A MAJOR RISK IN THE APPROACH TO REFORM OF NIGERIA’S ECONOMY – Strategy needed to avoid looming mass unemployment in Nigeria

Ever since the agrarian society of centuries ago, people have been the main factor of production in many societies. Even with the advent of the industrial revolution, machines that were created needed a lot of human input and control to function. That reality created lots of jobs for humans to do and the industrial revival led to many economies to close to having full emploNigeria_politicalyment status for many generations. But as we gaze deeper into the twenty-first century; things are changing radically.

Significant advances in technology are driving a lot of changes to the tapestry and architecture of a nation state in a way never seen before. With the talk of smart cities, advances in robotics and microengineering as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), we are at the cusp of a new world. The Internet of Things refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.

The “Internet of things” is becoming an increasingly growing topic of conversation both in the workplace and outside of it. It’s a concept that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. Broadband Internet has become more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down, and smartphone penetration is sky-rocketing.  All of these things are creating a “perfect storm” for the IoT.

internetofthings-1200x800Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from mobile phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.  This also applies to components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an aeroplane or the drill of an oil rig.

The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. That’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The new rule for the future is going to be, “Anything that can be connected will be connected.” There are many examples of what this might look like or what the potential value might be.

Say for example you are on your way to a meeting; your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take. If the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more? The possibilities are endless.IIOT-Big-Data-in-line

All the foregoing have huge implication for the role of human beings and employment rate in many societies. The traditional labour intensive job model is dying at an alarming rate and digitally-enables jobs are the key to the future. So as there is a massive curl of manual and analogue jobs; new digital and technology driven jobs will emerge.

This leads me to my concern about Nigeria. We are still in the manual labour mindset in our employment ethos as a nation. We are also failing to prepare our citizens for the future that is imminently going to be upon us. If the country is to modernise, we will have to embrace technology in all sphere of national life. This will, in turn, lead to massive unemployment as machine and technology take over previous manually executed function in our society. Business processes will be streamlined and automated in the new world we will find ourselves, yet the majority of our citizens are not being sensitised, trained and facilitated to reskill and upgrade their capacity to be able to leverage new technologies for national growth and society transformation.

Speaking to a friend in government a few days ago; he explained of technologies that can run our airports in such a way that if applied to the International Airport in Lagos will reduce staff numbers by seventy percent overnight. From, automatic invoicing and accounting systems, to robotics to handle luggage and so on. This model will create one of the most efficient airports in the world if implemented. But at what cost? Jobs. There will be massive unemployment as the staff currently in employment have not been Internet-of-Things-no-id_Section1_1920x1280equipped, trained or helped to transition to new technology jobs of the future.

If the nation is to modernise successfully; I will, therefore, advise the government of the need for a new focus on education in Nigeria. This will involve formal, informal and vocational education that will be technology focused in preparation for the future that is fast approaching. In Singapore, the government aims to make the country the first smart nation in the world. There is now a massive investment in technical education and technology training for both young and adults across that country.

The government is preparing the nation for a future that will become a reality for them in the next five to ten years. With sensors on every street corner and lampposts, lots of anonymised data is being collected in the country to inform the IoT technology that is being planned. This will automate a lot of tasks and functions in Singapore and make several current jobs redundant. Streetlights will come on not at a prescribed time but based on the weather condition. The street lamps will automatically order a new bulb for itself when it notices a burnt bulb. A lot of manual jobs will disappear but it will alsostock-photo-digital-economy-abstract-business-concept-wallpaper-background-17711158 create many new jobs that are technology driven, which is why the government is investing in the technical education of children and retraining of adults in technology and microengineering on a massive scale. Adult education classes are freely given to adults to reskill while still working in their current roles (that will soon become extinct). This will make transitioning very easy for the workers of Singapore to adapt to new jobs as they lose their current analogue jobs for digital explosion expected.

A lot of manual jobs will disappear under the new industrial dispensation but this will also create many new jobs that are more skilled, technology driven, which is why the government is investing in the technical education of children and retraining of adults in technology and microengineering on a massive scale in Singapore. Adult education classes are freely given to adults to reskill while still working in their current roles (that will soon become extinct). This will make transitioning very easy for the workers of Singapore to adapt to new jobs as they lose their current analogue jobs for digital explosion expected.

Why-the-Digital-Economy-is-important-to-our-Region-any-region-in-factThe Nigerian government is not approaching their duty in an integrated fashion. As the government role out new technologies, there will be job losses on an industrial scale. How many of these workers are going to be able to get a new job with the outdated analogue skills they possess? The inefficiency in many government operations in Nigeria is linked to the need to create jobs for people but not necessarily to deliver an efficient or optimised service. Our airports are an example; where there are too many agencies of government with duplicating functions, overlapping responsibilities thus slowing down passenger experience.

As this government tries to modernise our infrastructure and government procedures and processes; they should avoid creating a big unemployment problem as they go along. This will require a national revamp of our educational system and adult education infrastructure that is focused on technology skills that will be needed for the future. Solving one problem by creating another is not wise leadership in government.

New technical colleges may need to be created. The curriculum of state schools should be reviewed to place more emphasis on technology. Vocational and adult education facilities should be created. The government need to begin a massive exercise to reskill the working population in preparation for the inevitable changes that technology will bring.

A stitch in time saves nine the adage goes. Nigerian government need an integrated approach to development by doing a Change Impact and Job Impact analysis of every policy before implementation and put in place a national strategy to mitigate these impacts and prepare the population for the new world before it is too late.

Otherwise, Nigeria could end up in a lose-lose situation. Massive unemployment caused by technology-driven changes and also new technology platforms and initiatives that will fail due to lack of trained manpower to effectively manage it. These are both avoidable consequences if the government takes note and act now. God bless Nigeria.

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AN URGENT CASE FOR REFORM OF POLICE AND STATE SECURITY OPERATIONS IN NIGERIA

Policing Nigeria seems to be getting harder for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) due to the misguided agendas of the politicians who seem bent on destroying whatever is left of the operational effectiveness of the police. The NPF has been under attack since the mid-70s when the military administration, removed the Special Branch out of the Force and made it a separate independent organisation. The Special Branch later became the NSO during Shagari administration and then changed its name to the SSS of today.

Although its powers and operations are defined by laws, the practical operation of theNigerian-police-1 police is affected by the political and socio-economic interests of the governing elite and political groups in Nigeria.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in section 214 (1) states that:

“There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof”.

Section 214 (2)(a) empowers the National Assembly to produce an Act to organise and administer the details of police operations in Nigeria in ways that protects the constitutional rights of Nigerians. This is known as the Police Act. First enacted in 1943, it has been reviewed by the legislature in 1967 and 1979. A new review is being planned by the National Assembly.

This constitutional provision makes it unconstitutional for either the government of the states or even the federal government to establish a parallel police service in competition to the Nigeria police Force. This has however not stopped the Federal government from establishing additional investigatory and enforcement institutions, even though they have not called any of them ‘police’.

lagos-police-apcsnan1

Many in government agree that the Nigerian government seem to be in breach of the spirit of the constitution if not the letter of it. By not calling these parallel agencies “police” the government seem to say they have stayed within the provisions of the law. But with these agencies having powers similar to that of the police and taking over functions and duties performed by the police, it can be argued that if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog, walks like a dog, then it is a dog.

These agencies perform policing duties, hence it can be argued that they are police in practice if not in names. But nobody has yet litigated this fact by taking the government to a court of competent jurisdiction over it. Examples of these additional agencies are:

  • The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)
  • The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC)
  • The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)
  • The National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)
  • The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)
  • Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO)
  • State Security Service (SSS)
  • National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)

For instance, the CCT has not led to accelerated hearings of misconduct cases, hence there is doubt as to its continued existence.

Most in the Police believe the plethora of agencies, many with overlapping powers, and duplicated duties have led to the weakening of the main police force as a result of talent flight to these new agencies and reduction in police funding, as funds are allocated to these additional agencies.

The main police force is then left to do the heavy lifting task of crime prevention and investigation with fewer resources to do the job. These policing related agencies consume a lot of resources and many believe overwhelmingly they are inefficient and incoherent in operational agility. These many policing agencies stretches the budget of the government to the detriment of the NPF. We are now in a situation where the Federal government only manages to pay the emoluments of the police officers and barely nothing else is available for equipment, training etc, thus the operational funding of the police now largely come from the goodwill of the respective state governments. As a result, a multi-tier police is emerging. With states like Lagos able to better support the police and others like Adamawa doing much less. If this trend continues; the federal government will lose its moral right to a federal police structure it cannot afford to fund.

From nowhere, President Obasanjo created the Civil Defence corps and put his sympathisers in it. Billions of naira were spent establishing this group to perform duties meant for the Nigeria Police constitutionally. Few people see any value this group brought to the nation. But in the meantime, Billions meant for the Police has now been diverted to another agency created by politicians.

Seal_of_the_Senate_of_Nigeria.svgGiven the foregoing, one will wonder why the National Assembly is now creating another paramilitary group called the Peace Corps. It does not make sense. That will make it the ninth agency to be created to perform a traditional police function. If this Peace Corps bill is finally passed by the National Assembly, Nigeria will now have TEN organisations performing policing duties; including the main NPF itself. This is madness.

Effective policing in most countries is made of a unified police body that has specialist units within it to focus on special areas of security interests, but all under the same command and control system and sharing unified databases for joined up intelligence-led policing. Instead of this, Nigeria seems to be creating more policing agencies and inevitable confusion of roles, duplicated responsibility; unclear hierarchy of power amongst them and financial dissipation that makes the NPF suffer under little or no funding.

With the Peace corps, we have Ten policing organisations, Ten Back-office departments and cost centres, Ten databases, ten operational procedures and intelligence systems and a massively confused citizenry who are now not sure who to call on amongst all these policing agencies. In all countries I know of if a civil servant steals; you call the police. In Nigeria, we created the ICPC. Why? With these kaleidoscope of policing organisations, you also have Ten prosecuting agencies for relatively similar crimes. This creates multiple prosecution standards and inconsistent prosecutorial decisions.

In the end, it seems the politicians are only interested in creating power bases for themselves in the security sector of the country. This is to aid their manipulation of our laws and impunity in political activities. The solution is to unify all these agencies under the NPF, strengthen our police, fund them better and demand better outcomes accordingly.

The trend globally in the security sector is to join-up activities of different agencies and reduce their number to the barest minimum. We seem to be going in the opposite direction. You can finish serving a jail sentence for robbery in Niger state and travel to Lagos the next day to join the Police. There is no national database of criminals in Nigeria. The system relies on the honesty of applicants to declare their own past convictions. In fact, there is no State-wide database of criminals in any state. All we have is a state-wide record of cases, not criminals. And this is mainly manual when it exists. So if there is no joined-up operation within the police as a result of a paucity of funds and historical neglect; how much more between the police of all these other policing organisations. It will not be a surprise if a good number of our police officers are ex-convicts and others unfit to hold such vital roles.

Historically, while the military invested and modernise themselves infrastructure wise when they were in power, the police was deliberately underfunded and neglected. So the continuing negative public perception of the role and capacity of the police is a major source of concern in a democracy. Hence the NPF remain the most misunderstood profession by the general public in Nigeria. Many expect them to work magic despite the limitations and massive constraints of their tools and service conditions. Their performance is weighed with misconception and ignorance, resulting in an out of context assessment of their activities.

Ignorance of the inner workings of the police and the penchant for secrecy by the Nigeria police had led to little public confidence in the service by Nigerians, plenty of misconception and depleted public support and cooperation with the police. These challenges are being exacerbated by the plethora of policing agencies created by the politicians. These other agencies create a capacity problem for the police and dilute the funding available to the NPF.  In my opinion; it is now time we create a unified security platform in Nigeria under the leadership of the NPF as the only constitutionally empowered civil security organisation. Train them, strengthen them, support them and see a new security landscape emerge that we all can be proud of.

The NPF as presently crafted and treated by the politicians is set up to fail. We need the leadership of the National Assembly to see the need for a joined-up security infrastructure and unified command and control. Creating the Peace Corps must be abandoned and the funds meant for it given to the NPF to strengthen its numbers and operational tools. God bless Nigeria.

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TAX COLLECTION IN NIGERIA AND THE NEED FOR CAUTION AND COMMON SENSE – Taxation cannot bring Prosperity only Economic Growth will.

The Federal Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun has been all over thSCoUCSePe media lately trumpeting the government’s increasingly assertive drive to collect taxes. The Vice President has said as much in recent interviews and he even went further to announce the plan to increase VAT to either 7.5% or 10% in the next couple of years.

Part of the justification for this newly found aggression in tax collection is their statistics that Nigeria has one of the lowest Tax to GDP ratio in the world and that only about 12% of our adult population pay taxes.

On one hand I understand the need for the government to collect taxes, after all, we have been told by Benjamin Franklin that there are only two certainties in the world; Death and Taxes. But I have a problem with the one-sided use of statistics by this government. If we have one of the lowest Tax/GDP ratio in the world; how do we rank in poverty rate amongst citizens, healthcare provision, road infrastructure or even power supply. We hardly hear about these other pertinent statistics. Simply keenness at collecting taxes, without any visible or discernible corresponding positive effects of government on the people will be futile and lead to oppressive taxation. What have they used the taxes they already collect for? What evidence is there in the lives of Nigerians that the government is alleviating any of the chronic maladies that afflict our country? You cannot be collecting taxes and not make people’s lives better and expect more of the people to pay taxes.

Speaking recently to somebody close the government in Lagos state; he told me that the state government have collected more taxes in the past 18 months than at any other period. When I asked why; he said he thinks it is because people are increasingly seeing what the state government is doing with the taxes collected, hence more people feel morally and psychologically agreeable to paying taxes. It is true that all over the world, that the more people pay taxes the more their expectation of performance by the government will be. The more people see the bejnlk;nefit of government actions, the more accepting they will be of some form of taxation or another.

Over the decades, governments have been collecting taxes in Nigeria at all levels. Yet if you want to set up a small business; you have to generate your own electricity, build borehole to supply your own water, hire security guards to provide security and use private hospitals when you are sick as well as send your children to private schools for better basic education. So what exactly is the government doing for you? What is the government providing that will justify paying taxes?

So my advice to Ms Adeosun and her colleagues in this government is to increase their deliverables. Let the effect and positive impact of the government be felt by Nigerians and paying taxes will become an acceptable norm in Nigeria. Giving the choice of paying taxes and in return getting a stable power supply, pipe borne water, effective security by the police etc; most Nigerians will gladly choose to pay their taxes. But any drive to collect more taxes by a non-performing government of any party will fail.

One of the financial benefits of winning the hearts and mind of the citizens this way is that the cost of tax collection will become very low indeed as most people voluntarily pay their taxes. Enforcement and litigation to get taxes paid increases the cost of collection and makes less money for the government. Spending N10,000 to collect N15,000 in tax is less profitable than spending just N500 to collect same. So the more willing people are to pay taxes, the better the net revenue for the government.

Naira-Nigeria_currencySo rather than putting most of its focus on aggressive tax collection; the government should begin to deliver for the people. Produce quarterly reports of how taxes collected have been spent. What additional steps have been taken to making the lives of Nigerians better in a visible way. Then tax collecting will become a lot easier as people will begin to see a correlation between their taxes and infrastructure growth and social development in the country.

Any bellicose tax collection posture on businesses in Nigeria will ultimately affect the people. As President Reagan declared years ago; “You can’t tax business. Business doesn’t pay taxes. It collects taxes.” It is the customers and citizens that pay the taxes ultimately from their patronage.

No nation can tax itself into prosperity. Real prosperity comes when the national productive output grows not when people pay more taxes or the government collect more taxes. Economic growth is what prospers a nation and not just tax collection. That is why Winston Churchill advised after years in government that “We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” This will never work.

In the United States, Justice George Sutherland said, in the majority opinion for the Carter Coal case that “One who does a thing in order to avoid a monetary penalty Taxpolicybig4does not agree; he yields to compulsion precisely the same as though he did so to avoid a term in jail.”   Not agree with the concept of paying taxes for non-existent public services is the root of all tax evasion and tax avoidance schemes. At least it is if the tax rate is reasonable. Most people agree they need to pay some form of tax for better public services. But what happens if there are no public services, yet tax is demanded. Most people will try to avoid paying it. This is the challenge the Nigerian government face. Convincing a population to pay more taxes for public services that has been decimated and destroyed. This administration has collected more taxes than its predecessors in the past two years; yet Nigerians feel poorer, malnourished, abandoned and victimised than ever before. So pushing these same people to pay more for invisible outcomes will be a futile venture.

Winning hearts and mind will be necessary to create more voluntary tax paying population. And the delivery of better services is crucial to ensure this happens. I will advise the federal government to deliver first for the people instead of chasing taxes from them all over the world. The avenues and legal tricks to hide and avoid taxation are endless. The government will do well to creating a willing population first, that way everybody wins.

We know the government need money to implement its programme, but we have to see how the currently collected taxes is making a positive difference and not being swallowed up in inefficiency and graft. It will be like throwing good money after bad. The government need to convince Nigerians of the efficient use of revenues it currently collects before people will be eager to support with more funding through taxation and other means.

 

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THE NIGERIAN SENATE AND VOLENTI NON FIT INJURIA – A Legal Analysis of Sen. Ndume Suspension.

Volenti non fit Injuria in a Latin phrase that means to one who volunteers, no harm is done’. Volenti is an established common law doctrine which states that if a person willingly places himself in a position where an harm can result; knowing that some degree of harm might result, they are not able to bring a claim against the other party in tort. Volenti has a complex application that requires specific facts as evident in case law. I will however restrict myself to a narrow perspective that applies to the case in question in this article.

Volenti only apply to risks that are considered reasonable in the circumstance. So a boxerSeal_of_the_Senate_of_Nigeria.svg that enters a boxing ring accepts being punched by the other boxer as that is the nature of boxing. The specific consent in such a case, overrides the protection of common law on assault and battery. Therefore, no claim for assault or any crime can be brought against the other boxer. But if the other boxer brings a baseball bat into the ring and uses it to attack, then that is actionable breach as the bat is not an acceptable or recognised boxing tool; hence it is an unreasonable act that Volenti cannot protect from.

Volenti also known as the voluntary assumption of risk, is a total defence in Tort. This means if proven, it fully exonerates the defendant relying on it. For example, consenting to a medical procedure means you cannot sue the doctor for trespass on your person afterwards.

There are usually two main elements in volenti. Firstly, that the claimant was fully aware of all the risks involved in an activity, including both the nature and extent of the risk.  Secondly, the claimant waived (either expressly or impliedly) all rights to claim damages. For instance, signing a membership contract of a club, could be considered an implied acceptance of the rules governing the club as long as the consent (signing of the contract) was given free and voluntary and not under duress. If there is a relationship between the parties that will make free consent doubtful (such as in the case of an employer and an employee), due to power disparity; then volenti may not apply; but Contributory Negligence is a possible way to resolve this.  This mitigates damages due to the contributory actions of the claimant to the situation that caused the harm.

ndume-1-650x400From the foregoing therefore and given the specific facts in the Senator Ndume’s suspension by the Senate of Nigeria; it is my submission that the suspension (however perverse it is) is legal. Every Senator signs to a code of conduct and acceptance of the rules of the Senate on their first day on the job. This fact may hold Sen. Ndume volens with regards to the internal rules of the Senate and its provision. Ndume accepted to be bound by the rules of the Senate. That is a voluntary assumption of risk.  As long as due process is followed, the Senate can rely on volenti to defend their action in this case.

Some of the cases cited by respected legal luminary Femi Falana SAN, contained peculiar facts that defers from this case; thus they are not suitable authority. For instance, in the case of the suspension of Dino Melaye and group by the Dimeji Bankole leadership of the House of Representatives, due process was not followed as they were not given opportunity to defend themselves. But in this case; Senator Ndume appeared before the Ethics Committee to respond to and defend his actions. And it was the recommendation of that committee that the Senate acted on to suspend him.

What can be challenged however is the length of the suspension. Any action by the Senate must still be judged as reasonable in law and equity. Six months suspension may be considered excessive and denying the people of Southern Borno a voice in the Senate for six months requires a more serious breach than those committed by Ndume. Hence, the Senate could be judged to have acted unreasonably by suspending him for six months. In England, since the introduction of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945, the courts have been less willing to make a finding of volenti preferring to apportion loss between the parties rather than taking an all or nothing approach. This is why challenging the length of the suspension may be a better strategy than challenging the suspension itself.

It is my view that a seven to fourteen days suspension will be appropriate in this case. Please note that this is just an impartial legal analysis and not an endorsement of the actions of the Senate. Personally, I see nothing wrong in what Ndume did and there should not be any suspension at all. But as an outside observer, the Senate did not overreach its powers by suspending the Senator; although the length of the suspension seems unreasonable and therefore specifically justiciable.

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ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN -Value and Nature of Presidential Political Appointments and its Lessons for Nigeria.

As President Trump is finding out, running a business (no matter how large the corporation is) is a different kettle of fish from running a democratic country. While experience of managing a large corporation gives you a lot of transferable skills, new additional skills and competencies are needed to lead a fractured divided nation. However, the checks and balance incorporated into most democratic systems and the vast vested interests involved means a president cannot always be sure of the intentions and faithfulness of party members that surround him. Many presidencies have after all fallen due to the treachery and betrayal by previously loyal men and women. So what is a president to do? A common trend globally is the appointment of family members and long term loyal friends into office to ensure confidentiality and loyalty.mohammadu-buhari-official

The Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom have through history surrounded themselves with long term friends, old school mates and loyal long standing associates while in office. Not to be left out; the dictators of modern times all surrounded themselves with family members for exactly the same reason. From Saddam Hussain in Iraq, Kabila in the Congo to Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Whether they have official portfolios or not, leaders like to see loyal familiar faces every day.

All through American history, Presidents have always used trusted aids and family members as close aids and advisers as well as appointees. In my last count there has been at least nineteen presidents that have done this overtly; so this is a well travelled path. This is an advanced democracy governed by the rule of law, yet “nepotism” is an approved acceptable presidential conducted for a good part of its democratic history. Some of the notable examples are:

  • George Adams was the official secretary to his father.
  • Martin Van Buren appointed his son as his secretary.
  • Webb Hays was his father’s bodyguard and de facto chief of staff in the Whitehouse
  • Roosevelt Whitehouse was led by Anna for the latter part of his presidency. In fact, she was the de facto president for the last year of that administration.
  • JFK appointed his brother as the Attorney General.
  • Of course we see the Trump presidency using the same formulae by appointment of family members and close long term confidants.

Truth is, even if a son is fired by his president father as an adviser; he cannot be fired as a son. So there exist an eternal glue and bond that connects the president with his family members that makes them formidable associates in office. Loyalty is the most important quality Presidents look for and it is seldom obtained from strangers and casual acquaintances.

Additionally, leaders need honesty. But most people around them tend to be afraid of their jobs, hence will try to tell the leader what he wants to hear. But family members and close long term friends and loyalist tend to be more secure in their place in the life of the leader that they are not afraid of being sacked. Hence they are able to better confront the leaders with the truth.

Imagine if any minister of the Federal Republic said what Mrs Buhari said last year. He or She would have been fired. But despite his “other room” diatribe, the president could not sack his wife.  So close friends and families are better able to say what mere appointees are afraid to say.

The number one operational requirement of any president (regardless of the type of government) is TRUST and LOYALTY. It is therefore not a surprise that leaders will seek to surround themselves with people they trust and they feel will be loyal to their cause. Whiles there are laws in many nations that seek to spread national offices across the ethnic-religious and regional spectrums of each nation; there has always been scope for leaders to surround themselves with trusted hands, at least in their immediate circle. The usual aim of these distributive laws and conventions is to avoid undue dominance of one religion, ethnic group or region over the others. After all many conflicts have been caused by the hegemony of one side over the other.

So, the question is , why has appointments of close and trusted aids to governments worked in a place like the United States, but in Nigeria we make too much issue of this? Why do we focus more on the religion or state of origin of a Minister; instead of his productivity and effectiveness? Why is it that the worst man appointed “from my state or region” is better than the best man from another region? If there is productivity and progress, will it matter where the Minister is from or what religion he practices?

Nepotism is not a Nigerian or African phenomenon. We should stop making it look like a peculiar national problem. It is the break down of trust between Nigerians and their leaders that has led to a total mistrust of leadership intentions. So people will seek assurances and refuge in ethnic or religious identification of officials.

The fact is, a President can still choose to be corrupt even if all his appointees are complete strangers to him with no prior association and all federal character laws obeyed. This is no guarantee for an honest or effective presidency. In a Presidential system like ours, the buck always stops with the President; regardless of who his appointees are. We will hold him responsible for all the achievements and failures of his administration. So we should therefore stop focusing on the minors and start demanding results first; rather than make noise about the religion or state of origin of an appointee of the president. If appointing all his family members as federal ministers gives us stable Power, growing economy, full employment, security, great education and healthcare in Nigeria, that will be preferable to a non performing but regionally balanced cabinet.

The whole essence of a Presidential system of government is so that we can ultimately hold one person responsible for the direction, performance and achievements of the administration. Not because, the president does everything by himself; but because he decides on who to appoint and what is the agenda they should pursue. Hence, it is still all about the President’s judgments and decisions. In the end; no point blaming a non-performing Minister; blame the President that keeps him in position. If our leaders are to be held to such level of accountability; then we need to give them the benefit of allowing them to appointing who they want in their government; because in the end they will be held accountable. And we as the people should focus more on outcomes and productivity and less on who delivers it.

But I am also a realist. The clamour for religious and ethnic balance in government appointments is sown into the tapestry of the national apparel. So it is almost impossible for appointments not to degenerate into “how many Muslims”,how many Niger Delta indigenes” and so on are appointed. But as long as we prefer “our own”; instead of the “best person for the job”; we must be prepared to live with underperformance and stagnated development in the country. After all; despite the fact that the North have produced more leaders in Nigeria than any other region; the North is also the least developed part of the country. So there is no correlation between a region producing the President and the development of that region. Non at all.

It is time we extol merit above all else. Allow Presidents to choose his own men or women and then hold him fully accountable for there performance or otherwise. We should stop thinking these things are peculiar Nigerian issues when in fact all nations allow their leaders some free hand to appoint those he works with and become fully accountable for their actions. The President and all his men should be allowed to deliver for all the people.

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NIGERIA AND THE POLITICS OF DIFFERENCE AND DIVISION

What is it that makes us identify with other people as we go about our daily lives? What is the natural context for human existence and interactions? We tend to gravitate towards people who we believe are like us, even if we don’t know them. We tend to trust more people we believe have same fears as we do and see the world as us. Simply put, the natural format of human existence is Tribal. This could be based on ethnic, colour, language, geography, faith or any other emblem of collective similarities that exist. So when a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-faith nation is being formed, you are fighting against the natural tribal nature of humans. You are trying to bind together people who do not naturally see themselves as together. 

Good and visionary leaders will try to construct new threads and narratives that link people together in the name of national unity. They appeal to higher goals of our common humanity and communal interdependencies so as to engender a spirit of oneness and nationhood. Where such leaders do not exist, people will naturally backslide into their tribal caves bit by bit and It will soon become a fractured nation of they and us.

It is sad that in Nigeria, the people allow themselves to be used by politicians; who will fan the flames of ethnic and tribal sentiments to win power and then go ahead to cooperate with all ethnic, religious and tribal co conspirators to divide our commonwealth amongst themselves. The Dasuki List contain politicians from all ethnic, tribal, religious and geo-political zones. They were indeed one unified nation under God when it comes to corruption. But they become divided and tribal when campaigning or when being prosecuted.

It is a shame to read the nonsense from Femi Fani-Kayode over the past few days on his incarceration experience with the EFCC and meetings with Kanu in prison. I believe everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but Fani-Kayode is found of using intellectual veil to disguise his fallacious and inconsistent diatribes. You need to read between the lines so see that he is pursuing his own personal agenda and does not represent either the Yorubas or Nigeria. How much of the money they shared did he invest in his ‘beloved’ Yoruba communities? Like Asari Dokubo who made Billions under Jonathan but invested practically all of it overseas in neighbouring countries and practically non in Nigeria. How many Niger Delta citizens does he employ? You claim to fight for a people and yet give your jobs to foreigners. Such hypocrisy is symptomatic of Nigerian politicians and many activists.

The summary of my blog is that even in tribes, there are families of various status and rankings that comes together. My point is that a tribe is bonded together by separate unitary and separate lines of division; just as a nation glues together different tribes and faiths. We cannot always retreat to our tribal bunkers every time we are aggrieved. We need to understand that we are all now interdependent on one another.

Nigeria_politicalDuring the Janjaweed massacre in Darfur, the world joined forces to condemn (rightly so) the atrocities of the Sudanese government against South Sudan people and rebels. The global narrative at that time was of a war between the Muslim north and Christian South in Sudan. The South appeared as if they were an homogenous Christian people fighting for independence from a tyrannical Islamic North. Well few years later, the Christian South Sudan gained independence from Sudan and became the newest country in the world.

As many of you will know, the “united and Christian” South Sudan that appeared as a united and homogenous group during the war of independence have been fighting each other ever since. Over 100,000 people have been killed not by the Islamic North, but by the “Christian” South Sudanese themselves. They fought side by side to break away from the North, only to turn the same guns on each other after independence. They have now divided themselves by their different ethnic and tribal groups even though they are all still mainly Christians. There has been no peace in South Sudan since. So their assertion that their problems were wholly from the tyranny of the main Sudanese government has been shown as a fallacy. They were united fighting the North only to gain independence and start killing each other. This is a lesson for every nation who tries to play the tribal card. Today, Kanu and his likes want a Biafra Republic, because they feel hard done by the nation Nigeria. If there is ever a Biafra Republic, I can guarantee there will begin new internal war and fighting between constituent tribal units of the new nation and the usual pattern will repeat itself.

So the solution is not breaking our nation up, but agreeing that just as corruption can bind all our leaders together in common purpose regardless of their ethnic and tribal origins; Nigeria can be governed as a unified nation if we get the right leadership in place. There is already a proof of concept in place. The leaders come together and united when it comes to stealing. That shows unity can achieved if that passion is turned towards more constructive activities. If they can unite to steal, then it is possible to unite to rule a cohesive nation; bound by lofty goals of our fathers.

So Nigerians, don’t allow yourselves to be used and abused by these rascals called politicians and militants. Don’t allow the flames of division to thrive amongst us. These people are not leaders they are thieves and politricians, who trick the people for their own personal gains. Let us become faithful, loyal and honest to our country and make their days numbered who will not fight for the unity of our collective purpose and destiny as a nation. It is time to wise up. We are more united than we give ourselves credit for. God bless Nigeria.

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NIGERIA, A NATION OF CONTRADICTIONS FUELED BY IGNORANCE

One fact I have always accepted is that if everyone on this planet were like me, this will be a boring place for us all. Hence the diversity of temperaments, likes and dislikes make the earth a more dynamic, adventurous and interesting place to live. But looking at the socio-cultural posture of Nigeria, it is clear that inbuilt contradictions exist in most Nigerians and many are not fully aware of it. On one hand we criticize others from another ethnic group for behaving in a way that seems in consonance with their perceived cultural or religious believe (even if misguided); yet we try to claim an hegemony of our own cultural or religious values. So we are right and they are wrong; even if we do the same things we criticise them for.

A perfect example is the sad case of an Igbo woman who was killed by mob in Kano for allegedly insulting Islam. This was an horrific crime committed on an innocent lady and there can be no justification for it. There was rightly a national outrage and condemnation of this barbaric act by many fellow Nigerians. nigerian-police-abuse

But any social media user would have seen the weekly videos and pictures of suspected thieves or kidnappers being stripped naked, beaten and even killed all over the Southern parts of Nigeria; from Lagos to Port Harcourt to Enugu. So my question is, what is the difference? In Kano, an ignorant mob killed an innocent woman for alleged infraction of their religious sentiments but all over the south we frequently assault and even kill suspected “criminals” based on our mob justice and synthetic outrage. Which is worse?

Truth is we are all guilty. The fact that the motivations differ does not make the crimes any different. The foundation of our criminal justice system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. This safeguard exists for a good reason. All over southern Nigeria, I have seen cases of the mob supporting and praising the police for beating in public suspected criminals. But who decides guilt? I will tell you a story to illustrate this foolishness of a shameful national pastime many engage in. This is a true story.

Chinedu a student in Lagos called his fairly well to do cousin Peter for help to pay his school fees due in a week’s time. So Peter asked Chinedu to meet him in Ikeja so that he can give him some money. Their rendezvous was the car park of a popular bank. On getting there, Chinedu waited for his cousin to arrive. After five minutes, Peter arrived walking briskly and a bit out of breadth. He was holding a sports bag. “I need to quickly use the toilet next door, can you hold this bag for me” declared Peter to Chinedu after they exchanged pleasantries. So Chinedu took the bag and waited. Within 3mins a mob rushed in and confronted Chinedu shouting that he is thief who stole electronics from a shop in the market behind. All shouts of “I am innocent” was ignored. They took the sport bag from him, opened it and found the stolen electronics in it. They then commenced beating Chinedu, so much that it took the police to rescue him from being killed. The mob were convinced he was the thief simply because he had the bag with him. Had Chinedu been killed, the mob would have been satisfied they have delivered justice to a thief. But from the background I gave, you can see that Chinedu was an innocent boy, who was framed.

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This is why it is foolish to jump to conclusions without the facts. This is the reason why we have courts to determine the pertinent facts and give judgement based on evidence. You can never be sure of guilt until you get all the facts in every situation. Mob justice does not bother with facts or even the objective truth. They just use their rage to delver justice as they see fit. This is what happened in Kano. I am sure most of the mob that attacked this lady in Kano did not see or hear her commit the alleged infraction directly. They simply went by the words of someone with his own evil agenda. And this happens all over Nigeria daily as well. The fact that Kano was religiously motivated does not make it any worse than what the rest of the nation indulge in.

So we need to develop a sense of due process in Nigeria from the north to the south and stop being hypocritical by condemning something we also engage in. We need to be interested in facts and evidence rather than the rush to judgement. We should stop showing outrage with what happens in the North, only to do the same things ourselves albeit with a different motivation. Human life should matter and we all need to begin to give others the benefit of the doubt we expect to be given. A sad indictment of our education system is the many graduates that lack critical thinking capability.They do not know how to ask the right questions or critically challenge a thesis proposed to them. Blinded by all manner of sentiments (from religious to ethnic to moral), they believe easily the lies of others and allow themselves to be used as tools for criminal activities through mob action. We must all begin the change by making sure we do not allow ourselves to be used in future. Everyone must be responsible for their own actions. God help us in Nigeria.

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