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@elrufai on Friday: THE OPPORTUNITY COST OF CORRUPTION by @ekekeee December 27, 2012

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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Nasir El-Rufai on Friday

Young Voices – Introducing Chinedu Ekeke

Apart from being young – with their ages ranging from 20 to early 30s, all our young voices have a few qualities in common. They are all honest, passionate, patriotic, detribalized, intelligent, thoughtful and angry about the Nigerian condition. Our last young voice for the year – Mr. Chinedu Ekeke has these qualities and more, and for many requires no introduction. His blogging site http://www.ekekeee.com is one of the top three platforms offering Nigerian youths an outlet to articulate, debate and express their diverse views. When presidential mouthpiece Reuben Abati wrote about ‘collective children of anger’, he was probably referring to Chinedu and these youths whose conscience cannot be purchased with the gift of contracts, money or positions in a hapless federal government whose decisions and actions are daily compromising their future!

Chinedu trained as an accountant and works as one, but following the footsteps of accounting graduates Adamu Adamu and Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, applies his writing talent to draw attention to what need doing to make our nation better. His articles have been published by Sahara Reporters and many old and new media platforms. His more recent and extremely popular pieces include ‘The Audacity of a Rogue Regime’ and ‘Echoes from the Niger Delta’. Today, he writes about the opportunity cost of corruption.

It is my singular honour and privilege to present Chinedu Ekeke to you, with our best wishes and prayers that the insecurity, fraud and corruption we have been subjected to in 2012, will end with this horribly Jonathanian year! Amen.
– Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

The Opportunity Cost Of Corruption – By Chinedu Ekeke

First, corruption and national development are mutually exclusive. But I’ll get back to that.

The first sense necessary for leadership in any clime is the sense for common good. With such mindset, the dictates of common sense no longer assume the rigours of rocket science. The simplicity of having enough funds for investment in massive infrastructure no longer becomes an issue to be explained away.
Twisting of facts becomes unnecessary. Seeking the validation of courtiers becomes unimportant to leadership. The secret is when leadership is burdened by the desire to work for the common good.

Without the love for country – and not loving Nigeria has been the single qualification for attaining leadership here – no suggestion, no matter how patriotic, will be taken by those who call the shots in the seats of power. That is why this article will not be taken seriously by those who need it most: the president and his team. They don’t run a government of common sense. They run a regime of miracles.
They squander billions in subsidy fraud, dubious budget for cutleries and banquet halls, and then ‘trust’ God with our national development. For leaders who love their country, an understanding of opportunity cost, a basic concept in Economics, helps in economic decision making.

The opportunity cost of anything is the highest valued alternative that must be forgone when a choice is made. It is the cost of any choice made, or activity involved in, measured by valuing the next best alternative not chosen or taken.

In my days in secondary school, faced with the trouble of having to reel out in full length the definition outlined by my Economics teacher, and to save myself the trouble of having to cram it for the purpose of passing exams, I resorted to just making do with the other phrase that sums it up; “Alternative forgone”.

Yes, opportunity cost is alternative forgone. It is actually a cost, like a loss. The ‘loss’ here means the loss of benefits derivable from the alternative not taken.

When we make the choice to erect corruption as a national monument, we have chosen to lose the benefits derivable from the national assets we would have built with the funds stolen.

When I did an essay on the ‘Time Value Of Corruption’, I highlighted what we are losing today, in monetary terms, by having allowed people steal our billions 20 years ago without making them pay back, and possibly go to jail. I went ahead to do a projection on the future value of the current billions and trillions that the Jonathan regime’s friends are stealing with reckless abandon. In analyzing the opportunity cost of corruption, I may not get absolutely quantitative to be able to pass my message, but I will be as expressive as I can to make my point clearly known.

As I said in my opening line, corruption and national development are mutually exclusive.

Recently, a Sunday Punch report revealed that over N5 trillion belonging to Nigerians has been stolen under the watch of president Goodluck Jonathan since he ascended the presidency. I wouldn’t have been as worried as I am if there has been any effort to bring the culprits of the earth-shattering criminality to book. The government is carrying on as if all is well, while Nigerians, who have become victims of over three decades of state-promoted roguery, languish under grinding poverty and unemployment, unable to afford even the most basic needs of life in a country so blessed by God.

As the president makes – and shows much comfort in – the choice of allowing his cabinet members, friends, and ‘privileged’ fraudulent business men fritter away our petro-naira unquestioned, it is critical we call his attention to the opportunity cost of that choice. We are forgoing many infrastructural developmental alternatives.

Let’s look at housing. The federal government hasn’t shown that it understands the need for housing for our huge population, that’s why slums abound in the cities with the slumlords boldly ripping helpless citizens off. With N5 trillion, and through direct labour involvement, we can build exactly 2.5million units of 2-bedroom flats at N2 million per flat. The houses do not need sophisticated designs or exquisite materials: just simple designs with simple but durable building materials. My interaction with builders has assured me that N2 million can build a 2-bedroom apartment through direct labour. Do note that we will not need to buy land because the land belongs to the government. Government will simply make land available. We will not also need to include the cost of contractors, because we will be using direct labour.
The staff of Federal Housing Authority can, in conjunction with the staff of ministry of environment, supervise the project. The houses will be spread across major cities in the six geo-political zones with huge populations. This will help provide accommodation for people, lessen the pressure on the badly built and poorly maintained houses, and help clean our cities of slums.

So the opportunity cost of N5 trillion stolen under President Jonathan’s watch is 2.5million units of low cost housing for the urban poor and middle class.

But that is if we choose to invest the money in housing. We could choose to concentrate on electricity.
With N5 trillion, we can build more power stations to increase significantly our electricity generation. If we had done that within the period we watched the privileged ones steal the money, by today we will not be gloating over 4500 megawatts of electricity that cannot serve even counties in the United States, let alone states. We will be talking about 15,000 megawatts or more, generated and distributed nationwide to revive moribund businesses and productive activities.

The opportunity cost of our stolen N5 trillion under President Jonathan is constant electric supply.
We may also choose not to face any of the mentioned opportunity costs in absolute terms. We may combine them in a certain proportion, building a portion of this and a portion of that with the N5 trillion.
Even at that, the impact of each would have been so visible that it will be impossible for even the president’s enemies to deny him the deserved credit.

If we chose to build just 1 million housing units with N2 trillion and used the remaining N3 trillion for power stations, then the opportunity cost of the N5 trillion stolen under President Jonathan would have given us 1million units of 2-bedroom flats and say, about 15000megawatts of electricity.

We could, instead, choose to focus on health care. Instead of bearing the shame of having privileged Nigerians jet out in droves, every day, to India and the West to treat minor and major ailments, we could build world-class hospitals with state of the art equipment for the treatment of all kinds of ailment. In such cases we will not need to take emergency health cases off the shores of our country.

The opportunity cost of the N5 trillion stolen under the watch, and official inaction, of President Jonathan is the needless deaths of millions of Nigerians who cannot afford the cost of foreign medical treatments, the loss of money we incur from those who can afford it, and the loss of jobs we would have created for our people if we had built quality hospitals that can treat ailments qualitatively.

But it is not just about the stolen funds. There’s also the opportunity cost of profligacy and waste in government. For instance, in one very shameful demonstration of insensitivity, the president and his mediocre ministers approved the construction of a new banquet hall in Aso Villa. This is in spite of an existing banquet hall for the presidency. No serious president with about 112 million people in his country living in squalor will dare tolerate a mere mention of a new banquet hall from either a minister or an aide.
Every serious leader runs his country like a family. Responsible families do not stretch their expenses beyond their means. Our rulers are both irresponsible and mischievous, that’s why an issue as an unneeded banquet hall will even become a subject of discourse.

But the opportunity cost of that presidential banquet hall is well funded tertiary institutions that can compete with the very best in, at least, Africa, or well paved roads in some distant lands forgotten by the federal government.

There are even more.

The opportunity cost of spending N16billion to build a house for the VP is the pipe-borne water that should run through our houses.

The opportunity cost of paying N6.5billion – unaccounted for – to state governors as security votes is well-funded and reformed police with adequate personnel to protect our lives and property.
The opportunity cost of letting David Mark pay himself N600million per annum – an amount that will pay for ten years the United States presidents’ salary – is millions of jobs that we would have created for our teeming youths.

Equally, the opportunity cost of paying a Nigerian legislator more than the British Prime Minister is the millions of good jobs we would have created with the inexplicably huge amounts.
Because money is stolen in Nigeria – legally and illegally – with impunity, we have lost the opportunity to develop our country, and compete with the rest of the world.
Corruption and national development are mutually exclusive, that’s why you should ignore the government official who comes on national TV to promise you development. The money for our development is the same money they have stolen.

We will only commence our journey into national rebirth the moment we take the stealing of government funds seriously. We can’t watch people empty our treasury and then still pretend we will build infrastructure. It is the money for infrastructure that has been stolen.
Corruption and infrastructural development are mutually exclusive.

Chinedu Ekeke can be reached on Twitter as @ekekeee.

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NIGERIA – RELIGIOUS MAD HOUSE by @seunfakze December 23, 2012

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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Christians live in Nigeria, Muslims do too. Of course, satanists and atheists are here. Nigeria is the centre of Africa’s largest religious empires. Churches, Mosques All in grotesque structures, incredible masterpieces of architecture and breath-taking landscapes.

I live in Lagos (when I am around) next to a church. It’s amazing my experience so far. They are my 6am alarm on most mornings, and sometimes, my reminder when I am late for church amongst other things. The church here is so hilarious. Being an instrumentalist (I play the drums very proficiently – professional; and the piano quite well), I often times go into fits when I listen to the different discordant tunes between the pianist and the singers. Other times, I am thrown into uncontrollable laughter owing to the amazing things said as doctrines in this church.

However, my observation this morning came from some discussions with my relatives. I slept yesterday quite exhausted having just finished a family ceremony only to be woken by the blaring and annoying noise from the speakers of the church. I understand the proliferation of churches in Nigeria, yes man must eat. However, I do not understand why religious organizations have their establishment in residential places where they have unbearable influences on the surrounding.

If there is a vigil in this church, one can hardly sleep. These churches are way too many, and their existence in multitude of numbers clearly explain to me what many people have to deal with in their different houses. Many of us live in streets where there are up to 5 religious organizations (churches, mosques etc) there. I had called, in my angst this morning, about a ban on loudspeakers or insist on a sound proofing of churches and mosques. It came with rebuffing remarks from my relatives, obviously with already “church” mind.

Many atheists respect the beliefs of others, but should we inconvenient them because we want to worship God? If i were an atheist, i would probably think it hypocritical for you to put up so much show so others can know you are worshipping God. oh! Don’t misunderstand me. I am a musician, I love contemporary music which blares a lot of meaningful noise. But I do not approve when it constitute a noise or an inconvenience to others.

The government should impose a fine/tax on noise blaring in the society, maybe that will help curb the insanity. That way, Mosques and Churches will have a grip on the level of noise. Sadly, If Governor Fashola were to ban the use of loudspeakers in churches, many will claim he is doing that because he is a Muslim. Fanatics or hardened religious minds would hardly understand that policy. If I governor, I will have that done.

I am not advocating for a tyrannical imposition on the rights of people to constitute a gathering, i am only appealing that we worship our God in fairness to other community dwellers and with respect to the peace of others. I hope a Pastor or Imam will get to read this piece. Society pollution/noisemaking: This is one of the madness that constitute the religious platforms in Nigeria.

WHY NIGERIA MUST REVISIT LAND REFORMS by Nasir @elrufai December 21, 2012

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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Though pervasive insecurity and the fear of kidnapping means that some Nigerians will be unable to travel ‘home’ for Christmas this year, the millions who are poorly accommodated in the towns and cities where they live and work have little option but to travel to places where they probably have well-built houses that otherwise remain empty for most of the year. And this leads to the posers: Where is ‘home’? How can Nigeria guarantee equal access to land for its citizens? How can we make land available and affordable to all citizens? Can land reforms mitigate Nigeria’s food insecurity and housing shortages?

The history of land ownership, utilization and development in Nigeria dates back to the pre-colonial era when the customary land tenure existed. The customary tenure was considered an impediment to agricultural development due to absence of secure, clearly defined property rights. The fact that agreements were made orally as opposed to in writing meant there was a high risk of parties not upholding their agreements, and disputes arising when time and old age lead to loss of memory or death.

Land reforms can be very challenging since they involve amending laws regarding land ownership, re-claiming land controlled by one group and redistributing same in favour of other groups. That is why the current Land Use Act enacted in March 1978 by the Obasanjo military government marked a defining moment in the history of land development in Nigeria. However, the Act made up of eight parts and fifty-one sections, has become the subject of numerous litigations regarding customary ownership, methods of land acquisition, and resource ownership. The Act was first incorporated by reference into the Nigerian Constitution in 1979, and it has remained there ever since, making it a “Super Act” that can only be tampered with via constitutional amendment. This has had unintended consequences we will dwell upon shortly.

The main tenet of the Land Use Act of 1978 is its omnibus provision which vested the trusteeship of land in the governor of a state or the president in the case of the Federal Capital Territory. Since 1984, the president delegated this trust in land to the minister of the Federal Capital Territory as an amendment to the FCT Act of 1976. Further references to ‘state governor’ in this piece therefore include the minister of the FCT in case of Abuja.

The Land Use Act remains a well-intentioned legislation that sought to reduce inequalities and avarice in acquisition of land. It recognized that urban land would be more valuable and sought to classify and control the process of its acquisition. It differentiated between urban and rural land, while placing a size limit of 5,000 square meters for residential land as the maximum that can be allocated to an individual. The Act delegated the trust in land in rural areas to Local Government councils, but the Court of Appeal in 2001 ruled that the six area councils in the FCT had no such powers to allocate as what was delegated to the minister by the president could not be further sub-delegated in law.

This government cannot overlook the pivotal role the Land Use Act was expected to play in solving Nigeria’s housing crisis. The Land Use Act ought to have enabled the Federal Mortgage Bank and the various state ministries in charge of housing and urban development to work together to create an active primary and secondary markets in housing and a mortgage system. So far, this has not happened.

Rural land is assuming increasing importance due to the future intensity of agriculture and mining activities. It is estimated that 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa. In Nigeria, more than 30 million hectares of arable remain uncultivated or untouched by human activity. Our capacity to deploy these for commercial farming and mining is only limited by visionless leaderships at federal and state levels. As a nation that has just witnessed its worst flooding and still has most of its farmland under water, the only indices for measuring our capacity to guarantee food security is our level of land and agricultural development. We should take to heart ways of ensuring that our farmers in particular have easy access to arable land and infrastructure to take produce to storage and markets. The Land Use Act, with some improvements can facilitate these.

The Land Use Act simply converted outright ownership (or freehold, perpetual or ‘fee simple’ titles to land) to Rights of Occupancy which are leaseholds with a tenure not exceeding 99 years. As a result of this, even the ownership rights of ancestral land acquired over generations and passed on as inheritance, were upturned in favour of the state governors holding in trust for all citizens of Nigeria.

The constitution recognizes the right of the state to acquire land where necessary, provided compensation is paid. This ensures an impartial and even handed balance between the constitutional right of the individual and public interest represented by government regarding land acquisition and re-possession. But in a country pervaded by information asymmetry, corruption and abuse of power by public servants like Nigeria, putting all territorial land in the trust of a state governor perhaps is the biggest strength and weakness of the Land Use Act.

The recurrent problem with this simply is: the requirements for compensation when Rights of Occupancy are revoked for overriding public interest are observed more in breach. Worse, where compensation is paid at all, it is always both inadequate and inordinately delayed. The beneficiaries of the confusion arising from the constitutional and statutory loopholes are usually the high and mighty in the society. At times, the complete disregard of due process is brazen – as manifested in the tussle for land in an area of Abuja reserved only for federal and state government buildings – between the first lady and her immediate predecessor! If this kind of scenario can play out at that level, clearly, the ordinary citizen whose title to land is at the discretion of a governor has a lot to worry about.

Despite the fact that land is entrusted to the state governors, the extent of that right is limited by the principle of “Eminent Domain” and other which vest control of the skies above the land and minerals resources existent below the surface to the Federal Government. This has brought about some conflict, especially amongst the oil and mineral producing areas of Nigeria when title to land is vested in one person while another has license to mine the land and fly above it!. For land reform efforts to be effective, they must address comprehensively the congruence between land and minerals ownership and control.

There are some provisions of the Land Use Act that have had unintended consequences and negative impact on the utilization of land, development of commercial agriculture, housing and the real estate markets in the country. For instance, even with a Right of Occupancy issued in one’s favour, one cannot sell, transfer, assign, sub-lease or mortgage or otherwise deal in the title without obtaining the prior consent of the state governor.

This “consent’ can take between weeks and several years, is expensive and fraught with corruption. Surely, if something is gifted to me and recognized as belonging to me for the next 99 years, I should be able to sell it without the consent of the person that gave me the gift. These and other “control freak” type of clauses ought to be removed from the Act and eliminate the corruption associated with citizens’ compliance with its provisions.

The Act is therefore long due for appropriate review and amendment. The government’s primary aim should be to bring relative ease to land dealings, delegate some of the powers vested in the state governor to other officials or an independent body and legislate a nationwide, computerized land registration regime that will be open, transparent and accessible to every citizen. It is a well-known fact that in countries like the UAE, Canada and France, where land reforms have been successfully implemented, its impact has been rapid economic growth, improved access to housing, the development of industries that thrive on land like enhanced commercial agriculture amongst others.

Constitutional lawyers believe that it might be better to obliterate the current anti-development thrust and dysfunctions of the Land Use Act either at once or in stages. Doing so at once would require the federal and state legislative and executive arms of government to concurrently consult with one another on the need to harmonize their positions so that the amendment requirements for this Super Act of Parliament could all be done at once.

Other lawyers who believe that the “harmonization” of positions could take many years to achieve under a federal constitutional, and that given the rising economic significance or exchange value of land whose quantity is fixed against an exploding population, advise that the approach be staggered. There appears to be broad consensus on the aspects of the Act that need amendment, improvement and repeal.

An attempt to amend the Land Use Act was made in 2009. Former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sent 14 amendments titled Land Use Act (Amendment) 2009 to the National Assembly for debate and adoption, following which the approval of the states’ houses of assembly would be sought. The proposed bill sought to vest “fee simple” ownership of land in the hands of those with customary rights, enable farmers use land as collateral for loans for commercial farming, limit the requirement of the Governor’s consent to assignment only which will drastically reduce bottlenecks, and render such consent unnecessary for mortgages, subleases and other forms of alienation of land. Yar’Adua also proposed that independent land reform commissions be established at national and state levels to exercise some of the powers of state governors under the current Land Use Act. These are commendable first steps, even if considered not bold enough for many lawyers and real estate professionals.

This administration would do well if it critically revisits the proposed amendments, revise and expand them where necessary, with the aim to have the relevant gaps handled in the ongoing constitution review. If this government can effectively implement land reforms, perhaps, our claim to being Africa’s giants would have some substance in it, a generation from now.

So what is the way forward for land reforms?

The first critical step would be to remove the Land Use Act 1978 out of the constitution and make it an ordinary law. Thereafter, it could be changed as an ordinary federal legislation, or better still to allow each state to make its own land use legislation. It is our considered opinion that in competing for investors’ attention, progressive states would align their land legislation with the requirements of a progressive political economy.

Far more important to entrench in the Constitution is a mandated system of digitized land registration that will be graphical, transparent and accessible to everyone upon the payment of a token fee in each state of the federation. It is important that all the 38 land registers be able to seamlessly communicate with one another for the benefit of citizens, bankers, lawyers and real estate professionals.

Once secondary transactions in land are removed from the most highly retrogressive “governors dual statutory consent to assign and mortgage”, land related investments would become highly bankable. Such transactions have the potential to increase the share of mortgage loans of the GDP to over 25% and concurrently raise the extant portfolio of mortgages and real estate assets to up to 60% of the consolidated Nigerian banking balance sheet within a decade, from below 0.5% which is the current contribution of land-related asset class to both metrics.

Not a few voices, however, are of the view that what matters is for the new law to attract investments into commercial agriculture and housing finance. Both are needed to stabilize and empower our rural peasantry and the middle classes. For instance, amending the Pension Reforms and Insurance Acts to set aside a proportion of the funds for investments in commercial agriculture and real estate will help a great deal.

Finally, constitutional amendment of the Land Use Act 1978 should not be considered in isolation, but along with new and long overdue foreclosure and securitization laws. The three laws when enacted would make every governing entity in Nigeria sustainable through land-related income and property taxes. Once these reforms are in place, Nigerians will begin to define ‘home’ not as their states of origin, but where they live and work. That is the mindset needed to bring about a new Nigeria.

GREEN, WHITE, HOAX by Funmilayo Oyatogun (Young Voices) @elrufai December 14, 2012

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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Nasir El-Rufai on Friday – Young Voices Introducing Miss Oluwafunmilayo Oyatogun

Two words that describe Oluwafunmilayo are determined and passionate. At the young age of 20, she is a graduating senior at the University of Colorado- Boulder with a double major in Environmental studies and Geography.

Appalled by the little attention given to environmental issues in Nigeria, she founded Bailiff Africa: a platform that provides environmental sustainability initiatives, and serves to promote environmental consciousness among Nigerian youths, and eventually, Africa.

This week, she writes about a Nigeria that sadly models its fundamentals around more developed nations, but is not mindful of the fact that these nations themselves have begun to collapse. She warns that if we blind our eyes to the failures of these more established nations, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes they made.

It is with pleasure that I introduce another young person Oluwafunmilayo Oyatogun. She follows in the footsteps of Jude Egbas, Yemi Adamolekun, Auwal S. Anwar, Elnathan John, Japheth Omojuwa, Zainab Usman, and Ogunyemi Bukola – all young people with a passion to leave Nigeria a little better than they met it.

-Nasir El-Rufai

GREEN, WHITE, HOAX. – Oluwafunmilayo Oyatogun

Nigeria, in recent history, has become a callous imitator: of so-called democracy, of so-called enlightenment and of so-called development. What is most unsettling is the failure of Nigeria to learn from the flaws of those nations which have gone ahead of her in her quest for development. In the formulation of the Nigerian Dream by the Nigerian state and in the minds of Nigerians, little work has gone into creating a strategic and sustainable model. Instead, the models of foregone nations – along with their dents, holes and inadequacies – have been copied and pasted into the Nigerian context. In fact, the conventional Nigerian Dream is not a dream at all; it is a plagiarized piece which offers an inadequate image of an already substantially warped phenomenon.

In primary school, we distinguished growth from development very easily because growth meant quantitative expansion while development meant qualitative expansion. This definition, like everything else in primary school, is simplistic, non-encompassing and narrow. However, like everything else in primary school, it is basic, fundamental and indispensable. But in Nigeria, capitalistic growth formulas have replaced those of development and a recurring, self-inhibiting cycle has formed. If the Nigerian Dream, whatever it may be, is modeled after the “American Dream”, that is its first and biggest flaw.

In order for Nigeria to thrust itself out of the stronghold of corruption, and before it goes far along the road of blind, goalless and hollow development, the citizens must identify what development means and what this development is worth.

The Nigerian flag is a symbol of the country. It is twice as green as it is white; symbolizing twice as much agricultural viability as it is conflict-free and twice as much environmental sustainability as it is harmonious. Yet, in Nigeria today, harmony, peace, agriculture and environmental sustainability are nearly alien concepts. Perhaps because they do not fit too well within our facade of a dream, the one we copied and attempted to present as our own. Nigeria, the land of contradictions, has become more than just a literary and artistic land of contradictions; it has become a pitiful paradox. Therefore, the Nigerian Dream of Development must undergo a thorough overhaul and must pass the test of sustainability before the youth propagate it in its current self-destructing form.

Our first capital base of development is the natural environment (the land, air, water, flora and fauna). Of course, humans are just as much a part of this natural environment as the smallest seed pollinator. We, humans, feature again in the second capital base: our social environment. We hold the capacity of investment, of intelligence and of wealth creation. Yet, humans are the only species which in the quest for survival, desecrate and destroy our very capital base for survival.

In Nigeria, our measures of ‘Nigerian Development’ are the very things that often hinder actual Nigerian Development. Our economic strategies encourage short-term boom for few but long-term doom for the masses. These include ridiculous debt-incurring plans, importation of foreign and multi-national corporations to suffocate the local ones which retain capital and investments in the country, etc. Worst of all is the importation of corporations which exploit local resources for the benefit of everyone but the host communities.

In developing fossil-fuels, companies devastate the environment because they do not have to account for pollution in their upfront costs. By doing so, they externalize the costs to people who have little or no contribution to the production of pollution but have to pay for them in various forms including disease and death. But we must curse the indiscretions of oil companies with slight reservation since they produce what we consume, they supply as we demand.

In January 2012, the Occupy Nigeria / Subsidy protests were as successful as they were partly because fuel was the middle ground that brought the poor and the rich together. The rich man must fuel his Mercedes; the poor man must pay for a truck ride for his oranges to the market. Put simply, everyone and everything depends on oil fuel.

And yet, in a country such as Nigeria where we produce and export oil, there is nothing to show for it. Well…nothing but thick, dense, black clouds over Lagos, rivers of more plastic than water or sea life, desert encroachment and the Niger Delta curse. And that exactly is the problem with the current ‘development model.’

It poisons the base which could enable further investment; the land that feeds us, the water that feeds the land that feeds us, the air we breathe and the people who make these investments.
Unfortunately, many still argue ignorantly for the socio-economic inputs these corporations make to their host communities: schools, hospitals, community centers and scholarships. These are treatments of symptoms, instead of treatments of diseases. Before another school is built, it must be questioned why previous schools have not survived. It must be questioned why there is no school in the first place.

More so, development projects of organizations which dance around the problems created by them are not beneficial to the general development of the community, or state, or country.
A corporation that has a chronic history of oil spills in a community only seeks to blind the conscience of that community by building schools, hospitals and doing everything but cleaning up the spills which contribute to stunted economic growth in those communities.
If this is right, how about other nations? How about the ones we look up to; our impeccable models of truth? The sad reality is that development in the West, the kind Nigeria now copies, albeit woefully, has begun to collapse on itself. It is a shame for a nation like Nigeria to blind its eyes to the failures of older, more established nations.

Some argue that in developing, we will innovate our way out of the challenges that environmental destruction, climate change and pollution will offer. It is quite foolhardy to assume so.
Even though we may learn to live through floods, storms, extreme temperatures and droughts, at what cost will we adapt to human-centered, human-caused changes? And who exactly will be capable of adapting? The answers are clear: only those at the top of the food chain will be able to adapt as we have seen that poorer societies live with majority of the environmental impacts which they do not contribute to.
Also, the costs of adaptation, some of which are diseases, do not render it adaptation at all. There are other moral, spiritual, philosophical and cultural reasons why people advocate against the destruction of the environment but the simplest, most general reason is that we are tampering with our very own chance of survival as humans in the world as we know it today.
In the end, Nigeria’s size in people or gross GDP will not be sufficient for her to retain the title of ‘Giant of Africa’. Right now, she is dangling from the thin rope that separates giant from ‘agbaya’ . If Nigeria does not develop in a sustainable manner, she would be just as much a failure as if she did not develop at all.

GHANA ELECTIONS by Prof George @ayittey December 13, 2012

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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The situation in Ghana is infuriating. In Africa, we take one step forward and then three steps back. Same problems, same rituals and the repetition of the same foolish mistakes in one country after another. We touted Kenya as a “bastion of stability” in the East African region; then after the Dec 2007 elections, “Poof!” it imploded – over 1,200 dead and more than 500,000 rendered homeless. We show-cased Ivory Coast as an “economic miracle.” Then came elections in November 2010 and “Kaboom!!” The country was plunged into civil war with both Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo claiming the presidency. Same thing happened after Congo DR’s elections in xxx 2011 elections with both Joseph Kabila and Etienne Tshisekedi claiming they won. We praised Mali as a model of good governance; then in March of this year, “Boom!”– a military coup. We have been crowing about Ghana as a beacon of democracy that can teach Africa a thing or two about peaceful transfer of power – see this link: http://bit.ly/SAcpXs. Then uproar over last week’s elections with at least 10 dead http://bit.ly/T4YEQi. Now, Ghana’s democratic credentials are in danger of being shredded. So tell me this: What at all can governments and leaders do right in Africa?

• Practice democracy? Only 14 of the 54 African countries are democratic.
• Develop their economies? Fewer than 10 are economic success stories.
• Feed their people? We rely on foreign aid to feed ourselves, importing food worth $25 billion a year. We used to export food in the 1950s.
• Provide clean water, sanitation, health care and reliable supply of electricity to their people without constant black-outs? Only 30 percent of Nigerians have access to reliable supply of electricity. It is an oil-producing country but can’t supply refined petroleum products for its people; it imports them.
• Provide railway transportation? Our railway system has collapsed and we are asking the Chinese to fix it.
• Provide basic security for the people? Rather, the security forces brutalize and turn their guns on the people.
• Resolve conflicts? We are always appealing to the United Nations or the international community.

There are just three things most of leaders know how to do very well: Loot the treasury, perpetuate themselves in office and squash all dissent or opposition. The late Col Muammar Khaddafi amassed a family fortune exceeding $60 billion; Hosni Mubarak, $42 billion; Ben Ali of Tunisia, $13 billion; Mobutu Sese Seko, $10 billion; Ibrahim Babangida, $9 billion; Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, $7 billion; Sani Abacha, $5 billion, etc. etc. Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Theodore Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, Paul Biya of Cameroon and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe have each been in power for more than 30 years. As for Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, he says he will rule for one billion years. In Ethiopia, any journalist who criticized the late Meles Zenawi was branded a “terrorist” and tossed into jail. There are no private journalists left in Eritrea; they have all fled brutal repression. Each year, Mo Ibrahim awards a $5 million prize to any African leader who steps down from power after his term expires or loses an election. This year – and for the third time since the inception of the prize – he could not find an eligible recipient. The leadership in much of Africa is a disgrace – a far cry from the traditional leadership Africa has known for centuries under our chiefs and kings.

I am not a card-carrying member of any political party – either in Ghana or the US – and I care less who is the winner of the December elections. I am not interested in the presidency of any African country. If we are doing something, we must do it well; it is a duty we owe to the country, our children and future generations. Our primary concern should be the integrity of the electoral process, rule of law and Ghana’s reputation as a beacon of democracy. That is what all Ghanaians must defend and protect.

Holding elections should not be that complicated. There are 5 stages of the electoral process:

1. Registering and compiling a list of eligible voters (voter’s registry), identifying polling stations and setting a date for elections.
2. Transporting ballots, ballot boxes and other materials to the polling stations and allowing people to vote freely without any hindrance or intimidation.
3. Counting the votes in a transparent manner with representatives of all political parties present. There is a “collation sheet” at each polling station which they must sign to verify that the counting was accurate.
4. Resolving any discrepancies in the numbers and any other disputes to the satisfaction of all parties.
5. Announcing the results.

Problems can occur at each of these stages:

1. Ineligible voters may be registered – for example, minors or citizens of neighboring countries; some eligible voters – say supporters of a particular party – purged from the voter rolls. Or the register may be inflated with fictitious or ghost names.
2. On election day, ballot materials may not arrive on time; ballot boxes may arrive already stuffed; voters may be prevented from casting their ballots through intimidation, beatings by hired thugs; indelible ink can easily be washed off, allowing some people to vote multiple times, though this is not possible with the current biometric system but the machines can break down, etc.
3. In vote counting, the media and election observers – both foreign and domestic – may be debarred from polling stations to witness the actual voting. Not all ballots may be properly marked and must be rejected. There may be a sudden black-out, forcing votes to be counted in the dark or by candles, flashlight and lanterns. A fake tally sheet may be substituted for the real one and polling agents may be bribed to sign off on it. Polling agents of some parties may not even be there.
4. Resolving inconsistencies, discrepancies and disputes. This stage may be skipped altogether. The Electoral Commissioner may act arbitrarily, refuse to engage or consult with reps of the political parties, and rush to announce the results. Or he may engage them but intimidate, bludgeon or railroad them into accepting his final results.
5. The last stage is announcing the results. Obviously, the final results must be certified by all parties BEFORE they are announced. This is to ensure that all issues – inconsistencies, discrepancies, etc. – have been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties before the results are announced. What if voting in some polling station is not complete or votes are still being counted, or some ballot boxes are missing?

Certainly, there were problems during Ghana’s elections: Allegations that the voters’ register had been padded with over 5 million ghost names; ballot papers did not arrive on time, forcing the extension of voting to the next day, instances of voter intimidation, etc. The following incidents were reported on Twitter: #ghanaelections:

• Ayigya EC polling officer arrested for not stamping over 200 ballots cast!
• Snatching of #BallotBoxes here and there… Manhyia, Kentinkrono, Ablekuma,
• Chaos at Ablekuma North constituency. Voting has been halted.
• Voting in Mbrom polling centre to be deferred
• The DCE of Walewale has reportedly been arrested for allegedly snatching a ballot box but was later released.
• Unconfirmed report says there are still no materials at the Dome Kwabenya constituency
• The citizens of Nkwanta South in the Volta Region say they are not voting for lack of dev. in the area.
• Reports that an NDC supporter has just been beaten to death in the Ashanti region?
• A tear gas shot at the Ablekuma North Constituency to deter people from creating confusion
• Just heard of a guy who got lynched while running with a ballot box at Ayeduase, Kumasi.
• Verification machine not recognizing the thumb of Dr Wireko Brobbey

Considering the fact that there were over 26,000 polling stations, these incidents were minor. The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), for example, reported incidents of intimidation and harassment at only 13 polling stations – less than 0.01 percent. http://bit.ly/STqAqe. Media access was also generally free. Here are the views of Rebecca, a first time voter on video http://bit.ly/TYtHMo

Stages 1, 2, and 3 appeared to have gone smoothly, earning the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, high praise from all quarters – from ECOWAS, AU, both foreign and domestic observers. However, it appears stages 4 and 5 were seriously compromised. I warned about this, referencing Josef Stalin, who once quipped: “It is not those who vote that count (matter) but rather those who count the votes.” Voting can occur smoothly – free and fair without intimidation or violence, as was observed on Dec 7 and 8. But that is not the full story. Counting of the votes and tabulation of the results can be falsified or doctored. But such errors can be easily detected and rectified.

The Constitution provides a mechanism for remedial action. Chapter 7, Section 49 states:
(1) At any public election or referendum, voting shall be by secret ballot.
(2) Immediately after the close of the poll, the presiding officer shall, in the presence of such of the candidates or their representatives and their polling agents as are present, proceed to count, at that polling station, the ballot papers of that station and record the votes cast in favor of each candidate or question.
((3) The presiding officer, the candidates or their representatives and, in the case of a referendum, the parties contesting or their agents and the polling agents if any, shall then sign a declaration stating:
(a) the polling station; and
(b) the number of votes cast in favor of each candidate or question: and the presiding officer shall, there and then, announce the result of the voting at the polling station before communicating them to the returning officer.
http://www.judicial.gov.gh/constitution/chapter/chap_7.htm

Now, if there is a dispute over the results all that needs to be done is to cross-check EC’s numbers with those on the “collation sheets” signed by the representatives of the political parties at each polling station and then correct any discrepancies between them. That was all that needed to be done. But was this done? If not then do it. That is what transparency is all about. If a dispute still remains, the Constitution provides a mechanism for resolving it. Chapter 8, Section 64 states clearly that:
(1) The validity of the election of the President may be challenged only by a citizen of Ghana who may present a petition for the purpose to the Supreme Court within twenty-one days after the declaration of the result of the election in respect of which the petition is presented.
(2) A declaration by the Supreme Court that the election of the President is not valid shall be without prejudice to anything done by the President before the declaration.
(3) The Rules of Court Committee shall, by constitutional instrument, make rules of court for the practice and procedure for petitions to the Supreme Court challenging the election of a President. http://www.judicial.gov.gh/constitution/chapter/chap_8.htm

Now, if Nana Akuffo-Addo or any other Ghanaian believes the election was “stolen,” he or she has the right to petition the Supreme Court within 21 days after the declaration of the results and let the Court rule on it. This is known as following procedures and obeying the Constitution – or, in short, enforcing the rule of law. The streets or the airwaves are not the place to resolve constitutional issues. The president of Ghana is required to uphold and defend the Constitution. If any citizen of Ghana seeks to challenge the validity of December’s election by petitioning the Supreme Court, the president of Ghana is required to support that person because the Constitution guarantees that person the right to do so. Even in our supposedly “backward and primitive” traditional system, a goat with a grievance is given a full public hearing.

This is not an issue to be cast in “NDC versus NPP” terms and polarize the country. Only 50.7 percent voted for the president, John Mahama, meaning nearly half did not vote for him and not all of them are NPP supporters. If any of those who did not vote for him has a grievance, he has a guaranteed Constitutional right to petition the Supreme Court. Why even argue over this?

Even more important, once the issue is brought before the Supreme Court, it should be allowed to deliberate on it and reach a decision without any intimidation or political interference. Nana Akuffo-Addo, the main opposition leader, will present his petition to the Supreme Court on Friday, Dec 14. Until the Supreme Court makes a final decision, all other things relating to the elections, transition inauguration activities, etc. must be placed on hold — no celebrations or street demonstrations to protest results. Any such activity before the Court rules must be deemed to be in contempt of the Supreme Court. Democratic maturity mandates following the Constitution and allowing the Supreme Court to make its determination.

These issues, it must be emphasized, are not without precedence and not unique to Ghana or Africa alone. Even in the US November elections, there were allegations of vote fraud http://bit.ly/V5b7Sz and vote suppression http://bit.ly/SJALx7 And Mitt Romney, like all losing candidates who find some excuse to blame for their losses, blamed his loss on Obama buying votes by giving “gifts” to certain block of constituencies. One may also recall the dispute over the election results in Florida in the Bush versus Gore 2000 elections that made famous the term “hanging chads,” The US Supreme Court eventually settled that dispute http://bit.ly/125tGg9.

We may choose to resolve our electoral disputes as laid down in the Constitution or in the streets with cutlasses and bazookas. The choice is ours to make but we should remember this: The destruction of an African country always always begins with a dispute over the electoral process and transfer of power: Algeria (1991), Burundi (1993), Nigeria (1993), Rwanda (1994), Zaire (1996) and more recent examples include Kenya (2007), Zimbabwe (2008), Ivory Coast (2011), Libya (2011), among others.

So let us continue to repeat the same stupid mistakes again and again.
_____________________________________

The author is a native of Ghana. He is the president of Free Africa Foundation in Washington, DC and author of Defeating Dictators, Palgrave/MacMillan, 2011.
Follow on twitter @ayittey

A LETTER TO MY UNBORN CHILD by Jude @egbas December 7, 2012

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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1 comment so far

EL-RUFAI ON FRIDAY
Introducing Jude Egbas – Letter to my Unborn Child
Jude Egbas is one of those young Nigerians who is very passionate about galvanizing the minds of other young Nigerians to action through his timely, satirical and witty articles.

One of his most memorable pieces ‘Everybody Loves Abati’, comically captures Reuben Abati playing ‘protector’ to President Jonathan, and how he gradually losses relevance after a more vicious ‘watch dog’ is hired.

Trained as a Brand and Communications Expert, Egbas work has enjoyed great appeal in the online media. He was a regular contributor for Sahara Reporters for about 3 years, and is currently the managing Editor of ekekee.com: one of Nigeria’s fastest growing blogs tailored towards giving younger people a platform to air their views on subjects relevant to the growth of Nigeria.

This week, he tells the story of a father who sends a letter to his unborn child. Urging the child not to make the same judgment errors his parent’s generation made, he completes the letter by prompting the child to grow up quickly because Nigeria needs him. This perhaps is a call for all Nigerian youths.

It is with pleasure that I introduce another young person Mr. Jude Egbas, following in the footsteps of Yemi Adamolekun, Auwal S. Anwar, Elnathan John, Japheth Omojuwa, Zainab Usman, and Ogunyemi Bukola – all youths that give me hope that future generations will not make the mistakes of predecessor generations.
-Nasir El-Rufai
A Letter To My Unborn Child – By: Jude Egbas
NOTE: To be read to Donnell by his Mum; a few hours after he has arrived Nigeria and shortly before bedtime; to the accompaniment of Tupac Shakur’s song of a similar title…..

Dear Donnell,
Welcome to your cot. It was the best we could find around, and welcome to Nigeria—we are the Giant of Africa! You are probably wondering at this point why mum is reading this letter to you with the aid of a candle in a dimly lit room….
I can explain: it is raining out there and I am unable to fetch us the night’s gasoline because of what the weather man called ‘inclement weather’. Coming from Heaven where it is all bright lights; and where angels serenade you before bedtime and shortly before you wake up, in those cadence laden celestial voices, you could be forgiven for wondering if you have arrived the wrong country.
No, you haven’t. At about the same time you found your way to our home, your peers landed in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Liberia. So, it could have been worse, you see. You may want to replace those clasped fists and furrowed brow with a glint in your eyes at this point. Thank You, baby!
Several years ago when I arrived Nigeria in the ‘80s, I did also feel like I had ended up in the wrong country. But over the years, I have had to quit expecting my country to change overnight. I had since discarded the garb of self-pity. That, my little boy, should be the spirit you carry with you as you learn the ropes in life.
So, once the rain simmers , I would scurry to the petrol station and fetch us a week’s worth of gasoline. I say ‘a week’, because we will ration the petrol to the very last drop. Yes, you heard that right! (my apologies for raising my voice there). The Generator will come on at 7pm every night and go off at 2am– once we are certain that the mosquitoes have fled to other victims in the neighborhood and the heat levels have become bearable.
And we are doing this just for you; with all the love in our hearts. Before you found your way into our home, I was in the annoying habit of pleading with Mum on most nights to switch off the Generator shortly after the curtains had been drawn on her favourite late evening soap—‘Tinsel’ and the BBA daily highlights.
And ‘No’, we are not mean. On the contrary, we mean well for you. I have acquired an inverter which should store power for your delight during the day until we return from our places of work to get the Generator rolling at 7pm. And during weekends, because Daddy loves Football (and Mum is beginning to love football too, although she supports a rival team—Chelsea), the Generator comes on earlier—at 2pm, and keeps buzzing till 2am.
As you grow older, we may tweak the rules a bit. The Generator may come on at 4pm on weekdays, just so you can catch the latest on ‘Cartoon Network’ or ‘Disney’. But no more!
While you are at school, please do not let your teachers regale you and your friends with lines like: “You are the Leaders of tomorrow”. Abhor being so tagged with every fiber in your mortal bodies! Your future begins today. Several years ago, I and my generation were also labeled the “Leaders of tomorrow”. See where that has brought us!
That appellation remains, in my view, a curse. Those who called us “The Leaders of tomorrow” are still holding onto leadership positions with the last drops of their blood, as our own future erodes before our eyes.
Actually, my Generation preferred to play football on the streets or dirt pitches on polling days while politicians stuffed fake ballot papers into ballot boxes. On election days, we also slouched on the sofas in our living rooms, watching the latest Movies or catching Live Football action, while our futures were collectively compromised and seized by those who referred to us as the “Leaders of tomorrow”.
We were blessed with some of the most enthralling communication gadgets you could find in the shops at the time—Iphones, Blackberrys, Ipads and a host of other handheld wonders, but we never fully utilized the powers innate in these gadgets to make society a better place. One of our greatest undoing.
Some members of our generation also aided the political class in snatching ballot boxes into the bushes, ‘commando-style’, and inflating election figures in favour of a certain political party big wig, subject to a miserly fee. It was an error of Judgment that cost my generation dearly—it was an error of Judgment that has ensured that all public utilities have gone comatose and infrastructural improvements exist only in the realms of our imaginations. It was a grave error of judgment that still rankles to this day.
So, gird your loins and get politically active pretty quickly. And talking about loins, Mum hates sagging trousers, and so do I. And not just because we think there is a reason why God avails everyone of some buttocks (to keep their pair of trousers in place), we also consider it indecent to allow everyone glean the colour of your briefs from a mile. If you are interested in taking back your country, you have to look and act the part from the first day. ‘Responsibility’ should be your watchword.
Avoid candidates who appear during electioneering campaigns, wearing their ‘shoeless status’, like a badge of honour. Reject acronyms like NEEDS, SEEDS and UBE. Every politician who arrives your door-step with a sack load of these acronyms and buzzwords like ‘Fresh Air’ and ‘Transformation’ and without shoes to boot; was never prepared for office in the first place. Visionary leaders do not bore the electorate with a pot-pourri of mantra and buzzwords and do not eat Cassava bread either, trust me.
You are allowed occasional visits to the Cinema and the Malls during your pre-teen and teen years , but please, reeling out the names of every movie and their creepy story lines was not why God brought you to Nigeria. Watch and listen to the News, engage your peers in civic discourses and seek out creative ways to make your country a better place.
Like I wrote earlier, you haven’t arrived the wrong country. Not yet. But if you dwell on the mistakes your Mum’s generation and I indulged in, the ‘wrong country’ may well be your lot. Your chants of ‘Aluta’ should not end within the precincts of the University. You should be able to bring those slogans and deeds from the Campus to bear on the political landscape.
And as much as I recommend that you watch Football (because it is the beautiful game and Daddy loves football), remember that life is worth more than the round leather game. Draw life and managerial lessons from every game you watch. It is a ready excuse I flaunt around when quizzed on why I am such a Footie addict.
Now, Goodnight Donnell, and do have a sound sleep. And, while I pray you sleep like a baby, I urge that you grow up quickly enough because your Nation needs you—and fast!
Yours Sincerely,
Big Daddy.

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