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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Family Of Nigeria's Late Minister Of Labour Blames Death On Diabolical Forces

James Ocholi

The family of Mr James Ocholi, a lawyer and Nigeria's Minister of State for Labour until his death three days ago, has blamed his death on evil supernatural forces. This was news I expected and actually looked out for. I did not have to wait for long, and was not disappointed.

Mr Ocholi is a product of the Nigerian 'quota system'. This simply means that he did not get his position based on merit or the fact that he was eminently qualified for the job; he got it because of his state of origin. Nigeria has 36 states, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria's seat of power. Federal political appointments have to be, as a rule, spread evenly among the states. This detrimental system has ensured that the mediocrity that is a huge part of Nigeria's deep problems will be perpetuated ad infinitum. It is even present in the educational system, throwing up a scenario in which students from the "educationally disadvantaged" states require a score of less than 10 out of 200 to gain admission into Federal Government Colleges, while students from states that are deemed not to be educationally disadvantaged will be refused admission into these same federal schools because they did not meet their state's cut off marks of over 100.

Mr Ocholi's extended family, and his clan have been thrown into mourning, not because they will miss their son and benefactor, but because the monies he would have been throwing their way from time to time will no longer be available. I am not judging Mr Ocholi's character; in Nigeria, the community where a political appointee or elected official comes from stands to gain a lot from her/his position. Even if this individual means well and does not want to corruptly enrich herself/himself by stealing public funds, the pressure from family members and the community will eventually break down any resistance to the tendency to steal public funds. Stealing public funds is normal in Nigeria. In fact, anyone who is in a position to do so and declines is regarded as a fool and a hinderance to the "development of the community". This "development" is none other than the disbursement of stolen public funds and monies meant for essential projects (such as community healthcare, education, rural roads, and the provision of potable water to the community) among political loyalists, family, and friends. These same people who were hoping to continue to benefit from the funds meant for the actual development of their community, are the same people who are crying that Mr Ocholi's death, in an automobile accident, is the handiwork of diabolical and evil persons.

Mr James Ocholi and one of his sons, who was in the car with him, died at the scene of the accident. His wife died a few hours later in hospital. Their deaths were by no means diabolical. The punctured rear tyre that caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle and kill its occupants may not have been fatal if the driver was driving at a speed he could control. The drivers of government officials are notorious for their inordinate desire to break the ground speed limit, and on Nigeria's death traps, sorry, roads, one is indeed inviting death by driving at speeds of over 60mph. The Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, the agency responsible for regulating vehicles and drivers in Nigeria, revealed that their investigations showed the Ocholis did not have on seat belts, and their driver did not have a driver's licence. The state of their tyres was also implicated in the accident. No diabolical causes of the accident were found.

Mr Ocholi's replacement will most probably come from the same state, but a different community, and you can bet good money that the new appointee's extended family, friends, and members of his clan will be delirious with joy as it will be their turn to get a slice of the proverbial national cake. This is a profoundly troubling case of one man's joy being another man's sorrow, but in Nigeria, it is the norm, and life goes on.

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