Monthly Archives: July 2014

HOW APC IS HELPING TO RE-ELECT PRESIDENT JONATHAN

There is popular adage in Yorubaland that says you can predict what a person will become in adulthood through their behaviour and habits while still young. This wisdom is apt when considering the demise of effective opposition in our country. It is simply not good enough for the opposition to expect us to vote for them on the basis of a dislike for President Jonathan as a leader. The lack of effective articulation of what they stand for in many areas is a big elephant in the political room that could give President Jonathan a landslide victory in 2015 elections.

I am not a supporter of any political party in Nigeria as things stands because I believe they are all the same and fighting only for themselves and not the masses of Nigeria. As things stands today; there is no opposition party in Nigeria. What we have is two PDP parties under different names.

Immediately after the last presidential election; I had a face to face discussion with a key opposition player in which I explained how they can create an effective political structure that will become a government-in-waiting that will appeal to many Nigerians. I also explained that they need to do away with this policy of opposition for opposition sake, which lacks credibility and ambition. Even the greatest hater of President Jonathan cannot in true conscience say Mr President is wrong all the time.

I explained that the opposition needed to create a Shadow Government that will replicate the structure of the government in power. They need to have Shadow Ministers for every federal ministry that will become the point person and knowledge centre in each area of governance. I suggested that these Shadow Ministers should then produce a state of the nation policy document every six months that will review and tract the activities of the substantive government ministry they shadow. This document should contain praises for the things the government have done right and steep and deserved criticism for the things they have failed to do, with new policy recommendations. At the least; this approach will create several knowledge centres within the opposition team that will enable them to hit the ground running should they win the next election.

This approach will also convince Nigerians that they are indeed ready to govern if voted in and will portray the opposition as credible and full of ideas on moving the nation forward. But my counsel was not implemented. So what do we have now? An opposition that is void of any leadership or strategic direction. An opposition with no clear policy ideas in any area of governance that we can see or is memorable. An opposition that has a spokesperson who have become jack of all trade and master of none by speaking on everything from finance to agriculture to defence and security. How can one person effectively represent the opposition programme in ALL areas of government? As for Malam El-Rufai; he has tried in my opinion but he cannot alone carry the burden of policy evangelism for an opposition that is not policy driven.  For a February 2015 election; there is still no effective articulation of any policy by the opposition nor do we know who their candidates’ pool (or shortlist) are. All I seem to recall or remember about the opposition at the moment are their constant criticism of President Jonathan and not any policy they plan to implement if elected.

We are indeed in trouble as a people if the best we can do is this current bunch of opposition politician. That President Jonathan is lacking in many areas is no more news to Nigerians. What we equally do not know is what the opposition will do if they are in government. Producing a manifesto few weeks to election is not credible if it is not a product of active knowledge centres within the political party, which have developed during the years in opposition. Otherwise it will all be theories that will be quickly jettisoned for more expedient and lucrative options if they win the next election.

It is sad that our opposition parties (just like the government) are so focused on power grab that they have forgotten the most important element of our democracy; the needs and priorities of the people. I have therefore concluded that there seem to be a conspiracy against Nigerians by the political elite. They seem to have given us a semblance of opposition; but with the same players and puppet masters but different branding. And in any situation where the alternative is not clearly and convincingly articulated; people tend to stick with the “devil they know”. After all we all thought we will get better after President Yaradua, but see what we have now.

Making two blind changes in a row looks like a bad idea under any circumstance. So the greatest asset for the re-election of President Jonathan in 2015; seem to be the current opposition posture and composition. Mr President seem to be getting more effective opposition from within his own PDP than from the APC.

So if the opposition remains fractured, docile and just opposing as they are now; they will help re-elected President Jonathan easily next year. It is almost too late for a major change to filter through and change people’s impression of a failing opposition movement. But a late change of course is better than none at all in my view. The opposition need to show they have a broad based pool of talents and experts in all fields and sectors that will convince the voters that they are worth voting for. The status quo will wipe out the opposition vote next year and give us more of the same.

We need to begin to see clarity of direction from the opposition. Clarity of leadership. Clarity of policies and more importantly clarity of ambition to work for the people if voted in and change our collective fortune for the sake of posterity.

 

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NIGERIA’S TRUE REVOLUTION: The Blueprint for the Re-election of a President

As an observer of the Nigerian political drama over the past many years; I have never been fanatic in my support for any candidate. I am passionately pro-Nigeria; hence my support for any political player hinges on my analysis of his or her effect on Nigeria as a nation. It has been perplexing to watch the venom and blind positioning of both pro and anti-Jonathan brigade in real life and on the social media. This is not a new development in global democratic experiments and implementations. There are political figures that evoke such divided passions all over the world. But my concern in this article is Nigeria as a nation. How do we move past these divided allegiance in the interest of the nation?

In my analysis; there are ten percent of the voting population that are pro and anti-Jonathan regardless of what he does or does not do. These people are not driven by any objective rationale but sentiments, emotion and personal beliefs for or against President Jonathan. These people are beyond sensible redemption so to speak; hence my article is not directed at them. It is a waste of time trying to convince these Jonathanists or Anti-Jonathanists as I call them. These people are easy to identify. They are loud and bully their way into every argument. They don’t make sense in their position many times, but they do not care. Their existence is just part of life. Sadly the ten percent GEJanti-Jonathanist are not any better. They oppose for opposition sake. To them the President is always wrong, no matter what he does. These opponents of Jonathan do not have any articulated policies or constructive alternative. Their job is simply to pollute the polity and confuse everybody along the way. They are not better than the administration they claim to criticise. Such opposition will equally fail if ever elected.

This leaves Eighty percent of the voting population amenable to change and persuasion based on rational and superior arguments; evidential explanation or analysis and transformative policy implementation. These are the people that support or oppose President Jonathan but not in a fanatic sense. They are open to be convinced and swayed if needed. I am directing my writing to this group of people. I have written in the past criticising the claims of economic growth & development by Dr Okonjo-Iweala, the finance minister and other players in the Jonathan administration. Belching out banal macro-economic statistics (even if correct) does not translate to real experiential economic progress by the average citizen.

Those who support President Jonathan are quick to remind us of his achievements. The major players in the government are always ready to unleashed statistical figures that shows Nigerian economy as growing and enlarging. They quote good GDP growth figures and Foreign Inward Investment rate for instance. While these figure may be true; they mask some of the key problems in the economy. Ever since the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was invented by the Americans as a measure of economic performance; it has been criticised by many leading economists and political leaders for not measuring the “real state of affairs” in the lives of ordinary citizens.

For instance in a country like Nigeria; a 20 percent export-led growth by the ten largest companies like Dangote etc can easily feed into a substantial growth in GDP. But that does not mean the average person is better off or address the cost of living crisis that Nigerians face daily. It does not address the negative income growth due to inflation and wage stagnation in many sectors of the economy. The fact that people feel worse off is not captured by this macro-economic numbers. Hence; there are many thing GDP does not measure.

Dr Joyce Banda , former President Republic of Malawi said last year as follows: “As for me, growth is not merely about GDP growth. Growth is about wealth and prosperity for all, opportunity for all, happiness for all, political and economic freedom for all. Growth is about growing and improving access to education for our children, and creating jobs for our youths. Growth is about growing the number of mothers who give safe birth in a hospital. As women leaders, we should not allow children to suffer from malnutrition. We should refuse to allow our children to learn under trees rather than proper classrooms. We should refuse to allow mothers to die while giving birth because the nearest health centre is far away .Whenever these challenges are prevalent, our economies cannot meaningfully achieve the sustainable economic growth we all aspire for”.

I could not have said it any better. The OECD and other global outfits have a measure of nation’s economic performance that is all encompassing and goes beyond GDP. This is called The Prosperity Index (developed by the Legatum Institute). This is the only global measurement of national success based on both income and wellbeing. Their econometric analysis has identified 89 variables, which are spread across eight sub-indices.

By measuring prosperity holistically they are able to identify and analyse the specific factors that contribute to the success of a country beyond just GDP statistics or other banal statistical measure that does not impact on the true economic realities of a nation’s citizenry. These Eight Prosperity indices are: Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Education, Health, Safety & Security, Governance, Personal Freedom and Social Capital. According to the Institute’s survey of Entrepreneurship in Nigeria; 0413-nuclear-summit-Goodluck-Jonathan_full_600the raw GDP statistics masks major weaknesses in indices of national prosperity and economic wellbeing. In its report in 2013 it noted that economically (reference to 2012 performance), Nigeria paints a mixed picture. GDP growth is recorded at an impressive 7.9%, however a high inflation rate of over 7%, high levels of unemployment, and poor internal infrastructure stifle long-term, sustained growth it said.

Nigeria it stated has significant oil reserves but its reliance on revenue from oil has been described as “damaging”, while the risks of relying on oil reserves as a one-pronged economic strategy is well documented across Africa. They concluded that “Factoring in the current instability of the global economy as a whole, we may reasonably conclude that a diversified, entrepreneur-led economy is crucial to Nigeria’s long term success and stability”.

The Legatum Institute produced in 2013 its annual National Prosperity Index for 142 countries in the world. Nigeria ranked a dreadful 123 out of 142 countries in 2012, that is a relegation from our already bad rank of 104 in 2011 and 106 in 2010. That means by a holistic measure of national prosperity and wellbeing as measured globally; Nigeria has slipped backwards and performed worse between 2010 and 2012. South Africa was ranked 74, Tunisia 78, Namibia 83, Ghana 87, even Mali was did better than us at 104. Looking behind the overall poor ranking of Nigeria; we performed worst between 2010 and 2012 in the following indices: Economy (drop of 31 point), Safety & Security (27 point drop) and Education (17 point drop). We however improved in Personal Freedom (gain of 10points) and Social Capital (gain of 3points) measures.

So while I praise the Jonathan government for some of its high level macro-economic achievements; attention now needs to be paid to the wellbeing of Nigerians in a holistic way. In this article, I will be looking at one of such a way. It is a known economic fact that there are more business opportunities in any economy than job opportunities. The engine for growth in Nigeria therefore will not be just more jobs for the unemployed (although that is needed by many) but an entrepreneurial explosion. It is true that it is the private sector that creates job in any economy that grows, but the State should create the enabling environment. Government should encourage and promote new businesses and our universities should emphasize entrepreneurship more rather than the current focus on getting a degree and going to apply for jobs that are not always available.

There exists today a multitude of objective data about entrepreneurship in Nigeria. For example, the Index report states that the average time it takes to start a business in Nigeria (31 days; although in some areas this can be over 3months), the total tax rates, as a percentage of commercial profits, faced by Nigerian entrepreneurs is 32.2%. The growth of any economy is based on the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises. A concerted and unified strategy is needed to make a success of this vision. So rather than trumpeting pure statistics that means little to average Nigerians, the government should put more effort in productive activities and strategy that impacts on the day to day living of the people. Of the eight indices measured, Nigeria improved in only two of them under this government. So we have slipped backward in six of the Prosperity Index in two years since the President was elected.

While I congratulate this administration for some of its macro-economic successes; the nation now need real cost of living growth by the average citizen. Like I said before; the government cannot keep employing people to reduce unemployment. This is madness and unsustainable. It is growth in new small and medium businesses that grows the economy and impact the positive experiences of the average citizen.

So I will address one of the many actions the government can take to directly impact the people’s lives positively and grow the economy; beyond the GDP figures. I call this the Entrepreneurial Revolution.

The government should therefore consider the following seven steps as part of its immediate strategy:

  1. Improvement in the Power situation in the country is vitally needed. Starting a business in Nigeria is like building a small town of your own. I know people who had to build their own road to their new factory, generate their own electricity and water, employ their own security and so on. These add up to 60 percent to the cost of production in some sectors. An improved power supply will help reduce substantially the cost of running a business. I know this is being addressed by the government. But we need to see more evidence of progress as soon as possible.
  2. The government should create an easy online company registration process. In the USA, there are states in which you can register a company and print out your registration certificate all in 10mins. In the UK you can do same within 24hrs. Why must it take weeks to register a company in Nigeria and at a huge cost. The average cost of registering a company in Nigeria I am told is N100,000. Some are less and most are more depending on who does it for you. This is about £400. To register a company in the UK cost about £25 and you will be emailed your certificate within 24hrs. The government should commit to an Entrepreneurial revolution by simplifying and bringing down the cost of registering a business. With some small scale businesses like Candle making possible with N150,000 capital investment; can you imagine requiring another N100,000 just to register the business. This is madness. So until such electronic portal is ready; the government should abolish its own registration fees charged to new businesses and work to reduce drastically the cost and time needed to get a business registered.
  3. The government should setup a network of nationwide free and easily accessible Business Advice Centres in every state. These centres will provide all its services for free and will be able to advice entrepreneurs on running a small business. These centres will also be able to provide support to businesses needing investment by linking them with government and other grants available and advice on best practices in business operations management. These centres will also be one stop shops for all government business forms and registration. This will simplify access to government requirements and encourage compliance by new businesses.
  4. The government should build a series of Business Parks across the country to house small businesses office needs at subsidised rate. These parks will be well located where there is easy transport links and be equipped with basic facilities and communication needs of small businesses. It will be like Hotdesk rentals for small businesses with shared meeting rooms etc. This will provide easy postal, fax and physical reference points for new businesses.
  5. The Federal government should make it a policy (just like in the USA) for a fixed percentage of all government contract annually to be exclusively for only new and small businesses. This will apply to single contract limit of up to a determined sum; for instance N1Miilion for instance. The average in most countries with this policy is Ten percent of all government contracts. This will guarantee some steady work stream for new and small businesses. The procurement requirements for these contracts will be simpler and take into account that these are new businesses. So for instance asking to produce Five years previous Accounts or tax clearance for a business that is two months old is an impossibility.
  6. The government should sponsor an annual small business award event encompassing all sectors. This will not only celebrate small businesses but also help showcase and highlight them to the wider economy. Big private sector companies will be able to see the benefit of using the best in the small business community.
  7. There should be a Federal Minister who job is simply to promote and support the case for new and small Businesses across government. This will not only show government commitment but ensure any presidential policy directives are implemented effectively in all departments. This minister will also champion policies that promotes new and small businesses across government.

The best case for the re-election of any government is its positive impact on the lives and wellbeing of people. This government should begin to measure its actions by its impact or benefit on small businesses and not just be seen to be promoting Big Business interests. When this being to happen; the average man on the street will be able to see and experience the trickle-down effect of government policies and will be more supportive of such a government.

The Jonathan administration can easily trigger such an entrepreneurial revolution and warm its way into the hearts and minds of the people. When you are loved by the people genuinely; there is nobody that can rig you out of power without invoking the wrath of the people. It is time for the government to focus more on the needs of the majority and not just the few. The Nigeria of our dream is possible if there is courage and wiliness to make it happen.

The easiest way to get re-elected is for Mr President to embark on such mass revolution that will positively impact majority of the people. This will win the votes of most of the 80 percent rational citizens who loves Nigeria but want to see policies and actions that improve their lives. This is not too late to achieve.

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THE BENEFITS OF IMPEACHMENTS – Strategic Lessons for those in Nigerian Political Arena

With the impeachment of Gov. Nyako of Adamawa state still hot in the oven; there are reports of the “Nyako Treatment” being planned for several other governors in Nigeria. The focus seems to be mostly the governors that defected to the APC from the PDP, with many commentators happy about this development calling it democracy in action.

Before I reveal my analysis of the situation I will like to lay something to rest. Those that say the President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP have nothing to do with these fresh “impeachment movement” are in my view turning the truth on its head. I heard somebody say that it was simply an Adamawa domestic political machinery that got rid of Nyako. Well…nothing can be further from the truth. It is like saying that David had nothing to do with the death of Uriah in the Bible. That it was Joab and the Nigeria_politicalmighty men that departed from him at the fore front of the hottest battle that killed him. As many know; that is only part of the story; because if David did not give the order in the first place then all the subsequent events would not have happened leading to the murder of Uriah. So let us be clear; the Presidency and PDP have hands in instigating these waves of impeachment. That does not make it wrong to impeach these governors; but we need to be clear who the puppet master is in this case and that is the Presidency.

It is instructive how corrupt politicians, hated and despised my most voters can suddenly become progressive and acceptable simply by changing party membership and affiliation. It is a case of you are ok until you have defected to another party. Truth is practically all these governors of whichever party have blood in their hands financially speaking. Many have stolen their state blind and empty the government coffers for personal gain. But to the people in power, they seem ok until they defect to the opposition; suddenly they are now corrupt. Is it not curious that the alleged corruption upon which Nyako impeachment was predicated took place while he was still a PDP governor, few years back? He was not corrupt then but now he is backdatedly. He only defected to APC recently; but his alleged offenses went back many years before.

But despite these apparent contradictions and self-serving outrage by the Presidency-induced puppets; I actually think these impeachments are healthy for our democracy. Allow me to explain FIVE main reason for my thesis.

a) Impeachments will enable all politicians to reflect on the uncertain nature of political office. It will make them realise that nothing is permanent and hopefully self-sensor themselves by curtailing their excesses. In this regard these wave of impending impeachments are healthy.
b) Impeachments will reduce the cases of political opportunism. How can you take PDP money to get elected and then simply defect to the opposition after you get into office and expect the PDP to keep silent. You are denying them opportunity to recoup their investment as it is the norm in the aberration called Nigerian political Arena.
c) Legitimate impeachment of governors that is celebrated by the Presidency, makes it difficult for the Presidency to complain if the President himself is then impeached by the National Assembly at a later date. Afterall what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If the Presidency normalises impeachments; then it helps to strengthen the legitimacy of any future impeachment targeted towards him by the national legislature. So let the Presidency that occupies a glass house continue to throw stones. What goes round comes around.
d) If the state legislature (although induced) see the actuality of impeachments in many states; they may in future (when not induced) be embolden to actually impeach deserving governors who do not work for the interest of the people. A Lion that has tasted blood will more readily go after a future prey, even when nobody encourages him.
e) Impeachments of many governors will hopefully awaken the citizenry to the importance of those they elect into the state houses of assembly. With the frenetic focus of most people on federal offices; many have paid little attention to those vying for state houses. This is because many consider the state legislature as less important. But with several impeachments; people will wake up to the reality of our constitutional arrangements by placing proper value, scrutiny and importance to state legislative contenders in future. This citizen sensitisation is healthy for our democracy.

Our political arrangements in Nigeria at the moment does not give the people a genuine choice. Regardless of the names of their parties; practically all these politicians are of the same egocentric persuasions. More than half of the bigwigs in APC today were all PDP members three years ago. So are they really different? Or they simply defected because they could not have their own way in PDP. Same applies to the APC to PDP defectors too. Hence, I do not belief the defections as we have seen in Nigeria as healthy or helpful to the people. Political prostitutes parade themselves with glee all over the country and the citizens are being made to choose between Satan and the Devil.

The strategic lesson going forward is to encourage politician to stay within their party and fight for what they belief, rather than jumping ship like opportunists many indeed are. Obviously those that find themselves in a new party as a result of political mergers are clear exceptions. Changing political party membership does not make you a better governor or better politician. You are good or bad, all by yourself. There is no political party in Nigeria today that prevents you from being a good and effective governor or Legislature if you choose to do so. But what has been happening is that birds of the same corrupt feathers have been flocking together.

So, do I want more impeachments; Yes please. Bring it on. Let the snakes begin to eat their own intestines. Let them begin to destroy the myths of permanency many assume exist in politics. And let them understand that the only true alliance politicians can have is with the people and not with comrades in theft whose loyalty is for sale. When politicians realise that they cannot fully trust themselves; they will realise that their true loyalty should be to the electorates and not their chums.

There is no perfect political structure or institution anywhere in the world. Accordingly the problem we face in Nigeria is not so much about the structure of our politics; but with its players and sponsors. Bad people will make every system bad, but good people will make even a bad system look good. Let the politician who chooses to be good stand their ground and fight for what they belief from within their parties rather than simply jumping ship. This is particularly needful in an ideology-free landscape environment like Nigeria. The other parties are not any better, so why bother.

Politics in any climate is not for the faint hearted. You have to be in the arena to know what it takes. This concept was perfectly captured by a great American president Theodore Roosevelt when he said: “The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, who strive valiantly; who know the great enthusiasums, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at best know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if they fail, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” So be steadfast and work for the people, thou man in the arena.

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