Adewale Maja-Pearce’s “Thai Rice and Nigerian Politics” got it all wrong: ALL Nigerian politicians hand out “rice” of one variety or another – Tola Adenle

I’ve read many post-election comments that see Ekiti people (I’m partly Ekiti by descent as most regulars of this blog know) as morons whose wills are subverted by bags of rice. It is exactly to elicit responses of various shades that I posted Maja’s New York Times Op-Ed piece.

It did not take long for some of those, including this blogger who did not choose fence-sitting but who – so to say –  fought in the trenches with words against the reactionary PDP, especially at Osun where my life was greatly endangered (as most in Osun knew) to become at best persona non grata and at worst, enemies to the new government because we called for caution. It is interesting that multiple write-ups I had before the 2011 election fiasco calling for – among other things – sacrifices to be made so that the planned joint fielding of a presidential candidate would work has now become urgent to the “progressive” rank, a party now filled with a motley crowd, including former “un-progressives” – just to win.  If that questionable route is now being courted at great cost, I wonder why wouldn’t and couldn’t people of like-minds in different camps get together and accommodate each others’ little quirks – if at that – to save Nigeria from the real devils that held and continue to  hold it in stranglehold.

It would be difficult to find a politician in Nigeria today who does not give out “rice” in its various forms while Nigerian journalists, who give a true meaning to the American phrase, “check book journalism” with very few exceptions that I personally know, freely take “rice” of better variety than Thai even though they are ever so ready to run with the hare while hunting with the hounds.  It’s too recent to recall editorial and advertising powerhouses within the newspaper industry getting “rice” in forms of houses, plot lands at Abuja, etcetera.

I’m sure “Rice” is already being offered and taken at Osun, the next electoral stop and in all other states pending the 2015 elections. What is sad is that while a governorship hopeful may spend his own money (to be later recouped from state’s allocations if he no ladies, yet), incumbents freely freeload from state’s coffer whatever he needs to get re-elected. The holier-than-thou words and attitude are irritating because everybody knows that all politicians do it. At electoral posts in Ondo State, mint-fresh N1,000.00 (about $6.00) were openly offered during the last governorship re-run election.  By the way, it is no secret that candidates, especially the “progressive” types, openly canvass their supporters to take “rice” when offered but to vote the other way!

In Fayose’s case, they apparently didn’t because they possibly saw no difference in voting for AC/APC or PDP.  The number of voters for the PDP-Fayose ticket seem to attest a bit to that line of thinking. Okay,  I really have no choice and so I’ll sit it out rather than vote for PDP  seems to me how Ekiti people took the choice that faced them.  There were no massive turnouts for voting as happened during earlier elections.

Most in Nigeria since the brand of “democracy” that does not believe in people’s opinions are poorer than they were before 1999 while a few have amassed stupendous wealth riding on the back of an impoverished millions who have been pushed to the stage where a bag of rice is better than nothing. It’s all they believe and think will ever come their way while BILLIONS OF DOLLARS are in the hands of a few.

It is unfortunate that Dr. Fayemi became a fall guy to this cruel system but in a way, everybody in government –  politicians at every level and civil servants, especially the top ones on the gravy train –  is part of the problem. I have never really been able to comment on his administration because I have not visited Ado in the last five years but when the Univ. of Ado-Ekiti students rioted some years back, this blog posted an essay by somebody who knew what was going on.

Relatively-clean politics is difficult to practise where a losing governorship candidate takes his opponent on a legal squeeze-them-and-hang-them-dry jamboree with vulture legal judiciary lying in waiting and legal “luminaries” via government-awarded “Senior Advocate of Nigeria” lay ambush to candidates all the way to the Supreme Court:  incumbents expend hundreds of millions in state funds and pretender and proxies expend equally huge amounts donated  all-around by vultures who will later lay their own ambushes.

The people lose – all the time.

Here are links to two essays from a seeming long ago past.  They point to the present, as always, a child of the past and a pointer to the future and even way back then not long after the return to civil rule, the signs of an ominous financial future were already there:


The first was first published in <em>The Comet on Sunday</em> in June 2003 while the second was written earlier for the same paper for my Sunday essays in 2002 with an intro when I re-aired it in <em>The Nation on Sunday</em>, the succession paper, in 2010.

In case you are in a corner of the world like me and your web access is not that good, I’ll quote a few portions from “Letters to governors on deficit accounting”:


Dear Governors,

These aren’t the best of times although for most Nigerians, that is not saying a lot because the last two decades have been varying degrees of bad. 

What I believe discerning voters would like to know from Ondo, Osun, Kwara, etcetera, is simple:  In full-page ads in a couple of newspapers popular in your states, show how much, overdraft is being owed and to which banks, the dates taken; how much in foreign loans is being owed and the date(s) taken and who was the governor of the state at the time of the loan, military or civilian …

In the recent past, I’ve had cause to write about states’ profligacy when Chief Adebayo went to the capital market to borrow billions of naira supposedly to enable him carry out development projects a mere months before the election, and wondered how he was going to pay back.  Governors should be made to retire whatever loans they borrowed, I wrote.  I’ve also written about Osun where Chief Akande had cried out about deductions by Abuja from its quarterly allocations.  This is justifiable as there is no other way to make states pay their debts.  Chief Akande’s administration was saddled with what past military governor(s) had borrowed and there is nothing to show for the loans.

In this part of the world, once elected, ever the boss.  … The Tribune  reported Dr. Agagu as blackmailing (my take of the bizarre idea) banks that “his administration would only do business with banks that are ready to finance developmental projects in the state.” We all know that banks in Nigeria cannot survive without government deposits and Agagu, who promised a week earlier to rebuild the burnt market at Akure, “identified projects which the banks could help finance to include markets in Akure, Owo, Ikare, Ondo and Ore.”  Now, I honestly believed the doctor when he was quoted during the campaigns that Ondo’s allocation from the federation accounts was not justified by what the government of Chief Adefarati had done, but the good doctor failed to tell us he was going to borrow to perform better because that’s exactly what having OMEGA and other banks “contribute … to move Ondo State forward” means.  Don’t mortgage the future of Ondo citizens, my dear doctor

My advice to other governors, please don’t.  Or, if you must go to the capital markets to borrow, why not do what is done “all over the world” as claimed by my dear Asiwaju and go back to the citizens of your state as is done by municipal/city governments in other parts of the world.  To raise a bond issue, hold a referendum that is free and transparent and let your citizens decide whether they want to borrow.

These bonds that yield instant cash, though due ten, fifteen or twenty-five years are like credit cards for these states!  Right now, it will provide the heady rush that credit card junkies report when they go on spending sprees.  They report feeling empowered by the ability to buy anything until they’ve maxed out their limits and are forced into counseling after impoverishment.  Sorry, Asiwaju, there won’t be counseling for the non-shareholders of Nigeria, Inc. twenty years from now.  Thousands and thousands will work for food in Ghana that has learnt to live within its means and may be as many would languish in jails abroad for fraud.

Borrowing to finance market or road construction or “other capital assets for developments” is “voodoo economics” as George Bush I once described what later became the fancy “Reaganomics”, the architect of today’s corporate greed scam in the USA.  If we cannot afford new roads or markets, we must content ourselves with what we have.  It will force us to develop our other resources.

Excess fat abound and it is here you must start, including and especially the wastes that are tagged to your benefits.  Reduce the number of vehicles for your government AND your convoys; reduce guesthouses (staff, generator use, etc.), cut out overseas trips “for investments”, they are shams, and other areas of leakages.  Make a break with the past and think of your places in history.

Otunba Fayose and the other Otunba at Abeokuta seem to have gotten off the starting blocks.  While one may be skeptical about Fayose’s donation of millions in cash and goods to his state after being sworn in because it really is not the kind of sacrifice that good governance calls for, I am impressed by his decisions to have all government vehicles except those on essential services off the roads by 6.00 p.m. weekdays and all weekends.  Five thousand naira limit placed on phone bills also sounds right because all these can add up quickly.   Fayose has also called for an end to the Akure commute (29 miles away) by top officials using government vehicles …


The Ekitis spoke on June 21 but definitely it will not be the last in this vast land of a “democracy” where “un-democracy” include people having no say in how they are governed, including tons of borrowed money that will keep the people crippled by poverty that would one day make “Thai Rice” unattainable as “take this bag of rice and forget the future of your child” as I titled a recent essay here indicate.

“Thai Rice and Nigerian Politics” does not tell the story of the abyss to which Nigeria has descended looking at the situation from both sides.


WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014.  8:10 a.m. [GMT]

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