is the wont of many Nigerian neo-liberal economists and economic analysts: preaching the gospel of “seek ye first devaluation and every other thing shall be added unto thee”. Devaluation is packaged as the ultimate solution to all forex problems. The claim is that the moment you devalue your currency, foreign investors will come rushing in with tonnes of dollars. That is rather over-optimistic. There are many things that determine forex inflow. Devaluation is just one of them. And there is a limit to what devaluation can achieve in a poorly structured economy such as ours. That is my position.

For instance, while the VP was criticising CBN’s demand management policy, he was loudly silent on the elephant in the room: fuel subsidy. It is estimated that by the end of the year, the subsidy bill will be around N2tr. This is already a very big problem for public finance, but there is another sticky dimension. Ages ago, the NNPC used to sell its share of oil to earn “new dollars” and boost our reserves. However, the corporation now operates a direct sale direct purchase (DSDP) swap system under which we give crude to foreign refineries in exchange for refined products. That means no dollar exchanges hands. And that means billions of “new dollars” will not enter CBN reserves.

To be fair to the VP, arbitrage is serious economic distortion. The difference of N160 between official and parallel rates is huge. The CBN has argued that with the stringent rules in place and the calibre of those now getting forex legitimately — such as government agencies, manufacturers and airlines, etc — the room for arbitrage has shrunk. The parallel market, the CBN insists, accounts for less than 7% of our forex transactions. Nevertheless, eradicating arbitrage is a very simple “procedure”: just devalue the naira from N412/$ to N572/$. If supply issues persist, devalue again. But be assured that if rising cost of living leads to another #EndSARS uprising, our experts will be nowhere to be found.

 

To what do I liken this gospel of devaluation? It is like constantly repainting a commercial bus to make it attractive to passengers, whereas the seats are tattered, the air conditioning is broken and the engine is failing. We can keep devaluing the naira hoping to attract “new dollars” but our fundamental structural problems remain. While the value of the local currency may be a factor in attracting foreign investment, it is neither the sole nor the most important determinant. Capitalists also look critically at country risks. If the value of local currency was the magic pill, Zimbabwe and Venezuela would be the biggest recipients of “new dollars”. There are surely other factors at play.

 

In a country where separatists, kidnappers, herders, bandits and terrorists are having a ball, devaluation cannot be the tonic for “new dollars”. We have a country where there appears to be an official policy to muscle out some investors. The attorney-general just woke up one morning and said he dreamt that MTN evaded tax and immediately slammed a bill of $2bn on them. The information minister has been working overtime trying to chase Multichoice out of Nigeria. Potential foreign investors see all these things. They are aware of the hostile business environment, the frustrating legal system, the chaotic ports and the bureaucracy. But we somehow think devaluation is the cure.

 

Without a doubt, devaluation can temporarily relieve some symptoms and bring some inflow — with “temporarily” being the operative word. As a matter of fact, the CBN has been adjusting the exchange rate since 2016 while throwing even the kitchen sink to save the naira from drowning. The rate was N197/$ six years ago and is now N412/$. But, truth be told, devaluation as a tool of attracting foreign exchange is not sustainable, neither is it a sure pathway to economic development. The larger issue is: how do we attract multiple sources of forex into the economy so that we are not hopelessly tied to oil revenues and devaluation? How can we export more?

 

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The fundamental flaws of our economy have always been there — papered over by cycles of oil boom. When oil revenues are high, we go binging. When oil revenues are low, we go begging. When oil prices crashed in the early 1980s, we faced our first major challenge in the oil era. It was a mess. Inflation went through the roof. Our reserves were so down we were no longer creditworthy to import essential commodities. We had to queue up to buy rice and tin milk. Civil servants were being owed salaries for up to seven months. Things were so bad that after the military took power, it was a major event on NTA Network News anytime workers were going to receive one-month pay cheque.

 

Under our current circumstances, the CBN has an option: it can actually fold its arms and watch the country go up in flames as government finances plummet and fiscal policies remain in disarray. Civil servants will be owed salaries for months and thousands will be retrenched. Forex demand will keep ballooning. The CBN governor will just be devaluing the naira every Monday to encourage “new dollars” and eliminate arbitrage. Easy-peasy! But by the time we reach N5000/$, our problems will still remain unsolved — because our economic structure is warped and the fundamentals are not solid. Panadol can never treat high blood pressure, no matter the relief it gives for a migraine.

 

I would love to be CBN governor if oil price is $80/barrel, production is over 2mb/d, revenues are in excess of $4bn monthly, reserves are $60bn, forex demand is $2bn, and the fiscal authorities are playing their part. I would just be sleeping and snoring. The real challenge comes when revenues are low and fiscal policies are all over the place. That is when everybody begins to see our nakedness. That is when it becomes more obvious that the foundations of our economy are fickle and feeble. There is no way devaluation can take the place of a proper restructuring of the economy. We need law and order, infrastructure and security for a conducive and productive investment climate.

 

We say we want to diversify exports to attract more non-oil forex inflow, but it is easier for a Nigerian entrepreneur to go to the moon than to export a bag of garlic through our shambolic ports. These are issues obstructing our progress. Osinbajo oversees the presidential committee on ease of doing business and should help tackle these hinderances. Really, devaluation is the easiest thing for any CBN governor to do. But with our structural and infrastructural deficiencies, it will not guarantee capital inflows. Instead, it can lead to more misery for an economy that relies heavily on imports, including food and intermediate goods. We cannot devalue our way to economic prosperity.

 

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AND FOUR OTHER THINGS

TAX ATTACK

 

Every time, we say we want more investments in the Nigeria. Every time, we do something that promotes the exactly opposite. According to Order 3 Rule 6 of the Tax Appeal Tribunal (Procedure) rules approved by the ministry of finance in June 2021, if you disagree with a tax assessment by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), you have to first pay 50% of the amount before you can dispute it. This is directly in conflict with Paragraph 15(7) of the FIRS Act which allows the appellant to pay the lower amount between 50% of tax paid the previous year and the current assessment. The new rule opens up tax payers to blackmail and extortion and will hurt businesses. Dissonance.

 

CIVIL CASE

 

The federal government has given two options to its workers: be vaccinated against COVID-19 or come with a negative test result, otherwise you can’t go to office from December 1. This comes with many dangers. Some will buy vaccination cards just to obey the directive. The anti-vax propaganda will grow more wings as every new death will be blamed on the vaccine. More so, government machinery may grind to a halt if unvaccinated key officers can’t come to work. Even though I am double-vaccinated, I am not in support of the new rule. Vaccination is an emotional issue for millions of people, most of whom have been brainwashed, so I prefer persuasion to coercion. Caution.

ELECTRONIC SHOCK

There has been excitement everywhere over the decision of the senate to allow electronic transmission of election results as well as direct primaries in which every member of a party will vote to pick candidates. However, I am sorry to say this: didn’t we say PVC would finally put an end to rigging in Nigeria? Why are we still worried about rigging six years after? You see, we always think the problem is the system. I keep saying the problem is the operators of the system. The problem is Nigerians. If Nigerians don’t change, Nigeria won’t change. I must admit, though, that I am enjoying the extremely optimistic public reaction. Unfortunately, it is these expectations that kill us. Gullible.

 

OIL DOOM

 

Crude oil price hit a three-year high of $85/barrel on Friday. Bad news for Nigeria. For one, our subsidy bill just went up, yet again. So, expect more deductions for “under recovery” by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as we continue to use our forex to import millions of petrol for the rest of West Africa. Also, we are currently producing 1.25mb/d, way below our export quota — we are short by 360,000b/d. That is a lot of money we are losing every day. Our gain from price rise will, therefore, be marginal. What’s more, businesses that depend on diesel will now pay higher costs. Don’t say I am unpatriotic but I now prefer crude oil at $50/barrel or less. Beneficial.

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Why Buhari can’t forgive Fani-Kayode, by Tunde Odesola

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The suya burnt his palms, but he was stoic, like a true Christian. Initially, he tossed the hot suya from palm to palm ping-pong, then flung open the Holy Bible with his left hand, and ripped off pages from the New Testament, placing the hot suya on the word of Christ. Calm embalms his palms.
A disciplined disciple, Mr Femi Adesina, Special Assistant on Media to Nigeria’s President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), gently washed down his suya with a gourd of chilled farm-fresh cow milk. Belching is a sign of delicious satisfaction.
With chunks of oil-dripping suya and an unending availability of cow milk, the fatalities accompanying cow breeding in Nigeria, such as Fulani blood-feast on farmers and farmlands, and northernised grazing routes, can be left to roam freely for eight tenured years or forever.
For good or for bad, there’s a coin to every issue. To eat meat in our land, something must give; Nigerians must bow to cow or die by bullet. This is our new normal. You can’t have your cow and eat it too. Life is give-and-take: give meat, take life.
Though many Nigerians would call him a ChriSTAIN, rather than a Christian, I’ll never call Adesina a stain. But I won’t call him a saint, either, because the hyssop leaves Adesina is using to wash the Buhari regime has turned scarlet. Why? I do not know. But I know red is the sign of danger. It is also the colour of blood, fear and death.
Adesina is not in government to steal, to kill, and to plunder. As an ardent Bible reader, Adesina is in government to serve the authority in Aso Rock, Buhari, and to be a fisher of men for Buhari’s murder-condoning regime.
Black, reserved and handsome, Adesina, as a fisherman in the Aso Rock vineyard, is casting his net into the deep, like other sinless cabinet members and angelic political lions across the land, catching plenty of fishes. For, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone…”
Verily, verily I say unto ye Nigerians, the god of Aso Rock, Buhari, appears to have given an unquestionable order, Herod-like, to all cabinet members and disciples, to win the vilest of men into the kingdom.
According to a scroll he wrote a day before Sabbath, Adesina gave reasons why the Kingdom of Aso Rock was prepared to accept all manner of questionable characters, ranging from the corrupt, to the prostitute, and the vomit-eating dog.
The megaphone of the war general, Adesina, likened Slanderer-in-Chief and Party-Hopper, Femi Fani-Kayode, to a prodigal son, in the scroll he wrote to defend the presidential pardon given to the defecting Fani-Kayode, whom he described as eating his vomit.
Adesina recalled that Fani-Kayode had wished Yusuf, the son of the General of Aso Rock, dead, when he had a motorbike accident in December 2017, stressing that Fani-Kayode had opened his mouth to cast aspersions on Buhari and his entire family countless times.
If Adesina had stopped at listing the uncountable allegations Fani-Kayode’s mouth ran against Buhari and his regime, he probably would have been counted among the prophets.
But in the manner of fake prophets, Adesina likened Buhari to god, saying, “By agreeing to the readmission of FFK to APC as the leader of the party, and hosting him at the Villa, President Buhari displayed amazing capacity to forgive, to show mercy, and let bygones be bygones…”
Quoting William Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice, Adesina added:
“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blessed him that gives and him that takes…
It is an attribute of God Himself.”
If led by the flesh, Adesina affirmed that Buhari ‘would have told FFK to go to hell, and stay there. But Buhari didn’t. He displayed an attribute of God: forgiveness’.
This is the very point, where Adesina ascended the Tower of Babel, and lost his tongue, unable to make decipherable meaning henceforth – like Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist.
This is the very point when Adesina tore the pages of the New Testament, and twisted the parable of the Prodigal Son by Jesus Christ to suit the narrative of his paymaster, Buhari – to earn his daily bread.
In the words on the scroll issued by Adesina, the driving force behind the ‘forgiveness’ was a compelling desire to change Buhari’s long-held image as an unforgiving fascist to a benign overlord.
By the way, what does Buhari mean by saying he has forgiven the garrulous Fani-Kayode? Forgiveness for what? For alleged looting? Mark you, Fani-Kayode, on July 13, 2021, along with a former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman, still stood trial before Justice Daniel Osiagor of the Federal High Court, Lagos, for allegedly receiving part of the N4.9bn security vote purportedly shared by a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
In another corruption case, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on February 23, 2021, dragged Fani-Kayode before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, alleging that he received money stuffed inside a Ghana-Must-Go bag from the account section of the Office of the National Security Adviser, Abuja.
Is it in the same spirit of Buhari’s forgiveness that the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), withdrew the N25bn fraud case against a former Gombe governor and current Gombe-Central senator, Danjuma Goje – after the case had gulped N150m of taxpayers’ money?
Sadly, all the indicted heavyweight politicians, who called the shots during the Goodluck Jonathan ruinous years, and have defected to the All Progressives Congress, have had their passports and seized properties returned to them, making Buhari’s anti-corruption fight an Aki and Pawpaw comedy show.
If Buhari’s forgiveness of Fani-Kayode was on a personal note, taxpayers’ resources shouldn’t have been utilised to publicise the irritating event on national TV, radio and in newspapers.
By making a show of his act of ‘forgiveness’, Buhari has acted like the Pharisees and the Sadducees. For broadcasting and justifying the ‘forgiveness’, Adesina, like Buhari, is guilty of hypocritical holiness. And Jesus Christ says Pharisees and Sadducees, who do not desist from religious eye-service, will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
The sycophants singing into Buhari’s ears should be told in plain language that the N4.9bn financial corruption sin Fani-Kayode allegedly committed was against the Nigerian state, and not against the President.
Thankfully, Buhari has a pastor as a deputy. Pastor-Professor Yemi Osinbajo should teach Buhari the lessons inherent in the forgiveness Jesus Christ granted the robber on his right hand during the Crucifixion.
During his crucifixion, two robbers tied to crosses, flanked Jesus Christ. The one on the left taunted Jesus, telling him that if he was the Son of God, he should save Himself and them. But the one on the right acknowledged Christ as the Lord, and begged Him to remember him when he got to His Kingdom.
Because the robber on the right acknowledged his wrongdoing and confessed Jesus as Lord, he was saved, but the robber on the left wasn’t saved because he failed to repent and accept Jesus as Lord.
The lesson herein is that Fani-Kayode hasn’t confessed his guilt or proved his innocence before a court, so, he cannot be forgiven. President Buhari should know that Nigeria is not his herds of cattle that he can lead by the jerks of his ego. Nigeria must be led by the rule of law.
In a telephone chat, Nigeria’s former Ambassador to the Philippines, Dr Yemi Farounbi, said Fani-Kayode wasn’t worth the dust raised over his defection, warning that bad advertisement could sway undiscerning members of the public.
I agree with the revered teacher, broadcaster, TV producer and author.
I’ll never waste my time recalling the innumerable curses, abuses and evocations Fani-Kayode has poured on Buhari, birds of a feather, they say, flock together.
But I’ll take exception to a 78-year-old mortal playing god, and his media acolyte, polluting the air with rancid tartuffery.
I hate nonsense!
Facebook: @tunde odesola
Twitter: @tunde_odesola
TundeOdesola.com
Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 27, 2021

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Opinion: Nigerian embassies of shame (1) by Tunde Odesola

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(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 13, 2021)
Lacking the speed of the cheetah, the strength of the bull and the ferocity of the tiger, the chameleon, with its camouflage of many colours, tip-toes daily in cautious slow-motion, living on the wisdom of adaptive wits.
Appearing unconcerned, unpurposed and uninterested, the chief of stealth and the lord of disguise, the chameleon, is the cunning thief embroidering the environment in stolen identity. The chameleon is the motion without movement, the heat without temperature, the echo without sound.
For some, the chameleon is unbeautiful. Big bulging eyes above an endless mouth on an oblong head attached to a sickle body upon four wobbly legs define the chameleon and its clumsy tail.
The chameleon is seen in its slow and deceptive colours by the members of the Nigerian public, who daily come under the crunch of government insensitivity and ineptitude.
To this long-suffering group, the chameleon connotes arrested development, reward for corruption and a sense of entitlement by people in opportunistic leadership.
For some other group, however, the chameleon is swift, breathtaking and ubiquitous. This chameleon-is-fast group comprises political profiteers who sit magisterially by the public cauldron, dishing out the broth to relatives, friends and flunkeys, and smashing the plates of opposition with the ladle of vendetta.
In today’s narrative, I wish to be an unbiased mouthpiece for the group that sees the chameleon as faster-than-the-cheetah and the group that sees the chameleon as a moving statue. I’ll place side-by-side narratives from the members of the two groups, and leave the reader to judge.
Again, I promise not to be meddlesome. I won’t condemn, I won’t judge for I don’t want to be judged. I’ll simply state the narratives by the two groups, and leave the reader to fix the narratives in the proper boxes they belong. The boxes are two: chameleon-is-slow box and chameleon-is-fast box – truth versus lie.
After a 2-1 away victory over Cape Verde last week, the Nigeria Football Federation announced that Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa, has hit a centenary in national colours, contrary to a report by The PUNCH, saying Musa had only played 98 times for the Eagles.
Characteristic of its past embarrassment of the nation, which saw the country fielding overage players in FIFA competitions and filing out for a match in makeshift jerseys, the NFF had counted for Musa a 3-0 friendly win against Togo in Paris, wherein both Nigeria and Togo made more than the regular number of changes, thereby making the match uncountable.
Also, the NFF recorded for Musa the 1-1 draw match against Algeria, in which Nigeria fielded an ineligible player, prompting FIFA to award the 2018 World Cup qualifying match to Algeria even as Nigeria had qualified for the World Cup before the tie.
Instead of the NFF to apologise to Nigerians for the national embarrassment, its chairman, Amaju Pinnick, said: “We have our own data and that is what we are using, even if it is 50 caps for the national team in a country where you have an abundance of talents.”
It took a statement from FIFA confirming that Musa had only played 98 times for the Eagles, and not 100, for Pinnick to eat the humble pie. In which box would you put Pinnick? Chameleon-is-slow box or chameleon-is-fast box?
A few days ago, a former Governor of Benue, George Akume, called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to thoroughly investigate the incumbent Governor of Benue, Samuel Ortom, after Ortom berated President Muhammadu Buhari for keeping silent while Fulani herdsmen turned Benue into a killing field.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja, a few days ago, Akume said, “We call on Governor Samuel Ortom to tender an unreserved apology to President Muhammadu Buhari for using foul language and for operating outside the set rules of engagement between the state and the federal governments.
“We call on the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATE the application of the total federal allocations to Benue State from May 29, 2015 to date.”
In which box does Akume belong? In which box does Ortom belong? The chameleon-is-slow group or the chameleon-is-fast group? Remember, one group is telling the truth, the other isn’t.
Let’s step outside the shores of the country and head to the US, touching down at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC, where a Nigerian-American, Azuka Aghenu, narrated his ordeal in the hands of embassy staff.
“Another name for the Nigerian embassy in Washington DC is hell. They operate the embassy as if they’re in a secret cult or a black market,” Aghenu, who is a senior bank executive, said.
“The officials operate a coordinated syndicate that extorts Nigerians who come to renew or get fresh passports. They charge you $30 for a United States Priority Mail envelope that costs about $13 – depending on the state. They go to the post office and pack the envelopes free of charge, and take them to the embassy to sell to members of the public.
“They collect cash for the free envelopes but for the visa fees, you pay with your debit or credit card, which suggests that the fees you pay with your cards go into the government coffers while the fees paid for in cash are open to manipulation,” Aghenu said.
Alleging that the embassy was hot, unlit, shabby and not child-friendly, Aghenu said officials attended to applicants on a man-know-man basis, leaving applicants who had ‘no connection’ unattended to and frustrated.
Aghenu also alleged that applicants’ data were pulled up from a large hand-written register instead of a computer, stressing that applicants needed to grease the palms of officials for them to be attended to.
“If you don’t bribe or get a referral from a big man known to them, you won’t be allowed inside the embassy. When you’re inside, they will take you into an oven – a big room, no air conditioner, no light, it was dark, we saw by natural light, two standing fans were misting out water.
“They told us to come along with the photocopies of our documents. The question is, why can’t they pull up on a computer the info applicants filled online when applying for passports? Why do they have to rely on the applicants’ photocopies when they already have the information in their database? It means someone can show up and collect someone else’s passport,” Aghenu said, adding that the embassy operations were intermittently disrupted whenever the server feeding the embassy portal from Abuja was down.
Aghenu, who has been living in the US for over 30 years, revealed that more than 10 officials of the embassy went to the mosque for Jumat prayer during official hours.
In which box would you put Aghenu? Chameleon-is-slow box or chameleon-is-fast box? Do you think he’s telling the truth or is he lying?
Narrating her ordeal at the Nigerian Embassy in Atlanta, Georgia, another Nigerian-American, who lives in Illinois, Maria Reyes, (not real name), said months after filling her application online and getting an acknowledgement, all the calls she made to the embassy to book a date to come to the embassy were not picked.
Reyes said, “People came from various states, leaving their jobs, families, and risking their lives. I travelled down from Illinois. The place was like a hajj camp. The officials talked down on you; the whole place was hot.
“Eventually, I had to use the connection of a big man in Nigeria for them to attend to me. When I mentioned the big man’s name, I was allowed to go in. I went in and I was told to pay $133 apart from the $195 passport renewal fee. They said the $133 was the fee for appearing without an appointment. I paid because I came from outside Georgia and I had no place to sleep. The $195 charge was payable only through debit or credit card, but I was told I could pay the $133 charge in cash. I smelled a rat, so I opted to pay with my card. I think the $195 fee goes to the Nigerian government, I don’t know where the $133 fee goes,” Reyes said.
Explaining that an official of the embassy sells bank drafts and money orders to applicants right inside the embassy collecting cash, Reyes said the bank drafts and money orders should have been paid for with debit or credit cards in order to generate receipts and ensure proper accountability to the Federal Government.
(To be continued)
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