Tag Archives: President Jonathan

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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JONATHAN ADMINISTRATION’S SCORE CARD RESULT

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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BREAKING THE CYCLE OF CYNICISM IN NIGERIANS

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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FRAUDULENT SCORECARD, FAILING OPPOSITION

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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MISLEAD, MISTRUST, MISINFORM, MISUNDERSTANDING

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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