Sunday, April 29, 2012

HOW TO RUN A ONE MAN BUSINESS


You are the type of person that our president loves, that every well meaning capitalist government loves- an entrepreneur. You are the future of the middle class. A business owner. While your lazy classmates (if you even entered a class) hustled with CV’s in brown envelopes for government salaries, you built a business from scratch. I praise God for your wisdom and wish you many more years of productive insight. 

Because I am a supporter of your success, I have undertaken to give you free advice on how to succeed.

You need to get good, honest workers who can work long hours with little pay. If you run a small operation without the need for any special skills apart from basic arithmetic and physical strength, and need just one or two workers, my advice is to talk to your mother or aunty in the village. There is no better way. She will suggest a very distant cousin or some destitute from the neighboring village who will be grateful to come to the city. Because you will have saved him from the village- from possible guinea worm, being killed by village juju, addiction to ogogoro or early marriage (by impregnating a farmer’s daughter)- you will not need to pay him a salary at least for the next many years. 

I know you are wondering where he will sleep when he comes. Not to worry. Provide a little mattress and pillow and he can sleep in the shop. Unless you have excess room in your boys quarters (that you are not using to store your children’s old toys), there is no need to spoil this new village person with running water, a toilet that actually flushes and his own room. Otherwise you will wake up one day and he will want to drive your car or share your wife. 

Now you may have to reach an agreement with his village guardians to free him from your service in some years and give him some money to start his own business. Don’t panic. As a lawyer I can tell you it is safe to sign.  First, five or seven years is still a long way off and when the time comes to part with your hard earned money something miraculous will happen to save you from your duty. The guy who has been working like a bull for many years will suddenly become dishonest and steal your money or goods a few months before he is due for his compensation. Then you can send him packing and find another one. 

Ok, say you have a more complex operation and need a bit of skill. Not too much because you know you cannot pay for too much skill. Type the job ads on A4 paper, (landscape orientation) and paste at junctions, on electric poles, on other people’s signboards and one at your place of business. Put a contact phone number below. You will have more applications than you can deal with. The general understanding here is that where the ad reads, “Computer Operator Wanted” or “Secretary Wanted”, the job description goes much further. 

Feel free after employing your Secretary to send them to pick up your kids from school, to buy you moin-moin, wash your plate after you finish drinking garri, wash your car or buy a ticket and book a quiet hotel for your girlfriend coming from out of town (even if he is a born-again Christian). Your employee might grumble under his breath but he will understand; that is how things are done.

Never do things that will make your employee take you for granted. It is your duty as a business owner to maintain the pecking order for all of us. Never pay salaries on time. In fact avoid paying salaries and look for excuses either not to pay or to cut out some part of it. They come late to work, cut their salaries. They break something, cut their salaries. Don’t feel bad about this. In Nigeria nobody, except big corporations, oil companies and those in charge of amnesty for militants, pays or pays on time. Normal business owners complain: no money, no sales, business is bad, no fresh air- anything to avoid paying.

However, remember that the fact that you do not pay or pay on time does not mean that your slave-worker can work as he or she earns. They must meet deadlines, come to work every day and on time, and never openly complain. They should be grateful that in the Nigeria of today where everything is crumbling you are kind enough to offer them a job. In fact you deserve an award for being an “employer of labour”.

Those who think you are a bad guy should try running a business in a country with no electricity, infrastructure or security. God bless your hustle.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

HOW TO SUCCEED AS FIRST LADY IN NIGERIA



People underestimate the power in the cliché, “beside every successful man, there is a woman”. You know how this works. You also know the useful variations of that cliché, like “beside every successful man is a sensible woman”. Sensible because there are women behind and in front who are never seen. We all know how men are. They can’t make up their minds as to what they want, whether it is the wife, the wife’s friend, the girlfriends, or the housemaid. It is your job to make sure he keeps you in your proper place: by his side, as First Lady.

Never confront him about the other women (or boys) you and half the world know he has. In fact, officially, your husband is a kind, god-fearing man incapable of carnal knowledge against the order of marriage (or of nature). Say this to yourself as often as you can. 

Show an early interest in politics. This is what will separate you from the other women – the ability to support his career. You do not need plenty degrees for this. You do not even need to know how to speak English well. Wisdom will save you.  Go into the field, attend party rallies and do not show signs of sleepiness or irritation. Especially during election campaigns, primaries and elections proper, you will be expected to show stamina, stay up all night campaigning, counting votes, manufacturing votes, or waiting for results that will confirm that God has blessed your husband's hustle. 

After crossing those hurdles and winning the elections you need to think of your public image. 

The pet project is the burden of the First Lady but you can do it gracefully. It is a blessing in disguise. People underestimate it, ignore it, misunderstand it, even mock it. They do not know the potential. Nobody will ask questions or check your budgets. Nobody will know how much you raise or spend. It is just like your husband’s security vote. 

Once in a while, take your press team and do something for the less privileged, orphans, widows, that kind of thing. Show you are not afraid of poor or disabled children. Let the cameras capture you smiling while you touch a cripple, hug a poor person, pick up an orphan or push someone’s wheelchair. This will prove that you really love and care for them. Have them show you dancing with them on Children’s day or Christmas or New Year's day. But don’t sweat it. You also need time for other aspects of national politics. The days when first ladies were all about pet projects are over.
Remember that no matter who the Party appoints as women leader, you ARE the de facto women leader, the mummy of the federation. Act like it. Host parties and gala nights for wives of governors, ministers and Party men. Sit at the head of the table.

Be innovative. Take the initiative to touch base with your husband’s supporters. Go and thank them for voting him in. It doesn’t matter if you cause massive hold-ups while you are at it. That way they know you are in town.

Consolidate your position by supporting one or two people to get appointments in your husband's government. You need an eye there. Flex your muscles once in a while by making someone who has annoyed you in the presidency lose his job. People need to know you are not just a pet project first lady.

However, be careful when you are collecting kickbacks from contractors and those who badly need to see the President for favours. You don’t want your husband to leave his serious job of being President to clean up your scandals. Use reliable people to do your money laundering, not people who will blurt out your name the moment they are caught with huge sums of foreign currency.

Because you are getting older, you need to take care of yourself. Not because you want your husband to suddenly abandon his girlfriends and start desiring you. That ship has sailed. You can pay people to desire you when you want. It is for the cameras. You need to be the best dressed woman in the room. You do not want some other powerful woman outshining you. You are the mother of the people. Do complete makeovers if you have to (I hear Dubai is great for makeovers). But be careful. With the exception of harmless Botox injections, avoid needles. Avoid knives and tubes and suction pipes. You don’t want to leave your exalted position for some small girl to inherit.

There are people in the media, half-baked journalists and idle bloggers, who will look at everything you do, your head tie, your children, your grammar, your toenails, the texture of your voice. Unfortunately, this is a democracy and you must endure them. But rest assured that God will judge evil journalists, bloggers and jobless Twitter and Facebook people.

To boost your international image, you need to be seen in glossy magazines with wives of leaders of good countries. Aim high; the American First Lady. My prayer for you is that the Americans don’t elect a woman or gay man as president when it is time for your photo.

Finally, don’t get carried away. Those men who kneel at your feet today do it only because your husband is alive and in power. If that changes, they will disappear faster than the money in our treasury. People will no longer print wrappers with your photo or use your name to sing local songs. Nobody will even call you to events as ex-First Lady. That future might appear grim, but that is why you must face the serious business of enjoying the present. God bless you as you do.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Kaduna, of Bombs

Friday, April 6, 2012

HOW TO REMAIN A RESPECTED POLITICIAN AFTER LEAVING POWER

Power is sweet. No one knows this eternal truth better than you.

Some days –especially in the early days after the tragic loss– you lie down, wondering how it all happened. You no longer have free government money, no armed orderlies and SSS operatives, no official cars with sirens and green plate numbers, no people queuing to kiss your feet. In fact, the number of cards and hampers you get at the end of the year is now a paltry 10% of what you used to get while you were in power.

You see the way people look at you, not with trembling and awe, but with pity. Their eyes remind you how far you have fallen from grace.

Consider this advice proof of my commitment to your success. Because I still care.

The first way (I only advise this if you are truly tired of seeking power) is to disappear altogether. No big functions. No award ceremonies. No keynote speeches. In fact, you know that Abuja mansion you used as a base? Refuse to renew the outrageous rent (those Maitama landlords are greedy anyway). Move to your country home. Spend some quality time with the family and take your vitamins and anti-hypertension drugs religiously. Attend only a few necessary events, like the Council of State meeting if you were once Head of State, and the weddings of your friends’ children and grandchildren.

Now, if you still want power, there are two other ways of remaining relevant (relevant means that although you are not in office, you still make it to the front page of dailies).

Note: You have lost power, you did not resign. They schemed you out. The guy in power is not from your region; he is not your friend. He has new friends and loyalists who do not understand the pecking order –some of them are even criminals who now have executive backing. God will judge them.

Listen. This is the time to fall back on your tribe, region and religion. Yeah, yeah, I know you once called yourself a de-tribalised Nigerian and all that, but that was when the going was good. Form think-tanks and call yourselves progressives. The others are not progressives because they don’t want your progress. Begin underground moves to return power to your region so that at least you stand a chance of returning to power. When the President makes a budget, sit down with a team of experts from your tribe and analyze the budget. You are bound to find something. Complain bitterly about how he has budgeted for his region N10 more than yours. Remind him that one day, power must change hands. Write moving analyses of how corrupt the government is. It doesn’t matter that you were once part of it. What matters is who is corrupt now that you are out of office. If you are technology savvy, get a Blackberry or iPad. Then create a twitter account where you can scream about every impropriety of the government. Don’t worry, as an ex-something-in-the-last-government, you are sure to get many followers. Post attention-seeking tweets, hold twitter interviews and Q&A’s during which you can properly insult the government. Swear that while you were in office, you were pure perfection. Because we have lazy journalists, your tweets will be turned into screaming headlines. For example, if in reply to the question, “Do you think the military will take over if things get worse?” you reply, “Maybe, nothing is impossible”, a journalist will print the headline: “MR. EX-SOMETHING PREDICTS COUP IN NIGERIA”. The only bad press is no press. All you care about is that you are in the news.

Open your eyes to opportunity. Hijack a protest. Jump on the back of a truck and give a moving speech. Because Nigerians have amnesia, they will forget who you were and be moved by your righteous indignation.

For credibility, swear that even if His Excellency offers you a post in his government you will not take it. Of course you know he will not offer you anything, you just need to prove that you are too cool for this government.

But please, do not get carried away and sponsor groups to blow things up and destabilise the government. It is easy, but resist the temptation. Why? Come on man, you never know how these things will turn out. Today, you are the benefactor giving money for weapons and bombs; tomorrow, they grow wings and turn on you. Be wise. Nigeria is the cash cow that must be kept alive. You need it in one piece for when you come back to power.

There is one simpler, albeit more humiliating way. You must swallow your pride for this one. Become an executive praise singer. Sponsor ads in newspapers. Find out the birthdays of His Excellency, Her Excellency, His Excellency’s girlfriend (this one you take gifts to in private, she has great influence), His Excellency’s in-laws. Do not miss a single event organized by the Political Party, where you must make open donations. Be loyal to the Party. Do not join factions. Sponsor a biography of His Excellency or a collection of essays in honor of one of His Excellency’s closest friends. Then do a launch of the publication and donate the highest amount. Make big donations to Her Excellency the First Lady’s pet project. Sponsor full page, full color editorials about the legacy of this government. People may laugh at you, but before long someone in government will fall out of favour and His Excellency will be looking for a new minister or ambassador or senior special adviser. Because you have been loyal, your name will come up and all those laughing at you will swallow their tongues.

Who said politics was easy?

However, by far the most effective way is to die. Death confers sainthood on a Nigerian politician. Your crimson sins will become immaculate white. They will name halls and streets and bridges after you. Many will mark the day you died. You wll become a statesman, a detribalised Nigerian, a god-fearing nationalist. For it is evil to speak ill of the holy dead.

Whichever of these you find relevant to your circumstances, I wish you all the best. God bless your political hustle and arrange your comeback.