© Ayodele Lawal
All rights reserved.
A rich farmer, also a King, married three wives who bore him a child each. When his children grew up, they worked on a farmland and each gave a fraction his income to their father for his upkeep (as he was getting old). They kept the remainder of their incomes to themselves, to pay for needs and merriment. The harder they worked, the more money they made.
Then, one day while working on the farm, one of the children found a huge cache of gold buried beneath the soil he was tilling, and called the attention of his other brothers to this, before the good news was broken to their father.
Their father decided to call his old friend, a gold merchant, and shortly thereafter they were in business. The father and his children concentrated their efforts on the new gold business and abandoned the farm.
Subsequently, the old man’s deal with his old friend brings in much income, the proceeds from which he grants his children sizeable allowances periodically.
Everyone was happy until the children married and bore their own children. The first married one wife and had two kids. The second had two wives and four kids, while the third married four wives and had ten kids.
The father then decided to redistribute the periodic allowances amongst his children. The bigger the family, the more the allowance each received. As such, the third son got the biggest allowance.
Quarrels started over the allowances and worsened as the first son felt he was being treated poorly. The second son argued that he found the gold and the third cried that he had a bigger family to feed.
The father then resolved to share the entire land equally among the three children, so they could till the ground and earn for their sustenance.
The big problem subsequently became: Which child gets the part of the land where the gold is? And as long as that could not be resolved, the land could also not be shared. If the land cannot be shared, the fact remains that the family strife would continue and deepen.
To resolve this conundrum, what should the father do?
I HAVE argued consistently in the last year about Nigeria’s shockingly dismal preparedness for our collective future. Sadly, nothing, even attitudinally has changed. The “Nigerian ship” is obviously lost in the Mediterranean, her captain and crew (largely incompetent) seem however incapable of navigating it to its destination. This ‘leadership glaucoma’ is why after Morocco, Nigeria sends the most students overseas of any country of the African continent. It explains why close to 15,000 medical doctors have opted to practice abroad and why our finest academics have turned their backs on our Ivory towers. Perhaps, this inconvenient truth, will one day find its way to the corridors of power and deliver its occupants from the spell of mental paralysis that seems to be grinding this nation to a halt. I find astonishing the new gambit by elected public officers, retailing and marketing a fraudulent slogan, ‘the future is bright, just be patient’, when all they care about is the 2019 elections. For the umpteenth time, Nigeria, led by its ‘second eleven’, is not prepared for the future.
Emmanuel Obot, the executive director of the Nigerian conservation foundation, speaking after the recent floods experienced in a few cities across the country had this to say, “we may lose quite a good percentage of Lagos and probably the whole of Bayelsa. If that happens, the refugee problem will be so massive that I don’t think Nigeria is ready for it ”. Only a week ago, the French made an audacious and revolutionary proclamation, saying that by 2040, it would end the sales of petrol and diesel vehicles. The announcement, of course, followed Volvos commitment to produce fully electric or hybrid cars from 2019 onwards. The Norwegians are also vigorously competing for the future with an ambitious target of allowing only sales of 100% electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2025. Even India is refusing to be left behind, plans to introduce electric cars are on top gear, and if the rumour mills are right, by 2030, they will also have stopped the sales of petrol and diesel cars. This massive shift from diesel or petrol-powered engines to electric cars, would, as the Bloomberg have predicted, globally reduce the demand for oil by 8 million barrels per day, with far reaching implications for oil producing countries like Nigeria. Is Nigeria prepared for this eventuality? The obvious answer is no. To think that no lesson has been learnt from the volatility of a commodity driven economy, which plunged us into a gruelling recession, is to put it very bluntly, epically stupid.
In what has been described as the biggest economic shake up since the founding of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government, after running a distasteful budget deficit of nearly 100 billion dollars in 2015, have found the urgency to reform its ailing economy. In a bold vision statement for a future without oil, Bin Salman, the crown prince of the kingdom has rolled out plans to sell off 5% Aramco (estimated as the world’s most valuable company), create a two trillion-dollar Saudi sovereign wealth fund, increase taxes and cut subsidies. Hence, Saudi is moving away from an economy dependent on oil to an economy driven by investments. Our crude economy has certainly left us with a crude thinking (apologies to Atiku Abubakar), unable to proffer solutions to our daily challenges and has completely shut our eyes to the possibilities of the future. It is often said that whenever a man wakes up is his morning, so it is either Nigeria wakes up now or it just might die in its slumber.
The Japanese have a saying that sits right at the very core of their techonogical and economic advancement, “Bad thinking, bad product”. As long as the thinking of the leadership of a country or organisation is faulty, very little can be said of the resulting product. Clearly, we have continually shot ourselves in the foot either by poor thinking or outsourcing our thinking caps to others to do our job for us. Unfortunately for us, push has come to shove and we have allowed the raging bull into our China shop, and except we find the courage to unlearn the past, we are in for a balloon ride.
According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, 58 percent of the Nigerian labour force, between the ages of 15 and 24, are either unemployed or under-employed. Furthermore, there are about 26.06 million Nigerians in the labour force that are unemployed or under-employed. Frightening as these figures are, we still have a defective thinking in government that rather than create jobs, it is creating more chaos as demonstrated by the figures dished out by the NBS, which shows that over 4,000,000 Nigerians became unemployed in 2016.
Let me be clear that we are not only faced with a national problem but a regional and continental one, if not actually a global issue. By 2035, Africa will have more people becoming of the working age than the entire world combined. As such, the IMF has observed that Africa will need to create 18 million decent jobs yearly from now up until 2035 to bridge the gap. More pertinently, by 2050, Nigeria Will be the third most populous nation on earth just behind China and India and over 60 percent of that projection will be of the working age. The question is who is thinking ahead and putting policies in place to deal with the elephant in the room?
The Asians, Europeans and even the Americans are rethinking their educational curricula, with a strong emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engenieering and maths) because they realise that future jobs are dependent on people who hold strong skills in these areas. They understand that to advance their economies they must create the next great innovative technologies, and not just consume them, unlike here where we continue to upscale our unquenchable apetite for consumption.
Apple has 246 billion dollars in cash, Walmart had a revenue of 482 billion dollars in 2015 alone; even if we produced and sold 2.2 million barrels of oil per day at the best rate, we could never accrue such revenues as these giant companies, each started by brilliant entrepreneurs whose government had set up a regulatory and policy framework that allowed them to thrive.
Nobody is thinking about massively reskilling our people with capabilities in the construction and repair of basic modern infrastructure. We no longer have skilled plumbers, electricians or carpenters, little wonder the Chinese and Indians profit from our folly. What we see as major public policy is the arrangement of mass marriage ceremonies for widows, as done by a major commercial state like Kano, and white elephant projects that benefit no one.
We are still struggling to create jobs whose take home pays can hardly get people to their bus stops and have totally failed to unleash the creative and entrepreneurial prowess of the people. Apple has 246 billion dollars in cash, Walmart had a revenue of 482 billion dollars in 2015 alone; even if we produced and sold 2.2 million barrels of oil per day at the best rate, we could never accrue such revenues as these giant companies, each started by brilliant entrepreneurs whose government had set up a regulatory and policy framework that allowed them to thrive.
Our leaders can either choose to look in the mirror and take full responsibility for their actions and inactions or look out through the window seeking whom to blame. As I have argued all year long, our problem isn’t just corruption, it is mental. We are led by a group of people who can’t see beyond their noses.
Permit me to unequivocally state that without rents from crude oil Nigeria will automatically cease to exist. Why Because very little thinking has been invested in liberating our economy from the total dependence on oil. As such, what we are left with is an economy that makes glacial progress when there is an international surge in oil prices, accompanied by a complementary rise in our domestic production. However, when global oil prices come crashing, our economy tumbles along, and everything other thing is left in the hands of God. While we outsourced our brains, we have been in a production battle with Angola to retain our title as the largest producer of oil in Africa, by 2018. UK plans to produce 1.8 million barrels of oil per day while the United States of America projects a domestic production of 10 million barrels of oil per day by December 2018. Imagine the cataclysmic impact this would have on global oil prices and consequently our economy. But then, no one appears to be thinking.
Governance is hard work, requiring deep thought and sound judgment, the capacity to imagine the future and the courage to create it. It is the absence of sound reasoning and critical thinking that has produced far more poor masses or “talakawa” today than the late Aminu Kano would have imagined. It is that poor thinking that has provided no answer to the series of, if not constant clashes between farmers and herdsmen which has claimed thousands of lives, rendered many more homeless and threatens food security.
This lazy thinking is why certain governors, ministers and senior government officials, talk about transforming their state or region into a Dubai. How comical!!! We have a National Arts Theatre barely limping on a toe, a National Museum at a sorry state, two world Heritage sites craving for attention and airports that are glorified motor parks with runways. At about the time Alhaji Lai Mohammed released the score card of his ministry (Tourism, Culture and Information) only a little over 600 million naira was realised whereas his counterpart in Uganda declared 1.5billion dollars as revenue generated from tourism. Yet, we want to be Dubai. We demolish the 160 year old Olaiya house, demolish the prison where Chief Obafemi Awolowo was held but pay to visit Robben Island in South Africa where Mandela was held. Yet, we want to be Dubai.
In any case , Dubai is not a product of a lazy idea or simplistic thinking, it is also not just about Tourism. Dubai’s central geographical location gives it a comparative advantage which it translated into a strategic competitive advantage. As such it invested heavily in world class infrastructure, state of the art airports, cargo hubs, model seaport facilities and policies that enabled it become a regional hub for international trade. Dubai can be reached by flight in three hours from Mumbai, four hours from Nairobi and eight hours from Hong Kong. Am sure now you get the point. Behind the fancy shopping malls and cosy hotels is a sound thinking that has positioned Dubai for a life beyond oil. Two questions, what are we strategically positioning ourselves for and who is doing the thinking?
Everything is wrong with Nigeria, infact, as Ayo Sogunro argued, “everything in Nigeria is going to kill you”. The way leadership is demonstrated in this country is compelling enough to believe that the asylum has been taken over by lunatics or how else does one explain a nation where public office holders are either not accountable for activities under their supervision or often times not responsible for their actions and inactions.
If a senior executive of a brewery walks into a bar to order for a drink and he is told by the attendant that his brand is out of stock but he should jolly well make do with a competitor’s brand. What do you think would happen next? The executive will put a call through to the area manager of the brewery, who will very likely put another call through to the sales executive covering that district to demand an explanation for why their brand is out of stock in a local outlet where a competitor’s brand is available. In such a case, somebody usually ends up with a query. It is such responsibility and accountability that builds great businesses and great nations.
In the last couple of days, meningitis has been responsible for the death of hundreds of Nigerians across a few Northern states but this is how a governor, under whose watch over 200 people died, responds to the tragedy: “What we used to know as far as meningitis is concerned is the Type A virus. However, because people refused to stop their nefarious activities (fornication particularly), God decided to send the Type C virus which has no vaccination”. Those were the words of Governor Yari of Zamfara, a man who presides over the affairs of a state with the cardinal responsibility to ensure the prosperity and welfare of his people. Yet he blames God. Let us even assume for a second that we were actually incurring the wrath of the Almighty, how is it then that only the poor die for sins the rich also commit brazenly. Zamfara has a poverty rate of over 70 percent and is one of the poorest states in the country, but who cares, afterall it is God who maketh some rich and others poor.
Rather than accept responsibility for this monumental disaster and avoidable tragedy, the school authorities have shown no remorse for their complicity in this and little respect for the bereaved. They have continued to insist that there was no epidemic and are only a victim of a smear campaign. How epically stupid can people get!
When news broke out about the death of two students in Queens College, Lagos, a couple of videos were circulated online showing the water tank in the school and the water that came out of it. What I saw in that tank was as good as sewage waste, and in another case a dead cat was found in the tank. The PUNCH reported that no less than 50 students have been admitted to various hospitals and are receiving treatment for food poisoning and diarrhoea. Rather than accept responsibility for this monumental disaster and avoidable tragedy, the school authorities have shown no remorse for their complicity in this and little respect for the bereaved. They have continued to insist that there was no epidemic and are only a victim of a smear campaign. How epically stupid can people get! Three students reported dead and over 50 hospitalised, yet the authorities under whose watch this calamity occurred are sitted comfortably on their executive seats.
Will you blame them? Here is a country where over 300 Shiites were killed and buried in mass graves and no one has been held to account. Over a hundred unarmed young Easterns were also reported to have been gruesomely murdered by security agencies (in an Amnesty International report) and not a single dust has been raised. Bombs are dropped on innocent IDPs with over 200 killed, and sadly no one is talking about this anymore. A certain governor gives an outgoing commissioner of police five million naira to fuel his car, along with landed property said to be worth about 25 million naira, as reported in the Vanguard, and the members of the state’s House of Assembly are yet to demand an explanation for these from the governor. How could they have, when a colleague of theirs in Benue who demanded accountability from the governor of his state was made to kneel before his excellency and issue an apology.
In Nigeria, there are hardly any leaders but too many Ogas. Perhaps, we should take a cue from the corporate world where there is always someone to praise for results and someone to blame for a lapse. More often than not, when you are blamed, you are shown the exit. No excuse!
AT a recent technology and innovation Expo in Abuja, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, staged a grand entrance in a wooden car named Amara, coupled together by a certain Ahmed Aliyu. Amara, the wooden car, was the show stopper, it got all media attention, all the accolades and even made its inventor, Ahmed Aliyu quite popular. It gave Dr. Onu some bragging rights, after all, the maxim that Nigerians are gifted had suddenly been seconded by such an innovation. Perhaps, a brief lesson in history will help us realise that the euphoria about the wooden car invention is certainly more than a century late. In 1908, the Ford Plant in Michigan, Detroit, rolled out hundreds of units of the Model T ford (colloquially called the Tin Lizzie) while Henry Ford, its inventor, looked on. This invention became the darling of the middle class owing to its efficient fabrication, which made it inexpensive and Henry Ford’s dream of democratising transportation was birthed. The Model T Ford sold 16.5 million units. Now that is what you call an innovation. Interestingly, Dr. Onu, the visionary Minster of Science and Technology whose dream for the country was to see Nigeria manufacture pencils by 2018 was also named most performing minister of the year by an Abuja based magazine, Verbatim. The event which garnered global coverage saw Dr. Onu awarded for his “exemplary performance and outstanding leadership” which to me was simply a demonstration of mutually assured mediocrity, apologies to Tony Elumelu. Rather than roll out the vuvuzelas in celebration of feats attained by other countries centuries ago, we must articulate a bold and compelling vision for our country, determine the resources and capabilities required and strategically invest in the people, process and technology that will deliver the future. For how long will our future be dependent on the giant strides of individuals and governments across the world? To eradicate Polio, we were totally reliant on not just foreign funding but also on execution and evaluation just as we are totally reliant on them for vaccines to subdue the raging Meningitis.
I make bold to say that it is either we wake up or face extinction because a people totally dependent could hardly perpetuate. Currently, Microsoft is working to develop a machine called Hanover. It aims to memorise all papers necessary to cancer and help predict which combination of drugs will be most effective for each patient. It is leading the fight on myeloid leukaemia, a fatal cancer where treatment hasn’t improved in decades. The Jaguar Land Rover began testing self-driving technology on public roads last year. The trials helped to develop innovative self-driving technology including safe pull away features aimed at preventing low speed accidents at junctions, roundabouts and in slow moving traffic. Elon Musk is trying to redefine transportation on earth and in space. He has injected fully electric cars in to the market and is currently launching satellites that will help send humans to other planets. A factory in Dongguan, China replaced 90% of human workers with robots and saw production rise by 250% while defects drops by 80%. I can write a book on how individuals, companies and governments around the world are breaking barriers, extending frontiers and creating the future while we look on waiting for the 8th day of the week to take action. We are where we are today largely because 30 years ago, not one leader had the courage or the vision to see today and invest in the critical areas that would have yielded much dividend. China was able to lift over 600 million people out of poverty in 30 years because they had a vision, laid out a plan and got to work at it. Today we have another opportunity to create a future for ourselves and our children, one we all would be proud of but we must find the courage to look 30 years ahead to determine where we want to be and begin to build today.
“I am she who is called Pelewura…. . I will not starve in the country I was born in. “ – Alimotu Pelewura (1938). IN 1940 a food control price scheme was designed by the commissioner in Lagos Captain AP Pullen, which soon became popularly known as the Pullen Scheme. It was aimed at controlling where food could be sold, who could sell and at what price it could be sold in other to create an advantage for the European merchants at the detriment of local market women.
These local women saw their profits eroded by this scheme and were taxed further by the colonial government. The Alaga of Ereko market, Alimotu Pelewura, would have none of it. She went round educating market women of their rights and with the help of the Iyalode of Lagos, Rabiatu Alaso Oke, they led series of massive protests, closed down the markets at intervals, signed several petitions and on the 18th of December 1940, at the Glover hall on customs street, the government reluctantly backed down from the tax collection. A group of uneducated market women, led by the fearless and formidable Pelewura had scored a huge point against an oppressive colonial government.
IIt takes a people who know exactly what they want to turn around the fortunes of their country. In our case however, we have continually expended time and resources in oiling the “it’s our turn to rule” machine rather than what needs to be done. In forward thinking societies it is the “what” that produces the “who” and not the other way round. If we are desirous of any meaningful progress we must take off the scales of mediocrity and nepotism from our eyes and deeply reflect on our journey thus far as a country. If perhaps this reflection (and I strongly believe it would) brings us to the ultimate realisation that we have failed ourselves not for lack of opportunity or potential but from a chronic sense of negligence, non-challance and a complete disdain for discipline , then we must, out of relative obscurity, resolve to rescue our future.
The mission to rescue our nation is not another futile effort in search of a political Messiah, it is infact a clarion call to citizens leadership and a sense of complete ownership of our dear nation. We are where we are today not just because a privileged few have stolen our collective wealth and mismanaged our resources but largely because we all have been Co conspirators with our damning silence. We cheered them on even when we could not explain their sudden rise to wealth. Some of us gave them highly revered titles in our villages, universities showered them with honorary degrees, churches gave them front row seats and our royals gave out their daughters in marriage .
We all are guilty!! I believe we have a chance to redeem ourselves and nation from the sorry mess it is today but we must act now, collectively and decisively. We must be fully persuaded that we deserve more than we have got thus far. We must decide within ourselves that we no longer want to raise donations to get healthcare for our loved ones. That we no longer have to fly our kids to neighbouring countries to get a decent education. That we no longer want to fast and pray just to embark on a journey from Lagos to Ibadan. That we no longer want wheel barrows for our youth as economic empowerment life lines. That we are sick of the noise, pollution and over head costs of running generators.
That what we want is not a perfect system but a system that works. It took the irrepressible citizens of South Korea who felt cheated by their president Park Geun -hye thereby demanding for her impeachment and prosecution. She is currently facing trial after being impeached. Only a couple of months ago, the Romanian government passed a law that was seen to encourage corrupt practices in government , the people responded by taking to the streets in a mother of all strikes which saw the government retrace its steps. Whether it’s in Brazil, South Korea or Romania, citizens collective actions have constantly reminded people in government who their true employers are. Enough of this “sit-down look syndrome “ because as Charley Boy has constantly yelled, “Our mumu don do “. In the words of Hilary Clinton :”….the fight isn’t over yet, we will have to push back on bad ideas and embrace good ones but we are reminded today that there is no substitute for standing up and defending our values”
The news that five million Nigerians are in danger of a potential famine has been reverberating across the Western media for months now but all we get from our politicians and pundits is deafening silence on the matter. It seems as though we are more interested in Dino Melaye’s latest musical antic, “ajekun iya”, the just concluded Big Brother reality show or whether or not the Director General of the customs should appear before the Ssenate in his official uniform, when right within our borders another humanitarian disaster looms. I am further mortified, if not livid, by the nonchalance of northern leaders who have continued to fail their people through the years. How does one explain that the president, senate president and the honorable speaker of the House of Representatives are all from the North, where this famine threatens the most and yet there is no sense of urgency in response to it?
There truly is a difference between occupying positions of authority and leadership, and sadly what we seem to have is a system that builds strong individuals at the expense of strong institutions. In such a system, individuals are empowered with wealth and affluence while their immediate constituencies, through which they earned seats at the table, are left in abject poverty. Imagine the tremendous courage displayed by the government and people of Senegal in scrapping the nation’s Senate or Upper house, to save an estimated 15 million dollars from the nation’s annual budget that will go into a fund to help victims of recent deadly floods. Unbelievable!
I dare say that leadership thrives on compassion, a willingness to be fanatical about the welfare of those led. A nation without a conscience and the slightest of compassion will continue to recycle injustice and rebellion at the cost of innocent lives. I wish I could write about something more cheerful, anything but the collective democratic blunder of electing simpletons to pilot the affairs of an ailing nation.
Senator Hadi Sirika, minister of state for Aviation, has become the toast of the administration, the poster boy of the “APC change mantra” after delivering on his promise of renovating the Abuja airport runway in six weeks. Hilarious! When a country rolls out the drums to celebrate the renovation of a 3.6 kilometre runway, be sure it has been condemned to mediocrity. This is a country where over 35,000 people lost their lives in road accidents in 2015 alone, yet we are in frenzy because the Kaduna to Abuja expressway was renovated to cater for the needs of the elite who were inconvenienced by the renovation of the airport runway. Forgive me but like the late MKO Abiola once said, “you cannot be pissing on my back and tell me it is rain when I know piss is hotter than rain”. The Abuja runway renovation was a typical case of the elite protecting their own interest, so pardon me for refusing to dance. Now I agree with Charly Boy, “Our mumu don do”.
By the way, conservatives in Kano are taking turns to tongue lash the highly cerebral Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II for speaking “truth to power”, while remaining in denial of their reality. I however will not be pontificating on this issue as it is largely a family affair but then can the people who supported his enthronement pretend they did not know what they were inviting into their homes? When he challenged the ex-president as CBN governor, the same conservatives cheered him on, even spread roses on the floor in which he walked on and further epitomised his “let justice be done though the heavens fall” machismo. Karma is an ass.
In all of these our dear president has gone incommunicado only to be seen fraternising after Jumaat prayers on Friday. Nigeria we hail thee!
The very vocal, flamboyant and highly controversial senator, Dino Melaye, representing Kogi west senatorial district has found himself swimming against the tide, and could jolly well be drowning. Senator Dino Melaye is not one to easily back off from a fight; he has built an entire political career adopting a ‘bull dog’ approach of barking and charging at everything, with very little cerebral input in legislative affairs. He has an uncanny ability to gauge public perception on national issues and intelligently pitching his tent with the mob. Dino thrives on populism and the gullibility of poorly educated masses, who demand very little from elected public officials. He rode on a bicycle, in one of his many antics, to protest the increase in the pump price of premium motor spirit in 2012, claiming he could no longer afford to fuel his many luxurious vehicles; of course, no one ever questioned how, in the first place, he could afford such vehicles. Senator Melaye is a show man, big on activities, small on productivity; an egocentric self-serving megalomaniac masquerading as the people’s activist.
It does seem though, that this time, the proverbial chicken has come home to roast. Only a few days ago, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officially wrote Senator Dino to notify him that his constituents had triggered section 69 of the 1999 Constitution and hence the activation of the recall process. Senator Dino has since then found his lost salvation, raising prayer points and sharing biblical verses, hoping that the good lord would deliver him from the hands of the Philistines. Like every typical Nigerian politician, he has outsourced his responsibility to God while shopping for the devil to blame for his failings. Dino believes strongly that he is being witch hunted by the Kogi State governor because he critiqued the non-payment of the salaries of public officials for 15 months, and as such the governor is sponsoring his recall from the Senate. If Senator Dino is right about the chief sponsor of the recall process, then it becomes pertinent to dispassionately analyse the scenario.
However, before a quick analysis of the unfolding scenario, “The Kogi house of commotion”, let me congratulate the people of Kogi West for activating what was soon becoming a forgotten page in the Nigerian constitution. It is a clear reminder that the powers exercised in the red chambers belongs ultimately to the Nigerian people and can be taken away when they feel unsatisfied with the way it is wielded. I strongly urge constituencies all over the country to take a cue from this incidence to demand full accountability and adequate representation from their legislators, short of which constituents must find the courage and commitment to activate the recall process.
Now back to the travails of Senator Dino. Nigerians seem excited about the development and can’t wait to see the Senator recalled, understandably so, as this will record a huge win for democracy and bring down senators from their high horses; yet we must be careful about setting a dangerous precedence. I have never been a fan of Senator Dino and have always queried the manner in which he trivialises legislative affairs in the red chamber, but that Dino will be recalled for condemning the profligacies of the governor and his inability to pay salaries for over a year should make us all put on our thinking caps. Let’s call a spade what it is. Mobilising over a hundred thousand petition is no small feat and will require loads of resources, and if we must believe Dino’s claim that the governor is behind this, then we must ask a critical question: How does a governor who cannot afford to pay salaries mobilise enough resources to fund the recall process? If Senator Dino is recalled from the Senate, does that mean that salaries in Kogi State will now be paid? Does it then mean that when governors are not happy with senators from their state, they can then sponsor a recall process to remove such a person and replace hi or her with someone loyal to them?
If Senator Dino Melaye is recalled, this will not be a win for the people but for the governor of Kogi state who has continued to run the state to the ground. We must never allow such a precedence in our country that could turn governors into emperors, and more importantly we should refuse as a people to be used as pawns to settle political feuds.
IN his Christmas day remarks, Governor Rochas Okorocha peppered his speech with sentiments that were quite repugnant and hence must be repudiated. He argued in his statement that “leaders cannot afford to hand over to the next generation”. As ignominious as his assertions are, we are condemned to being held captive by such antiquarian ideas owing to our collective silence and daming inertia. Will the destiny of this nation be determined continuously by the clay footed class of 1966 and their equally clueless surrogates? Governor Rochas hints at the lack of capacity from younger Nigerians to govern effectively forgetting that he and his sit-tight political elite have bastardised the fortunes of this nation leaving us as at this morning with 18 million young Nigerians unemployed or under employed. If we were to score Governor Rochas’s administration, notorious for owing salaries, refusal to pay pensioners, white elephant projects, subversion of local government councils, flagrant disregard for court orders and a lack of inventiveness, it will be clear to all that for so long, the tail has been wagging the dog. But for Nigeria where folly is applauded and simpletons ride on royal horses, a man who liters his state with photographs and billboards of him and the American president, when young Nigerians like Jaiyeoba, Tobiloba Ajayi, and their likes have met with Obama due to their altruistic and tremendous works without any fanfare of sort, should hardly be taken seriously. I strongly believe that the boisterous future of this great country is domiciled in the hands of a younger generation with brave ideas and a new kind of thinking that profers witty solutions to complex problems. It is young Nigerians like Gbenga Sesan, who via his paradigm initiative platform has given ICT education to thousands of young Nigerians who could not just afford a computer but probably have not seen one. It is the tremendous courage of Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe, who against all odds are building a vibrant local ecosystem via their co-creation hub platform, that even attracted Billoniare Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Yaba, that give young tech start-ups not just hope but funding to actualise their dreams. Whether it is Bikiss Adebiyi and her brilliant Wecyclers initiative or Fisayo Soyombo’s incredible feats in journalism, young Nigerians are proving their worth even in areas where government have clearly failed. Dear young Nigerian and fellow compatriot, I urge you to brace yourself, for in 2019 we shall and must end the reign of the class of 1966 and replace them at all levels with men and women of ideas, integrity and track record of performance. Let us all obey this clarion call in such a time of absolute necessity.
ONE of the finest economic thinkers the world ever saw, John Maynard Keynes, succinctly submitted, and I concur, that “The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead “. You wouldn’t need to consult any oracle to reveal the realities of our current affairs when we have as good indicators a pocket and a stomach. There is hunger in the land, people are getting disillusioned, the future seems bleak but yet you and I are urged by ‘constituted authority’ , to hold unto a thin thread of faith that tomorrow will be better. Forgive my scepticism of promises emanating from The Aso Villa, but like TY Danjuma sagaciously argued, when a crusader is deficient of integrity, who will believe his gospel. We seem to be in between a rock and a hard place, the consumer price index (inflation) for December 2016 currently sits at 18.55%, compare this figure with that of Ivory Coast, the fastest growing economy in Africa, which sits at just 1.7% with an interest rate of only 3.5%.
It is thus no surprise why Ivory Coast has suddenly leap frogged Nigeria as the most attractive place to do business in Africa according to Africa prospects indicator, which assesses macro-economic and business prospects for 26 African countries. So while we are busy with our “karambani” and political “monafiki”, a country like Ivory Coast, after many years of political paralysis have rolled up their sleeves and found the right economic rhythm that produced an 8.5% growth in the last year. Unlike us, they didn’t pay lip service to diversification. They currently invest 22% of their budget on education, reduced the cost of creating a new business by 70%, granted a two year tax break to new businesses, guaranteed 20% of public tenders to small and medium enterprises and have tremendously increased loans to the private sector. In our case, interest rates are touching the clouds making it almost impossible for business to increase capacity, the result is the folding up of many and loss of jobs to millions as was the case when last year alone, over three million jobs were lost. Of course, with such incoherence in policy and the absence of a Marshall plan to galvanise this nation out of this parlous state, I am forced to believe that the government is playing Russian roulette with our lives.
I however must commend the effort of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki for spear heading a ‘Made in Nigeria ‘ campaign aimed at stimulating the local economy and more pertinently for the leadership in amending the public procurement act to favour local content. This is certainly a grand step in the right direction but must be linked to more inclusive polices from the executive. If the grumblings of the oil marketers is anything to go by, then we are edging closer to another painful increase in the pump price of petrol. Imagine for a second that petrol is being sold for 200 naira per litre or even above, kerosene now sells for between 300 to 400 naira a litre, a 12kg gas fills for over 5000 naira, zero increase in income (that is if you are even paid), epileptic power supply, horrendous foreign exchange policy and rising food prices. Who then will be alive to enjoy whatever happens in the long run. Former president Ibrahim Babangida once said that “ the work of Nigeria is not yet complete as long as there is one Nigerian that goes to bed hungry”. Apologies to the General but I dare say that the work of Nigeria has not even begun when over 60 million Nigerians go to bed hungry. The time to act is now, policies must bring succour speedily to the people as we can no longer wait for the future, knowing so well that in the long run we are all dead.
ONLY recently, former vice president Atiku Abubakar made bold proclamations on restructuring the Nigeria’s socio-political land scape. This time he wasn’t a lone wolf, other prominent Nigerians like Balarabe Musa and Dr. Junaid Mohammed, just to mention but a few all seconded this fine line of thought. Let’s be frank, there is not a single Nigerian today, home or abroad who would disagree with the notion that this nation can only accelerate its development by undergoing certain reforms whether it is political, structural or even systemic. This phenomenon is usually describes as the Nigerian question. Recent evidence, occasioned by various disgruntled elements in the North East, the Middle Belt, the South East and more recently the South-South, suggests an urgent need to expand our minimalist view of the Nigeria question and allow a holistic and robust conceptualisation of the issues. Perhaps, underestimating the tremendous effort required for initiating political and systemic reforms and most probably overrating its intended success might prove to be the biggest gaffe of the 21st century. Nevertheless we must engage the satus-quo and breed new ideas that could conceive a more harmonious and prosperous nation.
The 2014 national conference, one that witnessed a series of intellectual judo from the finest Nigerian minds recommended a true federal system with states as its federating units. It also argued in favour of fiscal federalism by placing more resources in the hands of states and local governments. One major question that needs to be asked, however, is how well states have fared in this current design with regards to management of resources, creation of economic opportunities and respect for rights and privileges of citizens. 27 of the 35 states are currently insolvent, only very few states have allowed local governments function effectively, many have hijacked the State House of assembly and strangled the judiciary. Wouldn’t it be suicidal to give such governors more resources and control over their states? The key problem with the argument for federalism, where structural or fiscal, however noble, is that the proponents of such ideas see it as the magic bullet rather than an element in a series of reforms that need to move in congruence to deliver meaningful results. Sadly a majority of the campaigners still see Nigeria as a big fruity cake and federalism will help increase their chance of getting a slice. The real tragedy is that everyone wants a slice but no one wants to bake the cake
If we have learnt anything from the various agitation, civil unrests and in many cases a violent expression of marginalisation is that we need farm more than a structural reform to move this nation forward. This writer believes strongly that systems are designed by humans, structures are also managed by humans and government is a collection of individuals elected by humans, therefore no political, structural or systemic reform can thrive at the expense or the personal reformation and transformation of the average Nigerian. Except we change, the system will never work. It starts and ends with us. We must do away with our chauvinistic tendencies and see ourselves as humans first. Until a northerner understands the destruction of the Niger Delta terrain, its effects on life expectancy and the economic exclusion while we all looked the other way, we hardly would make any progress. Until the south understand the effect of climate change on animal husbandry, their struggle with rustlers and their ancestral ties to nomads, we will be guilty of criminalising the Fulani race. Except we weep collectively when the people of Agatu weeps or rise up collectively to demand justice for innocent Nigerians shot at by soldiers in the South east, we all will have bold in our hand and not even the holy federal system of government would save us. The constitution of this country read “we the people…..”, whereas there was no WE. We must sit together to debate, engage, disagree and agree on how we want to be governed but most importantly how we want to live with each other. Whether we choose to stay together or not let it be the exclusive resolve of the people.
The British may have been short sighted, greedy or even mischievous when they chose this marriage for us, but we are on our own today and the future of this nation and particularly its people will be hinged on the decisions we make.
FOURTEEN years ago, a student movement, the student democratic forum at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria invited President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver a lecture titled Discipline and Accountability in Democratic Leadership. Typical of the gap tooth general, his delivery was highly pragmatic and void of the usual rhetorical rigmarole that politicians have used to deceive the populace for decades. However, it was the Q and A session that gave the fine General away as an unrepentant dictator refusing to show remorse for his excessive use of force during his short spell as Head of State. Little did we know that this thorough military professional had his eye on the presidency. It did not take long before the announcement was made that he was running against the incumbent Obasanjo. There is not a single Nigerian then and even now that could doubt the uprightness, honesty and integrity of PMB, the real question however, has always been about his democratic ethos.
Can a highly decorated general escape the totalitarian command and control style of leadership that had define his long and enviable career for a more liberal approach of getting things done by consultations, compromise and inclusion? Could this old dog learn new tricks? Surprisingly, delivering his final speech to a mammoth crowd at the end of his campaign in 2011, the general in Muhammadu Buhari gave way for his humanity. His words were not only filled with compassion but they sailed on the rarely seen tears of a war hero. “I joined the race out of a personal conviction and love for my country and concern for the welfare of its people. I therefore ask the support of everybody and every interest group in advancing the cause of this nation”. Quite frankly, like millions of other Nigerians, that singular moment of empathy opened a door to accommodate Buhari in the league of true and progressive democrats. This of course was what the Lagos press and the super-efficient propaganda machinery of the APC built upon to create The New Progressive Buhari. His following became cult like and the love of the masses earned him pet names like “Baba” and “The peoples General”.
Finally, Nigerians could say that they elected someone from amongst them, who was never shielded from the realities of the Nigerian challenges and who could feel the pulse of the common man. The tables seem to have turned so fast, so much so that the man who cried for his people has isolated himself from their realities. The once passionate statesman is suddenly becoming a megalomaniac. Mr. President, where is the humanity here? Are the people of Agatu not Nigerians? Do they not deserve at the least a word of consolation from their father? These people came out enmasses to give you victory in a state where you had never won before and yet you go mute when they bleed. How about the killings of hundreds of young Nigerians in Zaria by the soldiers? Don’t you think their families deserve an apology rather than further condemnation? It wouldn’t scar the President’s ego to reach out to the hundreds of young shites who feel maltreated by the government they brought into power. Mr. President recently admitted that the young easterners protesting in the South East where not born when he fought the Biafra war. Why then treat them like they were responsible for the war. Since when do the lives of young easterners not matter anymore? There is video evidence that unarmed protesters were murdered in cold blood by the institutions that are supposed to protected them yet not a word from him. He even declined to see the video of those murdered in broad day light, why? If they have done wrong in any way let the words of Robert Mugabe, in his independence speech in 1980 be a guide . He said: “The wrongs of the past must stand forgiven and forgotten. If we ever look to the past, let us do so for the lesson the past has taught us, namely that oppression and racism are inequalities that must never find scope in our political and social system. It must never be a correct justification that because the whites oppressed us yesterday when they had power, the blacks must oppress today because they have power”. Mr. President, there is too much bloodletting in the land, too much injustice to the vulnerable, too much pain for the average Nigerian to bear, and just like the words of a spouse encourages the partner, Nigerians want to know that you stand with them through thick and thin. Or are we to accept the wisdom of the gods that no matter how much rain wets the leopard, it never changes its spot. In all humility, I would like to remind the President of the truism in the Ahiara Declaration that “those who aspire to lead must bear in mind the fact that they are servants and as such cannot be greater than the people, their masters. The leader must not only say but always demonstrate that the power he exercises is derived from the people. He should never allow his high office to separate him from his people. He must be fanatical for their welfare. He should be the symbol of justice which is the supreme guarantee of good government”. Leadership isn’t solely about cerebral sophistication or strong character but largely about compassion for the led. Please break the silence, Mr. President.
WHEN Robert Kaplan penned the highly popularised article in 1994, “The coming anarchy”, his gift of clairvoyance was vehemently criticised by various African scholars and politicians who believed strongly in the spirit of Africanism. 22 years after the publication, many of the African countries sighted in that piece are yet to reverse the dooms day prophesy hung over them. Kaplan didn’t mix words when he captured the fragility of the Nigerian state, in his words, “The country is becoming increasingly ungovernable. Ethnic and regional splits are deepening, a situation made worse by an increase in the number of states from 19 to 30 and a doubling in the number of local governing authorities; religious cleavages are more serious; Muslim fundamentalism and evangelical Christian militancy are on the rise; and northern Muslim anxiety over southern [Christian] control of the economy is intense . . . the will to keep Nigeria together is now very weak.” The notoriety of the Nigerian state to constantly shift the burden, abdicate its responsibilities, vulgarise its institutions and politicise governance have amalgamated to produce the current harsh socio-economic reality, threatening the very existence of our nationhood.
A one sided view of this national malaise as solely economic is even more frightening than the predictions of political pundits of a coming anarchy. The reason is simple, the overlapping interests between politics and economics along with its concomitant effects in such a hugely diversified country is crucial to its growth and stability. It isn’t bad policies in itself that has ruined us, it is bad politics. I dare to state that irrespective of the urgency in our economy, it is only a political reform that can redeem us from the coming anarchy. Nations, however resourceful can achieve very little in the absence of peace and security, it is thus safe to say that good and altruistic politics will more often lead to good economics. One question that needs to be asked, however, is whether Nigeria is a failed state? Or is Nigeria merely a geographical expression as the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo postulated? More so, can Nigeria as currently structured make any significant leap towards inclusive socio-economic development? Your guess is as good as mine. One hardly needs the medulla of a professor to observe the obvious, Nigeria is in a hole and would not stop digging. Nothing forces us closer to the coming anarchy more than the structure of governance and the current wave of insecurity. These two supposedly mutually exclusive issues seem to have found a point of convergence in our nation. It is the epileptic structure of governance as currently ran that feeds the growing state of insecurity. Even the blind can see that the Nigerian state isn’t held by a constitution, a shared value nor a common interest but by an annoyingly exhaustible commodity, oil. At the risk of repetition, this nation isn’t short of brilliant ideas to galvanise it to the promise land but politics have refrained us from finding the courage to execute such ideas. One example clearly stands out; it is common knowledge that shrinking the size and power at the centre and allowing states and local government more autonomy (and resource control) is the sine qua nun for rapid economic development.
This structural shift is only simplistic in theory because in practice the recommendation is dead on arrival. Why? Because politicians are either too greedy or intellectually bankrupt to allow the South-South enjoy the largess of oil wealth while they struggle with states that hardly can meet overheads. But for politicians, why should a clearly unviable state be allowed to exist? The merger in the banking industry was pivotal in strengthening the obviously weak institution that ordinarily would have gone under. Rather than have states nag why don’t they simply merge. No they won’t, because the cake would become too small for politicians to share, the larger the merrier. Without a doubt, Nigerians have become the instruments of government and not the purpose, we have become pawns in the hands of politicians satisfying only their interests. My exasperation about the denial of the Nigerian state and its modus operandi is nothing compared to my fear of the return of Usman Danfodio (A Fulani warlord that unseated the Hausas from the north and hijack power). Between 2010 and 2013, three thousand people were reportedly killed by Fulani herdsmen. Between January and July last year, the police reported the death of 621 people in the hands of this dreaded militia, and this year alone over 7000 people have been displaced from their homes. It is quite intriguing to note that no arrest was ever made neither have the security agencies repelled any attack. People are being raped on their farms in Enugu, displaced from their homes in Benue, murdered in Jos, held captive in Nassarawa yet there isn’t a plan of action to arrest this ugly trend.
The usual rhetoric of condemning such acts and setting up an investigative committee to submit its recommendation have only seen the issue blown out of proportion. How many more reports would we need to take decisive action? What irks me the most is that the medieval tendencies of these herdsmen hardly arrests national attention. For what it is worth, it is a national emergency, one that threatens the fabric of the nation far more than the fall in oil prices. If we fail to address the aforementioned issues, it won’t be long before we start living in Dr. Kaplan’s world of anarchy. In the words of Romauld Hazoume “They did not know where they were going but they knew where they came from. Today we do not know where we are going and we have forgotten where we came from.”
WHEN the highly revered business tycoon, Aliko Dangote, suggested the sale of certain national assets as a precursor to economic resurgence, one had hoped that he was a lone wolf propagating a personal idea. Amazingly, nevertheless unsurprising, this proposal for the sale of national assets, particularly the government’s majority shares in NLNG, has received endorsements from the Senate president, Bukola Saraki and more recently the National Executive Council. However, to be fair to the president, he hasn’t given a modicum of support to this idea, even the minister for budget and national planning, Senator Udo Udoma was on record stating clearly that the sale of national assets was not being considered by the president. Even the instigator in chief, Dangote has also refuted claims of any such interest in the purchase of the NLNG shares. To justify one’s exasperation with the contemplation of the sale of such a performing asset, it is imperative to consider the integrity of the advocates, the historical antecedents of government dealings with respect to privatisation and the economic promise such proposal holds. Perhaps, it is fair to say that we have seen this movie a thousand times over and we know how it ends.
I will, however for the sake of this piece narrow in on government’s antecedents and the case for the economy. The sale of our national carrier, Nigerian Airways, was purported to redeem our lost glory in the skies and make a strong push for continental if not global market leadership. It was sold and the rest is history. The same fate befell NITEL, Jos Steel Rolling Mills (sold for about N900 million 10 years ago when its estimated book value was over 8 billion naira) and even more recently the DISCOs of the power sector. The assets are bought by a privileged few way below the book value, whereas the monies from the transaction is hardly ever channelled to anything productive and in many cases are unaccounted for. Even a man condemned to folly can smell the rat in such an unholy counsel to forfeit our majority shares in NLNG. One hardly needs a professorial degree to understand what is at play here, and if you will indulge me, let us borrow a page from the book of common sense. Firstly, selling an asset when your back is perceived to be against the wall means you will end up with the short end of the bargain stick, no one is going to pay for the original value which means accruing far less than envisaged. Secondly, why sell an asset that is performing tremendously with the last dividends paid to government totalling about 2 billion dollars.
Whether the federal government received that dividend and if the total accrued amount can be accounted for is a different kettle of fish. The point is, no one ever sells a cash cow, at worst one is advised to borrow against the cash flow and predictable future earnings. Thirdly, it is said that the country needs about 15 billion dollars to inject into the system to save the economy from heading south. My argument is that this thinking is aimed at addressing a symptom in the very short term without challenging the root causes of the problem, meaning that if faced with a similar shock in future (quite unavoidable in such turbulent times in the global economy) we will have no real productive asset to sell or borrow against. How does one then explain the sale of an asset that will generate billions for Nigerians unborn to a few profiteers that will only further empower them to retain their horrendous grip on this nation, impeding its growth and development? It is however instructive to point out that Nigeria is more than able to borrow externally to meet both short and long term obligations as long as these funds are injected into the productive sector and not to service our insatiable appetite. Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio is only about 2.24% compared to the threshold for external debt which stands at 40%. Worthy of note also is that external debt service accounts for an insignificant proportion of the total public debt service expenditure. In fact, our capacity to service external debt is seven times stronger than the applicable threshold. The Director General of the Debt Management Office, Dr. Abraham Nwankwo echoed the voice of the gods when he stated unequivocally that “Nigeria debt is indeed of top class grade, it is adequately insulated from shocks, even deep ones”. I therefore urge the president to resist the pressure to sell our collective future. It is said that only a righteous man lives an inheritance for his children’s children.
IN a landmark judgement by Justice Abdulfatai of the Lagos state high court, the erudite judged unequivocally declared that no governor was empowered by the constitution to take over the administration of local governments through sole administrators or caretaker committees. The question, why governors recklessly interfere with grassroots democracy, is one that lies at the very core of governance and a key determinant of socio economic development. The manner in which state governors have truncated governance at local governments have been nothing short of ignominious and a flagrant disregard of the process that brought them into office. It was Wale Oshun, a former chief whip in the Federal House of Representatives who argued in his timeless master piece, clapping with one hand, that “however imperfect the practice of democracy may seem, the heart of it should be the freedom for the people to choose who governs them. That freedom cannot and must not be restricted under and means or excuse.
It is when the people have exercised that freedom that they have in turn affirmed the national will or sovereignty as the case may be”. Where this freedom is denied, seized or trampled upon, there is neither liberty nor freedom. For me the greatest tragedy is the culpability of the state legislative arm that seem to have form a formidable partnership with the executive to continuously game the system at the expense of the rule of law. A nation headed for the cliff can simply be defined as that which its legislators no longer have respect for the rule of law.
I strongly believe that the quickest route to national prosperity is to accelerate local productivity which is the exclusive purview of the local government chairmen. Just recently, the Nassarawa state governor decided to borrow a leaf from his Enugu colleague’s book- governance as jamboree, by swearing in sole administrators to run the local governments in the state. The governor’s apologists have been quick to defend such odium by arguing he invoked the doctrine of necessity. I think it is imperative one clears the air on this highly abused doctrine of necessity upon which such illegality have be perpetuated. The doctrine of necessity is used to define or validate extra constitutional issues that fall outside the purview of the constitution but are necessary to preserve political stability. In a nut shell, the doctrine of necessity is usually adopted as a contingency to escape a political quagmire.
The spirit of this provision is quite clear in that it is introduced to deal with issues not clearly defined by the constitution, one capable of creating social or political unrest. The autonomy of local government chairmen, its roles and responsibilities and of course its boundaries are highly conspicuous in the constitution. As such there is absolutely no need to invoke any doctrine on a matter clearly back by the constitution. We should ask former governor Peter Obi, why local government elections were never held for eight years in Anambra and more importantly give account for the funds accrued to aforementioned tier of government during the period. We should ask governor Mimiko where he stumbled on the wisdom to run local government elections after six years of caretaker committees. This highhandedness and total disregard for the rule of law by governors in connivance with state legislators must be resisted by all well meaning Nigerians. We cannot allow our rights to vote leaders in our councils be abused by men we elect into office. The words sole administrators and caretaker committee insults the spirit of democracy that confers on the people the right to vote their local government chairmen. The struggle for the independence of local government is one we must all support as this is the closest tier of government to the people and its impact is directly felt by the citizenry. The bold and courageous display in defence of the rule of law by Mapka Malla, a member of the state House of Representatives representing Wamba constituency, must be commended and encouraged. He might have been suspended from his legislatives duties, but truth shall prevail and those who have rigged the people of their constitutional right shall soon find themselves cuffed by their own illegality. Without any hesitation we must work together to expel the words, caretaker committee and sole administrator from our political lexicon. That way we can demand improved efficiency at the various municipal point of service across the 774 local governments across the nation.
SHORTLY after reading through Audu Maikori’s narration of the tragedy befalling the beautiful people of southern Kaduna, I was left in a state of limbo as to why the Nigerian state have consistently failed to protect its most vulnerable, why the life of the average Nigerian isn’t worth as much as that of a cow and why the agency of government saddled with the prime responsibility for maintaining internal security has become the lead cast in this ridiculous show of shenanigans? One would have thought that the imposition of a 24 hour curfew might give way for the dust to settle, and even if the people of southern Kaduna were not planning a merry Christmas, a peaceful one would surely have sufficed. Sadly, that wasn’t to be as a group of militia herdsmen brazenly decimated a village named Goska, leaving about a dozen people dead and hundreds homeless. Typical of such attacks was the fact that the militia herdsmen met no resistance from any of our security operatives and as I write this piece not a single arrest has been made. What is more worrisome is that the culprits have been identified as foreigners who have a score to settle with the people of southern Kaduna. How low can we go as a nation? That bandits from neighbouring countries can stroll into our country, spit on our territorial integrity, massacre our people and then demand monetary compensation, only to be insulted by Femi Adesina that the President doesn’t need to speak on the killings as the governor of Kaduna state is already on top of things, as if when his boss sends condolence messages to France and the United states when attacked by terrorists, their own governments aren’t on top of the matter.
The Global terrorism index has the Fulani herdsmen ranked as the 4th most deadliest terror group on earth today having killed thousands of innocent Nigerians. How this constantly fails to attract the urgent attention of Mr. President is completely beyond me, not even a sigh of empathy or a show of solidarity with the people. This is awfully shameful, insensitive and irresponsible from a country that prides itself in being the big brother of black Africa. We seem to be more worried about a group of people going home to their families to spend the Christmas holidays than we are about an armed militia, sacking communities, and wrecking havoc in Kaduna, Nassarawa, Adamawa, Benue, Zamfara, and Enugu.
The kind of thinking that places no value on the human life simply because they don’t look like you or share in your beliefs must find no bearing in our socio-political space. People are tired of burying their loved ones because the state has failed them, we have no more tears to shed neither do we have any more space in our grave yards. Enough of this nonsense!!! There are predictions of food shortages in this year which could lead to a famine, as reported by several international institutions, yet, rather than give farmers incentives to work harder on their farms, we are compensating their killers for maiming their families and occupying their lands. When farmers can no longer go to farm for obvious reasons, how then do we produce enough food? Remember that the communities mostly attacked in Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and Nassarawa are the biggest producers of the food we eat in the country. No group of people have a monopoly of violence, neither do any group enjoy burial proceedings. It is only as Chinua Achebe said that “in dealing with a man who thinks you are a fool, it is good sometimes to remind him that you know what he knows but have chosen to appear foolish for the sake of peace”. We must however not push people beyond their breaking point. We must be careful not to trample upon the humanity of others because if the state fails to protect its people, the people will have no choice but to fight back.
Mr. President, we are no longer at ease.
I FELT a bit miffed at the president’s Eid-el-fitr message not because it lacked compassion or empathy but because it lacked a departure from his strongly held minimalist view of our daily reality. In all sincerity, I have made a solemn promise not to throw empty criticism at Mr. President and only lend my voice to matters in which common sense is clearly shrugged away to accommodate political vacuity. The message read thus: “I am not unaware of what Nigerians are going through and I want to use this medium to commend the amazing sacrifices of Nigerians in the face of temporary economic and social challenges and also reassure Nigerians that my government is working assiduously towards providing basic needs and other amenities. Let me also use this opportunity to reaffirm that we will not relent in the fight against corruption and we will ensure that all appropriate and legal measures are deployed to root out this malaise”. Perhaps the words of O Henry, Love and business and family and religion and art and patriotism are nothing but shadows of words when a man is starving, underpins the very premise of my argument.
Again, Nigerians are being congratulated for their sacrifices in difficult times, what needs to be asked though, is if such burdens will climax with better days. In any case, as for me and my house, we will remain skeptics until proven otherwise by the government of the day. Of more concern, however, is the fixation of Mr. President on the fight against corruption. Without a doubt, corruption is a must kill but I also share the concern of Hon. Yakubu Dogara, that convictions have hardly been made even in the sight of overwhelming evidence of the culprits admittance and willingness to return stolen funds. Neither the president nor his towering integrity can prosecute any war against corruption; he has no choice than to rely on the institutions saddled with such statutory obligation. The best the president can do is to empower such institutions and let the chain off the neck of the proverbial dog. It is not enough to make public declarations that merely romanticises the populace and whips sentiments but rather a case of putting your money where your mouth is. The president will be guilty of living in the clouds if he thinks that he can champion a successful fight against corruption without a reform of the Police Force, the judiciary and a healthy working relationship with the legislature to pass into law the propositions of the executive.
Hence, a continuous focus on a fight technically outside the arena of the president will be simply straining at a gnat and ignoring a whole camel, a typical case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Someone needs to remind Mr. President that it’s about the economy, about job creation and an improved livelihood, nothing else at this junction matters. I quite agree with Olatunji Ololade in his Friday’s column in The Nation newspaper, when he said “Buhari seeks to eradicate diseased plants from the nation’s fields of enterprise even as he sows sickly seeds under the roof of the Nigerian barn house”. One of the greatest economists of the 18th and 19th century, John Maynard Keynes argues that in a recession of significant magnitude, it is necessary for the government to intervene and actively stimulate the economy. He was famous for recommending that the government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and fill them up because it doesn’t matter what they do as long as the government is creating jobs.
Quite frankly I understand the president’s fascination, if not obsession with corruption and never will I doubt his sincere passion for a nation he fought and bled for but he must come to terms with the fact that strong nations are not built on the integrity of an individual, even if that individual is the president, but on a continuous investment in the people in whom the government derives its authority from. I therefore urge the president to maintain his stance on corruption but give a closer attention to the economy. Mr. President also needs to remember that economic deprivation, stagnation or exclusion will ultimately lead to social and political catastrophe, the very demon he is fighting very hard to expel.
KANO, the ancient commercial nerve of northern Nigeria, home to the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote and the finest politicians this country has ever seen, the likes of Abubakar Rimi, Aminu Kano and Maitama Sule “danmasaninkano” just to mention but a few. This great city with all of its impeccable historical antecedents, part of which earned it the nickname “tumbingiwa” (the huge elephant), has struggled to live up to its full potential. Its groundnut pyramids have gone extinct, it’s once thriving hides and skin industry has gone comatose, its numerous industries have become residential estates for the elite and its tye and dye heritage has been reduced to a few pages on historical books taught in a few secondary schools. As governments, civil society and social entrepreneurs strive to take Kano back to its glory days, a few clerics, overly vocal with antiquated ideas and little apprehension of the city’s potential have become marine drill sergeants barking orders to a gullible populace.
These clerics (usually in the minority but seem to have the loudest voices) are bereaved of tangible ideas capable of advancing the lives of people but will stick a clog in wheel of any meaningful and progressive initiative. Their often repugnant and conquistadorial messages have been the chief instigator of many crises that have claimed innocent lives over the years. To think that these puritans will galvanise public action against a film village capable of creating 4500 jobs but lose their voice to the devastating hunger of children in northern Nigeria particularly those in IDP camps, the millions of almajiris helplessly roaming the streets of Kano or the alarming maternal mortality rate in the north is simply beyond me. Their argument is that the film village will encourage immoral sexual activities and promote the abuse of hard drugs, perhaps, a visit to sabon-gari in Kano will only show how legendary their hypocrisy is. Without the risk of sounding grandiloquent, their ‘monafiki’ is vintage.
According to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Kano has the highest drug abuse rate based on number of seizures, arrests of addicts and convictions of arrested dealers.It might also interest you to know that Kano has the highest divorce rate in the country to the extent that the state has to organise and pay for mass weddings to reduce the backlog. These puritans were vehemently against the fight against polio which was clearly ravaging the society with hundreds of thousands of children losing the use of their hands and feet. They stirred up series of propaganda about the polio vaccines and discouraged parents from having their children inoculated. Imagine the millions of children whose lives will have been dead on arrival if the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and Dangote were not brave and passionate enough to have followed through with the project to eradicate polio. Those clerics should hide their face in shame today knowing that polio in Kano is no more. It was Ghannouchi the leader of the Islamic party in Tunisia who uttered the following words “we want religious activity to be completely independent from political activity. This is good for politicians because they will no longer be accused of manipulating religion for political means and good for religion because it will not be held hostage to politics”. Morocco, another Muslim nation has tourism representing a key segment of its economic outlook. In 2013, the sector contributed 17.2 billion dollars representing 18.7 percent of the total GDP.
When many Muslim nations, like the UAE, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and a host of others are opening their doors to the world and separating religion from politics or socio economic development, Kano state under a secular nation seeks to shut its doors to global trends and advancements ostensibly for religious purposes championed by hypocritical puritans. These guys were so blind to the fact that a film village hands them a fantastic tool for societal engineering and to shape behaviour. They were so blinded by hypocrisy that they missed out on an opportunity to export ideas, culture and even their religious beliefs via the film village. I rest my case with the words of my friend and professor of Islamic studies at the Bayero University Kano (but won’t have me mention his name) who opened his Ramadan lecture in 2011, after returning from the United States on a brief trip. “I have been to a non-Islamic country and I have seen real Muslims, I am back to a highly Islamic state and have not found true Muslims”. It is time these puritans stopped holding us hostage. ‘Allah yataimaka’
NORTHERN elders and the elite class have been quite vocal in the last couple of years, giving a louder voice to national issues, particularly that which affects their region. However, the sad reality is that they have focused on issues that massage the ego of the elite class and deepen the pockets of a selected few turning a blind eye on the more threatening issues eating up the region. The dominant lexicon, Revenue allocation, as to who gets a better share from the national purse seems to take a sizable share of their mind thereby ignoring the bigger elephant in the room. If increase in allocation translates to better distribution of wealth across the social strata and an improved living standard of the average northerner, then they stand on holy ground but the evidence proves otherwise.
The lack of regional purpose, poorly articulated vision, an incoherent strategy and a continuous mismanagement of resources is the cradle upon which the parlous situation of today’s north was bred. The huge textile industries in Kano and Kaduna that employed thousands of young northerners gradually slid into extinction without any of our leaders attempting to thrown in a rescue rope. There is no doubt that the north is home to the richest man in Africa and a couple of other billionaires, what logical explanation could one then give to the widespread poverty of the larger populace rather than the earlier assertion on the north’s focus on building strong individuals at the expense of stronger communities. It is this widening gap between the rich and poor that has gradually metamorphosed to the insecurity we are experiencing today. How could we not have known that economic repression breeds strife and contempt.
The north is today making the headline for all the wrong things. The challenges in the north and its opportunities are tied to a single yet critical word, Education. It is the level of awareness of a people, their skills and cerebral sophistication that determine the kind of community they build. There is a strong relationship between education and economic prosperity. When Egypt became the centre for global education, she consequently became an economic world power. This trend extended to Greece, Rome, Britain and today the United States where seven of the top ten universities in the world are resident. The north accounts for the highest rate of illiteracy in the country, way below the national average and worst ratios for girl child education in the country. The national demographic and health survey puts the illiteracy rate for women at 21% in the north west compare to a national rate of 50%, the 10 states with the highest number of girls out of secondary school are also found in the north. Eight states in northern Nigeria have the country’s worst girl child education and health indices namely, Kebbi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Zamfara, Katsina, Gombe and Yobe. If this trend continues, how will we ever produce an Okonjo Iwela, Oby Ezekwesili, Ibukun Awosika, or Bola Adesola. Education contributes directly to the growth of national Income by improving the productive capacities of the labor force. A recent study of 19 developing countries including Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia concluded that a country’s long term economic growth increases by 3.7% for every year the adult population’s average level of schooling rises. Education hence is a key strategy for poverty reduction. Taiwan in the 1960s was exporting mushrooms, by 1990, she had emerged a power house in semiconductor and was exporting electronic goods.
Paul Krugman in his explanation of this phenomenal results by the Asian tigers said their rapid growth was a natural and automatic consequence of the rapid increase in input made through education and massive investment in physical capital. Finland was known for lumber but became a power house of mobile phones in the 1990s, Kenya was only known for its coffee but today a leader in mobile technology. The secrets of this countries lies in their Acquisition, domestication and expansion of local technologies and a vigorous pursuit of entrepreneur ship. THE WAY OUT The north must adopt a regional educational policy that emphasis access and quality education. The operation word is Quality, which will necessitate the equipping of colleges of education to produce standard teachers and an improved welfare of the teachers. People should aspire to teach but for them to dream of teaching, the profession must have poise and ensure a decent livelihood. A massive investment in the infrastructure of the schools and its facilities, an overhaul of its curriculum and an effective monitoring machine that ensures compliance from teachers and all stake holders. This can be achieved by allocating the required 26% of the budget of state governments to education as stipulated by the United Nations . The technical colleges and institutes can be transformed into the bed rock of innovation in Nigeria by opening them up to partnerships with the private sector, international exchange programs, hands on experience with local projects and new funding windows. It is a shame to note that the north also has the least internet penetration in the country and as such are excluded from the global community, trends and the conversations that could shape their tomorrow.
The national council for the welfare of destitute puts the current population of Almajiri at about 7 million, a figure that must be translated to an opportunity other than a bomb on speed dial. These young northerners usually within the ages of 11 and 19 can be engaged in a carefully designed program by northern governors in collaborations will local government official,traditional institutions and religious leaders at the grass roots. They can be empowered with vocational and technical skills along sides a basic education in mathematics. Start up grants which must be carefully monitored should be given to qualified individuals and those without a knack for entrepreneur ship can be absorbed into the agricultural value chain where they can use their skills and earn a decent living. It is time for the northern elite to put their monies where their mouth is, a model of the Tony Elumelu entrepreneur ship project empowering a thousand entrepreneurs with skills and a take off grant of 5000 dollars should be domesticated in the northern region driven by northern elite for northerners. The subjugation of women and exemption from socio economic issues is one that must be reversed if the region will make any progress. It is counter productive and economic lunacy to exclude close to half of a population from active participation in politics, policies and governance and expect to grow. Northern governors must begin a region wide campaign to get girls into school and ensure they finish. Northern girls should be encouraged into sciences and other professional courses but most importantly must be supported to reach their fullest potential and highest aspiration.
The north must act now or may loose it’s tomorrow.
VERY few saw this coming, Donald Trump surprisingly pulled a rabbit from the hat. He is president elect and our Dear Hilary isn’t. The world must now deal with the reality of a Trump presidency, the uncertainties and its inherent cataclysmic consequences. Described by the New York Times as the most unprepared individual to assume the oval office in the history of America, one is forced to question a system of government that swings in favour of the majority even if the said majority are ignorant of the issues or have been tactically deceived using a carefully crafted campaign strategy that instigates irrational behaviour. The home of the brave have been cowed if not conned by an egomaniac whose foreign policy proposal sounds a lot like the 1968 Italian classic movie “Kill them all and come back alone “ by Enzo castellari.
With all America stands for and the values it projects to the world, this for me has been nothing short of Heresy in the house of the prophet. It would be necessary to state unequivocally that Hilary Clinton lost this election on the back of a combination of factors prominent of which was the October gift (the FBI reopening of her email investigation just days to the election) but certainly not because of her gender. Of course, a few pundits have argued that America isn’t ready for a female president, and even the voting demography showed that about half of American women voted against the female candidate, I still tend to believe that her biggest undoing was her inability to connect to voters in the electrifying manner with which Bernie Sanders did, not to even mention her being perceived to be untrustworthy. Perhaps, the biggest influence in this election, even though grossly underestimated (especially by the democrats) was terrorism and the instability of the Middle East. Liberal politicians have often ignored human behavioural pattern of self preservation when faced with extintial threat whether real or imagined. In other words, fear will influence the decision of the rational mind far more times than hope would.
I predict you will run faster to save your life from a raging lion than you would for a medal. This human trait formed the core of Trump’s Rhetoric, his showmanship and the audacity to make repugnant and sometimes provocative statements without necessarily loosing the core of his support. As he rightly said, he could shot someone in the middle of the street and would not lose a vote because the people he appeals to have had logical reasoning shut down by fear. The threat of ISIS and the mass exodus of Arabs to Europe for a better life has become the springboard for sudden popularity of right wing populist politicians across the West. Nigel Farage, a right wing politician in the UK used the same narrative (the fear of immigrants) to hatch BREXIT, even though the veil seems to be gradually falling of their faces now. Angela Markel, the German chancellor has seen her party loose 10 out of 16 seats in the just concluded regional elections to right wing populists, while Nicolas Sarkosy, another right wing politician and former President of France is gaining popularity over President Hollande and is favoured to win the 2017 elections.
Without a doubt, Right wing populists have the momentum going into any election in the West because their protectionist message resonates with a lot of the electorates who are terrified by ISIS and the influx of strangers from the Middle East. The Right wing populist movement might have the nod now but its success at the polls always comes with a caveat, “Populists often lose their popularity once they get into office” largely from over-promising and under delivering.
WHILE I tried to make sense of Apostle Suleiman Johnson’s unguarded utterances which hardly reflects the tenets of the gospel he sought to defend, I was further mortified by the executive bill signed by President Trump that temporarily bans travels into the United States from seven countries; Iran, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Somalia. The ban however comes with a somewhat divisive caveat which gives non-Muslims a preference and stereotypes all Muslims. Such a simplistic bill lacking in intellectual rigour only ends alienating friends and giving foes something to rejoice about. Little wonder republican Senator Benjamin Sasse argued that “if we send a signal to the Middle East that all Muslims are Jihadists, the terrorist recruiters win by telling kids that it is America against Muslims”. This kind of populist thinking that paints every Muslim with the same brush was the exact same kind that Hitler thrived upon which resulted in the execution of over six million Jews. We cannot afford another global catastrophe.
Very few of us forget that the tech maestro Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant Abdulfattah Jandali, or that Sergey Brin, co-founder of google was the son of a Russian immigrant. Whether it was Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger or even the very vocal Rudy Giuliani (former Mayor Of New York), the American dream, at its very core, is about giving opportunities to the children of a nobody, irrespective of race, religion or gender to become the best they possibly can be. I dare say that without the noble contributions of immigrants, even Muslims, and the constitutional guarantee of liberty for all, the American dream would have lost its flame to bigotry. Populists must come to the realisation, that hundreds of thousands of people do not leave their home to the West just to catch a glimpse of Disney land, they do so out of utter economic desperation and survival. These refugees from Syria, Libya, Iran, flee from oppressive regimes, economic exclusion, extreme violence and a total breakdown of order and hence are forced not out of free will but by necessity to knock on the door of conscience of the West.
Do we then ignore the cry of young innocent children just because they are Muslims? Do we shut our door to young men and women deeply immersed in pain simply because we do not speak the same language or call God by the same name? Or why, in the words of Malala Yousafzai, should Syrian children who have suffered through six years of war by no fault of theirs be singled out for discrimination? After years of reflection, Malcom X arrived at the pool of wisdom towards the end of his short lived life when he uttered the following words “Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” I cannot pretend that responding to hate with love is an easy task, it is difficult and requires deep convictions but it is all we have got to build a safer society. I also know that people have lost families and friends to violence from militia herdsmen but that is not enough to say that all Fulani men are evil and their blood should be spilled.
There is so much emotion about the killings that reason has become the first casualty, but we must refuse to resort to the medieval days of “us against them” where without reason people kill and discriminate anything that is not them. Today’s society requires a new kind of leadership rooted in compassion, driven by sound judgement and anchored by reasoning. But of course, events in our world today only prove that reason is dead.
A few weeks ago I received a letter inviting me to be part of an association with a mandate to oil the wheels of development within and around the estate I reside in. Excited about yet another opportunity to contribute to developmental issues, I was right on time for the first meeting that was called. The meeting outlined the various issues faced by residents and contributions were made to mitigate such pertinent issues. For such an informal gathering I was impressed by the level of maturity demonstrated by the residents and particularly elated by identification of the problems and strategic choices made guided by a clearly articulated sets of objectives. To say the least, It was quintessential of a united nations gathering. However, there was an obvious discoloration, of the 57 residents that were present at the meeting, no female showed up. In the weeks that followed, the absence of females almost re-named the association a Men’s club not until deliberate steps were taken to get women to participate in the process. Still they gave excuses of cooking meals or house chores to do and didn’t have enough time to spare. It was at this very instance that it occurred to me that though the participation of women in governance was structurally designed to exclude them, their greatest enemies were themselves.
If women will not willingly join informal groups that foster certain levels of developments at community levels, where else would they learn the critical skills to function effectively in mainstream politics. As long as we continue to focus our advocacy solely on creating opportunities for women in governance (which is cardinal) and ignore the roles women themselves have to play in terms of capacity development and civic engagement, we would simply re-establish the men as the umpire. Since governance shouldn’t really be about who governs but rather how we are governed, women must brace up by offering the country a new kind of leadership that guarantees a stronger nation and resonates perfectly with the electorates. With a perfect blend of intellectual sophistication and compassion, women are likely to produce the answer to leadership deficit the world is facing occasioned by the dynamic challenges that weren’t anticipated by even the best of training institutions. This was the exact kind of leadership demonstrated by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor when she took lead in addressing the crisis in the Euro zone and more recently when she reminded the world and particularly Europe that the lives of immigrants matter by opening her door to hundreds of thousands of Syria refugees. Countries with more women in their parliament have proven to be much more stable and less prone to crisis.
Research has also proven that the participation of women helps to end violence within a year by 24%. More importantly, women have proven to be the conscience of society there by exemplifying the rare traits of empathy when in positions of leadership. Very few women have made significant contributions to governance in Nigeria, a consequence of which is the malaise evident in our socio-political environ. I believe that dream ‘change’ this nation awaits will only be possible when women stand up to be counted. In Lagos state, of the 24 commissioners that were appointed by the governor, only two were women, Mrs Lola Akande, Ministry of Women Affairs (did we expect a male to head this ministry) and Mrs Uzamat Akinbule of the Ministry of Youth. Only 4 of the 40 members of the Lagos State House of Assembly are women. In the 8thsenate, women took only 8 seats of the 109 available and 15 of the 360 seats in the green chambers. There is yet to be a female governor and only 4 states, Ogun, Lagos, Enugu and Rivers state can boast of a female deputy governor. In a world where 22 countries including 3 from Africa are being ran by women, with a strong possibility of a woman occupying the most powerful seat in the world (Hilary Clinton), Nigerian women have failed to meet the cut off mark. Until our women take themselves far more seriously rather than being simply the entertainment and welcoming arm of political parties, the status quo will remain. To this date, political parties see women the exact way newspaper vendors see them, “women aren’t really interested in politics, just show them the fashion magazine”. But only women can change this narrative by showing themselves interested, capable and ready to lead. It is not the place of men to create opportunities for you, nobody gives you anything, you have to demand it and then take it.
I RECENTLY have been paying apt attention to the unfolding events in the Somalia presidential race, not because the election will influence major foreign policy discussions, one which the United States election is already shaping but because of a particular aspirant whose campaign is redefining the playing field and reinforcing the truism that girl child education is an economic and socio-political imperative. Fadumo Dayib was born in Mogadishu to a very poor family, her father was a taxi driver and her mother a nomad. She was unable to read or write until the age of 14 and really had no ambition in life. However, when Somalia slid into war 26 years ago, her parents were determined to turn the obvious adversity into a fortune and so they sold all they had to send their daughter overseas, she was only 18 at the time. Her relentless determination to re-write the story of her life and to light a torch in her family to disperse the dark horrors of poverty fuelled her journey to becoming a renowned expert in public health. She said in an interview recently that “I come from a society where women are almost nothing, not taken seriously, just waved away”, perhaps, more than anything else, her journey from being the daughter of a nomad to contesting a presidential election, will prove a counter narrative. The story of Fadumo Dayib should not only inspire us but drive us to create a better policy environment that will ensure the replication of Dayib across the 774 local governments across our country.
We have to take a stand on the future of the girl child and re-open the tough conversations that are eating up the dreams of these little girls. We would have to answer very tough and somewhat unsettling questions, questions like if we want a country where we lack concrete legislation prohibiting the marriage of little girls before the age of 18 simply because someone thinks she is ripe enough. If Fadumo Dayib was given away in marriage by her parents rather than investing in her future, will she be contesting elections today and giving hope to millions of girls across Africa? If she was pregnant at 14 what kind of life would she be living today? We cannot afford to keep playing Russian roulette with the lives of our daughters, they deserve a sound education, they deserve our protection and guidance and above all only they should have the right to make marital decision at the right age. On this I agree with Reno Omokiri, that it makes no sense to deny a girl a driving licence and the right to vote because she hasn’t turned 18 yet describe her as fit for marriage. While we look up to Fadumo Dayib, Hilary Clinton, Angela Markel, Aung San Suu Kyi, Joyce Banda, Theresa May, let us be aware that right there in our houses is a young girl capable of changing the world if only we could believe in her well enough to create a spring board rather than a pit hole to launch her towards prominence. I stand with the girl child.
On the 5th of January, four young black Americans, Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington and Tanishia Covington, were charged with hate crime, robbery and assault, after kidnapping, humiliating and torturing a white boy. These four youngsters went a step further by sharing their bestiality online via facebook chanting, “fuck white people, fuck Donald Trump.” In their exuberance or perhaps outright ignorance they simply became what they thought they were fighting against, and at that very instance they became the oppressor, oiling the machine that recycles hate. If only they knew better!
Just when the world was mourning the massacre of school children and other Muslims in the central city of Meiktila, in Myanmar, Ashin Wirathu, a leading Buddhist monk, preached a highly vituperative sermon saying, “if we are weak our land will become Muslim.” This was the same monk who had said on another occasion that, “You can be full of kindness and love but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog (Muslims).”
The Yazidi, a religious minority in Iraq and Syria have seen their women go through hell in the hands of ISIS. These women and girls are raped at will and are used as slaves after their husbands, fathers and brothers have been shot dead or beheaded. They are subjected to such inhumane treatment simply because they do not practice the religion of the majority.
Where is our humanity? What is it that makes mankind hostile to the unfamiliar? Why does our diversity trigger hate rather than embrace it? It is true that the values we uphold are those that are taught and nurtured by our immediate society, therefore man isn’t inherently evil but only learns to hate. To purge our society of hate, we must, as a matter of urgency resist divisive rhetoric and consciously teach people to love and forgive.
I am deeply influenced by the pacifist and humanist views of the Kenyan theologian who made bold to say, “I am because we are, and because we are, therefore I am.” We all cannot sleep and face the same direction, and we must therefore compromise when necessary and refuse to be driven by ego. We must find the courage to forgive those who wronged us yesterday, irrespective of what evil they might have done. Forgiveness, however foolish, is the only tool left to mankind to effectively break the cycle of hate.
Think of the young British soilder, Eric Lomax, who got captured in 1943 by Japanese soilders and was tortured for months. He was locked up in a 5ft cage filled with red ants, mosquitoes and his own filth. Yet 50 years later when he finally meets his abductor, he makes peace and echoes the following words, “Some time, the hate has to stop.”
Imagine the pain a Colombian senator and presidential aspirant, Ingrid Betancourt, went through in the hands of FARC, the revolutionary armed Forces of Colombia who kidnapped and tortured her for six years, yet she is today fighting for peace and amnesty for her abductors. Asked why and how she was able to forgive her abductors, she said “My suffering never undermines my faith in human nature, it only confirms my belief in man’s endless thirst for happiness”.
Let us stop the hate and spread love.
The alarming rate at which elected officials are outsourcing their statutory responsibilities to God is fast reaching a frightening crescendo. In Benue State, what seemed like a revival or crusade was held to lift up the burdens and economic hardship of the land to God with expectations of the miraculous. The occasion had in attendance the governor and his entire cabinet, a former governor of the state and now senator (George Akume) and a former chairman, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party and also senator (Barnabas Gemade) amongst other high profile individuals. The sight of these statesmen, technocrats and politicians helplessly throwing their hands in the air and shedding crocodile tears, in the effort to arouse public sympathy ended up provoking indignation in many of us.
To think that these individuals have decades of experience in governance, top notch trainings and enviable global exposure but would resort to such shocking display of powerlessness means they are either cold hearted or are intellectually bankrupt. It is worthy to note that anytime an elected leader says, “God will help us” or suggests that we lift our eyes to the heavens, be sure that a colossal mistake has been made in electing such a person and the society will regret this deeply.
Since politicians are quick to depend on religious mysteries to confound economic and socio-political setbacks, it would only be right that we expose their feet of clay. There was a certain Joseph in the bible, who rose from the prison to become prime minister in Egypt and midwife the country through a period of economic turbulence. Not once did Joseph call for a national day of prayer to save Egypt from famine, he had already instituted clever policies, that emphasised savings in times of surplus, and certain austerities in times of famine. There was food in Egypt throughout the seven years of famine because a 30 year old prime minister was visionary, strategic and had an impeccable management skills.
That carefully managed theatrics of clever politicians, using religion to manipulate the masses has proven a master stroke each time it is deployed but someday the wind will blow so hard and the buttocks of the proverbial hen will been seen in the open. When that time comes, the oppressor will then become the very victim of a social structure turned volcanic.
After the genocide had ended in 1994, over a million Rwandans had lost their lives. The country’s economy was in a total mess, life expectancy short, and children were dying at an alarming rate. Paul Kagame became president and the rest is history. Rwanda grew its GDP at an average of eight percent for over a decade, life expectancy doubled and the rate of children dying under the age of five was reduced from 230 per 1000 to less than 55 per thousand. Avigdor Liberman, a former foreign secretary of Israel made the following proclamation, “No one believed, neither in Rwanda nor outside it that this small, divided Central African country would recover and rise from the ruins”. If Mr. Kagame could do it, why can’t Governor Ortom? Or maybe Kagame is favoured of God and Ortom isn’t and hence the need to seek the face of the Almighty more ardently?
For Goodness sake, Benue State is supposed to be the food basket of the nation, blessed with magnificent soil and hardworking farmers; hence to leave the people only to faith would be nothing short of irresponsibility on the part of the executive. That carefully managed theatrics of clever politicians, using religion to manipulate the masses has proven a master stroke each time it is deployed but someday the wind will blow so hard and the buttocks of the proverbial hen will been seen in the open. When that time comes, the oppressor will then become the very victim of a social structure turned volcanic.
Rather than gaze into the cloud in search for what will never appear, the governor of Benue is better off rolling up his sleeves and harnessing the tremendous potentials of his gifted State. It is okay if the governor does not have all of the capabilities to galvanise his state forward, no one does, but what smart leaders do is to get the best brains together in a room, hand them a bold and compelling vision and task them to create a road map and not waste their time in a crusade.
“God cannot be mocked, whatever a man sows that he shall also reap”.
The clamor for the state of Biafra by certain young Nigerians from the south east is a reflection of the amount of dirt that has been swept underneath the carpet for many years.
The agitators may be different, their approaches may also differ but their struggle is triggered by an economy that shut the gates of opportunities on millions of Nigerians. When people’s expectation for the future is bleak, they seek solace in whatever looks like light.
The tales of a prosperous Biafra is certainly more exciting than the harsh economic realities for these young individuals; as such they would rather struggle to enter a land flowing with honey than remain on board a perceived sinking ship.
However, these young individuals are asking the wrong questions and staging their fights at the wrong arena. The collapse of Libya and the unending crisis in Egypt should by now have taught the world the difference between activism and governance.
A lot of energy goes into activism but very little thought is given to the pillars upon which a strong and prosperous state in built. Will Enugu become the capital or would it be Anambra? Will Kanu emerge the first president or would it be Uwazirike?
These are simple questions with no easy answers when egos and sentiments are thrown around. It is therefore cardinal that I state the obvious, “the state of Biafra isn’t the magic bullet to the odious state of the present economy”.
The present design of the country hardly favors any particular tribe, religion or culture. The infrastructural collapse is a national malaise; there are as much jobless Yoruba’s as there are Igbo’s, neither is hunger a regional issue.
Nigeria in itself has failed no region; it is our leaders that have failed us all. If there should be any march, it should be against the political class that have crippled the destinies of our people and most painfully stolen our dreams. The enemy my friend isn’t Usman or Adewale, it is your kinsmen that you gave your mandate who turned it into a conduit to enrich themselves.
I challenge my compatriots from the east not to give in to the sophistry of Mr Kanu, there is no need to cut the nose just to spite the face. Enough blood has been shed already, not even the oldest man in the East should die for this worthless cause.
I believe in the tremendous talent and creative prowess of the igbos, their work-ethic and relentless commitment to succeed irrespective of the odds stacked against them, this is where their energies should be channeled. I challenge you my friends to make Aba an industrial hub where made in Nigeria products can be exported to the global community.
I challenge Enugu to invest in its heritage sites and historical flashpoints and create a tourism industry where the world could see the war planes that were built by engineers under bombardment and without a research budget. I challenge Onitsha to become a world trade center where the entire continent can converge for business.
As a proud Nigerian, I am not ashamed to admit the fact that we need you; you the igbos have invested heavily across the country and in many states account for the most business activity recorded.
We cannot deny your industry, neither could we shy away from the spirit of entrepreneurship you have injected into the system, this is why we want you to stay. Nigeria might do well without you but there is no doubting the great things we can achieve together.
The next time they urge you to pick up arms, request that their sons and daughters lead the lines. This is a momentous opportunity for young easterners to demand the kind of leadership they deserve from elected officials.
This is the time to pressure their senators to fight for the interest of their people, this is the time to demand absolute accountability from their governors, and this certainly is the time to bury the hatchet and move on from 1966.
Finally, the president must recognize that this nation is in a sink or swim moment. First the Niger Deltans took arms, then it became the north easterners and now the south east, if we take away hope from young Nigerians today we would have to deal with bullet wounds tomorrow.
The issue should be seen for what it is and should not be politicized, these are harsh economic times and until bread is on the table, young Nigerians will always scream foul regardless of where they come from.
Governors have vociferously argued that the parlous state of their public finance is a direct consequence of falling oil prices and the mismanagement of the entire economy by the previous administration. This narration by the various chief executives isnt actually false but it is only half the truth as their oration intelligently hides the freezing of their ideas and intellectual bankruptcy. Their failure to effectively manage public finances, think without a box and inject productivity into their states explains their present conundrum.
There is however nothing unique about the positions these governors have found themselves today so rather that throw a pity party, successful models exist in which they could borrow from. Although newly disbursed funds by the federal government to the affected states have provided a temporary pillow, these states are certain to find themselves back in the hole if they refuse to wear a new thinking hat. Giving symptomatic solutions without addressing the root cause of the issue is as good as lightening a candle to cure cancer. Here are a few lessons governors can learn from veteran French manager Arsene Wenger who steered his team through turbulent times but was never caught under water:
1. Wenger had a vision for the club which was for Arsenal to match the other giants of Europe in terms of fan base, revenue and corporate endorsements. The only way to achieve this was to move to a bigger stadium away from the popular Highbury they all had become used to. What grand vision drives a majority of our governors? For the most part, the embark on white elephant projects and populists policies that drain the resources of the states and stagnate the people.
2. Borrow money for capital projects only, one that will ensure streams of revenue tomorrow. Arsenal had to borrow money to fund their new stadium and did not enjoy any public subsidy. However, when their 60,000 capacity stadium was ready, revenue jumped from the normal 37.4 million pounds per match day to well over 90 million pounds.
Sadly, it is the tradition of most governors to borrow to fund over heads, a definite recipe for failure. Governors should seek high yielding investments with both short, medium and long term benefits and make intelligent investments. If on the assumption that since 2012, these ailing states got an average of a billion naira per month from the SURE-P funds (it is on record that they got far more), they would have had about 20 billion naira to make calculated investments for their people but of course we have learnt to swallow the hard pill that “the people are the instruments of governance and not the purpose”.
3. Diversify your revenue base. After moving out of Highbury, Arsenal turned the place into an estate that housed close to 3000 people. This residential unit made 157 million pounds in 2011 alone. Arsenal also rents out its new stadium for conferences and major musical concerts generating extra millions of pounds to balance their books.
Asides Lagos, Kano, Ogun and 2 or three other states, generating internal revenue seem to be above the pay grade of most of these governors. Their lack of foresight and imagination leaves me wondering if any hope lies ahead for the coming generation. Instead of governors to lobby senators representing their states to pass legislation allowing them to tap the natural resources from their states and pay tax to the federal government, they would rather engage in tokenism.
4. Cut costs, improve efficiency and maximize profits. After Arsenal announced a pre tax loss in 2002, they were left with no choice but to reduce their wage bill. They sold off players like Nicholas Anelka and Overmas which earned them about 50 million pounds which went into funding a new training ground. Over the next years, they kept the wages of the entire team extremely low, bought cheap players and sold them for good margins to bigger teams and did enough to stay competitive. This way by 2010 arsenal were able to pay off their entire loan and are now able to pay higher wages and attract top players to their team. In two words, the strategy of Wenger was “delayed gratification”.
With an over bloated civil service, low productivity of the officers and a growing wage bill, governance as currently structured will never yield any dividend. Governors must find the courage to cut the cost of governance and must start by leading the line in terms of doing away with the excesses that goes along with the office. If a manager of a football club understands prudent financial management by balancing interests on and off the pitch with undeniable results, surely an elected executive carrying the mandate of the people must be able to deliver much more. Rather than this show of economic lunacy, Nigerians deserves a leadership that will take them them to the promise land.
The greatest Challenge before any leader in the world today is the creation of meaningful opportunities for its youthful population in terms of gainful employment, decent livelihood and an optimism towards a secure future. This demand is even more pressing for African leaders with a fast growing youth population with limited opportunities.
The young people in Africa constitutes a whooping 37% of the population and make up 60% of the unemployment rate.
By 2020, 1.1billion Africans will be of working age seeking an improved standard of living and a place to focus their energies. History is a great reminder of where young people will focus their energies in the absence of meaningful economic opportunities. Hence the focus of African leaders shouldn’t be about how many millionaires emerges but how many millions we can get out of poverty. It should be about the structural adjustments that stimulates economic growth and shared prosperity anchored by a grand vision.
The springboard for Africa’s emergence will be a fundamental shift in paradigm from what the world can give us to what we can give them. Kenya is making a bold statement with its tremendous success in mobile technology while Ethopia is attracting huge manufacturing brands to Addis Ababa after a courageous reform in its power sector. This momentum can be sustained and scaled if only African leaders can look inwards and unleash the hugely untapped resources of its beautiful people. We must shift from a total dependence on natural resources to the cultivation and deployment of human capabilities.
Nigeria however mirrors the deeply rooted economic challenges of the continent by growing on its balance sheet and excluding a majority of its populace. The conundrum of unemployment has become somewhat a national emergency that could trigger civil unrest if not adequately and swiftly dealt with.
There are 17.7 million people between the ages of 15 and 65 that are unemployed or under employed. 44.3 per cent of the labour force are either unemployed or under employed, while another 25 percent aged 25 to 34 are unemployed or under employed. If our leaders continue to romanticize these figures, it won’t be long before the blood thirsty demon eating up the north east engulfs the entire nation.
What then can the government do?
At the risk of repetition, unemployment in Nigeria is a national emergency that must be treated with uttermost priority. Hence government must take critical but systemic steps in addressing these issues.
Firstly, government must gather intelligence in terms of collecting reasonable data about its people, who they are, what skills they have, where they work, where they live and any information that can be useful in economic planning.
Secondly government must identify labour intensive sectors with strong competitive and comparative advantage, or enjoys strong local demand with the capacity to create huge employment. A case in point is the tomato paste industry in Nigeria where the country looses about 306 million dollars yearly by importing tomato paste to meet local consumption. With the millions of tomato farmers particularly in the northern region of the country, Nigeria has no need importing tomato paste. Helping farmers to improve yield, commercializing their farms, setting up processing plants, creating access to finance and improving infrastructure to reduce the damage of harvested tomatoes, we are well able to increase the income of farmers 5 times their current earnings, reduce importation drastically and create thousands of jobs.
Furthermore, no country can grow beyond the state of its infrastructure. The shortage of basic infrastructure in Nigeria isn’t just an inconvenience but a daily hardship. Farmers have a huge problem connecting markets, distributors spend too much time moving finished goods round the country thereby slowing market penetration and increased overheads for businesses triggered by power shortages.
Nigeria has an infrastructure gap of about 300 billion dollars requiring a sum of $15 billion annually to bridge the gap. This kind of investment not only provides roads and rails but creates thousands of jobs for engineers, a huge learning opportunity for the local labour force and a transfer of technology that can be leverage on in future. Think of the 17 million housing unit deficit the country is currently faced with requiring an investment of N56 trillion. Think of the carpenters, plumbers, painters in their hundreds of thousands that will be engaged in bridging this deficit.
There is no doubt that such huge funds required to make such investments in infrastructure are currently lacking but a collaboration with regional governments, development partners and the private sector can accelerate the achievements of such goals.
Government can also create jobs and increase revenue drastically from other sectors that have been long ignored without minding its input and its ability to accelerate economic prosperity. Nigeria currently has over a thousand tourist destinations including 33 museums, 65 national monuments out of which two were declared world heritage sites, the Sukur cultural landscape in Adamawa state and Osun Oshogbo groove in Osun state. Yet the country looses 700 billion naira yearly and isn’t among the top ten destinations for tourists in Africa. South Africa which tops the list makes over 10billion dollars from tourism yearly. One out every 10 jobs in South Africa is supported by tourism. If they could do it, we also can.
Finally government should remove unnecessary bureaucracies like the long stretch it takes in registering a business and deregulate where necessary ( telecommunications companies have created over 3 million jobs, a fine testament to proper deregulation). The protection of local content is imperative and as such government should use tariffs and taxes to protect local production which stimulates entrepreneurship.
Most importantly, government should work with financial institutions to reduce interest rates and improve lending to businesses at all levels which accelerates the growth of businesses thereby creating a need for more labor.
The debate about the diversification of Nigeria’s economy seems to have elicited keen interest within and among the political class. There have been big talks about investing in agriculture because of its obvious potential and the exploitation of other mineral resources. It is however worthy to note the hypocrisy and sophistry employed by these politicians who speak so highly of what they invest very little into. Our current state as a nation is a direct consequence of a political class that speaks much and does far less.
The series of debates for me has left out the linchpin of any economic strategy away from the overbearing dependence on oil. When we think of diversification we still think in terms of resources, particularly land and mineral ones and hardly ever think of the resourcefulness of the individuals that drives the entire process. Whenever we talk about Nigeria’s potential, it is always about mineral resources and little of its human capabilities. It is cardinal to note, that it is human capabilities that accelerates national and economic development and hence should be at the very core of our national strategy (if any exists).
What do Nigerians do faster, cheaper and better that anyone else in the world? The answer exposes our feet of clay and lack of any real competitive advantage as a nation simply because of the continuous vulgarization of human capital development. Again, no nation can rise beyond the skill sets, talents and competitiveness of its citizens.
Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter recently gave a third of his stock away to his employees, in his words, “we are directly reinvesting in our people, I will rather have a smaller part of something big than a bigger part of something small. I am confident we can make twitter big”. Jack knows the open secret to growth and prosperity, which is the investment in the capacity and capabilities of individuals. This is as true in the corporate world as it is in government.
It is impossible to excel without making huge investment in Nigerians. The entire budget (projections and estimates of revenue and expenditure) for the country in 2014 stood at 4.6 trillion naira (about 29.3 billion dollars). Juxtapose that figure with the revenue of Apple which stood at 182 billion dollars in 2014 alone with a labour force of 92,000 employees as against the well over 70 million active labor force in Nigeria. Google had total revenue of 66 billion dollars and a net income of 14.4 billion dollars with just a staff strength of 53,600 individuals. Apple and Google are producing better results with fewer individuals because of the productivity of their labour.
Instructively, Apple and Google are companies started by individuals with brilliant insights, impeccable skill sets and inimitable capabilities, a pointer to the contributions that individuals can make to a nations economy when properly equipped with the right skills. There is a strong correlation between the talents in a country and the strength of the economy thereof. The United States recorded 287,831 patents between 2011 and 2015. The United Kingdom had 14,972 patents within the same period; Russia had 28,765, Japan 271,731, China 704,936, Germany 47,853, Korea 159,978, France 14,690 and India 10,669. Nigeria in that same time frame had only 50 patents.
If we continue to invest on things beneath the ground at the expense of the brains and minds of Nigeria’s, the dream of becoming an economic giant will always elude us.
I was stunned by the breaking news while watching CNN on Saturday, the headline read “Federal Judge suspends controversial ban on travelers from 7 Muslim countries”, the judge had described President’s Trump ban on Muslim travelers as un-American, a huge victory for Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General of Washington who challenged the ban in court. How in the world would the thin skinned egomaniac and President of the free world, take orders from a county court, i thought to myself. Alas, to my uttermost surprise, a statement credited to the spokesman of the Department of State read thus, “ we have reversed the provincial revocation of visas. Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid”.
It did not take any coercion, bullying or mud slinging for every agency of government involved to make a U-turn in strict compliance to judgment halting the executive orders of the President. Obviously exasperated and livid by the judgment, President Trump has decided to challenge the judgment in court, in a case which might have to get to the Supreme Court for any meaningful closure. No arm twisting!!
Gina Miller, an investment banker and philanthropist, dissatisfied with the Prime Minister’s decision to invoke article 50 by March, which will see Britain officially initiate it’s divorce process with the EU, a decision she felt was in the exclusive purview of the parliament decided to take the government to court. The Supreme Court, after weeks of legal battle, ruled in her favor and ordered that Theresa May must gain approval from the parliament before Brexit negotiations can begin. The Telegraph couldn’t have captured the moment any better when it reported that “it is the most beautiful thing about our country, that one individual can take on the most powerful institutions or people in the land and win”.
Furious about the failed coup aimed at toppling him, President Erdogan of Turkey demanded that Angela Markel midwife the extradition of certain individuals in Germany who were alleged to be sympathetic to Gullen, the Chief suspect in the failed coup. The German chancellor unequivocally ushered the following words “we are committed to the fight against terrorism, however, we can only proceed when we have knowledge about it and such knowledge will be then accessed by the courts. In Germany we have a few court decisions that does not make extradition possible in certain conditions “.
Perhaps, one can state without a doubt, that at the heart of progressive governments is an unwavering commitment, compliance and respect for the judiciary and it’s judgments irrespective of class or social status . It is in this temple that mere men seek justice from a bench which beholds all men as equal .
How then can we look ourselves in the mirror and declare a progressive government holds sway at the center. A government that flagrantly disregards court orders yet expects the nation it leads to rever the rule of law. It fails to recognize it’s incidiary role in vulgarising an institution it swore to preserve. Hence, we are condemned to a spell of ‘parambulation’ up until the dignity of the bench is restored and this requires that the government shows leadership by first obeying judgments that are not in its favor. This i believe will restore confidence in the bench and further strengthen the institution.
I hereby urge the government to reconsider it’s stands on certain accused individuals who have been granted bail by various courts but have continued to remain in custody for over a year. As Justice Kolawole noted in granting bail to El-zakzaky, “the FG has been unable to substantiate it’s claim that the defendant poses a security Threat “, i humbly advise that rather than allow the DSS, EFCC to continuously disregard court orders which consequently vulgarises the institution it should empower these agencies with the necessary resources to do due diligence before appearing in court.
Dasuki, El-zakzaky and Nmamdi Kanu have all been granted bail by different courts, please don’t make heroes out of them. Act like progressives.