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Business and Economy (233)

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under-foot and turn and tear you to pieces.”

Mathew, 7:6

 

This being the third in the ‘A Nation in Heat’ series of Nigerian ‘Liberation’ essays, it was originally intended that it would be the capstone piece. But then this writer had not bargained with what is universally known as the ‘Nigerian factor,’ in which uncertainty and mayhem are deliberately injected into a smoothly running system in order to yield otherwise unattainable outcomes. 

And so here we are, the Nigerian Presidential elections previously scheduled for February 14, 2015 has been shifted to March 28, 2015 by the conspiratorial instigation of the Jonathan Presidency because according to the BBC, “troops will not be available to help patrol the ballots because they would be fighting Boko Haram militants in the North East.”

If you believe this, then you would believe anything of course. The same Nigerian Army that had hitherto been reduced into a partisan electoral bodyguard force by the Jonathan Presidency has suddenly found its mettle, resolve and prowess and is now ‘raring’ to fearlessly engage terrorists in the forthcoming couple of weeks. 

It is possible that its new found courage is because it has been reinforced by more serious minded Chadian, Cameroonian and Nigerien armies in the Joint Strike Force against Boko Haram. Sensing that victory is near at last, the military wants to be well poised on the backs of the Chadians, Cameroonians and Nigeriens to claim the victory for their patron, President Jonathan. 

What cannot be ruled out in addition, as not a few observers have noted, is that sensing an electoral trouncing in the works, President Jonathan and his political party need more time to dissipate the fervor and enthusiasm of the opposition supporters not to talk of the meager funds available to the leading opposition party. 

They also need more time to fine-tune and re-jig their electoral rigging strategies, retrieve from safe haven locations, captive State funds, which were hijacked from the national treasury for these types of contingencies. Finally they need more time to dangle these captive funds at greedy electoral bureaucrats, greedy judges and greedy Christian pastors who like prostitutes are always available to render immoral partisan services at a hefty fee to desperate patrons. 

Tattered National Image 

For this writer, the price to be paid is one or more additional pieces in the ‘A Nation in Heat’ series of essays. Spare a thought for foreign electoral observers some of who are already in the country and others who had concluded plans to jet into the country this week in order to monitor the Nigerian elections. Those plans are now in tatters, because of the waning electoral fortunes of one man who cannot afford to fail. What kind of impression will they have of Nigeria? 

Spare a thought for some Nigerians who had relocated their families to their hometowns or sent them abroad in order to keep them away from harm’s way in case there is a violent backlash after the elections. They now have to incur the extra costs and risks of bringing their families back to their stations for a month and sending them away again in five weeks’ time. Their projections are now in shreds because of the fate of one man at the top who cannot afford to lose an election.

 Spare a thought for investors who have important investment decisions to make and were only awaiting the outcome of the elections to ascertain if the coast is clear to proceed or not. They now have to wait for another six or seven weeks to make investment decisions. That is if they have not already decided to withhold their investments on the grounds that an uncertain business climate is not a good environment for profitable investment. Just because of one man who cannot fail.

One of the most essential indices of a developed country or a country that is serious about development is the enthronement of certainty and predictability in all aspects of national life. But then that is asking too much from Nigeria. Nigeria has turned uncertainty into an art form. With the flimsiest excuse, uncertainty is introduced into the system as State Policy without giving a damn about the consequences so long as selfish aims may be attained therefrom. It is therefore with reason that Nigeria is the butt of global jokes as an archetypal unserious nation. Not surprisingly, Nigeria is equally a nation in steep decline.

Free-fall into Mediocrity

Imagine for a moment that there is a religion inspired terrorist insurrection in Florida and Texas in the USA. Imagine that the United States government having tried for six years to contain the insurrection, is nowhere nearer attaining its objectives today than six years earlier. Imagine that the situation has become so critical that neighboring countries like Cuba and Mexico are forced to intervene in order to bail out the clearly incapacitated US military. 

Further imagine that it is an election year in which the sitting American President (Obama) and his main opponent (Romney) had campaigned and toured 36 states at a frenetic pace over a space of about 1 month. Then imagine that just a week to the US Presidential elections, the same US military comes forth to say that they cannot guarantee the security of the electoral process as their attention would be focused on Florida and Texas in conjunction with their Cuban and Mexican counterparts! What a joke!  But that is the sorry and shameful situation the Nigerian military and Nigeria itself has been reduced to today.

If they were so serious about their limitations, why did they not come out openly to express their observations in December 2014, before the Nigerian President abandoned almost all State duties for 1 month to hit the campaign trail? Did they have to wait until they apprised the relative sizes of the turnouts at the President’s and his main Challenger’s campaign rallies, discovered that the Challenger was pulling at least an equal or in most cases larger support than the incumbent, before they realized that they cannot guarantee the security of the electoral process? 

What if it was the other way round? Would they have had the temerity to dampen the fortunes of their Commander – in – Chief if he was poised to win the elections?
When did the Nigerian military start caring so strongly about the terrorist action in the North East? If they were so serious about their responsibilities in the North East why did the Chadian Forces seize the initiative and enter Nigerian territory to attempt to recapture Gambaru in Nigeria from Boko Haram forces with the Nigerian Defense Ministry spokesman, Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade reduced to saying that "the Chadians are...working in concert with the overall plan for an all round move against the terrorists as agreed," (Reuters, Feb. 3, 2015). 

What a supreme irony it is that the Chadians who were once chased out of the Lake Chad area about 30 years ago by no other than General Muhammadu Buhari the leading opposition Presidential candidate, now carry the battle against Boko Haram straight into Nigeria and the Nigerian Army is forced to give public relations explanations about having granted prior approvals to them for the incursion. If it is not a slide into mediocrity for a nation of 170 million people to be bailed out by a nation of 10 million or so people then what else does mediocrity mean? 

Decadent Military

In any case since when did electoral duties become part of the Nigerian military’s brief? What has happened to the regular Police Force and Mobile Police Force? Is this misuse of the military to secure electoral victories for the ruling party not one of the prime reasons why the Nigerian army is faring so poorly in the battle against Boko Haram? Is this not the reason why the Nigerian military can come out so boldly to say that it cannot guarantee ‘security’ for the elections? Since when did securing elections become part of the military’s brief? 

Is it not in effect publicly conceding that given the size of the popular support mobilized for the opposition, it is not in a position today to guarantee electoral victory for its Chief Patron as usual?  What does the Nigerian Army have to say about the alleged involvement of its personnel in the rigging of the recent elections in Ekiti State with allegedly professionally authenticated voice recordings to match now in the public domain?

Is the partisanship of the Nigerian Army not buttressed by its recent declaration that it does not have the Secondary School Leaving Certificate of its former Commander-in-Chief General Muhammadu Buhari the leading opposition candidate after the same Army spokesman said that he had once seen it in his file? Was the Army spokesman in the Army in the early sixties when General Buhari enlisted in the Armed Forces as to know whether it was the practice then for enlistees to submit the original of their certificates on enlistment? 

Has General Muhammadu Buhari not been vindicated by General Alani Akinrinnade, a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Chief of Defence Staff when he remarked in a recent interview: “He did (General Muhammadu Buhari did submit his original certificates to the Army on enlistment). As I speak to you, I don’t know where my original certificate is because we gave the original to the Military Board. They took it from us when we applied to join the Army. You give the original copy of credential to the board. They take it and keep it in your file, that’s what happened. How many years ago? 50 years. And Nigeria with our (poor) record-keeping and filing things into an archive - if we have an archive at all; an archive inhabited by rats and cockroaches. I think it’s an insult. I take it as a personal insult.” (The Punch Newspaper, February 8, 2015).

Who must Nigerians believe about the practice in the Armed Forces 50 years ago?  Two highly respected and regarded Generals (Buhari and Akinrinnade) who retired about 30 years ago when the Nigerian Army was feared everywhere on the African continent or a currently serving Army Spokesman who within a space of two or three weeks contradicted himself publicly? Was the same Army spokesman after his most suspicious and awful public recant not immediately rewarded by a ‘routine’ transfer to another juicier(?) post? 

Is it not a sign of the decadence in the Nigerian Army since buttressed by its incompetence and impotence on the battle field that it has allowed itself to be misused by desperate corrupt politicians in the ongoing conspiracy to drag General Muhammadu Buhari, the leading opposition candidate and a man of reputedly very high integrity as acclaimed by friends and foes alike, down from his high horse of moral integrity to their own level of despicability? 

Had the Nigerian military searched for the missing Chibok girls with the same zeal and enthusiasm they searched Muhammadu Buhari’s personal files in the Military Archives for his original certificates, would they not have secured the freedom of those girls from terrorist captivity by now? 

Now wait a minute. How can the Nigerian Armed Forces who have so far been unable to free themselves and the institution they represent from the captivity of corrupt, desperate politicians, be in a position to free anyone else from the hands of terrorists? Indeed, who is in greater need of a rescue mission? Is it Nigerians from the clutches of terrorists or the Nigerian Armed Forces from the hands of corrupt politicians? 

What greater evidence is there of the military’s captivity under corrupt politicians than their role in thwarting the Presidential elections scheduled for February 14th, 2015? Has this ‘salvific’ feat not since been publicly acclaimed by their masters and captors - the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP)?  Democratic indeed!!!

Transformation or Transmutation?

The evidently outgoing Jonathan Administration which refuses to leave without creating an ugly scene and an undignified global spectacle, prides itself in its so-called Transformation Agenda. However critical examination of the national political scene reveals that almost all the ingredients for a civilian dictatorship are in place. Consider this mix:-

  • Subservient, pliant and openly partisan Security Forces who are now regime protectors rather than constitution defenders. Commentary:- For proof refer back to the preceding paragraphs.
  • Heavily compromised legislators. Commentary:- They are self-compromised by their own greed.
  • A rabid propaganda outfit dedicated to the idolization of the “Great Once-Shoeless Leader.” Commentary:- this is still a work-in-progress but we are getting there by the day as all the relevant propaganda personnel are now in place.
  • Compromised Church Leaders. Commentary:- Where the presidential story-line in the 2011 cycle of elections which the gullible masses bought into was  “I was once shoeless,” the current presidential storyline targeted at Pentecostal Christians is “Lookout, I am so humble that I may be found kneeling down at the nearest Pentecostal Church revival crusade next to you.” A few Pentecostal Church leaders are still honest. But the rest?
  • Compromised Judiciary and Judiciary workers. Commentary:- There are still a few honest, God-fearing judges, but their numbers are dwindling rapidly by the day. As for Judiciary workers, it was recently in the news that the General Secretary of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Mr Isaiah Adetola may be on the run for his life having alleged that JUSUN was heavily bribed by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federation to go on strike in order to frustrate the Supreme Court from pronouncing on the eligibility of Mr. President to run in the 2015 elections. He said the same Attorney-General later turned around to offer another counter bribe to JUSUN to call off the strike “so as to pave way for some persons to go to Court to stop the 2015 General Elections.” (NewsPunch report dated January 26, 2015). These are the leaders in today’s Nigeria! Nonsense!!
  • Partisan State Media. Commentary:- Virtually all state media are partisan in their coverage of the forthcoming elections. With its heavy financial war-chest, some private media may already be self-censoring in order to attract political advertisements from the ruling party, flush with cash.
  • Intimidated Electoral Agency. Commentary:- The Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission appeared in recent photographs as someone shocked to his bone marrow at what was playing out before his very eyes.
  • Compromised Elders and Ethnic Associations. Commentary:-Look at the current raging conflicts in Ohaneze and Afenifere.
  • Captive Treasury. Commentary:- Two former Chairmen of the Central Bank of Nigeria have come forward publicly to allege that huge amounts of state funds running into billions of dollars are missing from the Treasury.
  • Largely Compromised Political Class. Commentary:- Most politicians in Nigeria are rotten and rotten to the core. This cuts across all political parties.
  • Compromised Bureaucracy. Commentary:- The Nigerian Bureaucracy at all levels is a renowned cesspool of corruption.
  • Online Censorship in the Works. Commentary:- The National Security Adviser spoke recently about censorship of online pornographic content. The crucial question is will the censorship stop at online pornography or is it a dry run for something more sinister?
  • Constitution Amendment. Commentary:- This has already been attempted but not yet concluded partly because the regime did not as at then have the political muscle to influence the outcome of the National Constitution Amendment conference. There is nothing to suggest the exercise will not be revisited and repeated to suit any hidden agenda, if and when the regime acquires greater political muscle by hook or by crook at the forthcoming polls.
  • Motive for self-perpetuation in power - Litany of outrageous conduct in office.Commentary:- As pointed out by this writer in a previous essay titled “The Unholy Trinity – National Interest vs. Regime Interest” which appeared in several online media sometime around November, 2012, all rogue regimes are characterized by an unholy trinity of illegitimate regime interests, the father figure of which is primitive wealth accumulation at the expense of the nation. As seen from the captive state treasury in Nigeria, this is already in place. The next element of the unholy trinity is regime stretch or self-perpetuation in power in order to protect the regime’s primitive wealth holdings and to prevent regime members from being sent to jail or meeting worse fate when they relinquish power. So as we can see, the motive for self-perpetuation in power is equally already in place. It will be naïve to believe that a sitting rogue regime will voluntarily wind itself down in accordance with the Constitution when it is faced with imminent electoral defeat.
  • Blatant rigging of election results. Commentary:- Historically, successful rigging of elections in a fairly evenly matched political contest (or in fact more so in one in which the putative Dictator is a distant second best to the main Challenger) is often the threshold for transmutation to full blown dictatorship. This situation from the look of things is already in place as the main challenger General Muhammadu Buhari to all intents and purposes is at worst evenly matched or perhaps far more popular with the electorate than the incumbent. In order to hold on to power in a blatantly rigged election, the putative dictator must of necessity resort to the next and last item which is the most potent weapon in the hands of all Dictators.
  • Terror, Violence and Targeted Political Assassinations. Commentary:- To the credit of this Administration, this is the only crucial ingredient for full blown dictatorship that is still missing in the Nigerian political scene. How long it will remain missing from the ready-mix for Civilian Dictatorship is anybody’s guess given that a perfect alibi for political terror is already in place in the form of Boko Haram and that for all intents and purposes the main Challenger, General Muhammadu Buhari cannot be defeated in a free and fair electoral contest without resorting to blatant rigging, which may already be in progress, right now even as you read this.

There is an American saying called the Duck Test which states that ‘If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.’ 

When one considers the current political scene in Nigeria within which the Jonathan Administation is operating and applies the Duck Test to its Transformation Agenda, one comes away with the distinct impression that ‘if it looks like a Civilian Dictatorship, acts like a Civilian Dictatorship and barks like a Civilian Dictatorship, then it is probably a Civilian Dictatorship in the works. So the Transformation Agenda may actually be a ruse. It may actually be a Transmutation Agenda into full blown Civilian Dictatorship that we are currently witnessing. Time will tell. But the nation is forewarned. A national disaster might be in the offing.

Change or Reformation?

The campaign mantra of the main opposition party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress or (APC) under its Presidential Candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari  is Change. The APC then goes on to emphasize, Insecurity, Corruption and the Economy/Employment as its main focus. That may well be a correct focus as first order business attracting a new government’s attention. 

But it does not suffice if Nigeria is to stop moving around in circles like a goat tethered to a stake which sometimes moves clockwise and at other times moves anti-clockwise tracing almost identical loci at all times. Indeed many supporters and opponents of General Buhari still harbor old-fashioned ideas of supporting or opposing the General either because ‘he is one of us’ or because ‘he is one of them’  as the case may be. 

A lot of water has passed under the Nigerian bridge that change for the sake of change can no longer suffice. The chasms in Nigeria are so wide and are growing wider by the day. Sometimes one wonders if Nigerians actually exist in the same country.

Barring further interventionist essays like this one, the capstone piece in the ‘A Nation in Heat’ series of essays will look at the type of reformation necessary if Nigeria is to permanently break the mold of mediocrity inside which it is currently cocooned. It will suggest a couple of modalities to ensure that Nigeria is liberated from its current status as a nation with permanently unrealizable potential. Just as one pointer, it is self-evident that the engrained Nigerian mentality of a ‘turn-by-turn’ approach to leadership selection will never lead to a turnaround of Nigeria’s fortunes.

Have Faith Nigeria

With apologies to the sensibilities of our muslim brethren and as a way of drawing the curtains down on this interventionist essay, let us turn to the most excellent lyrical and rhythmical words of exhortation and lamentation by the roots reggae group Twinkle Brothers adapted from the Bible and addressed to a feckless generation.

‘Oh thee, oh thee of little faith,

When you reach-a-River Jordan and you turn right back.

……Faith can move mountain, Jah Jah say,

……Faith can move mountain oh yeah. 

Just as it was in the beginning so it shall be in the end.

Shedrack, Mishack and Abednego, 

say they cast them in a fire but they never get burn.

………Faith can move mountain, Have faith in Jah.

…….Faith can move mountain. Jahoviah.’

Twinkle Brothers, 1986, roots reggae track titled “Faith Can Move Mountain” 

Yes indeed, people of Nigeria, as a manner of speaking, we have reached River Jordan, the place of liberation from our sorry past, but the forces of backwardness, insist we cannot cross-over. They have shifted our time of crossing by six weeks. But let us have faith. Let us wait patiently. Let us keep our resolve intact. Let there be no violence, whatever the provocation might be. Let us not play into their malevolent hands.

Having reached this far, we cannot turn back again to place ourselves once more under the hideous yoke of Pharaoh (President Goodluck Jonathan) and Egypt (his political party). On March 28th we must cross River Jordan (General Muhammadu Buhari) and proceed to our Promised Land.  Have no fear about drowning in River Jordan. Have faith in God.  And it shall be well with the General.

  • The End -

I read some of the responses to my article, “Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election”, and I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. I am glad that the debate has finally taken off. I have decided, for the record, to re-enter the debate if only to set some records straight and hopefully elevate the debate further. Whom do I respond to? First, let me thank Gov Kayode Fayemi for his very mature and professional response on behalf of the APC. It forms a great basis for deepening the conversation. Pat Utomi, Oby Ezekwesili, Iyabo Obasanjo, and thousands of other patriotic Nigerians have raised the content of the debate. Femi Fani-Kayode made me laugh, as usual. The Gov. Jang faction of the Governors’ Forum played the usual politics, although I know what most of them think privately. Who else? Oh, Peter Obi. Well, since he can’t write and designated Valentine as usual to write for him (who never disputed the NBS statistics that Obi broke world record in the pauperization of Anambra people but instead focused on lies and abuses) I won’t dignify him with a response here. His third class performance in Anambra will be the subject of a comprehensive article later.

Here, I will focus on Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s response (as Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy—CME and hence on behalf of the Federal Government). Since I have known her, out of deep respect, I have never called her by her name: I call her Madam. I must state that I have great pains seeing myself on the opposite side of the table with Madam, in this way. I respect you, Madam, and will always do. If you read my article of September 2010 (before you became Minister), the tone and elucidation were as strong as the current one. It is my honest effort to ensure that our choice of leaders is based on rigorous scrutiny of what is on offer. Part of my frustration is that five years after, everything I warned about has come to happen and we are conducting our campaigns as if we are not in crisis. As a concerned Nigerian, I have a duty to speak out again. Regrettably, you have taken it very personal.

I am not bothered about the personal abuses: I actually expected worse. What name has the government not called President Obasanjo or any person who has dared to disagree with it of late? Anyone who disagrees with the government must either be ‘insane’ or have a ‘character’ deficiency or must be ‘looking for a job’ or ‘without honour’, or a ‘charlatan’. Yesterday, Sanusi alleged that $20 billion was missing and he was accused of gross financial mismanagement, recklessness and poor governance to the point of being the first governor of central bank to be suspended from office. Today, he is the good one; and for daring to award an “F” grade for our economic performance, Soludo has become the ‘worst’ and ‘without character’ or perhaps ‘looking for position’ (Lol!). Some days ago, a former president was called ‘a motor park tout’ and ‘un-statesmanly’ just for disagreeing. This “how dare you criticise us” mind-set of the government is dangerous for our democracy.

In this Part One of my planned three part series, I will restrict it to the main issues you raised. I will not bother about the malicious attacks on my person. For me, it is nothing personal. In early 2011, I had a similar heated exchange with then Finance Minister Segun Aganga. But when the Nigerian economy was at stake and he invited me to a stakeholders meeting in his office (as Minister of Trade and Investment) to discuss Nigeria’s response to the ruinous EU — Economic Partnership for Africa (EPA), I flew into Nigeria for that (at my expense) — the first and only time I have been to any government office to discuss policy since I left office. It is about Nigeria. I will, as expected, remind people like you of the salient aspects of my record of public service in response to your charge; challenge your claim to debt relief, and your reason for not saving; highlight your forgery of economic statistics and the lies in your response; but most importantly re-focus our attention to the historic mismanagement of our economy which you carefully avoided. I will show that while you are introducing austerity measures and soon to immiserate the citizens, our public finance is haemorrhaging to the point that estimated over N30 trillion is missing or stolen or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged — under your watch! We can’t go on like this, and I am convinced that an alternative future is possible. Can we have a public debate on this alternative future? The issues at stake are too grave to be trivialized through name calling. As I write, the naira exchange rate to the dollar is at N215 (from N158 a few months ago) and unless oil price recovers, this is just the beginning. For the sake of Nigeria, I won’t keep quiet anymore!

Let me start with Madam’s rather comical, wild judgment on my tenure of office which I believe to be totally false and baseless. I apologise upfront that in the process of making a ‘personal defence’, it is difficult to avoid a rather uncomfortable emphasis on “I”. I did not want that but since Madam has dragged us this low, I have little choice but to do so in the next few paragraphs—just to keep the record straight!

In my view, there are three criteria for evaluating a public officer’s stewardship: the evaluation by his employer; the satisfaction of the public he served; and the hard facts of performance. As I will show on these three counts, I am convinced that I left a world record of public service, and a thousand Okonjo-Iwealas cannot re-write that history. I served Nigeria under two presidents (Obasanjo and Yar’Adua) and as my immediate bosses, below are their written testimonials of my record.

Said President Obasanjo (December 2004):

“Charles Soludo is a true Nigerian. He is the sort of Nigerian that we all know we can rely on. Among his numerous virtues is COURAGE. I have found in him a man who can take tough and realistic decisions, stand his ground, educate others on the salience of his decision, and work very hard to ensure that the decision is efficiently and effectively implemented. His dedication to duty is first rate. His leadership qualities are admirable and his willingness to listen and learn is simply infectious. Professor Soludo has within a short time emerged as one of the leading lights of our nation. Not because he has a godfather but by sheer hard work, loyalty, dedication to duty, commitment to the nation, creativity, and undiluted association with the reform agenda….”

President Yar’Adua (May 2009) had the following to say about the Central Bank of Nigeria under my leadership:

“… the CBN has performed creditably well in delivering on its core mandates. This is especially even more so in the last five years. Most people would agree that without the successful banking consolidation and effective management of our foreign reserves, the current global crisis would have shaken the financial system and our national economy to their foundations with calamitous consequences”.

In the President’s special letter of commendation after the completion of my tenure of office, President Yar’Adua (June 2009) had the following to say to me:

“As your tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria comes to a glorious end, I write on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria to place on record our debt of gratitude to you for your dedicated service and uncommon sense of duty over the past five years. I am confident that your worthy antecedents in the CBN and in prior appointments in the service of our nation remain sources of inspiration to an entire generation. As I wish you even more astounding successes in the years ahead, it is my fervent hope that you will readily avail us of your distinguished service when the need arises in the future”.

To the best of my knowledge, President Obasanjo has not changed those views even after ten years. The views of my two bosses, not the emotional outburst of an angry person desperate to get even, are what count.

How did Nigerians evaluate my public service? Unfortunately, we do not have scientific opinion polls on job approval ratings for individual public officers. But if the public opinions of individuals and organized groups (labour, employers, depositors, borrowers, stakeholders of the financial institutions, newspaper editorials, investors, etc) as expressed in thousands of newspaper/magazine clips during and after my tenure are anything to go by, then 82% of the public largely agree with the sentiments expressed by my two bosses. Your views belong to the other 18% which is okay, after all, no one is perfect. Five Nigerian newspapers and magazines simultaneously named us “man of the year” in one year — unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. I do not talk about hundreds of awards and recognitions by various segments of our society (during and even after service) for “excellent public service”. I was particularly touched by the historic award by the staff union of the Central Bank and the tears in the eyes of many as thousands of the staff gave me a standing ovation as I walked the aisle after my brief farewell speech.

Certainly, the international community (investors, bankers, scholars, donors, media, etc) took serious notice of the revolution in Nigeria’s monetary and financial system. I am recipient of five international awards as global and African central bank governor of the year, not to mention dozens of other recognitions (even after leaving office). The London Financial Times described us as “a great reformer”. Even as the global economic and financial crisis raged in 2008, the United Nations General Assembly appointed me to serve on the Commission of Experts to reform the international monetary and financial system. You don’t appoint someone who has ‘mismanaged’ his national financial system to reform the global system. For 8 years until 2012, I served on the chief economist advisory council (CEAC) of the World Bank, and together with two Nobel Prize winners in economics and other experts we met periodically and advised two presidents and two chief economists of the World Bank, and in 2011, I served on the External Advisory Group of the IMF. Again, these are not positions for ‘mis-managers’. Since I left office, I have been advising countries and central banks; and there is hardly any two months I don’t consult/advise on banking/financial and monetary policy. I have given these illustrations to make the point that for every one Okonjo-Iweala’s attempt to rewrite history, there are thousands who disagree.

Now, to some skeletal facts of our stewardship! I will be brief as I have a whole book to tell my story. As chief economic adviser, I had advised that our banking system could not support the private sector-led economy envisioned under NEEDS. When I assumed office at CBN, I inherited 89 rickety, mostly family banks (all of which put together were not up to the size of number four bank in South Africa). Many were insolvent, with depositors’ money trapped, and 20 more about to collapse. To get a credit of $300 million probably required all the banks to syndicate it. For me, there was a national emergency. I drafted a 13-point reform agenda, discussed and agreed all the specifics with the President, and his VP; as well as my management team at the CBN, and we swung into action. President Obasanjo promised 100% support and actually delivered 1000% — which was decisive. I apologize to you Madam because I did not brief or inform you about it. We just wanted to keep it confidential given the sensitivity of the announcement. It is on record that you never supported it.

It was both a revolution and a war and most people thought it was “impossible”, but thank God we succeeded. For the first time in Nigeria’s history a policy of that magnitude was announced and deadline kept with precision. We were courageous to revoke the licenses of 14 banks, including those of my friends, in one day. The FT-Banker concluded that the scale, precision, and cost of the transformation were unprecedented in the world. Before then, Malaysia had the least cost of banking consolidation at 5% of Malaysian GDP. It did not cost Nigerian taxpayers one penny. Twenty-five new, stronger banks emerged but the powerful idea behind consolidation ignited something even more powerful—‘the race to the top’. Banks raised more capital, and even banks like First Bank, Zenith, GTB, etc that did not merge with others went on capital raising several times. The consequence was higher levels of capitalization and within two years, 14 Nigerian banks were in the top 1000 banks in the world and two in the top 300 (no Nigerian bank was in the top 1000 before I came). Even after I left office, still 9 banks were in the top 1000. Our vision was to have a Nigerian bank in the top 100 banks within 10 years. As I see the new Access bank; Zenith, GTB, Fidelity, Diamond, UBA, FBN, FCMB, Skye, Stanbic IBTC, Union, Ecobank, etc, I cannot but feel that we have taken giant steps forward.

Deposits and credit soared (from barely N1.2 trillion to over N7 trillion); new technologies (ATM and e-banking) boomed, and banks had 57,000 new jobs; mega businesses emerged (ask any major operator in the Nigerian economy their experience with banking and credit before and after Soludo — the Dangotes, Arik, MM2, oil and gas operators; etc); capital market boomed and dominated by the banking sector. It was a new dawn for Nigerian private sector. I have heard Dangote twice say that he would not be near as big as he is today without the banking consolidation. Many other stakeholders still say it today. FDI and portfolio inflows flooded into Nigeria. The world celebrated, and one single transformative idea has changed the face of the private sector and economy forever. Banks became Nigeria’s first transnational corporations with about 37 branches outside of Nigeria.

I read some of the responses to my article, “Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election”, and I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. I am glad that the debate has finally taken off. I have decided, for the record, to re-enter the debate if only to set some records straight and hopefully elevate the debate further. Whom do I respond to? First, let me thank Gov Kayode Fayemi for his very mature and professional response on behalf of the APC. It forms a great basis for deepening the conversation. Pat Utomi, Oby Ezekwesili, Iyabo Obasanjo, and thousands of other patriotic Nigerians have raised the content of the debate. Femi Fani-Kayode made me laugh, as usual. The Gov. Jang faction of the Governors’ Forum played the usual politics, although I know what most of them think privately. Who else? Oh, Peter Obi. Well, since he can’t write and designated Valentine as usual to write for him (who never disputed the NBS statistics that Obi broke world record in the pauperization of Anambra people but instead focused on lies and abuses) I won’t dignify him with a response here. His third class performance in Anambra will be the subject of a comprehensive article later.

Here, I will focus on Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s response (as Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy—CME and hence on behalf of the Federal Government). Since I have known her, out of deep respect, I have never called her by her name: I call her Madam. I must state that I have great pains seeing myself on the opposite side of the table with Madam, in this way. I respect you, Madam, and will always do. If you read my article of September 2010 (before you became Minister), the tone and elucidation were as strong as the current one. It is my honest effort to ensure that our choice of leaders is based on rigorous scrutiny of what is on offer. Part of my frustration is that five years after, everything I warned about has come to happen and we are conducting our campaigns as if we are not in crisis. As a concerned Nigerian, I have a duty to speak out again. Regrettably, you have taken it very personal.

I am not bothered about the personal abuses: I actually expected worse. What name has the government not called President Obasanjo or any person who has dared to disagree with it of late? Anyone who disagrees with the government must either be ‘insane’ or have a ‘character’ deficiency or must be ‘looking for a job’ or ‘without honour’, or a ‘charlatan’. Yesterday, Sanusi alleged that $20 billion was missing and he was accused of gross financial mismanagement, recklessness and poor governance to the point of being the first governor of central bank to be suspended from office. Today, he is the good one; and for daring to award an “F” grade for our economic performance, Soludo has become the ‘worst’ and ‘without character’ or perhaps ‘looking for position’ (Lol!). Some days ago, a former president was called ‘a motor park tout’ and ‘un-statesmanly’ just for disagreeing. This “how dare you criticise us” mind-set of the government is dangerous for our democracy.

In this Part One of my planned three part series, I will restrict it to the main issues you raised. I will not bother about the malicious attacks on my person. For me, it is nothing personal. In early 2011, I had a similar heated exchange with then Finance Minister Segun Aganga. But when the Nigerian economy was at stake and he invited me to a stakeholders meeting in his office (as Minister of Trade and Investment) to discuss Nigeria’s response to the ruinous EU — Economic Partnership for Africa (EPA), I flew into Nigeria for that (at my expense) — the first and only time I have been to any government office to discuss policy since I left office. It is about Nigeria. I will, as expected, remind people like you of the salient aspects of my record of public service in response to your charge; challenge your claim to debt relief, and your reason for not saving; highlight your forgery of economic statistics and the lies in your response; but most importantly re-focus our attention to the historic mismanagement of our economy which you carefully avoided. I will show that while you are introducing austerity measures and soon to immiserate the citizens, our public finance is haemorrhaging to the point that estimated over N30 trillion is missing or stolen or unaccounted for, or simply mismanaged — under your watch! We can’t go on like this, and I am convinced that an alternative future is possible. Can we have a public debate on this alternative future? The issues at stake are too grave to be trivialized through name calling. As I write, the naira exchange rate to the dollar is at N215 (from N158 a few months ago) and unless oil price recovers, this is just the beginning. For the sake of Nigeria, I won’t keep quiet anymore!

Let me start with Madam’s rather comical, wild judgment on my tenure of office which I believe to be totally false and baseless. I apologise upfront that in the process of making a ‘personal defence’, it is difficult to avoid a rather uncomfortable emphasis on “I”. I did not want that but since Madam has dragged us this low, I have little choice but to do so in the next few paragraphs—just to keep the record straight!

In my view, there are three criteria for evaluating a public officer’s stewardship: the evaluation by his employer; the satisfaction of the public he served; and the hard facts of performance. As I will show on these three counts, I am convinced that I left a world record of public service, and a thousand Okonjo-Iwealas cannot re-write that history. I served Nigeria under two presidents (Obasanjo and Yar’Adua) and as my immediate bosses, below are their written testimonials of my record.

Said President Obasanjo (December 2004):

“Charles Soludo is a true Nigerian. He is the sort of Nigerian that we all know we can rely on. Among his numerous virtues is COURAGE. I have found in him a man who can take tough and realistic decisions, stand his ground, educate others on the salience of his decision, and work very hard to ensure that the decision is efficiently and effectively implemented. His dedication to duty is first rate. His leadership qualities are admirable and his willingness to listen and learn is simply infectious. Professor Soludo has within a short time emerged as one of the leading lights of our nation. Not because he has a godfather but by sheer hard work, loyalty, dedication to duty, commitment to the nation, creativity, and undiluted association with the reform agenda….”

President Yar’Adua (May 2009) had the following to say about the Central Bank of Nigeria under my leadership:

“… the CBN has performed creditably well in delivering on its core mandates. This is especially even more so in the last five years. Most people would agree that without the successful banking consolidation and effective management of our foreign reserves, the current global crisis would have shaken the financial system and our national economy to their foundations with calamitous consequences”.

In the President’s special letter of commendation after the completion of my tenure of office, President Yar’Adua (June 2009) had the following to say to me:

“As your tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria comes to a glorious end, I write on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria to place on record our debt of gratitude to you for your dedicated service and uncommon sense of duty over the past five years. I am confident that your worthy antecedents in the CBN and in prior appointments in the service of our nation remain sources of inspiration to an entire generation. As I wish you even more astounding successes in the years ahead, it is my fervent hope that you will readily avail us of your distinguished service when the need arises in the future”.

To the best of my knowledge, President Obasanjo has not changed those views even after ten years. The views of my two bosses, not the emotional outburst of an angry person desperate to get even, are what count.

How did Nigerians evaluate my public service? Unfortunately, we do not have scientific opinion polls on job approval ratings for individual public officers. But if the public opinions of individuals and organized groups (labour, employers, depositors, borrowers, stakeholders of the financial institutions, newspaper editorials, investors, etc) as expressed in thousands of newspaper/magazine clips during and after my tenure are anything to go by, then 82% of the public largely agree with the sentiments expressed by my two bosses. Your views belong to the other 18% which is okay, after all, no one is perfect. Five Nigerian newspapers and magazines simultaneously named us “man of the year” in one year — unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. I do not talk about hundreds of awards and recognitions by various segments of our society (during and even after service) for “excellent public service”. I was particularly touched by the historic award by the staff union of the Central Bank and the tears in the eyes of many as thousands of the staff gave me a standing ovation as I walked the aisle after my brief farewell speech.

Certainly, the international community (investors, bankers, scholars, donors, media, etc) took serious notice of the revolution in Nigeria’s monetary and financial system. I am recipient of five international awards as global and African central bank governor of the year, not to mention dozens of other recognitions (even after leaving office). The London Financial Times described us as “a great reformer”. Even as the global economic and financial crisis raged in 2008, the United Nations General Assembly appointed me to serve on the Commission of Experts to reform the international monetary and financial system. You don’t appoint someone who has ‘mismanaged’ his national financial system to reform the global system. For 8 years until 2012, I served on the chief economist advisory council (CEAC) of the World Bank, and together with two Nobel Prize winners in economics and other experts we met periodically and advised two presidents and two chief economists of the World Bank, and in 2011, I served on the External Advisory Group of the IMF. Again, these are not positions for ‘mis-managers’. Since I left office, I have been advising countries and central banks; and there is hardly any two months I don’t consult/advise on banking/financial and monetary policy. I have given these illustrations to make the point that for every one Okonjo-Iweala’s attempt to rewrite history, there are thousands who disagree.

Now, to some skeletal facts of our stewardship! I will be brief as I have a whole book to tell my story. As chief economic adviser, I had advised that our banking system could not support the private sector-led economy envisioned under NEEDS. When I assumed office at CBN, I inherited 89 rickety, mostly family banks (all of which put together were not up to the size of number four bank in South Africa). Many were insolvent, with depositors’ money trapped, and 20 more about to collapse. To get a credit of $300 million probably required all the banks to syndicate it. For me, there was a national emergency. I drafted a 13-point reform agenda, discussed and agreed all the specifics with the President, and his VP; as well as my management team at the CBN, and we swung into action. President Obasanjo promised 100% support and actually delivered 1000% — which was decisive. I apologize to you Madam because I did not brief or inform you about it. We just wanted to keep it confidential given the sensitivity of the announcement. It is on record that you never supported it.

It was both a revolution and a war and most people thought it was “impossible”, but thank God we succeeded. For the first time in Nigeria’s history a policy of that magnitude was announced and deadline kept with precision. We were courageous to revoke the licenses of 14 banks, including those of my friends, in one day. The FT-Banker concluded that the scale, precision, and cost of the transformation were unprecedented in the world. Before then, Malaysia had the least cost of banking consolidation at 5% of Malaysian GDP. It did not cost Nigerian taxpayers one penny. Twenty-five new, stronger banks emerged but the powerful idea behind consolidation ignited something even more powerful—‘the race to the top’. Banks raised more capital, and even banks like First Bank, Zenith, GTB, etc that did not merge with others went on capital raising several times. The consequence was higher levels of capitalization and within two years, 14 Nigerian banks were in the top 1000 banks in the world and two in the top 300 (no Nigerian bank was in the top 1000 before I came). Even after I left office, still 9 banks were in the top 1000. Our vision was to have a Nigerian bank in the top 100 banks within 10 years. As I see the new Access bank; Zenith, GTB, Fidelity, Diamond, UBA, FBN, FCMB, Skye, Stanbic IBTC, Union, Ecobank, etc, I cannot but feel that we have taken giant steps forward.

Deposits and credit soared (from barely N1.2 trillion to over N7 trillion); new technologies (ATM and e-banking) boomed, and banks had 57,000 new jobs; mega businesses emerged (ask any major operator in the Nigerian economy their experience with banking and credit before and after Soludo — the Dangotes, Arik, MM2, oil and gas operators; etc); capital market boomed and dominated by the banking sector. It was a new dawn for Nigerian private sector. I have heard Dangote twice say that he would not be near as big as he is today without the banking consolidation. Many other stakeholders still say it today. FDI and portfolio inflows flooded into Nigeria. The world celebrated, and one single transformative idea has changed the face of the private sector and economy forever. Banks became Nigeria’s first transnational corporations with about 37 branches outside of Nigeria.

Saturday, 24 January 2015 14:43

Naira in big fall at forex market

Written by

The Naira on Friday depreciated against the dollar as it traded at N208 from the N191.50 it sold for on Monday, Jan. 19.

The new rate has made the naira to lose N16.50 within five days.

In the parallel market, the Naira even exchanged for as as much as N235 to a dollar, as the American currency became rare in the market.

The CBN’s website, however, put the Naira against the dollar at N167.50, while the Pound sold for N253.20 and the Euro stood at N193.89S

The development has resulted into speculation in the market and caused ripple effects on other currencies.

The NAN correspondent who visited some Bureau De Change and Black Market operators in Lagos, said that they could not give rates to the Pound Sterling and the Euro.

Dealers who preferred anonymity said that there was scarcity of dollars in circulation.

They said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had stopped selling forex to the Bureaux De Change, since last year.

The dealers added that the recent review of trading positions for the forex trading positions of banks to 72 hours, also contributed to speculation in the system.

The effect, they added, was that the naira could depreciate further by next week.

The CBN in November 2014 devalued the Naira to N168 to the dollar.

A new online radio station - X365radio.com - has been launched. The 24/7 hour internet radio station is based in New York City, but transmits to every corner of the world with internet access. A press statement by the founders said yesterday that the new radio station "hopes to become a beacon of hope to people of all races, and to help to promote freedom, liberty and happiness in all societies." Available at http://www.x365radio.com, the new radio station according to the press statement, hopes to help to transform the way people live and conduct business 24/7 in every nation on the planet. 

Heritage Banking Company Limited has introduced Nigeria’s pioneer portable POS solution christened “PortaPOS” to ride on the mPOS revolution, which is fast gaining acceptance worldwide.

Aimed at providing a seamless payment channel for the bank’s esteemed merchants, the Heritage PortaPOS is being introduced to address payment challenges within the retail payments space and also in support of the cashless Nigeria project spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The PortaPOS is a payment channel that performs the functions of an electronic point of sale terminal. Its implementation allows services and sales industries to conduct financial transactions, receive payments and provide value added services via a specialised app on their mobile phones, which in turn helps to improve customers experience and free up valuable real estate that would otherwise be dedicated to the regular POS countertop.

According to Niyi Adeseun, executive director, Manila Banking, Heritage Bank, “today, small businesses and large retailers are turning to mobile point of sale (or mPOS) to increase sales and broaden their customer base. Existing large retailers are also adopting mobile POS solutions and integrating them into their current point of sales environment to enhance payment methods.

“The Nigerian retail and corporate market is undergoing a massive transformation in a battle for digital consumers who shop through a variety of channels, and as such expect a more integrated payment experience that is quick, seamless, convenient, and most importantly secure.

“Any smartphone or tablet is compatible with the Heritage PortaPOS, via a free downloadable app. It is also cost effective, allowing a small business owner to conduct transactions and receive payments without having to invest in an electronic register or pay support licenses for software. Additionally, the solution is also extendable to cater for inventory management requirements of the merchant, so our customers can truly have a mobile business.”

The Heritage PortaPOS, which is free to all Heritage customers, has several distinct features including ability to accept all EMV chip and PIN cards, MasterCard, Verve, and Visa cards. It is portable and light (@ 120g only, as light as a regular mobile handset); it has long-lasting and rechargeable Li-Ion battery and syncs to phone and printer via Bluetooth technology.

Its benefits include being able to work with all networks; direct credit of payments into business accounts; triple receipt option (paper print, email, and SMS) and assured transaction security.

Heritage Bank was founded on a commitment to support its customers in wealth creation, preservation and transfer, and the Heritage PortaPOS is one of the numerous innovative ways through which the bank hopes to empower Nigerian merchants to truly maintain a timeless rhythm to their business payment needs.

Heritage Banking Company Limited has introduced Nigeria’s pioneer portable POS solution christened “PortaPOS” to ride on the mPOS revolution, which is fast gaining acceptance worldwide.

Aimed at providing a seamless payment channel for the bank’s esteemed merchants, the Heritage PortaPOS is being introduced to address payment challenges within the retail payments space and also in support of the cashless Nigeria project spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The PortaPOS is a payment channel that performs the functions of an electronic point of sale terminal. Its implementation allows services and sales industries to conduct financial transactions, receive payments and provide value added services via a specialised app on their mobile phones, which in turn helps to improve customers experience and free up valuable real estate that would otherwise be dedicated to the regular POS countertop.

According to Niyi Adeseun, executive director, Manila Banking, Heritage Bank, “today, small businesses and large retailers are turning to mobile point of sale (or mPOS) to increase sales and broaden their customer base. Existing large retailers are also adopting mobile POS solutions and integrating them into their current point of sales environment to enhance payment methods.

“The Nigerian retail and corporate market is undergoing a massive transformation in a battle for digital consumers who shop through a variety of channels, and as such expect a more integrated payment experience that is quick, seamless, convenient, and most importantly secure.

“Any smartphone or tablet is compatible with the Heritage PortaPOS, via a free downloadable app. It is also cost effective, allowing a small business owner to conduct transactions and receive payments without having to invest in an electronic register or pay support licenses for software. Additionally, the solution is also extendable to cater for inventory management requirements of the merchant, so our customers can truly have a mobile business.”

The Heritage PortaPOS, which is free to all Heritage customers, has several distinct features including ability to accept all EMV chip and PIN cards, MasterCard, Verve, and Visa cards. It is portable and light (@ 120g only, as light as a regular mobile handset); it has long-lasting and rechargeable Li-Ion battery and syncs to phone and printer via Bluetooth technology.

Its benefits include being able to work with all networks; direct credit of payments into business accounts; triple receipt option (paper print, email, and SMS) and assured transaction security.

Heritage Bank was founded on a commitment to support its customers in wealth creation, preservation and transfer, and the Heritage PortaPOS is one of the numerous innovative ways through which the bank hopes to empower Nigerian merchants to truly maintain a timeless rhythm to their business payment needs.

The  naira was little changed on Thursday after the central bank increased the amount of dollars it sold at a twice-weekly auction the previous day, dealers said, citing ample of dollar liquidity on the interbank market.

The unit opened for trade at 179.53 naira to the dollar, up 0.21 percent from its previous close. It then stabilised at 180.25 at 1140 GMT, a range it has been trading at for the past three hours.

But the currency remained outside the central bank’s new target range of 160-176 naira to the dollar, which the bank set last week, when it devalued the naira by 8 percent to halt the decline to its foreign reserves.

At a separate forex auction late on Wednesday, the central bank sold $289 million at 168 naira to the greenback, more than the $200 million it offered, to meet demand for dollars.

Dealers said the market was also expecting the central bank to intervene to reduce volatility as it has done since it devalued the currency. Some commercial lenders were selling dollars on behalf of their clients, they said.

The central bank sold treasury bills on Wednesday with maturities ranging from three months to one year at an auction, to raise 129.17 billion naira (717 mln). Result of the auction is expected on Thursday.

The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) has announced the successful completion of the sale of the entire issued and fully paid up ordinary shares of Enterprise Bank Limited to HBCL Investment Services Limited (HISL) for a consideration of N56.1 billion.

According to a statement signed by Kayode Lambo, head, corporate communications strategy & research, the transaction was structured as a broad public auction process, which attracted interest from multiple domestic and international bidders, with HISL emerging as the preferred bidder.

The statement said the completion of the transaction follows from the fulfillment of the terms and conditions stated in the share purchase agreement (SPA) executed between AMCON and HISL. It said the transaction has been approved by the board of directors of AMCON and relevant regulatory approvals have been obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

“In line with AMCON’s strategic objectives, this transaction marks the divestment of the first of three banks that were acquired by AMCON in August 2011 and represents a landmark transaction in the Nigerian banking sector”, the corporation said.

Tuesday, 04 November 2014 14:30

Freelance reporter? Join us

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Are you a journalist? Do you want to join us as a freelance reporter? Or a correspondent?

Are you looking to work with an international media agency? Journalists Beyond Borders inc of New York, publishers of five reputable online platforms, is looking to engage freelance writers, reporters and correspondents for its five online platforms:

1. Xclusivenigeria.com

2. Africareporters.com

3. Chiquemagazine.com

4. Newyorkdaily247.com

5. 234naira.com

Represent us in Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Imo, Delta, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Osun, Edo, Abuja, Borno, Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Yobe, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Anambra, Jigawa, Ondo, Kebbi, Gombe, Yobe, Taraba, Nassarawa etc. 

Contact the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +1-347-792-5748

 

 

Contact the editors:

XCLUSIVENIGERIA.COM Editors: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

AFRICAREPORTERS.COM Editors: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NEWYORKDAILY247.COM Editors: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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