DAVID MARK VERSUS NEW MEDIA by Chinedu @ekekeee July 29, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: David Mark, New media, Nigeria
Nigeria’s Senate president, David Bonaventure Mark, is deeply troubled. And his present state of mind is justifiable. The criminal empire which prince he’s one of is at the verge of crumbling, or so he thinks. He’s eyeing the kingship of the empire in a few years from now. He wants to rule and reign in the kingdom. He has amassed enough wealth and bought enough souls to make this possible. He dreams of joining the league of candidates for prison who became presidents of Nigeria in the last three or so decades.
But the turn of events, especially since January this year, has jolted him. It doesn’t seem as though he would have any smooth ride to the kingship he so much covets, neither would he have the rest of mind to consume the millions he has so far amassed. He recently heaped the blame on new media or social media. The credibility he has sought to build in the last thirteen years hasn’t even taken off the ground, to his utter dismay. Millions of Nigerians don’t see any reason to take him seriously. He knows – or thinks – social media is responsible for this.
Last Thursday, while declaring open a two-day retreat for Senate Press corps in Umuahia, Abia State, he said there was a need to check the use of social media as Nigerians were using them to demean their leaders. Hear him: “We need to change our attitude on how we report things about our country and we should emulate the foreign reporters who never report negative things about their countries.” So Mr Mark wants to sponsor – and pass – a legislation that would impose restrictions on the use of social media in Nigeria. Once that is done, his confidence in the empire will rebound, and his hopes of assuming the kingship will come back to live.
Again, Mr Mark is justified, because, you see, there’s so much money can buy; and there’s even much more plenty of money can buy. The more money you make without working, the more you want to spend without sweat. He pays himself N600 million from Nigeria’s treasury in one year. That isn’t heavenly or biblical year. It is earthly year as we know it; twelve calendar months, the one within which Barack Obama, the United States president, earns N60 million.
What Mr. Mark pays himself in one year is the salary of a US president for ten (yes, ten!) good years. What Nigeria’s number three citizen takes home, legally, in one year, is what the number one citizen of the world’s biggest economy, and only remaining super-power, earns in ten years. Because no president stays beyond eight years in America, it means what David Mark gives himself as earnings in one year is what will pay at least two American presidents – one for eight years and another one for extra two years. That means before Mark concludes his four year term, he would have amassed enough money from our treasury that will pay United States presidents for forty years! You see why he has to checkmate social media? You can’t have access to such amounts of free money without being sensitive to any avenue through which opposition rears its envious head.
Interestingly, what Mark is supposed to be doing to be taking such a humongous amount home every year is the same job the United States Vice President combines with his official job as the Vice, and for which he earns less than one-tenth of the money Mr Mark allocates to himself. Actually, it is the president of the US, not his Vice, who earns up to one-tenth of Mark’s annual bazaar. So for taking home N600 million for doing nothing, why will David Mark not feel threatened by social media?
It is even more annoying because years before now, nobody knew how much of injury his avarice –and those of his ilk – inflicted on the nation’s treasury. It was easy for him to buy up the entire mainstream media peopled by brown-envelope-seeking journalists and editors in a hurry to join the resource-grabbing frenzy of those who rule Nigeria. His Ghana-must-go bags were handy for willing media people who had no regards for the sacred role the society, and their jobs, had thrust upon them. Today, Mark can’t control what gets into the new media. He can’t control the number of people who read just a tweet, or Facebook post or blog post, detailing how much David Mark grabs monthly from the purse of a nation in pathetic poverty. He can’t control who reads this piece or who doesn’t. He can’t pull down this website or the other ones linked to it through which this piece will be read by thousands or millions of Nigerians. And this is why he is troubled.
There is also the conscience – or even emotional – side to his discomfort. He hates the poor, and gets angry at the sight of any poor person enjoying whatever he (Mark) considers a luxury. Most of the people who attack him and his tribe of nation-killers on social media do so with telephone which, years ago, he had declared wasn’t for the poor. The society-made super rich which Mark loves dearly can’t say anything wrong about him on social media. They are all colleagues in the nation-wrecking industry. Clearly, it is those “poor” ones, or those who should be poor but have somehow risen above it, that criticise Mark.
As Babangida’s minister of communication, he told whoever cared to listen to perish the thoughts of making telephone available to Nigerians. He stated, clearly, that telephone wasn’t for the poor. It was for the rich, eaters of hundreds of millions of naira from Nigeria’s commonwealth. Today, the senator watches even roadside mechanics clutching their phones, reading the internet and seeing how much of a curse to them this government has become. If you were Mark, you’d be troubled too.
He saw the shape of things to come from social media last January. The OccupyNigeria protests jolted him and his co-travellers. Forget the lies they took to the market of how opposition hijacked the protests, he knew that the power of social media was at work. But for lack of patriotism of the labour leaders who sold the protests to Mark and his government, the government would have been brought down. And since then, he has watched the social media project himself and the government in their true picture: enemies of the Nigerian people. He saw the Arab spring and how social media swept away his mentors in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and others. The senate president has stomached enough. He isn’t going to take it anymore.
It is a paradox that the same society which David Mark has so much undermined sent him to the Senate to represent them. It is even more shocking that the same Mark was made the president of the Senate, the nation’s symbol of democracy. Yet it is more paradoxical that the head of the institution which should bear the torchlight of democracy is the first person who has openly demonstrated his desire to outlaw the right of the people to freely express themselves.
Mr Mark’s ingratitude deserves a special mention. Here’s a man who was part of Babangida’s gang that collapsed Nigeria’s economy while their private economies, represented by their numerous bank accounts, blossomed. This is the same Mark who failed as a communications minister. Isn’t he supposed to be serving a lifetime in jail? Instead, he bulldozed his way through our polity and just happened in the senate. And for not taking a punitive action against him for his failure, he has got emboldened to punish us.
David Mark has always represented darkness in Nigeria. The senate he leads, which is an effective retirement house for former state treasury looters, has represented everything a nation’s senate should not be. While the lower house rose to the defence of Nigerians during the fuel subsidy protests, Mr Mark and his senate looked the other way round just to preserve the darkness which so much benefits him. While the lower house set up committees upon committees to perform their constitutional oversight functions on federal government ministries, departments and agencies, Mark’s senate chose silence which darkness brings.
He is preaching how reporters should follow their foreign counterparts. Unfortunately, the Senate president, like the other “leaders” in Nigeria, does not read. That raises another question: what does he do with the newspaper allowance he pays himself? If he reads American or British newspapers, then he would understand that a vibrant media will always question their leaders.
But let’s even assume Mark is right about foreign reporters not reporting the negatives about their countries; and we choose to emulate them, has Mark emulated the same foreign countries in insisting that politicians only earn realistic and sustainable salaries? Part of what he wants us to report is that he doesn’t pay himself ten times the salary of the US president, or that he hasn’t made efforts to frustrate, through his senate, the demand of Nigerians that subsidy thieves be prosecuted. Mr Mark hasn’t seen anything yet.
I understand he is a Christian. I would refer him to an interesting portion of the Bible. It is John 1:5:
“The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.”
New media is the light of the 21st Century, it is shining forth and forcing darkness to give way.
In the coming days and weeks and months, we would know who gives way between David Mark and social media. But I am convinced it won’t be the latter.
For more direct engagement, follow @ekekeee on Twitter
Tags: budgets, Elrufai, Nigeria, states
Our aim today is to draw some stylized conclusions from our analysis of the budgets of ten state governments. The states covered are representative of the six geo-political zones; Bauchi and Gombe in the North East, Lagos (South West), Benue and Nasarawa (North Central), Edo and Akwa-Ibom (South-South), Kaduna and Zamfara (North West) and Anambra (South East). These states are governed by five political parties, PDP (Akwa-Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, and Kaduna), ANPP (Zamfara), ACN (Edo and Lagos), APGA (Anambra) and CPC (Nasarawa). Thus to a degree, not only are the ten states representative of the six geo-political zones but also their budgets present the ideological outlook of the leading political parties in the country. Our analysis therefore provides a basis to make some generalizations about the budgets of the 36 states of the federation.
The objective of analyzing the states’ budgets is because a considerable proportion of our national revenue is allocated to the states and the local governments they control. Based on the existing revenue allocation formula, nearly half of federation revenues go to 36 states and the FCT, and the 774 local governments and 6 area councils. When the derivation, other federal transfers and related revenues are added, this proportion is well in excess of 65% of total revenues that accrue to the federation, being spent directly or indirectly by the State Governors. It is therefore important to focus on this tier of government which controls and spends nearly two-thirds of the nation’s resources to assess their performance.
The 1999 Constitution assigns important roles to the state governments in promoting social and economic development of the country and in improving the welfare of our people. It is important not only to focus on how the states are spending their accrued revenues, but also to ask to what extent, through their respective budgets, they are fulfilling their constitutional obligations. We hoped that the analyses will not only generate national debate on quality of spending and accountability but will lead to better state budgets in the future.
Consequently, rather than offer opinions, we adopted a facts-based approach to the analysis of the ten states budgets. We relied on publicly available and official data. For ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, we relied on the most recent World Bank survey, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for the Poverty Profiles and Unemployment, and Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for school enrolment, and JAMB for tertiary admission.
A major challenge that we faced in the exercise was the difficulty in accessing the budgets. Most of the states do not have websites with uploaded budgets. Even states that have functional websites have very little information on their annual budgets. Only Lagos and Gombe have detailed budgets online. Nasarawa has nicely-printed copies of the budget distributed widely and easily accessible in the state. This unusual scarcity and secrecy around state budgets create conditions of poor accountability and lack of transparency in governance. Invariably, our governance is weakened by the refusal and inability of state governors and assemblies to make their budget readily available to ordinary Nigerians. How can citizens hold governors accountable if they do not know what is planned, budgeted and implemented?
One noticeable trend in the budgets is the inability of state governments to collect taxes and thereby generate internal revenue. Only Lagos was the exception with IGR constituting 73% of total revenue in 2012. Only Kaduna State raises enough IGR to pay the salaries of its three arms of government without monthly FAAC handouts. Most states have high personnel costs, attributable to the appointment of unreasonably large numbers of political appointees. As an example, until recently the governor of Bauchi states had over 900 assistants. This is in contrast to Gauteng Province in South Africa which includes in its boundaries the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, with a GDP that is more than twenty times that of Bauchi State, whose premier has a maximum of five special assistants. What makes the case tragic in our context is that most of the ‘assistants’ make no meaningful contribution to the development of the states.
We can illustrate above point further by the fact that the civil servants and political appointees do not generate enough revenue to even cover their salaries. Of the state budgets analyzed, only Lagos and Kaduna have IGRs that could cover their personnel cost. The others like most states in the federation have been unable to device strategies to raise enough for their personnel costs. Edo’s IGR will fund 83% of its personnel cost, Anambra’s would fund 74%, Akwa Ibom 65%, Nasarawa 53%, Gombe 30%, Bauchi 26% and the worst case scenario is Zamfara whose IGR would fund only 19% of its personnel costs – less than one out of its five employees.
Virtually all the 36 states of the federation are dependent on federal allocation for their overhead and capital project requirements. In 2012, even the best state Lagos has a recurrent budget which is 80% of its IGR. The IGR of the nine other states, like most other states in the federation, will not even cover their recurrent budget. Akwa Ibom’s IGR covers only 6.3% of its recurrent budget; Zamfara’s can only cover 7%, Bauchi’s 11%, Gombe’s 11.9%, and Anambra’s 18%. The better performing states are Benue whose IGR will pay 26% of its recurrent budget, Nasarawa’s which cover 31%, Edo’s 37% and Kaduna that internally-generates 52% of its recurrent expenditure.
One other trend emerging from the foregoing is that most of the states are also spending more on running their governments than on improving the welfare of their people and investments that will enhance their productive capacity. These are governments of the people but not for the people – but to serve the political elite.
With the exception of Akwa Ibom state that earmarked 83% of its 2012 budget for capital expenditure, which is more than the 70% required for developing countries to ensure sustainable development, most state governments’ spend nearly half of their revenues on recurrent expenditure, with Nasarawa (60% on capital) and Zamfara (63%) being the notable exceptions.. The states are therefore not allocating sufficient amounts to the development of both social and economic infrastructure, nor are they saving for future generations.
Given the infrastructural deficits in the country, one expected that states’ governments would expend bulk of their resources not only building physical infrastructure but improving the living standards of citizens through provision of better schools, hospitals and security of life and property. Sadly, not enough of this is being done. If this pattern continues, it will perpetuate not only the underdevelopment of the federating units in particular but the country in general.
States develop and prosper when those in charge of governance recognize both the challenges they face and the endowments available take advantage of. Generally speaking, the endowments in most states range from agricultural resources, to minerals, tourism and human capital. Lagos has no minerals or agricultural land but has leveraged on its locational and commercial advantages. For many of the other states, it is either these natural resources or human capital.
The paltry amounts allocated to agriculture exemplified the misplaced priorities of most of the states’ budgets. Rural Anambra budgeted less than 2% for agriculture, Bauchi with 80% of its population engaged in farming allocated only 5.5% of its budget to agriculture, Edo allocated only 1%, and Gombe with its arable land and 80% of its population engaged in agriculture allocated only 5% to agriculture. These poor allocations are in contexts of high levels of poverty and unemployment. In Kaduna and Gombe the rate of unemployment is respectively 25.7% and 29%, which are above the national average of 21.1%. For states like these, attracting businesses and encouraging SMEs should be the front-burning issue. Increasing the budgets of agriculture, mining and tourism to address constraints in the value chains should be the governors’ priorities.
The budgets’ analysis therefore showed that most states in the country are not viable economic entities, and the so-called ‘rich, oil-producing states’ are far more dependent on the federation than the rest in proportionate terms! Standing alone, virtually all states will be unable to perform their basic functions like providing education and healthcare to citizens. Most states in the country will be illiquid in months without federal allocations, which in turn are largely derived from oil and gas revenues. The six Northern states in our sample are engaged in significant borrowing to sustain their operations. An example of this is Bauchi where 40% of its 2012 budget is funded by loans.
In conclusion, the budgets’ analysis has exposed the administrative and political incompetence of many state governments. We therefore need to rethink the role and size of states as constituted, as units of governance and economic development. There is therefore an urgent need for a constitutional review that will among other restructure the federating units to give way to a smaller number of states, regions and regional governments as political and economic management units. This calls to question the current and senseless clamour for creation of more states which would be even more unviable!
To develop their states and meet the needs of the people, governors will have to change their strategic focus in a manner that will enable them to increase their IGR and reduce dependence on federal allocation. Among others, these will require increased capital investment in social and physical infrastructure and to create conditions to diversify their economies, including promoting manufacturing-based industrialization. Each state needs to develop a blueprint for a post-oil economy and identify and promote investments in sectors that will generate jobs. Finally, as we can see from states like Lagos, developmentally-oriented leaders are required to pilot the affairs of the regional governments that will emerge from such political rearrangement. With these steps, may be our children will have a nation that has truly attained its potential.
MY WORTH AS A NIGERIAN July 26, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: corruption, Nigeria, Poverty
He wore a green trouser, a ruffled checkered white shirt, the sandals were an eyesore. While a table away, i had quietly told my friend “i see people like this approach me in restaurants in abuja asking for financial help”. 2 minutes later he approached. I have a policy of not giving money to people with functioning senses and limbs, hence i inquired how he earns a loving.
Eloquent, he told us of his story. He is 58 years old. Philip Uzochikwa. Lives at Ikotun. Has a family of 5: the eldest,26, a teacher; the next,24, learning a trade and the next 3 still in school when they could attend one. He had been laid off after his contract with one of the firms handling Ajaokuta Steel construction had ended a year ago.
His fledgling transport business had collapsed following an accident that almost took his life. He had resorted to envelopes production (of all sizes) but according to him was not sustainable, as it was slow and he only makes N30 at most on a copy (he didn’t have the machines to use too). The most copies he produces every week is about 1000 (and by that, business is booming). Why did he approach us? He needed to get home. He also inquired if we could employ him to do anything to make a living. I was deflated, depressed, angry, devastated.
Mr Philip story Represents a typical Nigerian scenario elsewhere: broken, tattered, hopeless, helpless, hapless. My partner queried in series of outbursts so what is our worth as a Nigerian?” i asked too “What’s my worth?” What is the worth of my citizenship? What’s the essence of my “Nigerianness”? What benefit accrues to me as a Nigerian? What value do I attract? What is my worth for being born into this country! Why are there disparities, glaring inequalities? The same country where lawmakers are earning so much in startling contrast to the people of the nation!
The more i thought, the more it got scary. We are the endangered species! The same children, families of people ignored today will haunt with the same or worse measure to which they have been neglected. Why? Most of them end up becoming the violent, the thugs, the criminals, the angry, the terrorists. The abandoned despises the society that neglects it, hates the system that spits on it; bottled frustration and anger oft makes them vicious.
Is there hope? Is there a way out? Is Nigeria not doomed the way leaders consistently build a haven for the poor, the homeless and helpless? Our aged men would rather be security personnels at different degrading establishments abroad earning stipends to see them through each day or more than come back home and face uncertainty, abject poverty or be impoverished. What could make a 58 year old man approach two young Nigerians for help?
Even for those who serve the system, the pension scheme established for them here is being looted by criminals and idiots. Why should you not be angry? Why? This is why most of us went Out in January. We knew it would come to this, where peasants in the society would approach some like us (and most of us are not better off), covered up in nice clothes and perfumes.
We need freedom, from leadership that consistently impoverishes its people. We need freedom from kleptocracy, from leaders united only by their collective resolve to loot and rape our nation; from those irreverently committed to selfishly stealing from our commonwealth.
All freedoms come with a price. Ours would not be different. The Nigerian leadership must heed the voice of reason, find its callings and wake up to its responsibilities. We have no belief in a government, in leadership as ours that is reckless, shameless, and unrepentantly wicked. As it stands today, the common Nigerian as no worth.
Or what is your worth as a Nigerian?
THE FAILURE OF OUR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS July 23, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE.
Tags: Christianity, Church, corruption, Islam, Mosques, Nigeria
“Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.” – George Washington
A country of over 160 million people; Nigeria is made up of two religions chiefly: Christianity and Islam. Given the high moral values, the ethics, the principles, the character conducts exemplified in both; one may perfectly conclude that Nigeria will be an ideal example of good governance, of fairness, of justice, of high moral behavior, of low crime, etc. WRONG!
Take for instance councillors, Chairman, Governors, Ministers, heads of parastatals, MDAs, PAs, SSAs, Lawmakers, etc all belong to either of both religions (where they are not atheists!) How then do we have consistent indiscipline, flagrant abuse of power and ineffective leadership as consistent attributes to these leadership positions! Intolerance, Societal dysfunction, Crime escalation (some sponsored by these heads as thugs) and unprecedented corruption are amongst the shameful display we see all around in our society. What is wrong?
As one who reads the bible, practice and follow Christ Jesus; I know the ideals of the Christian faith is important for good governance, they set for public leaders an ideally moral background to act. This does not mean public leaders would adhere to these values as many individual interpretations ensure a deviation from these standards.
Also, the fact that systems/nations/individuals do not believe in or practice a form of religion doesn’t preclude them from operating with similar ideals and conducts, a nation like Japan is a good example. They subscribe to set of moral values that are principally found in the Holy books. With that in mind, one would expect states/societies with high religious endearments like Nigeria to have more standard and high values than others. This is not the case in Nigeria.
Both religions have similar core value attributes and sanctions against indiscipline, oppression, wickedness and corruption. What is wrong with the conscience implanted by our creator in steering our basic daily activities, either private or public?
Let’s not take it far. You and I make up the two religions. How often do we obey traffic rules? Do we dump refuse in the gutters during rainfall? How often do we litter the streets with sachet? How often do we discharge our civilian duties without supervision? How often do we do the right thing at work? Diligence? How good does our integrity smell?
All values are traceable from the admonitions and principles of most religions; which emphasizes doing good. But today, religious affiliations doesn’t guarantee moral uprightness as people choose their different paths regardless of their religious inclinations
If people take heed and practice what is instructed in the scriptures, we will have a better society led by citizens who understand the needs of the society and works towards achieving them, followers who contribute their quota through collective active citizenship (discipline and adherence to civic rules); and live more peacefully with one another. It is one thing to have the Bible/Quran or read it for instance, it’s another to practice it. A lack of moral values has afflicted our institutions. It’s why Nigeria is in trouble.
The church repeatedly turns its eyes against social injustice. I expect the religious leaders to be extremely outspoken at corruption, but they won’t. Why would they? Most of them have their source of income from the corrupt individuals and thus have their conscience seared. They won’t speak. Jesus, the Christian model was outspoken against corrupt people, against false leaders and wicked men. But HIS church today is failing largely in this regard.
As religious authorities, the silence of religious leaders on social injustice silently affirm their belief in injustice. This in turn emboldens their followers to perpetuate or keep or justify the acts or keep more in apathy. Religious pedigree (just like its ethnic sister) has become a blinding interference, overshadowing integrity, strong character and competence.
The failures of our institutions stem from weak characters and value systems; and also a default failure of Family upbringing, community values and schools/religious bodies weaknesses. A willingness to recognize our individual and collective shortcomings is a healthy step towards recovery and greatness.
I look with disappointing unbelief at how religious leaders consistently shy away from being vocal on bad governance. It’s appalling to see they pay lip service to the very sound doctrines espoused by the Holy books. It’s more fearsome to see that millions of followers are blindly lost, brainwashed and divided in the ensuing drama!
The Bible is replete with instances where God sends HIS prophets to caution and chastise the leaders of the time. God speaks without restraint on bad leadership. HE is interested in the affairs of HIS people, interested in the welfare of HIS people. What is wrong with God’s “prophets” today? Nigeria is failing more because of the failures of its religious leadership/institutions.
CIVILIAN RULE: FEW GAINS, MANY PAINS by Nasir @elrufai July 19, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Civilian rule, democracy, Elrufai, Nigeria
In the last twelve weeks, this column has focused attention away from analyzing governance of our nation at federal level to the 36 states and their budgets. We analyzed ten state budgets – statistically-significant sample from which some stylized conclusions about the quality of governance will be presented next week. Today, we want to look at the thirteen years of experience with civilian (rather than democratic) rule. I am reluctant to use democracy at this point.
The starting point for an assessment of civil rule since 1999 is a deserved tribute to the many Nigerians from all walks of life whose efforts and sacrifices compelled the military to retreat to the barracks. It was a titanic effort, a struggle for which many died, countless were bloodied and many lost livelihoods and liberty. Freedom stirs in the hearts of humanity; neither blandishments nor the whip of tyrants can extinguish these stirrings or even deter a determined people from securing it. Freedom is a wonderful value, and the events of the last 15 years of military rule ought to have convinced everybody that democracy, anchored on fair elections, the rule of law and good governance, is the way to go. In 1998, Nigerians overwhelmingly decided that never again will we accept the shortcuts of military rule and the long nightmare of tragedy that accompanied it. It seems that in 13 years, we have forgotten all that and we seem to have mostly evil emperors at the helm that are more banal than the military dictators, but far less competent in governing.
Those of us privileged to have contributed in the design of the transition program after Abacha’s death in June 1998 are proud that it ended with President Olusegun Obasanjo taking the reins in May 1999. Six moths later, I was leading the federal privatization effort and in 2003, administering the FCT. As a private citizen since 2007, I have reflected on our country’s journey, and my view is that while we have many things to celebrate, where we have ended up now gives us much more to deplore.
Warts and all, we have preserved some prospect for genuine democratic governance. Some fraudulent elections have been overturned and illegal impeachments quashed. Nigerians even united to surprise and defeat the third-term attempt of a sitting president. With vigilance and will, we can invest real substance into the democratic structures that we have and make real the vision that our people can prosper in freedom. The notion of the citizenship rights is getting reinforced, despite the prolonged hangover afflicting sections of the security establishment. This increased awareness of human rights has sometimes been upheld by the courts that have survived the onslaught of a destructive chief justice that should have never been allowed near that exalted office.
While democracy satisfies the intrinsic desire for freedom, it is its instrumental value that ultimately matters for the quotidian realities and longer-term interests of most citizens. People want freedom, but that must include the freedom not to be bombed while worshipping or shopping, and not to starve. It includes freedom to live in dignity, with equal access to social services and to realize the potential their talents can legitimately secure.
Civilian rule sold off fiscal drain-pipes owned by government that were arrogant, insular and provided poor services. The telecommunications sector was liberalized bringing in private investment, creating ancillary businesses, over 60,000 jobs and putting a telephone in the hands of virtually every citizen that wants it. We saw the beginnings of a consumer credit system, and even a pilot mortgage scheme that assisted many buyers of Federal Government houses in Abuja. Nigeria won external debt reliefs, consolidated its banking system and witnessed rapid economic growth, no doubt assisted also by high oil prices. Our foreign reserves grew and we even created a ‘rainy day’ fund called the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
By 2007, the Yar’Adua-Jonathan government inherited vast foreign reserves ($43bn), on-going power projects (NIPP-$5bn), new rail systems from Lagos to Kano ($8bn) and Abuja Metro ($800 million), a healthy ECA ($27bn) – in short a basis to hit the ground running, complete on-going projects, initiate new ones and continue addressing Nigeria’s infrastructure deficits. Alas, after $200bn had been earned and spent, that did not happen. What happened?
Despite these accomplishments of the Obasanjo government, it was by no means a perfect government, just an effective one. It’s attention to the rule of law was uneven. We recall the brazenness with which a well-connected thug sponsored arson against government buildings in Anambra State as an assault against Governor Chris Ngige from whom he was estranged. That thug was not called to account; instead he was elevated to his party’s board of trustees. If people consistently escape justice because of their connections to power, it is an open invitation to people of lesser quality to seize the state and suitably defile it. Impunity then replaced even-handed common sense and decency.
We also managed to compound impunity by assaulting the very basis of democratic legitimacy: free and fair elections. It is a fact that elections in Nigeria have been progressively worse since 1999. International and domestic observers gave devastating verdicts on the conduct of the 2003 elections. Those of 2007 were so awful that the key beneficiary felt compelled to admit as much in his inaugural speech as president. Despite the initial façade, the 2011 elections turned out to be not only similarly flawed, but one of the most deceptive and divisive in our electoral history.
Yet true democracy ought not to make people frightened of the consequences of not being in power. With term limits, losers are guaranteed another stab in just a few years. And where the rule of law prevails, an electoral loss is not the same thing as exclusion from the political space and vigorous participation in the process. But such political sophistication prevails only when there’s certainty about electoral integrity and where the respect for the rule of law has become part of the DNA.
Simply put we have lost the opportunity to routinize the spirit of democracy while we stay busy observing its formal rituals. It was perhaps inevitable that the words of Plato that “the punishment we suffer, if we refuse to take an interest in matters of government, is to live under the government of worse men” would catch up with us.
Since 2000, there has been an unacceptable mayhem and bloodshed in Nigeria. The exacerbation of religious and ethnic tensions expressed in violent hues has been one of the most disappointing features of the new civilian era. Democracy would have offered a civilized way to negotiate and manage differences without breaking bones. It thrives on the ability of contending factions to work out a consensus and to summon sufficient coherence to make things work. It is disheartening that virtual apartheid, based on religion, is beginning to divide cities like my hometown of Kaduna, with people being restricted to their respective ghettoes of faith. At the heart of democracy is a universal idea, but a key feature of present-day Nigeria is an astounding narrow-mindedness.
It is necessary that we reflect on the probability that by giving undue credence to ethnic and religious group rights, we imperil not only individual rights but also destroy the possibility of building a nation where everyone belongs and feels safe everywhere. Our political elites have encouraged divisions that keep them in office, forgetting that the depletion of trust and cohesion will make it difficult if not impossible for them to enjoy the fruits of the office! This created the insecurity we now suffer all over the country.
We have a centralized police force afflicted both by little self-respect and a limited sense of its mandate. The efforts to contain Boko Haram’s terror has shown that our intelligence gathering apparatus is not fit for purpose, and our security agencies lacking in internal capacity and capability beyond harassing those of us in opposition. The pathetic manner public streets are blocked in the vicinities of security and defense establishments makes the citizens wonder – if those trained and armed to defend us are so scared of the terrorists, how can we expect them to defend the realm? Are they concerned only about their safety and that of those in power?
We have not built as much infrastructure as our development requires, and we have failed to moderate our escalating cost of governance. More importantly, democratic Nigeria is yet to grow in a way that can democratize its fruits through the creation of jobs for our youths. As we dither, divide our citizens, and condone fraud and corruption, the world just leaves us behind.
There is no doubt in my mind that we need to give our people a stake in keeping democracy aglow. History shows that even in the developed societies, extremist groups attract more support in moments of economic hardship. And when this is compounded by corruption and politics of self-advancement of a few, and the economic exclusion of the many, only the peace of the graveyard can result. How do we reverse these tendencies and make democracy work for the greatest number of Nigerians?
Our political culture must change from one of self-enrichment to true public service. The situation in which we spend almost the entire federal revenues for the running cost of government is unacceptable and will crash this democratic experiment – albeit a thirteen year one. Elections must be credible, free and fair because that is what will guarantee the ejection of those that fail the electorate. It is entirely up to INEC and the authorities to ensure these happen otherwise the consequences will be dire.
Insecurity is the front-burning issue. It is the primary responsibility of any government which can neither be abdicated nor outsourced. Community leaders and civil society can support the government, but not replace it. The government must adopt a multiple approach that includes enhancing the intelligence-gathering capacities of our security forces and creating an environment for job creation for the hopeless youths that are being recruited by the terrorists. The administration should therefore stop behaving like a victim and get on with the job!
Finally, a single-minded focus on development – physical via infrastructure build-out, human by providing equal access to public education and healthcare, and social services that enable citizens the opportunity to realize their full potentials. Those that are in power that cannot do this at all levels should do the honorable thing – resign and allow others that can . We need people that stay awake thinking, and investing the time and effort to get our country working even just a little bit. Apart from fraud and corruption in government, compounded by hatred and suspicion amongst the populace – nothing seems to be growing in Nigeria today.
Tags: Ayittey, corruption, Elrufai, Nigeria, Obasanjo, Rimbaud
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Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Making Nigeria Work Again (VII)
George B.N. Ayittey, Ph.D.
Government Dysfunction – Statemobile Kaput
In 2000, you could describe Nigeria thus: Bad driver, bad vehicle, bad roads, no traffic law and angry passengers fed up with lack of progress. The state vehicle – the entire government machinery and institutions – had broken down. It had no brakes or shock absorbers – no checks and balances. The steering wheel was broken, making it impossible to steer in the right direction. Even with a good driver, an accident such as landing in a ditch was inevitable.
The Obasanjo administration could not be blamed for the broken statemobile; it was already broken by decades of military rule before he took office. Nor could the Obasanjo administration fix the broken vehicle. It requires major structural and institutional reform; hence, a collective and concerted effort. In fact, no single president by himself undertake such monumental institutional reform. But without reform, the problems continued and Nigeria’s statemobile lurched from ditch to ditch.
On Jan 27, 2002 a small fire from a gas station near a central market in Lagos spread to the weapons depot at the Ikeja military base, touching off massive explosions that propelled shrapnel and shock waves for miles through the crowded slums and working-class neighborhoods that surround the base. The huge blasts sent thousands of residents fleeing in panic. Many, including children, jumped into a nearby canal, without realizing how deep it was and drowned. The death toll from the blasts and the drowning exceeded 2,000 according to private newspapers.
Residents had many reasons to be angry. The provision of basic social services, law and order was non-existent. The crime rate had soared. “Some police officers had been convicted of robbery or aiding bandits over the last year” (The New York Times, Feb 3, 2002; p.WK6). And when the explosions occurred in January 2002, there were no fire and rescue operations because the city had no fire trucks. [Note: Government functions such as police protection, fire and rescue operations were non-existent, the government was not performing its duties under the Constitution.]
Angry residents wanted to know how and why bombs, shells and rockets were stockpiled in a heavily populated area. They demanded that President Obasanjo cancel a scheduled trip to the U.S. to attend the World Economic Forum in New York. He visited the devastation site to express his grief with the victims’ families. When the distressed crowd of mothers of missing children urged him to take a closer look, he reacted in anger: “Shut up! I don’t really need to be here. After all, the governor of the state is here” (The Washington Post, Feb 10, 2002; p.A20). He later apologized, saying “he was unaware at the time that lives had been lost.” “How could Obasanjo not have known that people had died?” asked Jonah Nnachi, a 22-year-old trader. “If he was a person who cared for people, he would not have said those things.” (The New York Times, Feb 10, 2002; p.A5)
Vice President Atiku Abubakar went to the military barracks, which had been flattened, to calm nerves. But “soldiers pelted the vice president’s car with bottles and kept Vice President Atiku Abubakar from addressing them during his visit to inspect the damage, witnesses said. The soldiers forced his car to turn back under a barrage of water bottles”(The New York Times, February 2, 2002; p.A4). He had to flee. Four days later, the police force mutinied, further jolting a country already shaken by the explosions, fire and deaths. The cause of the police mutiny was unpaid back wages. Thereupon, the President’s office released a statement that he had approved the immediate release of funds to cover the salaries of police officers who had not been paid. The statement emphasized that “payment will be jeopardized where mutiny is not called off” (The New York Times, February 2, 2002; p.A10).
It seemed everybody – residents, soldiers and police — was up in arms against the government. The institutions of the state and its organs were failing to perform their constitutional functions as before, even under “democratic” rule. On the Jan 19, 2005 when there was another fire outbreak in the F.C.T in Abuja, the boss of the Federal Fire Service asked callers to call the NNPC Fire Department instead since the phones at the Fire Service could only receive in-coming calls and could not dial out. And when fire struck the Federal Express head office in the same month, the Fire Service came, spent 30 minutes and left because of water shortage. The company had to hire a private water tanker and needed the help of area boys (touts) to put out the blaze. Similarly, when fire broke out on the property of veteran musician, Tony Okoroji, the Fire Service came hours later, surveyed the scene and left.
While the state institutions were failing to perform services to the people, they were also failing to discharge their own obligations to themselves. In 2002, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS), Ms. Ifuero Omoigui appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts to disclose that her agency might head to court to seek the prosecution of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) for failing to remit the sum of about N18 billion tax proceeds to the Federal Government.
Nkem Ekeopara, an engineer, was irate, dismissing Nigeria as a “failed nation state.” He wrote:
“Most objective analyses of Nigeria since May 29, 1999, will point to the many failings of the administration of Obasanjo. From the much touted privatisation program now bungled and terribly smeared with corruption, to the incessant power outages, from excessively expensive GSM telephone that is hardly accessible due to poor and unreliable network, the story then is one of dismal failure. The Federal road network remains death traps particularly in the South-South, the entire South-east of the country inhabited by oil producing Igbos and the riverine Delta. The fact Nigeria is a failed Nation State in terms of its capacity to serve the core interests of its citizens, especially under Obasanjo, is no longer in doubt” (USAfrica Newspaper, Houston, May 28, 2002).
Mr. Ekeopara noted that Obasanjo’s greatest and most visible failure was in the area of security: both the security of stomach ensured through abundance and reasonably priced foodstuffs and the security of lives and property, through proper policing. He cited scarcities of garri, one of Nigeria’s staple foods – then being imported from neighbouring Benin Republic, because of lack of vision by the Obasanjo government in all sectors of the national life and the unresolved murder of Bola Ige, Obasanjo’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice. If the Justice Minister himself cannot be protected by law enforcement, how much more the poor ordinary folks?
Even though “change” was supposed to have been ushered in with Nigeria’s 1999 election of President Obasanjo, there appeared to have been some retreat to the “bad old days.” According to Pini Jason, a Nigerian columnist,
“People are afraid of a relapse to the intolerant days of military despotism. In all states of the federation, officials are exhibiting the intolerance of the military. To show any political ambition is to court danger. To oppose the misrule of a governor, is a grievious offense, punishable by blackmail or assassination. The temperament, style and language of the civilian government are not different from the military governors before them (New African , October 2001; p.17).
According to American correspondent, Norimitsu Onishi, the elected Obasanjo government “is widely seen as ineffective, uncaring and dangerously fragile” (The New York Times, Feb 10, 2002; p.A5). “I don’t have any interest to vote for any politician. They are all foolish. They just want to get a seat and they forget us” said Muhammad Rabiu, 27, a businessman (The New York Times, Feb 8, 2002; p.A3).
Worse still, Obasanjo himself was not following the Constitution. In fact, his own National Assembly voted to condemn him for “incompetence, misuse of public funds and impeachable violations of the constitution. The lower chamber, the House of Representatives, passed a resolution condemning the government for “ineptitude, insensitivity, and non-transparent activities.” House Speaker, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, a member of Obasanjo’s own ruling party but a strong critic of the president, read out the resolution, saying Obasanjo had committed more than 100 impeachable offences since taking office in 1999. (The Daily Graphic, Feb 16, 2002; p.5). Legislators took turns to slam Obasanjo’s management of the economy and handling of mounting ethnic and religious conflicts. “The country is in total disarray,” Ahmed Lawan told the House. “There is armed banditry, ethnic violence, disregard for the appropriation act by the executive arm. And the situation is getting worse by the day” (The Daily Graphic, Feb 16, 2002; p.5). Another member, Ehiogie West-Idahosa, said that thousands of Nigerians had lost their lives in conflicts since Obasanjo came to power “when we are not even fighting a civil war” (The Daily Graphic, Feb 16, 2002; p.5).
The feud between President Obasanjo and the House erupted when the President ordered parliament to disclose how much they earn. Obasanjo was displeased when he discovered that the office of the speaker alone had budgeted 650 million naira (or $6.5 million) for itself against 250 million naira (or $2.5 million) a year ago. While the Revenue Commission had fixed an annual salary of N993,697 (naira) for the Senate president, and N990,884 for the speaker of the House, information released by the chairman of the House Committee on Services, Lumumba Dah Adeh, showed that each member of the House’s annual take-home pay of between N4,366,692 and N5,722,356″ (New African, April 202; p.18). “The pay of the MPs had been padded with 15 different allowances, including utilities, entertainment, domestic, vehicle maintenance, constituency allowance, personal assistance, special assistant, recess allowance, severance gratuity and retirement benefit” New African, April 2002; p.18). By 2011, it had reached a cool $2 million each.
Leadership With Misaligned Priorities
In an address to the African Ministerial Forum on Integrated Transport in Africa (AMFIT) in 2003, President Obasanjo said: “The lack of real economic development in many African countries is due to poor, and sometimes outrightly irresponsible leadership” (This Day, March 11, 2003). Well, how responsible was his leadership?
He was not so much concerned about basic issues like the price of foodstuffs or health care which affect the lives of the people. Rather, he preferred to talk big and dream. Although Nigeria already had plenty of stadiums, President Obasanjo proposed to spend nearly $350 million on a new football stadium, even as it was rescheduling its $32 billion foreign debt and coping with cholera outbreaks and communal violence. Asked by an American reporter, Robin Wright, if such an expenditure is justified, President Obasanjo replied:
“One of the things putting Nigeria on the map is its soccer players. It was in the U.S. (Atlanta) that we won the World Cup. And if they have nowhere at all to play, they would not have done that. I went to Turkey and the prime minister said we have five Nigerians playing for us. There are Nigerians playing all over the world . . . We need to dream” (The Los Angeles Times, June 3, 2001; p.M3).
He subsequently added another reason: Mr. Obasanjo explained that the stadium was being built for `political’ reasons. It is a question of prestige: northern bigwigs are determined to have a stadium in their patch” (The Economist, Feb 17, 2001 page 48). It seemed the “dream” of placing Nigeria on the soccer map was more important than fighting cholera outbreaks. But Obasanjo had even bigger dreams.
On Sept 27, 2003, the first Nigerian satellite christened NigeriaSat-1 and at a cost of $13 million was launched at Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. It was a communications satellite. Though it was eventually lost in orbit in 2008 as a result of poor work by the Chinese engineers that handed the project, many were baffled
“Nigeria, one of the world’s poorest countries, is to launch its own space program in the form of an agency that will develop rocket and satellite technology. Transport Minister Ojo Madueke said the Government had allocated three billion naira ($6.7 million) for the program and that the agency would receive 2.5 billion naira a year in the next three years with the aim of becoming self-financing (The New Zealand Herald, June 7, 2001).
Undeterred by the criticism, Obasanjo forged ahead. On July 28, 2005, Obasanjo said the Federal Government was working on a programe that would see Nigerians land in space between the next 15 and 25 years. “In 15 to 25 years, we will put Nigerians into space. We will get there and we are not going to be found wanting . . . It is not as unattainable as it looks, and we have to do it. If we are going to make progress, we are going to make it on the basis of commitment, service and sacrifice,” he stated (Daily Champion, Lagos, July 29, 2005). Meanwhile, his government was seeking North Korean missiles to develop ballistic missile capability. There were talks between Nigeria’s Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and North Korean counterpart Yang Hyong-sop in Abuja (BBC News, Jan 29, 2004; web-posted).
A second satellite was launched in August 2011 to study weather patterns. Eventually, an $89 million Obasanjo Space Center was built at a time when Nigeria could not feed itself and must import food worth $3 billion annually.
Perhaps, Obasanjo embarked on the grand dreams of space programs to divert the attention of Nigerians from their daily troubles. But speaking to the BBC’s “Talkabout Africa” program, Chinua Achebe, one of Africa’s most erudite novelist, dismissed Nigeria as a “tragedy.” He said: “Nigeria has been more disappointing than I had hoped or expected. It is tragic because we have such potential. We have been given so much abundance by providence that it just seems extraordinary that we should do nothing but shoot ourselves in the foot” (BBC World News Service, Nov 22, 2002). The “hole in the foot” at the United Nations was particularly embarrassing.
By January 2003, the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, located at Nigerian House on 802 Second Avenue and 44th Street in New York, had become a nightmare of unpaid bills and constant harassment from landlords, credit card companies, phone companies as well as other utilities. Nigerian diplomats could not be reached by phone because the lines had been cut. Even electricity to the giant building was also disconnected for some time. According to Nigerian author and publisher, Chika Onyeani,
“Diplomats at the Mission have not been paid for the past five months, while the “locally-recruited-staff” (the staff not sent from Nigeria but recruited domestically) have not been paid for three months. Most of them have exhausted their savings, having to depend on borrowing from friends and relatives, and it is only the depressing job market in America which has forced them to continue to endure the humiliation of constant eviction notices” (African Sun Times, January 16-22, 2003; p.1).
Under the Obasanjo administration, Nigeria fast gained an unenviable reputation for financial mismanagement and scams. In fact, “on January 13, 2003, the IMF warned West African countries against having one currency if Nigeria was to be included. The Fund believed that these countries would lose the value of their respective currencies if Nigeria was allowed to become a member because of high corruption in the country and the specter of financial scam practitioners in the country” (African Sun Times, January 16-22, 2003; p.1). The scams were estimated to have defrauded foreigners of more than $2.2 billion.
The Obasanjo regime, though far better than the string of military gangster regimes it succeeded, was scandalously ineffective in tackling the myriad of social ills confronting Nigerians. Provision of basic social services – clean water, reliable electricity, etc. – remained sporadic and anemic. And after President Obasanjo took office in 1999, ethnic and religious fighting, land disputes and conflicts between communities escalated, driving more than 3 million Nigerians from their homes, according to the National Commission for Refugees, which also said the problem of internal displacement in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, was worsening and appeared to be a permanent feature of society.
The commission said the problem of displaced people stemmed from three decades of military rule that caused deep but repressed anger within society. These were the decades when Nigeria had no Constitution. The return to civilian rule in 1999 allowed frustrations to bubble to the surface and erupt into conflict. At least 14,000 Nigerians died in ethnic, religious or communal fighting between 1999 and 2005, according to conservative estimates of human rights groups. The Feb 2006 religious riots in Maiduguri, in the north, killed up to 50 people, mostly Christians, and left many more homeless. Those killings sparked reprisal murders of Muslims in Onitsha, in the south, where thousands fled their homes, seeking refuge in army barracks or leaving the area altogether. Many of the disputes that led to displacement began over land or political control of local areas and later took on an ethnic or religious dimension, the commission said (The New York Times, March 14, 2006).
In the Delta region, militancy grew violent and sophisticated. From Dec 2005, militants launched a series of ferocious attacks on Nigeria’s oil industry, sending crude oil prices sky-rocketing on the world market. Nigeria is the world’s eighth largest exporter of oil, producing 2.4 million barrels a day. Nigeria is also the fifth-largest oil exporter to the United States, after Mexico, Venezuela, Canada and Saudi Arabia. Nearly half of Nigeria’s oil exports go to the United States. But after Dec 2005, incidents in the Western part of the delta regularly shut down about 10 percent of the country’s oil production. Four foreign workers were abducted in January 2006 by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and were held for three weeks before being released. The attacks escalated with such ferocity that there was much concern about Nigeria holding together as a country.
On Feb 18, 2006, MEND launched a string of attacks on the country’s oil industry, abducting nine foreign workers, bombing a major tanker loading platform and sabotaging two pipelines. These forced Royal Dutch Shell to suspend exports from the 380,000-barrel-a-day Forcados tanker terminal, and shut down the 115,000-barrel-a-day EA oilfield as a precaution. The Forcados loading platform, which is located about 20 kilometers offshore, was set on fire while a pipeline was blown up. [The nine foreign contractors who were kidnapped -- three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one Briton and one Filipino national working for Willbros Group of Houston -- were working on a pipe-laying barge. They were released on March 27 without harm.] As a result of these attacks, Nigeria’s oil production was cut by 455,000 barrels a day out of a total of about 2.4 million barrels, or by about 20 percent. The effect was to push up crude oil prices sharply: Brent crude oil for April delivery jumped $1.57 a barrel, to $61.46, on London’s ICE Futures exchange.” ”We would expect the potential for further chaos in Nigeria to provide a floor for prices above $60, and we expect that Nigeria will continue to be a major issue in terms of supply security,” Kevin Norrish, an analyst at Barclays Capital in London, wrote in a note to investors” (The New York Times, Feb 25, 2006).
MEND said the attacks were a response to military air raids in Delta State and would be followed by another wave of violence ”on a grander scale.” The militants were determined to cut Nigeria’s oil production by 30 percent and warned all foreign workers to leave the delta immediately. The militants wanted more local control over the Niger Delta’s vast oil wealth and the release of two ethnic Ijaw leaders, including a militia leader who was on trial for treason.
Although the attacks were directed primarily at Royal Dutch Shell, the oldest and largest oil producer in Nigeria, their real target was the government, said Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, an analyst at the Eurasia group, a private research firm (The New York Times, Feb 25, 2006). ”They are trying to hurt the government, not really the oil companies,” Mr. Spio-Garbrah said. Efforts to defeat militant groups militarily floundered, enabling them to carry out several audacious attacks on oil facilities. “The government said the group paid for its weapons by stealing oil, but several government officials, including two admirals of the Nigerian Navy, were charged with stealing oil as well” (The New York Times, Feb 25, 2006).
Coconut Combat Against Corruption
More than $1.3 billion of Abacha’s loot was believed to have been siphoned through London banks; one popular British bank alone was reported to have handled more than $170 million of funds suspected to have been looted from the Nigerian treasury by Abacha’s military regime. The Abacha family and associates argued that they had an immunity deal from General Abdulsalam Abubakr’s transitional regime that briefly ruled Nigeria after Abacha’s sudden death on June 8, 1998 before Obasanjo came to power on May 29, 1999. The family and associates said General Abubakr’s government had agreed that if they returned “some money” (and they duly returned $750 million), they would be given immunity from criminal prosecutions. In May 1999, General Abubakr’s regime acknowledged that some money had been returned. After that, more Abacha-associated accounts were discovered in 19 Western banks, but the Abacha family insisted that the deal with General Abubakr’s government should stand. They subsequently went to court in Britain to stop the British government from handing over the results of its investigation into the money to the Nigerian and Swiss authorities” (New African, Nov 2001; p.10). However, President Obasanjo’s war on corruption was even worse.
As he was pleading for more aid at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in February 2004, four of his state governors were being probed by London police for money laundering. The most galling was the case of Plateau State Governor, Chief Joshua Dariye, accused of diverting N1.1 billion (over $90 million) into his private bank accounts.
Dragged to the Federal High Court in Kaduna by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Justice Abdullahi Liman ruled on Dec 16, 2004, that although Dariye was a principal actor in the case, Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution protected sitting governors from criminal prosecution. Imagine. And would the police apprehend him if he had no such “constitutional immunity”? In February 2005, Nigeria’s police chief himself, Inspector General Tafa Balogun, was forced into early retirement after investigators probing money-laundering allegations found $52 million hidden in a network of 15 bank accounts after being on the job for only two years. He was eventually prosecuted and sentenced to a mere six-month jail term – a slap on the wrist.
Lawmakers mocked attempts by the police to investigate MPs for corruption. Said President Obasanjo: “The fact that Tafa Balogun was removed or asked to resign and the money found in his account seized; the fact that two ministers – one former and one serving – were charged in court over corruption should be applauded. I believe that we are doing well as far as fighting corruption is concerned”(Daily Independent, Feb 27, 2005). Well not good enough. Even Nigeria’s Senate was riddled with scams and inflated contracts, with proceeds pocketed by sitting senators.
Then it became open looting by state governors with impunity and immunity. The Governor of oil-rich Nigerian state (Bayelsa State), Chief Diepreye Alamieseigha, was arrested at London Heathrow Airport on Sept 15, 2006, for money laundering in Britain. He appeared in a UK court on Sept 18 and charged with laundering £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and in bank accounts. Seven London bank account were traced to him.
Governor Alamieseigha was said to have collapsed in court just as he was alleged to have been engaging in direct transfer from government account to individual accounts. According to Nigeria’s Sunday Tribune, the genesis of the governor’s arrest, was traced to a woman who was arrested in London with $30 million which she claimed belonged to the Bayelsa State governor. The governor at the time earned less than $1,000 a month. Sunday Tribune also gathered that Alamieyeseigha, on hearing of the arrest of his top aides, put a call through to a top Presidency chief whom he accused of witch-hunting him.
He was believed to be on his way to Nigeria en route in London after undergoing medical checkup in Germany before he was apprehended for alleged money laundering. Reports said that the Metropolitan police seized his passport, ostensibly to restrict him to Britain because of his court trial. He was granted bail, while the case against him was adjourned till Nov 15, 2005. He was originally arrested on 15 September as he passed through Heathrow Airport in London. Detectives found almost £1m in cash in his west London home. The governor claimd he was innocent and enjoyed diplomatic immunity.
Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had overwhelming evidence on most of the alleged corrupt government officials — especially state governors — even as the Commission’s chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, said the case involving the governor of Bayelsa State, Diepriye Alamieyeseigha, was just a tip of the iceberg. In fact, an allegation of corruption was even leveled against President Olusegun Obasanjo himself by the governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu.
Many Nigerians scoffed at Obasanjo’s anti-corruption campaign as an elaborate form of public relations exercise to win concessions from lenders and burnish the president’s reputation as a world leader. Critics noted that six years after Obasanjo first won office promising to crack down on corruption, no major figures were brought to justice, and few went to jail. One such figure, General Ibrahim Babangida, an ex-military dictator, thumbed his nose at his people by even refusing to testify before the anti-corruption Oputa Commission. Even when caught, punishment amounts to a mere sacking.
When the nation’s education minister, Fabian Osuji, was caught giving $400,000 to Nigerian lawmakers for favorable votes, he formally protested that such behavior was “common knowledge and practice at all levels of government.” Besides, Osuji added, he had struck a good deal; the lawmakers had asked for twice as much. He was fired from the government. Besides Osuji, a succession of senior government figures — including the top police official, the housing minister and the Senate president – were also pushed from their jobs and threatened with jail for offenses that once would have earned them little more than a wink. But political opponents contended that the president’s election victories in 1999 and 2003 were so brazenly rigged that he lacked the moral authority to attack corruption.
Efforts to stem corruption began making headlines in August 2003 when Nasir Ahmad el-Rufa’i, who had just been named to a ministerial post overseeing the capital region, announced that two senators had asked him for bribes to facilitate his confirmation (The Washington Post, May 1, 2005; p.A18). El-Rufa’i estimated that at least three out of every four lawmakers were corrupt, as were more than half of the nation’s governors and many of its civil servants. “If a few more ministers go to jail, if a few more members of the National Assembly go to jail, believe me, people will line up and do the right thing” el-Rufa’i said (The Washington Post, May 1, 2005; p.A18).
Unfortunately, a few did not go to jail or will ever go to jail because of an insane clause in the Constitution. Section 308 of the Constitution grants immunity from prosecution to the president, his vice, governors and their deputies. They can “chop” with impunity and immunity. That is why the Nigerian courts can’t catch them and it takes courts in the UK or elsewhere to do so. Remember James Ibori?
AWAKENING THE SLEEPING GIANT:MAKING NIGERIA WORK AGAIN (V) George @ayittey http://seunfakze.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/awakening-the-sleeping-giant-making-nigeria-work-again-v-by-prof-ayittey/
AWAKENING THE SLEEPING GIANT:MAKING NIGERIA WORK AGAIN (VI) George @ayittey http://seunfakze.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/awakening-the-sleeping-giant-making-nigeria-work-again-vi-by-prof-ayittey/
Tags: Ayittey, history, Nigeria
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Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Making Nigeria Work Again (VI)
George B.N. Ayittey, Ph.D.
Sham Transitions to Democratic Rule
Without a Constitution, the yarn that weaves a nation together unravels as there is no rule of law, no value system, etc. Everything depends on the whims of the dictator at the top and the weather forecast. For 29 years under military rule, Nigerians had no constitution. Despite the vaunted rhetoric about efficiency, accumulated evidence shows that the military has been the most egregiously incompetent institution to manage a transition to democracy – not just in Africa but elsewhere as well. Witness the military-orchestrated transitions in Tunisia, Egypt or Myanmar (Burma). It was worse in Nigeria.
After seizing power in a military coup in 1985, General Ibrahim Babangida (“The Maradona” – The Dribbler) began a 5-year transition program, which turned out to be a sham odyssey. The program was stretched out with frequent interruptions, devious maneuvers and broken promises (at least four missed handover dates — Oct 1990, Oct 1992, Jan 1993 and June 1993). Just because the U.S. has two major parties, Babangida created exactly two political parties for Nigeria: “one a little to the left and the other a little to the right.” To add insult to injury, he wrote the manifestoes for the two parties too. And when he did not like the June 1993 presidential election results, he promptly annulled them!
Next to shepherd the transition to democracy was General Sani Abacha (“The Butcher of Abuja”), always in Ray-Ban dark goggles. After shoving Ernest Shonekan aside in Nov 1993, Abacha announced preparations for a Constitutional Conference, which also turned out to be a farce. He twice postponed its opening and a day after the conference finally began on June 27, 1994, it was abruptly adjourned for two weeks. The official reason? The delegates’ accommodations were not ready.
Moreover, the 396 delegates, who were to deliberate on the future of democracy, congregated at
Abuja as “guests of the military.” A fourth of their number (96) was nominated by General Abacha himself and the rest “elected” under suspiciously complex rules. Delegates were chosen by “people’s representatives” who were themselves elected by popular vote on 23 May, 1994 postponed from 21 May. Candidates under 35 years of age were ineligible to run. In addition, they must not be “an ex-convict, must be sane, must be a fit and proper person and must not have been declared bankrupt by a court of law” — requirements that most of the ruling military elites themselves would fail to meet.
Logistical problems, inadequate publicity, and apathy bedeviled the electoral exercise. There was no campaigning; no voters register or cards. Confusion reigned. Voters did not even know whom they were voting for and for what purpose. And stunned by the annulment of June 12, 1993 elections, many chose to stay home. The general voter turnout across the country was scandalously low.
More suspiciously, the Constitutional Conference was not sovereign. That is, General Abacha reserved for himself the right to reject or accept its recommendations. If his regime rejected them, the entire exercise would be a colossal waste and started anew. If the recommendations were accepted, the military regime would then draw up a timetable, perhaps another transition period for “civic education,” voter registration, local, state and regional elections with still the possibility of interruptions midstream.
Compared to South Africa’s 1991 Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), the differences were glaring. Nigeria’s conference was a meretricious charade that should have been dissolved. Political parties did not take part in the constitutional conference. Imagine de Klerk of South Africa banning the ANC and all political parties, arresting political leaders, clamping down on the news media, nominating 25 percent of the delegates to CODESA, and declaring that its resolutions would not be binding on the white minority government. Eventually, General Abacha abandoned the constitutional conference and allowed just 5 political parties to be registered in 1997. Immediately, they all adopted him as their presidential candidate!
Fake Constitutional Rule
After the timely death of Abacha in 1998, the next to manage the transition to democracy was General Abdulsalam Abubakar. Note the frequency of the title “Generals” in managing the transition. General Abubakar authorized two constitutions to be written for the March 1999 elections but the military brass held the two constitutions closely to their chest — which one to release depended on the election results. In other words, if the election results went this way, they would release Constitution A; it they went the other way, they would release Constitution B. Thus, Nigerians went to vote for General (rtd)) Obasanjo without knowing what the country’s Constitution was.
The entire transition process was a scam. And how real was Nigeria’s transition to democratic rule? Said Rev. Matthew Hassan Kuka, a member of the Oputa Commission set up to investigate past human rights abuses:
“You have a president who is a retired military man, a director of national security who is a retired military man, a defense minister who is a retired military man and a director of the State Security Service (SSS) or national intelligence, who is an ex-military man. Apart from the president and all the key office-holders in the land being of military background, we don’t have enough elbow room to begin to talk about subordinating this system to civilian control” (The Washington Times, Nov 1, 2001; p.A18).
Open Defiance of the Constitution
The first blow to Constitutional rule came just less than a year after President Obasanjo took office in 1999 by governors of the northern states. Many would agree that Islam is a fine religion but its cause has been increasingly hijacked and debauched by zealots and extremists. Nigeria is almost evenly split between northern Muslims (50 percent of the population) and southerners who practice Christianity (40 percent), with some traditional African religions. Religious and ethnic clashes have been a staple of Nigerian life and to avert religious conflict, Nigeria wisely adopted a secular constitution on May 4, 1999. Chapter I, part II, section 10 states: “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion”. The adoption of the sharia by any state is clearly unconstitutional, except in domestic matters. But several northern states, in defiance of the Constitution, went ahead and adopted the sharia as their state religion anyway. Zamfara first adopted the sharia on October 26, 2002, barely twelve months after President Obasanjo assumed office. It rapidly spread to 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
The adoption of the sharia accentuated religious strife and communal violence which claimed more than 10,000 lives by 2002. Christians, Muslims, and others were hacked to death with knives and swords, in conflicts precipitated by the new sharia laws. Churches and mosques were destroyed in Kano. Commenting on the rise of Muslim sharia law in parts of Nigeria, Professor Chinua Achebe lamented: “I am now not optimistic of the benefits that will come to Nigeria because of democracy. We have dug ourselves into sharia; into a situation where we have become a laughing stock of the world, because we are discussing things like stoning women to death in the 21st century” (BBC World News Service, Nov 22, 2002). Dismayed by what he termed “the tragedy of Nigeria”, Achebe reflected on the divisions apparent in modern Nigeria:
“Religious differences have not just been introduced. Muslims and others have always been there, but somehow they didn’t wipe each other out. What is happening today is that some people are using these differences to promote their ambition and this is an abuse of politics. That’s why the selfishness of the elite stands out so clearly” (BBC World News Service, Nov 22, 2002).
Chinua Achebe should have added that what was happening was unconstitutional since the Constitution recognizes no religion as state religion. President Obasanjo could have resolved the issue by having the Supreme Court rule on sharia law. But prevailing wisdom at that time held that he did not want to offend the powerful northern military chiefs or power-brokers who helped him win the presidency. But by not blocking sharia law in the northern states, he opened the door wide open to wholesale violations of the Constitution, which was rendered meaningless. To be sure, there was a Constitution but no one was obeying or following it – not even the government itself and its institutions.
Weak and Ineffective Obasanjo Administration
Upon assuming power on May 29, 1999, President Obasanjo found the country ungovernable. Confidence in the government was near zero; the people had no faith or trust in government. To them, the government was irrelevant and ignored what it said. Since the country had not had a Constitution for 29 years, it was not exactly clear what the functions of the various state institutions were to be. A near government paralysis resulted from wrangling over distribution of power between the executive and the legislative – an issue which should have been resolved by the Constitution. For 18 months (Feb 1999 to August 2000), Nigeria’s 109 senators and 360 representatives passed just five pieces of legislation, including a budget that was held up for five months. They shirked their Constitutional responsibilities and immediately upon taking office, the legislators voted for themselves hefty allowances, including a 5 billion naira ($50 million) furniture allowances for their official residences and offices. The impeached ex-chairman of the Senate from President Obasanjo’s own People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chuba Okadigbo, was the most predatory:
“As Senate President, he controlled 24 official vehicles but ordered 8 more at a cost of $290,000. He was also found to have spent $225,000 on garden furniture for his government house, $340,000 on furniture for the house itself ($120,000 over the authorized budget); bought without authority a massive electricity generator whose price he had inflated to $135,000; and accepted a secret payment of $208,000 from public funds, whose purpose included the purchase of `Christmas gifts” (New African,, Sept 2000; p.9).
On Nigeria’s 41st Independence Day (Oct 1, 2001), The Vanguard newspaper carried a front-page cartoon showing Nigeria weighed down by foreign debt, corruption, a crashed economy, communal violence and incompetent leadership. In an “Independence Day” speech, President Olusegun Obasanjo spoke candidly:
“Far too many of our citizens still remain poor. Industry remains weak and inflation is a problem. After years of bad government under military regimes, everything, it seemed, had nearly collapsed: the economy, our physical infrastructure, the system of our social organization together with our values and morals” (The Washington Times, October 4, 2001; p.A17).
But earlier in March 2001, the same government had taken delivery of 9 Russian-made attack helicopters at a reported cost of $100 million – without approval of the National Assembly, which was clearly in violation of the Constitution. The 6 Mi-35 and 3 Mi-34 helicopters were expected to consolidate Nigeria’s position as West Africa’s unrivaled military leader (The New York Times, April 5, 2001; p.A6).
Upon assuming power on May 29, 1999, President Obasanjo vowed to recover the loot of former head of state, General Abacha. He established the Corruption Practices and Other Related Offences Commission. Never mind that his own Senate was riddled with graft and corruption. Much public fanfare was made of the sum of about $709 million and another 144 million pounds sterling recovered from the Abachas and his henchmen. But, as noted earlier in the series, this recovered loot itself was quickly re-looted. The Senate Public Accounts Committee found only $6.8 million and 2.8 million pounds sterling of the recovered booty in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) (The Post Express (July 10, 2000). For all that talk about corruption, only one senior official was sacked for corruption and none jailed for the two years since the democratically elected Olusegun Obasanjo took office. On October 15, 2001, Transparency International, the Geneva-based business organization that tracks global corruption, ranked Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in the world after Bangladesh. “Government officials still demand gratification for performing their official duties, and cases of inflated contracts still continue” (New African, Dec 2001; p.22). All these criminal acts were in violation of the Constitution.
MAKING NIGERIA WORK AGAIN (IV) http://seunfakze.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/awakening-the-sleeping-giant-making-nigeria-work-again-iv-by-prof-g-n-ayittey
MAKING NIGERIA WORK AGAIN (V) http://seunfakze.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/awakening-the-sleeping-giant-making-nigeria-work-again-v-by-prof-ayittey
ZAMFARAs AMBIVALENT BUDGET OF HOPE by Nasir @elrufai July 12, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: budget, Elrufai, Nigeria, Zamfara
Over the past nine state budgets analyzed, two trends have emerged. There are the few governments interested in making a mark and leaving the state better than they met it by appropriating the state resources wisely and efficiently. They focus on making capital investments and placing solid physical structures and human capital on ground. While there are others who have little to offer and are there for advancing the personal interests of a few. The latter have no strategy or plan for developing their states as can be seen from their budgets which in these cases were prepared haphazardly with no defined strategy in mind. Hopefully their errors have been highlighted to the electorate which have the ultimate power to vote people into elective positions.
Our focus this week is on the North Western state of Zamfara which like Nasarawa voted out a PDP government in the last election. Until 1996 when the Abacha administration created the state, it was part of Sokoto State. It became globally notorious as the first state to introduce Sharia in its criminal law in the year 2000. Zamfara shares borders with Sokoto State and Niger Republic to the north, Katsina and Kaduna States to the east and Niger and Kebbi States to the south. In terms of population, Zamfara ranks 21st among the 36 states and FCT with a population of 3,278,873 as at the 2006 population census.
In the present republic, there have been three governors of the state; Ahmad Sani Yerima who served two terms (1999-2007), Mahmud Shinkafi (2007-2011) and Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari the incumbent. Besides politics, not much is recorded about Governor Yari’s past experience and endeavors. He was elected to represent Talata Mafara/Anka Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives in 1999. He was State chairman of the ANPP, and a member of the cabinet of former Governor Ahmad Sani. In November 2007, Yari was among Zamfara state officials accused of money laundering by the EFCC, but has since remained old newspaper headlines like many others cases.
Zamfara is a predominantly agrarian state. Its slogan is “farming is our pride”. Over 80 percent of the people are engaged in various forms of agriculture. Major agricultural products include millet, guinea corn, maize, rice, groundnut, cotton, tobacco and beans. According to the Raw Materials Research and Development Council’s (RMRDC) report on non-metallic mineral endowments in Nigeria, 2010 the state possesses glass sand deposits which are not being exploited. Other resources believed to be in the state are gold, chromate, chamovite, granite, clay, limestone, quartz and kaolin.
Until recently when the lead poisoning pandemic broke out in the state, many people were unaware of the occurrence of gold in the state. Illegal mining and exports of this gold have been ongoing for some time. One wonders what the state is doing towards pressurizing the Federal Government to organize the mining of this gold in commercial quantities for export purposes in the same way crude oil is being produced which would increase the revenue accruals to the state. According to the former commissioner of environment in the state, Zamfara could potentially rake in at least $200m (N32bn which is ten times its IGR) annually from the mining of copper alone. This alone would turn around the fortunes of the state and create jobs for the teeming youths.
Despite the emergence of gold mining as a major source of employment for the people who have abandoned their farmlands for this more lucrative business, unemployment in the state is 33.4%, the second highest in the country after Yobe State according to data from the NBS in 2010. Compare these figures to the best state Lagos (7.6%) and it is clear that job-creation strategies should be the main policy focus of the Zamfara State government.
In the North-West zone, 67.4% of the population survive on less than a dollar a day, 51.8% are food poor while 70.6% are absolutely poor. It is the poorest region of the country across all the indices. Interestingly Zamfara state has a food poverty incidence of 44.4%, the second lowest in the region apart from Kaduna. Absolute poverty is 70.8% and 71.3 % cannot afford a dollar per day. There has been a 3.1% decrease in income inequality between 2004 and 2010 which is commendable, but it is not clear whether this was a fluke or the outcome of deliberate policies.
Zamfara is one of the states which have shifted from single-year budgeting to multi-year based budgeting. The government collaborates with some revenue consultants and the UK Department for International Development SPARC programme in preparing the budget estimates for 2012-2014. Judging from the State Government’s proposals, it appears that the leadership has identified the state’s problem areas and are poised to address the challenges. This explains why Governor Yari seems to enjoy the support of the ordinary people of the state.
The 2012 budget of the state amounts to N120, 810,192,000. N75.5bn (63%) is capital budget while N45.27bn (37%) is the recurrent budget. Despite the fact that the state does not meet up to the 70% capital expenditure requirement, of all the states analyzed on this column so far, it comes closest to the requirement after Akwa-Ibom (83.7% of its 2012 budget for capital expenditure). Zamfara’s proportional capital allocation is better than those of Benue (48%), Bauchi and Lagos (53%), Kaduna (55%) and Nasarawa (60%). It is a step in the right direction if the state wants to meet up with the above mentioned states in terms of development given its backwardness in many areas.
A closer look at the recurrent budget shows the state’s personnel cost is N16.8bn (14% of total budget), overhead costs is N12bn (10% of budget), consolidated revenue fund charges N4.4bn (4%) and a rather huge internal debt service provision of N9.1bn (8%). The debt service provision confirms that Governor Yari inherited significant amounts of short term debt approaching maturity including regular servicing. Between 2012 and 2014, the state intends to borrow at least N20bn annually. This debt build-up should keep Governor Yari awake at night.
On the revenue side, recurrent revenue is N75.5bn while capital revenue is N45.3bn. The recurrent revenue is composed of Statutory Allocation of N40.1bn (34% of total budget), Federal Government grants of N32.6bn (27%) and a meager IGR of N3.2bn (3%). The IGR is 19% of the state’s personnel cost. This is totally pathetic. If the state was to survive without allocations from the FAAC, it is obvious that the state will cease to exist as an administrative entity.
A look at the sectoral capital allocations shows that the economic sector made up of agriculture, manufacturing, commerce etc is allocated N39.7bn, the social sector (education, health, information, youth and social welfare) got N14.2bn, environmental development sector – N17.3bn and the government administration sector about N11.2bn. General services under the Head of Service’s office is allocated the unusually massive amount of N2.6bn. Comparing this provision to the capital allocation for power under the directorate of rural electrification (N1.6bn) raises some concerns about priorities. The sum of N7.7bn (6.4%) is for water supply which the state urgently needs in the face of the current lead poisoning disaster, N10bn is to be spent on roads construction within the state with another N50 million to go towards realizing the Gusau Airport.
The religious affairs budget covers the Hisbah Commission, Hajj, and Religious Preaching Commission are to receive about N1.7bn for recurrent expenditures. While in terms of capital expenditure, Qur’anic school sensitization, Qur’anic memorization centers and the like are to receive about N190 million. A monstrous N2bn is dedicated for Sallah activities for 2012. These are not only misplaced spending priorities, but perhaps violations of the Constitution as public funds ought not be spent on religious activities in a nation that recognizes no state religion.
The education sector receives about N5.7bn (5% of the budget) despite the fact that education in the state is a far cry from what it ought to be. According to the Universal Basic Education Commission’s (UBEC) 2010 education profile, Zamfara has the least number of Primary Schools (1,311) in the North West Zone and about a third of the number in Kano (4,756). Net enrollment in Primary schools is 367,823 (55%); higher than Enugu 231,401(42%) which ranks closely in terms of population. Net enrollment in Junior Secondary School is 112,026 (42%), making the state rank average in the zone. In the 2011 UTME, only 44.2% of Zamfara students scored 180 and above while Akwa Ibom for instance had a 70.8% pass rate!
Health is allocated N3.5bn (3%). The figure clearly indicates the low priority accorded this sector. The state at the moment records the highest number of child mortality due to the lead poisoning crisis in the state. This incident alone has led to the deaths of over 400 children in the past two years according to reports from Human Rights Watch. Beyond this, over 4,000 more have been contaminated, may grow up with disabilities and in need of medical intervention. It is doubtful that the health facilities in the state are well equipped to handle the situation. It is therefore pertinent that the state government takes proactive measures in finding lasting solutions to illegal mining in the state irrespective of whether it falls under the exclusive list in the constitution.
Agriculture which ought to be the mainstay of Zamfara’s economy receives a capital allocation of about N10.5bn (9%). Although the government has put in notable efforts in the sector, much revolved around supplying subsidized fertilizer at N1,000 per bag, and seedlings to the farmers. More has to be done in terms of providing infrastructure, storage, extension services and improved market access to create jobs and generate revenues for the state. More of such interventions and incentives in the sector will also lure many of the unemployed youths into agriculture who otherwise would engage in activities that may be detrimental to both the state and the nation.
On a brighter note, Zamfara is the 15th easiest state to start a business according to the World Bank in 2010. Unfortunately, the government has only allocated N35m (less than 1% of the budget) for youth mobilization and job creation, N280m for skill acquisition and N100m for an agro-based centre. This is one area which needs creativity to engage the army of young people. Rather than leave them frustrated, innovative engagement would empower them to be gainfully employed and occupied so much that they have no time or energy to be used negatively or as agents for distorted political agendas.
The overall picture in Zamfara is gloomy. Almost all sectors are in dire need of improvement. If the state is to ever move forward, it would require a shift from the outlook of instant gratification with little thought for future development to more realistic long-term programs that would secure the future of its citizens. Governor Yari is trying hard to outgrow the legacy of huge debt, parasitic religious elite and over stretched resources. He has little choice but to try harder.
Tags: Ayittey, corruption, Nigeria, Obasanjo
Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Making Nigeria Work Again (V)
George B.N. Ayittey, Ph.D.
Summary So Far
“He who does not understand the cause of a problem cannot solve it” says an African proverb. The purpose of these series is to try and explain the source and causes of Nigeria’s problems, which are very similar to those plaguing other African countries.
Nigeria never really had much of a chance to fledge into a new fully-functioning nation after it gained its independence from Britain in 1960. Barely six years later, the first military coup came in 1966 – exactly the same year Ghana experienced its first coup. But since Nigeria suffered much longer under military regimes (29 years) than Ghana (21 years), the devastation wrought by military rule was far more catastrophic and extensive in Nigeria.
The destruction of Nigeria began during this period under military rule: 1966 to 1999 – a period where there were no Constitutions. Military ruler simply suspended them and ruled by decree. As such, there was no rule of law. The importance of a Constitution was explained in Part I of these series. A Constitution is like a yarn that weaves the fabric of a society or nation together. It comes before tribe or religion and it is that which stands between law, order and progress on one hand and chaos, carnage and destruction on the other. The Constitution is like traffic law, which ALL – regardless of tribe, religion, gender, or creed — must follow and obey; otherwise, there will be carnage, deaths and destruction on the roads.
During this period under military rule, there was no “traffic law” in Nigeria. Military governments spent recklessly as oil revenues flowed into their coffers. Their priorities were grotesquely misaligned, borrowing heavily and resorting to money creation to finance their profligacy. Nobody could hold them accountable. When inflation reared its ugly head, they changed the currency, the naira, in 1984 shattering confidence in the currency. Its value plummeted from one Naira to one Dollar in the early 1980s to one Naira to 100 Dollars in 1990. This triggered a banking crisis that pushed the banking system to the verge of collapse – Part II of the series.
It was also during this period that state organs and institutions – the judiciary, law enforcement, ministries, NEPA, NNPC — began to decay and crumble (Part III of series). Corruption spiraled out of control, as kamikaze military bandits plundered Nigeria’s wealth with impunity. In pre-dawn raids, Abacha for example sent trucks to cart away millions of dollars from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Infrastructure – schools, roads, telecommunications, ports, harbours, airports, water supply, etc. – also began to deteriorate and fracture during this period – Part IV.
Intellectual Leadership Failure
Since there was no Constitution and rule of law, no one could be held accountable for anything. There was no value system; it was a dog-eat-dog world. “Government,” as generally known, ceased to exist. Stratocracy (rule by military men) transformed government into a predatory vampire state – a government hijacked by a phalanx of uniformed bandits, who used the machinery of the state to enrich themselves, their cronies and tribesmen. The vampire state recognized no obligations toward the people and did little for them — no health care for the people, no clean water nor electricity. Military rulers rather regarded the people as lambs to be fleeced.
Total government dysfunction, coupled with catastrophic failure of leadership, alienated the people from the state. People no longer trusted the government, regarding it not as a partner in development but as an “enemy” to be defeated. Pious statements by the government were greeted with derision and cynicism. Nigerians dismissed Abacha’s war on corruption as a crude oil joke.
The moral and social fabric of Nigeria became thoroughly shredded during this era. There were no laws to follow; even the military governments followed no laws. When people could no longer look up to the government for guidance on what is right and wrong, they retreated into their tribal and religious cocoons for safety by following tribal (customary) and religious laws.
However, the sad part about the ruination of Nigeria by its military rulers was the active support and collaboration they received from the most unlikely source: Nigeria’s intellectuals – the professors, scholars, teachers, etc. There was no concerted intellectual effort to challenge the military brutes and provide better leadership. Rather, so many of the intellectuals — some with Ph.D.s and who ought to have known better — sold out their conscience, integrity and principles to serve as errand-boys of military despots with half their intelligence. The allure of a Mercedes Benz, a diplomatic posting, and ministerial post often proved too irresistible. Hordes of highly “educated” Nigerian intellectuals hopped into bed with barbarous military regimes and accorded them the legitimacy and respectability they craved. Even Sani Abacha could always find intellectual prostitutes to abuse. Then, after being raped and defiled, they were discarded.
Intellectual Collaboration and Prostitution
This kind of intellectual prostitution made no sense whatsoever because in country after country in Africa, where military rule was entrenched, the educational institutions (especially of the tertiary level – universities, and colleges) all decayed — starved of funds by the military. Although the official excuse is always lack of funds, the military predators always found the money to purchase shiny new pieces of bazookas for their thugs. But the real reason? “It was not in the best interest of these military governments to educate their people,” said Wale Deyemi, then a doctoral student at the University of Lagos. “They do not want people to be able to challenge them” (The Washington Post, 6 October 1995, A30).
In Nigeria, the sciences were hardest hit. Science teachers were vanishing with such alarming frequency that Professor Peter Okebukola, the president of the National Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, lamented at the association’s thirty-sixth annual conference at Maiduguri that “good science teachers were increasingly becoming an endangered species” (African News Weekly, 13 October 1995, 17). But despite all this evidence, some Nigerian intellectuals still vociferously defended military regimes while their own institutions — the very places where they taught or obtained their education — deteriorate right under their very noses. One would have thought that these professors and intellectuals would have protected their own institutions, just as the soldiers jealously protected their barracks and kept them in top shape. But no! For a pittance, the intellectuals were willing to help and supervise the destruction of their very own university system.
One such intellectual was Baba Gana Kingibe, a career diplomat, was the vice-presidential candidate of Moshood K. O. Abiola in the 12 June 1993 presidential elections. Abiola won the election fair and square, but the result was annulled by the military government of Geneneral Ibrahim Babangida. Baba Kingibe then accepted the post of foreign minister from that same military regime. Nor did he raise a whiff of protest or resign when his running mate, Abiola, was thrown into jail. Neither did Chief Tony Anenih, the chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party, on whose ticket Abiola contested the 12 June election. In fact, Chief Anenih was part of a five-man delegation, sent by General Abacha to the United States in October 1995 to “educate and seek the support of Nigerians about the transition program.” At an 22 October 1995 forum organized by the Schiller Institute in Washington, “Chief Anenih and Colonel (rtd) Emeka O. Ojukwu took turns ripping apart the reputation of Abiola. Anenih took pains to discredit Chief Abiola, whom he said was being presented by the Western media as the victimized President-elect. Some of the Nigerians in the audience denounced the delegation as `paid stooges’ of Abacha” (African News Weekly, 3 November 1995, 3).
More pathetic was the case of Alex Ibru, the publisher of The Guardian Group of newspapers in Lagos who became the internal affairs minister. On 14 August 1994, his own newspaper was raided and shut down by the same military government under which he was serving. He did not protest or resign. After six months as interior minister, he too was tossed aside. In October 1995, his two newspapers, shut down by the military government for more than a year, were allowed to reopen after Ibru apologized to the authorities for any offensive reports they may have carried.
After the annulment of Nigeria’s 12 June elections, General Babangida was eased aside by the military top brass and Ernest Shonekan became the 89-day interim civilian president until he too was removed by the military despot, General Sani Abacha. On 19 September, Shonekan accompanied Nigeria’s foreign minister, Tom Ikimi, to London to deliver a “confidential message” to British Prime Minister John Major. Nigeria’s military junta told Westminster that it would pardon the 40 convicted coup plotters if British would help with the rescheduling Nigeria’s $35 billion debt, and support its transition program to democratic rule, its bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and its attempt to gain U.S. recognition of its effort to fight drug trafficking.
First of all, how could Ernest Shonekan act as an emissary for the same barbarous military regime that overthrew him? Not only that, he accepted an appointment from Abacha to a committee of experts to plan for “Vision 2010.” Second, who thought that 35 years after “independence” from British colonial rule, Nigeria’s government would be holding its own citizens as hostages, demanding ransom from the former colonial power? It did not occur to any of the “educated” emissaries that their mission sank the concept of “independence from colonial rule” to new depths of depravity.
Dr. Tom Ikimi was the activist, who, in 1989, formed the Liberal Convention party to campaign for democracy in Nigeria. In June 1989 he launched a branch in the United Kingdom, where he made glorious speeches about participatory democracy and denouncing military regimes. Suddenly in 1994 he became Nigeria’s Foreign minister under the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha and joined Shonekan as emissary on the mission to UK. He even appeared on The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, on 3 August 1995, and strenuously defended Nigerian military government’s record on democratization, calling General Abacha “humane.”
Mercifully, the British refused to capitulate to the terroristic demands. Humiliated, Nigeria’s military government began snatching more hostages. Prominent human-rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi and his wife were arrested on Sept 22, 1993. He had repeatedly been arrested and detained so often that he kept a bag packed on hand, just in case. Earlier in March, supporters of his “illegal” National Conscience Party were arrested for distributing leaflets in Lagos, denouncing the lack of food, electricity, transportation and the general state of the nation. To convey the accused to court, police had to borrow his vehicles. And during the proceeding, Fawehinmi drew the magistrate’s attention to the fact that there was no electricity in the court room!
Among the 40 “convicted” coup plotters Shonekan and Ikimi tried to trade for British concessions was General Olusegun Obasanjo, the former head of state of Nigeria and the first military ruler to hand over power to a democratically-elected government in 1979. He was found “guilty” at the secret military trial. When his lawyer called a press conference to deny that his client was guilty, he was promptly arrested himself! Even more bizarre, Nigeria’s own military intelligence had no fore knowledge of any impending coup. It was rather reported by the private press — the same medium that the military had brutally attacked and closed. Acting upon this published information, military police sprang into action, indiscriminately arresting people, including Gen. Obasanjo.
I met the General Obasanjo in Sept 1994 at a small private gathering in Montana-Crans, a village town nestled in the Swiss Alps. The gathering was sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Center For Applied Studies in International Negotiations (based in Geneva) and the Sasakawa Foundation of Tokyo. The object was to bring together a group of “African experts and specialists” to deliberate on African agriculture. The end product was the document, Forging The Road Ahead For African Agriculture.
Among the 14 of us were Gen. Obasanjo and Gen. Amadou Toumani Toure, who overthrew Mali’s long-standing tyrant, Gen. Moussa Traore, and stepped down within a year to usher in Mali’s first democratically-elected government in 1993. I must confess that I have never had any affection — zero — for military regimes or dictators in Africa. So at that gathering, I made a conscious, though futile, effort to avoid the company of the former military rulers.
One evening, however, Gen. Obasanjo invited me to join his dinner table. I indicated that there was no room at his table. “I will make one for you,” came the quick reply. To my utter astonishment, the general rose, moved his chair aside, grabbed a plate, silverware and a chair from the adjoining table, and made a place for me. I was stunned. I never thought I would meet a former African head of state who was so affable, down-to-earth, and jovial.
Gen. Obasanjo was quite loquacious, gushing profusely about his mediating role in African political feuds. He related to me his successful mediation of the quarrel between President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Joshua Nkomo, the Ndebele rebel leader. He agreed that the military had become “Africa’s headache.” On Nigeria’s political crisis, he told me he was working to get traditional rulers of Nigeria to persuade Gen. Abacha to release Chief Moshood Abiola. On African governance, he affirmed his beliefs in institutions, rather than leaders or personalities.
He impressed me a lot – back then. He was a true African nationalist, proud of his heritage. He deplored the large-scale importation of unworkable foreign models into Africa. He believed in building upon Africa’s traditional institutions and in development at the grass-roots level. More importantly, he practiced what he preached and bought a farm in Abeokuta when he handed over power in 1979.
I am relating this encounter with Gen (rtd) Obasanjo because he was harshly critical of Africa’s intellectuals. That won my heart. He claimed the intellectuals let Mathieu Kerekou of Benin down. “Sycophancy,” Gen Obasanjo bellowed with eyes ablaze, “is Africa’s greatest problem.” The intellectuals, he complained with palpable contempt, would sell their body and soul to win jobs and favors from corrupt African governments. He distrusted his own sycophantic ministers and relied more on his unofficial sources for information to keep in better touch with the people.
After we left Switzerland, I paid little attention to Gen. Obasanjo’s ruminations until he was arrested in March 1994 and charged with plotting, with others, to overthrow the Abacha regime in Nigeria. A false charge by an increasingly desperate and paranoid regime, I concluded. But his railings against “sycophancy” hit me hard in August when Tom Ikimi appeared on the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour to defend the Abacha regime. He even called Abacha a “humane” person.
Sycophancy, lack of integrity, and susceptibility to graft had so infected the Nigerian intellectual community that few could be trusted, as Obasanjo said. Even Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, knew that “several of his officers would desert [the pro-democracy crusade] tomorrow for a lucrative government post,” said The Economist (Sept 30, 1995; p.47).
At that time in the U.S., there were least 35 pro-democracy Nigerian organizations but many were “419″ (fake) organizations, sponsored and funded by Nigeria’s military junta to counter-act the “negative publicity” engendered by the activities of Trans-Africa. According to Randall Echols, Chief Abiola’s spokesman in the U.S., Nigeria’s military government spent $10 million in 1995 in a desperate public-relations effort to spruce up its battered international image. Paid ads were place in major U.S. newspapers, denouncing the call for sanctions and various Nigerian organizations staged pro-government demonstrations in the U.S.
One such organization, the Coalition for Peaceful Democracy led by Ben Igwe, marched on Sept 22 1995 in front of the White House. Another organization, the Nigerian National Leadership Forum, held a conference on Aug 12, 1995 in Nashville with the lofty aim of tackling “Nigeria’s problem.” The coordinator of the conference was Prof. David Muruako, president of the Organization of Nigerian Professionals (ONP). Now, there were two such organizations with exactly the same name (ONP) in exactly the same city (New Orleans). The other was headed by Prof. Gibson Chigbu. The two were embroiled in an 8-year legal battle to determine which should keep the name, ONP. But Muruako’s ONP was among the names of Nigerian organizations that condemned TransAfrica’s crusade in a paid advertisement in The Washington Times (May 25, 1995).
In attendance were Nigeria’s Ambassador, Alhaji Zubair Kazaure and other officials from the Nigerian Embassy. Opening the conference, Prof. Muruako insisted that Nigeria’s greatest problem was tribalism. Naturally. Participant after another identified corruption, poverty, lack of rule of law and foreign meddling. None pointed at the depredations of the military regime itself. In his keynote address, Ambassador Kazaure asked the audience not to blame the problem of ethnicity on the military government but to blame the British colonialists. Naturally. “It is not fair to blame this present (Abacha) government or any Nigerian government for the problems of ethnicity in Nigeria, he added. In a sense, the Ambassador was right that Nigeria’s military rulers were not to blame for the ruination of the country. His blame however was misplaced. He should have looked at himself and the class Nigeria’s intellectuals, professionals or elites — both at home and abroad.
Vile opportunism, unflappable sycophancy, and trenchant collaboration on the part of Nigeria’s intellectuals allowed tyranny to become entrenched. Babangida, Abacha and other military dictators legitimized and perpetuated their rule by buying off and co-opting Nigeria’s academics for a pittance. And when they fall out of favor, they are beaten up, tossed aside or worse. In Nov 1994, Gen. Abacha tossed all of them out of his cabinet. Remember Alex Ibru? On Feb 2, 1996, unidentified gunmen in a deep-blue Peugeot 504 trailed him and sprayed his car with machine-gun fire. The editor-in-chief, Femi Kusa, said that the car was bullet-ridden and Ibru was injured. He was flown to Britain for treatment.
The Lost Generation
The saddest and greatest casualty of decades military misrule, mismanagement and the corruption frenzy was the generation of Nigerians born in the 1980s. Nigeria’s military governments could not provide them with basic social services such as education, health care, sanitation, etc. Governments were towering edifices of ineptitude, corruption, and waste. The educational system has been a shambles. University degrees were openly bought. The electricity supply was intermittent; only 30 percent of Nigerians – even today — have access to a reliable supply of electricity. The clean water supply has been spasmodic. Nigeria is an oil-producing country but must import refined petroleum products from abroad.
In the absence of a constitution, law and order, the youth grew up without knowing the principles and values that serve as a glue holding the nation together. They had no role models with moral stature; the military rulers were autocratic bandits and the intellectuals were servicing their needs. In that “dog-eat-dog” environment, the youth didn’t know what was right or wrong; the value system had collapsed. Hard work and entrepreneurship no longer assured success and wealth because there was no rule of law; political connections mattered more. The youth became increasingly confused, disenchanted, lost, and restless. They were poorly educated and faced a dire job market.
Abandoned by their own governments, the youth began to drift, becoming susceptible to radical ideas and religious extremism. Some sought escape in rickety boats to Europe. Others turn to crime (drug trafficking, Internet scams) and prostitution. Still others joined extremist groups that sought violent change. One of them is Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 25-year old Nigerian serving a prison term in the U.S.
His foiled attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day in 2009 baffled many Africans and sent them scrambling for an explanation. This was not the stereotypical poor and desperate young man usually associated with violence on the continent. For one, Abdulmutallab wais the son of a wealthy Nigerian banker and former government minister. His father even tipped off the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to his son’s growing radicalism. Second, neither Islam nor Christianity is indigenous to Africa, and the idea of dying on behalf of a foreign religion is absurd to most Africans. Third, the United States was never a colonial power in Africa and, therefore, it seemed an odd target. In fact, it has always been a popular destination for many young Nigerians looking to emigrate. He was raised in the rip-roaring 1980s during military rule in free-wheeling corruption ridden environment with no constitutional rule of law.
To be fair, the Buhari regime (1984 – 1985) attempted to clean up the political culture with a focus on discipline and accountability. The regime set out to recover stolen state assets and ill-gotten wealth from politicians and other public officers through special military tribunals that were set up. It also launched “War Against lndiscipline”(WAI) campaign to fight laziness, lateness, disorderliness, hoarding and examination malpractices and to inculcate habits of cleanliness, order, patriotism and nationalism in the citizenry. In a large measure, these efforts won the hearts of many Nigerians and “WAI” became an important legacy of the Buhari Administration. However, an assortment of new decrees imposing long prison terms and the death penalty for “miscellaneous offenses” or “economic sabotage,” as well as examination malpractice, counterfeiting, drug and currency trafficking, drew much flak from some quarters as being too draconian.
Footnote: Obasanjo impressed me in Geneva in 1994 but his administration from 1999 to 2007 was scandalously ineffective. Never mind that he sought to change the Constitution to run for a third term.
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