Sunday, July 04, 2021

Life Lately: On Yoruba Nation and Secessionist Movements; Lights Out at General Electric

What else has the current Nigerian government got right asides the trains?

Nigeria is not working. I wanted to open this with anecdotes from my last trip but reading my notes was draining. Is it the needless death; the spike in the number of people, mostly women with sickly babies, standing outside pharmacies seeking help to buy medication; endless kidnappings; or rampant inflation? The present administration is underperforming expectations by a wide margin.

These trends have caused a decades-old question to resurface. Would the constituent parts of Nigeria be better-off on their own? While they never really left, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is back in the news following a spate of attacks. Calls for a Yoruba nation have regained prominence, with Google searches for “Yoruba nation” peaking last month (the Oduduwa republic was a previous name for a similar idea). The Federal Government went after the leaders of both movements over the past week, arresting Nnamdi Kanu (IPOB), and arresting a cat and allegedly killing two people in a failed raid on Sunday Igboho’s (Yoruba nation) house.

Google web search trends for "Oduduwa republic" and "Yoruba nation" over the past five years

I welcome calls for us to reevaluate the basis for our continuation as one country. We don’t have to continue as one Nigeria just because it was convenient for British administrators to run the area as one. Enough time has passed that we can revisit the conversation and decide if we are stronger together, what changes are required to the current setup, or whether we are better off as separate countries. However, this is such an important conversation that the process is as important – if not more important – than the outcome.

For this conversation to yield conclusions most people will accept, it must be representative – down to the smallest tribe and ethnic minority, and robust. It shouldn’t be a “should I go or should I stay” conversation. All outcomes need to be on the table, from separation to various forms of reorganization. While I don’t have any answers, I also believe it needs to be done within the existing framework of our democracy.

I don’t believe violent separatist or secessionist movements are the way to go. If you’re in any doubt, look up the death toll and economic destruction that accompanied the Nigerian Civil war, read any of the books written about it, or watch any of the graphic videos on YouTube or Twitter. May we not see a return to those dark days.


It took me too long to write this. Every time I encountered any difficulty, such as with phrasing a thought or completing a sentence, my mind was drawn to easier things – like mindless scrolling through my WhatsApp. This is a battle I’ve been fighting for very long (I wrote in January about using my phone more mindfully), and it reminded me of this passage from Followers, a gripping dystopian thriller I picked up yesterday.

"There was one main difference between writing now and writing when she was in second grade: back then, she didn’t own screens. Now, whenever a sentence of hers unfurled into something awkward or just never began at all, she gave up. She let her eyes jump from her drab Word document to the brighter planes of her phone and TV." - Angelo, Megan. Followers (p. 16). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.


What I’m currently reading: I was very inspired by Jack Welch as a teenager. Winning, his book, inspired my earliest professional ambition: to join a large conglomerate, preferably one offering products or services that made daily life better, and rise to the top. I also loved his other books and read them several times. They told of his prowess as a CEO, and of GE as a house he had built on a rock. Therefore I was shocked to find in the mid-2010s that GE had fallen from grace – and so swiftly and suddenly. What happened to GE?

Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric answers that question. There were many elements to the company’s fall, including the culture, decisions, accounting practices, and their approach to managing talent. Interestingly, Jack flagged three (culture, decision-making, and talent management) of these as GE's strengths in his books . If I had to pick one culprit, it was the culture. Their culture of making the numbers at all costs gave rise to what Gryta and Mann describe as “success theater”. Problems were not surfaced and underlings did not challenge bad decisions. “Problems [were] hidden for the sake of preserving performance, thus allowing small problems to become big problems before they were detected.

What I’m currently listening to: News broke recently that Matt Hancock, the former UK Cabinet Minister for Health and Social Care and leader of the UK’s COVID response, had in fact been breaking his own advice (Hands, Face, Space). He was caught on video welcoming an aide into his personal space, running his hands over her body, and mashing his face into hers. Matt Hancock’s Downfall, The Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast episode, has all the deets.


Have a fab week!


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