Monday, 23 October 2017
Parliament

Parliament (548)

BUHARI ADMINISTRATION MID-TERM FACTSHEET (MAY 2017)

ECONOMY

Growth in Agriculture and Solid Minerals:

The number of sub-sectors of the economy experiencing negative growth has almost halved; falling from 29 sub-sectors for the whole of 2016 to 16 in Q1 2017. Growth in manufacturing has returned to positive territory after five quarters of negative growth. It grew by 1.36% in Q1 2017 after falling to -7.0% in Q1 2016.

Our priority Sectors of Agriculture and Solid Minerals have seen improved

performance, in spite of the recession. Agriculture grew by 4.11% in 2016, while Solid Minerals recorded a 7% increase. The contribution of the Ministry of Solid Minerals’ to the Federation Account tripled to about N2 billion in 2016, up from N700m in 2015.

Savings:

  •   Even at a time of low oil prices (and by implication low government revenues):

  •   Nigeria’s External Reserves have grown by US$7 billion since October 2016

  •   The Sovereign Wealth Fund has seen inflows of US$500m in 2016 and 2017 (the first inflows since the original US$1bn with which the Fund kicked off in 2012), and

  •   The Excess Crude Account has seen an inflow of US$87m, in 2017.

Phasing Out of Subsidy Regimes for Petroleum Products and Fertilizers.

The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (details below), combined with a newly developed soil map designed to aid fertilizer application, substantially raised local production of grains in 2016 (yields improved

from 2 tonnes per hectare to as much as 7 tonnes per hectare, in some States) and produced a model agricultural collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi States.

Nigeria’s rice imports fell from 580,000 MT in 2015 to 58,000MT in 2016

The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (which involves a partnership with the Government of Morocco, for the supply of phosphate), has resulted in the revitalization of 11 blending plants across the country. The benefits include annual savings of US$200 million in foreign exchange, and ₦60 billion annually in budgetary provisions

for Fertilizer subsidies. The Scheme has also made it possible for Farmers to purchase Fertilizer at prices up to 30 percent cheaper than previously available.

Support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises: The Administration has launched a series of funding and capacity development initiatives designed to support MSMEs across the country, as follows:

  •   The new Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) is finally taking off, with initial funding of US$1.3bn (provided by the World Bank, German Development Bank, the African Development Bank and Agence Française de Development) to provide medium and long-term loans to MSMEs

  •   The MSME Clinic, which bring relevant Government Agencies and their

managements together with small businesses operating in various cities across the country, to enable the Agencies provide direct support to these businesses. The Interactions allow the Agencies better understand the issues facing small businesses, and provides a platform for speedy resolution.

  •   The Ease of Doing Business Reform Programme (see below)

  •   The Government Enterprise and Empowerment component (GEEP) of the Social Intervention Programme (SIP)

Ease of Doing Business Reform Successes: The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (inaugurated by President Buhari in August 2016) implemented a 60 National Action Plan between February and April 2017, with 70 percent of the Targets achieved, including the following:

  •   Intending Business Owners can now search for Company names on the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)

  •   Intending Business Owners can now upload their registration documents directly to the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)

  •   Eliminated the need for SMEs to hire lawyers to prepare registration documents

  •   Introduced a single form for Company Incorporation to save time and reduce cost

  •   Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) e-payment solution has been integrated with the CAC portal to facilitate e-stamping.

  •   Interested parties can conduct online searches of secured interests on movable assets on the National Collateral Registry

  •   New Arrival and Departure forms for use at our International airports. The new forms are shorter, and have also consolidated a number of previously separate forms into single documents.

  •   Simplified our Visa on Arrival (VoA) Process. Submission of VoA applications and receipt of approval letter can now be done electronically via a dedicated NIS email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  •   Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has now been mandated to schedule and coordinate joint physical examination of cargo to ensure there’s only one point of contact between importers and official

  •   Imports into Nigeria now required to be placed in pallets to facilitate quicker physical examination.

  •   Central Bank, Customs and banks now required to process Net Export Proceeds forms within 72 hours; and Pre-Shipment Inspection Agencies (PIAs) now required to issue Certificate of Clean Inspection (CCI) within 3 days

  •   Approval obtained to reduce number of documents required for imports from 14 to 8, and number of documents needed for exports from 10 to 7

  •   Minimum container placement notice time needed by Terminal Operators for examination reduced from 24 hours to 12 hours.

  •   Minister of Interior has approved and launched a new Immigration Policy for Nigeria

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has since followed up on the National Action Plan by signing, in May 2017, Executive Orders on Improving Efficiency in the Business Environment, and on Promoting Local Procurement by Government Agencies.

Infrastructure:

  •   The Buhari Administration has demonstrated a single-minded commitment to upgrading and developing Nigeria’s Transport Infrastructure.

  •   Road Projects are ongoing across every State of the country; many of these projects had been abandoned in recent years because of mounting debts owed by the Federal Government to contractors.

  •   The Administration is also pushing ahead with the revitalization of Nigeria’s

3,500km network narrow-gauge railway. In March 2017 a consortium led by General Electric, and comprising Transnet of South Africa, APM Terminals of the Netherlands and Sinohydro Consortium of China submitted the sole bid for the concession of the Lagos-Kano Railway narrow-gauge Line. (Transaction Advisers were approved for the project in 2016). In May 2017 the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the commencement of negotiations with GE to conclude the concessioning.

 In addition, Abuja’s Light Rail system will also go into operation (test-run) in 2017. The first line to be launched will connect the city center with the Airport,

with a link to the Abuja-Kaduna Railway Line. The test-run will start in November 2017, ahead of full commencement of operations in Q1 2018.

 The Buhari Administration successfully completed the reconstruction of the Abuja Airport runway within the scheduled six-week period (March – April 2017).

Progress with the Alignment of Monetary, Fiscal and Trade Policies: Landmark initiatives here include:

 Ongoing FX regime reforms by the Central Bank, which have seen increased stability in the FX market, and increasing appetite for Nigerian stocks by foreign portfolio investors. Reforms include the creation in April 2017 of a New FX Window for Investors and Exporters. The new Window has attracted $1.4bn in its

first four weeks of operation, according to data from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

  •   Revision of the List of 41 Items excluded from the Central Bank FX Window, in line with a request from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN)

  •   The establishment of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations by the Economic Management Team (EMT), and

  •   The Introduction of a new, Tariff-driven Tomato Policy to support domestic producers and production.

A new Social Housing Programme is kicking off in 2017. The ‘Family Homes Fund’ will take off with a 100 billion Naira provision in the 2017 Budget. The rest of the funding will come from the private sector. A pilot component has already kicked, to construct the first set of homes for the Programme)

1.2 Trillion naira has been released for capital expenditure in the 2016 budget, since implementation started in June 2016. This is the largest ever capital spend within a single budget year in the history of Nigeria. This investment has enabled the resumption of work on several stalled projects — road, rail and power

projects — across the country.

All 4 components of the Social Investment Programme (SIP) have now taken off.

  •   The SIP is the largest and most ambitious social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with more than 1 million beneficiaries so far — 200,000 N- Power beneficiaries (160,000 of them have had their details validated and are now receiving the monthly N30,000 stipend, while the rest are undergoing verification.

  •   3,162,451 people belonging to 26, 924 registered cooperatives have been registered for the Government Enterprise and Empowerment (GEEP) Scheme.

57,234 interest-free (except a one-time low administrative fee) loans have been issued, across 28 States and the FCT. 56% of loans so far disbursed has gone to female beneficiaries.

  •   1,051,000 Primary School Pupils are currently benefiting from the Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP), in 8,587 schools across seven States. More than 11,000 cooks have been employed for the HGSFP.

  •   Under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme, 26,942 beneficiaries are now receiving the monthly N5,000 stipend in 9 States and 84 Local Government Areas. The States are Borno, Cross River, Niger, Kwara, Ekiti, Kogi, Oyo, Osun and Bauchi.

Strategic Engagements with OPEC and in the Niger Delta have played an important

part in raising our expected oil revenues. Already, Nigeria’s External Reserves have grown by around $7 billion in the last six months. In the same period we have added $87m to the Excess Crude Account, and $250m to the Sovereign Wealth Fund.

New Vision for the Niger Delta:

Acting President Osinbajo is leading the engagement, on behalf of President Buhari and the Federal Government. The Vice President has been visiting oil-producing communities across the Niger Delta, listening to them and outlining the Federal Government’s commitment to the peace, security and development of the region — encapsulated in the Buhari administration’s ‘New Vision for the Niger Delta’.

The New Vision brings together a robust set of promises, solutions, targets and initiatives aimed at ensuring that the people of the Niger Delta benefit maximally from the region’s oil wealth.

The New Vision offers a detailed response to the 16-point Demand Agenda submitted to President Buhari by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in November 2016.

Tangible results of the New Vision so far include:

 Approval of a 2017 commencement date for the stalled Nigerian Maritime

University in Delta State

  •   Approval by President Buhari of an additional 35 billion naira for the 2016 budget of the Presidential Amnesty Programme

  •   Approval for the establishment of Modular Refineries across the nine States of the Niger Delta

  •   Resumption of construction work on abandoned projects across the Niger Delta, including the all-important East-West Road.

Beneficial Government-to-Government Partnerships with China and Morocco: President Buhari’s April 2016 Official Visit to China has unlocked billions of dollars in infrastructure funding. Construction work has commenced on the first major product of that collaboration, a 150km/hour rail line between Lagos and Ibadan.

The National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (NERGP), the Federal Government’s medium-term Economic Plan, launched by President Buhari in April 2017, charts a course for the Nigerian economy over the next four years (2017–2020).

The Vision of the NERGP is to restore economic growth, invest in Nigerians, and to build a globally competitive economy, and the Plan aims to achieve these by focusing on five execution priorities:

  •   Stabilizing the macroeconomic environment;

  •   Achieving Agriculture and Food Security;

  •   Ensuring energy efficiency (especially in power and petroleum products);

  •   Improving transportation infrastructure; and

  •   Driving industrialization primarily through SMEs.

The ERGP will return Nigeria’s economy to sustainable, inclusive and diversified growth, and to transform Nigeria from an import-dependent to a producing economy; a country that grows what it eats and consumes what it produces.

The almost 8-fold oversubscription of our recent Eurobond (orders in excess of US$7.8 billion compared to a pre-issuance target of US$1bn) demonstrates strong market appetite for Nigeria, and shows confidence by the international investment community in Nigeria’s economic reform agenda.

Power Sector:

  •   Power Sector Reform is on course with the launch of the 701 billion
    Naira Payment Assurance Programme designed to resolve the liquidity challenges in the Power Sector by guaranteeing payments to Generating Companies and Gas Suppliers, while the Federal Government undertakes the much-needed reform and strengthening of Distribution Companies.

  •   In addition to the PAP is a much more comprehensive Power Sector Recovery Programme, launched in March 2017 and which has received the endorsement of the World Bank.

Improved Local Refining Capacity: The total amount of Crude refined by the NNPC’s three Refineries (Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna) grew from 8m barrels in 2015 to 24m barrels in 2016, and 10m barrels in the first quarter of 2017.

ANTI-CORRUPTION AND TRANSPARENCY

The Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA):

 PICA was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to strengthen controls over Government finances through a continuous internal audit process across all

Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), particularly in respect of payroll. Through the activities of PICA, more than 50,000 erroneous payroll entries have been identified, with payroll savings of N198 billion achieved in 2016.

 Also, the Federal Ministry of Finance has set a target to ensure that the Federal Government’s Payroll Platform — the ‘Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System’ (IPPIS) — covers 100 percent of MDAs by the end of 2017. Currently 60% of MDAs are enrolled on the IPPIS platform.

Budget Reforms:

  •   First, a Presidential Order was issued directing that all budgets of all Government Agencies be prepared in line with International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), using a budget template developed for that purpose.

  •   Second, the 2017 Budget was collated using a web-based application developed by the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF), for the first time ever. Instead of the traditional method of hard copy submissions of budget proposals, Ministries, Departments and Agencies were asked to upload their proposals to the new budget preparation portal.

  •   By replacing paper submissions with an audit-able and trackable online system, the 2017 budget preparation process was strengthened against manipulation and unauthorised alteration. All MDA budget proposals were uploaded to the new system, for review and final collation by the Budget Office.

  •   More than 4,000 staff of the MDAs were specially trained to use the new application, across multiple locations nationwide. Also to support the deployment of the budget portal, the Budget Office set up a Helpdesk, accessible by telephone and email, for authorised users.

Expansion of TSA Coverage:

  •   On August 7, 2015, President Buhari issued a directive to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to close their accounts with Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and transfer their balances to the Central Bank of Nigeria on or before 15th September 2015.

  •   This decision to fully operationalise the Treasury Single Account (TSA) system— a public accounting system that enables the Government to manage its finances (revenues and payments) using a single/unified account, or series of linked accounts domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria — has resulted in the consolidation of more than 20,000 bank accounts previously spread across DMBs in the country, and in savings of an average of N4.7 billion monthly in banking charges associated with indiscriminate Government borrowing from the

DMBs.

  •   As at February 10, 2017, a total sum of N5.244 Trillion had flowed into the
    TSA. The TSA allows the managers of the Government’s finances, including but not limited to the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, to have, at any point in time, a comprehensive overview of cash flows across the entire Government.

  •   It also ensures increased transparency in public financial management, as well as prevents a scenario in which some MDAs have idle cash while other MDAs are compelled to borrow exorbitantly from DMBs.

  •   The TSA system was launched in 2012, but failed to gain traction until President Buhari’s executive order in August 2015. As at December 2016, 766 MDAs were TSA-compliant. The Ministry of Finance continues to fine-tune the system to improve its efficiency, and has also commenced an audit to ensure that all funds due to the TSA are remitted into it.

Deployment of BVN for Payroll and Social Investment Programmes:

 Considering that personnel costs are the Federal Government’s largest

expenditure line, the Federal Government has given priority to the deployment of the BVN for payroll and pension audits. The use of BVN to verify payroll entries on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform has so far led to the detection of more than 50,000 erroneous payroll entries.

 The Federal Government has also ensured the deployment of BVN system to serve as the verification basis for payments to beneficiaries and vendors in the N-Power Scheme and the Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP)

Replacement of old Cash-Based Accounting System with an Accruals-Based System:

  •   Cash accounting makes no reference to the liabilities that the Federal Government may be required to meet in the future nor does it recognise the benefits that will be obtained from assets purchased over a period of time.

  •   The cash accounting system fails to capture information on public sector assets and liabilities which may present the illusion of positive financial results in the short term, at the expense of longer-term fiscal stability and sustainability.

  •   Accruals-based accounting, on the other hand, presents the true financial position of the Federal Governments assets and liabilities, which would help the Government plan future funding requirements for asset maintenance and replacement, and the repayment of existing and contingent liabilities and, thus, better manage their cash position and financing requirements.

  •   It provides comprehensive information on Government’s current and projected

cash flows, leading to better cash management. For example, the conversion from cash accounting to accrual accounting led to the discovery of unrecorded debts owed contractors, oil marketers, exporters, electricity distribution companies and others.

Enlistment into Open Government Partnership (OGP):

  •   In May 2016, President Buhari attended and participated in the International Anti- Corruption Summit organised by the UK Government. At that Summit he pledged that Nigeria would join the OGP, an international transparency, accountability and citizen engagement initiative.

  •   In July 2016, Nigeria became the 70th country to join the OGP. Following this, Nigeria constituted an OGP National Steering Committee (NSC), which went on to develop a National Action Plan (2017–2019) that aims to deepen and mainstream transparency mechanisms and citizens’ engagement in the management of public resources across all sectors.

  •   The National Action Plan was submitted at the OGP Global Summit in Paris, France, in December 2016.

Insistence on Conditionality of Fiscal Support to States:

  •   The Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) is a reform programme that specifies conditions under which States can access the Federal Government’s N510 billion Budget Support Facility (BSF). The FSP was introduced to enhance fiscal prudence and transparency in public expenditure, across the states. 35 States signed up.

  •   Independent verification and auditing of participating States is now ongoing — against the FSP conditions & milestones — by eight (8) accounting firms.

  •   State Governments that fail to implement the FSP action plans, as stated, will be taken off the Budget Support Facility with immediate effect.

  •   The Fiscal Sustainability Plan is part of our reform of Public Financial Management Systems nationwide.

Creation of Efficiency Unit (EU) to spearhead the efficient use of government resources, and ensure reduction in Recurrent Expenditure:

 The Efficiency Unit reviews all Government overhead expenditure, reduces wastage, provides efficiency and ensures quantifiable savings for the country. Also, the Unit identifies best practices in procurement and financial management

for adoption.

  •   The Efficiency Unit’s efforts have resulted in more than N15 billion in savings on travel, sitting allowances and souvenirs.

  •   There is also potential savings of N7 billion on other expenditure lines where the unit seeks to control spending through Circulars. In addition, there is on-going work on the deployment of a price-checker, as well as the use of debit cards for payments.

Asset Recovery Reforms:

Oil and Gas


 Petroleum Industry Governance Bill:

 The Constitution of a Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery (PCAR), headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to bring together all law enforcement agencies involved in the recovery of assets; as well as designation of a dedicated Central Bank Account to receive all recovered funds, for coordination and transparency of management and oversight.

Since August 2015, NNPC began publishing its performance monthly (NNPC

Monthly Oil & Gas Report) in newspapers and various new media platforms and

most importantly on the NNPC website to improve transparency and probity.

The controversial Offshore Processing Arrangement (OPA) has been cancelled

and replaced with a ‘Direct Sales and Direct Purchase (DSDP)’ scheme with

reputable offshore refineries.

Completion of work, by the Federal Ministry

of Petroleum Resources, on the draft of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill.

The Bill has now been passed into law by the Senate, after 17 years of failed

efforts.

Reform of longstanding Petroleum Sector Cash Call Arrangement:

  •   In 2016 the Federal Government exited the cash call arrangement by which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) traditionally funded its share of the crude oil exploration and production Joint Ventures (JVs) with International Oil Companies (IOCs).

  •   The Cash Call obligations had consistently put pressure on the Federal Government’s finances, and a failure to fully fund them has resulted in the accumulation of debt arrears of more than six billion dollars, as at December 2015.

  •   Starting 2017, a new funding mechanism is being introduced, which will allow the JVs to transform into independent, self-financing entities. The advantages for the

Federal Government finances include: (1) freeing-up the Federal Government from the budgetary obligation of coming up with the cash calls (savings made under the new arrangement can be directed to critical Infrastructure projects), and (2) a potential increase in Nigeria’s oil production to about 2.5 million barrels per day, on account of optimal funding.

 Also as part of the reforms, the debt arrears owed the IOCs have been negotiated downwards to approximately US$5.1 billion — for which a long-term repayment plan has been drawn up.

New Whistleblowing Policy:

 The new Whistleblowing Policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance yielded, within its first two months of operation, yielded $160m and N8 billion in recoveries of stolen Government funds.

SECURITY

Capture of Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters, “Camp Zero”, in Sambisa Forest. Following this the Nigerian Army conducted its Small Arms Championship from 26th to 31st March 2017, a measure aimed at enabling the Armed forces to dominate the area, and avoid regrouping by the terrorists.

More than 12,000 Boko Haram hostages have been freed from Boko Haram captivity, including 106 of the Chibok Girls abducted in April 2014.

Revitalization of Multi-National Joint Task Force operations, aimed at combating trans-

border crime and the Boko Haram insurgency.

Arrest of Usman Mohammed, aka Khalid AlBarnawi, leader of the Ansaru Terrorist group and one of the most wanted Terrorists in the world, with a US$6m United States bounty on his head. He’s currently being prosecuted alongside his accomplices. Also arrested and being prosecuted: Amodu Omale Salifu, leader of an ISIS affiliate group active in North Central Nigeria.

Establishment of civil authority in the areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)

have deployed officers in liberated areas to take over effective civil responsibility from

the military, and secure and maintain law and order in the affected areas. The NSCDC

has also deployed 5,000 personnel to the North-East to protect the Internally Displaced

Persons’ (IDPs) camps and re-occupy the reclaimed towns and villages.

Transfer of 2 Nos. AW 101 Helicopter from the Presidential Air Fleet to the Nigerian Air

Force, for deployment in support of Operation LAFIYA DOLE in the North East. Also

transferred to the NAF: 3 EC-135 and 3 Dauphin helicopters, from the Nigerian

National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)

Establishment of a Naval Outpost in the Lake Chad Basin.

Successful Military Operations across the country:

  •   Operation Harbin Kunama in Dansadau Forest, Zamfara aimed at flushing out

    armed bandits and cattle rustlers.

  •   Operation Safe Haven to curtail the incessant clashes between Fulani herdsmen

    and farmers in the North Central (Plateau, Nasarawa, and Benue states).

  •   Exercise Crocodile Smile to curtail the menace of militant activities in the Niger

    Delta

  •   Exercise Obangame, a multinational operation aimed at securing and protecting

    the Gulf of Guinea.

  •   Operation Awatse, a joint operation between the Military and the Police, in South

    West Nigeria, to flush out militants and pipeline vandals

  •   Operation Python Dance in the South East to tackle kidnappers and militant

    elements.

Establishment of the 8 Task Force Division in Monguno to further strengthen military

presence in the North East.

DIPLOMACY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Re-establishment of Nigeria’s position and influence in the regional and global arena. Fragile/broken relations with the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, and with

neighbouring countries (Chad, Niger, Cameroon) have been revived and strengthened since June 2015. The Meeting of the was the first since 2009.

Nigeria’s prominent participation in the London Anti-Corruption Summit and the Commonwealth Conference on Tackling Corruption, in May, 2016 in London. Major outcomes of these events include:

  •   The establishment of a Global Forum for Asset Recovery to be hosted by the governments of the US and UK this year, to focus on assisting Nigeria and three other countries to reclaim their stolen assets.

  •   The signing, in August 2016, of an MoU with the UK Government on modalities for the return of Nigeria’s stolen assets in the UK.

    In 2016 Nigeria signed an Agreement on the identification and repatriation of Illicit Funds with the United Arab Emirates during the Visit of Mr. President to that country.

    The Federal Government under President Buhari has engaged the governments of Switzerland, Jersey Island, United States, United Arab Emirates, and Liechtenstein among others, in an effort to ensure the repatriation of Nigeria’s stolen assets. So far, the Swiss government has agreed to repatriate illicit loot of about USD320 million, while another tranche is being expected from the Jersey Islands.

The Buhari Administration has mobilized International Support for the War against Boko Haram, forging strong partnerships with key countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, ECOWAS, the AU, the UN, and others.

The Buhari Administration has revamped the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) comprising troops from Nigeria and Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin; this revamp has contributed significantly to the weakening of Boko Haram.

Landmark Government-to-Government engagements with China and Morocco, aimed at developing and upgrading National Infrastructure.

Nigeria’s successful rallying of OPEC and Non-OPEC members to discuss stabilisation of the global oil market in Doha and in Algiers, and the successful negotiation of an exemption from the OPEC production freeze agreed at the 171st OPEC Ministerial conference in Vienna in November 2016; leading to a rise in oil prices to US$55/bbl for the first time in 16 months.

Posted On Sunday, 15 October 2017 17:01 Written by

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” —Jim Rohn

There are two things you need to ensure before starting to read this: the first is the conviction that you really want to be your own boss; the second is to be so sure that your present boss is not aware that you are reading this! Though you have been hired by your boss, but you can systematically turn this around for more financial freedom and control. You can flip the coin around and hire your boss! Yes you can, whether directly or indirectly.

I am writing this piece not just for subordinates to ‘triumph’ over their bosses but also for CEOs, Directors, proprietors and business owners to avoid the major pitfalls that can sink any man into oblivion. Every ‘fall’ is avoidable and any ‘rise’ is possible!

One of the books that molded my formative years was the one written by Thomas Hardy, The Mayor Of Casterbridge. The book illustrates the pitiable rise and fall of the Mayor of Casterbridge- Michael Henchard . The book which centers round a strong-willed and self-made man, Michael Henchard, whose rise to and fall from a high state form the core of the tragic tale of his life. Henchard’s rise to prominence in Casterbridge stems from his business acumen and unparalleled savviness. He would later seal an ominous fate for his competitors by employing a Scottish manager, Donald Farfrae, whose skills and charisma later became a source of insecurity and threat to his boss.

As the rift and friction between Farfrae and his boss grew, it became obvious that he was becoming larger than his boss. Farfrae’s diligence, business-skill and popularity among people arouse feelings of jealousy in Henchard’s mind, who, after some provocation, turns him out of the job under him. Farfrae starts his own business, and prospers much in it.

The rivalry in business between Henchard and Farfrae leads finally to the immense flourishing of the latter’s business and the ultimate ruin of Henchard’s. Henchard ultimately finds himself again at the bottom of fortune’s wheel, while Farfrae now occupies a station at the top. Things come to such a pass that Henchard is reduced to a state of bankruptcy, this will later force him to sell his palatial house to the highest bidder who turns out to be Farfrae! The ill-luck got so much on his way that he sold virtually all that he had amassed in his years of toiling and has to work as an ordinary labourer in Farfrae’s establishment! Farfrae, on the other hand becomes the Mayor of Casterbridge, a position occupied formerly by Henchard. Thus, there is a complete reversal of fortune in Henchard’s case as well as Farfrae’s.

There is an old saying which says that, “No condition is permanent, only fools do not know”. You are not destined to live the rest of your life from paycheck to paycheck. Don’t build your destiny around your pension. You can actually be your own boss by following some principles that have been fool-proofed:

BUILD YOUR OWN DREAM: In life, it is either you build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs. If you don’t have big dreams and goals, you’ll end up working really hard for someone who does. One of the greatest minds of our time, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India said, ”Your dream is not what you see in sleep, your dream is that thing that keeps you from sleeping”.

DESIGN YOUR OWN PRODUCT: I have come to discover over the years that the poor chase after money while the rich attract money. People that attract money will always employ those that chase after money. Until you sit down with an idea to design a product that can sell, you will continue to run after money! Don’t chase after money; attract money. Steve Jobs once said, ‘’Apple’s goal isn’t to make money. Our goal is to design and develop and bring to market good products…. We trust as a consequence of that, people will like them, and as another consequence, we’ll make some money. But we’re really clear about what our goals are.’’

HIRE PEOPLE THAT ARE SMARTER THAN YOU! : Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do, we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”. One of the greatest undoing of Michael Henchard was letting go of Farfrae to hire a new manager that he could probably control. We must be willing to surround ourselves with people that are smarter and more intelligent than us.

BUILD YOUR INNER SECURITY: I have often said that bosses that are insecure are threats to their organization. An insecure boss will always short-circuit the growth and advancement of his subordinates. Michael Henchard started spiraling down in his business the moment he started feeling insecure with his manager’s success. Ultimately, people that have good self-esteem and inner security will always end up ‘employing’ their insecure boss! One of the most fascinating stories of secure bosses raising a generation of excellent subordinates was that between Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

As a young man, Ford took a job at the Edison Illuminating Company, working his way up to become chief engineer. One day while Thomas Edison was taking a stroll around, he met Henry Ford who was working on a novel idea while still working under Edison. Ford was introduced to Edison and showed Edison his plans for a gasoline automobile, Edison encouraged him to pursue those plans. The impetus Ford got from his boss’ encouragement was all that was needed for Ford to revolutionalise the automobile industry.

INVEST IN YOUR OWN PERSONAL GROWTH: Craig Handley said, “You can’t grow a business past your own personal growth”. The greatest hindrance to personal development is personal neglect. Success is about learning to become the person capable of succeeding. Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become.

VALUE FEEDBACKS AND CRITICISMS: Andy Stanley said, “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” Surround yourself not only with people that say what you want to hear, but with people that say what you ought to hear! Criticisms and feedbacks are the lifelines of leadership. A leader that is beyond confrontation will self-destruct himself. Great people see confrontation as checks and not as effrontery.

TREAT YOUR EMPLOYEES WELL: Sir Richard Branson said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”. Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. Henry Ford once said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay”. You don’t build a business, you build people and then people build the business.

PURSUE YOUR PASSION: People that chase their passion ultimately employ people that chase after money! When you follow your passion, the universe would open doors where there were only walls. Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Real financial security and freedom is not in your job but in your passion.

CHANGE YOUR CIRCLE OF FRIENDS: They say if you surround yourself with nine losers you’ll soon be the tenth! Do not expect positive things in your life if you surround yourself with negative people. When a man continually struggles on a spot without hope of advancement, then his circle of friends is indicted! Jim Rohn, in his law of Averages said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Pay any price to be in the midst of extraordinary people.

VALUE FAMILY MORE THAN BUSINESS: Family is everything; you must never sacrifice family for business. Those that succeed at home will eventually employ those that struggle at home. Walt Disney said, “A man should never neglect his family for business”. One of the mistakes that later hunted Henchard all his life was his sole act of selling his wife (Susan) and child (Elizabeth-Jane) while under the influence of alcohol (rum-laced furmity) at a fair. Henchard’s story illustrated that neglecting the family is a horrible sin that no amount of penance can undo even after so much repentance!

Posted On Saturday, 14 October 2017 13:16 Written by

A common joke on the Nigerian street has it that if all Nigerians were miraculously transplanted to Germany while all Germans were reciprocally transplanted to Nigeria, within five years Nigeria will look like Germany with well paved roads, 24/7 electricity and a disciplined society, while Germany will look like Nigeria with nonexistent roads, epileptic power supply and an entropic citizenry.

The moral of this idle speculation lends credence to Shakespeare’s observation speaking through Cassius: “the fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

As the wheels come-off President Muhammadu Buhari’s apparently ill-fated administration, it is apropos to point out that the fault lies not just in the vehicle and the overweight passengers but more so in the driver and the driving style. And I am not referring here to human biology over which no man but only God has total control.

You see with his eyes wide open President Muhammadu Buhari made some rookie mistakes from which no political administration in history has ever recovered. His may not be an exception.

On assumption of office, the President, not one to learn from History, labored and tragically still labors under three fatally misconceived notions. The first was that his own Fulani ethnicity was getting a raw deal socio-economically and deserved to be propped up using the instruments of the State at the expense of other sub-nationalities.

The second was that God and fate had given him an opportunity to deal with his erstwhile enemies using the administrative tools placed at his disposition by his new position. The third of course was a morbid dislike for the uber-competitive, republican, proud and increasingly garrulous Igbo ethnicity who ideologically, temperamentally and spiritually represent everything his beloved Fulani are not.

But critical observers make a mistake when they judge the President by normal standards believing that this will spur him on to improve his administrative performance. The President of Nigeria is not a Nigerian patriot. To suggest or imply that he is one, is a grand illusion designed, packaged and sold to the unsuspecting Nigerian public for the sole purpose of obtaining and retaining power. The President only masquerades and presents himself as a Nigerian patriot which he is not. A true patriot will love and act in the best interests of his country not just his ethnic nationality always.

The President is in effect an unrepentant Fulani ethno-patriot who administers Nigeria only from the prism lens of what he can obtain from the rest of the country for his ethnic Fulani people and not necessarily for what is best for the entire country irrespective of ethnicity.

 And so, it is perfectly okay for him to be considered a failed Nigerian President provided his Fulani ethnicity (his base) are empowered to retain and maintain their chokehold on progress in Nigeria and provided the Fulani still consider him as a savior, walking in the foot-steps of the revered late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello.

From a critical view-point therefore, apart from age, religious and ethnic differences (one is Fulani, the other is Igbo) and the fact that the younger is a creation of the older, there is precious little to differentiate between President Muhammadu Buhari on the one hand and the youthful leader of the separatist Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu on the other hand. 

Both are not Nigerian patriots. Both are unrepentant ethno-nationalists cum ethno-patriots and believe this or not, both are actively working in their own ways to ensure that Nigeria as we know it today ceases to exist. On this score alone, the actions or inactions of President Muhammadu Buhari are far more consequential to the future demise of Nigeria than the antics of Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB. 

It beats one hollow therefore to imagine that while the one, President Muhammadu Buhari is lionized (although he was chased out from his den in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa by mere rats!!!), the other Nnamdi Kanu is demonized for essentially doing the same thing – seeking the end of Nigeria.

In the typical hypocritical Nigerian fashion, while most commentators are busy condemning the speck in the neo-Biafrans’ eyes i.e. Nnamdi Kanu, they fail to see the log in Nigeria’s eyes i.e. President Muhammadu Buhari. They focus on the Divider, Nnamdi Kanu but are oblivious of the Divider-In-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Igbos are not fools. They know who serves their best interest. If President Muhammadu Buhari on assumption of office had reserved his administrative venom for judicially proven criminals such as kidnappers, armed robbers, ritualists, rapists, drug-barons, murderers, human traffickers and looters whosoever they might be, no sane person would criticize him.

If 100 proven kidnappers and armed robbers were caught, tried fairly and made to face justice, the Igbos would not cry foul if all the criminals essentially prove to be Igbo. Indeed, many Igbos resident outside Igboland who are fearful of returning home for brief vacation would be the first to sing the President’s praises to the high heavens.

Operating from the jaundiced view-point of ‘Fulani empowerment at-all-costs’ and ‘Igbo emasculation by-all-means’, the Buhari Administration failed to recognize that ‘transplanting all Nigerians to Germany and all Germans to Nigeria would only make the current Germany, the new Nigeria and the current Nigeria the new Germany’. 

You cannot give what you don’t have and you cannot sustain a lifestyle without the requisite means. Indeed, as has been repeatedly proven by history, the administrative style of favoritism sets back the recipient much more than it does the non-recipient especially if the latter chooses to react by working harder.

However, the tragedy of the way Nigeria is currently structured is that progress and development is too often dependent on the whimsical caprices of the nation’s leaders. President Buhari bears a very significant share of the historical burden for the current state of Nigeria. Let us recall a few of these whimsical caprices which involve him.

During the seventies around the time when he was Federal Commissioner of Petroleum, a decision was taken by the Federal Military Government to build the nation’s third petroleum refinery in Kaduna in the far north far outside the crude-oil producing zone. There was no economic basis for this decision. It was purely political. To make matters worse, allegedly the refinery could only refine ‘heavy’ crude oil. Nigeria reportedly lost millions of dollars pumping ‘heavy’ crude up north for refining in Kaduna. Talk of ‘One Nigeria’.

When he assumed power as Nigeria’s elected President in 2015, President Buhari decided to embark upon the reconstruction of the North-Eastern part of the country ravaged by the Boko – Haram insurgency. This was fair enough. The only problem was that the insurgency had not been completely crushed even though the insurgents were gleefully declared as tactically defeated.  You do not claim to have killed a snake until you have crushed its head.

Beyond that in a strategic move to prepare the core northern region of Nigeria for the potential disintegration of the country (One Nigeria?), and against all reasonable advice, he unilaterally proposed to sink millions of dollars in petroleum exploration within the vicinity of the Lake Chad region – the very hotbed of the Boko Haram insurgency.

At a time when the world was moving very rapidly away from fossil fuels (representing the past) and into renewable energy like solar and wind energy (representing the future), President Buhari unilaterally chose to invest Nigeria’s hard currency earnings at a time of depression in the past rather than in the future.

This poorly contemplated presidential directive was abruptly terminated when the supposedly ‘tactically defeated’ Boko Haram insurgents staged a dramatic come-back. They attacked and massacred almost the entire exploration team as well as their Nigerian army security detail. They took some members of the team into captivity in which they are still held to this day.

Talk of a whimsical presidential directive motivated by ethno-patriotic reasons, meeting a disastrous end at great cost in irreplaceable human lives. No one talks of petroleum exploration up north anymore.

The sole arrow in President Buhari’s bow, the anti-corruption drive has not fared better. As this writer pointed out in the past, you cannot claim to be fighting corruption (loosely defined as appropriating what does not belong to you or what you do not merit) when you are ipso facto engaged in corruption (unfairly empowering your own ethnic nationality at the expense of other ethnicities without recourse to merit and other acceptable national standards).

 It is not surprising therefore that people around the President are being accused of corruption.  The Secretary to the Federal Government, the Chief of Army Staff and the Inspector-General of Police all appointees of the President have recently been accused of corruption. The tardiness with which these allegations have been investigated has been noted by critical observers.

 Contrasting this with the zeal and propaganda with which corruption allegations against members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party were handled is indicative of the fact that the anti-corruption drive of this Administration is currently mortally wounded.

On the human rights front the case of the illegally detained Shiite Sheik Ibrahim El Zakzaky, the case of the hapless Colonel Sambo Dasuki and the case of the neo-Biafrans currently in detention are some of the most glaring examples of socio-economic injustice and persecution in Nigeria perpetuated by the Buhari Administration. To this day no one has satisfactorily explained to the public the offence committed by Ibrahim El Zakzaky to warrant his continued incarceration.

When the reputation of this same President Muhammadu Buhari was savaged by the very same institution he served i.e. the Nigerian Army, during the run-up to the last election, this writer publicly rose to his defense in an opinion piece published under the ‘A Nation in Heat’ cycle of essays. I would do so again if I establish that he is being unfairly persecuted in future by his opponents. By the same token, I would be lacking in my patriotic duty if I fail to voice out my opposition to the tragically misguided decisions of this administration.

The current national pre-occupation with the antics of IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu is uncalled for. Nnamdi Kanu is a creation of the failed policies of the Buhari Administration. He shall disappear from the national radar when the failed national policies associated with the Buhari Adminstration, which led to his emergence in the first place, disappear. What are those failed policies?

The unnecessary escalation of national tension by the illegal detention of people with contrary opinion, religious beliefs or political views (refer to the comments above); the confliction of the Nigerian space by the tacit support given to murderous Fulani herdsmen; as well as the criminal marginalization of the Igbo heartland are some of the failed policies of the Buhari Administration which led to the emergence of Nnamdi Kanu as a national phenomenon.

To buttress the last point, apart from favoritism, nepotism and marginalization what makes the extension of a modern railway to Daura (President Buhari’s hometown) more strategic and important to the national economy than the extension of railway from Enugu to Onitsha and from Aba to Onitsha. 

More insidiously, at a time when the Nigerian Army should be mobilizing more reinforcements to the North-East theatre to crush the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency once and for all, it is engaged under a futile whimsical Presidential Directive (a.k.a. Operation Python Dance II) to harass and intimidate the peaceful people of the South-East region. Who is the President of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army trying to impress or intimidate with this shameless exercise of raw-power?  Unarmed citizens? Unarmed peaceful agitators for Biafra?

It is cowardly and would prove counter-productive. If anything, it would only strengthen the Igbo resolve to secede from Nigeria. Indeed, only cowards and brutish thugs resort to violence when they are defeated by superior arguments by their opponents.  Refined peoples, governments and institutions face facts with counter-facts not with bullets or dancing pythons.

It bears repeating that the only way IPOB can lose in this battle of wits with the Buhari Administration (I have chosen my words very carefully) is if it allows itself to be provoked into descending into the shameful gutter of violence within which the Buhari Administration and the Nigerian Army is currently dancing. No matter the provocation, IPOB should maintain its discipline and immediately return to its denial-of-target command (DOT COM) phase. This is not cowardice, it is strategy.

Even though I currently do not support the IPOB agitation for outright secession, I support and will defend their right to peacefully express their views and opinions as bona fide citizens of Nigeria, neither superior to nor inferior to other Nigerian citizens. I will also fight for the equal treatment of all Nigerians and their homelands regardless of ethnic origins.

Nigeria is bigger than any one person no matter how highly placed. Nigeria is far bigger than the ego of the current President of Nigeria. The President of Nigeria should humbly acknowledge to the nation that his administrative policies have failed.

If the President loves his Fulani ethnicity more than he loves Nigeria (I do not criticize him for this), it is more honorable for him to resign his position as President of Nigeria and become the President-General of the Fulani nation. Otherwise he should act like the President of all Nigerians while realizing and conceding that like himself, other Nigerians have their own individual ethnicities which they may equally love and be proud of.

Right now the sound we want to hear from the Federal Government is the sound of bulldozers and workmen repairing the dilapidated roads and infrastructure in the Igbo heartland, not the sound of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and troops dancing shamelessly like devilish pythons on the nonexistent roads of the South -East region. 

  • THE END -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted On Saturday, 14 October 2017 01:07 Written by

When the Union flag was lowered and the Nigerian flag raised 57 years ago there was a sense of euphoria. Many former colonies had to fight a war of independence in which many lives were lost but we were spared that trauma. So it would be fair to say that Nigeria got its independence on a platter of gold. But that gift was thrown away six years later. The war we didn’t have before independence we had it after: the Biafran war.

That war which lasted for 30 months and cost one million lives still haunts us today like an unscrutable mystery. At the end of that war General Yakubu Gowon had on Biafra’s surrender announced that there was “no victor and no vanquished.” He also established a three-pronged programme of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, as a way of bringing the war weary Easterners from the cold into the comfort of the Nigerian family again. The rebel leader, Emeka Odumgwu-Ojukwu, who had fled to the Ivory Coast remained in exile for 12 years. When President Shehu Shagari pardoned him he was allowed to return to the country without any pre-conditions. That gesture represented the final nail in the coffin of secession.

The Igbos who were the major victims of the war or of its cause in the first place have never felt convinced that they have been fully reabsorbed and their rights as full-fledged citizens of Nigeria fully restored. This argument has gone on for years and many Nigerians on the opposite side of the war are convinced that the Igbos having fought and lost a war could not expect to be treated as if they had won the war. War is a serious business that often comes with serious and dangerous consequences. In the political arena, the Igbos have produced a vice president, several Senate presidents, a Central Bank governor and a number of ministers that took charge of important portfolios. In the security sector, two Igbos had become the Inspector General of Police, while another Igbo man had occupied the strategic position of Chief of Army Staff. But many Igbos have argued that they have been denied the top trophy: the Presidency.

The Presidency is the top job in the land and many people from various parts of the country covet it. No one is likely to wrap it like a parcel with a ribbon around it and donate it to the Igbos. If they want it they must work for it by networking with other groups and doing the necessary horse-trading. However, I believe that their flirtation with secession through MASSOB and IPOB is clearly the wrong way to go. If the thesis is that an attempt, even a half hearted attempt, at secession will induce the political decision makers to donate the presidency to the Igbos it is a fraudulent thesis. In fact, on the contrary the agitation for secession will rather damage almost irreparably the case for an Igbo presidency. My advice to the Igbos is for them to begin to mend fences now instead of allowing Nnamdi Kanu and his gang to put a fly in the Igbo ointment.

The two major parties, APC and PDP have allocated the presidency to the North. If the Igbos choose to contest for the presidency in the PDP they will have to wait until 2027. But if they want to run in the APC they have to pray that President Muhammadu Buhari runs again in 2019 and successfully brings his second term to an end in 2023. If someone else from the North runs in 2019 he will go for two fresh terms which will terminate in 2027. But the Igbos can choose any of the minor parties as a platform but the chances for success on such party platforms are extremely slim. The starting point is to rein in Nnamdi Kanu and his gang and begin to build trust as they network with other political and ethnic groups in the country.

At present, Nigeria is in a state of confusion arising from agitations from different groups in the country. Old questions about the Nigerian condition have arisen and these questions are begging for new answers. The reason for the search for new answers is that the old answers have not been adequate in laying to rest the ghosts of these questions. Ours is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. In such a heterogeneous polity with several nationalities each with their own set of values and expectations, there will always be differences of opinion. The problem is often how to find many points of convergence and reduce the many areas of divergence so that all groups can find comfortable accommodation within the polity. As of now no group is certain that it has found its comfort zone. That is why we have several discordant tunes.

It is most unlikely that we can all agree all the time on all the issues that confront us and affect our lives. But we must understand where we all stand and where we all want to go. We must search for shared beliefs, shared expectations, shared goals and common grounds. We moved from centrifugalism instalmentally in the 60s into the extreme centripetalism that the military bestowed on us. This has brought a political gridlock that manifests itself in unpaid bills, new foreign and domestic debts, unsettled staff salaries and pension benefits, spiraling inflation, corruption, unemployment, crisis of rising expectations and high crime and many other dysfunctionalities. These have combined to put pressure on the country’s unity and sense of oneness. This has also made the search for a new direction urgent, very, very urgent.

A lot of things are wrong with our country and these are problems that have been with us for many years. A time like this offers us an opportunity for introspection. The World Bank says that about 67 per cent of Nigerians go to bed everyday on an empty stomach. That is a dangerous situation because a hungry person can become an angry person. Besides, there is a long unemployment and underemployment queue whose estimate is more than 25 per cent. That means that we all are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. The worst aspect of the problem is that the opportunities are shrinking further as factories close shop or trim their operations and show some of their staff the exit door. We have been told that the economy has made its exit out of recession but we need to stimulate it for optimal growth so that we can begin to experience some worthwhile improvements in no distant date.

Every year we go through the ritual of drawing up, presenting and defending the national budget. Most of the time these budgets are passed in the middle of the year. This means that there is often not much time for implementation before the year draws to a close. Then the ritual starts again without any information to the public on how much of the previous year’s budget was actually implemented. This year’s budget had experienced some hiccups which led to its late passage. Even when it was passed with all the padding that was done by the legislators no one was truly sure what was eventually approved by the executive. Isn’t there a way of reducing these uncertainties and the acrimony that reduce budgeting to the science of voodooism?

How can we make our governments work better so as to reduce the level of poverty, disease, ignorance, corruption, terrorism, cultism, infrastructural decay etc when the bulk of our budget, about 80 per cent, goes into recurrent expenditure? With only 20 per cent left for capital projects how much can we achieve to turn around a country with decaying infrastructural facilities? Pretty little. So it is clear that as a nation we are living above our means; we are piling up debts, foreign and domestic again, we are mortgaging our future and the future of our children. Our governments and parliaments are engaged in conspicuous consumption not minding the dire state of the economy and the poor state of its people. No one expected that at 57 Nigeria’s economy would be in the bind in which it is now considering our massive mineral and manpower resources. But it appears the presence of such solid and liquid mineral resources has unbelievably become a harbinger of doom, a disincentive to hardwork and creativity, a curse from which we have made very little effort to exit.

The little piece of good news is that there has been some encouraging happenings in the agricultural sector. If we do not take our eyes off the ball in that sector we may be self-sufficient in food production before 2019. That would be a good legacy for the Buhari administration and an indication that oil or no oil we can survive. And thrive.

Buhari is President at a momentous time in the annals of our country, a time during which the very existence of the country as a unit is being challenged once again. The nation expects him to be a great bridge-builder and unifier and one with a vision of a greater Nigeria. That vision demands that he rises above the din of ethnic and geographical irredentists and comes up with a life changing transformation agenda for Nigeria. That demands courage and the right dose of political will. The next two years will reveal whether he has them or not.

http://guardian.ng/opinion/does-buhari-have-it/

Posted On Wednesday, 04 October 2017 00:12 Written by

IT was simply impossible not to empathise with the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu’s sense of indignation during the celebration of the International Literacy Day. In a moment of agonising self-indictment, he admitted that the number of illiterates in the country had literally hit the roof under his watch, being “between 65 million and 75 million.” The minister revealed this when he paid a courtesy call on Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State at the state capital, Birnin Kebbi, during the two-day International Literacy Day Conference organised by the National Commission for Mass Education. Represented by the Director of Basic and Secondary Education in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Jonathan Mbaka, the minister said that with the estimated population of Nigeria at 170 million, the number of illiterates was too high. He said: “Education is the bedrock of any country’s development and any country that does not educate its populace is bound to fail. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we have a large population of illiterates; the figure, considering our population, is unbecoming.”

This dismal figure represents just a tad below 45 per cent of the country’s estimated population and that is alarming, to put it mildly. What makes the situation worse is the staggering figure of out-of-school children in the country, as the states from the southern part of the country have also joined in producing the league of illiterates. Even at that, the rate of school dropouts is also very high. Confronted by existential problems, children who were once enrolled in schools have been leaving schools to fend for themselves even when public schools have been failing to impart qualitative education to those who attend them. In other words, it may be misleading to assume that children enrolled in schools are getting educated enough to become assets to the country. Many of them are hardly benefitting from the poor and crude infrastructure and personnel in these schools and the government appears to be oblivious of the damning reality.

The situation is really a quandary. Rescue is a far cry away because if school leavers at different levels are regularly left despondent, desultory and without any gainful employment, it will be difficult, not to say impossible, to persuade others that attending schools is actually a good option. It would seem that the fundamental question of the philosophy of education, that is, “education for what?”, should be addressed by governments at all levels, as the notion that education is merely to access white-collar jobs is not really helpful after all. Equally unhelpful has been the practice of rampant, automatic promotion in public primary and secondary schools which makes pupils to write public examinations which they are not prepared for.

Governments at all levels should be single-minded about mass literacy, as opposed to having certificates for the purposes of employment. It is vitally important even for those doing menial jobs to be literate. We think that massive public education and campaigns are necessary in this direction. Of course, there are agencies of government saddled with the task of achieving mass literacy and encouraging adult learning, and it has now become imperative to assess their activities and impact on the people. The fact that some people do not have certificates should not mean that they are unable to read the prescriptions on their drugs or cross the road at the prompting of traffic lights.

The National Commission for Mass Education must register its relevance in terms of performance. Making people literate should be clearly separated from formal education. The commission should be able to draw the line and come up with programmes that will be accessible to both the old and young populations. A situation in which about 45 per cent of the country’s population are virtually illiterate should bother the authorities. We think that the way to go is to encourage people to go to school, adults for adult literacy programmes and the youth populations for regular education. The government should also equip the nation’s schools and motivate the teachers to make learning a delightful experience.

http://www.tribuneonlineng.com/nigerias-75-million-illiterates/N

Posted On Wednesday, 04 October 2017 00:07 Written by

By its very nature, a library is an indispensable resource of any institutions of learning. It is a collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. Before the (digital) big data age, a library consists of a building, room or virtual space where a vast array of information resources are stored and accessed for study. In its simplicity, a library is a basic necessity for schools and other educational institutions for the purpose of acquiring knowledge.

Which is why most functional, effective and result-oriented school systems always have library resources, which include books, newspapers, periodicals, maps, films, prints, documents, CDs, cassettes, videotapes, DVDs, e-books, audio books, databases.

The information and resources in a library could be limitless depending on the scale and purpose for which it was set up. Libraries could be organised and maintained by a public body, an institution or individual to serve the same purpose. 

But in Nigeria, there is nowhere citizens can actually turn to find good libraries. Only very few private schools maintain some semblance of good libraries. Public libraries in schools from federal to local government councils have disappeared. In fact, in the 41-year-old Abuja, the national library project is the most neglected project scheme in the central business district (CBD).

It is against this backdrop that a recent promise by the Federal Government to provide adequate funding for school libraries makes some sense. Somehow, it is strange that the issue of library is being treated as a separate issue from the decadent education system: the two are inseparable. Talking of a school without good libraries has been part of the reasons for the downward trend and absence of competitiveness in education here this newspaper commented on two weeks ago. Sadly, most schools in the country are in that quagmire.

That is why the government’s promise to fund libraries shouldn’t be mere rhetoric considering that there had been similar impromptu promises that were not fulfilled. Again, we are in a tenure midterm ambush when political leaders make empty promises to win public support for next elections. That shouldn’t be the case.

There are so many reasons this library revival project should not be a pipe dream. In the first place, most citizens as we often do here, have been concerned about little or no attention that governments at all levels pay to education. Specifically, all our institutions of higher learning are poorly rated in global and continental contexts. Yet, our students who go abroad for undergraduate and graduate studies are daily reported as beating world records in academic pursuits. The records should have been beaten at home in our schools. Nigerian power elite members usually travel abroad for even short-term skills acquisition courses in foreign universities that have some global brand equity. What is worse, when it comes to graduate employability index in global context, Nigeria is nowhere to be found.Even most of the private primary and post primary schools that are doing well here, there are foreign labels such as “British and Montessori Schools.” Just in the same vein, some of them are foreign missions such as Loyola Jesuit’s. Sadly, our public officers elected and hired to take care of these institutions get their wards admitted into these “glocalised’’ schools in the country. This is shameful and unacceptable.

Again, we would like to call on the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who promised the library revival project during the 2017 National Readership Promotion Campaign, organised by the National Library of Nigeria in Abuja to be a promise keeper. Education is on the concurrent legislative list. And so, all the 36 states and 774 local governments that actually have more schools should not be left out. They should note that without quality education, there will be no development on any fronts. They should therefore pay attention, not only to the equipment of libraries, they should also equip the schools and teachers to have an all-round development in education.

After all, the event that set off the pledge for the revival of the libraries, had as its theme, ‘‘Working together to build a virile reading nation: Challenges and Strategies,’’ and was aimed at promoting reading culture in the country.

But it is hard to agree with the minister’s observation on the occasion that the present generation of Nigerians is to blame for the poor reading culture. What have the elders including the minister bequeathed to the present generation? Are the elders too reading to solve the problems of society? If the elders had had a reading culture, would all the libraries have collapsed?

Education administrators and policy makers should note that traditional libraries are not common anymore. What is in vogue is the development of virtual libraries known as e-libraries, which can be accessed from any locations through the Internet. That is the direction the world is going and Nigeria should not be left out. Governments and private proprietors should ask for experts who will help them develop some e-libraries while re-equipping the old ones where necessary. After all, it is said that, “a library is the great gymnasium where we go to make our minds strong.” But ultimately, there should be commitment to funding education in a radical manner that can deliver employable products of our schools for development.

http://guardian.ng/opinion/a-time-to-build-modern-libraries/
Posted On Tuesday, 03 October 2017 23:31 Written by

Nigeria’s comedy industry grows by the day. Comedy, it now seems, is the readiest avenue to stardom in Nigeria; very funny. Every which way one looked in the country they are as likely to behold an unfurling hilarious drama. You do not need to be able to afford a premium ticket to enjoy a good comedy at the Muson Centre in Lagos; or such-like places. Variegated comedy theaters abound in the Nigerian landscape, with high-performing actors and actresses on hand; from our very lawless Motor Parks to our very rowdy market places, through to the hallow chambers of the National Assembly, colourful live comedies are never in want. The “our mumu don do” protesters, otherwise known as “Buhari return or resign” and their opposite group, wittingly or unwittingly, presented the latest evidence of this growing population of comedians in our midst.

Though it’s incompatible with my breeding to speak condescendingly about a supposed patriotic gesture of my fellow citizens, but the warped reasoning of these protesters has compelled me to break with established tradition. Indeed, these groups of protesters have merely confirmed that “our mumu never do.” My reasons are outlined thus:

Muhammadu Buhari, the Daura born, retired two-star army general, incapacitated or not, remains the substantive president of the geographic expression called Nigeria. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, by his own admission, unfailingly takes directives from, just as he unfailingly reports back to his indisposed principal.

Long before he took seriously ill, President Buhari presented Nigerians with the unassailable evidence that he is discharging the nation’s first office at the behest of a select group. The president’s wife, Aisha, and Senate President Bukola Saraki famously confirmed that unacceptable situation. For my part, l couldn’t resist devoting an article on this pages to that realisation – “Buhari belongs to some persons.”

Despite the glaring fact that the unity of Nigeria is severely threatened by centripetal forces across her six geo-political zones, due primarily to her fundamentally flawed political structure, the First Estate of the Realm, in reviewing the extant national Constitution, completely failed to decisively attend to Nigeria’s most pressing contemporary challenge: Administrative Restructuring. Few weeks prior to the commencement of that constitutional review exercise, the Honourable Members of the green chamber surprisingly voted against the Bill on relocation of the International Oil Companies headquarters back to the Niger Delta region. Need l say that that surprise nay-vote at once offended against best global business models and regional sensitivities. (Question: are our elected Representatives verily representing the interests of the electorate; or, our mumu don do?).

Lives and property in Nigeria have never been more threatened as is in present-day Nigeria; Boko Haram insurgents, mindless kidnappers, satanic mass killings (my heart goes out to the victim-families of Ozubulu), armed robbers, militants, separatist agitators, cultists, ritualists, hawkers of human limbs, and such-like dreadful groups now hold sway; and Nigerians continuously contend with the psychological trauma of these threats. Yet, our elected leaders live in cocooned luxury and security at the expense of our common wealth. Our mumu don do?

Year after year Nigerians are called by successive leaderships to make selfless sacrifices for a terribly mismanaged country, but none of these hapless citizens has even an inkling of the dividends of their long-sufferings. Elsewhere, citizens would demand of their leadership a concrete vision of their nation’s ultimate destiny in an exchange for their expected sacrifices. Could any Nigerian predict what the value of the national currency, the naira, will be twelve months hence; nor can anyone say what the unit cost of electricity or the prices of petroleum products will be six months from today.

So, our mumu don do? Only a comedian would answer in the affirmative. But in spite of these major oddities Nigerians somehow still carry on living life as though nothing has gone amiss. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the inimitable Afro Beat legend whose twentieth memorial anniversary was commemorated recently, had waxed a best-selling album to depict the Nigerian state; he named it.

“Suffering and smiling.” And not too long ago, an international poll concluded that Nigerians were among the happiest people on Earth. True, Nigerians continue to smile in spite of their spine-breaking sufferings because of institutionalised social-conditioning by the country’s self-seeking and steeply selfish leadership class. The latter, keenly minded of its conspicuous self-centeredness (cathedral-like official residences; countless number of luxury vehicles; long list of security details; globe-trotting on chartered flights, e.t.c.) aggressively exploits the opium of tribe and religion to pitch the masses against themselves. It does this to benumb their senses; tribe and religion never fail to have their narcotic-like effects on the multitude. And because nature created humans to think individually the multitude never could think through the maze; this is why the masses are so easy to manipulate. The multitude is sheepish (a euphemism for mumu); why else do you think politicians love campaign rallies? It is far too easy to persuade the multitude than the individual. Thusly, the decisions and actions of the multitude are largely determined by those it looks up to, be they religious bigots, tribal jingoists, self-seeking politicians, or purveyors of truths. The quality of a people’s leadership is therefore predicated on their degree of sheepishness. (When the people are ready, the mystic appears) History bears this out.

Therefore, the most urgent task for the Nigerian masses for the present is to rid themselves of their decades of social-conditioning, and begin to listen to the voices of selfless thinkers or true philosophers. Nigeria has her fair share of this tribe of persons; and these have been prodding the citizenry to eschew tribe and religion from its electoral culture. But thus far this has been to no avail because our mumu never do. Buhari’s resumption of office or resignation from it would not change Nigeria’s unfortunate narrative. The existing leadership class or its entrenched mind-set is what needs substituting. Only one vector can make this happen: a less sheepish electorate. So, the our mumu don do protesters had better look away from the convalescing septuagenarian in the Queen’s country, revert to their drawing board, and diligently focus on the extensive work that needs to be done on the multitude…

• Nkemdiche, a consulting engineer lives in Abuja.

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:22 Written by
Any close watcher of events in the country in recent times would know that the country is passing through a very trying period. Never in the history of Nigeria has it faced this kind of troubles. The troubles are multifaceted. Over and above every other thing is the battle for the soul of Nigeria. The centrifugal forces from different sectors of Nigeria want to rip it apart. It looks like a joke. But never before has the country been so threatened to such an extent. Not even during the civil war.

The events of the Nigeria civil war were one directional. It was a section of the country contending against the whole, which made it fail. That was child’s play compared to what is happening at present. The country is facing multi-faceted problems from several directions. Each problem is potentially dangerous. The spate of agitations and quit notices being issued from right, left and centre are frightening.

At the last count, no less than five quit notices have been issues across Nigeria. The coalition of Arewa youths started it all when it issued an ultimatum to the Igbo resident in the north to leave their region or be forced out from October 1, 2017. That immediately sent jitters across the country and re-ignited the unending ethnic tension bedeviling Nigeria. Each ethnic group appeared to have been awakened from slumber.

As if that was being expected, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) readily welcomed the Kaduna declaration and saw it as oil that would lubricate the wheel of their march towards Biafra. IPOB called on all Igbo in the north to return en masse without wasting time. It also ordered northerners living in the South-East to vacate.

Almost immediately, a coalition of Niger Delta militants, in a sharp reaction, rose from a meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and ordered all northerners to vacate the oil-rich region. The militants threatened to attack all oil wells owned by northerners in the Niger Delta before October 1. They also threatened to declare the Niger Delta Republic. The group demanded for the return of all oil blocks given to none indigenes of the Niger Delta.

A group called the Middle Belt Renaissance Forum, made up of youths from all the states in the Middle Belt, after its crucial meeting in Abuja, declared that all herdsmen must vacate the Middle Belt by October 1. It declared that the Middle Belt is not in any way part of the Northern agitation for the Igbo to vacate. The Forum charged the North to stop using the Middle Belt to achieve its selfish political and economic aims as was the case in the past.

As if it wants to ensure that it was not left in the cold, a group of Yoruba nationalists had, after a meeting in Lagos, declared Oduduwa republic, which it said is seceding from the entity called Nigeria. Although, it did not issue quit notice against anybody, it slammed Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB, MASSOB, and the Arewa Consultative Forum for disrespecting the Yoruba nation for too long!

The Yoruba, to me, has been the only placating force holding Nigeria together after the other regions appeared to be set for a show down. That the Yoruba has now joined in this fray shows how serious the situation has become. As it were, virtually every section of the country wants to pull out of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, October 1, which normally, is used to commemorate Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule, has now become the new date set for the sharing of Nigeria to its component parts. What an irony of situation! Can Nigeria survive October 1, 2017? Would there be independence celebration this year? What is the government doing about these divisive forces? Is anything being done to assuage the situation? What is the way out?

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the other day, captured the terrifying situation when he said that Nigeria is sleep walking to national disaster and yet the present leadership of the country seems to be indifferent. Anyaoku spoke at a lecture he delivered in commemoration of the 98th birthday of Chief Akintola Williams, the renowned accountant.

But that, really, is not the case. The leadership cannot be said to be sleep walking, for that will mean they are unconscious of what is happening. Whatever is happening, including the leadership lackadaisical response is done in full consciousness. The leadership is not sleeping. Whatever it is doing is deliberate; in full consciousness and with all the senses very much awake. The absence of President Buhari has complicated the problem.

Just the other day, for instance, the National Assembly (NASS), threw out a bill on the devolution of power to the states, which would have served as panacea to the agitations to the chagrin of Nigerians. Nigerians had placed hope that passage of the bill could reduce tension in the country.

The issue of restructuring, which has gained currency across the country, could have been pushed forward if the devolution of power bill had been passed. But that seems to have failed, thereby, exposing the country to avoidable imminent danger. The rejection of the bill by the NASS confirmed what I had written in this column that the lawmakers are paying lip service to restructuring. The opportunity came for them to show patriotism and love for the country but they blew it and are now helpless.

For now, I can’t imagine what the NASS could do to save the country; they are averse to implementing the 2014 National Conference Report and have missed a golden opportunity to save the country. Why couldn’t the NASS make history as change agent that pulled the country out of the cesspit? Why have these peoples’ representatives refused to do the will of the people but pursue their own selfish agenda?

It needs to be stressed that miss-governance is at the root of all the agitations. Leadership failure is absolutely Nigeria’s main problem. It is worrisome that amid the tension in the land, the political leadership is acting as if all is well. By neglecting the situation, no critical effort is being made to deal with the situation.

Although, while at no time, since the war broke out in 1967, has there been absolute peace in Nigeria, a situation where every section of the country wants to break out is unprecedented. That is why there ought to be crisis emergency meetings going on in government circles to deal with the problem and save the country.

 
Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:18 Written by

I refer to Chidi Anselm Odinkalu’s opinion piece titled, “Nigeria’s toxic NGO Regulation Bill” in The Guardian of July 27, 2017. His fears on a draconian bill from the federal parliament (House) to monitor the activities of non-governmental organisations are in order. Thanks to civil society, Nigerians are vibrant, and demand accountability from governments which have led to the ushering in of a degree of open governance.

Thanks to foreign aid, the AIDS scourge around the world has reduced tremendously. And unlike in times past, more people now have access to antiretroviral treatment than was previously possible. And deaths have reduced to a noticeable level. Currently, we do not look at AIDS patients with the woe-begone-thee outlook of before, thanks to enlightenment campaigns, so also is the reduction in the level of tuberculosis, malaria, improved education for girls, as well as improved agricultural practices etc. But are non-governmental organisations in Nigeria truly equipped to carry out the mission for which these aids are meant?
Do we really have the system in place, the political institutions built over time to sustain the works of non-governmental organisations in words and in deeds?

Can our people and government take actions on critical issues without reverting to donors? I am looking at taking ownership of the process. How is our level of diplomacy and engagement with open society? Maybe this is where a bill as proposed is needed. I have sat down to think about this. Just recently, I needed sponsorship for a programme to help young children. I wrote many letters to non-governmental organisations in-country. Only one sent a negative reply. Even then, they told me that their external donors determine projects they must fund locally. The outfit in question deals with issues that hover around children, I plan saving children. You wonder why they couldn’t take the lead to inform their donors about my plans but settled for the easy way out. 

In contrast, one U.S. foundation stationed in the United States to which I sent a letter – promptly replied within days. It regretted not being able to assist but gave me customised web links to download resource materials to help develop content for the proposed, programme. I can’t forget my trip to the British Council, of course supervised by Nigerians. I went there to see if I could get resource persons for a TV show on education. They were excited. They made me apply formally. This was in August 2016. As I write this essay, no-one has deemed it fit to reply, even though I had a meeting with a Nigerian manager in charge of education (even when I sent text messages giving gentle reminders) neither did they give me a resource person even when I told them the date I planned to go on air. I wonder what might have happened had I ventured there to ask for sponsorship. What then drives that British organisation to development? Or how do they support developmental progress when formal letters are received, acknowledged but statuses of applications never communicated to applicants.

Do we need to harp on recruitment into NGOs in Nigeria? Due to the need to staff top decision making positions with Nigerians, merit in many places has been thrown away and we have settled for nepotism. To get a job in many NGO outfit in Nigeria, you may need to be connected or come from a particular geographical location in Nigeria. I remember being interviewed for a position at The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in 2010 in Port Harcourt. Seven years later, not one person bothered to inform me why I failed the test and oral interview. I submitted efforts for two days. Silence means I failed right? No issue with failing though. Great men have failed at some things in earlier days. But courtesy demands I am informed, isn’t it? NGOs in Nigeria are proto-type of our civil service.

Our love for clannishness is not only affecting the decisions of donors in Nigeria but is also eroding the importance of NGOs in Nigeria. I remember how I campaigned to get a job in a USAID-funded NGO in 2009 in Port Harcourt but the top managers told me the available position was reserved for an indigene of the state even when no-one had applied for it. We fork out nativist agenda in growth agencies. I am not judging these NGOs. But we need to feel their presence in Nigeria and appreciate their unbridled interest and resourcefulness in addressing issues that have bedeviled our society. If truly we want to evolve as a people or develop as a nation, these issues must be squarely faced.

What do NGOs teach us here? And how effective are they to the Nigerian society? President Donald Trump plans to cut down drastically on U.S. foreign aids around the world. Experts have warned that it would harm U.S. national security. The Trump administration is also proposing cuts in U.S. funds to the United Nations. The president reasons, that the U.S. carries the burden of the world alone to a large-degree, with no gratitude from many countries that can’t survive without her foreign aids. Nigeria needs to begin to discharge her own burden – without being nursed, fraternally.

• Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:15 Written by

Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, a former Vice President of Nigeria and a former presidential candidate, no doubt may be one of the most maligned high ranking former public office holders from the North. In addition to the public perception that everyone who has been in government has stolen government money and is corrupt, the experience and challenges Atiku Abubakar had with his then boss, during his time as vice president has contributed to whatever perception of him the section of the public may have. There is a general lack of trust for former public office holders, understandably so. For these reasons, whatever any former public office holder says or does must be for his personal aggrandisement in the perception of skeptics. Of course skeptics are many, and will always be.

But can we stop for a moment and listen sincerely to what this individual is saying? Can we take a look at our own system and analyse how well we have done, how much we have progressed? We all have this consensus that the nation has not met her potentials. I saw on Omojuwa’s twitter handle the other day, where he stated “When you read up on Nigerian’s history, it just feels like this country got frozen in time. The same problems over half a century. Kilode?” “Kilode” meaning what happened, in Yoruba, an expression I understood to mean nothing seems to have changed. The agitations arising from all regions of the country are signs of the consensus that the people no longer believe in the present system. It is an old saying and a popular one that it is only a fool that will do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

It really does not matter who says it, I think the content is more important than the container. This is not to say I share the view of those who are disparaging the former vice president for his outspokenness and his position on the issue. As a matter of fact I commend him for his courage and continuous faith in the Nigeria project. But the point I want to buttress is “what is he saying?”

Our problems as a people as observed by many have been over-centralisation, bigotry (be it religious or ethnic) and corruption. The lack of growth and development is only symptomatic of the above tripod of pathology which is in turn complications of our present system. The suspicion and lack of trust amongst citizens from different ethnicities and regions have continuously been fed by our present structure.

Atiku is saying the present system has not worked for even his region despite other regions of the country’s perception that his region, the north presently benefits the most from the present arrangement. This is a view that most other people also share. He has said one united Nigeria is possible if we practice true federalism. He is again not alone in thinking that the period in the history of Nigeria when we made the most progress coincided with the period when our dear country practiced federalism as it was intended. Bearing in mind that there is no such thing as true federalism, and that federal systems generally evolved in society in line with their peculiar challenges with a view to solving them, true federalism cannot be some kind of system that is cast on stone otherwise there will not be congresses and assemblies as it is with most democracies. Lawmaking is a continuum and the structure of government is part of the law that needs to be continuously reviewed. Atiku has consistently called for a major change in the present arrangement (restructuring).

As germane as this call may be, I have heard argument against him with great surprise, especially because such arguments have also come from people you expect should know better. Despite the former vice president’s courage and visionary ideas, I find it not too surprising that oppositions abound.

The former military president, Ibrahim Babangida also expressed support for a system change a few weeks ago and the polity was laced with similar reactions. No doubt that some of our former leaders had opportunity to do “right” and they didn’t. But are they not allowed to change their views? Should their views not be affected by

changing situations? From the period of the Ibrahim Babangida administration till now is a long time and there is no doubt that a lot has changed. Despite that, Atiku has been quite consistent with his view on the need to practice true federalism. As far back as 2009 at the National Conference On Consensus Building For Electoral Reform held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja as a keynote speaker, despite applauding almost totally all the recommendations of the Justice Uwais commission on electoral reforms, Atiku still pointedly disagreed with the commission’s recommendation that state electoral bodies be taken over by the federal INEC and the reason he gave was that if it should happen, it would further make a mess of our federal system of government. As vice president, he also spoke against the over concentration of power amongst other things at the center and has in different fora expressed the need for devolution of power to the federating units (states).

I do not believe that any one man has the magic wand that solves our numerous challenges nor do I believe that the solution to our problems is one prong and that with restructuring all our problems will go away. The former vice president has also expressed his views that restructuring may not necessarily be an easy sail.

But we shall search for the eye of the fish in the head of the fish as looking elsewhere will only be a waste of time. In the Vanguard Newspaper of 30th July, 2017, the former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole joined the barrage of individuals who have tried to disparage Atiku’s stance on our political outlook and was quick again to ask what the former vice president did during his time. He, Adams, went further to describe restructuring as some ambiguous word employed by politicians to hoodwink gullible Nigerians. The question being asked is why is Atiku just realizing this? Why didn’t he restructure Nigeria when he was vice president for 8 years? I will like to draw our attention to the Atiku vice presidential era so we will be able to mirror what it would have looked like calling for restructuring just after returning to democracy in 1999.The country was ruled by the military for 16 years and in this period the focus by all well-meaning Nigerians was to return the country to democracy. A struggle he, Atiku was well part of. Wouldn’t it have been foolhardy to begin to call for restructuring only after the then 1999 constitution has barely been tested?

Well I have news for all naysayers, I and millions of Nigerians are not gullible, we have just refused to be called stupid as doing same thing over again and expecting a different outcome only makes us stupid. A day after Oshiomhole’s vituperation, I read again, Alhaji Yakassai’s interview in the same Vanguard Newspaper. My first observation was his striking mental alertness considering his age and I quite respect him for that. But once again he showed his opposition to restructuring by pointing out the perceived complexity of the process and attempting to puncture Atiku’s position. I do not agree with him or anyone who interpreted Atiku’s speech at the University of Nigeria (UNN) recently to mean he is saying restructuring Nigeria is going to be easy. And I say to them that hard ailment requires hard medication. The country has been held down for far too long by this present system of government and is responsible for all the vices we have now become characterized with.

The cry that time is running out by Atiku is real and to continue to vilify him for his position is ludicrous.

  • Dr. Ememena Bright is a medical practitioner based in Warri, Delta State and can be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Posted On Friday, 11 August 2017 02:39 Written by
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