Tag Archives: Charles Omole

BUHARI’s Danger of Mandate Misdirection

In my last post, I advised President Mohammadu Buhari (PMB) to go narrow and deep in his approach to governance. This requires him to focus on narrow areas of policy and dive deeply into them to embed irreversible change for the benefit of the people in defence of his democratic change mandate. I posited that this is better that a wide and shallow approach which tries to initiate change on too many fronts, but not effective in institutionalising change in any of them. Dissipating energy in too many areas but not concluding any of them. It’s like jack of all trade and master of non. mohammadu-buhari-official

The kind of alliance that was cooked together in APC to get PMB elected requires compromise and a doze of reality. Had CPC won the election; PMB would have had the focus needed to effect his passionate change mandate with minimal compromise. But with the compromise necessary to produce APC, PMB has to reflect on this and know that he cannot implement all he had in mind in CPC and that APC contain people of dubious credibility just like the PDP. In fact many were in the PDP until recently.

The danger as I see it is that other than his fight against corruption; there is no discernible strategic direction  to the workings of this administration. There appears to be a drift in policy that is not joined up, is disjointed and and lacking coherence. For instance, I do not see any strategic vision for the policies of the CBN in the management of our monetary policies. Each day is another directive from the CBN but all lacking clarity of purpose and no understanding of what the end game should be. The CBN was pursuing a cashless policy by encouraging Nigerians to use electronic fund transfers; yet the CBN Governor was happy to give Millions of Dollars in cash in a briefcase to the former national security adviser. Why did the CBN not ask to transfer the funds to a nominated account? Why pay in cash such huge amount in direct contradiction of its own cashless policy? Where is the cashless policy gone? And yesterday, the CBN introduced a N50 Stamp Duty Charge for every deposit (including electronic) made into peoples accounts by third parties. This N50 charge is fixed regardless of how much was transferred above N1000. A more equitable approach would have been to start at N50,000 transfers (this will exclude most of the poor) and then make it a percentage of the funds value starting from N1 to up to N100 maximum. Paying N100 charge on a N50Million transfer is negligible for instance. In most nations of the world, Stamp Duty is a percentage of the transaction concerned to allow for proportionality, equity and fairness. By introducing this fixed charge; it will drive more people away from the banking system in direct opposition to its Cashless society vision. Where has the cashless policy gone? With its ban on ALL use of Debit cards abroad; the CBN has succeeded in one swoop to reverse many of the gains of its cashless policy. Now many are back to cash is King frame of mind. Who can blame them?

In my opinion; probably the worst appointment made by PMB is that of the Information Minister. Lai Mohammed is a politician and good at spin and misdirection. He was effective as APC spokesman; but a government with mandate for change requires credibility  and trust from the media and the public. Lai Mohammed seems incapable of delivering this. He is still in the spin mode and each time he speaks; he reduces the credibility of this administration further.

What is the solution you may ask me? The answer is as follows:

  1. PMB should set up a Central Policy Unit (CPU) in his office. This team made of experts will produce the policy direction of his administration across all sectors of the economy in a coherent way.
  2. These policies will then be handed over to the various ministers to implement in their respective ministries.
  3. The accountability of each minister will be for the delivery of the policies given to his/her ministry. This will have KPIs and targets for implementation. More importantly; there will be the assurance that the policies are joined up with that of other ministries in a way that creates coherence and compelling outcomes.

Without the creation of the CPU, each ministry will simply pursue there own agenda, conflicting policies will emerge from various ministries and the government will lose momentum and the drive to deliver its change mandate. The CPU also allows PMB to control the narrative of his government by managing the CPU directly. The CPU also allows impact of policies to be objectively tested across all sectors before its implementation. It allows the government to project a coherent posture with the direction of travel clear for all to see. This will help eliminate any perception of a reactive, uncoordinated, piecemeal and confused administration.

So, to avoid a misdirection of the change mandate given to him; the president should do the following:

  • Create a solid leadership for EFCC (with the encouragement of the Chief Justice and other agencies) and allow these institutions to pursue and prosecute corruption official past and present. PMB should stop making corruption his main daily talking point. There is more to governance than fight against corruption. PMB should allow his team to lead on this war on corruption while he focuses on other things that are essential to Nigerians.
  • PMB should create a CPU as stated above in the Presidency. This unit will produce a collective policy framework that will then be passed on to the ministers to deliver, sector by sector. It must not be left to each minister to produce its own policies. Doing so is a recipe for disaster and confusion. The left hand will not speak to the right hand. I also believe many of these ministers are better at monitoring deliver of policies than producing one themselves. Many of them lack the 360 degree thinking needed for a joined up operation.
  • PMB should focus his press statements on how he is dealing with issues that affect Nigerians daily instead of a fixation with corruption statements. Truth is Nigerians will measure any fight against corruption by results and outcomes rather than just statements and press releases. So let your administration outcomes and actions speak for you on corruption, Mr President, rather than the daily statements we see with no legal conviction in sight for any of the alleged corrupt officials. PMB should speak about Power, Roads, Prices of goods, education, health and so on. Let the institutions you have set up deal with corruption matters in the background Mr President.
  • Setup a quarterly State of the Nation Press conference where you will be able to explain what your administration has done in the preceding quarter in ALL areas of national life. Control your own narrative; rather allow yourself to be defined by the words of your enemies.

There is a blueprint on how all these will work that is tried and tested. I wish PMB all the best and God’s wisdom as he delivers on the change mandate given to him by the people. Change in Nigeria has to be one step at a time and the work begins now. It is doable and we all have a part to play. It is then we will all be able to say in the words of our true pledge to Nigeria: “…to be faithful loyal and honest. To serve Nigeria with all our strength…and uphold her honour and glory. So help us God”.

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Abati: The Jonathan they don’t know – A REJOINDER

I read today’s piece in the Sun Newspaper by Reuben Abati titled: THE JONATHAN THEY DON’T KNOW.  (Link is: http://sunnewsonline.com/new/opinion/abati-the-jonathan-they-dont-know). As official spokesmen go; Abati has done a bland job of promoting his boss and his administration. But clearly what is good for GEJ is not necessarily good for Nigeria. I am surprised at the naivety or deliberate misdirection of Abati in his article. In the world of real politics; Presidents wins or loses elections not because of what they do right per se; but the significance of what they do wrong or don’t do at all.

That is why the famous Clinton cliché comes to mind with regards to American politics. He said: It’s the Economy stupid. What that simply means is that if the nation’s economy is bad and people are in pain; it does not matter how many wars you won as president; how many women you appoint into your cabinet or how many hours a day you work; you will NOT win an election and you will not be popular with the electorate.  So rather than Abati telling us all this good things about his boss; why does he not tell us what he has done on the salient issues to Nigerians; Unemployment; Collapsing Infrastructure, Corruption, Government waste; Inefficient public services and so on.

I agree that sometimes the critics of Jonathan’s administration try to portray him as a man that has never done any good at all for the nation. That will not be true and I am not in that category. Nobody can be a hundred per cent bad; we all have some good in us. Also nobody has a monopoly of knowledge.  Hence the issue is not whether GEJ has done some good for the nation since his assent into office; but the vital consideration is what has he done on the Major issues affecting Nigerians and is the country heading in the right direction.

So this administration will be judged by how well it performs on the main issues affecting ordinary Nigerians and not by many of the banal statistics and credits that Abati seek to amplify. We care less how many times the President eats if he creates an economy that allows Nigerians to put food on their own family table. Nigerians don’t care about how many megawatts of power you generate; they will only judge by how regular their power supply is. And if this administration has fixed the power sector; Abati will not need to say so; Nigerians will know for themselves in their daily living.

There is a Presidential election in the USA in November this year and despite many of the excellent things Obama administration has done for the USA; he risks losing that election simply because of the bad economic climate in the country. So Obama is not being judged by the many good things he has done; but by his perceived inability to fix the American Economy. This is the real politics Dr Abati. Your boss will not be evaluated by Nigerians based on many of those things you stated; but by the basic human need for economic progress, survival and advancement. So, based on the major issues topmost on the problem list for Nigerians; GEJ administration is not performing; although he may be performing well in other subsidiary areas.

Some of the things Abati stated in his article are laughable if not ridiculous. Abati stated for instance that: He (the President) knows Nigerians want infrastructure. That is why he is telling Bi-Courtney to fix Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or get out”. What a joke. This is the President of the Republic we are talking about. He is “Telling” a Bi-Courtney….. after many years of inactivity. A better leader would have sacked the buggers and allow new people to get on with it. After all, Bi-Courtney has breached their contractual timeline by many years. Abati makes his boss sound like an adviser rather an the all-powerful Executive President.  Abati further stated; “That is why he has directed the relevant agencies to get corrupt persons to answer for their misdeeds”.

So where is the proof or outcome of these directives?  How many have been arrested? How many cases has prosecution started? It’s all talk, talk and talk. We know the president can talk, but can he act? That is what Abati failed woefully to demonstrate in his piece. Showing us a president that can talk is not good enough; we need one that can act. Abati defended his boss by saying he does not eat much and does not get drunk. But what did GEJ need feeding allocation of almost N1Billion for in his 2012 budget. I know this was latter cut to over N700Million after many outcries. So the facts do not support Abati’s assertions.

But for all of us; Nigeria is what matters. Not GEJ or anybody else. So it is in our interest to help the nation succeed and not be blinded by partisan curtains. I believe the best way Abati can represent his boss is for him to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analysis of this administration.  An opposition will be more credible if it credits the government with some of the things they have got right; while still criticising them for what they have not done or got wrong. In the same way, a Spokesman for the President will be more credible if he does not insult our intelligence by making GEJ sound like the best thing since slice bread; but admit his mistakes, errors, corrective measures and of course successes as well. This will create more credibility for his views.

Finally, from my analysis, Abati and company are not using the right strategy to convey the message of their government in a vertically and horizontally complex media and communication landscape like Nigeria. It has already been said that politicians campaign in Poetry but govern in Prose. In an attempt to win the last election, GEJ promised the earth to everybody; now he is in power his performance is not meeting the expectations he helped to create. There are clear strategies to fix this imbalance and I will write about this in a future article. Not because I am a particular fan of GEJ; but I am a lover of Nigeria and will like to see this nation move forward for all our sakes. But in the meantime the spin-doctor should avoid spinning himself out of relevance.


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The key to Transformation of Lagos State

I wrote a recent blog on  the danger of Lagos state government speeding ahead and leaving the rest of the nation behind in progressive developments and proactive legal framework. I am a supporter of majority of the new laws Governor Fashola’s administration has enacted.  But I also feel the key to the achievement of the desired outcomes is Implementation. The confusion created by the false murder accusation by LASTMA against Mrs Yinka Johnson in August 2012 speaks to my concern about how the doctor administering the medicine can kill the patient very easily.  A good law that is badly implemented will lead to unintended consequences that will portend danger for the state’s continued prosperity.

Take the tax policies in Lagos as another example. There is an aggressive tax collection posture in Lagos state, which in my view is in danger of becoming counter productive; not because the law is faulty; but it is being badly implemented. A friend of mine had a factory in Lagos and was given a tax bill of N20Million, which he vigorously disputed through his accountant and lawyer as inflated and unreasonable. He made a case that his additional tax liability is only N4Million which he then promptly paid. But Lagos tax collecting machinery rejected his position; so my friend expected that he will be taken to court for a judicial decision on the matter. Alas, a week later his factory was invaded by a team of gun-carrying Policemen and Lagos state government officials. They literally broke down the gate and locked up the premises, closing the factory. He was told that unless he paid their original tax assessment; his business will remain closed. Lagos state officials became the judge, jury and executional all in one go. He had to go and borrow money from the bank to pay the bill for his factory to be opened a week later. This kind of extra judicial and improper activities happens weekly all over Lagos I am told.

My friend promptly relocated his factory to Ogun state after this incident to avoid future occurrence. So Lagos lost a factory employing directly 120 Lagosians  (and about 80 more jobs in the supply chain) due to bad implementation of a tax collection policy.  Speaking to many businesses in Lagos you will hear similar stories of harassment by tax officials, planning officials and environmental officials. Surely the end cannot justify the means here. If Governor Fashola focuses purely on revenue targets being met and not on how they are making it happen; then he is burying his head in the sand. Many more businesses will relocated out of Lagos if this continues and the tax revenue will ultimately plummets as there will not be the businesses to harass for payment.

And as for LASTMA and its shenanigans; a whole book can be written about the atrocities of its officials. This is made more petrifying when you realise that many of the LASTMA officials were the Area Boys and Thugs of yesterday who got the job purely on the basis of political patronage; without much training and clearly without paradigm re-orientation. LASTMA Officers covering signs indicating one way road limitation and then hiding behind trees to catch unsuspecting motorists. Lagosians whose cars breakdown on the road only to have unsympathetic LASTMA officials tow the car to their impound for obstruction. The list goes on and on. And the stipulated fines in some of these legislations for road offences are iniquitous. When a law imposes a fine of N20,000 and above (which is more than basic monthly salary) for simple road contravention; it is an invitation to corruption for the officialdom and penury for the people. The implementation is just wrong; regardless of the intentions of the government.

In August 2012; The Governor signed into law; loads of new laws regulating driving in Lagos. I can already see the overzealous LASTMA officials and police making life impossible for Lagosians that run foul of these laws and the cases of non-residents; visiting Lagos will even be worse. Lessons have not been learnt by the state government from the problems besetting the implementations of previous legislations; yet more are being created. There is little independent adjudication and the officials are always reluctant to use the established dispute resolution afforded by the courts in their quest for speedy collection and meet their targets.

The state government should stop enacting any new legislation (in these areas) for a period (except there is an emergency) and focus its attention on getting the implementation of existing statutes right.  Independent Tribunals should be established if need be to facilitate an independent oversight of disputes on the road traffic and on tax and planning matters. People should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. They should be accorded the respect they deserve in a democratic society. And definitely more officials should be brought to book for acting beyond their powers and abuse of their office.

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A common constitutional argument in Nigeria is the fact that as a Federal Republic; the states should be the strongest tier of government with a weak centre giving the states power and room to assert their individuality. This is the case with most Federations in the world from USA, Germany to Australia and so on.  It is therefore considered as odd; the super strength of the centralised Nigerian Federal governmental status quo which has consequently emasculated the states  and its ability to carve out unique identities and  exercise  esoteric powers in the interest of the peoples of each state. This has led to repeated cry for decentralisation of the Police and many federalised institutions in Nigeria as an example.

The counter argument against the perceived foregoing purist stance by many “pragmatists” is that the states in Nigeria are not mature enough and cannot be trusted to acts in the interest of Nigerians (as one nation) were they to be left fully to their own devices. That the governors of these states will become mini emperors exercising total powers for self-interest at the expense of opposition actors and could endanger the existential reality of a united Nigeria nation.

There are clearly signs that the fears of the pragmatists are not imaginary. Many will recall the effect of the declaration of Sharia in many Northern states during Obasanjo regime and how that has affected not only the Muslims must non-Muslims in those states; thus making some of these northern states a no-go area for some Nigerians or at least a place where they now lead cautious existence compared to when they are in non-sharia states. By the way this is not a Boko Haram phenomenon although that has exacerbated the problem. But these are not my focus primarily in this article.

The fundamental principle of a federal republic is that citizens can travel and live freely anywhere in that country without being made to feel like a foreigner in their own fatherland. So an Hausa man can move from Kano and reside in Lagos (or travel through it) without any problem at all and more importantly; without having to feel he is in another country completely and vice versa. This is where Lagos and its government need to be careful not to create a de facto immigration border on the Lagos end of the expressway for Nigerians coming into Lagos.

Many (including myself) have commended the progressive stance of the Fashola Administration in Lagos. But I am beginning to feel that a primordial case of a national Tale of two Cities seem to be emerging and getting worse by many of the new  legislations coming into effect in Lagos. In the past few years; Lagos have enacted many new laws that makes demand not just of Lagos residents; but all that pass through Lagos territories, even for just one day. Like I said earlier many of the key state institutions in Nigeria are centralised with the Federal government, allegedly to help create a commonality across the nation. For instance; the FRSC issues Drivers Licence. This allows you to drive anywhere in Nigeria; just like a Lawyer certified after finishing Law School can practice in any state within Nigeria.

But with many local legislations coming from Lagos state covering many of these same areas; there is emerging not just a regulatory duplication but added burden to operate in Lagos compared to other parts of the nation. For instance; Lagos state enacted a law making it mandatory for all commercial and official drivers driving within the state’s territory to be certified by the State’s driving agency. This on the face of it looks good. But if you are a commercial driver based in Rivers state and coming to Lagos for just one day on business; what are you going to do? Will you be expected to go through the process of certification first before you can drive within Lagos even though you are not a Lagos resident?

Now there are new laws making it illegal to eat, make a phone call etc while driving in Lagos. While this is a good and progressive stance; but that will criminalise in Lagos what is perfectly legal in the other 35states of  Nigeria. So a non-Lagos driver coming from Kano will now have to behave substantially differently only in Lagos. Accordingly you will have to rush and finish that meat pie you are eating as you approach Berger bridge into Lagos.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying there is anything iniquitous with many of the forward-looking statutes that have been enacted in Lagos. But I am sounding a warning that this could create unwittingly a Republic of Lagos within the Nigerian nation state. A state where Nigerians will have to behave significantly differently from all other states. I am also warning that it could become counter productive for Lagos residents if other states in Nigeria decide to enact an anti Lagos legislations. For instance; what if each state decides to do exactly what Lagos is doing. That will mean a Lagos resident will need to obtain certifications from ten different states before he can drive from Lagos to Kano. What if other states decide to bring laws that prescribe what you can and cannot do while driving in their states. That will mean a driver from Lagos will have to adjust his behaviour markedly at the border of each state or risk arrest.

While I agree there is need for Lagos to set the pace for others as it has a unique capacity and means to do so; a Yoruba adage should inform their speed and pace of transformation. That is; a rich man in the family of ten poor men is ultimately the eleventh poor man. That is because the needs and demands of the ten poor men will impoverish the one rich man. So it is in the interest of the one rich man to help others to be wealthy more speedily. Lagos cannot isolate itself from the realities of the Nigerian existence. And in most federal countries where powers are fully devolved to the states; things work on the basis of reciprocity. That is; all states will recognise the instruments issued by one another without imposing any additional demands. Also (while some differences may still exist), most states have tried to harmonise much of their public requirements in order to minimise the burden on new state residents. For instance in the USA; Drivers Licence are issued only by the State governments. But a Licence obtained from New York is fully recognised by all other states in America. So you can drive through any state in the union with your New York licence without any problem.

Hence as Lagos is part of a federation it is in its interest to carry other states along or risk possible reprisals against its own residents by other states. Such development portends badly for the spirit of one Nigeria.  Lagos should try to minimise the plethora of new legislation it is churning out or at least create some exemptions for non-residents of the state. Nigerians should not be made to feel they need a visa (and legal training) to travel to Lagos from other parts of the nation; a perception that will be further entrenched by any new legislation peculiar only to the state. Lagos needs to show leadership by helping to spread best practice to other states as much as possible.

I accept the inherent contradictions in my desire to encourage the emergence of Lagos as a global mega city and the need to avoid a two-tier country where Lagos is thousands of kilometres ahead of all other states in ways that can create unnecessary envy and cause a possible backlash from other states. Truth is; all other states can make life difficult for Lagosians  should they want to. Can you imagine Ogun state requiring all drivers on its road to buy a special permit for instance? That will mean you cannot travel out of Lagos easily without buying an additional permit to do so. It will become like buying a visa to be able to leave Lagos and another one on your way back. So as you can see, States working together in a collaborative manner and working on the basis of reciprocity (fuelled by consultation with each other) will allow Lagos to move ahead as it is doing but on the basis of an agreed national consensus with its partners; rather than the current we can do what we like approach of the state at the moment.

So my advise to Fashola will be for him to try and find ways of making his laws work for the benefit of all. This can easily be done through the implementation procedures  and policies adopted by its officials. For instance many years ago; I travelled to Orlando in Florida with my then four year old daughter. I was a resident of the UK at that time. I was allowed to drive in Florida on my UK licence for the duration of the vacation. One day I was stopped by the Florida police and was going to be given a fine for not having a special booster car seat for my daughter. I explained that I was not a Florida resident (by showing them my UK licence) and that in the UK (at that time) there was no law against what I was doing. The police officer immediately reversed his decision and apologised telling me that as I was not a resident and unaware of the requirement he was using his discretion to allow me to go. And that as I was leaving Florida the following day, he said there was no need to buy a car seat that will not be required in the UK. Now that is an example of how a state specific law can be implemented but in a way that still allows non-residents to not feel victimised. Clearly if I was going to be in Florida for six months for instance; I would have needed to buy the car seat. Hence there should be a human face to the implementation of many of the Lagos legislations. Officials should be well trained and informed (as well as monitored) to use their discretion when dealing with Nigerians just passing through Lagos compared to a Lagos resident driving a Lagos coloured public transport for instance.

The dangers of an emerging republic of Lagos are many; not just for Lagos government and residents; but for Nigeria as a Federal Republic. If these implementation discretion is not in place as suggested; new economic traffic could be diverted away from Lagos; thus delivering a blow to the economic growth of the state that would otherwise have been the case. So, well done Fashola for many of the legislations to modernise Lagos; but remember the Yoruba adage that says if you send a slave to go and deliver a message; he does not have to deliver the message like a slave. Lagos can only truly develop in the spirit on one Nigeria.

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August 16, 2012 · 2:48 pm