NIGERIA: THE MESSIAH May 25, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: corruption, Goodluck, Leadership, Nigeria, presidency, values
It’s 2012. Already, the cacophony of what will be in 2015 has begun. From PDP, to the opposition parties in CPC, ACN, ANPP, ACCORD, other smaller parties & talks of alliance of the opposition: the journey has begun. Only weeks ago, I wrote about the burdening curses of leadership at all tiers in Nigeria. That has not changed, in fact it may not change. Why? Nigeria’s low expectations and an elitist ideal sense of looking for a SAINT/SAVIOUR will keep re-creating the vacuum that exist in Nigeria.
Nigeria is rich. Extremely. Nigeria is lost. Extremely too. Fixing Nigeria is as easy as ABC: find the LEADER who has the will to connect the resources and make it a brand for export, for wealth generation, for creating opportunities; or one who can provide enabling environment for our wealth of resources (human and natural) to thrive and survive. I wish that were simple.
I am not writing softly so Goodluck, PDP, CPC, ACN or any such party won’t hear. We have a nation to build, a nation to fix. Any man who stands in this path deserve to be swept off with the deluge of our wrath. My responsibility, as is yours, is to sow the seeds that will be the bearings of great things to come. Over the weeks, I consistently had to contend with those who want a MESSIAH for Nigeria, for those who consistently critically condemn every potential candidate for 2015 tossed before us.
Take for instance our President Goodluck Jonathan. Do I hate/detest him? No. But I detest what he represents, what he stand for, what his brand depicts, what he does. I did not vote for him, I knew who he was; not with the jamboree accompanying him all over Nigeria during the breath-taking celebration that followed his campaign trail.They gave us the image of a perfect man, and Nigerians fell of it. They brought the musicians, mainstream media sold us a mirage, and the sentimental Nigerian fell for the gimmick.
Goodluck Jonathan never attended the Presidential debate, so we can’t hold him to any promise. He never told us what he would do, nor did he give us the blueprints. He lounged with Dbanj, created an image that many could align with: of low beginnings and poverty. He deceived the people and raped their emotions; “run Jonathan run” pervaded the air. “i had no shoes” where the blueprints, they were the landmarks, they are what, till now, rings most clear. Those are not what to look for. What I looked for transcended the emotions, because emotions would not solve our problems. Or has it?
I checked his records: as deputy governor, Governor, vice president, Acting President and eventual President. Not much to write about. I believe in Christ, I am termed by the world as a Christian. By that virtue, I should vote Jonathan, but I did not. Why? Neither Christianity nor Islam will fix Nigeria. What will? A GOOD MAN WITH GREAT INTENTIONS AND AN AUDACITY OF HOPE, RESOLVE and STRENGTH TO DO GOOD.
Nigerians have little expectations from public servants. Nigerians have lost that meaning, Nigerians have lost their voice. Nigerians are not happy, why should they be? The nation is in pains. Many of it torn between dividing interests. Why do we deserve to be poor? Why do our children have to be on the streets, in tattered clothes hawking to support their parents? Why must our graduates be on the streets unemployed, idle, and very frustrated? Why do we have poverty amidst wealth? Why do we deserve the leaders that we have? Why do we elect the ones we have? How did they get there? WE CAUSED IT!
All nations have problems. The first step towards change is getting the right people to leadership position who can begin the steps towards nation building, growth and development. Will we allow our division, our ego, our self interests, our tribalism and religion to get in the line of objective reasoning again? The battle has started, the comments have started, the it-doesn’t-concern-me has started. The we-will-survive mentality is sinking in again.
Nigeria has no savior. He doesn’t have two heads, a mighty arm, a magical stick nor does he have a wand. He has probably no fine face, nor the charm that beguiles women; neither will he be your peculiar man. The one in whose time Nigeria will start making positive strides is he who has a wealth of experience, the will, strength, resolve, and guts to champion, lead and inspire change. He will not be drawn or consumed in your daily crucible of ethno-religious hegemony. He will have the track records of excellence, not someone drawn out of the blues to fill a vacant space created by another godfather.
Nigeria’s savior/messiah will not be North or South, he will be Nigeria personified. He will be driven by the hunger and will to set things right. To correct the flaws, to rectify the institutions, to inspire change through the system, to fix our image of corruption, to fix NIGERIA no matter whose Ox is gored. It happened in Ghana, we have such men here. The question is: will our divisive nature allow him get there? Will he be consumed by our ethnic and religious divisions, our sentiments before he comes out?
He will not make promises and renege on them. He won’t promise you heaven on earth. You may not like him. He is NOT A SAINT, he is not then MESSIAH you expect. What to do: study his past. Check his history. He’ll be moved by the afflictions of the common man. He will be down to earth. A breed without greed. He will have realistic plans and pragmatic enough to tackle our problems gradually. Nigeria needs an honest man who will take the PEOPLE above the PARTY; whose allegiance will be to uplift the people out of the trenches of their impoverishing right into abundance, where they truly deserve to be.
On this generation lies enormous responsibility, to fix the sinking titanic called Nigeria. On this generation lies the onus to be sensitive, beyond the critical appraisal of “WE NEED A PERFECT MAN”. In the present crop of those who can fix Nigeria, THERE ARE NO SAINTS. to deny this is to live in delusion. A savior from the generation above us is a mirage. He doesn’t exist. we have no ideal man. No perfect man to change Nigeria. He has flaws, deep ones ; but he will have the temerity to cause change.
So when they come,now or in 2015, remember to check their backgrounds, their history, their track records, ensure he his a man of his words, that he’ll fulfill whatever he promises. Not a smooth talker, not the advertisements, not the full colored paper spread publication, not the fanfare. We had all this paraphernalia with the Jonathan package. Is it working for us? Has it worked for us?
Nigeria MUST change, at great cost and sacrifice, and no messiah or saint will fix her. None. When I find that person who I believe has the qualities afore-mentioned, I will campaign so hard, use all means of leverage to reach as many as I can, canvass and organize young ones (as i am right now) and vote, and DEFEND MY VOTES BY ALL MEANS NECESSARY. If I fail in 2015 to do what’s required, I may have contributed to another 8 years of retardation, of backwardness, of hardship, of slavery!
Our actions of today, our sacrifices, in standing by that GOOD MAN and not the Expected SAVIOR/SAINT/MESSIAH is what will result in the birth of a New Nigeria.
What we do count.
I am @seunfakze
EDO’s BUDGET OF PROGRESS by Nasir Ahmad @elrufai May 18, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Edo State, Nigeria, Oshiomole
From a hopeless budget in the Bauchi of the North-East, a sensible one in Lagos of the South-West and an opaque budget in Benue of the North-Central, our focus this week is on the South-South state of Edo with a view to assessing how self-reliant, fiscally prudent and accountable the state is. It is one of the states where a Fiscal Responsibility Bill has been presented to the state House of Assembly but has not yet been passed into law. While the state benefits from the 13% derivation fund as a marginal oil producing state, this fiscal advantage does not translate to any significant edge in financial transfers and key indices when compared to other states in the Niger Delta region.
The Mid-Western Region was created in 1963 from Benin and Delta provinces of the old Western Region, and its capital was Benin City. It was renamed a province in 1966, and in 1967 when the other provinces were split up into several states, it remained territorially intact, becoming a state. In 1976 it lost Ughelli to the new Rivers state and was renamed Bendel state. Edo State was formed on August 27, 1991 when Bendel State was split into Edo and Delta States. Geographically, Edo is bounded on the north and the east by Kogi State, on the west by Ondo State and on the south by Delta State. It had a population of 3,233,366; 1,633,946 males and 1,599,420 females according to the 2006 Population and Housing Census, making it more populous than Botswana and the Gambia.
As a marginal oil producing state, one of Edo’s principal mineral resources includes crude oil though in tiny quantities compared to other Niger-Delta states. Others resources are natural gas, clay chalk, marbles, granite, limestone (an estimated 10 million tones reserve),gypsum, feldspar (useful for glass production), kaolin(huge deposits which have not been exploited) and a reserve of about 90 million tonnes of bentonite. While bentonite has wide industrial usage, much of the required amount for local consumption is still imported. These minerals are potential revenue sources for the state. Agriculture is the predominant occupation of the Edo people. The major cash crops produced are rubber, cocoa and palm produce. In addition, the State produces crops like yams, cassava, rice, plantains, guinea-corn, and assorted types of fruits and vegetables.
Col John Yeri served as first Military Governor of Edo state till 1992. Others who governed the state include; John E.K Odigie-Oyegun (1992-1993), Chief Lucky N. Igbinedion (1999-2007), Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor (2007-2008) and most recently Comrade Adams A. Oshiomhole. Oshiomole was sworn into office November, 12 2008 after the appeal court declared him the winner of Edo state gubernatorial election of April 2007 under the political platform of AC. Prior to his election as Governor he was the president of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Oshiomole’s activism dates back to his days at the Arewa Textiles Company where he was union secretary. He became a full-time trade union organizer in 1975.In 1999, he became president of the Nigerian Labour Congress. He was publicly recognized as man of the people and openly challenged the government where policies were not in favor of the workers. The emergence of Adams Oshiomole as governor of Edo state came as a delight to many who were familiar with his activities and achievements as leader of the Nigeria Labor Congress and believed he would make a difference by actively being in government. Both Nuhu Ribadu and I broke ranks to attend his fundraising dinner and supported his candidature over the PDP candidate. Against this background, Oshiomole had the popular vote and naturally, the masses believed that his antecedents will enable him to use the resources of the state judiciously and in the best interest of the citizens.
Edo State Government’s budget totaled N150.9bn for the 2012 fiscal year; with N64.5bn (43%) recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure slightly higher at N86.4bn (57%). It falls short of the international standard requiring about 70% of expenditure for capital projects, but may be justified by Edo being an old sate with more maintenance burden that new build-outs of infrastructure and facilities. Edo’s personnel cost is 19% of the overall budget and is higher than the state’s IGR of N23.9bn by N4.8bn.This means that the state, if solely dependent on its IGR would not be able to sustain personnel costs much less invest in development projects. The state’s IGR of N23.9bn is only a third of its recurrent expenditure of N64.5bn and therefore insufficient to sustain those expenditures. The state government needs to be shrunk in size and cost.
The high recurrent expenditure cuts across the different sectors in the state, with health and education as understandable, but not in others. The Education sector has N14.1bn allocated for recurrent expenditure while capital expenditure for the sector is half that sum N7.7bn. About N4.3bn is expended on recurrent costs within the health sector in while the capital expenditure is slightly lower at N4bn. Works is the only sector with a allocation in favour of capital spending. It also got the lion’s share of the budget (N36.5bn) and of that amount, only N190m is for recurrent expenditure. Commendably, residents and visitors to the state applaud the current government’s effort at building roads in Benin City after a decade of neglect under PDP governments.
Edo leads all other states in the South-South zone in educational attainment in terms of numbers admitted to Nigerian Universities in 2007/2008 with a total of 3,569 while Bayelsa had only 434. The 2010 National Literacy survey statistics indicate youth literacy in Edo as 89.7%. Edo however has the lowest percentage of adults literate in English 73.5% in the south-south zone. Although the state was previously recognized as the “miracle centre state” because of the high incidence of exam malpractice prevalent there, the state was adjudged best overall in WAEC examinations in 2008 according to an advisor to the Governor. Hopefully the increase in capital expenditure to the sector from N5.6bn in 2011 to N7.7bn in 2012 would be a step in the right direction in support of education for the state.
Regarding health in the state, in 2011, Women Health and Action Research Centre stated that out of 100,000 women that enter labor rooms, 50 of them do not come out alive. Studies including data from Edo state indicate maternal mortality reflects the national average. It seems that maternal health is currently not given the priority it deserves by the state government. Of the N8.2bn allocated to health, about half the amount (N4.3bn) would be expended on overhead and personnel costs.
Despite Edo being a predominantly agrarian state, a paltry N1.5bn (about 1%) is allocated to the sector. Only 0.9% (N812.4m) of the capital budget is allocated to the sector. How this is supposed to aid development in the sector is an open question.This sector deserves to be given more attention if the state is to boost its IGR, employment and rural incomes.
Most of the state’s IGR is from taxes. The state increased its IGR projections from N18.5bn in 2011 to N23.9bn for the 2012 fiscal year but only made about 58% (N10.7bn) of its projections in actual revenues. For 2012, approved tax estimates are N16.9bn (71%) of the total IGR figure. The amount has increased from N13.9bn estimated in 2011. However, the state fell short by about N5.4bn (39%) of its projection in 2011. In 2011, the state projected its statutory allocation to be N45.7bn but received N22.4bn. In spite of all the above, it still estimated receipts of N56bn for 2012.
It is evident, even to a layman that continuous over-estimation of income that constantly falls short will surely lead to a deficit budget. In fact, the Edo state budget has a deficit of about 14% (N20.5bn). Its total receipts amount to about N130bn, made up of N115.4bn recurrent revenue and N15bn capital receipts while total expenditure is about N151bn. The budget makes no mention of how this deficit is funded. In 2011, the Edo state government was only able to balance out its revenue deficit by virtue of income which was not included in the estimates but was paid by the Federal Government, namely; excess crude oil reserve fund (N9.4bn), multilateral debt refund (N3bn) and refund of 0.75 commission charged on Paris club debt refunds (N436.2m). Perhaps that is what it expects to do in 2012.
The Edo State Government has attempted to correctly prioritize its spending by allocating the bulk of the funds to the major sectors of the economy as thus; Works (N36.5bn), Education (N21.8bn), Health (N8.2bn), Transport (N642m), Energy and Water Resources (N2.0bn), Environment (N18.9bn) and Agric (N1.5bn). Interestingly it categorically lists the state security vote as N4.5bn which is highly commendable compared to Bauchi’s allocation of a massive N17.6bn.
Edo ranks 21 in the ease of doing business rankings in Nigeria. It ranks 16 of the 37 states in ease of starting a business. On average, it takes 45 day and 60.5% of one’s income to start a business in the state. Unemployment in the state is 17%, below the national average of 21.1% but considering that the state is home to two large Universities which churn out graduates yearly, it is imperative for the government to create a thriving environment for SMEs which would not only reduce unemployment and saturation of the state civil service but will also boost the economy of the state.
In Edo state, 39.4% of the population is food-poor and cannot afford proper meals daily, 47% are absolutely poor, 57.9% relatively poor and a little below half the population (47%) survive on less than a dollar a day. Overall, Edo’s poverty ratings lie in the middle among the south-south states with Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa slightly better while Delta and Cross-Rivers are much worse off.
The spending priorities in Edo indicate a high cost of governance which is unsustainable given the state’s earnings. The government is spending so much to maintain its staff at the expense of developmental investment. The situation is further worsened by falling revenues and repeated “over-estimation” of its revenues. The government incurs expenses without commensurate revenue flows in the university it owns and several state owned companies. A typical example would be education which receives about N21.8bn but generates less than 2% (N355.3m) in revenues through fines and fees. Virtually all its SOEs return nothing to the government coffers and should be privatized. The state should also aspire to be like Lagos which makes every MDA a significant revenue centre.
The present government of Adams Oshiomhole must be commended for its efforts at improving the state compared to the work done by its predecessors. But as with everything in life, there is room for improvement if continuity is sustained.The state is blessed with abundant resources which have barely been tapped and converted to cash-cows and apart from tax earnings which cannot even sustain its recurrent expenditure, the states’ major financing source is the Federation Account.
Without handouts from the Federal Government, will the state exist in the form it does now? The answer is no. Has the state provided a thriving environment for SMEs to play an active role in its economy? It is trying but needs to do more. Is the government investing in physical infrastructure and human capital or is it just maintaining what it has inherited? The state’s performance in education and spending on roads answer this question affirmatively.
As Edo citizens go to the polls in July to elect a governor, it is my belief that the Oshiomhole administration has done well enough to be re-elected compared to the previous ten years of lethargic and violent PDP governance in the state. We hope the voters will make the right choice and the elections will be free, fair and credible. It is not too much to ask after the needless murder of Olaitan Oyerinde, may his soul rest in peace.
TO MY FRIENDS FROM NORTHERN NIGERIA by @lennyugb May 4, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, MORALITY, POLITICS.
Tags: Change, Nigeria, Northern Nigeria
My Dear Friends,
It is a bit of a dangerous venture in a place like Nigeria to attempt to volunteer a letter of this sought on issues affecting other regions, ethnic groups or religions as an ‘outsider’. The likelihood of generating negative responses from supposed “voltrons” of region, religion and ethnicity is high, even if their sole motive is just to tell the ‘outsider’ to mind his/her business. It is with this risk in mind that I write to you, my Northern friends on some issues that have really troubled my mind over the past few years but which has occupied my mind more intensely in the past few days. I urge you to read to the end. I started this letter but foot-dragged for some weeks now but my recent visit to Kaduna State gave me further cause for concern hence my resolve to pick up from where I stopped and conclude this letter. The simple question I want to ask you is: what have you done or are you doing as a person or group to address the socio-economic conditions of the multitude of young people who roam the streets of your cities and villages without any form of education or training that can arm them with knowledge or skill to survive in an increasingly competitive global environment? This is a call to personal responsibility!
Any time I see a young boy or girl with a bowl looking for where the next meal would come from; or a young girl or boy whose life has been consigned to the role of a guide to a blind mother, father or other persons whose means of livelihood is begging for alms, the sight leaves me with a deep sigh. I must confess that sometimes, in a bid to retain my sanity, I try not to think so much about the violence and injustice we (yes, I mean the society at large) are meting out to these young ones. I simply sigh and blank out my mind. But it strengthens my resolve to fight for a better Nigeria.
I have recognised this problem to be a national calamity for the government of Nigeria. I also recognise the fact that any responsible government at all levels cannot afford to play the ostrich in respect of this violation of our young girls and boys, but given the nature of rulers Nigeria is cursed with today, I have recently started wondering if we all must resign our fate to the hands of these rulers.
I look into the future, I look at ten, twenty, fifty years down the line and I try to imagine what the lives of these youngsters would turn out to be. Then come back to the present and look at the cries and criticisms attending the activities of the Boko Haram sect in Nigeria, and I shudder for what the future holds for a nation as ours which is literally eating up its young ones.
My dear Northern friends, the Southerners can afford to play the ostrich in this matter but such luxury is not available to you. I can afford to blank out my mind occasionally on this issue but I’m afraid you can only do that to your peril. For one, as difficult as it seems, I could afford to stay away from the entire Northern region especially the violent prone areas; I can afford to repatriate my folks over there if the conditions become very unbearable for them. In fact, a substantial part of my family used to reside in Maiduguri but they have since resettled in my local government headquarters even years before Maiduguri became what it is now. It cost my Uncle a change of business but you only need to walk into his cement depot in my town to see that he can’t be missing Maiduguri for anything.
Some southerners can afford to demand the break-up of the country if they perceive that is the only way they can at least maintain the security of their lives and properties and use their touted resources (“we oyel money”) to live in insulated opulence; but you, my Northern friend cannot run away from your roots even if you ask that we break-up the country! The problems stare you in the face and forget the fact that you have all you need and possibly live in a world of denial somewhere in Maitama, Asokoro, VGC, Lekki, etc.
Now, my point is this: there is no other person better affected and better suited to tackle these problems than you and you, my Northern friend. During the campaigns for the Presidential elections in Nigeria last year, I had reason to engage in heated debates but physically and online with a number of friends from different parts of the country in a bid to persuade them to see why the PDP house of thieves would sooner plunge the nation into the abyss if returned to power. I recall vividly that one of the issues I took up with a Christian friend from Katsina is the propensity of the Northern youths to resort to violence targeted at the southerners and Christian minorities in response to perceived opposition or slight to their political or religious positions. The crux of my argument was that given the fact that my friend and many others like him, lives in perpetual apprehension of these occasional spurts of targeted violence, would they rather keep whining about it or think and acts constructively to change the orientation of the mass of uneducated young people in the region? This goes beyond whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.
This is the challenge I want to throw up to you my good friends from the North. We live in a country where the average citizen is a kind of government providing basic things that the government ought to provide for the citizens. You, my friend, most likely provide your water, electricity, road to you house, security for your house and neighbourhood, etc. May I urge you, that in the absence of a concerted government effort to address the problem of poverty and lack of access to education for our young girls and boys in the your immediate constituency, you should please spare a thought and act now in your own little way to get these children off the street and set their lives on the right paths. You never can say how much your efforts in collaboration with other willing individuals can deliver even if to reduce the number of helpless and hopeless children on our streets.
My brothers and sisters of Northern Nigeria, is it not wrong that the we still find young boys wandering around your cities and neighbourhood with plates in hand not knowing where the next meal will come from or if there ever will be a next meal? Is it right for you to just drop some food or coins in their plates to massage your religiously programmed conscience? Is it not wrong to leave our young girls as guides to the blind beggars on the street or as hawkers at very tender age? Is it right for us to marry them off even before they understand how their body and emotions work? Is it right to leave them without a future while our children go to the best schools and have all the good things of live?
Who gave birth to those kids? Who taught them that they could go about just producing children without a thought for the children’s future? Can we begin to give them a new orientation- about responsibility and not taking more than one can chew? They look up to you as educated but what do you give them in return aside the handouts that keep them a perpetual circle of dependency? Let’s break this circle, let’s empower our children and make them better than their parents. Do you communicate knowledge to them? Do you put down your resources to make sure that at least one child is taken off the street and given a better life? It does not matter how much you are able to do but the desire to make a difference backed up with whatever little action you can take counts a lot.
I write with much heaviness in my heart, my soul is greatly troubled concerning this matter. Please, my friends, some of us from the Southern part of this country are not oblivious of the challenges facing us in our local own communities. Nevertheless, we are ready to lend our supports to any genuine effort at addressing this menace. But we want you to take the lead, show us by your actions that the situation is abnormal; show us that there are people from the North who have nothing but revulsion for this syndrome. Then we shall queue up behind you. This is beyond politics, this is beyond religion. It is about human beings like you and I who are denied of the possibility of ever living a normal and fulfilled life. Practical action is only what will count.
Thank you for your patience in reading and you resolve to act.
@lennyugb on twitter
Tags: corruption, Elrufai, multiple bombings, Nigeria, Terrorism
I am pleased to be with the Silver Knights this afternoon to share my thoughts about two issues that confront our nation – terrorism and corruption. As a well-known opposition figure, I want to state clearly that the views expressed here are mine, and not of the political party I belong to – the Congress for Progressive Change. Secondly, my opinions are based on my interpretation of facts on the ground and research done by others, and not driven by politics.
At the crossroads that we have found ourselves as a nation, where a sitting government has shown no capacity and competence to confront these two challenges, we must be blunt in evaluating what has gone wrong – perhaps the moral outrage that results will be the basis for action to change things for the better. There are some preconceived and utterly wrong notions of where we are, how we got to this point and who to hold accountable that need to be questioned. There are narratives that are biased and not serving the nation well that need to be stated openly and sterilized. This is a duty beyond politics and partisanship, founded on respect for facts and logic. I will do my best to present some of these as a basis for our engagement. I thank you again for inviting me.
Terrorism and corruption are two words that now dominate our headline news more than any others. Domestic terrorism has now joined corruption as defining characteristics of our nation. It is sad that while other countries grapple with rebuilding their financial systems, upgrading their physical infrastructure and human capital, and adopting leapfrogging technologies to enhance their global competitiveness, our sensibilities are daily affronted by news of stolen trillions, multiple bombings and hapless leaders.
Terrorism is simply the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political goals. While to many, it appears to be a recent phenomenon in Nigeria, looking at it closely shows it has been with us in various degrees. What else do most of our political parties do other than use violence and intimidation in pursuit of political goals? Who else exemplifies these characteristics more than the ruling party? In the context of this definition, where would you place what OPC and Egbesu Boys were doing in the 1990s? What have the militants of the Niger Delta and their umbrella organization called MEND been doing for years? Now there is no dispute as to whether the anarchist Boko Haram is a terrorist organization or not. The truth is that one’s freedom fighter is the terrorist in the eyes of another.
Even with the activities of these fringe ethnic and regional groupings, Nigeria did not enter the map of terrorism-prone nations until recently. Maplecroft, a British risk analysis and mapping firm that publishes the Terrorism Risk Index (TRI) ranked our country 19th and at “extreme risk” of terrorism in 2011, ahead of Israel (20th) but safer than Yemen, South Sudan and India among others. With the escalation of attacks by Boko Haram in the north, and resumption of threats and hostilities by MEND in the Niger Delta, Nigeria is likely to jump to near the top of the TRI soon, unless something concrete is done.
Our nation and citizens are in grave danger. Our unity in diversity is at the highest levels of risk since independence. The possible break-up of Nigeria is being discussed openly not only in the Villa, but in various regional and cultural association meetings. Our democracy is in danger, and its desirable end canvassed by young people in social media. The state no longer has monopoly of violence, and no longer in exclusive control of our maritime borders. We are increasingly resembling a failed state with confused and corrupt persons at the helm of affairs who seem concerned only about enriching themselves and their coteries of choristers. How did we get to this point of near helplessness so fast?
Corruption on the other hand refers to dishonest or fraudulent conduct by people vested with authority, and usually involves bribery or gratification. I think corruption is something Nigerians are sufficiently familiar with, so we do not need to spend a lot of time defining it. We all know it when we see it, and we see it often. For those in public office, I think the best way to determine whether that innocuous end-of-the-year gift amounts to a bribe, the question posed by Islamic jurists is appropriate – “Will this thing of value be offered to me by the person in question if I am not holding this public office?” If the answer to the question is not an immediate and unhesitant “Yes”, then the gift is a bribe, and should therefore be rejected.
You will notice I have carefully avoided referring to legislation, legal maxims and decided cases in defining either terrorism or corruption. It is not just because we have little by way of convictions for terrorism and corruption in our case law, but because many Nigerians have lost confidence in our justice system in its effort to deal with these terrible phenomena. For years, our nation has struggled with the reputation of being one of the world’s most corrupt nations. In 2002 we were amongst the bottom three, but with the emergence of EFCC and the implementation of several governance reforms between 2003 and 2007, we were out of the bottom thirty by the time the Obasanjo administration left office.
Under Nuhu Ribadu, the EFCC charged eleven former governors for corruption and money laundering. With the exception of Lucky Igbinedion’s ‘plea bargain’ arranged by Farida Waziri, none of the cases have moved forward since then. Several of them now sit in the senate and chair powerful committees. Our justice system has been lax and ambivalent about dealing with cases of grand corruption, as evidenced by the recent conviction of James Ibori in London after a federal high court in Asaba had dismissed over 100 counts of money laundering and corruption against him. It is not surprising that we are now back to nearer the bottom of the corruption league table.
According to Human Rights Watch (2007), the endemic nature of corruption in Nigeria has led to the loss of US $380 billion between independence and 1999. A Global Financial Integrity Initiative report dated January 2011 estimated that US $130 billion worth of illicit financial flows occurred between 2000 to 2008. Adding these numbers to the loss of nearly $7 billion to the fuel subsidy racket alone brings our national loss due to corruption to something in the region of US $600 billion from independence to end of 2011!
In 2008, Afrobarometer reported that 57% of respondents surveyed considered the Yar’Adua government as handling the anti-corruption war badly. The same survey revealed that 30% of respondents did not trust political parties. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2010 painted a similar picture with 40% of household respondents judging the government’s war against corruption as ineffective, while political parties and the national assembly were perceived to be amongst the most corrupt bodies in Nigeria, side by side with the Nigeria Police.
This finding – that political parties, the legislature and the Police are the least trusted is not surprising because corruption takes many forms. Indeed, I am of the view that rigging elections is the foundation of all corruption because it confers power without legitimacy, and without responsibility. And in Nigeria’s fourth republic in particular, it has birthed not only financial corruption, but immorality, violent crimes and terrorism.
The scale and scope of corruption in Nigeria have moved from irritating road-side demands and under-the-table payments worth billions of naira per annum captured by officials to a multi-trillion naira business under Yar’Adua and Jonathan. Everywhere we bother to check, billions and trillions are being wasted or stolen – fuel subsidy, pension funds, inflated and unexecuted contracts, goods and services paid for that are never supplied, taxes collected but not remitted, illegal allowances and benefits collected by officials, and entire budgets for security diverted to private pockets. How did we get to this point of near hopelessness so fast?
The Unholy Trinity
Violent crimes, corruption and terrorism were referred to as the unholy trinity that would confront citizens and countries in the twenty first century by Shelley (2005). These constitute Siamese triplets that often go together. Some commentators like Sarup (2005) insist that corruption increases terrorism. Contributing at a debate about corruption in India, a judge, Justice Santosh Hegde opined that “terrorism is caused by a disease called greed.” He went to observe that “politics was public service, now it is business.” Do these sound familiar? Do these opinions apply to us in Nigeria in 2012?
In my humble opinion, our own version of the unholy trinity has roots in toxic politics, rigged elections and bad governance. Political ‘God-Fatherism’, transactional leadership and social injustice are the key manifestations of this trinity. They are a toxic cocktail that would bring down any community, nation or government sooner or later. We got to where we are because due to years of practicing a brand of politics that is neither democratic nor meritocratic, with elections that are mostly rigged in many parts of the country, and political parties that are capriciously controlled by a few people.
Undemocratic politics is based on the deployment of money, violent thugs and coercive powers of state machinery. In many states, politicians and parties have armies of “youths” that are fed with cheap drugs and then armed with machetes, swords and guns to attend political rallies and attack any perceived opponents of the party and candidate. For instance, in Bauchi, Isa Yuguda has his ‘sara-suka’ (attack and stab), Ali Modu Sheriff in Borno had his ECOMOG, and Gombe’s Danjuma Goje had his “Yan Kalare”. In Rivers State, Ateke Tom and Asari Dokubo were similarly trained and armed by the PDP initially to ‘win elections’.
What then happens after the elections are won and the supply of cash and drugs end? Society was left with young, bitter and hopeless people that happen to possess some dangerous weapons. The result – kidnappers for cash that metamorphosed into militants in the Niger Delta, kidnappers and armed robbers in the South-East and Area Boys and various NURTW thugs in the South-West, and Boko Haram in the North-East.
When ‘elected’ officials know for sure that they were not truly elected, but rigged their way to power, the organic link of accountability between the leadership and the electorate is broken. The ‘elected’ official panders to the interest groups that got his or her into office rather than the people – these could be the party Godfathers, the officials that wrote the results (INEC, Police and the SSS) or the thugs that snatched ballot boxes and so on. The structure and composition of these interest groups vary from state to state, but the overall picture is similar across the board.
Pandering to these narrow interests cost money with the result that diverting budgets, operating huge security votes and appointing hundreds of ‘aides’ that do nothing becomes the norm. It is when these interests are taken care of that the electorate is remembered. The overall outcome is capricious governance, discretionary application of resources and transactional mindset in governance. Little can be achieved under these scenarios, and this is what happens in most of our 36 states, the FCT and the Federal Government in most of the 13 years of ‘democratic’ governance.
Social and economic injustice is the sum total of these decisions and actions by the political leadership. Young people that have worked hard to get an education do not have equal opportunity to compete for jobs, because only those that are politically-connected get jobs even when they are the least qualified. The lazy drop-outs of the last few years have built mansions and drive SUVs because they were ‘youth leaders’ of the ruling party. Gutsy but brainless people that are willing to dance to the tune of the state governors end up as local government chairmen or in national or state assemblies as members earning hefty but illegal allowances for doing next to nothing.
Our politics and its products completely inverted and reversed the incentive structure in our society. Merit, honesty and hard work ceased to be virtues in politics and public service. Sycophancy, servility and cunning were more useful qualities for getting ahead and succeeding. Our young men and women – about 4 million of them added every year to the population – have observed and appeared to internalize these distorted values. There is little or no sense of community in that generation just as the concept of social justice is unknown to them. Generally, there are just two types of young people now. The smart ones that wish to take advantage of the system and the honest but bitter ones that feel short-changed by our generation and the system they think we created.
With the exception of a minority of deeply thoughtful ones amongst them that can see through what is going on, most of our children have zero idealism. Many are uncouth, rude and abusive to everyone.They have no respect for their peers and seniors, and using the anonymity of social media, they vent their anger and frustrations on anyone that they believe is remotely responsible for their condition. They take no responsibility to be informed, educated or experienced. Such youths see everything through ethnic, religious and regional lenses. They only care about sex, expensive cars, music and European soccer leagues. When I compare the idealism with which we viewed the world in our younger days with what I read on Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger these days, I am worried about the future of our nation (or more precisely, the lack of it.)
Another unintended consequence of our toxic politics is poverty, unemployment and income inequality. Nigeria boasts of a rapidly-growing economy but has 113 million living below the poverty line of a dollar a day. For an agricultural nation, it is a shame that 41% of Nigerians – nearly 70 million – are classified as “food poor” in 2010. The zonal distribution tells a deeper story. Nearly 52% of the people living in the North-West and North-East, 39% of the North-Central, 41% of South-East, 36% of South-South and 25% of South-West are hardly able to feed themselves.
Unemployment is the primary target of every sensible nation’s economic policy, but our policy makers seem quite content trumpeting our jobless growth. Nationally, at least one in every five able-bodied Nigerians willing and able to work has no job. Again, a sample of different rates for states show a more serious disparity. In Lagos only about 8% are unemployed, and 9% in Oyo State. In contrast, it is 39% in Yobe State and 27% in Borno – the birthplace of Boko Haram. Other states’ indices are Bayelsa (19%), Akwa Ibom (26%), Kaduna (25%), Kano (26%), Zamfara (33%), Benue (26%), Nasarawa (22%) and Anambra (21%).
Income inequality is another serious problem. According to the NBS, in 2010 65% of Nigeria’s wealth is owned by just 20% of the population. This effectively means that 80% of the population share between them only about one third of the nation’s wealth. This income inequality manifests itself in conspicuous consumption by a few side by side with abject poverty experienced by the many. Income inequality, unemployment and poverty have been shown to correlate strongly with increases in violent crimes in many societies. This cocktail is what US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson referred to when he stated that Nigeria’s Boko Haram was capitalizing on popular discontent with bad governance in Nigeria in general and the North in particular. The fact that virtually all indices of development and progress have been deteriorating from 2007 in spite of being a period of high oil prices and production should make every thoughtful person to question what is happening.
Emergence of Boko Haram
In 2007, we had terribly flawed elections that brought Umaru Yar’Adua and several governors into office. In at least 14 states of the federation, ballot papers for the presidential election were being delivered when the results declaring Yar’Adua the winner were announced. The new president was decent enough to admit that the election that brought him to power was flawed and established a committee to recommend remedial measures. The judicial challenges to the various elections were going through the election tribunals slowly but surely.
The Yar’Adua-Jonathan administration inherited about US $50 billion in foreign reserves, US $27 billion in the excess crude account, and only US $3 billion in foreign debt. Yar’Adua inherited a country that was liquid and had a strong balance sheet, with BB- sovereign credit rating by both Standard & Poor and Fitch. The economic prospects were bright if the political economy was managed well. The twin deficits of electricity and rail transport were being addressed through the award of contracts to build seven new power stations and the Lagos-Kano dual-track, standard gauge railway line.
Over the ensuing four years, the federation earned another US $180 billion from oil and gas, import duties and taxes. By 2011, all these resources had been wasted with little to show for it. The excess crude account had been run down to less than $1 billion, the reserves drawn down to about US $35 billion and none of the rail and power infrastructure projects completed. What is significant is that since February 2010 when he became acting president, Mr. Jonathan has been borrowing an average of US $1 billion monthly, mostly by issuing bonds, thereby doubling our total debt levels to nearly US $42 billion and counting. The federal government is fast accelerating towards insolvency!
In April 2007, Sheikh Jaafar was murdered in cold blood while praying in his mosque in Kano by assailants that years later turned out to be suspected members of a sect to be known as Boko Haram, operating out of Bauchi State. However at the time the Sheikh was killed, an attempt was made to link the murder to the state governor Ibrahim Shekarau. This as we shall see, became a recurring pattern of behavior by the security agencies in cases of this nature – the politicization of terrorism.
In July 2009, Yar’Adua deployed the Nigerian Army to “crush” Boko Haram. The leaders of the sect were captured alive, or arrested from their homes and extra-judicially executed by the Nigerian Police. The sect believes that Ali Modu Sheriff, then governor of Borno State and the Commissioner of Police took the decision to wipe out its leadership, regrouped and went on what was essentially a revenge mission targeting the Police, the Borno State Government and other uniformed services of the Federal Government. That is how Boko Haram evolved from a largely peaceful, fringe Islamic organization to a vengeful sect and currently an anarchist threat to the Nigerian nation.
Initially, Boko Haram’s targets were symbols of authority (Police, Borno State Government, etc.) and limited geographic (Borno State) scope. The attitude of authorities to the sect’s (Northerners are killing one another, so we do not care, etc.) activities emboldened them, and when the first bomb was exploded by MEND in Abuja on October 1, 2010, the sect learnt a thing or two about grabbing national attention. As the media gave the sect attention, it mainstreamed its activities to first attack Yobe State then the Federal Capital Territory.
The watershed in the sect’s activities were the June 2011 bombing of the Police Headquarters and the August 2011 attack on the UN Headquarters. By these actions the sect established the capacity to operate in the nation’s capital, outside its original geographic location thus attracting national and global attention. Sadly, between 2009 and 2012, more than 1,000 people have lost their lives as a result of Boko Haram’s attacks in Maiduguri, Potiskum, Damaturu, Jos, Kano, Gombe, Kaduna and Abuja. In 2011 alone, Boko Haram attacked 115 times with 550 deaths resulting.
Socio-Economic Impact of Terrorism and Corruption
Terrorism raises levels of insecurity and fear among citizens. It results in movement and travel restrictions and curtailing of human rights. These have negative impact on investment flows and functioning of markets. These combine to reduce employment opportunities, wealth creation and capital formation.
According to the World Investment Report of UNCTAD, the Nigerian economy recorded a reduction in foreign direct investment from US $8.65 billion in 2009 to US $6.1 billion in 2010 due to the fear of Boko Haram. The Nigerian tourism sector which is worth some N80 billion annually has lost more than half of its value due to fear of terrorist attacks. The domestic air transport industry which generates some N3 billion annually has been hard hit by flight cancellations to destinations in the north, with nearly half of the revenues lost.
In Borno State, schools have been closed. In other affected parts of the north, normal social life is unlikely to return soon. In places like Jos, the city is so neatly divided along ethnic lines that the vibrancy and inclusion that has been its heartbeat has been lost for a long time to come. The recent attack on media houses and Bayero University has opened new areas and targets of the sect that should worry the authorities.
The north has been the hardest hit with the leading commercial centre, Kano being under military occupation since January 2012. Kaduna, a leading industrial centre has also been repeatedly attacked by the various shades of what is known as Boko Haram. Many of us believe that there are at least four variants of Boko Haram – the real BH and three other fakes that use the brand to advance their own narrow, self-centered agendas. Many in the North see the patent inaction of the authorities as the advancement of a sinister agenda to destroy an already near prostate northern economy through occupation, militarization and disruption of socio-economic activities. The federal government has done nothing to indicate otherwise, and the state governments have acquiesced to the cavalier attitude of the Villa.
Way Out of the Quagmire
Terrorism and corruption are big issues with no easy solutions. There are no silver bullets and no country has been able to eradicate corruption or be totally immune from domestic terrorism. I will make some suggestions here as a basis for discussion and way forward.
I do not think our anti-corruption strategy attacks the roots of corruption. In addition to the unsuccessful ‘arrest-and-charge’ approach that we have tended to focus on, I believe we must reduce cash transactions to the barest minimum. If all transactions are electronic, it will be harder for untraceable, illicit payments to be made. If Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s efforts in cashless banking are complemented with a national ID system that can identify, monitor and audit every resident, and his or her financial transactions when a court order is obtained, it will be harder to take bribes and launder the money.
We also need to strengthen institutions by appointing decent people to head them, respect their tenures and appoint successors from within rather than bring in political hacks to do jobs that they are neither qualified nor trained to do. Our judiciary needs revamping. The last CJN has done incalculable damage to the the most important arm of government – because without an honest and decent judiciary, nothing will ever work in this country.
Terrorism is a harder nut to crack. I am of the view that a multi-track approach is necessary to increase the chances of its’ success. First, the prevailing narrative in the Jonathan camp must be discarded. This narrative is what the national security adviser tried to communicate at the Asaba summit of south-south leaders, but he was misunderstood by the media. Jonathan and his inner circle believe that Boko Haram is a northern conspiracy to prevent Jonathan enjoying his presidency. And northern political leaders like IBB and General Buhari are the sponsors and financiers of Boko Haram.
This narrative is believed by most Niger Delta leaders because of their own experience in organizing, training and arming the militants and providing funding for MEND during the period of ‘resource control’ agitations of the Obasanjo administration. Because theirs was a conspiracy of the political elite, they think the North must be doing the same. And they also feel that Boko Haram largely kills northerners or “parasites” as one presidential aide, Reno Omokri tweeted; so the more they are killed, the lesser the burden on the ‘oil-rich hosts.’ Another presidential aide actually said these words to an old ex-OPC friend of his in London in June 2011. With this narrative wired in the brains of Jonathan’s inner circle, they spent their first year trying to link some of us in opposition to Boko Haram instead of honestly tracking the real problems. While wasting time on us, the sect grew stronger, bolder and better trained. The first step therefore is to unwind this narrative and honestly ask the right questions.
It is of course disingenuous to believe the narrative, but I assure you that they believe it. Boko Haram’s first bloody confrontation with the authorities was under a northern, Muslim president in 2009. And Obasanjo is not a northerner but governed without Boko Haram. Anyone can see that it is indeed northerners and Muslims that constitute the bulk of the victims of the insurgency. And I think the insurgency escalated not because Jonathan became president by whatever means, but because the government did not care to address it early enough. Now things have spiraled out of control.
Secondly, I believe the fundamental roots of the insurgency challenge – rewarding those who take up arms against the state with the cash hand-outs called amnesty program has to be reviewed. Any society that rewards bad behavior with cash creates a moral hazard that may consume that society. Those giving out the cash should know that they are doing no favors to anyone. Indeed, they are fostering an entitlement culture that would ultimately be the undoing of that part of the country. Boko Haram does not appear to be motivated by money, so those thinking of an amnesty-like program may need to go back to the drawing board.
Thirdly, the corruption, inequality, poverty and unemployment cocktail that creates the breeding ground for violent crimes and terrorism need to be addressed through well-thought out and targeted programs of investment in education, healthcare, skills development and training, and infrastructure building that will provide employment opportunities in various communities. In addition, the authorities must criminalize the existence of political thugs by whatever name and of whatever description, and ensure elections are henceforth free, fair and credible. The political parties need to be reformed, leadership selection be guided largely by merit, while the electoral institutions need to be alive to their responsibilities.
Fourthly, as a medium term, structural measure, we must work to restore our federalism to the broad outlines embedded in the 1963 republican constitution, devolving more powers and responsibilities to the states and making the federal government less of a busy body. This would require that states like Bauchi whose annual internally-generated revenue is N7 billion should not run a government costing N58 billion because of monthly hand-outs from Abuja. Each state should learn to live within its means and seek to actively develop its comparative endowments. This also means the states would have greater say over their policing and security, natural resource royalties and taxation. State governors will then be compelled to use their resources better and not point fingers at the federal government.
Finally, in addition to reviewing the failed military strategy now in place and scaling back what has become the militarization of the north, the government must work with community leaders in Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Kano and Kaduna States to identify interlocutors that would enable honest discussions with Boko Haram to establish what they REALLY want. The arrest and prosecution of those that murdered their leaders would certainly be one demand, but there may be others that the government knows but would not want us to know. The Maitatsine sect was easily defeated in the 1980s because the surrounding communities despised them and their methods. The current situation in Kano and Borno States is one in which the military occupiers are killing more innocent people than Boko Haram, which injustice is tilting sympathy in their favor and against the Army. Unless the reckless killings of unarmed men, women and children stop, these communities would revolt sooner or later.
There is nowhere in the world where insurgencies like Boko Haram have been defeated purely through military force and occupation – ask the Americans about Afghanistan and Iraq, or the British about Northern Ireland. Those saying “crush them” should know that recent history of the war on terror is not on their side. We want a country that works for everyone, and this senseless loss of lives must end soon. The government that has the responsibility for our security must bend over backwards to deliver it. If they continue to fail in this regard, they will not be in government for too long.
I thank you for inviting me. Thank you and God Bless.