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IN SEARCH OF LEADERSHIP (2): RESTORING HOPE BY AVOIDING BREAKDOWN by Nasir @elrufai January 25, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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In Search of Leadership (2):
Restoring Hope by Avoiding Breakdown
By: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

In the light of the historic challenges that have been become part of our polity, is it easy to restore hope once lost? Certainly not, but transformational leadership for Nigeria can begin the long process. From my modest experience spanning a decade in public service, I am convinced that almost any human being can excel when a visionary, disciplined and goal oriented leader is visible to set examples – a transformational leader. Conversely, almost anyone – however competent or well-meaning can be a failure under an unfocused, corrupt and immoral leader – a transactional leader. It really all boils down mostly to quality of leadership. As the common proverb says, ‘fish starts to get rotten from the head’.

Another issue is the fact that human beings are by nature strategic, and thermometers, will adjust their behaviour to conform to the leaderships and their environment. So, to change their behaviour we have to change the quality and style of our nation’s leadership, and put in place a clear regime of rewards (for merit and good conduct) and sanctions (for poor performance and misconduct). There is simply no other way to develop a well-ordered, rules-driven and progressive society. The symptoms of Nigeria’s problems are many but the cure would begin with just one thing – good leadership by example.

Coming back to the present, what we all need to do is to study history and learn from our past. We would see that at the point where Nigeria begins to make progress at good governance, human progress and social justice based on hard work, patience and sacrifice, suddenly, from nowhere, there comes a false messiah to offer the people relief and immediate gratification (like ‘fresh air’) which then stifles national growth. Since those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, our task is to learn from the mistakes of 2007-2012, and avoid being deceived by transactional leaders who will only end up making Nigeria poorer even where we have the natural and human resources to attain a reasonable standard of living for all – not just a declining minority of our people.

Such false messiahs are easy to identify – usually they have had no proper education, no profession, no national exposure beyond their narrow provincial circle and no track record of performance in public service. They have also never run businesses employing people, neither have they any known source of income to justify their clear opulence and high standards of living other than being in low-paying public service jobs! These are the sort of “leaders” we must never have in the future.

We need a paradigm shift in leadership identification, nurturing and selection – something new and something different. We need to throw up political platforms and candidates with the knowledge, skills and proven record of performance and integrity in public service to transform our nation. It is my humble view that we should scrutinize all those that offer themselves for leadership bearing in mind at least the following parameters:

1. Education, Experience and Pedigree are Necessary but not Sufficient
Though our first two university graduate presidents disappointed all except their villages, family and close friends, we must not write off educational attainment as a necessary indicator of leadership effectiveness. Experience that is relevance to governance – in managing resources, administering large, complex organizations, and mobilizing our nation’s diversity into inclusive strength matters. The schools a prospective leader attended, the alumni network he can tap on demand, his elders, family and friends that can look him in the eye and say “do not let us down because you represent us” all contribute to the pressure needed to make a leader perform with integrity.

2. Team Players not Lone Rangers
The burden of governance in a diverse, ‘post-conflict’ nation like Nigeria requires more than one good person, however intelligent, competent and well-meaning. A strong, competent and cohesive team, not a single “strongman” is needed to transform a nation not in one or two election cycles but several. Only a team with clear succession planning can implement a long term vision that transforms nations. It takes a generation to move any country from Third World to First like Japan (LDP, 50 years), Malaysia (Mahathir and UMNO – 25 years) Singapore (Lee Kwan Yew, 33 years), Botswana (BPP, 35 years) and China (Deng Xiao Ping, CCP, 35 years and counting), and only a dedicated team sharing a common vision across parties and platforms can do it.

3. Bold, Courageous Leaders with Clear Vision
Transformational leaders are bold and courageous. They envision and see what appears impossible to others, and persuade the followers that it is not only possible but attainable, outlining practical steps to realize the vision. Imagine meeting the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum 30 years ago and listening to his vision for converting his desert city wasteland to modern day Dubai. You would probably laugh and tag him unrealistic at best, or insane at worst – but Al-Maktoum persuaded his cabinet and citizens to believe and achieve this vision in less than a generation. That is the power of visionary leadership – bold, courageous but realistic and realizable.

4. Democrats in Words, Actions and Practice
It is one thing for aspiring leaders to talk repeatedly about democracy, but another to practice it. We should scrutinize our leaders’ words, actions and practices to ensure that there are no disconnects between all three. People driven by the politics of personal interest and primitive accumulation do not believe in democracy nor are they capable of practicing it in governance. They neither believe in social justice and equal opportunity for citizens. By nature, they are capricious and seek to exercise power singularly for private accumulation, not for general welfare, service and public good. They therefore have no regard for people capable of independent thought, merit and performance, so they inadvertently put blind loyalty above the Constitution.

5. Public Service Skills and Performance
Public service experience particularly at Federal level is essential for effective future public leadership at that level. Similarly, any person aspiring to leadership at state or local government level ought to show some understanding of, experience in and exposure to that level of governance. Private sector success helps but is not a conclusive indicator of future public sector performance. In any case, there is a huge difference between the skill sets required for politics and governance because often persons that get a government elected are not the best persons to help it govern.

6. Strong, Dedicated Advisers and Inner Circle
There is a Nigerian proverb which translated is “there is no wicked ruler without wicked advisers”. Effective leaders usually have a team of advisers that are brighter, more experienced and exposed than they are. Self-confident leaders identify their personal skills and experience gap and choose staff to furnish what is missing. A leader, however brilliant, who is surrounded by an inner circle of insecure, incompetent and mediocre people, often comes to grief. A leader, whose family is unable to keep away from affairs of state, and thereby fail to keep him grounded to the realities of leadership, often goes astray.

7. Bridging Regional and Religious Divides
Nigeria’s diversity, history and recent experiences require leaders that build bridges across our genders, ethnic groups, regions and religions. No one should be elected to national leadership unless by expressions, actions and practices that have shown this capacity not to discriminate, but to unite, integrate and include every Nigerian of whatever background in his inner circle, comfortably. Careful scrutiny of the track record of any prospective leader in his or her past public and private life would show how diversely they recruited their staff, picked advisers and made decisions on siting of projects and programs. This principle can be applied to aspirants even seeking office at state and local government levels in a careful and discerning manner.

8. Recognition for the Imbalance in our Federalism
Nigeria’s federal structure exists only in the official name of our nation. Years of administrative centralization by the military has created distortions and imbalances in our federalism. This needs to be recognized by our prospective leaders. We must raise this debate on federal imbalance to put on hold the senseless quest for the creation of more states, demand the legislation of State and Federal crimes and cause the amendment of our Constitution to enable States and Local Governments establish community-level security agencies to address our disparate internal security needs. We must encourage inter-state competition by devolving more powers and responsibilities to lower tiers of government and reducing the scope and scale of Federal encroachment into the daily lives of our citizens.

The leadership parameters listed above are derived from limited experience and detached observation and therefore neither exhaustive nor silver bullets. As in everything in human affairs, there will be exceptional persons that may not meet all the requirements listed and still turn out to be effective. However, assuming that will be relying on chance – those ‘divine interventions’ that we pray and wait for instead of taking our destiny in our hands. I am a firm believer of the saying that “fate is what God gives you, and destiny is what you do with it.”

It is time for Nigerians to stop passing the buck to God, or waste energy on the needless blaming of everyone other than ourselves or those we like. By failing to stand up to resist bad rulers, we abdicated our destinies to the shameless criminals that permeate our political space and the public service. Our fate is the endowment that God gave us. It cannot be our destiny to continue to have bad leaders by selection or election. It is time to say ‘enough is enough’ and choose right.

As the world moves firmly into the 21st Century, we must firmly reject those that want Nigeria to remain in the dark ages – and move forward to restore dignity and hope in our younger generation. They must see a country that can work in their lifetimes – where electricity is stable, crimes are solved and criminals brought to justice – a Nigeria where capability and hard work are the primary tools for success in life.

Failing to do that within the next decade will lead to the breakdown of our society if not the total failure of the Nigerian state. We will not be able to handle the influx of 5 million hopeless and angry 18 year olds added every year during the ensuing period to our army of the under-educated and under-employed. In this avoidable scenario, none of our great grand-children may have the opportunity of seeing Nigeria celebrating its century of Independence. That will be a sad indictment on us all, particularly those born just before or around the end of colonization.

IN SEARCH OF LEADERSHIP (1) — ROOTS OF HISTORIC CRISIS by Nasir @elrufai January 18, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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In 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan’s New Year gift to Nigerians was a massive hike in the prices of petroleum products which ultimately translated into a tax of about N4,000 paid during the year by every man, woman and child in our country. The Kolade SURE-P bureaucracy alone consumed nearly over a billion naira of that surreptitious tax on offices, staff, travel and stationery.

In 2013, President Jonathan’s gift was to pollute the highways of Abuja with posters announcing that there would be no vacancy in the Aso Villa in 2015. In other words, the campaign to sustain the unprecedented insecurity, massive corruption, shameless fraud and social divisions that have become the official policies and outcomes of the Jonathan presidency has started – with all of us as spectators.

We all know the modus operandi of the sponsors of those “no vacancy” posters. They intend to take for Jonathan, the PDP nomination by any means necessary, ignore our votes and write the results of the general elections, declare themselves winners by significant margins, and attempt to compromise the Judiciary to uphold the electoral fraud – as they assume we will all sit back and let them. We must not, because if we do, our nation will continue to slide towards piecemeal societal breakdown or total state failure that will end up consuming every one of us.

As the campaign for the Nigerian presidency has started in earnest, it is vital that we give some thought to the issues of leadership, selection process, and credible elections and learn from the mistakes of the past. Over the next two weeks, this column will analyse and summarize the how we lost our way as far from good governance as possible. We will examine the extent of this institutional destruction and how it occurred, amidst the claims of good intention in some cases and complete malevolence in some. The purpose of this is not to apportion blame but to learn from past errors and move our nation forward. We hope to conclude with some thoughts about the issues to look out for in the emerging leaders for Nigeria (and Africa) in the twenty-first century.

We all know that societies make progress when visionary leaders emerge to organize and direct collective actions for peaceful coexistence, with sensible rules, clear incentives and sanctions that enable individuals realize their full potentials. The Nigerian nation first elected its leaders at both national and regional levels in 1960. Around that period, Malaysia, Singapore Botswana and Indonesia had their first set of elected post-colonial leaders going into offices as well. The Japanese had elected the first LDP government five years earlier in the aftermath of the American Occupation. Forty years later, these five nations in Asia and Africa have enjoyed democratic continuity, protection of freedoms and basic rights, rapid economic development and improvement in the quality of life for its citizens. Nigeria has not. What went wrong?

A little over five years into Nigeria’s Independence and First Republic, a group of young, misguided and naive military officers wiped out nearly all of the nation’s political leadership. The bulk of those murdered on January 15, 1966 were leaders from regions and ethnic groups other than those where the coup plotters hailed from. This coincidence or design of the actions of what I call the Class of 1966 led to mass killings, counter-coups and civil war laid the foundations for Nigeria’s unfortunate political, economic and social trajectory for the ensuing forty plus years. And Nigeria’s story is typical of most of Africa such that by 2004, five years into our nation’s fourth republic, the leading African politics professor at the Harvard Kennedy School published a scathing summary of the leadership failure in Africa in an article published in “Foreign Affairs” :
“Africa has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership: predatory kleptocrats, military-installed autocrats, economic illiterates, and puffed-up posturers. By far the most egregious examples come from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe — countries that have been run into the ground despite their abundant natural resources. But these cases are by no means unrepresentative: by some measures, 90 per cent of sub-Saharan African nations have experienced despotic rule in the last three decades.

In what is an accurate description of these despotic and progressively appalling ‘leaders’ that foisted themselves on Africa usually through military coups or rigged elections, Rothberg continued:
“Such leaders use power as an end in itself, rather than for the public good; they are indifferent to the progress of their citizens (although anxious to receive their adulation); they are un-swayed by reason and employ poisonous social or racial ideologies; and they are hypocrites, always shifting blame for their countries’ distress.”

Rotberg went further describing the consequences of this continent-wide failure of leadership as these leaders replaced the colonialists without doing more – but did everything to destroy the bases for economic growth, social equity and fairness in the nations they ruled and ruined:
“Under the stewardship of these leaders, infrastructure in many African countries has fallen into disrepair, currencies have depreciated, and real prices have inflated dramatically, while job availability, health care, education standards, and life expectancy have declined. Ordinary life has become beleaguered: general security has deteriorated, crime and corruption have increased, much-needed public funds have flowed into hidden bank accounts, and officially sanctioned ethnic discrimination — sometimes resulting in civil war — has become prevalent”

Long before Rotberg, and nearly 30 years ago, Chinua Achebe observed in his book “The Trouble with Nigeria”, that the problem of our nation was fully and squarely the failure of leadership. This remains true today in Nigeria and indeed as Rotberg summarized so succinctly in most of Africa. As observed earlier, leadership is important in any social grouping, but far more central in Africa to the overall success and wealth of nations than anywhere else in the world because we happen to have weak institutions in the continent.

Thanks to malaria, the British never intended to remain in Nigeria for long, investing only in the minimal but necessary institutions and infrastructure to extract, transport and export natural resources to Europe. Contrast our situation with the Caribbean nations, Namibia, South Africa and Kenya for instance, where the more friendly weather and lower malaria intensity persuaded the British colonialists to plan for long-term settlement, and Nigeria’s colonial legacy is more clearly comprehensible.

At independence, our “Founding Fathers” inherited sound but relatively weak institutions, confusing property rights and minimal infrastructure. The new rulers merely supplanted the colonialists and adopted in totality the defective governance structures suited to colonial exploitation, and nothing more. A simple example was (and still remains) the total absence of a mortgage system – which the colonial administrators did not need as they have their mortgages set up in Britain!

None of our founding fathers thought it fit to think of designing and entrenching one with the attendant need to clarify and codify formal property rights! Needless to add that the easiest way of creating a virile middle class is through widespread home ownership, and until we created a pilot mortgage system in the FCT in 2005-2007 to enable public servants and the general public to purchase over 30,000 houses in Abuja, no one bothered to try. Sadly, our successors failed to convert the inchoate pilot into a complete national program of home ownership financing, as envisaged.

In the 1960s and the 1970s, our best and brightest university graduates joined the public service. The honest and those with educational, integrity and leadership pedigree and skills went into politics. Public servants were well paid and assured of their security of tenure. Politics attracted those willing to serve. Political parties were funded by membership contributions. Elections were relatively clean and largely reflected the will of the voters. The coup of 1966 ended these positive trends that would have truly built a democratic, merit-driven federation in the long run.

The murder of political leaders in 1966 without trying them and finding them guilty of any offence, and affording the assassins immunity and protection from court martial by the indecision of the Ironsi administration ensured that coups would remain a recurring decimal in our polity. The coups of 1966 made political assassination a crime without sanctions in Nigeria. It also made politics the vocation of the bold power seeker rather than the honest public servant. The purges of 1975 however well-intentioned were executed in a way that destroyed security of tenure in the public service, and made the best and brightest look for other options to live well, and safely. Illegitimacy and poor economic management gave rise to the endless appeasement of citizens and public servants using salary reviews (Adebo and Udoji by the Gowon Administration alone) and incessant creation of non-viable states which destroyed the basis of our federalism.

Public services and infrastructure provisioning were politicized and thousands hired without regard to quality and standards – and Nigeria became a real rentier state in which those connected to military regimes became rich overnight without any abilities, hard work, innovation or rational basis. Our traditional rulers which supplemented the weak formal governance structures were converted into the tools of the military by compromising them through intimidation and systematic corruption. Independent voices – from civil society, the media and conscientious people like Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory – were similarly targeted for purchase and conversion, and failing that repeatedly imprisoned.

Our human capital infrastructure – schools and hospitals suffered irreparable damage under the years of misrule. Systematic under-funding, capricious appointments, poor pay and frequent killing of university students led to the collapse of our tertiary educational and health institutions. The leadership had no clear interest in developing the Nigerian state. Their wealth is in Switzerland, France, Germany, Lebanon and Dubai. Back in the 1980s, they began the practice of sending their children abroad for education and healthcare and therefore had no interest in the deteriorating quality of our schools and hospitals. Their holidays are spent in Europe, America and Asia, so felt no need to develop our urban areas or our immense tourism potentials.

These ‘prestigious’ practices of depending on foreign schools and clinics then assumed the status of national culture of the successful so virtually every middle class family now strives to copy these ‘standard operating procedures’ of the ruling elite. On the positive side, the ruling elite kept our nation united after the first Class of 1966 had plunged us into a needless civil war. The Murtala-Obasanjo administration gave us a presidential constitution, a local government system, the Land Use Act and the new federal capital of Abuja. The Buhari-Idiagbon regime rekindled our notions of patriotism and discipline, and showed the will to try the ruling elite for corruption without fear or favour.

However, the sum total of these is a country that is over 52 years old but not yet a nation. We have a generation of Nigerians who have never known when the Nigerian state functioned, and served the people. We have young people – about 5 million achieve the voting age of 18 every year – that think they can only pass exams through cheating, paying or sleeping with their teachers. And even if they are qualified and passed the job interview, they can only get a job when they have a godfather to intervene. Merit, performance or hard work as ingredients of success, are totally unknown to this generation. The ruling elite have given birth not to Generation Next but one of “Anything Goes” – a generation without hope, with bewildered parents unable to understand them and give them succour. And only a courageous, focused and inspiring leadership can change them and give back hope to the nation.

Many of us that are older than 40 years of age are part of this chequered history, and therefore must take full or partial responsibility for the current state of affairs either by our acts of commission or omission. As Edmund Burke observed, all that is required for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. Many of us have done nothing thereby encouraging the growth of evil in our land. We have a choice of ending this by standing up to the ruling party and what it represents or accelerating towards complete breakdown of order in our nation and respective communities. How do we restore hope in our younger generation, our nation and democracy? We will attempt an answer next Friday.

PENSION REFORMS: TO BE OR NOT TO BE? By Nasir @elrufai January 11, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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A few years ago, it was common sight to see aged pensioners struggling – and often dying – in the process of obtaining what was rightfully theirs: their pensions. Due to the chaotic and punitive conditions suffered by these senior citizens who more often than not travelled great distances to Abuja to receive their dues, many simply gave up the ghost – some literally died while standing in queues.

Those that persevered were subjected to sleeping on the streets under harsh weather conditions and begging passersby for what to eat. To reward our parents and grandparents who had devoted their lives to serving Nigeria in such cavalier manner speaks volumes about our essence as individuals and collective humanity as a people.

Any discourse about the issue of pension reforms in Nigeria must begin with critical questions: What systems were in place for pension administration and how effective where they? What happened to the funds that were expected to be set aside for these pensioners over the years? Was there not a less cumbersome means of pension funds administration? What are the gains and losses of a decade of pension reforms, and what more do we need to do as a country to widen and deepen the social security system?

Pension, which is essentially setting aside monies for use in old age when one can no longer work and earn much income, was first started in the 1880s in present day Germany when Otto von Bismarck introduced social insurance programs that became the model for other countries and the basis of the modern welfare state. Bismarck introduced old age pensions, accident insurance, medical care and unemployment insurance. Bismarck appreciated that society has a responsibility to put in place a safety net for the old, the vulnerable and disadvantaged. Decades later, John F. Kennedy concurred with Bismarck’s vision when he observed that “if a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

The first attempt at pension legislation in Nigeria was enacting the Pension Ordinance of 1951 which allowed the Governor-General to grant pensions and gratuities applicable to public sector employees, in accordance with the regulations, which were reviewed from time to time with the approval of the Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs in the UK government.

In 1961, the National Provident Fund (NPF) now the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) was established by an Act of Parliament. It was established in line with the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention 102 of 1952 and sought to cater to employees in the private sector of the Nigerian economy.

Subsequently there were; the existing civil service pension scheme covered by the Basic Pension Decree 102 of 1979, the Local Government Pension Scheme which was established in 1977 and the Armed Forces Pension Scheme created through Decree 103 of 1979 by the Murtala-Obasanjo administration. There was also the Pensions Rights of Judges Decree No.5 of 1985 as amended by Decrees Nos. 51 of 1988,29 and 62 of 1991. The Police and other Agencies Pension Scheme Decree No. 75 of 1993 which took retroactive effect from 1990 represented another landmark development in the history of the Nigerian pension system and sought to cover the largest public sector organization in Nigeria – the Police with its nearly 400,000 officers and men.

There was one fundamental flaw with all these schemes – they mandated in the laws pension entitlements, called “defined benefits’ in pension’s parlance, without setting aside any cash to pay for the future liabilities. The assumption of successive governments in Nigeria (and indeed in many countries) is that there will always be tax (and oil) revenues to pay for future pension entitlements. This held true until the mid-1980s when profligate spending accompanied by collapsing oil prices and resultant debt burdens brought our economy to its knees. Pension payments became erratic and current arrears built up, and unfunded future liabilities escalated.

When the BPE was tasked with the responsibility of privatizing public enterprises in 1999, we realized that the unfunded pension liabilities in NITEL, then estimated at N43 billion and NEPA at N75 billion would make difficult if not impossible to privatize the companies. Who would buy a company with such hidden, future liabilities, in addition to over-staffing, attitudinal and other problems? Drawing on a seminal paper by a Nigerian lawyer Jude Uzonwanne of Levin & Srinivasan LLP, New York, the BPE presented a memorandum to the government in year 2000 warning that unfunded pension liabilities in public enterprises alone amounted to nearly N500 billion, while the rest of the public sector had another N1 trillion of the same.

The Obasanjo administration realized that a ‘defined contribution’ system needed to be put in place to replace the unfunded, defined-benefits “pay-as-you-go” pension scheme prevalent in Nigeria. A steering committee on pension reforms under the chairmanship of Fola Adeola worked at resolving the problem first in public enterprises, then nationally, with many outside stakeholders and select BPE staff. Many people like M K Ahmed, Dr. Musa Ibrahim, Chinelo Anohu and Aisha Umar that ended up being foundation staff of the future Pensions Commission played active in the committee and the aftermath.

The Fola Adeola team did extensive and commendable work and attempted to reform the pension structure in the country due to the gross inefficiency and poor administration of the previously launched schemes, culminating in the enactment of the Pension Reform Act 2004 (PRA 2004). In line with this, National Pension Commission (PenCom) was established to regulate and supervise all pension matters in the country.

Some of the highlights of the PRA 2004 are that the scheme would be contributory and fully funded, mandatory for organizations in the private sector with five staff and above, portable, provide full pension rights in the event of dismissal and the contents of Retirement Savings Account (RSAs) cannot be deducted by employers for any outstanding financial obligations among others.

How the contributory pension scheme works is that the employee contributes 7.5% of their income while the employer provides a minimum of 7.5% of the employee’s income into the RSA of the employee. For a country like Nigeria with huge income disparities and numerous low income earners, the total amount to be accumulated by an employee who worked for about 30 years on the current minimum wage of N18,000 monthly would roughly amount to N972,000.00 – less than a million naira for a lifetime of employment unless the contributions are invested in safe, but high yield investments that would increase faster than the rate of inflation and exchange rate deterioration.

The initiative, while laudable on paper and a major improvement over the old, unfunded system, has still not translated to alleviating the plight and hardship of current pensioners in the country, many of whom are not covered by the scheme. A lot more work has to go into the structure and manner in which pensions are administered in order to achieve the desired aims. It is time to look at the nearly ten years of experience of administering the PRA and enact amendments to improve the operations of the sector, and abolish the transitional arrangements that have led to the theft of billions of Naira under the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

As at 2012, 23.9% of the labor force was unemployed according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This invariably implies that a whopping 76.1% of the labor force is gainfully employed. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the total labor force in the country was 52.5m in 2011. Using 2011 statistics to calculate even though the numbers must have risen giving the teeming population of graduates churned out daily from our institutions of higher learning, the probable number of employees in the country is nothing less than about 39.9m at present.

However, of the total employed population across the country, only a paltry 13.2% (5.28 m) of workers had been registered under the scheme as at September, 2012 since its inception in 2004 according to the immediate past CEO of the commission. The statistics are bleak for the pace of work carried out in the whole of 8 years, and more needs to be done!

In addition to the snail pace at which the scheme is being executed, a major issue with the pension administration in Nigeria is execution at the state level. At the end of 2012, very few state workers were beneficiaries from the scheme; mainly because the states are allowed to enact their own laws and the PRA 2004 is not binding on them. So far, about 21 states have adopted the contributory pension scheme while 14 others have initiated the process of enacting versions of contributory pension schemes in their states. Lagos state is the only state according to Pencom that has fully funded its pension obligation to its workers. Katsina used to be another until recently when arrears have accumulated without any justifiable cause.

Another noteworthy area is private and informal sector participation in the scheme which has been particularly poor. Many reasons come to the fore here. How do you enforce an act when there is no data on the number of private companies or informal businesses contributing to the GDP of the nation? Majority of small businesses evade the scheme because of the cost to them and minimal penalties for evasion. Pencom has barely been able to cover the urban areas much less the rural areas. The implication of this is that the scheme is highly imbalanced; focusing mainly on employees of the Public Sector and urban dwellers while neglecting the private and informal sectors as well as the rural areas.

To worsen matters, the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) set up sometime in 2010 to bring some sanity to the system and ensure that pensioners received their pensions as and when due, rather than perform their tasks, only succeeded in embezzling the funds at their disposal. While claiming to have uncovered misappropriated funds, the committee itself depleted pensioners’ funds worth billions of naira on frivolities and corruption.

Pension funds, the world over, are designed not just to provide respite to employees in their post-retirement years but are meant to boost economies by improving their financial markets, accumulate re-investable savings and contribute to the GDP. Funds accumulated from pension deductions ideally, would be channeled into creating employment opportunities and financing infrastructural projects such as electricity, transportation, housing e.t.c. As at September 2012, the accumulated pension funds had amounted to some N2.94 trillion quite impressively. Whether this will translate to visible infrastructural development in the next few years is an entirely different matter.

It is imperative that the government critically analyzes the pension structure and make amends where necessary so that the scheme does not die a natural death. Pensions could be a very important aspect of the economy if done right with multiplier effects across many sectors. A contributory pension scheme where pensioners die in the course of claiming entitlements is definitely not a step in the right direction. It will certainly hamper on employees’ productivity while still active. One where those at the helms of affairs are embezzling retirees’ hard earned funds, is without doubt a disgrace to the nation as a whole.

The pension schemes adopted must take into cognizance our peculiarities as a nation and those in our economy. It should not be implemented in the typical fashion of other economic policies which are just cut and paste models of those obtainable in the more advanced nations. It should be tailored to the needs of the beneficiaries. The structure, direction and sustainability of the scheme must be clearly articulated so that it does not end up as another haphazardly implemented project. Most importantly, it should achieve its purpose which is securing the future of employees in the most convenient manner.

WATCHING LAGOS, RANTING EFFECTIVELY by @pheesayor January 7, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, EDUCATION, POLITICS.
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It is past festive season and the holidays are over, work has resumed for some and those who travelled are gradually returning back. On social media, the ranting continues, about how government continues to take us for granted. We sit with our phones and PC and come online to complain about the government, some are even tired and have resigned to fate, why???
Around the period of the 2011 polls, I heard a popular Nigerian say on TV that we can monitor elections (with our phone camera) and send information online to ensure credibility, I did the little I could.

The truth is almost everyone has a camera phone, many don’t know the camera is a very useful tool. You see a policeman/traffic warder receiving bribe, instead of coming to twitter to complain you make good use of your phone’s camera and post the pictures online, hereby exposing them. You drive through bad roads and complain about government’s inefficiency, you can a picture and post online just in case the person in charge of fixing that road has said the road is in good condition. Little things like blocked drainages needs to be exposed.

The truth is the Federal Government is getting majority of the attention and they feel it is by paid opposition because state and local governments also get money deliver dividends but they are not always monitored and criticized and this has rendered many of the lazy and corrupt. A particular local government chairman in Lagos went to press to claim he’s fixing all the roads in a particular town, he fixed the outer roads and left the inner roads. If he knew he was being watched he would be on his toes and execute that project effectively. Also the senators and house of representatives members regularly claim to carry out constituency projects which they actually receive money for, if there is any in your area you can let the world know, if there is none you can also let the world know. Let us point our searchlights towards other arms of governments who receive allocations and also generate their own revenue.

WatchingLagos is a platform with which you can expose or praise governance around you, there might be claims that roads around you were fixed whereas just a little portion was patched, take pictures and send to us for exposure or appraisal. Your mobile phone shouldn’t just be for facebook/twitter/browsing/BBM alone, you can take those pictures and send to us at watchinglagos@gmail.com or tweet at us @watchinglagos. Pictures will be posted on the website http://www.watchinglagos.com.
Those in other states can also start something similar, watching their respective states or even LGA. Together we can demand responsible and accountable governance at various levels.

I am @pheesayor

A PROUD BEACONISTA by Fred Adetiba @fredor4c January 5, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, EDUCATION.
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In every family, there’s alwaysa burden bearer, and it’s that person who carries the burden of the entire family. The burden bearer may not necessarily be the first born, but he or she is always concerned about the well being of the individual members, as well as the entire family. One of the qualities of a burden bearer is that he or she puts the family interest above personal interests. As it is in every family, so it is every society.

We have some individuals in different spheres who are burden bearers for this nation. Beacons Development Foundation has become a rallying point for such people in this generation. I call them the BEACONISTAS. The foundation has two inter-related target; one is community service and the other is mentoring. These people have embarked on several community service projects in some deprived communities in the Nigeria, using their own resources as well as supports from well meaning Nigerians through social media. It has also coordinated collection of relief materials for victims of disasters. Some of these projects include the Karmajiji Health and Education Intervention, Ayobo Free Health Care Intervention, Karu Community Sanitation, The Dana Crash, etc.

These guys are indeed burden bearers for our nation. They help keep my hope for a New Nigeria alive. They have proven their worth by remaining steadfast to this cause even in the face of increasing discouragement from our leaders. They have refused to give up but instead have chosen to keep the faith, by working towards a better society for us all.

Aside being a platform to create a synergy for change in the country by way of pulling young people of like minds together, it is also raising and preparing the replacement generation (@bootcampnigeria). It is making huge investment in the younger generation to prepare them for the challenges of leadership in our day and most importantly those they are likely to confront in the nearest future. This is an opportunity we were denied by the current leaders, most of whom have become tired and have refused to retire. Most of them have expressed blatant lack of interest in doing what is right. And some have demonstrated that they lack the capacity to even do the right thing.

Our leaders did not only gluttonously eat their future, they have also eaten ours. All we hear is how most of them went to school free of charge or paid little next to nothing. They also tell us about how there were jobs for the graduates. Some of them even got their jobs while they were still in school, with official cars waiting for them. They only tell us about the ‘good old days’, while they passed on to us the ‘new bad days’.

BEACONISTAS have vowed by their actions not to perpetrate this wickedness against the next generation. We are looking ahead, way beyond our generation to secure others yet unborn. The old generation chose to completely neglect the future by not caring for their youth, even when the older generation did their best to secure their future. They enjoyed the foundational structures that were laid by the Ahmadu Bellos, the Awos and others that laid a moderately good foundation for all of us. Our leaders enjoyed this foundation, and rather than build and improve on it, they bastardised it. Now they loot our common wealth for themselves and immediate family.

We, at Beacons development foundation have chosen a different path. We are committed to ensuring the stability of our country by providing the much needed intervention for the people in our own little way. In the same vein we are committed to securing the future by preparing the replacement generation. I am so very proud to be a part of these exceptional young people, most of whom are not popular in any way on Nigeria’s social scene. They are your struggling regular neighbourhood folks. Join us if you consider yourself a burden bearer, who is prepared to get into the mud to fix our society. I am indeed proud to be a BEACONISTA

 

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@ELRUFAI ON FRIDAY — CRIME: NIGERIA’s ONLY THRIVING INDUSTRY? January 4, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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Introducing Young Voices – Ayobami Oyalowo

Our young voice for this Friday is not that young – Ayo Oyalowo (@Ayourb on Twitter) is in his late 30s, so part of the demographic group that accounts for nearly 80% of our country’s population. Ayo’s experience has been in financial services and today is one of the most vocal and emerging voices on social media particularly on Twitter.

Ayo’s New Year message is about the distortion of our incentive structure in Nigeria which has reached stratospheric levels under the Jonathan administration – the rewarding of laziness, crime and bigotry while punishing hard work, righteousness and social inclusion amongst our people. Our leadership has failed massively in 2012. Ayo and the rest of us hope that they will listen to the voices of the majority and do better in 2013.

It is my singular honour and privilege to present Mr. Ayobami Oyalowo and his contribution to improving our nation, in the footsteps of young patriots like Chinedu Ekeke, Elnathan John, Auwal Sani Anwar, Japhet Omojuwa, Zainab Usman, Jude Egbas and Ogunyemi Bukola. Happy New Year.
– Nasir El-Rufai

Crime: Nigeria’s Only Thriving Industry?
By: Ayobami Oyalowo

The rising wave of crime is disheartening to most Nigerians. On Sunday, November 28, 2012, Nigerians were greeted by a hitherto unimaginable event: the bombing of a church in Jaji (near Kaduna, North-Central Nigeria), one of the “most-secure” military facilities in Nigeria. Hardly had the news sunk in than news of another attack on the office complex of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Abuja greeted the airwaves. Then came the news about a heavy bombardment of banks, a police station and some military facilities in Auchi (Edo State, South-South Nigeria). All these incidents happened within a 24-hour interval, leaving in its wake a huge number of casualties. The reality of today is that life has little value in the Jonathan-ruled Nigeria.

But, how did we get here? Gradually. Because, while the rot did not start with the present government, it is clear to any discerning mind that the highly unfocused posture of this government has given criminals and militants the boldness to take on the state without fear of retribution.

No society is totally crime-free. However, in egalitarian societies, where equality is a norm and justice is guaranteed should there be a breach, crime rates are generally at the barest minimum. In present day Nigeria, though, this is not the case. No thanks to the high unemployment statistics – swelled even more by the huge number of graduates and other school-leavers churned out annually, add to that the large number of underemployed and frustrated citizens – Nigeria is in a highly volatile state, armed with willing youths needing economic emancipation. And since our society does not frown anymore at sudden wealth or a display of opulence, we are surely ripe for the picking. Throw in an inept, rudderless government, and you have the complete recipe for disaster.

A cursory look at the proposed budget of Nigeria in 2013, tells a sad tale to any discerning mind. The health of a corporation, state or nation, can easily be ascertained by looking at the quality of the budget; and a look at next year’s budget, as proposed by the “most brilliant” Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, shows a nation bereft of developmental ideas and a leadership lacking in sincerity and focus. With the sum of N2.6 billion budgeted for the president’s numerous, but mostly avoidable, international junketing termed ‘foreign trips’, and another N1.3 billion budgeted for feeding and snacks for the office of the President and his vice, one wonders at the focus and priority of these “leaders”.

How do you allocate N60.1billion to education, N55.8billion to health and N31.8billion to Science & Technology, then N23.6billion to only 30,000 ex-militants? Why shouldn’t the 70% of the population under the age of 35 years join these militants? Because, if you take up arms against the state, create as much tension, shed as much blood as possible, and then negotiate with the government, you will go scot-free, get juicy contracts and enjoy federal patronage, as well.

In August, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) broke some disturbing news about Nigeria. It was reported that some ex-militants in the Niger Delta had been paid about N6.32billion within the past one year by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Yes, for the ‘noble’ service of providing security against vandals for the Corporation’s oil pipeline network. Imagine! The breakdown, as outlined by WSJ, is this:

Chief Government Ekpumopolo (alias Tompolo), Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, ‘General’ Ebikabowei Victor Ben (Boyloaf) and ‘General’ Ateke Tom were respectively paid N5.1 billion, N1.44 billion, N608 million and N608 million yearly by the state-owned NNPC, as ‘protection money’ to guard the pipelines they once attacked.

As if that was not enough an insult on the collective intelligence of Nigerians, earlier in the year the Federal Government awarded a contract worth $103.4million (over N15billion) to the Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL) – a firm widely believed to be owned by Tompolo to supply 20 vessels for the use of the nation’s military authorities to secure the waterways. Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, had last year sent a memo titled, “Award of Contract for the Strategic Concessioning Partnership with NIMASA to Provide Platforms for Tracking Ships and Cargoes, Enforce Regulatory Compliance and Surveillance Of The Entire Nigerian Maritime Domain,” to President Goodluck Jonathan.

In considering the memo, President Goodluck Jonathan and Akpobolokemi chose GWVSL as the preferred company for the 10-year concession agreement, renewable for two terms of five years each. Jonathan, in a memo dated 9th November, 2011, with reference number PRES/99/MT/61, approved Akpobolokemi’s memo, which the Federal Executive Council rubber-stamped on 5th January, 2012. According to Akpobolokemi, GWVSL “will provide platforms for effective policing of Nigeria’s maritime domain and ensure compliance with international maritime conventions on vessels and ships voyaging the country’s waters”. NIMASA maintains that the concessionaire would help the Federal Government to enforce the sabotage law and collect levies on its behalf. This, in a country that still maintains a statutory Naval force, and without a track record for GWVSL?

When you consider the reckless budget, and the pampering of criminals nicknamed militants by the government as led by Jonathan, the conclusion is very grim. Now, the government plans to negotiate with the Boko Haram terrorists group. This is a clear indication of the failure, nay, surrender, of government. It points to just one thing: this government lacks balls! Harass and intimidate it and you are assured of juicy returns after negotiation.

The Basque Separatists Movement in Spain, which has been on a collision course with the Spanish authorities since 1959, has a casualty figure of 800 in their 53 years of existence. Boko Haram, which came alive just about 3 years ago, the figure is in thousands. Indeed, the lives of ordinary Nigerians mean little or nothing to those in government. After all, the government itself routinely murders citizens extra-judicially through its security personnel at check points. The case of Lucy of Apo in Abuja and the 5-day old groom in Lagos readily spring to mind, amongst countless others.

The total annual emolument of a senator as recommended by Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) stands at N12.766 million per annum (about N1.063 million per month), with slightly less figures for members of the House of Representatives, amounting to N5.6billion for the 469 members of the National Assembly. The 2013 budget, however, makes a provision of N150billion for the National Assembly, so members earn in a month more than they are entitled to in a year (based on the RMAFC recommendation). Indeed, the recklessness is not limited to the executive; it is a total package of bare-faced fiscal irresponsibility, by all arms of government.

Though the above paint a grim picture, the entire story is yet to be told: Mallam Nasir El-rufai had earlier stated that, to clear the backlog of jobless youths, Nigeria will need to create about 3 million jobs annually for 5 years. Add to this the number of NYSC members that get discharged annually, plus the number of those recently laid off by banks and the picture gets bleaker. And why won’t it, if over 60% of the budget is either lost or unaccounted for and only 30% annual budget performance?

In all these, though, I dare say that the case of Nigeria is not a hopeless one. Yes, Nigeria’s foreign debt profile currently stands at about $7billion. But, then, Nigeria’s problem is largely a man-made problem. Greed, avarice, selfishness and corruption in high places are our bane. Hence, our government officials only need to stop stealing or, at least, reduce what they regularly steal. The
government cannot continue to preach sacrifice to the suffering Nigerian masses while its executives live in opulence. The governor of Kano state recently bought 3 bullet-proof SUVs valued at N156million, while the governors of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states also acquired Bombardier jets, each valued at about $45million.

Government at all levels must cut down on avoidable expenses. No nation can develop with a 70:30 recurrent to capital expenditure ratio. We must wake up and realize that developing Nigeria is an assignment for us all. We don’t determine the price of the oil which provides the bulk of our national revenue. Again, it is a volatile product, whose terminal date is about 39years away. A sensible government, therefore, should begin to plan for that time.

Again, more countries are discovering oil, as well as alternative sources of energy. This means that soon, our oil will no longer be as important and lucrative as it is today.

Furthermore, the discarded probe reports and endless committees/panels have revealed that the government lacks the will to fight corruption. Then, with KPMG declaring Nigeria the most corrupt country in their half-term report of 2012 and the Gallup poll showing the Nigeria government to be the second most corrupt in the world, the government must work at improving the statistics.

Finally, like I earlier averred, the case of Nigeria is not a totally hopeless one, but the government must be sincere and be truly ready to fight corruption and nepotism. Until corruption is killed, Nigerians will continue to die cheap deaths, while criminals will continually have a free reign in the land. Awarding contracts to kingpins in the guise of amnesty is not only travesty, but an open invitation to anarchy, as well. Accountability and probity are non-negotiable in our march to greatness. The government either exterminates corruption or by consequence of inaction, will continually contribute to dividing, impoverishing and punishing Nigerians.

As a wise man once said, “You can deceive some of the people some of the time, or even all the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.”

I am @Ayourb on Twitter.

GERONTOCRACY: AFRICA by @seunfakze January 2, 2013

Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
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At the rate that Africa is moving, with recycled old people clinging to power; it may be decades before the younger generation have the opportunity to impact their nations in Africa. And this is hardly surprising. Today, the average age of the African head of state is 62, which is three times the average age of the African population.

It is time for the older generation to move out of the way. It should be chanelling the way that connect youths to opportunity, creating chances and raising a replacement generation with outstanding values and approach to wealth and sustained development, not plundering them. It should be creating platforms towards an inter-generational interactive exchange that helps create and assures a bold vision of an African century.

Half of the population of Africa is under 20. Given this rising youthful population today, by 2035 the African labour force will be bigger than China, and by 2050 a quarter the global workforce will be African. At that time, nearly half the global youth population will be African. How do we then prepare these young people for the challenges of the future if we are not interacting with them today or preparing them for the roles and challenges of the future? How can they do better if they do not know better? How can Africa compete at the global level if they are not prepared for the challenges ahead?

After taking the oath office at the National Assembly on November 3, President Paul Bathelemy Biya Bi Mvondo, has entered history as one of Africa’s longest-serving Presidents. Biya is the third oldest African President after Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, 87 and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, 85. The 78-year-old, whom the Supreme Court declared winner of the October 9 Presidential controversial poll, will be starting his 6th mandate as President of the Republic of Cameroon. By the time he ends his new mandate; he would be on record for having been in power for 36 years.

According to a recent rating by the East African Magazine, Biya is one of Africa’s “sit-tighters” who have seemingly eternalised their stay in power through fraudulent elections. Biya is considered by observers as one of the presidential Methuselahs of Africa. Since 1982 when he came to power, a country like China, that is a non-democratic, has had five presidents; neighboring Nigeria has seen eight Presidents.

They are: Gen. Muhammadu Buhari,1982 to 1985; Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, 1985-1993; Ernest Shonekan, August-November 1993; Gen. Sani Abacha, 1993-1998; Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, 1998-1999, Chief Olusegun Obassanjo, 1999-2007, Alhadji Musa Yar’ Adua, 2007-2010 and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan since 2010. The US has had five Presidents: Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1982-1989; George Herbert W. Bush, 1989-1993; Bill Clinton, 1993-2001; George Walker Bush, 2001-2009. The current US President, Barack Obama is there since 2009.

Children who were born in 1982 in Cameroon are 29 years old today. They know only one President – Biya. Biya has reiterated an earlier promise that he would transform Cameroon into a permanent construction site of development projects as from January 2012. But his critics have dismissed the promise with the wave of the hand, saying the President will not be able to do in seven years what he has been unable to do in 29 years. Eighty percent of Angolans today have only ever called one man President.

Sure, some have had other allegiances; there was a serious armed opposition and there were 27 years of civil war, but José Eduardo dos Santos has remained the head of state for 33 years. His party hasn’t lost power since the anti-colonial war was won in 1975. But following impossible uprisings in Tunisia and elsewhere, talk of regime change in Angola has grown more serious.

Given the challenges of pollution, corruption, housing, transport, education and social welfare (amongst others) plaguing African nations, it is imperative young people are brought up to speed on the methods, tactics and strategies that can bring African nations out of the doldrums. Much of Africa is still under-developed hence the third world categorization. Worryingly, the lack of basic amenities is constantly in demand by the frightening growing young population. How will Afrcia grow if it’s young are ill prepared of the challenges ahead? Who cares about them anyway!

African leaders have cited corruption as the main stumbling block to growth but I wonder who it blames when it’s old (often clueless) leaders cling to power without shame. The same corruption abounds in Brazil but amazingly over the past decade, tens of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, unbelievably! In spite of the brazen corruption in many of the emerging or developed societies like Brazil, government systems in education and health empower the young with jobs, or skills that can make them earn a living! How many African nations can boast of that?

The growing population trend in Africa is a troubling one, deeply unsettling. This is so for instance in Lagos state, Nigeria where Urban migration is constantly posing a threat to the survival of the city. Across Africa, our growing young population is constantly asking questions on infrastructural investments from their leadership, with few of their questions getting the required answers they deserve.

Clearly insightful leaders, as the ones in Singapore, will not only provide visionary leadership in its policy and its implementstions but also pave way for empowering emerging leaders through education (human capital) and equipping the next generation by creating interactive platforms for them to become more informed and prepared for the challenges ahead. Not Africa!

The problem for African leaders are diverse. Only recently did they start recognising or pushing for inter-African trade. Wondering what took it so long. For long, we have acted as 54 separate countries, weakening our bargaining power as a strong economic bloc, and failing on this regard to ensure our collaborative relationship brings incredible African benefits. African nations, operating as units, ended up as insignificant exporters of raw materials whereas their bargaining power could have been duly strengthened if it operated as a continental bloc!

Worse, our intellectual capital wounds up in the developed world as the lack of opportunities in Africa end up making our young leave the continent for greener pastures. The real failure of gerontocracy in Africa is the political inability for our leaders to create and implement working policies, create a realistic future and make Africa a strong economic hub for its growing citizens.

The verdict is simple, if Africa’s old leaders cannot invest in infrastructure, get a grip or hold on Corruption, empower their institutions to be strong, so much as they can provide the needed jobs for its growing populace; then it’s time for it to get out of the way!

I am @seunfakze

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