Square Pegs and Round Holes


Civics and Social Advocacy

Issue Voting

2019 will see the rise of the issue voter in Nigeria. Most people will be focused on issues like security, the economy, rule of law, corruption, poverty reduction, provision of infrastructure, etc. This is a progressive way to select preferred candidates after aggregating their performance on the core issues important to the voter. It is mostly subjective as the voter sees the performance from the prism of how these issues affect them. For instance, if the second Niger bridge is not completed in four years, there might be a voter backlash from residents of the South East regardless of the advances made in delivering, say the Kano-Lagos or the Calabar-Lagos rail lines, power sector reform goals, etc.


Some will still vote based on hang-ups of 2015 and the other ethnic colorations and the other non-progressive markers that exist everywhere there are people with differences.  That will most never leave world politics. On the other hand there will be some who will be single issue voters. These are the ones that will focus on just one issue dear to their heart and not even care about the candidates performance on the other equally if not more important issues.


I will be a single issue voter in 2019. I will focus on an issue that is dear to me. I will not bother too much about the other ones. I will leave those to you. Also, I believe the government will do well on the critical indices given the opportunities that abound and within the context of local and global constraints.


My single issue will be sensitivity. Is that progressive? I’m not sure, but that’s where my heart leads me.



The Yes Men

One time I was involved in some civil construction work. Through it I met many artisans, equipment and materials vendors and all kinds of professionals.
I had one artisan/sub-contractor who I will call Tunde. He was very good at his job. His English was not perfect, but I understood all his text messages and quotes. He could use technology. He would proactively shoot me pictures to explain a point and show progress. He was very loyal and supportive. I came to trust him because he had many opportunities to cheat me or withhold what belonged to me and each time he passed the test with shinning colours.
But he had one problem. Let me explain.
Whenever we went out to select materials together, he would agree with all my choices.
“Oga this one good. I like am”.
“That one too sef good”.
“Yes, you fit take this one too if you like am. E fine well well”.
Me: But I bring you here because na you be expert. You need to tell me the reason why one better pass another one so that I go fit choose”
Tunde : OK Oga. Which one you like out of all of them? That one? OK. Na im fine pass. Make we buy that one. E go last and e fine.”
Very exasperating, to say the least.
So I stopped taking him out to select materials. I would ask him for the qualifying parameters prior to my store visits and then just go out and make a choice.
Then I would return and say “Wetin you think of this one?”
Him: Ah, Oga you get taste o, you sabi better thing o! This one dey very good. Na the best one”
And when I make an obvious error in giving work direction? He would not correct me. So it happened that we spent a lot of money to buy a material that was not suited for the specific application it was to be used for and it failed. It cost money and more materials to remove it, get a different one and return to the site. So I asked him how come he later spoke like he knew that was going to happen. Yet he watched me through the decision phase to implementation and never stopped me or expressed a word of caution? Did he know how much that cost us in time, money and opportunity?
Tunde: Oga no vex Sir. I no want make you vex. I too believe you. I too small to correct you. Who I be for where you dey?” No vex Sir!
Me: Your job na to work for me and also advise when I dey go wrong. If you continue like this I go terminate our agreement and get someone else. Make you no fear me abeg. Na you know your work pass me. Na you be the expert. I go listen to you. Na you dey see wetin I no dey see. Dey tell me as e be every time abeg, you hear?
Tunde: Yes sir!
It was a work in progress still. Sigh.

Bethesda School for the Blind and that Eviction Threat

yemi-osinbajo visits Bethesda home for the blind
Professor Yemi Osinbajo visits the Bethesda Home for the Blind in April 2015

I am beginning to ask myself whether the perception of change by the Executive governor of Lagos State is the same with what I and majority of Lagosians voted for in 2015!
The Bethesda Home is a non-profit organization established to cater for the well-being of blind persons who do not have support from the government or even their families. The home feeds, clothes and shelters them while paying for their vocational and academic education. The home even extends its humanitarian services to indigent blind persons who are not resident on their premises to obtain financial support for pursuing their educational ambitions as well. In 2013, the immediate past Chairman of the Surulere Local Government Council allocated the council’s property on 31 Moshalasi Road, Mushin, for the use of the home to encourage their work. The property was then in a dilapidated state and the home had to raise funds worth millions of Naira to build a fence, fumigate it and renovate the buildings to make them habitable. I recall that a current national leader of the All Peoples’ Congress, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, enjoyed media accolades for donating an eighteen-sitter bus to the home on his sixtieth birthday anniversary.
However, despite the fact that the incumbent second citizen of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is a patron of the home and the residents turned out en mass to vote for APC, the new administration of the Surulere Local government Council with the backing of the Lagos State government is now resolved to forcefully eject them from the property (only the refusal of the Nigerian Police to be an accomplice has delayed this).
Although it is worrying that a government should attack the weak and vulnerable rather than protect them, it is more unsettling to consider what the social implications of this action will be. While monitoring a radio interview of Governor-to-be Akinwunmi Ambode by Jimmy Disu barely weeks to the 2015 gubernatorial elections I recall that Mr. Ambode was asked whether his coming to office would continue the trend of selling property of the state to private business concerns. His answer then was noticeably inconclusive. I will not be surprised if, after expelling the blind occupants of 31 Mushin Road, the site suddenly became the property of a corporate body. But even if, for shame, this course is not followed, I wonder how committed the Lagos State government is to their policy of eliminating begging on the streets of Lagos when they force vulnerable persons out of their shelter right onto the streets.
The government owns the land in Nigeria and it is no secret that they can wield so much brutal force at will. However, I know it is the government’s constitutional duty and moral obligation to protect all citizens especially the vulnerable. The Lagos State Government has much under-utilized land all over the state which they can allocate to the home. That line of action would have helped them hide some of the hypocrisy in their relations with persons living with disabilities.
In case you are unaware, the Lagos State Government instituted an “inclusive” education programme in which they are supposed to modify existing regular schools to accommodate children with disabilities. The scheme was started before Ex-Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola’s two tenures , more than eight years ago, but none of the disabled children that were enrolled in the primary schools ever successfully graduated into secondary schools from those inclusive units. At best, they are children whose parents had to withdraw them and take them to the privately-owned special schools to complete their primary education. The enactment of the Lagos State Special People’s Law in 2011 was a noble gesture to mark the birthday of BRF and it came with the setting up of the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), ostensibly a platform for interfacing between the state government and persons with disability. It is disheartening to note that this office has divorced itself from the plight of the Bethesda Home, this being only one of its ineptitudes. But that is another story for another day.
If we, as residents of Lagos State, allow this instance of insensitivity and negligence of duty to the populace to go unchallenged, we are being unwise. Bethesda Home for the blind is the victim today, nobody knows where the pendulum of oppression will swing next!


Opeolu Akinola, a visually impaired citizen and people living with disabilities rights advocate, writes from Lagos.



Bethesda Home For The Blind website 

Fashola visits Bethesda Home for the Blind



Caveat: Views expressed and information provided are those of the author.

The Ignorant Electorate: A Danger to Democracy


I have heard it said a population with low intellect may not be capable of making beneficial decisions.  We saw this played out in the last elections and previous ones before it.
Let us take a quick look at what happened in Kogi state, from party primaries all the way to the main elections. When a people are presented with more than a dozen candidates from diverse backgrounds, track records and political party affiliation and yet make the election one between the devil and the deep blue sea, then they have only themselves to blame. This is not just about Wada/Audu. Several others voted drug barons and failed governors to represent them in the NASS, past and present.
Until the electorate is largely enlightened and made to understand the real reasons for voting and what politicians are supposed to do for them, they shall continue to elect the most benevolent thieves and incompetents and not necessarily the ones with either proven (good) track records or with noble intentions.
The voter must be made aware that, by that singular act of selecting a candidate via the ballot, they have been offered a chance to determine the positive or negative outcome of the next four years of government intervention in their lives. They must also be mature enough to live with the consequences while basing their next voting attempt on the lessons learned from the last one.
To grow our democracy to where the impact will be felt in governance and national development, agencies charged with national orientation must make voter education an utmost priority.
An ignorant electorate is the Achilles heel of democracy.



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