“Borrowed” robes & NigComSat are inseparable – Tola Adenle

December 13, 2011


[I try not to use my old newspaper essays on two consecutive days but after receiving a couple of mails today asking about “your borrowed robes essay …”, in today’s  http://emotanafricana.com/2011/12/12/mr-segun-adeniyi-p-l-e-a-s-e-spare-us-the-agony-of-your-sanctimonious-posturing-2/, I’m using it as Tuesday’s post.  TOLA ADENLE, December 12, 2011.]

 If clothes do not a monk make/They could NOT a Hausa make/But point to a deep Nigerian malady/A bizarre form of double jeopardy! Tola Adenle, 12/2008.

 I know.  Double jeopardy is U.S. legalese for a person being prosecuted twice for the same offence and is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution.  Above use should be taken, therefore, as mere literary license which, in a way, is not completely out of place here.

 It is sad that while Ghana, Nigeria’s Kehinde (second of twins but by Yoruba tradition, the older one), keeps forging ahead in strengthening its democratic institutions, “older” Nigeria keeps sinking deeper into bad governance-induced coma.  Naming of new ministers, revenue allocations to states and local governments, House and Senate constituting new committees and that Nigerian trademark, looting, seem to be the only happenings at various government levels. 

 If I have to include a technician-level job I had at the Women in Development Division of the World Bank in the 80s (second go-around at The Bank, by the way, and first job during my self-imposed exile years), AND the technical reports I edited for a company that did State of Nevada contracts after my family had settled down to a peaceful and reasonably comfortable exile, my resume would include make-beliefs like “Consultants to The World Bank, State of Nevada, etcetera.  Last week, I smelled more than a rat when a “U.S.-based Nigerian consultant” got the full Matters e-Rising column of Segun Oruame of this paper to lecture Nigerians on why it is unpatriotic to question the Nigerian satellite that supposedly got missing. In his “Choice not between electric power and NigComSat” Modibo Yunusa Usman took on a p.r. job for the Nigerian government:  “The choice is not between electric power and NIGCOMSAT … because many already have power in Nigeria … it may be erratic but we have power … In actuality, you will need several times more money just to get NEPA going than was used to get the satellite into space … in comparing it (power) to the availability of internet access, we are shooting ourselves in the foot…”

 A lot of half truths and generalizations filled the column of our compatriot who has “consulted for a host of companies in the US, including Microsoft and Conoco Phillips”; I wonder why Consultant Usman needed to whet Nigerians’ appetites with “why China was asked to build the satellite” and then merely condescendingly declared: “the answer is obvious to those who know … [because] China is not synonymous with low quality, that is why many swear by Asian cars…” While Usman listed an array of supposed satellites that have got missing, I find it unsettling the seeming mix-up/confusion of space exploration satellites with communication satellites in the mumbo jumbo in the last paragraphs that would not be out of place in a Media “Adviser’s” brief: 

 “At this critical time in our development, we must begin to understand that our failure belongs to our leaders as much as theirs eventual becomes ours.  If we expect them to do the right thing and succeed, so also we effect their success and … ours by beginning to do the right thing … there are no easy solutions for the failing satellite but let us not start by throwing away the baby with the bath water…” Anyway, Consultant Usman would not be the first. Many – in and out of government – have parlayed such knee-jerk government support to “great things”, i.e. government appointments, contracts, etcetera although Usman’s submission, albeit strange, could be from an altruistic expatriate Nigerian.

 I did not have long to wait to see what seemed the smelly rat of Monday, December 8. Among issues tackled in a two-page interview with Alhaji Yar Adua’s Spinmeister in last Sunday’s issue of this paper was the satellite that supposedly went the way of many.  Dressed in Northern Nigeria’s ceremonial regalia, Chief/Alhaji (?) Adeniyi, the Special Adviser on Media (S.A.M.) to Alhaji Yar Adua wore a scared look due, perhaps, to his new identity?  It is possible he’s always dressed this way because I do not know this guy but he looks out of sorts in the borrowed robes.  Of course, “borrowed” does not imply the outfit belongs to his boss or any in his inner circle – Northerners, all, in spite of high-flying words that Nigerians eschew ethnicity.

 Here are a few gems from the SAM:  “Between last year and this year, it is on record that there have been about 50 of such satellite failures across the world… Orbicom Satellite developed problem … in all the six satellites launched this year all in one day a satellite built [in] the United States… The NigComSat MD Ahmed Rufai, is currently in China …and sent me a text message that he had already signed an agreement with the Chinese government to rebuild the satellite… they advise that Nigeria should commence NigComSat 2 and 3 to provide … back up…” Robe Borrower par excellence I’ll say, do and wear anything as long as I get to be your “adviser” although these decisions never have my input.

 On NigComSat, the fact remains that NigComSat1 was bad for Nigeria because we got the short end of the stick.  Many – within and without the borders of this country – know it; the 2nd and 3rd would NOT yield any improvement if the same approach is taken in negotiations.  The suggestions by both Usman and S.A.M. of China’s superiority in satellite technology can hold water only in Nigeria because most who understand these things do not read such interviews.  I am not knowledgeable, either, but illogicality is not difficult to pick out.  S.A.M.’s position is understandable, though.  The Orwellian Squiller (a pig from the special caste in The Animal Farm) must be nodding in admiration from hog’s heaven at such loyalty to a Master’s Voice.

 When I saw a picture of Dr. Jonathan in Northern garb after a Federal Executive meeting during Alhaji Yar Adua’s celebrated lesser Hajj, I felt as uncomfortable as he should have felt donning what he had possibly never worn – at least in public.  Why did you do it, Doctor?  It was embarrassing.  Nothing stops you from donning any of the different outfits in Nigeria but it smells fishy when the change, unlike Paul’s on the way to Damascus, seems contrived.  Alhaji Dimeji Bankole is a Moslem but the guy used to wear the classic Yoruba etu cap, a fact  I once wondered aloud about in this column when, after a thank you (?) trip to the North after he became Speaker, he suddenly started wearing the Northern cap. 

 Looking back, though, it seems these are no fashion trends and it makes me wonder if there’s a sort of Northern Okija Shrine or a Dr. Faust-equivalent somewhere in the arid North where heavy pledges are exacted from power seekers.  During the administration of Alhaji Shagari, I think his press officer, Chief Michael Prest became Alhaji Mikail Prest.  While it’s within the realms of possibility that a middle age man would discover a need for a radical change from one faith to another, many like me view such with suspicion. 

TOLA ADENLE, The Nation on Sunday,  December 2008



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