All posts by Tunji Ariyomo

KickOut Siddon Look – Our Mumu Don Do, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

For the title of this article, I decided to partly ride piggyback on that famous question by Sonala Olumhense – Your Mumu Don Do? My class Teacher, Mr. Femi Oluwateru on the first school day after the 1979 election asked us (his impressionable young pupils) – “who won the presidential election?” Mind you, just a few days earlier, the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) had declared Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) winner. The entire class, bar two pupils who kept quiet, said “Shehu Shagari”. Even though any talk of partisan politics was forbidden in my house, my father, like most of his contemporaries could hardly overcome the temptation of espousing the rare leadership attributes of Obafemi Awolowo and why he was best suited as president of “awon eniyan dudu” (difficult to govern black people – within usage context) and why Shagari though a gentleman never had it in him what it would require to be a successful president of “awon eniyan dudu”.

I was one of the two pupils who kept quiet. So it was Mr. Oluwateru who prodded us to speak, and till date I remember 3 things: We stood up in defiance and spoke in Yoruba as if it was rehearsed “Shagari ni president t’awon, Awolowo ni president t’awa” – meaning that Shehu Shagari would be president of the remaining pupils who earlier responded while Awolowo would be our president; The second thing I remember vaguely was what I can now describe as the hilarious laughter of our teacher in reaction to our naivety while the third was that I spent several days afterward drawing both Shagari and Awolowo and while I would give Awolowo a beautiful appearance, I would deliberately distort Shagari’s impression and assign him a disproportionate neck that was extremely long, as well as stretching his hat in imitation of his caricature that I saw in some of the newspapers at home. Those drawings were powerful enough to attract roars of laughter. It was my personal revenge against a man whom through means unknown to me at the time, I believed, cornered for himself, a position suitable only for men of the calibre of Awolowo.

Later in life, I came to understand the concept of fitness. First, every single person is important. In 1979, Shehu Shagari was an important personality that was already matured and fit for certain purposes in Nigeria. Being a person of immense calm and comportment, he would have made an excellent see no evil hear no evil first class traditional ruler, a magistrate of repute or a member of an honorary advisory team saddled with specific tasks – such as mediation, alternative dispute resolution etc, among arrays of options – but not the role of the President of Nigeria. In a competitive modern world, as far as fitness is concerned, the role of a President and the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Armed Forces at the time was beyond his capacity. It is like the case of the human body – with various parts – mouth, nose, eyes, brain, hands, legs etc. The ear would be a misfit if it were assigned the duty of the mouth. Ditto if the head were to usurp the role of the legs!  Apart from the fact that the treasury was stolen dry under his watch, the country’s economy became comatose while it took a personal initiative of a young Muhammadu Buhari some years later to keep Chadian invaders at bay while Shagari dozed off as C-in-C!

The position of the president of a nation is no joke. Nigeria got it wrong this far because that position has been treated as a huge joke. The general consensus amongst Nigerian elite politicians is that anybody can be president. It is a lie. That is why rather than bare-knuckle traversing of the length and breadth of the nation to convince Nigerians of candidate’s capability and fitness before being frontloaded as flag bearers of political parties, the norm is for a few to chorography events and throw up their lackeys for that exalted position (some parties will insult you further with sham elections). Their aim is that such persons would remain pliable – to be controlled the way they like. Of course, while puppets will always remain puppets, there is often no guarantee that other people would not snatch control of that puppet. A political puppet is like the Etch A Sketch, anyone who has access can take control and scribble his own notes.

Since 1914 till date, particularly since 1960, the choices that have emerged as leaders have been of three broad categories; the accidental leader or leader by default (those who became Head of State or president because the incumbent was killed or died), the leader by coup d’état (those who either shot their way to the seat of power or surreptitiously manipulated others to do the shooting while they bid their time) or the leader by anointing (those who were handpicked because godfathers believed them weak and pliable). Even under a democratic setting, the political elites continue to dodge the critical need for the people to be the decider-in-chief of their leader’s fate. On both left and right of the political divides today, this is the only subject, apart from corruption, upon which they have consensus – denying the people the opportunity to decide who should lead them. Voting for a bunch of godfather-handpicked individuals on Election Day is no democracy. Your Mumu ends the day you realise that if you did not have a say or elect him at the primary election, he cannot be a democratic candidate of your choice at a general election!

For 99 years, the experiment never worked. Nigeria remains a pariah of a state and an example of what a country must never be. While peers like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have risen to become competitive economies, and while nations like Ghana continue to record street measurable indices of growth (the distinction is deliberately being made here between growth that the people can see and experience versus clerical pronouncements of people in government), the various past leaders of Nigeria would rather provide excuse upon excuse while the nation is incapable of greatness – of course, such excuses would not apply to their personal fortune! It is also not uncommon that while it is expected that they lack what it takes to confront the critical issues that make development near impossible, they nonetheless pander to senior puppeteers in the form of notable world commerce organizations by forcing pain upon their people the more in order to appear as tough reforming leaders to those puppeteers – examples of SAP and the January 2012 removal of fuel subsidy come to mind. Of course capable leaders would have frontally confronted the question of whether subsidy even existed! Or whether devaluing Naira to shore up production and trade was even sensible in a country where institutional framework to support innovation was never in place thereby undermining capacity for global competitiveness! When he went against all superior advice to implement SAP in July 1986, Ibrahim Babangida’s illogic popped inflation from 5.4% that year to 40.9% in 1989.

Why focus on the office of the president first?

At the federal level, there are 109 senators and 360 members of House of Representatives (MHR). In embarking upon any major change, it is sensible to start from somewhere. Attempting to confront everything at once will be quite daunting – especially without executive authority. The position of the President of Nigeria is a very important one. The body language of a good president alone will positively influence the attitude of a multitude of legislators and members of the judiciary. He signs legislators’ bills into laws and put effect to decisions of the judiciary. He possesses the coercive authority of the state and his actions can inspire many to fall inline. Also, the Nigerian President is singularly responsible for the appointment of those that are in charge of the policy direction of governance in Nigeria and the implementation of such policies. Such appointees include hundreds of individuals whether directly or indirectly (i.e., people appointed by those who draw their authority from him).

The President is even able to appoint some within the judiciary! Relative to the legislature and the Judiciary, the President stands primus inter pares. He or his appointees are responsible for executing the tenets and dictates of the Nigerian constitution. They are responsible for the state of the nation’s stock of critical social and physical infrastructure – the hospitals, the roads, the water systems, the electricity systems, communication systems, education system, security systems etc.

So what do we do?

An adage in Isikan says “es’oni gbon ju’lu” meaning that no matter how smart a person is, he cannot be wiser than an entire town. This basically emphasises the primacy of collective wisdom.  While a reform of the political process is compulsory in order to eliminate the current capacity of a few to pre-determine leaders (top-to-bottom) for Nigerians, it may only be feasible under a leader that has the acumen to appreciate its mighty significance – a patriotic mind that knows that leaders can only owe allegiance primarily to the people if they owe their emergence to those people (bottom-to-top).

The tendency would be for leaders so produced to strive hard to deliver so as to continue to earn the respect of the people. This is however a huge challenge because beneficiaries of such anointing will resist attempts to change what gave them their undeserved status. So what can we do? A group of Nigerians which include people like Tunde Fagbenle, Okey Ndibe, Pius Adesanmi, Modupe Debbie Ariyo (OBE), Soni Akoji, Ndubuisi Victor Ogwuda, Safiyah Musa, Kingsley Ewetuya, Anozie Ebirim, Yommi Oni, Zainab Usman and yours truly, as well as others that are teaming up across ethnic divides, age-groups and religious affiliations are pushing for an early head start for the candidate of the Nigerian people, a capable candidate that can unite North and South, that can unite religious sentiments and that can deliver 21st century leadership aimed at reshaping the destiny of Nigeria and place the country on the path to true competitive growth where every kobo of tax payers’ money would count in a quantifiable way – as assets for mitigating critical challenges, meeting pressing needs of the people and building a robust foundation for generations yet unborn – and not as ‘awoof’ to be squandered on vain and non essential items that seem to rank highest in the fantasies of leadership misfits.

By the grace of God, in 2015, the candidate of the Nigerian people will stand shoulder higher than any candidate who believes in the powers of a few strongmen or godfathers. Under the banner of the KickOut Siddon Look (KOSiL) political movement, Nigerian intellectuals, professionals, students, teachers, lecturers, farmers, market women, entrepreneurs, drivers, unemployed youths, underemployed folks etc should no longer stand by and watch as a few well-connected unpatriotic elements destroy the glorious future of Nigeria and plunder her resources.

Sign up at http://tinyurl.com/ab6pmzv and volunteer. Danjuma Musa, Chidozie Odogwudozilla Nnachor, Busuyi Oloye, Aminu Muhammad, Gbenga Musa, Ebuka Enekwe and many too numerous to mention by names are professionals and youthful leaders standing up for a greater country – Our mumu don do, we say.

As 2015 beckons – lessons from the blunders of 1959, 1979 and 1999, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

ALL things being equal, it is safe to predict that 2015 is the terminal date for the set of rulers that took over the reign of governance in Nigeria since 1999. In my self-serving ‘gra gra’, one of those things I pride myself as capable of doing effectively is to predict outcomes of Nigerian general elections. While this may amuse readers, it is not likely to amuse my close friends with whom I have had opportunities to tango over past predictions. I once informed Dr. Adesoji Adeniyi, one of the sharpest minds the nation has produced, that I would start charging fees for my predictions. In 2011, I predicted an overwhelming victory for the incumbent. As 2015 beckons, if Dr. Goodluck Jonathan continues with his ‘transformation agenda’, evident by oddities and reprobate leadership being celebrated as accomplishments in Abuja today, accounts of which  daily saturate the pages of Nigerian newspapers and cyberia, he will not only be roundly defeated at the polls, but disgracefully so. Even the ‘bolekaja’ indices (undemocratic underhand tactics) that often determine who wins and who loses in Nigeria’s brand of democracy are odds that are currently stacked heavily against him.

The good news for the opposition is that leaders, especially those who allow themselves to be shielded from the masses like Jonathan, never see this reality until they are back in their ancestral homes or on exile in Europe as ex-leaders. Then they can write memoirs with fancy titles and grandstand on national issues.

This is why the ongoing merger by opposition political parties is worthy of intense assessment. Yinka Odumakin in an interview with Saharareporters on the merger of political parties warned against “a change from Abacha to Shonekan”. He stated further that it is true that “people are fed up with 14 years of PDP, but there isn’t cause for excitement yet. In the past 14 years, Nigerians have cried about the outrageous allowances that Nigerian legislators collect but virtually all these parties have members in the National Assembly who have been there over the years, but not one of them has opposed the outrageous wages they are collecting while the people were suffering. We complain that PDP rigs election at the centre, most of these people also control states where the states conduct local government election in Nigeria that are worse in some cases than what the PDP does at the centre…which suggest that if they have the same space as the PDP, they will do the same thing or even worse”.

So, if a new set of leaders would take over in 2015, how can Nigerians ensure we do not jump proverbially from frying pan to fire?

The late Prof. Ayodele Awojobi, renowned engineering genius, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in literature, Prof. Chinua Achebe, iconic writer, Col. Abubarkar Umar, a military man who openly sided with the June 12 struggle in 1993, Balarabe Musa, a politician who has made consistent effort to side with the masses – all have one thing in common – they failed to defeat the ‘jegudujera’ (exploitative) forces that lined up against them when it was their turn to engage the prior incarnations of the evil ensembles that have ensured that Nigeria remain underdeveloped, poor and in perpetual crisis.  At each turn, the ‘jegudujera’ forces were ahead.

Timeline – 1959/1960

In 1959, as independence beckons, the leading and most well prepared minds involved in the struggle for independence; the leader of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the leader of the Action Group (AG) and Asiwaju of the Yorubas, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo were as divided as the proverbial siblings of the African walnut. Rather than forging a united front ahead of the onerous task of building a new nation capable of surviving in a highly competitive modern world, what history recorded was bare-knuckle artifice targeted at conquering opponent’s territory and subjugating other tribes under peer domination (I have decided not to apportion blame). The inability of these well-prepared and capable minds to forge a common front, or even align with persons like the University of London trained Aminu Kano of the Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU), is at the root of the layers of ills that have now come to define the Nigerian nation. It is a known truth that leadership of a nation requires the service of the best minds in the pursuit of common good. There is no nation that can thrive under the leadership of position-misfits who are again burdened by devotion to causes other than the common good. That is double jeopardy.

Timeline – 1979

By 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a Kaduna College trained grade II teacher was positioned to lead even though the nation had a University of London trained Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister as far back as 1960. Were merit the determining factor, it was unlikely that he would even qualify ahead of many Northern rising stars at the time. He none the less became the President and Commander in Chief of Africa’s most populous nation and for 4 years, achieved very little other than what members of his political party bandied as monumental achievements. Before the fall in oil prices in 1981, his government carried on with such profligacy while allegations of wanton corruption plagued his projects, notably the Ajaokuta Steel complex and the Steel rolling mills that made the people longed for the military days. It was obvious that he had been assigned a role far above his capacity.

When opportunity to remove him came in 1983, perhaps in an attempt to learn from their 1959 folly, Azikiwe and Awolowo attempted to come together. Extraneous circumstance scuttled that goal. In his well researched piece published in the Punch of February 22, 2013, Jide Akinbiyi went down memory lane stating that “in 1983, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigerian Peoples Party whose members had been in President Shehu Shagari’s NPN Federal Government since 1979 decided to team up with Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN); Waziri Ibrahim’s Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) and Comrade Michael Imoudu’s Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) for the purpose of unseating Shagari’s government in the presidential election of that year. They came together under the banner of Progressive Parties Alliance (PPA). But they could not agree on who would be their presidential candidate. Awolowo wanted to run, so did Azikiwe and Waziri. At the same time, Shagari who was sure of his victory assured Dr. Azikiwe and his NPP that he would give them ‘juicy’ positions if he was returned to power. Being thus wooed away from the PPA, Dr. Azikiwe described himself as a beautiful bride torn between different suitors. In the end, Shagari won the election and fulfilled his promise by appointing NPP members into his cabinet.”

As history stands, what eventually unchained Nigerians from the shackles of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was a jackboot intervention by the military in 1983 – civilian strategies having failed.

Timeline – 1999

The next date with history was 1999. By then, most of the original dramatis personae had either died or retired from active politics. The Nigerian people, pushed to the wall, had engaged the military for nearly sixteen years. Suddenly and unexpectedly, some behind the scene intervention led to the death of General Sani Abacha. As revealed by Al Mustapha at the Justice Oputa Panel, the events were choreographed. Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Balarabe Musa and several others were clear champions of this struggle against military rule. However, when opportunity to decide the next leaders arrived, these vocal and leading light rather than retreating and coalescing behind a single candidate and making a united push for the leadership of the nation, got themselves scattered over the nation’s political space with some even forming their individual political parties. There was hardly anyone of them that did not register a political party or group whether as an individual or in conjunction with others. Gani, who should have been the senatorial candidate of a leading party in his state (Ondo), aimed for the presidency while Falana who should have been a Senatorial candidate of a leading party in his Ekiti State gunned for the governorship. These ones even tried as many who were capable of contesting did not, leaving a vacuum that was successfully exploited by the ‘jegudujeras’ such that although ideologically cohesive, these leading lights weakened and diminished their political worth through their inability to unite. The established cartel of evil that has held the nation to ransom since independence quickly united behind a single candidate and even wooed more unto their sides. Predictably, they won the election and the story went back to status quo. This was in 1999.

As 2015 beckons

The Nigerian people have been pushed to the wall. The level of poverty and insecurity in the land is unprecedented despite unmatched income from crude oil and other sources. Like the previous attempts, the opposition is being united by a common enemy. The politicians in the opposition are doing what they ought to be doing – forming a united political group (via merger). The only difference this time, bar a few exceptions, is that members of the political opposition are also mostly people who have been tested and who have failed in the past. The list is endless. Many leading figures of the merger experiment were either notable stalwarts of the ruling party in the past or active contractors and hanger-on of the military while those that have been members of opposition genuinely over time have also presided over their dominions with the same high handedness with which the ruling party has ruled Nigeria. There is little doubt that many are party to the merger solely because they lost out in the PDP. Even at that, they are doing the correct thing – merging!

Those who are not playing their roles are members of the true intelligential, the real moral voices of the nation – those patriots who are not driven by personal political gains – the non professional politicians. Those are the people that are truly capable of objectively searching for and identifying capable and merit-based leaders for the Nigerian people. Those are the people that need to learn from the experience of 1959, 1979 and 1999.

What can you do?

Professional politicians often take it for granted that theirs is the heaven-ordained right to elect (select) leaders for the rest of the country. It is a farce that thrives because the people allow it. If the mass of the people challenge this notion, they will succeed and 2015 is a good time for such an experiment.

If you are appalled by the level of decadence and leadership missteps in Nigeria, then your best choice is to commence actions at your end toward identifying the leaders you want in positions rather than merely expecting what characters politicians would throw up in 2015. Professional politicians would naturally prefer candidates that would give them high return on their investment. You however should be targeting capable people that can lead Nigeria out of this quagmire of poverty and deprivation.

Nigerians from the North, West, East and South are presently working behind the scene and would be storming the nation’s political space shortly over the choice of leaders they want in 2015. Will you join them or simply idle away thus exposing our people to more years of uncertainty under incapable leaders? The only way we will not jump from frying pan to fire in 2015 is if we are all united towards the same goal today. I implore you to arise.

Pension scam judgement: Is Justice Talba to blame? By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

Having been charged under the Penal Code, the EFCC comfortably tied the hands of Justice Talba. The judge could have even decided to sentence the felon to 3 days in prison if he so desired or give him the full two years or an option of a fine.

The Yoruba, like other typical African tribes, love to preserve wisdom in beautifully woven words. The average Yoruba person would be familiar with ‘ètè àti làpálàpá’. Ètè and làpálàpá are the Yoruba words for leprosy and ringworm respectively. There are many ways the ètè’ and ‘làpálàpá combination could be used. One which came to me recently is the extended version that introduced a third element – ‘iroré’. Now, iroré is the Yoruba word for pimple. It was one of my big egbons (brothers) that used to combine the three. He would say “bi gòngòsú bá f’ètè sílè pa làpálàpá tán, áwá k’áramó iroré pípa”. Translated loosely; a fool that expends crucial energy on curing ringworm when the  affliction was leprosy would soon focus greater energy on the treatment of pimple while his leprosy festers. The “iroré pípa” portion is the way I have come to understand the unending cycle of reactions of Nigerians, particularly from those who ought to know better, but who chose to sensationalize, or in the least, treat mere symptoms rather concentrate energy on our core maladies.

A case in point is the recent judgment on January 29 of a Federal High Court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Abubakar Talba, in the corruption case filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against John Yakubu Yusuf, a former assistant director at the Police Pension Office, who connived with others to steal N27.2 billion police pension funds. As we like to do in science, my first reaction was to get all the facts (at least those ones in the public domain) so as to be well informed and in order not to follow the multitude to commit the folly of misinformation. According to various reports, the amount the EFCC traced to Yusuf and for which he pleaded guilty was N3.3billion described “as his share of the loot” (Please see the Punch Editorial, February 6, 2013). His fellow travellers are being tried for their various shares of the N27.2bn loot. In the judgement, Justice Talba ordered the forfeiture of all choice properties, 32 houses in all, traced to Yusuf in Abuja which were considered the proceeds of his crime as well as a sum of N325million traced to bank accounts owned by him. The judge then pronounced him guilty (Yusuf so pleaded anyway) and sentenced him to 2 years concurrent prison terms for the three offenses with an option of a fine of N750, 000.

The reactions that followed were predictable. The judge has been blamed for the judgment and has been called names. A protest was quickly put together by Hon. Dino Melaye to compel the Chief Justice of the Federation to intervene and ensure ‘the injustice was corrected’ while one report by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) was even titled “How Judge Tricked EFCC To Free $203 Million Pension Fund Thief” effectively casting the judge as the mastermind. The facts however violently disagree with the position of these individuals and groups. It is even credible to surmise that the story is deliberately being told this way, taking advantage of the predictable mood of the people, in order to hide the real culprits. Unfortunately for judges, nobody tells their stories – especially in a judicial system that we all know is hardly independent or designed for justice.

Section 309 of the Nigerian Penal Code under which the EFCC elected to try Yusuf states: “Whoever commits criminal misappropriation shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with a fine or with both.” Having been charged under the Penal Code, the EFCC comfortably tied the hands of Justice Talba. The judge could have even decided to sentence the felon to 3 days in prison if he so desired or give him the full two years or an option of a fine. It is thus elementary that the judgment was legitimate i.e., it is not a miscarriage of justice within the meaning, letters and intent of the laws of Nigeria. Whether our laws should be like this is however a different issue entirely and I have reserved that for the latter part of this essay. That the judge ordered a confiscation of all choice properties traceable to Yusuf, 32 houses in all, indicates that he already retrieved for the pensioners the portion of their money stolen by the convict.

Curious Nigerians can only continue to speculate on why the EFCC decided to prosecute the then accused person under the Penal Code as against the EFCC Act. In a country where ‘nothing goes for nothing,’ such speculations and conjectures would be appropriate and sensible. The Punch newspaper in that 6th of February editorial rhetorically asked “What prompted the EFCC to opt for a plea bargain in the first place when the case was an open-and-shut one? The paper trail of the N27.2 billion was well documented, requiring no extraordinary detective work to prove.” Having claimed that it had smoking gun evidence against the culprit, it is commonsensical to expect that the EFCC would bring its full weight upon the culprit. It cannot claim it opted for the Penal Code because it was saving money for the federation since the agency is not known to return unspent money to the purse of the Federal Government. Also, the EFCC cannot claim that the judge breeched a prior plea bargain deal because the current rule on plea bargain requires the authority of the Attorney General of the Federation which has been reported to be absent in this instance. So, the EFCC, for reasons best known to it, hobnobbed with the felon, set up a deal and approached the Judge on its own freewill with the plea to amend its charges. The ICIR report confirms this when it says “Our source disclosed that when the two parties (EFCC and Yusuf) reached an agreement on the details of the deal, they approached Justice Talba.”

Judges are humans. If the prosecuting agency is begging a judge that it wanted less penalties not more than two years or an option of a fine (this is the correct and non-emotional interpretation of the EFCC action when it chose to try the accused under the penal code), then the worst the judge could do was to order a seizure of all that Yusuf made from the money stolen from pensioners, if only to secure justice for those pensioners. Perhaps if other previous convicts who took refuge under the ‘arranged in the dead of the night plea-bargain deals’ were made to forfeit all they acquired as Justice Talba ordered in this case, they would not have mansions in South Africa where they could continue to host top government functionaries.

A leprous justice system

The law is often said to be an ass. It is however my opinion that the real ass is the entire Nigerian justice system. By the justice system, I mean the judiciary, the executive’s role in making of rules and the legislature’s duty of lawmaking – and not just the judiciary. The judiciary is a reflection of what the Executive and Legislative arms of government have made of it. Ours is a judicial system that is only suitable for the Stone Age. The laws the judges are expected to work with are laden with so many contradictions that a judge is forced to rely on his wit most of the time. In saner climes, the laws are designed in such a way that the rules are applicable across the board equitably. It is because the Nigerian justice system is such an ass that an agency like the EFCC can decide on its whim to try culprits as it deems fit using double standard based upon the ability of each suspect to negotiate a deal. What happens to accused persons that do not have the right connection or ability to negotiate? By tacitly begging the judge to tone down justice against the culprit when it sought a trial under the penal code which only empowered the judge to convict the culprit for a few days (if he so desired) or fine him, the EFCC set the judge up from the beginning – creating a ceiling or limit of justice for the Nigerian people.

Attempts by the EFCC to distance itself after the judgment were mere well calculated high wire PR stunts targeted at deceiving the people and cast the judge as the villain in a script where the EFCC is unquestionably the bad guy. This agrees with the position of Jibrin Okutepa SAN who said those who arraigned Yusuf under that law should be blamed and stressed that “it was not possible for the judge to use his discretion in passing judgment… No judge, however powerful, is allowed, under the law, to substitute his feelings for the provisions of the law in sentencing and convicting an accused person. If it was a Magistrates’ Court, you won’t have more than a fine of N20,000 under the same law that Yusuf was convicted by Justice Talba in the High Court.”

However, like I implied at the opening, even the EFCC would never be my object of intense condemnation. The agency is only the ‘lapalapa’ (ringworm) in the rotten mess of a leprous justice system. The real denunciation should be targeted at leaders of the various arms of government who refuse to put in place a justice system that can truly serve the interest of the Nigerian people.

The most well-informed view on this subject is the one expressed by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) that the government and not the judge should “be blamed for putting unregulated plea bargaining procedure at the heart of its fight against corruption while at the same time ignoring to establish sound legal framework to regulate the practice so that our courts are able to deliver true justice for the victims of large-scale corruption in the country… An important element of justice is missing when the accused and the government believe a plea bargain is fair while judges lack the necessary legal tool and mandatory guidelines upon which to decide and render true justice. Once the legal framework is there, judges will have to live up to citizens’ expectation that the courts will apply and interpret the law reasonably and consistently”.

Even if there are a few exceptions, there is no basis to generalise that Nigerian judges will not rise to the occasion if the rules were equitable and the framework without ambiguities. One can remember for instance that Justice Abubakar Talba it was who ruled against a sitting President Umar Yar’ Adua in the wake of the latter’s effort to gag the media from reporting the state of his health in 2009 (See Yar’Adua versus Leadership).

Conclusion

An outsider who has never been an organic part of the Nigerian society may be tempted to conclude that the most vocal of the people agitating for a better Nigeria are in fact working hands in glove with those who have sworn to ensure the nation never thrive. This is the only available explanation for the tendency to pander to sensationalism when we should be canvassing for the need to uproot and overhaul the entire criminal justice system that is being taking advantage of by law enforcement agencies and accused persons. This is the way to protect our judges and ensure they are properly shielded from agencies or persons that may seek to use them as pun in the sophisticated game of corruption blame casting. A case to watch is the recent re-arraignment of a former minister, Femi Fani-Kayode. My basis for bringing this up is not to comment on the merit of the case as I am incompetent to do so (the former minister has variously maintained his innocence). However, according to Ben Ezeamalu of PREMIUM TIMES and Ade Adesomoju of PUNCH, the trial judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia, warned the EFCC that its “charges were not properly drafted and may need to be amended” – an advice the EFCC immediately rejected insisting that there was nothing wrong with the charges it filed against the ex-minister (See PREMIUM TIMES, February 11 2013 and PUNCH, February 12 2013). One does not need an Ouija disc to know that another Nigerian judge is again being set up as the baddy.

Tunji is a policy chair with the NDi.

e-mail: oariyomo@nd-i.org

Power Sector Reform: TCN, Manitoba and Suggestions for the new Power Minister, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

At face value, the contract between the Federal Government of Nigeria to cede the management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to Manitoba Hydro International of Canada appears to be a good one. Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) is a real company. Its owner (the parent company) has proven experience in generation, transmission and distribution operations. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Manitoba Hydro (MH) of Canada, which in turn is fully owned and closely regulated by the provincial government of Manitoba, Canada. I warned, in a 4-page brief that I sent to Prof. Barth Nnaji in May 2012 through his Technical Adviser on Media and Communication, Ikeogu Oke, that as is typical with the Nigerian state, we seemed to have again embedded landmines in an otherwise potentially good concept.

I reproduce below the relevant portion of that brief:

“The responsibility for the management of the entire national power transmission backbone covering the 910,768 sq km of the nation’s land space is being outsourced to one single monopoly. It is difficult to conclude that this is the most efficient decision among competing alternatives with similar success and risk factors. A critical point is being missed here – corresponding impact of decision on the reform’s capacity to act as stimulant for massive job creation, widespread private sector growth and knowledge transfer along the transmission corridor as well as the potential to impede the promotion of fair consumer price. Paul K. Ogden (2009) described this as ‘creating a government sanctioned monopoly for a private company’. It also does appear that rather than receiving payments from this contract, government of Nigeria would be paying the platform operator. This is awkward. It directly negates the entire narrative behind a private sector led electricity sub-sector while potentially leaving room for collusion and ultimately corruption.”

My concern was propelled by the following factors:

1.     Inviting an external operator (supposedly a private company) to manage a national transmission company, being manned by Nigerian civil servants with full office complement and official roles is incongruous and a potential recipe for avoidable conflicts, and in the extreme, sabotage.

2.     Inviting a single private company to manage the national transmission company as a business enterprise is undoubtedly an endorsement of a private monopoly and a blow to government’s effort at market liberalization.

3.     The envisaged impacts of privatization on the reform and its capacity to stimulate massive and widespread competitive private sector jobs could be undermined by a single monopoly.

4.     Most frustrating concern is the realisation that rather than outright concessioning of operations and incidental administrative concerns over transmission acreages to private sector platform managers, it is the public institution itself that is being brought under the control of a private concern.

5.     Indigenous private sector driven growth and knowledge transfer along the transmission corridor could be impeded.

6.     Less contentious and alternative business models exist that could allow Manitoba Hydro to actively participate in the Nigeria’s electricity subsector in ways that suit its capacity and experience and that can yield a win-win scenario for the private sector and the relevant or corresponding national public institutions.

7.     Manitoba of Canada claims that one of its key objectives is to reorganize the Transmission Company of Nigeria such that its function as a Transmission Service Provider (TSP) could be separated and for the TSP to become a privatised commercial company. If that is the goal, why can’t the Nigerian government accomplish that objective on its own ab initio or right away?

 

Some sacred facts:

As at 2009, Manitoba Hydro’s parent company has about 527,000 electric power customers and 263,000 natural gas customers (Please see 58th Annual Report of the Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board, for the year ending March 31, 2009, Winnipeg. p. 119). Ironically, while the Nigerian National Transmission Company is being put up for management under the Manitoba Hydro International of Canada, the Manitoba Hydro Act which governs Manitoba Hydro and its subsidiaries contains a provision prohibiting privatization of Manitoba Hydro without a referendum by voters of Manitoba [Section 15.3(1) of Manitoba Hydro Act as amended]. This is perhaps why Manitoba Hydro itself is already accustomed to being a monopoly operating primarily in the interest of the province of Manitoba in Canada. It is the sole commercial provider of electrical power in that province. It is not unlikely that the quest to attract more dollars for its domestic survival informed the expansion that led to the formation of a child company – the MHI. It should be noted that there is nothing wrong with this. It is in the best interest of Canada or the Manitoba government to so do. Something is however wrong, when a nation like Nigeria cannot learn from the model that has made Manitoba of Canada  - despite being a Crown corporation (government company) – such a thriving success since its formation in 1961. Of course, one finds it a bit ironical that while Manitoba remains solely a government owned company in Canada with a legislative protection to prevent its privatization, the company has announced that one of its key objectives is to reorganize Transmission Company of Nigeria such that its function as a Transmission Service Provider (TSP) could be separated and for the TSP to become a private commercial company (Note: this writer is not against privatization). In fact without the approval of the Governor of Manitoba, it is unlikely that MHI would be able to invest in Nigeria beyond $5m [Sections 15(1.3) and 16.1(4) of Manitoba Hydro Act]. With the way the current contract is structured, it is not actually investing in Nigeria anyway. It is Nigeria that is investing in Canada (call it knowledge or knowhow procurement).

Suggestions (An alternative path):

While Nigeria’s penchant for solving problems by creating newer problems is legendary, another past time of Nigeria is the capacity to complicate simple things.

1.    A better model for the operation of the national transmission backbone is to end the era of treating the entire transmission system as a monolithic structure by dividing the transmission backbone into at least six (6) autonomous clusters or transmission corridors within a single but flexible national grid system (look at it as regional grids as in Canada). This suggestion takes into consideration; the transmission practice in other countries, Nigeria’s large population, the reality of the age-long difficulty of the Nigerian bureaucracy to successfully manage chains of processes. It is particularly important to note that the Manitoba Hydro experience in the province of Manitoba in Canada is such that the company is saddled with the management of transmission in that province only. Other Canadian provinces like Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut have different companies in charge of transmission. Basically, Canada has three power grids: the Western grid, the Eastern grid, and the Quebec grid, which includes Atlantic Canada while transmission lines in a given area may be owned by a single company or by a number of different companies (look at that as some quasi-consortium). This model wherein transmission companies operate independent of generation and distribution companies and in conjunction with them where practicable has been successfully practiced in Canada and the United States.

 2.    Instead of a management contract to oversee the TCN, each of the six clusters in Nigeria would then be concessioned or outsourced to separate private companies as transmission cluster operators – with each operator bearing its name! E.g., South-East Transmission Cluster outsourced to a consortium of Manitoba HI of Canada and Emeka Offor Eastern Power Ltd, North-East Transmission Cluster concessioned to a Consortium of Scottish Power UK and Dangote Power Nigeria, South-West Transmission Corridor concessioned to a consortium of General Electric US and Glo Energy Nigeria etc. Each will get paid using a sharing ratio approved by NERC upon TCN recommendation on per kWh (taking into consideration the kV transmitted) thus ending need for government to be making any payment (as currently envisaged in the TCN-Manitoba contract). This is a strategic incentive for the expansion of generation capability in that zone because naturally, the more kWh, the more profit to the cluster operator (and the more electricity supplied to the homes of our people).

3.    If the nation adopts existing national geo-political zones because of contiguity, this would promote efficiency and mitigate risks by isolating, limiting and curtailing them (E.g., a consortium of Chevron Grid Limited and Ebele-Etiebet-Wilberforce Power Limited would likely better handle transmission infrastructure issues including vandals and saboteurs in the South-South than a company with headquarters in Abuja or Lagos overseeing the 910.768 sq km national space). Such a company is also likely to be interested in expanding its generation capability by investing in generation knowing full well that is it to its direct benefit if it is able to provide steady supply to distributing companies. The implication of this is that instead of a single transmission backbone operator called Manitoba, there would be a minimum of six such companies (or more as TCN may decide) managing different regional transmission corridors or clusters while the role of the TCN will be deprecated to that of a market facilitator and sector owner – but remaining chiefly a government entity – while actual technical and operational conducts with regard to the national grid in the various clusters are being executed by private sector players with the technical know-how and wherewithal.

4.     This model will see the TCN playing the role of a sub-sector midwife for these transmission corridor operators and helping to facilitate their smooth relationship with existing generation companies in their zones through the Bulk Electricity Trading Company (this should never have been a company though. It should have been a self regulatory business and legal process) and relating actively with NERC on bureaucratic issues especially in relations to helping with initial facilitation of relationship among cluster transmission managers and local distribution companies, helping to make and enforce interconnection rules to get the transmission networks interconnected into regional and national networks (thus providing adequate redundancy and multiple alternative routes for power to flow and for its sale as a commodity without barrier), reviewing transmission specific reliability standards and acting as transmission specific data custodian.

 5.    In this model, the TCN does not necessarily have to be a company but a small, compact and efficient government agency. Some of its unstated roles could include facilitating the transfer of technical knowhow between the foreign firms and Nigerians and helping to warehouse critical data for planning purposes as well as maintaining a unit dedicated to transmission-specific research and development.

 Conclusion

If the Manitoba and TCN deal has attained an irreversible status, then very little could be done at this stage until perhaps the initial contract runs its course. If however it is not final yet as several newspaper reports continue to suggest, then I will strongly recommend that the new minister, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, takes a look at this alternative as well as other ideas that other knowledgeable engineers on the subject matter would be passing to him and re-adjust the envisaged relationship with this company. The Minister should also lead the charge on the need to amend enabling law to empower direct state and local government ownership and participation. As I stated in an earlier article, the 2012 well celebrated empowerment of states and LGAs to participate in the power sector reform “is superficial as it is solely within the limitation imposed by Section 14(b), Part II of the Second Schedule (Concurrent Legislative List) of the Nigerian Constitution which restricts state’s investment to ‘areas not covered by a national grid system within that State’.  Any strategic manoeuvring beyond this constitutional intendment without actually amending the constitution to remove restrictions imposed upon states and local governments would limit the capacity of states to be real part-owners of sector investments, promote conflicts and open up future avenues for possible abuse which could result from socio-political differences in a nation as diverse as Nigeria … My position on this has been vindicated with the attempt to shut out some states while allowing some even when it is obvious that there would be no way to justify any technical or financial superiority since the states are peers.”

What further evidence do we need than the Canadian model from where we sprung Manitoba Hydro? A study of the entire Canadian electricity management system and regulatory framework will open the eyes of Nigerian managers so they can appreciate how a massive electricity infrastructure for a population of 167million people must never be managed from a unitary stand point. We can only get it right if we are doing the right things in the best interest of our people. Doing the wrong thing with passion, zeal and commitment would only continue to lead to ‘successes’ only government officials can see.

Tunji is a Chattered Engineer and the Policy Chair on Energy, Infrastructure and Technology of the NDi. The NDi project can be accessed at www.nd-i.org

e-mail: oariyomo@nd-i.org; Phone: +447532127503      

Petroleum Industry Bill: Oil minister’s powers, UK laws and deft propaganda (2), By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

Continued from last week.

Having examined other extant regulations in the United Kingdom (UK) in the first part of this article which showed clearly that it is a serious error to conclude that the guiding UK law expressly permit the sort of unfettered powers assigned the Nigerian Petroleum Minister in the PIB (Petroleum Industry Bill), it is good to examine further evidence within that same law as well as the key fundamental institutional differences that marked Nigeria apart from the UK. For instance, the specific law (1998 UK Petroleum Act) generously quoted by Ejiofor Alike in his article makes it clear that when the Secretary of State makes regulations, such would be subject to the concurrence of the legislature.

This is in furtherance of the principles of separation of power and check and balance [See Petroleum Act 1998, Section 4 (3) which states that “Any such regulations shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament”] – thereby subjecting ministerial regulations to parliamentary override if required. Put pointblank therefore, the power to make regulation by the inister in the PIB is not subject to any check as is the case with the equivalent UK law other than this requirement for consultation which is also implicitly ousted via a carefully constructed exception clause. Section 8(6) for instance annuls any envisaged gain of consultation when it was declared that “Notwithstanding the provision of subsection (2) of this section, the Minister may, due to the exigency of the circumstances, make any regulation without conducting an inquiry, where he deems it necessary to do so.”

Ejiofor’s position which celebrates such provisions as delegation of duties and mandatory public consultations by the Nigerian Petroleum Minister in the PIB as evidence that the draft bill is good is therefore ill advised. He essentially equated such tokenisms as adequate mechanism for check and balance. He cannot be more wrong. He who delegates owns the actual reins of power and as far as the Nigerian context is concerned, he who calls the shot dictates the tune! So delegation of functions by a Nigerian Minister is no guaranty that he would not doctor or manipulate processes through those same subordinates. The nation’s history is replete with many examples! Although it must be stated that it is not correct that duties are not delegated in the UK or that there are no mandatory consultations before any ministerial regulation is produced (readers who are members of professional institutes in the UK know better). Some practices are established norms that have also been adequately captured in other bodies of laws and there may just not be any sensible reason to repeat them as distinct requirements in a UK Petroleum Act – when it is even commonsensical that UK’s approach to development is multi-sectoral unlike Nigeria where each department of government operates as an island.

Even in deciding the consideration (cost etc) to be furnished for such licences, the Secretary of State will not act alone as he must seek the concurrence of the Department of Treasury (equivalent of the Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance) compulsorily. Ref Part 1, Section 3 (3) “Any such licence shall be granted for such consideration (whether by way of royalty or otherwise) as the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury may determine”.

If we even concede that the author is legally correct (he is wrong as we have so far seen) without forfeiting our right to correct the folly in the article, the most fundamental flaw of the argument advanced would be the boldface commission of fallacies of context – UK versus Nigeria. For instance the article failed to state that the administrative and cultural environment that make the Secretary of State accountable to the people of the United Kingdom is absent in Nigeria. It failed to mention that the institutional framework as well as the internal regulatory mechanism available and embedded generously in the tonnes of patriotic laws and regulations in the United Kingdom are absent in Nigeria.

The article failed to mention for instance that a UK Defence Secretary (Liam Fox) resigned in October 2011 within a week of media accusations that his friend appeared to enjoy certain special privileges involving official trips (he never waited for a committee to confirm the allegation). Neither did the article mention that Labour MP David Chaytor was jailed for 18 months after the media broke the news that he illegally claimed about N5million (£20,000) as accommodation allowance (the expenses scandal). It equally failed to mention that similar scenarios play out every day in government institutions in Nigeria, involving Ministers, legislators, governors and other top government functionaries while the usual response would be “is my wife/friend/brother/relative not qualified?” Of course, the article did not mention that Nigerians do not even know what their Ministers’ expenses are or even their legitimate earnings and neither did it state that members of the National Assembly, in a rare display of camaraderie, unity and solidarity across party affiliations (PDP, ACN, CPC, ANPP etc) are presently unanimously in court actively frustrating the legitimate request of Nigerians seeking to invoke FOI in order to know how much money their honourable representatives in the hallowed chambers are earning!

The article failed to mention that on 3rd of February 2012 the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (that’s the counterpart to Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister), Chris Huhne, resigned from his post after it was announced that he would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice, in relation to mere accusations that he dodged direct responsibility for speeding penalties (he had passed it to his ex-wife’s record to avoid losing his own licence). The article also failed to mention that when, under the watch of a Nigerian petroleum minister, subsidy payment ballooned from N300billion to N2.1trillion within one year – in spite of this being naked evidence of grave incompetence (if that isn’t, what else is?) and in the face of several damning accusations of culpability – that Minister went ahead to be the judge in her own case (in violation of the maxim Nemo iudex in causa sua), set up committees to probe the industry’s activities under her watch for which she and the directors appointed by her were being accused of complicity, received the reports of the committees – the rest they say is history.

The courts in the United Kingdom have established that the discretionary power of public officers does not protect against actions, activities and commissions of the officials that undermine natural justice – that the power must be exercised without bias or favouritism, and in a manner that would not negatively impact the welfare of the State. This is a powerful check to ensure that such powers are not abused. Such discretionary use of power in Nigeria that has led to continuous inefficient infusion of tax payers’ money in endless cycles of turnaround maintenances (TAMs), that has led to subsidy ballooning to N2.1Trn in 12 months, that has resulted in one of the most opaque oil and gas industry in the world cannot be said to favour the welfare of the Nigerian state or its people under any guise or using any known development metrics.

Flowing from above referenced legal stipulates and principles, it is clear that while a girlfriend, madam’s hairdressers, oga’s tailors, notable politicians etc could theoretically be allocated oil blocks and licences in the United Kingdom as rewards for running domestic errands, in practice such actions would not only result in unprecedented scandal and public opprobrium, but could likely land the wielder of that discretionary power in prison for abuse of privileges. Do the administrative culture and legal environment and practice in Nigeria support such institutionalized inhibitions against abuse?

Finally, in designing a law, the architects of the legislation owe it a duty to ensure that they consider good fit between the legislation being proposed and its purpose. Varda Bondi and Andrew Le Sueur (2012) said it is a statement of principle that “when designing a redress mechanism it is necessary to anticipate what kinds of grievances are likely to arise from the decision-making process”. The primary afflictions of the Nigeria’s oil and gas industry have been lack of accountability and gratuitous corruption manifesting as favouritism, nepotism, collusion, arbitrariness and outright stealing. No sane nation would attempt to correct those by enacting a legislation that would strengthen an individual rather than the institution or create opportunity for opacity, corruption and arbitrariness in lieu of transparency.

Recommendations

  1. The National Assembly must as a service to the nation expunge all such clauses from the PIB that confer power to act arbitrarily on the Minister or any officer of the state that would be presiding over activities in the Oil and Gas industry. Even if there is a good person today who will use discretion power in good faith, what is the guarantee that there shall always be a good person as minister? Nigeria must be inching towards a legal drafting strategy that ensures that even if an evil man is in charge, the internal control mechanism in the law would force his hands to act in good faith and in the interest of the state.
  2. The National Assembly should introduce specific rules that will guide the use of discretion, if any, in the PIB. The writer recommends adopting the EU stipulates wholly (or with minimal adjustments). Unfettered power of discretion will lead to legalising favouritism. There is no way our youths would ever be inspired to be patriotic or embrace hard-work if they see many becoming wealthy overnight solely on the basis of their connections and closeness to people in positions of authority.
  3. The PIA (PIB when it becomes law) must be made to address the ills of the Oil and Gas industry and not to legitimize those ills. Non-compliance with the principles of the global extractive industry transparency initiatives led to the evolution of an opaque industry where licences and oil blocks became personal recompense for buddies and allies rather than being invaluable instrument for developing a competitive knowledge driven economy. The national assembly should introduce specific clauses into the PIB aimed at ensuring unprecedented degrees of transparency and accountability.
  4. A case must be made in the law for a mandatory (and published) weekly and monthly activity (if it captures all activities without exemption, the better for Nigeria) and financial reporting (the goal should be to make it daily or as-is in future) by all the agencies involved and for these reports to be made available in official gazettes and on the official websites of the agencies. Joseph Pulitzer once famously proclaimed that “There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.” A possible direct impact of this suggestion is that it eliminates the scenario where costly infractions committed only come to light 12 months or years after as revealed in the fuel subsidy probe of the National Assembly in 2012.

 Conclusion

Nigeria is unable to derive maximum benefits from its oil and gas. Why? Even the oil producing states of Nigeria, being about the size of Ghana in combined population with combined annual earnings from 13% derivation that is higher than Ghana’s yearly budget remain underdeveloped. Why? It’s obvious that something bigger than money is wrong – absence of accountability, transparency and efficiency in resource allocation. I commend the commitment of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and his predecessor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to the PIB.

The President must not allow his effort to be undermined. With the compulsory acreage relinquishment scheme, the enhanced local content structure, the massive potential for increased taxes and earnings, the PIB is a bill that the National Assembly must promptly pass. In passing the bill however, the legislators must be well guided so as to remove all provisions that are deliberate landmines inserted to further personal agenda and kill the primary objectives of the PIB.

Read first part of this article here.

Tunji Ariyomo is a Chattered Engineer and the Policy Chair on Energy, Infrastructure and Technology for the NDi.

Email: oariyomo@nd-i.org ; Phone: +447532127503.

Petroleum Industry Bill: Oil Minister’s Powers, UK Laws and deft propaganda (1), By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

On January 17, 2013, Thisday Newspaper published an opinion piece credited to one Ejiofor Alike titled “PIB: Powers of Minister Similar to UK, Malaysian, Norwegian Laws” where the author attempted to educate his readers and justify the contentious powers assigned to the Minister of Petroleum resources. Ejiofor said “Contrary to the impression that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) granted enormous powers to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, investigations have revealed that the powers vested on the Nigerian minister by the reform bill are not very different from those vested on the minister’s counterparts by the petroleum laws of the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Norway.”

Granted that it is sensible to consider this writer’s piece a simple, innocent or altruistic contribution to knowledge, the reality and extent of schism and subterfuge often deployed by African leaders against their own people to keep them uninformed and misinformed has accustomed the reading public to deliberate well calibrated articles designed to mislead or cripple the resistance of the people to leaders’ impunity and arbitrariness. The piece could only have reinforced the position of those who drafted a bill that gave the power of god over the Nigerian oil and gas industry to an individual. It is the duty of professionals that are knowledgeable about the oil and gas industry, members of civil society groups and other patriots to see beyond the facade of logic with which articles are often garnished and have misleading ones shot down in the overall interest of the development of an oil and gas industry that fulfils the fundamental principles and the minimum conditions of the global extractive industry transparency initiative of which Nigeria claims unquestionable allegiance.

This rejoinder will not focus on Malaysia or Norway – especially if readers can recollect the manner the judiciary’s power to review was crushed in Malaysia way back in 1987 by the hero Mahathir bin Mohamad in order to stifle his opponent’s access to justice (Please see Milne & Mauzy 1999, pp. 46–49). Why should Nigeria then emulate Malaysia in the area of legislation? Other areas, yes, but not rule of law! Norway on the other hand has a population that is less than that of Rivers State despite being the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East on a per-capita basis – meaning that the negative impact of favouritism and bias in the use of discretionary power by the Norwegian King may not immediately impact national development as it would in a densely populated, multi-ethnic, multi-religious country that is grappling with institutional crises and good governance challenges like Nigeria.

The relevant portions of the 1998 Petroleum Act of the United Kingdom that was deployed out of context by the author are:

Part 1, Section 3 (1) under Licences to search and bore for and get petroleum which states that “The Secretary of State, on behalf of Her Majesty, may grant to such persons as he thinks fit licences to search and bore for and get petroleum to which this section applies”.

Part 1, Section 4 (1) under Licences: further provisions which stipulates that the Secretary of State shall make regulations prescribing—

(a) the manner in which and the persons by whom applications for licences under this Part of this Act may be made;

(b) the information to be included in or provided in connection with any such application;

(c) the fees to be paid on any such application;

(d) the conditions as to the size and shape of areas in respect of which licences may be granted;

(e) model clauses which shall, unless he thinks fit to modify or exclude them in any particular case, be incorporated in any such licence.

At face value, particularly to those working deliberately or innocently to undermine the evolution of an oil and gas industry where equity, transparency and accountability reign supreme, these provisions in the Petroleum Act of the UK would appear a smoking gun evidence – an in-your-face conclusive proof to the Nigerian people that their quest to eliminate the opacity in the Nigerian’s oil and gas industry had no precedence even in a democracy as sophisticated as the United Kingdom’s.

On the contrary however, the active legislations governing the UK Oil and Gas industry’s actual practice include the ‘Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations’, a statute enacted in compliance with the European Union 1994 directive (Directive 94/22/EC) which laid down strict rules that member states must comply with when issuing petroleum licences. Directive 94/22/EC, which is the effective law in the UK in this context, specifically stipulates that “the procedures for granting authorizations for the prospection, exploration and production of hydrocarbons must be OPEN to all entities possessing the necessary capabilities; whereas authorizations must be granted on the basis of objective, published criteria; whereas the conditions under which authorizations are granted must likewise be known in advance by ALL entities taking part in the procedure” (emphasis mine).

Article 3 of Directive 94/22/EC goes further to so impose that all interested parties must be able to submit applications (competition) and that notices must be advertised at least 90 days before the commencement of bid rounds (transparency/anti-opacity);

Specifically, Article 3 states that;

1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that authorizations are granted following a procedure in which all interested entities may submit applications in accordance either with paragraph 2 or 3.

2. This procedure shall be initiated:

(a) either at the initiative of the competent authorities by means of a notice inviting applications, to be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities at least 90 days before the closing date for applications;

(b) or by means of a notice inviting applications, to be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities following submission of an application by an entity without prejudice to Article 2 (1). Other interested entities shall have a period of at least 90 days after the date of publication in which to submit an application.

Overall, the European Commission summarises it thus “National governments can determine the geographical areas for prospecting, exploring for and producing hydrocarbons. However, they have to follow a specific procedure when granting licences: an invitation for applications has to be published in the Official Journal of the EU at least 90 days before the closing date for applications. This notice should specify information such as the geographical area, the type of authorisation and selection criteria for applicants. All interested companies can submit applications.”

This legal stipulate has constrained possible misuse of discretionary powers in this regard in the UK since 1995 when the country formally complied with this directive. Some parts of this domesticated regulation titled ‘Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations’ of the UK under Determination of applications are hereby reproduced:

Directive 3 (1) Subject to paragraphs (2) to (4) below, EVERY (emphasis mine) application for a licence shall be determined on the basis of criteria concerning —

(a) the technical and financial capability of the applicant;

(b) the way in which the applicant proposes to carry out the activities that would be permitted by the licence;

(c) in a case where tenders are invited, the price the applicant is prepared to pay in order to obtain the licence; and

(d) where the applicant holds, or has held a licence of any description under the Petroleum (Production) Act 1934, any lack of efficiency and responsibility displayed by the applicant in operations under that licence,

This is not all. The law provides specific conditions, such that anything a Secretary of State does outside what has been expressly provided for under the law, would be ultra vires. For example an application cannot just be rejected. The conditions under which the Secretary of State may be able to reject an application under Directive 3 are:

AND the Secretary of State may refuse an application for a licence (in the following instances).

(2)In a case where two or more applications for a licence have equal merit when assessed according to the criteria provided for in paragraph (1) above, other relevant criteria may be applied in order to determine which application should be granted.

(3)Subject to paragraph (4) below, the Secretary of State shall not apply any of the criteria in paragraphs (1) and (2) above in a DISCRIMINATORY (emphasis mine) manner.

(4)An application for a licence may be refused on grounds of national security where the applicant is effectively controlled by, or by nationals of, a State other than a member State.

(5) Where an application for a licence is refused, the reasons for the decision shall be notified to the applicant on request.

Directive 4 (3) “The terms and conditions provided for … shall be applied in a non-discriminatory manner.”

Above provisions show that while one UK law does indeed grant discretionary power to the UK Secretary of State, actual industry practice is guided by other sets of strict laws and regulations that inhibit tendency to abuse that power and that constrain him from exercising those discretionary powers discriminatorily or with bias or, simply put, in the manners obtainable in Nigeria or intended in the draft PIB. That way, in the UK, the discretionary powers become patriotic and powerful tools to eliminate rigidity, promote efficiency and the common good of all – particularly the welfare and economic wellbeing of the state. The Secretary of State for instance cannot reject an application by not thoroughly considering the application or on the basis of irrelevant issues such as the political or religious affiliations of the applicant and neither can he approve applications on the basis of the political weight or connections of the promoters of the companies involved. Several common laws (pronouncement of judges) have clearly defined the limit and mode of use of discretionary powers (Please read JUDICIAL REVIEW, Corbett Haselgrove-Spurin, 2004 and Misuse of Discretion, under What Makes a Decision Unlawful in a Brief Guide to Judicial Review Procedure by the Public Law Project, UK). A celebrated example is R v Minister of Transport ex parte Upminster Services (1934) where in spite of the wide discretionary power granted ministers to make regulations, the court held that a minister empowered to hear licensing appeals did not have the power under the statute to lay down conditions for the holding of licences. Basically upholding the sanctity of Nemo iudex in causa sua – a person cannot be a judge in his own case.

To be continued…

Tunji Ariyomo is a Chattered Engineer and the Policy Chair on Energy, Infrastructure and Technology for the NDi.

Email: oariyomo@nd-i.org ; Phone: +447532127503.

Nigerian leaders as evolutionary inferiors, By ‘Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo
Tunji Ariyomo
Tunji Ariyomo: The primitive acquisition of wealth at the expense of the people and the refusal to learn from history suggest Nigerian leaders are evolutionary inferior to their colleagues elsewhere

Charles Darwin published his book ‘On the Origin of Species’ on 24th November 1859. His work is reputed as the foundation of biological evolution. He theorized that animals evolved (i.e., from lower unsophisticated form to higher and more sophisticated life forms). Many after Darwin have theorized that the process of evolution itself is by no means conclusive. A direct result of this is to expect that even within the same species, variation is expectedly normal and evolution will remain continuous. Stretching this, it would imply that if humans are assembled, although all are humans, some would in fact be more human than others (please see item 2 in Ernst Mayr’s summary below).

Evolutionary theory directly challenged known sentiments and religious beliefs. The Bible for instance says that things were created, not evolved. Interestingly, logic and science can also be deployed to back this biblical position. Many kids from highly religious homes were specifically schooled at tender ages to watch out for heretic teachings such as that of evolution. This writer was one of such kids.

Ernst Mayr’s summary of some key facts, findings and issues from the Darwinian’s intervention are reproduced below:

  1. Every species is fertile enough that if all offspring survived to reproduce the population would grow (fact).
  2. A struggle for survival ensues (arrived at by inference).
  3. Individuals in a population vary significantly from one another (fact).
  4. This slowly effected process results in populations changing to adapt to their environments, and ultimately, these variations accumulate over time to form new species (arrived at by inference).

Thus like most pupils in biology classes who shared my religious upbringing, we listened to the teachers, read the books and gave back to them what they taught us as far as Darwin’s theory was concerned. As an adult, I am still not likely to queue up as one of the disciples of evolution. However, observing African leaders, Arab leaders and others, I discovered that there is a type of evolution that appears to be a truism – Social Evolution. Within the context of this piece, I would talk about what I called social evolution scale and inferiority index. For instance, I would argue today that the Nigerian society (here I actually mean the country) is inferior to Canada on my Social Evolutionary scale, Russia is Inferior to the United States on my Social Evolutionary Scale and China is inferior to the United Kingdom on my Social Evolutionary scale. Nigeria (again Nigeria!) is inferior to Ghana on my Social Evolutionary Scale and there are societies within the United States that are inferior to societies within Nigeria on my Social Evolutionary Scale!

In order not to be misunderstood, it must quickly be stated that this writer knows that biologically the Nigerian leader is not inferior to other leaders of the free world thus foreclosing any argument in favour of biological evolution as the overriding constrain to development in Nigeria. If not, such daily assaults against commonsense and decency like the permanent predisposition of the Nigerian leader to prioritize non-essentials – which include activities like the building of a new palace for the Nigeria’s Vice President or the building of a new banquet hall for the President or the lavish celebrations of anniversaries etc that continually take preeminence over and above the legitimate and most pressing needs of the Nigerian people would have been easily explainable by biological evolution – that is, as species lower in the biological evolution rung thereby not being adequately equipped with superior or matching cranial endowment that is comparable to those of its colleagues in saner climes. However, this writer is now convinced that there are adequate evidences suggesting that the Nigerian leaders’ social evolution status is inferior relative to their counterparts in the free world and that this social evolution’s inferior status is responsible for the state of underdevelopment in Nigeria. The primitive acquisition of wealth at the expense of the people, the refusal to learn from history (even the most recent history), the never ending penchant of government to expect common folks to sacrifice while it continues to exhibit the most profligate tendencies and the limitless capacity to complicate simple things are all symptomatic of social evolution’s inferior status of the Nigerian leaders.

Also, unlike biological evolution which is expected to be natural, social evolution is not a product of nature but a product of decisions taken by society’s constituents – especially such constituents whose actions or inactions are capable of defining a path for an entire society or organizations – leaders. Social evolution is imparted by mental capability and value orientation. A socially inferior leader for example is equally likely to be mentally inferior with warped sense of value.

It may be easy to confuse my Social Evolution with the related sub-discipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviours, but social evolution as advanced in this discourse applies to societies and organizations and it is not a respecter of location, region or race and does not depend on heredity (there are socially inferior black people relative to white people and there are socially inferior white people relative to black people). Within the context of above usage, heredity excludes social heredity and refers solely to heredity as a congenital endowment.

I have toyed with the idea that Charles Darwin may have first observed Social Evolution at work and concluded that there must be a nexus between this and physical evolution – that is, his observation of social evolution was the motivation for his generalization of a sequential physical evolution as meticulously articulated in his work On the Origin of Species.

If countries can possess social superiority, it implies that there must be some factors by which inferiority of societies could also be measured. For the purpose of this essay, I have called this the inferiority index. Societies (countries or organizations) are made up of people. Some factors seem to define the inferiority index of a state. These factors include leadership, social equity, status dynamism (a superior society today can become inferior in future if social constituents change (e.g., Nigeria was once superior to Ghana) or when what should rightly change remain the same (i.e., when what should change defy change). One single factor however stands primus inter pares and that factor is LEADERSHIP. I have identified the following as some basic issues that would affect or determine a society’s Inferiority Index:

1. Equality of its membership (are all members of the society equal for all practical and theoretical purposes?)

2. Attainment to leadership position (Can everybody in that society aspire to the leadership of that society simply on the strength of the public [the people who constitute the society] without the sole support of powerful men and women)

3. Whether the most mentally equipped have equal chance of leading that society or whether attaining leadership positions in that society is a function of anointing by a secret conclave (usually a small clique)?

4. Is attainment to leadership position in that society spontaneous or predetermined? That is, can one person or a few people ‘arrange’ that his will become the sovereign will of the people?

5. Do people in that society enjoy right to freedom of expression (speech, appearance etc) without official sanctions (China for instance decide what her citizens can see!)?

Conclusion

Are you a Nigerian leader? Do you contest this writer’s assertion? Then prove him wrong by instantiating with specifics such cost-effective people-focused developments that Nigerian leaders have ever prioritized.

 

By Tunji Ariyomo

E-mail: oariyomo@nd-i.org; Phone: +447532127503

Evil spirits and Nigeria’s power supply – Minister Zainab Kuchi is right! By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo
Tunji Ariyomo
From relative obscurity, Zainab Kuchi has been catapulted into national reckoning and today, it is likely that she is one of the most well known ministers

One of the Ministers of Power (there are two of them) was quoted as telling a South African delegation that evil spirits were preventing Nigeria from achieving sustainable electricity. The minister, Hajiya Zainab Kuchi, was even quoted as recommending exorcism – “We must resolve to jointly exorcise the evil spirit behind this darkness”. Okay, I concede that Nigerians, especially the ‘collective children of anger’, as usual might be tempted to twist her statement beyond its basic intendment. It therefore did not come to me as a surprise to observe that Cyberia (this is courtesy Prof. Pius Adesanmi) went into overdrive, latching onto this patriotic recommendation of the minister, twitting it, facebooking it and what else – 2going it. From relative obscurity, Hajiya Zainab Kuchi has been catapulted into national reckoning and today, it is likely that she is one of the most well known ministers.

I however share a different view. I affirm that the minister is right. It could however be a dangerous error to attempt exorcism of these evil spirits when we are yet to identify the type that have turned PHCN and the ministry of power into such a permanent abode of demons thereby arresting and undermining the noble efforts of ministers. There is no doubt about the intention of these evil spirits – to keep Nigerians in the dark, permanently. Come to think of it, does it appear as ‘ordinary’ that the nation would spend a record sum of twenty five billion US dollars only to move from 4,200megawatts in the early days of the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to 4,100megawatts in 2012? Even when some are likely to feign ignorance of the recorded sighting of blood sucking demons in the nation’s aviation industry, genuine patriots must take serious words coming from the informed minds of ministers very seriously. It is the person in charge that has seen the in and out of the power ministry and it is my view that rushing to condemn such persons is a display of ignorance and an underestimation of the devilish power packed by demons.  This is why we must move beyond uninformed responses and see the patriotic flavour in the simple and well intentioned recommendation of Hajiya Zainab Kuchi who spoke bluntly and frankly.

After a thorough consideration of the issues at stake and knowing that we have no other country to call our own, I have reluctantly taken it upon myself to help Hajiya Kuchi so that we can bring a closure to this issue once and for all time.  Even though my great grandfathers would have burdened madam with numerous and costly matters of sacrificial items such as those suggested by Kayode Ogundare viz – “N1.2bn only for Akuko adiye (cock), N2bn for epo pupa (palmoil), N1.3bn only for igan aso funfun (piece of special white cloth from Pakistan. Digression; the Minister of Agric likes Pakistan and has secured the assurance of Pakistan to teach us the secret of textile so that Nigeria can break into the world’s textile business arena currently being dominated by the likes of Pakistan), N700m for eye owiwi (adult owl), N300m for eye adaba (an egret), N1.5bn for ewe jenwitemi (a special leaf named ‘freedom of speech’) and N5bn round figure for awon nkan miran ta gbodo so (other stuffs that we must not mention in the public). Total estimates for sacrifice to the spirits if there must be uninterrupted power supply would thus be (N12bn)” – my patriotism will propitiate for this.

Thus, because of the great urgency and mighty significance of uninterrupted power to national development as well as the realization, as admitted by the minister, that the nation has expended several billions of dollars (the minister calls this ‘huge tax payers resources’) already, I have decided to reveal this secret in the interest of the nation – after all, oju lon r’oju s’anu (we must empathize with one another).

When Hajiya Zainab Kuchi gets to work next week, she should go to her senior Minister and request of him to urgently summon the Permanent Secretary (PS), director generals (DG) of all parastatals in the power ministry and the directors of the various departments of the power ministry. She must ensure that all government appointed heads of the 18 successor companies of the PHCN are invited. She may even ask the minister to invite her predecessors and previous PSs, DGs, directors etc. She must not forget the contractors either.

While the invitations are being sent, she must quickly ask the senior minister to order a brand new ‘jigi’ (large life-size mirror) from Jabi market in Abuja. Once these eminent people have all assembled and the mirror positioned upright in the conference hall, she must then check her watch to be sure it is 12noon in the afternoon (that is when the sun is up above the head). Now, this is the moment we have been waiting for. Hajiya must now request each of the oga patapata (from current senior Minister, past Ministers, PS etc to the most junior director) to step forward and stand upright in front of the mirror one person at a time. As they take turn, Insha Allah, each of the horrific evil spirits responsible for the nation’s darkness will appear to each of these eminent men – life and direct.

Each person must however test the spirit to be certain that what he or she sees is indeed real. The test of the spirit is easy. Once a VIP (very important person) is standing firmly erect in front of a mirror, he must raise one of his hands and make a gesture as he deems fit. If the spirit that appears perfectly and simultaneously imitates the VIP, then ‘ifa jana’ (the oracle strikes truth). That horrific being in the mirror that is pretending to be an angel of light is one of the evil spirits.

It is only when these spirits have been properly identified that the process of exorcism as recommended by the minister can now commence in earnest. Even the Christian Bible indicates that it was after the ‘Legion’ spirit has been identified that the Messiah, Jesus, began the process of exorcism, not before.

I know that the ‘collective children of anger’ might want to dismiss this. Haven’t most of them embraced the white man’s religion at the expense of Ifa and Amadioha? The Minister has suggested that we need spiritual intervention. I agree with her. My prescription will identify the evil spirits. If they insist that they do not want to have anything to do with our traditional method, then I suggest that after the evil spirits might have been identified, they could go ahead and invite the nation’s foremost spiritual fathers, such eminent people like Sheikh Alfa Muhammed Bashir, the Chief Imam of Ilorin, Sheikh Abdul Akeem Yayi Akorede, the Chief Imam of Akure Kingdom, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop Ayo Oritsejafor etc for the exorcism proper. This might even provide a perfect opportunity for Bishop Kukah and Bishop Oritsejafor to iron out their recent differences over the small matter of a private Bombardier jet.

Phone: +447532127503. Email: oariyomo@nd-i.org

 

Nigeria Power Sector Reform: Of Pyrrhic victory and programmed failure (Part 2), By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

In the first part of this essay, I attempted to bring a closure to the arguments advanced by some of us that were opposed to the reform path adopted in the nation’s quest for sustainable electricity in order to place on record some of the things we said and why we said them hinting that, based on the path followed, it would take a pyrrhic victory to attain reform objective. Since the publication of that first essay and now, a lot has happened. Reuben Abati announced that the Manitoba power contract had been cancelled. The President’s explanation to the nation shortly afterward however showed that Abati was on his own.

Three good steps laden with landmines

In a previous review of the power sector, I identified three good steps that were taken by the present sector leadership. These are listed below:

  1. Creation of a bulk electricity trading company (BETraC)
  2. The decision to outsource the management of the national power transmission backbone to a reputable Canadian firm (Nigeria will pay agreed fees to this firm for this role).
  3. Reported empowerment of states and local governments (LGAs) to invest in production and distribution (this was announced with fanfare by the Ministry of Power under the leadership of the previous minister).

These could be described as the three best things that have happened since the commencement of the reform. It is however pertinent to observe that these three were again laden with the usual in-built ‘landmines’ and ‘reform viruses’ that have come to define reform processes in Africa.

Highlights of the landmines
Available reports on the bulk electricity trading company (BETraC), the contract for the management of the national power transmission backbone and the involvement of the second and third tiers of government in the sector point to the following as facts:

  1. BETraC is a government bureaucracy rather than a system driven or institution propelled initiative empowered with robust legislation to utilize transparent accounting system, settlement capabilities, and self governance structures using bilateral cooperation involving limited government but sizable private sector involvement. Unending bureaucracy with its attendant road-blocks is a crucial problem previously identified by this writer as an impediment to sustainable energy growth in Africa and a direct inhibitor of real private sector involvement in the power sector. Maintaining this structure as part of the current reform path makes it sure booby-trap and a potential landmine capable of creating a cesspool of corruption that would match or outdo what the nation has experienced in its oil and gas industry.
  2. The responsibility for the management of the entire national power transmission backbone covering the 910,768 sq km of the nation’s land space is being outsourced to one single monopoly. It is difficult to conclude that this is the most efficient decision among competing alternatives with similar success and risk factors. A critical point is being missed here – corresponding impact of decision on the reform’s capacity to act as stimulant for massive job creation, widespread private sector growth and knowledge transfer along the transmission corridor as well as the potential to impede the promotion of fair consumer price. Paul K. Ogden (2009) described this as “creating a government sanctioned monopoly for a private company”. It also does appear that rather than receiving payments from this contract, government of Nigeria would be paying the platform operator. This is awkward. It directly negates the entire narrative behind a private sector led electricity sub-sector while potentially leaving room for collusion and ultimately corruption.
  3. Reported empowerment of states and LGAs is superficial as it is solely within the limitation imposed by Section 14(b), Part II of the Second Schedule (Concurrent Legislative List) of the Nigerian Constitution which restricts state’s investment to “areas not covered by a national grid system within that State”.  Any strategic maneuvering beyond this constitutional intendment without actually amending the constitution to remove restrictions imposed upon states and local governments would limit the capacity of states to be real part-owners of sector investments, promote conflicts and open up future avenues for possible abuse which could result from socio-political differences in a nation as diverse as Nigeria. An improvement would be a model that would guarantee stronger legislative protection, fairness and sustainability for states and local governments as well as private investors. This can be accomplished by way of amendment of the extant regulation. My position on this has been vindicated with the attempt to shut out some states while allowing some even when it is obvious that there would be no way to justify any technical or financial superiority since the states are peers anyway.

Suggestions
What is the guiding philosophy of the reform? Shouldn’t sector liberalization precede privatization? If yes, do we have evidence of nations that followed similar direction to success? Can Nigeria learn any lesson from Ghana’s success despite retaining state-owned public electric utilities such as the Volta River Authority (VRA), Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG)? What has Ghana been doing right?

What the Nigeria power sector reform intends achieving must be clear – for instance, would adding more government money qualify as privatization? If it is ultimately necessary for the reform to receive the injection of public funds in order to jump start the process, would that not be better infused as joint venture funds into enterprises sponsored wholly and primarily by internationally acclaimed Greenfield investors thereby bypassing the politics of PHCN altogether? Ordinarily the reform should be aiming at ultimately eliminating government fund while bringing in private fund, eliminating government control while promoting system driven control mechanisms, eliminating secrecy while bringing in transparency, eliminating established interest and pre-determination in order to bring in equity, fairness and spontaneity.

This writer empirically estimated Nigeria’s urgent electricity requirement to be a minimum of 55,694.50MW in order to merely get by. The nation needs more for optimum power stability. Putting the arrays of complex options required to properly govern the sector in context requires thinking outside the box as well as looking back to take advantage of what we did right in the past.

Among other considerations, the focus of government’s reform should include:

  1. Strategy for jumpstarting attainment of reform objectives. It is baloney to advance that because Nigeria has suffered electricity deprivation for 50 years, it must ultimately take another 50 years to get it right. No. A good sector reform strategy will lead to sustainable electricity that the people can begin to tangibly experience in the cities and villages within 2 years.
  2. Strategy for technology transfer and knowledge enhancement
  3. Strategy for massive job creation (taking advantage of item number 2)
  4. Strategy for sustainability and ensuring reform cannot be truncated (robust legislation, quality sector leadership and masses’ support)
  5. Strategy for massive revenue generation for the people of Nigeria (government should earn payments – taxes, levies, rents etc – and not the other way round). My idea of government ownership (federal, state or local) here is NOT for government to be involved in any way other than as regulators and investors (equity holders) thereby allowing private businesses to do their work.
  6. Strategies for correcting the identified ‘landmines’ earlier enumerated. For instance, ending the era of treating the entire transmission system as a monolithic structure by dividing the transmission backbone into clusters. This would promote efficiency and mitigate (as well as isolate, limit and curtail) risks. The implication of this is that instead of a single transmission backbone operator called Manitoba, there would be many (at least 6) such companies managing different regional transmission corridors or regional clusters.
  7. Strategy that would lead to the reform benefiting from contributions of professional bodies and other sector stakeholders. Sector leadership cannot be an island of knowledge. As part of wide consultation (before decisions are taken) the reform would benefit more if subject matter experts from the various professional organizations are allowed to make input. This is the tradition in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Getting Nigeria’s quest for steady electricity right requires the appropriate strategy, thorough industry expertise and objectivity. There is no such place where Nigeria’s current model of financially fattening up a moribund and non-performing government agency in order to sell it to private sector handlers does have a successful precedent as a cost effective model. It could only further promote corruption as well as serve as an opportunity for local elites to apportion national utilities among themselves under the guise of privatization.

In conclusion, Nigeria can get it right with sustainable electricity, put the years of epileptic electricity supply behind her and join the rest of the world in the pursuit of renewable energy alternative. This is however only possible if the nation is doing the right things.

Tunji Ariyomo is a Policy Chair of the NDi. The NDi project can be accessed at www.nd-i.org

Phone: +447532127503. Email: oariyomo@nd-i.org

 

 

Nigeria Power Sector Reform: Of pyrrhic victory and programmed failure (Part 1), By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

Ariyomo x-rays Nigeria power sector reform and declared that with the fault line inherent in the process, the reform is bound to fail 

Very shortly, all things being equal, several rich and highly privileged Nigerians, directly or through carefully positioned surrogates, would buy up the successor companies of the unbundled Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). As a matter for the records, I have actively joined others to identify the inherent flaws in the strategy adopted as well as made representation to the previous minister of power on the mighty importance and need for strategy review and the adoption of a different path to reform. This was critical in order not to compound the suffering of the people or drive an inefficient and non cost effective reform in the power sector.

Granted that the recent announcement of winners of the bid round has made the preferred path to reform a fait accompli, again, for the record, and if only to serve as future reference that Nigerians did warn those charged with the reform of the power sector under the Yar’Adua-Jonathan and later Jonathan-Sambo governments of the avoidable flaws in the strategies adopted, I will do a recap of some of my previous thoughts on this subject matter.

A distressing fact about Nigeria’s repeated attempts to get electricity production and distribution right is that such attempts have failed miserably. This is despite the infusion of several billion dollars thus implying that government’s will to fund and get result has not been the problem but the capacity of sector leadership to know the right thing to do. Put differently, what is lacking is the capacity of sector leadership to know the right strategy and path that will most efficiently produce the required results as the usual paths have significantly failed to generate envisaged results. From the commencement of the National Independent Power Project (NIPP) initiative till date, it is estimated that the country has expended over $25billion (USD) on her electricity subsector of the energy industry yet production alone hovered between 2,500MW and 4,400MW at any time during this period with citizens even willing to commend government if they noticed stable electricity supply beyond 3 hours in a single day. Some have described this as an unprecedented and extraordinary expenditure to procure darkness.

Sector leadership in the context of this essay refers to the authority of the Minister of Power of the federation and any such sub-authority that derives its power directly or indirectly from the federal minister or allied institutions involved in the national power reform project. Will current effort and adopted path to the reform of the electricity subsector lead to the end of age-long epileptic electricity supply? It would take a pyrrhic victory to achieve success based upon the path adopted. Time they say discovers the truth. Prior to the sales of the unbundled PHCN, Nigeria had an excellent chance to fix the sector once and for all time with little complications. The only challenge that government would confront would be the workers. That advantage has now been lost. Future effort to fix the sector would now have to contend with powerful individuals that have invested in that sector in addition to powerful workers’ unions.

The fault line

A major fault line in the ongoing reform lies in the decision to make the unbundling of PHCN the core of the policy thrust of government when it should ordinarily have been the reform’s obiter dictum ­– important, but not critical enough to derail or define a negative outcome for the entire agenda. That strategy placed privatization before sector liberalization, a situation akin to putting the cart before the horse. It also suggested that reform drivers exhibited utter confusion in terms of sector deregulation, meaning of deregulation, purpose of deregulation and the role of government vis-à-vis the incoming private sector players. Listening to representatives of government speak has shown that they are even unaware of this contradiction. Also, the adopted path is the equivalent of making NITEL privatization the core of the policy thrust of government during the reform of the telecommunication sector. That singular error by power sector reform drivers succeeded in creating unlimited opportunity for corruption as the handlers embarked upon a frenzy of avoidable and needless pumping of taxpayers’ money into the unbundled PHCN even when they were candidates listed for privatization in the guise of making them attractive and ended up fortifying the position of PHCN workers and enhancing their capacity to slow down the reform. It was a tactical blunder that was avoidable from a strategy point of view and in practice.

This strategic error draws strength from another technical and tactical misconception which appears to punctuate some of the responses from government’s team – that the electricity reform matrix does not perfectly mirror the telecommunication sector scenario because of the pervasive nature and present ownership structure of the national power distribution and transmission backbone required by the former or because of what they consider the difficulty in mitigating risks in the power sector. This is erroneous and only gains currency when the crucial nexus that connects both and the parallels that define the core elements that qualify as critical success factors are overlooked even when it is easy to recollect that the participating private investors at the time of telecom sector liberalization initially relied on an equally pervasive national telecommunication backbone exclusively owned by NITEL for the bulk of their call terminations which gave NITEL some business edge and cost termination advantage in those early days. The question of differential risk mitigation (relative to the NITEL experience) could only have been advanced in direct admission of lack of technical knowhow and a mindset that contends that present national transmission and distribution schemes would continue to be in place and in use even after sector liberalization and modernization. It should not. If it is, Nigeria is in trouble.

Essentially therefore, current electricity sustainability strategy suggests a flagrant disregard of the knowledge curve gained from the successful liberalization of the telecommunication sector. Again put differently, Nigeria is today experiencing energy growth penalties from lack of inherent capacity to see a nexus between her telecommunication industry and the electricity sub-sector of the energy industry which is chiefly the result of not being able to view her entire electricity sub-sector as a value system, that is, see the mobility and dynamics of the value chain inherent in the totality of electricity generation, transmission, distribution and management stream. Present resistance by sector unions and workers as well as the strategic delays purportedly engineered by entrenched ‘interests’, the legitimate resistance and insistence of some governors to be able to invest in the power distribution systems crisscrossing their states and the herculean tasks and politics of aggregating, positioning and empanelling new leadership for various companies so created from the unbundled PHCN were self-imposed burdens that should never have been the primary duty or concern of the government’s core reform team. One can only imagine with pity the quantum of effort, resources and energy being devoted to the management of these avoidable distractions as well as the associated cost to the Nigerian people!

The huge expenses sunk into schemes aimed at fattening and conferring the status of ‘juicy investments’ upon the 18 successor companies of PHCN to make them appealing so that they could qualify as most sought after brides on the international market could have served a better purpose if deployed as counterpart funds with reputable Greenfield investors to address the same layers of national challenge portfolio. By the time the actual dollar value pushed into the sector is factored into consideration (estimated at $16billion as at May 2007 and presently approximately put at close to $25billion), it is doubtful that returns (based on actual sales) from bids by winners of the 17 successor companies would fetch the Nigerian people a quarter of what has been expended so far. It is also noteworthy that successful buyers of each of those distribution companies would be inheriting, not only its assets, but its liabilities and manpower which is unlikely to be suitable in the operation of modern power companies.

Hence, as it is today, the myriads of explanations lobbed at the public in explaining the rationale for increased salaries and tariffs when the target companies were candidates for privatization would have been unnecessary even as an informed public would easily identify them as executive spins and a way to ensure that the new high tariffs make takeover more profitable for the new owners at the expense of the Nigerian people. Such that, rather than being a regulator, whose primary role is to drive industry efficiency and service delivery to its people, protect those people from exploitation while maintaining fair price regime for investors, government immediately becomes a biased institution that takes side with investors even before those investors were known thus suggesting to the public it was merely choreographing the entire process to arrive at a predefined goal.

The concluding part of this essay will examine the faulty premises advanced by those who argued wrongly that the scenario presented by the power sector is so different from the state of the Nigerian telecommunication sector prior to the NCC led reform of 2001 as to take advantage of its knowledge curve. That second part will also examine some of the positive steps taken so far by the government in the course of Nigeria power sector reform and highlight certain landmines that I have identified.

Tunji Ariyomo is a Policy Chair of the NDi. The NDi project can be accessed at www.nd-i.org

Phone: +447532127503. Email: oariyomo@nd-i.org

 

 

 

 

Mimiko, PDP, ACN self-destruct and the shape of things to come, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

Before July 2012, the ACN was a serious contender for Alagbaka, the Ondo State Government House. Having swelled its rank with aggrieved members of other political parties, notably the PDP and the LP, it became a determined contender that was willing to play fair and ride rough, if necessary. The party enjoyed considerable goodwill from the public and despite what appeared a daunting task; few would ignore it at their own peril.  Twenty-four hours is however a long time in politics. Before one could spell ACN, just as it easily found fame, the party, of its own freewill, threw all away when its national leaders sat down in the comfort of a living room in Lagos and adopted their preferred candidate to the chagrin of other aspirants and party supporters. ACN leaders have explained that their model of anointing a candidate violated no known rule.

They are right. The Nigerian Electoral Act 2010 as amended allows them to elect or handpick. The choice is theirs. It was one of those landmines deliberately inserted to perpetuate syndicates’ grip on the Nigerian political system and pass the outcome off as democracy. In August, I placed it on record in my column in the local Trace magazine that that singular action had earned the ACN a third position. My friends who were ardent fans of the ACN rigorously contested my position; the victory of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko in October laid that argument to rest permanently.

Experienced political pundits would agree that one of the primary decimal of the October election in Ondo State was the battle of wit between one PDP and another PDP. In my aforementioned article in the Trace, I asserted that Dr. Mimiko was a de facto PDP candidate at loggerhead with a de jure PDP candidate and predicted that one of both would win in October with the candidate of the ACN trailing behind. I went further to list reasons why Dr. Mimiko was indeed a PDP candidate mentioning among other things the evident excellent relationship between Dr. Mimiko and the national leader of the PDP, the latter’s body language, as well as earlier proclamations by PDP key leaders like Chief Ebenezer Babatope and founding fathers such as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that Dr. Olusegun Mimiko “is a member of the PDP in spirit, even though he belongs to the LP”.

I went on to state that for every political appointment that the first PDP in Ondo State is allowed to propose a candidate, it does appear that the presidency would ask the second PDP to put forward two candidates. For instance while one PDP was allowed the ambassadorial candidacy of Otunba Omolade Oluwateru, the second PDP produced Col. Rolland Omowa (Rtd) as well as a career diplomat of ambassadorial rank. In the Executive Council of the Federation, the highest executive authority in Nigeria, the normal PDP has one person (this can even be disputed as that person earned his appointment as a result of his personal relationship to the first family) while the second PDP appear to have two people, one of which you can describe as a full-fledged grassroots politician. Here I refer to my brother, Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi. Apart from being a brilliant person, so far, Osunyikanmi has comported himself as wiser than his age and as someone who truly understands the transient nature of power.

Options before Dr. Mimiko

There are three distinct options before Dr. Mimiko. Stay in the Labour Party and expand it, move his political resources to the ACN or move same over to the PDP. Of these three, the most politically sensible is the last option. I will explain.

One of the most difficult issues confronting the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan led PDP government is the dearth of sector leaders, to whom reform is no sheer academic adventures or veiled opportunistic exercise for cementing personal job placements with world commerce organizations, but a genuine tool for efficiently targeting cost effective service delivery at meeting the pressing needs of ordinary folks. This is why the average Nigerian is unable to readily feel the impact of government despite the obvious desire of Jonathan to make quick impact. His most prominent aides have acted as individuals far removed from reality and are thus unable to benchmark development indices with street indicators.

Thus while Dr. Jonathan does need the services of technocrats, as Chief Richard Akinjide pointed out on Channels TV in January, he needs political leaders more. It is therefore my view that Jonathan does need technocrats but the stock that is sensitive and experienced – specifically on such issues as effectively mobilising resources to deliver public services and providing leadership that can inspire the people. Technocrats with zero street sensitivity and political experience combined are sure disasters to his administration’s goals. This is the gap that I think a Mimiko can help fill – both in terms of attracting capable hands to Mr. President as well as guiding him to understand the changing dynamics of South West politics. Mimiko’s victory has altered South West politics presenting to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for the first time, a practical political foe that can match him wit for wit.

Continuous membership of the LP would thus undermine his capability to fully function in this role while a membership of the ACN would put him in direct opposition to his allies. A membership of the PDP is the most fitting as he can both play the earlier mentioned critical role unencumbered as a service to nation building while also frontally uniting the various leadership groupings in the South West, not necessarily as members of the same political party (which is an anathema to a democracy anyway) but as people with shared heritage and history that can leverage on their contiguous geography to attaining sustainable economic cooperation, growth and social wellbeing. At the last count, apart from partisan leaders of the ACN, all notable opinion leaders in the South West seem to have robust relationship with Mimiko. One can safely say that key elders like Mama HID Awolowo, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Aare Afe Babalola SAN, Rev. Bolanle Gbonigi, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Chief Adeyinka Adebayo, the list is endless, across states, political, religious, professional and social divides would be working with Mimiko if he is ready to work with them.

I am one of those who believe that Mimiko won fair and square in October even as I also believe that he fell short of his real potential. As a pure empirical exercise, we can hazard a guess as to what the Mimiko October win would have been (in terms of percentage) had he reconciled with his erstwhile boss, Dr. Olusegun Agagu and had the pace of service delivery doubled. Hence, Dr. Mimiko must now reunite the people of Ondo State behind him, be willing to listen to dissenting voices and alternative views, as well as accelerate project implementation in manners that can endear him even to those who did not support or vote for him in October and the several millions in the South West aching for genuine heroes of democracy.

Essentially and more importantly, he must now consider it his added role to help the people by taking due advantage of his good relationship with the Nigerian first family and help bring to the Jonathan presidency the true progressive values built upon undeniable and timely service delivery to the people in manners that ordinary folks can see, feel, experience and tangibly appreciate – services that must target exposing millions to direct benefits of government policies, massively impart their well-being and reduce absolute poverty currently put at over 70 per cent (of Nigerians living on less than 1$ per day) while ultimately matching growth with considerable improvement in microeconomics.

Tunji Ariyomo lives in Sheffield, United Kingdom 

Chinua Achebe, Africa and the Peril of Monologue (Part 2) By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

In the first part of this essay, I examined how what I called monologue has become a powerful weapon and instrument for conveniently disguising or altering historical narratives and how it has been extensively used in Africa especially by despots and their lieutenants as well as hundreds of African tribes and ethnic nationalities with the goal of altering historical perspective. I also indicated that one of African’s iconic writers, Prof. Chinua Achebe, generously employed this in his retelling of the Biafran account in his memoir “There was a country”.

On Page 51 of the 333-page book, Achebe wrote that “The original ideal of one Nigeria was pressed by the leaders and intellectuals from the Eastern Region. With all their shortcomings, they had this idea to build the country as one. The first to object were the Northerners led by the Sardauna, who were followed closely by the Awolowo clique that had created the Action Group. The Northern Peoples Congress of the Sardaunians was supposed to be a national party, yet it refused to change its name from Northern to Nigerian Peoples Congress, even for the sake of appearances. It refused right up to the end of the civilian regime.”

What Achebe penned partly violently disagrees with what actually happened thus reinforcing the assertion that he was merely deploying the power of monologue as part of a convenient history retell in loyal service to his tribe. Herbert Samuel Macaulay from Isale Eko (part of Western Region of Nigeria) and the grandson of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (originally from Osogun in present Oyo State), it was who crystallized events in his days that fermented into concepts and ideals that later energized other future nationalists that an independent and united Nigerian state was feasible. He actually led the first pan-Nigerian struggles favouring Nigerians being in charge of governance, which later culminated into the struggle for the independence of a united Nigeria. Twice the British jailed him as a direct result of his activities, which placed him in confrontation with the colonial power at that time. Before Macaulay, Nigerians’ aspirations were mostly along ethnic and tribal lines. Macaulay took his initiative beyond mere ideals by forming the first political party in Nigeria in 1923, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), which was recognized by the Clifford Constitution of 1922. By the time Azikiwe was born in Zungeru in 1904, Herbert Macaulay was already 40 years and 2 days old while his legendary exploits against the British was already well established. It can be comfortably said that Macaulay inspired the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe (who would later play very critical role) and other nationalists at that time. This is what agrees with history.

James S. Coleman, in his scholarly work published in 1958 titled “Nigeria: Background to Nationalism” acknowledged the pioneer role of Macaulay and that he was the dominant personality and the bane of the British indirect rule. According to Coleman, Nigerians regarded Macaulay as a great nationalist crusader and the father of Nigerian nationalism at that time. Some of those interviewed by Coleman for his work were Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello. If Azikiwe did not dispute the superior and preeminence of this Yoruba man in the nationalistic struggles for Nigeria in his days, how would Achebe’s 2012 A.D narrative, which presented the contrary pass credibility test? Achebe was not born until 7 years after Macaulay had formed the first national political party that laid the foundation for future self-rule. So effective was Macaulay that he was the bête noire of the British’s indirect rule. They disliked him so much for his role that they happened upon him jail convictions to arrest his strides.

By his statement, Achebe overlooked the roles of nationalists like Dr. J. C Vaughan (Yoruba), Ayo Williams (Yoruba) and Ernest Ikoli (Ijaw) who inaugurated the Union of Young Nigerians with the goal of galvanizing the interest of Nigerian youths in national affairs in 1923 and later sought to take the quest beyond Macaulay and Dr. John Ran Randle or the role of people like Dr. C. C. Adeniyi-Jones or that of Ladipo Solanke from Abeokuta who founded what would later be known as the West African Students’ Union (WASU) in 1924 which until 1945 remained the principal social and political centre for galvanizing Nigerian students in the United Kingdom (all identified in Coleman’s work) towards national awakening and a possible Nigerian nationhood.

Having extensively addressed the role of chronology and pre-eminence that showed that other Nigerian regions were involved and could even be said to be ahead in championing the ideals for an independent Nigeria, the role of Nnamdi Azikiwe was equally central, critical and it is not the intention of this writer to play down his significance. Azikiwe was to later join and serve under the aging Macaulay when they formed the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) in 1944. The explanation provided inter alia was meant to present the facts of history in their undiluted form in order for Nigerians to be able to situate them in context and side by side with the Achebe 2012 narratives.

Other facts of history that will pass credibility test and which would directly dispute Achebe’s claims are the roles of other nationalists like the late Anthony Enahoro (from the then Western region) who successfully moved the historic first motion for the independence of one united Nigeria as part of the Action Group (AG) agenda in parliament in February 1953. The AG leader was another personality from the Western Region named Obafemi Awolowo. After Enahoro succeeded in moving the motion and it was tabled for debate in parliament, Northern delegates in the Federal House of Representatives rejected the 1956 date and moved an amendment that would lead to independence for Nigeria when applicable (i.e., without a date). Thus AG’s motion was defeated by majority vote of northern members (Whiteman, 2011) under the leadership of Ahmadu Bello because they were opposed to self-rule at the time. This bold historic action by a party led by Western Region rising stars was not in vain as it cemented their place in history as frontline leaders of the quest for independence and succeeded, as noted by Whiteman (2011), in pressurizing “the British into political advance, and shook the north into accepting a faster pace towards independence”. It must be quickly added that the NCNC founded by Macaulay which was then under the leadership of Azikiwe, following the former’s death, was wholly involved and actively supported the effort of the Western Region-led quest for independence and joined the Action Group in staging a walk-out in protest of the action of northern delegates. These are facts of history relating to the roles of leaders of the various regions and not a tale.

Another part of Achebe’s memoir where he employed what I have described as monologue is his account of the role of Obafemi Awolowo in the prosecution of the civil war. This is contained on Page 233 of the Achebe’s memoir. Using a combination of carefully constructed suggestio falsi with embellished hearsays, Achebe challenged history and attempted to substitute his opinion as a fact. This is the portion that panders most to ethnic solidarity and that has now cemented Achebe’s place as a champion of the Igbo cause since it resonates with millions of young Igbos. Dwight Eisenhower said that “the search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions” ― just hang unto it the entire fault! Of course “excuses changes nothing, it would only but make everyone feel better” – Mason Cooley.

It must be stated that within the context of that time and now, the idea that Awolowo would seek to exterminate the Igbos as a way to secure political advancement is most incongruous. The Northern part of Nigeria had a majority advantage politically. This was still a relevant fact in 1967 and it is still a relevant political fact in 2012. Exterminating the Igbos would only turn the South West into a minority region as the North would then be an absolute majority.

On the direct allegation of starvation, the fact of history shows that as federal commissioner of finance, following the lingering war and the state of finances of the nation, Awolowo visited the warfront only to discover that the food meant for the war-ravaged Eastern region never got to the Igbo people. He saw many starving children and women while it was discovered that Biafran soldiers seized the food meant for the people. As Awolowo re-stated in 1983 in Abeokuta, this led to the decision of the federal government to prevent airlifting of food to Biafran soldiers – opting instead for supplies through land in manners that would enable the Red Cross coordinate delivery of food to civilians while enabling the federal government to be sure that what would be delivered were indeed food and medicine and not arms. Up till that time, Biafran forces, for which Achebe then served as a roving ambassador, orchestrated the most infernal and villainous wartime crime that saw the soldiers diverting aid food supplied by the International Red Cross from the target civilian population to rebel fighters thereby starving to death the civilian population.

This is the account corroborated by active participants on the Biafran side such as Ambassador Ralph Uwechue who facilitated French support for Biafra and Robert S. Goldstein, who served as Public Relations Representative of Biafra in the United States. The discovery of this crime in fact was chiefly responsible for Goldstein’s angry resignation. Earlier, Goldstein was principally responsible for petitioning the US State Department, which resulted in more food, medicine and milk being sent to the “only available ports open for immediate shipment to ‘Biafra’ via land routes through Federal and Biafra territory, under the auspices of world organizations such as the International Red Cross among others”. His annoyance resulted from Ojukwu’s rejection of these food items and his insistence that food could only be “acceptable until there was a complete ceasefire, and that an airlift was the only solution to feed the starving”. Tagging it an inconceivable act, Goldstein further stated that “It is inconceivable to me that you (Ojukwu) would stop the feeding of thousands of your countrymen (under auspices of world organizations such as the International Red Cross, World Council of Churches and many more) via a land corridor which is the only practical way to bring in food to help at this time. It is inconceivable to me that men of good faith would try to twist world opinion in such a manner as to deceive people into believing that the starvation and hunger that is consuming ‘Biafra’ is a plot of Britain, Nigeria and others to commit genocide.)” – From Goldstein’s letter of resignation, published in the Morning Post, Lagos, August 17, 1968.

It must be noted that as history clearly recorded the facts of those horrific years, before the invented Awolowo’s anti-Igbo policy as expressed by Achebe in his memoir, Biafran children and women were already starving to death. A non-monologue narrative would acknowledge who was responsible for that. This is the clear difference between the position of Ambassador Ralph Uwechue and Prof. Chinua Achebe. Such questions as raised by Achebe in his memoir which he claimed would be debated for generations on the security reasons behind Ojukwu’s rejection of Nigeria’s federal government’s proposal for a road corridor had been eternally settled by Goldstein. The federal government would not be responsible for the handling of food meant for the Biafran territory. The International Red Cross and the World Council of Churches already took up that responsibility! This erased the possibility of food being poisoned by the federal government. Hence, the real motive for the rejection of the road corridor proposal was because Ojukwu needed the starving children as primary driver of world sympathy as documented by Goldstein in his resignation letter.

On the allegation that Awolowo deliberately devised a diabolical plan to reduce the numbers of his enemies, Achebe was only hammering home a conclusion based upon the shuffled premises he has established.

To further examine the issues in the context of that time, it is good to briefly touch the rivalries that culminated in possible enmity. In terms of political power, the Northern Region under Ahmadu Bello and ably supported by Azikiwe was the dominant obstacle to Awolowo’s legitimate quest for the leadership of Nigeria. Awolowo had brought to the scene a vivacious political energy and unprecedented organizational capacity that was premised upon a philosophy that made proper education of each member of the voting public a prerequisite to nation building and the abiding need for would be leaders to convince the voting masses rather than defaulting to feudalistic hegemony that commanded followership as a matter of hereditary right or social status. Because of his belief in a united Nigeria, he actively made forays into several other regions in search of potential believers in his political ideology. Awolowo even made frantic overtures to Azikiwe so that both could form the first government in 1960. Azikiwe rejected the opportunity and that marked the descent of the new nation into an abyss it has found difficult to recover from. Granted that the NCNC led by Azikiwe at the time ultimately colluded with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) to sponsor division in the Western Region, it was first and foremost a schism orchestrated by the NPC. Facts of Nigerian history confirmed that Azikiwe-led NCNC teamed up with the NPC under Ahmadu Bello to undermine Awolowo’s leadership in the Western Region and eventually had Awolowo jailed. That was the first blood.

Interestingly, as Achebe launched his anti-Awolowo attacks, he was full of praise for his kinsman, Nigeria’s first ceremonial President, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, who he described as the father of African independence. “The father of African independence was Nnamdi Azikiwe” (page 41) “There is no question at all about that. Azikiwe, fondly referred to by his admirers as “Zik,” was the preeminent political figure of my youth and a man who was endowed with the political pan-Africanist vision”. This effusive praise was showered by Achebe upon Azikiwe despite the latter being on record as having been part and parcel of the federal government’s apparatus that worked to undermine Achebe’s Biafran dream at the time.

Achebe’s thought on Chief Obafemi Awolowo evident concealed hatred and envy. He was willing to deploy his powerful prose in sidestepping historical facts if only to posthumously indict Awolowo and rubbish his reputation hence his readiness to cast him out of context. Get it right. Achebe is an iconic writer. He like all others who witnessed the horror of the war has the right to express their opinion on the civil war. As an elder statesman however, who has had the opportunity of years behind him to reflect on facts of that era and the various revelations by the dramatis personae as well as the mighty significance of stories to the emergence and progression of human dynamics, neighborliness and unity, his expression of his opinion would be expected to be guided by the facts of that history in order not to lend his powerful voice to the propagation of untruths that could further stoke enmity and prepare ground for future pogroms.

Despite the recast of Awolowo as desiring to cause his Yoruba people to dominate the Igbos, as attempted by Achebe, after the war, Awolowo’s Yoruba people ensured that the properties of the Igbos in the South West region never remained abandoned properties. The policies they put in place in Lagos ensured that even if the government were to seize such properties as a punitive measure against leading members of the rebellion, government would fail. Ojukwu himself later exploited this in claiming his father’s estate in Lagos when the successor government tried to take those properties. Other states like Rivers frustrated the Igbos. Today, the Yoruba Region of Nigeria remains one of the safest places for the Igbos, rivaled only perhaps by the South East Region while it does appear that the Igbos and the Yorubas intermarry more than they do with their brothers and sisters from the Northern part of the country.

It is logical to look back and imagine what the fatality of that war could have been had Awolowo not intervene by ensuring that enemy soldiers were not being fed at the expense of the starving folks of the Eastern Region. It is also important to note that Ojukwu, the supreme figure of the Biafran resistance gave Awolowo that unique epithet after the latter’s death ‘The greatest President Nigeria never had” as well as acknowledging him as “one of the most principled leaders he had ever met”. I postulated as a teenager that the reason Ojukwu did that was his guilt from missing a unique opportunity to partner with a forthright and honest Nigerian – a foe without malice – who if he told you it was one o clock, you would never need to check your watch.

The iconic poet, Odia Ofeimun, in a television interview confirmed one thing my father told me, whenever a man takes Awolowo on, if you conduct an independent research, you are most likely to discover that Awolowo was right and that man in the wrong. If our icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe had put Awolowo’s contribution into context and his memoir devoid of envy and tribal solidarity – the part that deals with the person of Awolowo and the Yoruba people would have read differently. Storytelling or tale bearing is easy because the writer is only limited by the extent of his own imagination. Writing histories is however difficult because of the need to keep within the facts of time.

Tunji Ariyomo

E-mail: oariyomo@nd-i.org; Phone: +447532127503

Chinua Achebe, Africa and the peril of monologue (Part 1), By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

I grew up taking for granted the veracity of the account of what has been described as the most heinous crime committed against Africans by Europeans. Slavery. Until my father confronted me with hard questions wanting to know whether I had ever read of European invasions of Isikan, Akure, Iwo or Popo in raids for slaves, I never considered the possibility of a different narrative – that our famed slavery story could be slightly at variance with the entire truth of history. As I later discovered – powerful African kings and intolerant leaders of those days raided neighbours’ homes, sacked towns and villages and took fellow Africans as slaves – after which their European business partners involved in slave trade bought those slaves from them. I found out that recalcitrant opposition leaders and conquered enemies in ancient Africa were potential candidates for slavery. Those despotic kings saw slavery as an opportunity to acquire riches as well as permanently get rid of opponents. But the well-known slavery accounts by Africans conveniently overlook or understate this part of the entire business preferring to accentuate the evils of Europeans while conveniently burying in the belly of time the gruesome evils of our forefathers. That is the African version, our monologue which places the entire blame on the ‘doormouth of Oyinbos’.

Monologue is a powerful weapon that can easily lend credence to apostrophic chronicles. It grants its wielder the uncanny ability to act in a way that assumes that he is the only one involved – the only sane person in that exclusive universe of knowledge. Monologue’s use is not restricted to individuals or to just story telling. With monologue in place, a government can – in the language of the streets – do and undo. From the struggle against the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) introduced by General Badamasi Babangida to the arguments advanced in June 2003 by the Nigerian’s federal government for increased fuel prices few days after a general election to the January 2012 removal of fuel subsidy by the Nigerian government and the well funded defences mounted by iconic Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, brilliant Lamido Sanusi and beautiful Diezani Allison-Maduekwe, the same trend run through – Nigerian leaders, like typical Africans, love monologues. With monologue established, whatever others say or think does not matter – they do not know, they are not technically proficient nor ‘do they see what we see from our vantage position as members of government’. When Christiane Amanpour in October 2012 looked President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea in the face and pointedly asked him if he did not think it was high time he abdicated his exalted democratic throne which he inherited in a military coup 33 years ago, he too rearranged himself on his seat, adjusted his voice and pointedly educated Amanpour that Western countries cannot understand African democracy! Catch him – he was using the power of monologue. In Mbasogo’s world, he and only he understood Africans’ understanding of African democracy.

From my primary school in Isikan to Aquinas College Akure, for every Yoruba friend I had on my street, I had two to four Igbo friends. We saw ourselves as people – not as Yoruba or Igbos. That was after the war. I learnt about the horror of the war from them, mostly accounts related to them by their parents, and a little bit more from my Yoruba friends whose parents were victims of the Ore encounter and the rest from my parents. When you combine what I learnt from them with other legendary tales from my father, at a very tender age, I became a moving encyclopedia on the why and why not of the war. From that tender age till we were old enough to ‘get scattered’ all over the world in pursuit of our destinies, there was never a single instance we learnt that the Igbos were being targeted for extermination in any Yoruba town or village in my country. My Igbo friends and I were always unanimous in condemning each incidence of ‘kill the Igbo’ that we heard about mostly from Northern Nigeria years after the civil war. Ambrose, one of the Igbo friends I grew up with in Isikan, once said the North was yet to end the war against the Igbos. My friends and I maintained a common ground because we were involved in a two-way discussion.

In October 2012, a book written by one of African’s legendary writers, Prof. Chinua Achebe, titled “There Was a Country” generously employed monologue in his retelling of the pogrom that consumed Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 and for which many Nigerians and many more on the Biafran side lost their lives. It must be stated that the philosophy of the war was wrong. The essence of the war was wrong. The motivation for the war was wrong. The premise of the war against the Igbos was basically that of domination. The motivation was domination. The purpose was domination – to dominate the Igbos and prevent them from exercising their right to self-determination. The question then arises, why despite conceding that the Igbos had the inalienable right to self-determination would this writer suggest that one of Africa’s most famous authors generously employed monologue? This is because while the fact of the heinous and avoidable bloodshed is never in dispute, the retelling of the tale as brilliantly executed by Prof. Chinua Achebe, especially his attempt to locate culpability where he deems appropriate, is patently skewed against historical evidence and did not reflect roles allegedly played by the ‘culprits’ within context – a situation akin to employing convenient tactical amnesia. I will cite the two examples that have been identified.

On Page 51 of the 333-page book, Achebe wrote “The original ideal of one Nigeria was pressed by the leaders and intellectuals from the Eastern Region. With all their shortcomings, they had this idea to build the country as one. The first to object were the Northerners led by the Sardauna, who were followed closely by the Awolowo clique that had created the Action Group. The Northern Peoples Congress of the Sardaunians was supposed to be a national party, yet it refused to change its name from Northern to Nigerian Peoples Congress, even for the sake of appearances. It refused right up to the end of the civilian regime.” As rightly noted by Monday Ateboh, despite the mighty significance of this weighty and damning assertion, Prof. Achebe did not did give any details regarding how and where the Northern and Yoruba leaders opposed the idea of a united Nigeria.

On Page 233 of the book, Achebe wrote “The wartime cabinet of General Gowon, the military ruler, it should also be remembered, was full of intellectuals like Chief Obafemi Awolowo among others who came up with a boatload of infamous and regrettable policies. A statement credited to Awolowo and echoed by his cohorts is the most callous and unfortunate: all is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder. It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations. However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbos at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose – the Nigeria-Biafra war – his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams. In the Biafran case it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation — eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”

Why is it important to address the issues raised in the Achebe’s memoir? Principally because there is a need to place the monologue side by side with alternative narratives for prosperity. Also because of the stupendous power packed in the prose of Achebe that could legitimize his personal opinion and narrative nuances as unimpeachable facts of history. To underscore the significance of this, one only needs to examine the statement of leading British publisher Allen Lane on the Achebe’s memoir “There Was a Country is a distillation of vivid observation and considered research and reflection.” If reputable British outfits are already of the opinion that the memoir is a product of considered research and vivid imagination, then essentially, Prof. Achebe’s opinion is likely to be accorded the status of historical actuality if the rest of the world is unable to test the veracity of each damning or controversial claim.

The final part of this essay shall examine each of the earlier listed claims by this Africa’s iconic writer and situate each within the context of 1967 and 1970 as part of my contribution to knowledge.

Tunji Ariyomo

E-mail: oariyomo@nd-i.org; Phone: +447532127503

 

Ondo governorship debates: winners, losers and matters arising, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

Can I, a son of the soil, do an objective opinion piece on the Ondo State 2012 gubernatorial debates organized by the Chief Taiwo Alimi led Nigerian Elections Debate Group (NEDG) without being biased? I will try!

Several phone calls, SMS and eventually, social media commentaries by Nigerians jolted me to the real impact of the first day of the debate, particularly its potential of creating a new world perception of the average Ondo State person. Before now, the average person from that state was perceived as brilliant and industrious. ‘Olodo’ (dullard) was never a descriptive word for the Ondo people until that first day. On Nairaland (see http://tinyurl.com/cmmvvrk), one commentator said “Worst debate I’ve ever watched in my life. I had to switch over(sic). Horrible”. Another said “Now this shows the caliber of people in ONDO Politricks” while a female candidate said “the state would collide(sic) with Power holdings”.

How did these people emerge as candidates?

Thirteen years of rule by the leading political parties have successfully shielded many of the smaller parties from public scrutiny while some over the years have become the conclaves of a few opportunistic individuals who turned them into avenues to obtain yearly subventions from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Their selfish desire to maintain a firm grip on their tiny empires is the main reason they would never search for the best amongst their people and field them as candidates in order give the larger political parties stiff competition.

Does debate matter?

The ability to articulate one’s vision matters. Alluding to the holy book, ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’! Often, when the mouth is unable to speak sense, the probable cause could be that the heart is shallow. The implication of a shallow heart on communication could include incoherence and uttering mediocre solutions to serious challenges as Ondo State people witnessed during the first debate. On whether the English language matters, yes it does. Apart from English being the nation’s official language, it is not sheer legislative accident that the constitution mandates a minimum education requirement for aspirants. We are in a world that is getting further globalised with each passing day. A governor or deputy governor would never govern in isolation. He or she would attend several national and international events. He must be able to interact with other leaders, communicate his ideas and messages as well as exchange sophisticated modern ideas with national and international players. More importantly, office holders should be inspirations to impressionable kids and older youths. If Nigeria’s founding fathers, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello spoke impeccable English and were capable of brilliantly articulating their views, how can we expect less from 21st century Nigerian leaders?

With the benefit of hindsight, we can all imagine what the quality of our democracy and the quality of leadership would have been had this type of debate been made compulsory since 1999. If we have this in place, even the godfathers of the various political parties would be forced to search for the best among them and would not just put forward any Tom, Dick and Harry as candidates.

So who won the debates?

Saka Lawal of the PDP appeared to be the clear winner in the deputy governorship category followed closely by the candidate of the ACN, Dr. Paul Akintelure. The LP lost in the deputy category because of the absence of its candidate, Alhaji Ali Olanusi which resulted in the speculation that it was a deliberate and well calculated political manoeuvring by the LP.

In the first round of the governorship category, it is my opinion that Chief Olusola Oke of the PDP and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of the LP were the clear winners. The candidate of the ACN however appeared professorial, gentlemanly and laid back. He appeared to be at a public lecture as a resource person rather than as a candidate at a gubernatorial debate. His faux pas that “Ondo State people do not have housing problems” reminded me of American’s Mitt Romney’s 47%. Both Oke and Mimiko however demonstrated a strong grasp of issues that are of interest to the average person. They also exhibited strong political acumen and stagecraft needed on such occasions. Oke particularly showed uncommon equanimity at that first encounter.

In the second debate which featured only the three leading candidates, Olusola Oke of the PDP appeared to be the indisputable winner in my personal opinion. He exhibited candour, depth and came out smoking hot. The incumbent governor however did well in holding his ground while Akeredolu of the ACN improved upon his earlier performance. The debate was also richer on issues although the candidates could not escape the temptation of typecasting one another as they laboured hard to adorn opponents with the corrupt tag which was an avoidable distraction.

Need for fact checking

Several ‘facts’ were rolled out in torrents during the debates. The press owes it a duty to the public to promote fact checking. If a candidate knows he would be fact-checked, he might be circumspect in recklessly dishing out untruths. This could further help to strengthen the quality of future debates as well as help psychologically prepare the youths that truth matters.

Recommendation

How do we make debates compulsory? The nation can do this by establishing a non-partisan National Debate Commission similar to what is in place in the USA. Experienced faculties from our universities, non partisan public affairs experts and reputable broadcasters should be in charge of such a commission. Politicians should not be involved at all. The current Nigerian Elections Debate Group could even be adopted and transformed into such a commission. The National Assembly can kick-start the process by enacting appropriate laws for the commission that would cover qualification of members, venue security, media coverage, mandatory candidate participation and limited funding. The law could also contain appropriate sanctions to deter evasive manoeuvrings. Alternatively, the Commission could be made a quasi institute with no government oversight but wholly as a private corporation whose debates are sponsored by private contributions from willing foundations. Essentially, any model adopted should allow enough enforceable legislative protection to compel participation while being independent enough to avoid undue influence. This could raise the quality of internal democracy in political parties by indirectly forcing the hands of party leaders and members to select their best.

Finally and by the way, there was this claim by Dr. Mimiko where he pointedly challenged the legacy of his predecessor in the area of Information Communication Technology. My understanding of his claim is that if his four years is placed side by side with those of his predecessor, he ranks better. Really? Umm, over then to unbiased fact checkers, the jury is still out!

 

 

Mubi killings, Boko Haram and Jonathan Options, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

Background Information

Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye et al (2012) put the fatality figure of the Independence Day massacre in Mubi Adamawa at 40 with the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi Adamawa accounting for 26 while both the State University and the School of Health Technology accounted for 14 deaths. It was noted that “some of those killed were final year students who were preparing to defend their academic projects while others were starting their examinations to move to the next class”.  Their report claimed that the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, briefed the Federal Executive Council (ExCoF) on the killings which elicited condemnations from all members while Dr. Reuben Abati was quoted as crediting his principal, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, with a statement that describes the killings as “tragic, sad, barbaric and shocking” and that the President has directed “security agencies to investigate the matter… because this kind of incident, where people were called out and shot, is really shocking”. Without delving into the merits of the ExCoF being briefed of a purely security issue by the minister of education or the need for a presidential directive to security personnel to do their job, this article attempts to identify the perpetrators and proffer solutions to the unending security challenges.

From the latest killings, the following stand out as sour facts:

  1. There was a highly polarising ethnically charged students’ union election which was contested on sectarian lines (BBC 2012) in the school with the most casualties (Please see http://tinyurl.com/9kw5o74). The election was also contested along the North versus South (Adepegba & Agency, 2012) divides – mainly between Muslim Hausas and predominantly Christian Igbos (AFP 2012).
  2. Some of the winners were among those called out and slaughtered (Nigerian Tribune, October 5 2012). The Southern winner in the presidential category was one of them.
  3. Victims included both Christians and Muslims
  4. Protective curfew was vacated just before the attack. A lecturer’s curiosity was particularly stirred on his way to Mubi when he observed and “noted a large contingent of military personnel being moved out of town” (Sun Newspaper, 4th October 2012).
  5. Victims were specifically targeted as names were called out from a prepared list (Nigerian Tribune, October 5 2012)
  6. Residents and relations of the victims believed that the attack was carried out by Boko Haram (Premium Times, 2012).

Probable conclusion: it was a Boko Haram’s typical attack – as usual, precise, merciless, overwhelmingly shocking and under the radar of the military. An insider, perhaps an aggrieved loser or his associates, who caucuses with Boko Haram deemed it appropriate to teach the ‘infidels’ a lesson, wrote their names and handed same over to his group. Rather than the erroneous conclusion attributed to the police that calling out names means the attackers knew the victims and were therefore cult members, on the contrary the action is a strong evidence that the attackers did not know the victims. They needed the list in order to identify their targets – the election winners and their ‘collaborators’ whose names had been handed down. Because of the ethnic mix of the school and the spread of off-campus accommodations, these would naturally include Muslims, Christians, Northerners and Southerners as well as those victims that were just collateral damages.

Jamā’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lādda’awatih wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram is the dreaded pro-Islam militant group that is committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad. Since 2009 and particularly after Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became the president, the group has intensified its campaign in the Northern part of Nigeria. So far, it appears to have had the upper hand. Its assurance of unfettered capacity to strike when and where it deems fit has repeatedly been proven right by the seeming incapacity of the government to effectively curtail its actions.

Attributes

In understanding the Boko Haram saga, it is good to recognize its attributes by highlighting certain patterns of behaviour that have come to define its operations. These can be extracted from recent and past history.

 

  1. Boko Haram kills without mercy (using bombs, guns, and axes, machetes or swords). In Mubi, as a replacement for one of their targets, the gunmen killed the father (Adepegba & Agency, 2012).
  2. Boko Haram is willing to go to any length to accomplish its objective and protect the identities of its operatives. It is ready to sacrifice even its members to maintain its campaign (Babakura Fugu was killed on September 17, 2011 after Chief Olusegun Obasanjo commenced his effort to broker a truce between Boko Haram and government).
  3. Boko Haram (or at least, its leadership) is made up of highly intelligent people. Its staying power and evasive tactics suggest that it is actively or tacitly backed and supported by highly intelligent individuals. It is erroneous to class its members as miscreants even though so called ‘social miscreants’ could be in the majority as it is with most organizations but it does appear that the role of these ‘miscreants’ is mainly as expendables responsible for last mile activities. The Obasanjo parley was a strategic ace move by the former president and his facilitator, Mallam Shehu Sani, the President of the Kaduna based Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria. Their effort could have fundamentally altered the organization’s terror trajectory and subsequently undermine its cohesion from within. But by swiftly liquidating the intermediary (Babakura Fugu) with such speed and military precision, Boko Haram was able to protect its identity (the identity of the brains behind its activities), secure a united home, project itself as having invincible capacity to fatally punish erring or dissenting members thereby guaranteeing willing, voluntary as well as coerced or forced loyalty and is thus able to sustain its campaign unencumbered. By this, the organization established itself as a serious in-city guerrilla force that is both brutal and tactical but more importantly, goal-oriented.
  4. Boko Haram is ideologically driven and ideologically sustained. This is the most dangerous of its attributes and its most potent credential. They are not driven by personal desire for wealth which makes workaround solutions like the Amnesty Programme unappealing. The ideology factor is at the core of its present success and relative invincibility. The implication of this is that Boko Haram is a natural beneficiary of goodwill from as many people as possible who share its ideological leaning or who would gain from its ideological goal. It would not be a surprise to discover that a sizable number of copy cat Boko Haram strikes were executed by people who merely share the ideological predilection and have no direct or indirect links to the organization whatsoever.
  5. While each will be nominally correct, it will be naive to conclude that Boko Haram is solely religiously driven or solely politically driven. It can be said that Boko Haram is BOTH politically and religiously driven. The two motivations are intertwined. However, at a strategic level, it must be conceded that its political motivation is superior to any other inspiration and that the religious motivation is simply a vehicle for the actualisation of the political agenda. The religious motivation projected by the organization is a crucial rallying cry to secure the needed support base taking advantage of the leading ideological orientation in its present area of operation. It is thus safe to conclude that Boko Haram is politically driven with a two-prong goal of using terrorism to acquire political relevance and power and then use the political power so acquired to gain both religious and political dominance. This is because even the religious undertone and motivation of the group appears majorly as a medium to ensure ideological domination enforced politically as exhibited in its oft-repeated quest to impose Sharia in the 19 Northern states despite the vast presence of people of other faiths in that part of the country and the constitutionally guaranteed status of Nigeria as a secular state. Andrew Walker, in his special report for the United States Institute of Peace acknowledged the primacy of secular politics in Boko Haram’s agenda when he stated that “Boko Haram is an Islamic sect that believes POLITICS in northern Nigeria has been seized by a group of corrupt, false Muslims. It wants to wage a war against them, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria generally, to create a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law” (Walker, 2012).
  6. There have been prior radical tendencies, which latched on to religious or spiritual thirst of the people, to unleash chaos against members of opposite religions and ethnic nationalities. Globally, both Islam and Christendom have had a fair share of this as aggressors through the ages. Since the creation of Nigeria however, one of such was the Maitatsine (1980-1982) which reportedly claimed over 3,000 lives while half of Yola’s population of 60,000 was left homeless (Mervyn 1987; Pham 2006). Boko Haram only takes this a notch further by adopting guerrilla tactics and more sophisticated means of destruction.
  7. It is doubtful whether the loosely connected splinter groups operating in most parts of Northern Nigeria are organically connected to the main Boko Haram.

Role of Poverty

There is a direct correlation between poverty and crime (Kelly, 2000). Crime within this context refers to such illegitimate activities primarily directed at unlawfully meeting needs, wants, habit or pleasure through violent or non-violent means. It is however debateable to conclude that such correlation exists between poverty and targeted hatred directed at people of other faiths or ethnic nationalities as typified by the Nigerian killings. This explains why youths in Ebonyi with absolute poverty put at 73.6% (NBC 2010), similar to most North East states and those in Enugu (62.5% with unemployment at 25.2%) or Edo with absolute poverty put at 65.6% and unemployment at 35.2% (compare to Kano’s absolute poverty of 65.6% and employment at 21.3%) have not been known to vent their anger on hapless strangers who are equally victims of leadership ineptitude. It is the reason the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) did not direct its anger at ordinary folks but at the authority during its armed conflict with the Nigerian state. Similar facts puncture the claim that derivation is responsible because youths in states such as Ebonyi, Ekiti, Enugu, Anambra, Oyo among others from the South that are not beneficiaries of oil derivation have not taken to wanton killing of innocent people as outlets for their anger. Rather, youths in those states are known to often directly confront the thieving officials that stole their commonwealth.

Although, as established above, poverty is not the direct cause of the Nigerian killings, it is however the strong negative catalyst that swells the ranks of recruits required for prosecuting the hate agenda. Pervasive poverty guarantees a willing pool of volunteers who are ready and eager to kill or die in any cause that promises a better hereafter compared to the certain hellish experience of abject poverty in Nigeria. Ifeanyi Onuba reported in February that the Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics estimated that 112.519 million Nigerians live in relative poverty while 61.2% of the people were reported as living on less than one dollar per day (Onuba, 2012).

Solution

The Nigerian government and leading opposition figures have identified three types of Boko Haram while members of the opposition have even sought to exact political capital off the pogroms by directly blaming the Jonathan administration. This article advances a way out focussing attention at solutions that can address bottom to top and top to bottom issues.

In recommending a solution, I wish to draw on the words of someone who has extensively dealt with terrorism, Ehsan ul-Haq, an accomplished Pakistani military officer.

He once said that “First of all, you need a comprehensive national strategy to tackle terrorism. This comprehensive national strategy must be over-achingly a political strategy. It may have other components; for example it must have a media component, an information component, a political component, an economic component and of course a military component. But mere use of military force will not solve the problem. It has to be a comprehensive strategy encompassing all the aspects. And above all, if the terrorism is based on an ideology, then most critically it’ll be important to address the narrative of that ideology. In which case, you have to develop a counter-narrative or an alternate narrative to persuade people away from the narrative which they are pursuing”.

As I have identified, the terror in Nigeria is ideologically sustained. It is said that there is no force in the world that can defeat ideology. Ideology can only be defeated by a more appealing counter ideology. What this suggests is that the solution to the Boko Haram menace requires thinkers than it requires military brute force. This writer appreciates the vital role of the military and commends the men and women of the nation’s armed forces who are in harm’s way in their battle with insurrection. Superior civil engagement strategies, proactive intelligence and tactical manoeuvring are however likely to make the job of the military easier.

The Nigerian government can thus focus on the following:

  1. Recognize that lasting solutions to sectarian crisis (equally applicable to traditional criminal activities and violent crimes) require honest and genuine far-reaching reforms. The dreaded men of Boko Haram today were ordinary highly promising youngsters some years back who probably would be designing the new propulsion engines and novel green technology today if they had the right exposure at the right time.
  2. Activate programmes that can enhance government’s ability to meet the pressing needs of its people nationwide. The Nigerian people should see evidence that the 2.3million barrels daily oil sales impact their wellbeing and standard of living directly – not by share clerical admission, the archetypal bandying of GDP figures, but in real indisputable terms.
  3. Create opportunities for fair and equitable access to national wealth. The reality that government officials and individual members of parliament earns as much as N200million per annum while the minimum wage is N18, 000 promotes wealth inequality, stokes anti-authority hatred, encourages extreme acts of defiance and recourse to self help.
  4. Focus deliberate strategic action plan designed to limit the ease at which anti-establishment gangs (as well as criminals) can access recruits and volunteers. Present national employment strategy is poor and grossly inadequate.
  5. Explore the open offer of Shehu Sani that he was ready to help broker a political solution to the conflict (The Guardian, July 7 2012). If Sani’s intervention had no merit, his original contact would not have been terminated. That Babakura Fugu was promptly eliminated suggests strongly that Obasanjo’s move would negatively impact the organization. That Boko Haram’s subsequent press statement afterward did not condemn Obasanjo is food for thought and an indication that his reconciliatory effort may not have been essentially the primary target but perhaps its timing and lead contact.
  6. A national reconciliation with the Nigerian people and rededication by the government to pursuing the common good of the people is necessary. This must be in action as it has been in words. At the moment, the nation can only delude itself if it insists that it serves the purpose of the common people. As revelations after revelations have proven, the Nigerian governments (at local government, state and federal levels) have only served to advance the personal interest of those in government, their friends, business associates and family members. Simple tasks are deliberately complicated to provide maximum opportunities for record corruption at the expense of the poor masses. There are many children and women today who are daily catered for by Boko Haram members (feeding, shelter etc). These kids and women know no government. To them (and to other millions of Nigerian kids and women), Chapter Two of the nation’s constitution which places a minimum mandatory requirement of service to the people upon the government as a constitutional necessity has no meaning. It may therefore be difficult for the government to earn their loyalty when push comes to shove or prevent them from being sympathizers to the cause of those they considered to be gallantly and defiantly confronting the might of an ‘oppressive’ and ‘self-centred’ government.
  7. A national reconciliation with key opposition figures. The list should include General Muhammad Buhari, Mallam Nasir El Rufai and several others that are either keeping quiet or stoking temper with occasional jibes at leadership. Such loud silence or punch lines would only further serve to negatively energise dissenting youths and embolden resort to self-help. Such reconciliation may also be extended to members of the president’s own party (especially those from the Northern part of the country) that may be boiling but keeping silent. Timely reconciliation can inhibit the nation’s descent to anarchy and prevent a scenario where the absence of government’s ability to protect the citizens forces them to take the laws into their own hands or force other ethnic nationalities into a frenzy of retaliations. This reconciliation is a win-win situation for the elites who constitute the bulk of the opposition from the North. As history of sectarian revolutions has shown, even they would in future become targets and victims as the perpetrators get bolder and stronger. If they assume that Boko Haram and its independent splinter groups do not know about the shopping escapades of the super rich in London, they would be mistaken. The London Evening Standard clearly indicated in May 2011 that the most used language by rich, short-stay heavy spending tourists from Nigeria in stores like Debenhams is the Hausa Language (Please see http://tinyurl.com/9lgpztf).

Important note and conclusion

In ancient Rome, a rule of survival in the arena for any gladiator, apart from the quest to win, was to ensure he fought to please the crowd. This was critical as it could make the difference between life and death. The crowd could become the last minute life ticket because it was the custom of most emperors to seek the concurrence of the crowd before nodding in favour of the final death blow whenever a gladiator was down. Any gladiator that was despised by the crowd would naturally not be saved by them in that dying minute. The chant of ‘death’ ‘death’ would rent the air.

Based on this premise, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan must put a halt to all activities and programmes of his government that would further alienate him from ordinary folks on the streets thereby further arming militant groups with enthusiastic sympathizers. He must be able, willing and ready to tell any of his aides asking him to take a leap in favour of unpopular decisions to take a walk.

Tunji is a Policy Chair of the National Development Initiative NDi (a non-partisan independent think-tank). NDi Project can be accessed at www.nd-i.org

E-mail: oariyomo@nd-i.org; Phone: +447532127503 

Nigerian leaders, insanity, and the art of nation building, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

The United Kingdom’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria in its September 2012 report stated that many of the deep systemic challenges that have prevented transformation in Nigeria which it earlier observed in its 2008 assessment remain unchanged: a lack of political accountability; zero, slow or poor delivery of basic services; corruption and mismanagement. The report concluded that “Nigeria’s failure to invest in its people is the main reason Nigeria has a turbulent history and stagnancy in its economy”.

Earlier in 2010, the United States’ Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton in a rare departure from diplomatic courtesy directly criticized the Nigerian government’s failure to address the legitimate needs of its people. Hillary’s very words were that “The failure of the Nigerian leadership over many years to respond to the legitimate needs of their own young people, to have a government that promoted a meritocracy, that really understood that democracy can’t just be given lip service, it has to be delivering services to the people, has meant there is a lot of alienation in that country and others”.

Two independent assessments, one single verdict – Nigeria’s leadership has failed abysmally to address the most fundamental needs of the Nigerian people.

The Yoruba like other tribal groups in Nigeria is famous for preserving wisdom in words. One such famous combination says ‘ojo ti weere eniyan ba ti mo wipe olokunrun l’oun ni’toju de’. When translated loosely, this means that ‘the mentally deranged is cured of his insanity on the day he becomes conscious of his unusual faculty. Psychiatrists have corroborated this by admitting that patients suffering from psychotic delusions and hallucinations may often ‘honestly’ believe that their delusional state is the normal state while the rest of the sane world appears to them as weird and abnormal. Thus why the Nigerian people, respectable foreign institutions and eminent persons are in agreement that Nigeria has so far failed its people, the views of those in charge of the Nigerian governments (local, state and federal) are different. So, it is painfully difficult not to conclude that the elusive development and economic growth would only materialise when its leadership  becomes self aware – particularly of those items on development menu that constitute the most pressing legitimate needs of the people.

It is good to first enumerate what constitutes the most pressing legitimate needs of the Nigerian people. The most famous contribution to knowledge by Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) an American psychologist was his famous Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He identified food, water and shelter as some of the most pressing physiological needs for human survival. “If these requirements are not met, the human body simply cannot continue to function”. Next he identified security of employment, resources, health, family and property as part of safety requirement that are of fundamental importance to humans. An important feature of Maslow’s theory though is the acknowledgement of the complex parallel processes driving different motivations from different levels and the conclusion that individual’s physical and safety needs take precedence – in that order.

In development parlance, these critical needs can be broadly classified as follows: Food and water, Physical infrastructure, Social infrastructure and Job security.

Do the layers of governments in Nigeria know this? Even if they do, their actions suggest otherwise – or at the minimum – that they do not know the efficient way to allocate available resources and mobilise the public towards accomplishing national growth. Nigeria being a chiefly natural resource based economy (which is by choice) needs to use its wealth while it last (crude oil is a finite resource) to develop what would guarantee an enduring platform for its people to – in the short term, meet their most pressing and legitimate needs such as food, water, shelter (housing) and job availability – and in the long run, equip them to embrace a knowledge driven economy that can make growth and development sustainable. Age-long aimless pretend development and endless policy perambulations have only yielded a notorious record-setting graft induced underdevelopment, pervasive wretchedness and abject poverty with a tiny class of system-made super rich.

The continuous refusal to target resources at mass housing scheme, good roads, excellent rail or mass transit schemes, investment in agriculture, reliable healthcare institutions and public schools etc have often been attributed to dearth of fund and quest for private sector participation.  This writer is a major believer in private sector driven economic growth but sensible enough to know that reliable private sector players would not take control until a nation has kick-started the processes of development that would make that country an appealing and competitive investment destination. Examples of this include the investment of the government of the UAE in agriculture and massive infrastructure development of all its emirates (including its prime Dubai emirate and Dubai city) as a deliberate strategy to lure international investors. Today, that country has emerged as a global business hub. Yes the economy was originally built on the oil industry but with an effective development model, the emirate’s main revenues are now from financial services, real estate and tourism just like any typical successful western country. Also the role of Mahathir bin Mohamad in committing massive state fund to develop Malaysian agriculture and infrastructure as a deliberate ploy to make that country internationally attractive and competitive to investors are fresh development role models to learn from. Today, international investors (it has been alleged that these include many Nigerian leaders) now chase after these two models as their choice destinations for investment.

The Nigerian leaders’ excuse of dearth of fund is in fact self-imposed in the face of the reality of the Nigerian government’s gratuitous profligacy. So also is the fallacious argument of crude per capita ratio introduced by some government officials in the wake of the subsidy protest by Nigerians. That argument falls flat when confronted with the reality that the Nigerian government is not responsible for Nigerians’ wellbeing in real terms as the average Nigerian is responsible for everything including his security, power generation, water production etc. Unlike countries such as Libya and other Arab oil producing nations with a history of actually sharing part of oil revenue with individual citizen (this writer is against this practice), the Nigerian government collects oil revenue and that is the end of it. If anyone shares from it, past revelations have revealed those persons to be civil servants, politicians and their businessmen collaborators. Hence, the principal reason for underdevelopment in Nigeria is the way the average government – federal, states and local governments – uses public fund. This is the real barrier to sustainable development and the nation’s capacity to address the most fundamental needs of its people.

The list is endless: The clumsy arithmetic of the 2011 subsidy payment for instance showed that the Federal Government paid N2.19 trillion as fuel subsidy in 2011 as against the initial figure of N1.2 trillion that drew the wrath of the people. Against the background that actual subsidy payment was just about N300billion in the preceding year indicates strongly that officials facilitated the stealing of over N1.8 trillion from the Nigerian people in just one year. Some state governments today award a kilometre of a single carriageway at close to N2billion. This makes road construction in Nigeria one of the most expensive in the developing world despite the fact that labour and materials would be sourced at local rates. There is no gainsaying the fact that such road contracts were only deliberately inflated to serve as a conduit for stealing public fund. Recently it was announced that the Nigerian government would be spending N600 billion on the next national census. The cost of the UK 2011 compulsory census was N127 billion and that was because it hired several thousand ad-hoc workers to help it in language translation and had to pay those workers in British Pound. Nigeria would spend nearly five times even though its ad-hoc workers would be paid in Naira and below par relative to their British counterpart on the same job. Though conceding that Nigeria has a larger population, the massive wage disparity in both countries however makes the planned N600billion excessively overpriced.

So what should Nigeria do? Simple – stop complicating the art of nation building.

  1. Nigeria must end the practice of spending huge Naira on what the nation does not need and divert those funds to urgent massive deliberate infrastructure, agriculture and employment generation programmes across the country. The country’s leaders must have the strength to append a ‘NOT APPROVE’ on various money gulping but ‘of little or no value’ anti-development proposals that have come to define many public officers. A recent example was an approval secured by the CBN to commit N40billion to the minting of a new bill and coining of certain categories of Naira at a time of national economic depression where competing needs with superior claims to priority abound.
  2. The nation must match her earnings with her capacity to address the needs of her citizenry. The awkward scenario where a tiny percentage of Nigerians consume the nation’s finances in the guise of recurrent expenditure (put at nearly 80% in the 2012 budget) while capital projects (merely 18% in 2012) that the recurrent expenditure (RE) is meant to service remain unattended must give way. RE must stop being a euphemism for the ‘money being shared monthly in offices’ (outside legitimate salaries) – usually by the lead civil servants (mostly Directors of Finance and Administrations, Permanent Secretaries and DGs) who also share portions of the money with ministerial, departmental and agency political leadership. This is a common practice at the federal, states and LG levels. Ordinarily, the money ought to be utilised as service and operational funds required to provide ministerial supervisions for the execution of the items listed as capital projects even as the latter is mostly shamelessly packed with items targeted at making leading civil servants and politicians more comfortable – the likes of the unending requirements to build new offices, new accommodations and the procurement of new furniture and fancy official cars – wherein ultimately the actual percentage of capital expenditure that goes into public works is further intolerably reduced.
  3. Leaders must engage the support and services of competent Nigerians with the goal of evolving a development strategy and programmes capable of immediately engaging and empowering a reasonable chunk of the 60 million Nigerian youth population. The YouWin programme of the Federal Government is good and commendable. But as this writer has stated at several fora, it is hugely inadequate as first call in the nation’s quest for ideas that can leapfrog and help close massive employment gap within the shortest time possible. YouWin should however play a supporting role as an initiative targeted at entrepreneurs and anchored by some of the active private sector players in Nigeria.
  4. For certain categories of public works and services, the country should embrace proper market liberalisation that competitively allow global investors to show interest and end the practice of behind-the-scene choreographing of investment decisions while pretending to embrace privatization. Nigeria’s success with her telecom sector liberalization is an appropriate knowledge curve. With a robust legislation that promotes transparency, fairness and equity, the same thing could be done with rail transportation, electricity etc.
  5. Finally, the nation must allow all development programmes including private sector participations to be guided by strict regimes of transparency and merit so as to promote equity, fairness and trust.

Tunji Ariyomo is Policy Chair of the National Development Initiative NDi (a non-partisan independent think-tank). NDi Project can be accessed at www.nd-i.org

E-mail: oariyomo@nd-i.org; Phone: +447532127503 

Beyond Civil Rule: How Nigeria can become a true democracy, By Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

It is difficult to watch the recently concluded political party conventions in the United States (US), particularly the Democratic National Convention (DNC) that took place in Charlotte without wishing that was Nigeria. There is no doubt that each party saw the need to front-load its best in order to be considered serious by the American public. Placed side by side with Nigeria, the US conventions exposed the stark reality of Nigeria’s claim to democracy as nothing more than a bold-face attempt to pass off the notorious Mucuna pruriens as an everyday edible bean. The naked fact of our pseudo democracy is at the heart of what is wrong with Nigeria because real democracy is a key element to attaining leadership accountability or the institutional framework for propping up leadership whose emergence depends upon its ability to convince the people of its capacity to address issues that are of primary importance to them. Consequently, even though many Nigerians continue to desire leaders like Barack Hussein Obama, the incumbent president of the US or a Bill Clinton, the chances of such leaders in Nigeria are very slim. When such do emerge in Nigeria, he would be a statistical outlier, a product of accident. He also stands the risk of being encumbered by the system, which in this case is the norm.

I identified two major differences in the Nigerian democracy when compared with the US or United Kingdom (UK) democracies. These are: (1) ownership of political parties, and; (2) mode of determining party representations in government. The first affects the party as an institution while the second affects party’s involvement in government.

In both US and UK democracies, the political parties are owned by the masses (citizens who freely elect to become members of such parties) and anyone who decides to join a political party can rise to the pinnacle of leadership in that party simply by being very active, very capable, very educated, very committed and by maintaining high moral standards and not simply by who they know. This is why on the average, a leader of any of the major parties in the US and UK is likely to be very knowledgeable about the economy, foreign policy and other issues that are of importance to the average American or Briton unlike in Nigeria where anybody irrespective of his ability can become anything simply by kowtowing to well connected god-fathers. It should be noted that there are ‘god-fathers’ in both the US and UK democracies as well, the difference however is that since actual representative selection shall be decided by “every member of the local” party, those ‘god-fathers’ are themselves forced by circumstance to scout for the best and most marketable people who can be promoted with their resources for the purpose of securing the approval of ordinary members of their parties and not by simply imposing them upon those members. They have no such power. The US Tea Party movement’s relative success at positioning its preferred aspirants for GOP tickets over a short period of time is a typical example of how ordinary folks can dynamically alter power equation in real democracies. It is inconceivable to expect such external youth led putsch to faze the power brokers of Nigeria’s major political parties.

The Vanguard newspaper of 20th January 2011 credited a national leader of the ACN with saying that his party ‘elders’ have the supreme right to decide and impose candidates on the rest of the party. He even erroneously cited British model to justify his argument. He called the process consensus. Usually, other aspirants except the one that has been so favoured would describe that same process as an imposition. Yes, both great democracies (UK and USA) have room for consensus, but the consensus must also be decided by the members of the party and not a few ‘elders’. This is the core ingredient that makes real democracy such an appealing system of government.

The selection of party candidates by the general house via a system akin to a Direct Primary protocol as practiced in the US and to some degree in the UK is the present missing link in our democratic experiment. It is the core ingredient that gives absolute power to select a candidate to the people of the constituency to be so represented. It is the restraint that prevents Mafia-like syndicates from taking over the party systems in those places. It is also the key to the emergence of supposed underdogs as champions. Examples of such people include the much celebrated Barack Obama’s victory over Hilary Clinton in 2008. Had the decision to select the US Democratic presidential flag-bearer in 2008 been solely in the hands of Democratic Party leaders, Obama would undoubtedly never have had a fighting chance. Also in the UK, if the decision to elect a new leader for the Labour Party in 2010 had been solely ‘in the hands’ of the party leadership, Ed Miliband would never have emerged. Ditto for David Cameron’s rapid rise to Tory leadership in 2005 as his party sought a brilliant (he made first class), youthful, moderate candidate who would appeal to voters.

The Direct Primary System empowers all members (not delegates) of a particular political party to ultimately vote in the election of candidates that will represent such a political party. Essentially, every member of the political party gets to have a say in the selection process. A direct implication of this is that it takes the power to pre-determine the outcome of party primaries away from a few people – a tiny rank of godfathers. This directly promotes high leadership turn over, ensures a political party belongs to the people rather than to a small group of privileged men, eliminates capacity to stifle dissenters and enhances the ability of ordinary folks to get involved in party processes.

In the US for instance, the primary election is for all aspirants while the process takes place under the supervision of the government agency in charge thereby being chiefly outside the control of the party organization. The government also ensures that the person who won the primary election is the one who will be on the ballot paper representing that party. The slight variation in the UK example has to do with the power of the party to appoint a committee for the purpose of screening, interviewing and vetting the credentials of aspirants before putting them on a central list. Nigeria’s PDP does activate similar committees every four years. The difference though is that in the UK, all party members in that constituency would eventually get the chance to democratically elect a candidate from the list while the PDP and others in Nigeria would simply delegate that power to a carefully selected group of people which ultimately defeats the entire purpose as the ‘highest bidder’ can compromise these special delegates. It is only in rare instances of emergency candidate requirement (e.g., death, retirement etc) or where the party is relatively weak and needs to deliberately position a strong candidate with mass appeal that the central executive of most UK parties would vote to select a candidate. This way, the UK or US aspirant takes his message directly to the party’s public since all members in that constituency would be casting votes. Because many party members are often inactive, a good aspirant would then make it his duty to fire up the base by rousing the zeal of these often inactive sleeping giants like Obama did.

Why is this one of the most important issues in a democracy such as ours? This is primarily because of Nigeria’s diversity and low level of political sophistication which makes any model that can be choreographed by a few sure disasters for the Nigerian masses. The few would hold on to power at all cost and escalate corrupt activities because they require unfettered access to public money to sustain their grip. The nation therefore needs a political model that embodies merit and fairness and that gives an assurance that the people in truth control their destiny with the hire and fire power right in their palms. A direct primary system for the determination of candidates of a political party is very fundamental to the quality and worth of that democracy as well as the quality and capability of the men and women that would be produced as leaders in that particular democracy.

True democracy must frontally recognize the people as the owners of political parties – and by extension, owners of that democracy – and not a fiefdom of a few privileged individuals. If a few individuals own our political parties, we would be deluding ourselves to say the people of Nigeria own that democracy. Once a few people control a democracy, the few would also inadvertently control economic means and ultimately operate the economic system “in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals” that are their favorites, stooges or those who share their political, religious or social orientation at the expense of others – a scenario that recklessly violates a fundamental stipulate in the Nigerian constitution [Section 16(2)(c)].

Also, a direct primary system (especially as practiced in the US) will reduce incidence of violence that has perennially plagued our democracy because of the quality of candidates that would emerge. Even the trajectory of god-fathers’ desperation and their modus operandi would change as they are likely to divert their effort to activities that can endear their candidates to the electorates rather than recourse to brigandage or electoral violence. Another twin benefit is that it would reduce the role of money and eliminate its direct use in buying delegates’ votes since it would be virtually impossible to buy the votes of all members of a political party in a particular constituency. It is to be particularly noted that more people will show interest and join political parties if they know they have the power to determine the outcome of who gets what in that party and who gets to lead and solve their problems which is the core essence of membership of political parties.

I concede that political parties in other countries depend on variety of other methods in choosing their candidates and party leadership. I am however a major advocate of the US and UK models for obvious reasons – the success and quality of both democracies and the ease with which politicians could be punished or rewarded by the electorates in election cycles. Is it not sheer insanity to learn by trial and error when you have successful development role models? Consequently, as another round of constitutional change is being debated, civil society organizations and opinion molders owe it a duty to Nigerians to mount pressure on the National Assembly to delete the obnoxious clause inserted in the 2010 Electoral Act amendment which allowed political parties to opt out of direct primary system for the selection of party flag-bearers. Pressure must also be mounted upon lawmakers to restore section 87(9) of the original Electoral Act 2010 which states that “where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue”. This provision was expunged in a move that was clearly selfish and self-serving as it was a complete u-turn from the well intentioned amendment originally carried out by the same lawmakers. Finally, if we truly want to get it right, this must also be extended to congresses for the selection of party officers. Only then can Nigerian political parties truly belong to Nigerians thereby bringing to a conclusive end the era of parties being the sole proprietorship of powerful individuals or empires of few well positioned strong men.

Tunji Ariyomo is a Policy Chair of the National Development Initiative NDi (an independent think-tank). NDi project can be accessed at www.nd-i.org.

E-mail: oariyomo@nd-i.org; Phone: +447532127503

 

Fact Check: Obasanjo versus Lamido Sanusi on N5, 000, By ‘Tunji Ariyomo

Tunji Ariyomo

The Punch (07/09/2012) reported that former President Olusegun Obasanjo said the planned introduction of N5, 000 bill would kill production and affect small businesses negatively. Few days later, Channels television (11/09/2012) credited the CBN governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, with saying that the former president was not only wrong but “a bad economist”.

This writer decided to conduct a fact check on the positions of the two eminent men. The primary claim of Obasanjo is that “the introduction of the N5, 000 note would kill production and affect small businesses negatively”. This summarily implies (1) negative impact on production, and (2) negative impact on small businesses. Within the context of Obasanjo’s remarks, he applied the terms ‘production’ and ‘small businesses’ generously in a way that left no room for ambiguity. Therefore, production in that context is directly related to productivity while small businesses would imply both small ventures (significant part of the small and medium scale enterprises SMEs captured in USAID’s definition) operating in the country’s formal sector and cottage businesses operating in the nation’s ubiquitous informal sector.

An important factor of production is cost (of land, labour and material). Last week in this column, I established the historical psychological reactions of Nigerian businesses to past Naira coinage to be simply a benchmarking of prices of their least products to the new lowest Naira denomination or its nearest multiples.  I opined that were Nigeria to have a N2 note today, there is a strong likelihood that the popular ‘pure’ water and similar products might cost N2 and that transport fares would likely be in multiples of that. A rent-seekers’ economy will thus merely interpret a high value (N50) lowest note correctly as an opportunity, a loophole, for artificial increase in prices which in turn will lead to increased cost (particularly of material) for cottage businesses as the induced devaluation further erodes owner’s purchasing power wherein the little amount of money with which they originally traded becomes insufficient. The CBN can take this as one of the A, B, C of how small businesses die. While it may be hard for a silvertail in government to understand that the entire capital outlay of a small business such as that of a widow who survives with her 3 kids as a food vendor may not be more than N4,000 (I have met a woman whose business capital was N2,500), such a harsh reality is trite in Nigeria.

I have met a shoe repairer whose entire capital was not more than N22,000 Naira and he had two people in his employment! Government collectively recognizes this and that is why the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) once fixed a small scale business’s capital to a maximum of N35, 000. These small businesses are the bedrocks of employment generation in Nigeria that are often not captured in government’s statistics because they belong to the informal sector – their data are not recorded in the gross domestic product (GDP) or the national income accounts. Interestingly, when you combine their overall employment contribution nationally, they are in truth as significant as the high end businesses that have employed thousands. From furniture makers to builders to sculptors, to provision sellers, to basket weavers, to broom makers, to mechanics etc, you can see them in every city, every village, in corners of streets and at most times of the day. Any policy that would undermine their capacity to sustain turnover or continue to employ will kill their businesses. There is no doubt that the metrics for defining the success of a small business are rate of turnover and number of employee.

Even when we scale up to formal SMEs, they are not immune. It may only take longer for them to feel the impact of any such policy that would weaken their purchasing power. Interestingly, studies by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) show that approximately 96% of Nigerian businesses are SMEs compared to 53% in the US and 65% in Europe (Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, 2012). Once small businesses are negatively affected, their contribution to national productivity would be impaired and overall production would be affected.

Relying on afore-stated explanation, Chief Obasanjo’s statement passes credibility test even though he is not an economist. The attempt by Sanusi to portray the statement as wrong therefore fails fact checking.

Finally, I have carefully examined the published claims by the CBN in favour of its plan. Except that we are not a nation that learns from other’s follies; when 500 euro notes was introduced to the UK, the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) found that nine out of ten were used for illegal activities as a favorite for organized crime gangs, terrorists and money launderers.  It was eventually withdrawn from circulation in Britain (Doyle, 2010).  Thus, rather than a new N5, 000 bill, it is more imperative for the CBN to target the informal sector with arrays of fiscal initiatives that would formalize the activities of a chunk of its players, ease its access to funds, reward entrepreneurship successes thereby making it an efficient, assessable and sustainable contributor to national productivity. By increasing productivity, abandoning its manipulative FOREX monopoly and perhaps nudging government to embrace reforms that will recognize merit, promote equity and socio-political stability, the apex bank would be helping Naira become a stable and reliable store of value (which is the only way it would ever compete with the dollar). Else, the CBN might just force Nigerians to conclude that the N40billion worth of contract for the minting of this new N5, 000 note and coins is a greater motivation on this issue than any patriotic desire to help Naira or help the Nigerian economy.

Tunji is a Policy Chair of the National Development Initiative NDi (a non-partisan independent think-tank). NDi Project can be accessed at www.nd-i.org

To respond to this column and ask question from Tunji or make contribution, send email to oariyomo@nd-i.org