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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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What are the measurements for progress in a nation? Clearly every student told to mark his own essay will cheat somehow. President Jonathan challenged his opponents when he said in his speech recently that those that seek to mark his government’s performance should present their marking scheme. Well, I have decided to respond to his challenge. But rather than devise a new marking scheme that can be questioned; I decided to use a reputable, GEJglobally acknowledged scheme that also provide comparative analysis with other countries in Africa and beyond. Nigeria Finance minister at the same event organized to mark the midway in the administration spouted out several statistics and data; that is far from representing the realities of most Nigerians. The progress of any nation is beyond just GDP growth and national success and prosperity is about more than just fancy figures. The question is, how do ordinary Nigerians feel about their personal wellbeing and economic standing?

To capture my sentiment exactly; let me allow a progressive African leader to speak. Dr Joyce Banda , President Republic of Malawi said recently 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 malnutrion. 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. So the marking scheme I will use to score the Jonathan administration is the recognized measure used by the OECD and other global outfits 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; the raw GDP statistics masks major weaknesses in indices of national prosperity and economic wellbeing. In its report last year it noted that economically, 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 last year 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 an 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. 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. 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), 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. Given that we have slipped backward in six of the Prosperity Index in two years since the President was elected; I will give him a presidential performance score of 25%. So Student number 001, Goodluck Jonathan, if you repeat this core by the end of the school term; you will be expelled for poor performance.  So work harder and improve on your score. That is the conclusion of the Headteacher.

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Nigerians have grown to expect the worst from their leaders and government. Give an average Nigerian a couple of scenarios; one positive and the other negative and ask which they belief relate to their country and its leaders. Most will go for the negative. We have come to expect the worst from our politicians and no doubt, we get what we expect. But are we perpetuating a dysfunctional mindset that keeps us in a self-fulfilling cycle of failure as a nation? Hence, I have lately been reading the various chartrooms and threads about Nigeria on the web as well as other media commentaries.

I fear we are in danger of allowing cynicism to rule and ruin our future as a people. We know most of our career-politician leaders are corrupt. But then we are equally quick to find fault in new generation of leaders coming up. If it is an old politician, we complain that he has been there for too long and assisted in the pillage of the country since independence. If it is a young politician who has been in active politics for a short while; we complain that he has made no difference and a stooge of the godfather.lagos1

If it is a young or old aspiring politician, who is entering the terrain for the first time; we complain that he is simply going there to ‘chop’ (steal) money like others. It seems nobody is ever good enough for some Nigerians. We have become a nation of habitual complainers, moaners and cynics. We have given up on the old guards and the new ones are viewed with suspicion even before they take a single step.  My consolation is that even God has His critics here on earth. Much less mere humans.

But in my view; what is lacking in many Nigerians is ability to think rationally. Rational psychology expects you to prioritize your assessment of people and then decide based on dominant good qualities, while viewing the few bad qualities in context of an otherwise overwhelmingly ’good’ candidate. Many of us make these analysis daily. You indulge that driver constantly coming late to work, because he is otherwise an excellent driver and the best you have ever had. You indulge that househelp’s bad manners because the kids love her and she is the best cleaner you have ever had. You decided not to relocate from your area of Lagos despite the horrendously bad road leading to it because the area is otherwise very safe and little or no crime at all. We all make these judgments and balance analysis all the time. So why do we not apply the same to our old or aspiring politicians. Let us learn to increase in hope and optimism and believe good can still come out this country. Our focus on the negative has got us nowhere; so why not try a new approach Let us be less cynical and more hopeful.

Truth is; the worst offenders are the educated middleclass, many residing in Diaspora. Many complain about everything Nigeria does; yet live in Chicago where several of their governors in the past 20yrs have been jailed for fraud and corruption.   And the Internet allows people to pontificate, become tin gods with little repercussion and minimal sense of responsibility.  We need to change. There are now many “good people” reluctant to join the political arena. Not due to the fear of the corrupt political elite; but for fear of been shot into pieces and have the reputation stained by the mostly Internet-based/Educated/Chattering brigade; who theorizes and analyses everything from the sidewalk. I am sure some will say that at least the governors in Chicago were caught and prosecuted successfully, while none has been brought to book in Nigeria. But that is not the salient point here. My argument is that there are bad and corrupt politicians everywhere. Why must we allow cynicism to destroy the future of our hope?

In the most memorable section of his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, President Roosevelt captured his life philosophy in just a few sentences. “The Man in the Arena” tells us that the man we should praise is the man who’s out there fighting the big battles, even if  imperfect and those battles end in defeat. In our day, when cynicism and aloof detachment are considered hip and cool, he reminds us that glory and honour come to those “who spend themselves in a worthy cause.”  He noted:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

These perpetual Nigerian critics specialize in finding fault in anybody that is brave enough to enter the political ring. We all need to be careful. It seems many are naively looking for a “Perfect Candidate” that is blemish free. Remember that Joseph (in the Bible) had a criminal record when he became the best Prime Minister in Egypt; straight from Prison. I know Joseph was innocent; but nobody knew that except him and God.

My advise to these armchair critics is; why don’t you throw your hats into the ring. If nobody is good enough for your Nigeria, does that include yourself as well? Are you as bad as the people you always criticize?  If not; why don’t you enter the arena and make a difference. Perhaps, you are the change agent the nation has been waiting for.

Let’s stop shooting down everybody that is trying to make change happen in our Nation; even if they are not perfect. It’s hard to see the good in people, when you’re only looking for the bad.  Let’s focus on their ideas/policies/agendas and not simply on personalities or the mistakes they have made in the past. And finally, let us be led by that inner voice; so that we do not simply know everybody after the flesh. I see change happening in Nigeria through unexpected vessels.

Let us believe the best for our nation and support and constructively criticize those in the arena; not because we agree with all they do or they are prefect; but because we owe it to Nigeria since we are not in the arena ourselves. God bless Nigeria.

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Changing Nigerian Political Landscape.

The Nigerian political commentaries never cease to amaze me. With the Jonathan administration scoring itself high and the opposition scoring him as poor; it again emphasizes the age-old wisdom that the truth is always between the two extreme positions. A perusal of the government report on itself will reveal a catalogue of self-praise and achievements; with no credible mention of its failures. And reading the opposition analysis equally reveal all that the Jonathan administration has done wrong without any praise for whatever it has achieved. This scenario portends badly for the Nigerian political discuss. It simply shows that the government is as bad as the opposition. It reveals a level of political immaturity and bitterness that is bound to derail any plan for national development.

Nobody and no government can be completely bad. I am sure there are plenty of people GEJin Libya and Iraq today that reflect on the regimes of their former dictators with glee and affection. As bad as these dictators were; they got some things right. There was better stability; less casual violence and there was definitely no daily killings by militia groups. Don’t get me wrong; I oppose these dictators; all I am saying is that as bad as they were; they still did some things well, no matter how few.

So why do the opponents of the Jonathan administration never seem to be able to get themselves to admit what he had got right and praise him for the good things he has done. Or are they saying that ALL decisions taken by the President since Day 1 of his government have ALL been wrong and bad for the country. Also why is it that the President cannot get himself to admit his mistakes and failures while promoting his achievements? Does he think Nigerians are fools? Maybe many of us are.

I am not a fan of the style of Mr. President; but I am passionate about Nigeria and I refuse to give up on the nation. So both sides have to be fair in their analysis. The primordial concern of a government mid-term report that only focuses on its achievements and not its failures is that the administration will not give attention to fixing the problems we all know exists; but which the government has not admitted exist. People do not make effort to fix a problem they have not admitted exist.  So a candid admission of its failures will assure Nigerians that at least the government can see what we all can see; thus giving hope that solutions can be found. But when government does not admit openly to problems everybody knows exist; it is difficult to have confidence of any imminent solutions. Sadly our political leaders live in a bubble that makes empathy with ordinary Nigerians difficult for many of them. But do they have to rub our noses in it?

As for the Opposition groups; I have even greater criticism of their performance. Opposition for its own sake is bad politics and bad for transformation of any nation. If truth be told; Nobody (regardless of their political sympathy); can honestly believe the Jonathan administration has been 100 percent bad. Not even Saddam Husain was totally bad. There will be more credibility in opposition groups if they produce balanced analysis of the government performance. That will require them to accept and praise the government for what it has done right and then criticize what it has done wrong and then A_street_in_Lagos,_Nigeriaproffer their own solutions. Simply going on about how bad the government is will not wash. This is lazy politics. Afterall; many of these opposition players have been in power in one way or another in the past. What did they achieve when they were in office? How did they transform their sphere of influence? We need to move beyond the politics of noise to politics of substance.

My recommendation for the opposition is that they should form a Shadow Cabinet to replicate the real government. And they should produce a quarterly scorecard for each ministry they are shadowing. Stating in a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats) format; the activities of each ministry as shadow cabinets. This will make them look like government-in-waiting and it will also create a pool of people who will be better familiar with the details of operational activities in each ministry; thus making it easier for them to hit the ground running if they get into power. They must stop all these nonsense of headline grabbing abuse and criticism of the Jonathan administration; just for its own sake. Their opposition is against the government and not Nigeria. Hence in the interest of the country; they must oppose responsibly and constructively. Nigerian will believe more an opposition group that credits the government when it is due and opposes them when it is deserved. Nobody has a monopoly of solution; afterall there are educated and experienced professionals in the current government. So they must be doing some things right and it will make sense for the Opposition to admit the successes of the government as and when it happens. This is the kind of opposition Nigeria needs. It also strengthens the voice of the opposition, thus increasing their influence and credibility.  An opposition that always opposes regardless of the facts; will become a laughing stock.

As for the government; President Jonathan need to take note of a wise counsel of our ancestors that; if a man with a big head goes into the public square to speak and first jokes Nigeria_politicalabout how big his own head is; it neutralizes anyone’s subsequent joke about his big head. People will say we know…he has told us himself.  So a government that honestly admits its failures with stated plans for change and improvement will wrest from the opposition the power to influence the citizenry.  Putting your own bad news and failures on the table candidly will take the sting away from any subsequent criticism. So the government’s constant denial of all things negative should stop. The administration should be bold to state both its achievements and failings. People love plain-speaking and candid politicians. Politicians that say it as it is. Politicians that do not insult our intelligence by denying what most of us know as truth. The recent First Lady sickness denial debacle comes to mind.

So who should blink first? The opposition should reform their approach and consider the recommendation I made earlier. It seems however clear that the government has the resources to implement the foregoing changes more quickly that the yet to fully congeal opposition groups. Why not show leadership by changing the style of your administration Mr. President. Move from the lethargic posture to a more open and pro-active leadership style. And by the way; Mr. President; you need to get rid of Okupe immediately. You cannot secure credibility from a discredited mouthpiece like him. I believe that (given the right instruction and encouragement); Abati (though disappointed many so far but not yet fatal failure) can still do a better job than the politically scared and tainted Okupe.  I still believe Abati may be able to do better if given the right climate and rules of engagement. It is time for less spin and more spunk.

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Why most Nigerians do not trust President Jonathan and his administration.

As the Cuban missile crisis raged in October 1962; the US president sat in the White House and called the leaders of the key nations that were members of the UN Security Council to get their support for American position at the UN. The world was on the brink of a nuclear holocaust. The Russians denied everything the Americans claimed and the stage was set for a monumental nuclear confrontation. Up till this point; there was no objective evidence as to who was telling the truth; Russia or America. So it was simply a game of whose report to believe. It was reported that the French President, 0413-nuclear-summit-Goodluck-Jonathan_full_600Charles de Gaulle received a call from President Kennedy asking for the support of France in the impending UN vote on this matter. The French president offered his unqualified support for the American position. Few days later a French minister asked the President why he supported the Americans when there was no conclusive evidence of their claim. Charles de Gaulle was reported to have responded boldly “The word of the American President is good enough for me”. 

That statement demonstrated that Trust is key to any meaningful relationship between governments and also between governments and the people. It is not always possible to provide clear evidence of government decisions; either due to national security concerns; or the conclusive evidence does not exist. If there is trust in the relationship between the people and its government; a lot can be achieved as the citizens rally round its leaders to move the nation forward. This intergovernmental trust was one of the unwitting victims of the Iraq debacle. Many leaders now do not trust the American position on many things today. This will hunt the global diplomatic scene for decades to come. There used to be a time that the American position was accepted by the world without any question; not any more.

The foregoing brings me to the case of the Nigerian government and the lack of trust by many Nigerians. Over the years; the fabric of trust has been eroded by successive Nigerian leaders; thus creating a cynical and untrusting citizenry. Many expectations of the people have been dashed. An average Nigerian does not believe anything the government says. Each new administration is given an initial window to prove itself and as always they all fail by unveiling their predisposition and addiction to lies, corruption and deception.  Hence many Nigerian have grown to expect lies and sometimes the worst from their government.

Focusing on the Jonathan administration; it is sad to see how a potentially transformational government has squandered its goodwill and productive expectations. Many Nigerians, including myself had high expectations of the Jonathan administration at the beginning. But now; it is a different story. There is a wise saying that states: if you sell-out your relatives at a cheap price; you cannot buy them back at an expensive amount, because once they lose trust in you and see your betrayal; that will be it. For me; the Jonathan administration seems to have forgotten the adage that it is the little foxes that spoils the vine. It is the ‘little’ acts of deception and lying that erode trust and make it difficult to believe the big things; even if they are now true.

For example; when you have the President’s office telling the nation that the First Lady was not sick but merely taking a break; despite all the reports to the contrary. Aso Rock denied all reports of any illness of the President’s wife. Only for a few weeks later to hear the First Lady herself tell Nigerians that she almost died and had to undergo several major operations in foreign hospitals. It is clear; we were lied to. Yet no apology till date. There are several instances of these “little” lies by the government and the presidential team. That much cannot be disputed. So how does President Jonathan expect us to believe him on “big” issues like the menace of Boko Haram and national security situation when he has already lost credibility and the trust of the people through series of “little” lies. It is indeed the little foxes that spoil the vine. The President may indeed be telling the truth about many of the major issues confronting the nation today; but how can we believe him and his team when they have shown themselves unworthy of our unflinching trust.

GEJIn my experience; honesty in “little” things is the hallmark of real honesty. It is more difficult to lie about big and major issues due to the complicated and multifaceted nature of such things. But it is much easier to lie about minor and small matters; thus revealing your dishonest nature. So a person that refuses to lie about minor issues (that many cannot verify in any case); will tend to remain honest when the big, more verifiable matters come up.  If you ask me what time I went to bed last night and I am honest in my response (even though you have little way of verifying my answer); it will be easier for me to be believed if asked what time my flight to London took off from Lagos; (as there will be many more witnesses to the departure time).

So my counsel to President Jonathan is to demonstrate his openness and honesty first in little matters. Build a “portfolio of honesty” in the eyes of Nigerians. He should instruct his team to either give out honest responses to all matters or simply ‘no comment’. This portfolio of honesty will help to build goodwill with Nigerian; thus making it easier for us to believe the leadership when big issues come up. Honesty does not mean divulging every single information about an issue; it simply means being honest about the thrust of an issue; even if you then refuse to go into specifics, for good reasons. But the deliberate deception that has been often evident in the words and actions of the Presidential spokespersons and government officials need to stop.

We want to be able to believe our leaders. We need to be able to believe our leaders.  Our prayer is that one-day will come, when an average Nigerian will be able to proudly say; “The word of the president is good enough for me”. Let that paradigm shift and process begin today.

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