What we need from Atiku

There’s a lot that needs fixing in Nigeria. The task is made more difficult by the lack of an educated majority. By education, I don’t mean academic education although that is also a problem that needs fixing, I mean civic education.

There’s a disturbing gap in how much majority of Nigerians, particularly those captured by poverty indices and those most impacted by poor governance, know about civics. Majority of us don’t know what our civic rights and responsibilities are and what the responsibility of government is, the limits to its powers and why those limits are necessary. We’ve had some call for the suspension of one arm of Govt, others suspension of the constitution and more lately overreach by the military with some members of the public even justifying same. It’s clear we have a followership problem. This problem is exacerbated by an obvious leadership problem given the terrible leaders we’ve had over the years even if a nation deserves its leaders.

Until and unless we improve the level of civic education amongst Nigerians, we will remain susceptible to seeking a messianic solution in a politician.

The government or our clandestine rulers, for diabolical reasons are incentivised to maintain the status quo as it assures their hold on power or at least their proximity to it. It’s highly unlikely the present crop of political elite will implement the kind of mass civic education we need (just observe how they see payment of salaries as doing the civil service a favour). Even if a creative disruptor arises from within the ranks of the current political elite and goes rogue, their attempt to change the status quo will be easily suppressed given the lack of civic education of most voters and the systemic way voter ignorance has been sustained.

It isn’t hard to see evidence of this lack. All we need to do is observe how some Nigerians justify the actions of the military in civil matters since the Buhari government assumed office. The many years under military rule as made military involvement in civil matters seem normal to us – even the govt is quick to call on military intervention. No govt in recent times has made any attempt to upgrade the police force to meet the challenges of securing a complex society.

This lack of education is now at crisis level and we need to break this cycle like yesterday.

I am sympathetic to Waziri Adamawa’s interest to become President or at least be on the top ticket of a party in 2019 but I cannot support him. The main reason is we need people with resources like him to help educate the people on civics. From the lowest of Nigerians all the way to the middle of middle class need to be engaged and taught about government & governance, its role, responsibility, necessary limitations as well as highlight the issues with our laws & constitution, governance structure, societal structure, the relationship between the govt and the governed and the need for a debate to agree a new one. We seemingly need to be educated on what democracy actually is, especially the “for the people” part. We need to be almost brainwashed that it is the people that is sovereign, not govt. We need to be reminded (or have it planted like a microchip in our brain) that governmental power devolves from the people. Public servants aren’t doing the public a favour. The key word is servant.

Waziri, this is where we need you. We need you to partner with your like minded friends to create a programmatic educational resource that will systematically go around the country between now and the next general election educating the majority of Nigerians about democracy, governance, the responsibility of government and the responsibility and power of the public. When majority of the public become educated in civics then they’ll be better able to engage their local, state and federal legislators to pursue changes to laws that will bring about improvements to our living standards. Do this Waziri and you will go down in history as a legend of our nation.

My request does not stop there. We need help with our leadership pipeline. The pipeline isn’t currently skewed to the needs of the society or to producing those with the skill and the heart to serve. People with the heart and skill to serve are too easily frustrated out of party primaries and the governance process. We need to tilt this pipeline in favour of the society.

Waziri, even if you become President, an ignorant populace will be easily stoked against you by those with a vested interest assuming you’re genuinely the Lee Kuan Yew we’ve been waiting for or need. You’ll need a better educated public to buy quickly into reform policies as I’m sure you’ll appreciate how a slow adoption prevented the pace of reform during your second term as VP.

As you go around the country seeking support for your candidacy in 2019, know that an uneducated public makes it less likely (you had the best manifesto with the best ideas during the last presidential primaries of all parties – only an educated public will read and appreciate the effort) you’ll ever become President. Please help educate us. Our government is too unreliable (eg PACAC) in this regard.

What we need from Atiku

VEXIT: A Different Referendum Tale

The Chronicles of Chill


The people of Nigeria finally got their wish. After many constitutional conferences with the famous ‘no-go’ areas, where everything could be discussed apart from the things that had any impact whatsoever on Nigeria’s constitutional status as “…one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God…” there was finally going to be referendum. The people were going to be asked a simple, question – “Should Nigeria to remain in its current geographical state?” – to which they would answer a simple Yes, or No. “If a simple majority of the people vote No,” the President said, “then Nigeria as we know it shall be no more.”

The people were divided into Yesmen and Nono camps and it seemed from very early on that the Nonos had wider support from the public. A date was fixed for the referendum and in addition to strategizing on voting patterns, some groups thought it wise to…

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VEXIT: A Different Referendum Tale

Time to set our stall out

Saying it has been a tough time for Nigerians since President Buhari was sworn in is probably understating the scale of the economic challenge people are currently facing. I agree with Feyi that 2017 is the last year of full governance before election dramatics begin in readiness for 2019. Sadly, I think as explained here by Dr Nonso, the federal government will continue with its bad policies from 2016. The President is clearly statist and can move no further left on the political spectrum so I’m not expecting him to change. Furthermore, his ideas aren’t working because of corruption and unruly Nigerians not because the policies are bad — he believes this. This isn’t the change we all expected from the APC government particularly those that voted and supported this government during the last general election.

Given what we now know about government, policies, governance and how election rhetoric can be markedly different from reality, it’ll be a huge shame if we don’t learn any lesson from the 2015 election. I think it is safe to assume that our biggest lessons from the last election were: a) not asking enough questions, b) not being cynical enough of political rhetoric and particularly c) not matching political rhetoric with demonstrable evidence of prior delivery. For example, when a political aspirant promised to create millions of jobs, the rational question to ask was: where’s the empirical evidence that they’ve done this before that makes us believe they can do it again on the scale they are claiming possible? Or a governor running for a 2nd term claims he will employ millions of youths but is owing salaries and pensions, yet we refused to ask where the salary to pay the youths will come from? That is, before we even consider whether economic conditions are such that such scale of job creation is even possible — are they personally capable with empirical evidence?

As mentioned above and particularly in Feyi and Dr Nonso’s articles, 2017 is likely to be a tough year. The federal government has proposed another ridiculous budget. 2016 budget implementation report isn’t out yet and we don’t know when it will be released. We don’t know if some of the 2017 revenues will be used for the 2016 budget to help improve its performance or implementation report. We don’t know how quickly the 2017 budget will be passed and how effective and efficient implementation will be. The government so far has backed itself into a corner which may force it into some reckless spending in 2017 in order to create the appearance of it doing something to get the economy out of recession without actually doing anything of substance like suggested by Dr Nonso.

Before this recklessness starts, of which a number of Nigerians will benefit, I think it is important we document the questions we failed to ask during the last election. Before we get blindsided or our judgement become clouded by campaign slush fund in 2018, I think we should spend 2017 writing down the demonstrable evidence we need to see from political aspirants in 2018/19 that will make us trust them with our votes. For presidential aspirants in 2019, I’ve written my own questions and profile with which I intend to measure them by. I also expect or intend to assess the legislative agendas of political parties in the run up to 2019 election. I prefer to not get dragged into the jostle for principal office’s foolishness post-election. I want political parties to give their legislators clear marching orders irrespective of who becomes a principal officer.

I believe that if we set out these yardsticks, perhaps even discuss and agree it among ourselves now, we can potentially avoid the diversionary tactics typically employed by useless politicians. We could also avoid the superfluous bifurcation along party lines that makes post-election convergence or reconciliation impossible if not difficult. Please let us avoid the name calling, name tagging and condescension of 2015 in 2019.

I hope and pray for a prosperous 2017 for us all. May God bless our hustle. Be well.

Time to set our stall out

There are several ways to skin a cat

or more than one way of achieving an aim…

Quite a lot of us have been yapping on about Nigeria needing true federalism and that our political, constitutional and economic structures are in dire need reform. Several of our federating units can really unleash pent up productivity within their states if they can get themselves disentangled from the drib drab of monthly FAAC or loosen the grip of the FG by watering down its enormous powers as expressed by the “exclusive legislative list”. For example, I imagine that the second Niger bridge or that more larger/international ports would have been built by governments of the South East and South South had this not been restricted to the exclusive legislative list. Given this fact that the federal government is literally holding back the development of quite a number of economically critical federating units and that changing this can only come via the federal legislature and constitutional amendments, why have Speakers of the Houses of Assembly of SE, SS and SW states not banded together to lean on their federal legislators to co-sponsor a bill that will bring this much needed change?

The President or federal government for example cannot stop the Speakers leading or sponsoring such a bill. Constitutional amendments require two-thirds (or 66%) of States HOAs and both chambers of the National Assembly to vote for an amendment. For example, the SS, SE and SW in combination control 47% of the NASS which also equates to 17 states. This implies that for a reform amendment that entrenches federalism and reduces the overbearing nature of the federal government, they’ll require 7 states, 22 Senators and 71 House Reps in addition to get the amendment through. Majority of this can be lobbied from North Central states (including Abuja – 7 States, 19 Senators and 51 House Reps) being the closest to SS, SE and SW geography wise. With adequate public sensitisation and buy-in, visionary leadership and comradeship – the Sponsors of such reform bill should be able to lobby 3 more Senators and 20 House Reps required to get the amendment bill over the line.

Political elites like Atiku Abubakar from the North East who have championed the cause of true federalism hopefully will be able to lobby the 3 Senators from his state Adamawa to make up the senatorial shortfall and reduce the House Rep shortfall by 8. I’m not sure where the final 12 House Reps needed to get the amendment bill over the line will come from but I imagine Kaduna State will probably benefit from the amendment and has 16 House Reps – maybe 12 of them can band with the rest of the reformers to get it through?

Whilst I may have been a little unfair in my last post about elites not sponsoring any bill that help our nation progress (Madam Oby Ezekwesili did good work with NEITI, Procurement Act etc), the type of amendment that will actually move us forward and remove the bottleneck that is the federal government have not been proposed.

We don’t need a messianic President to move us forward; we just need people power via the legislature to chart the course that we desire.


There are several ways to skin a cat

A little musing and some speculation

The foregoing are thoughts that have been on my mind for some time. Not sure what the point of this piece will be in the end, but I hope there’s a point or two in there somewhere.

There is a level of insincerity within our elite class that I find demonic as it is difficult to understand the level of selfishness and self-centredness within their ranks. We probably can count the number of elites that have actually walked the talk on one hand. Given the scale of patronage in Nigeria, these elites have always had the means and power to do what is right for our country without necessarily sacrificing their self-interest. But time and again they choose to be demonic.

It is obvious to me that the only way Nigeria can move forward is to restructure and reform. This can only happen if and when the legislative arm of government wants it to happen. As powerful as the executive arm is, the most they can do is propose bills, only the legislative arm can pass them into law. For whatever reason, we’ve paid little attention to the legislative arm of government especially those at the federal level. I can forgive some parts of the general public for this lack of focus on the legislature (ignorance, lack of/inadequate education etc), but I find it hard to forgive members of the elite especially the political ones for this oversight. What bills have El Rufai, Atiku Abubakar, Oby Ezekwesili, Pat Itomi, Ngozi Okwonjo-Iweala, HRH Sanusi, Raji Fashola, Asiwaju Tinubu, Charles Soludo, Femi Aribasala, Reuben Abati, Segun Adeniyi, Omobola Johnson, Akinwunmi Adesina, Rotimi Amaechi, Adams Oshiomole, Kayode Fayemi, Alex Otti, Tony Elumelu, Bismarck Rewane, Prof Oyebode – sponsored or lobbied their representative in the NASS since our return to democracy to help move Nigeria forward? I explain.

We are all aware of the insolvent nature of most of our states or sub-national governments, particularly the need for each federating unit to have more control over its affairs and resources. Prof Soludo actually gave a fantastic speech at UNN in 2010 titled “Who will reform politics in Nigeria?” (please find it if you can – I can email a copy if you want). The issue I have is that what efforts have those with the means to lobby NASS effectively made to ensure this structurally positive step is actualised? For example, the need for this structural change will be known to someone like Gov El Rufai. What steps has he taken (beyond fighting Shehu Sani) to lobby his state’s representative in the NASS to propose bills that will lead to federating units having more control of their resources? Even if he lays claim to not being responsible prior to becoming Governor, now that he is, what is he doing? This isn’t an El Rufai bashing piece. The same allegation can be laid at the feet of every current and past governor. The governor’s forum is quite clearly a powerful one; we’ve seen how powerful they can be when they defeated hapless ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in the ECA case at the Supreme Court. Why can’t they lobby their representatives in the NASS to bring about the necessary change their state so glaringly needs? What sort of lobbying am I referring to? The type that resulted into the creation of the 13% derivation formula in our Constitution as well as the type that Senator Remi Tinubu tried to get for Lagos when she introduced the defeated Lagos Special Status bill.

We all know the means available to Turaki Adamawa. Since our return to democracy, has he prevailed or lobby the NASS members of his state to band together with other like minds to push reform bills through the legislature that are in line with his stated belief that Nigeria needs to reform and embrace true federalism? What exactly is stopping Turaki to prevail on his friends in politics like Senate President Saraki or Asiwaju Tinubu to come together and drive reform through the NASS? Must they have control of Aso Rock before they can do this? Another example, why can’t Governors agree at their forum to sponsor a bill establishing State Police and lobby their NASS representatives to push the bill through? Why must they wait for the Executive to propose this bill? Wouldn’t the establishment of State police have helped fight Boko Haram, Herdsmen crisis or even help (*sideeye*) Gov El Rufai maintain peace in Kaduna? State police for example can be placed under the State AGF if there are fears Governors can misuse them?

If I have a point in my rant above it is that these ‘usual suspects’ that have paraded themselves as messianic to our problems have always had the means to bring about the real change our nation needs by lobbying the legislature appropriately. But for whatever reason, they’ve chosen no to do so, seemingly preferring to wait until they get the keys to Aso Rock just so that they can be the one that takes the glory of being in power when reforms happen? Turaki may never become President but if he’s sponsored reform bills like those mentioned above, won’t it be on record that he led Nigeria’s reform? Given how useless NASS seems to be, the next logical step is for elites with access to proper intellectual resource to come to the aid of our NASS so that they can rationalise our laws and pass appropriate and reasonable amendment acts. Besides, it is likely that two terms of office may not be enough to complete the reform objective, does it then not make sense to start well before?

Personally I’d like to see smaller parties like Kowa, NCP focus more on invading the legislature with qualitative people than waste money chasing executive offices. The change that Nigeria needs can only come from the legislature. If our people need to be more educated on democracy and governance, then it is the arm of government with more people in public office that is better placed to spearhead that education. If Kowa, NCP and others are focussing on getting executive power, then their strategy will be wrong in my view. Let them start with aiming to get control of at least a third of NASS in 2019.

What is the point here? I think our salvation lies in the legislature. It is where we can really show people power. My hope is that in 2019, we focus more or at least as much on the legislative elections as we do on the executive elections. The legislature can constrain the executive and it is where the real power is. The executive can’t act outside of our laws, if they do, they leave themselves open to impeachment!!! We also need to test our recall mechanism. I hope one of the small parties can pick two federal legislators – one from each chamber – and get them recalled, just to bare their teeth and give confidence to the public that we proved in 2015 that we can change executive power at the centre, we can do the same to any federal legislator too!

The big hitters have already begun moves for 2019. Some of them have manoeuvred themselves into tight spots already. Let me speculate.

Ex VP Atiku clearly is interested in contesting in 2019. I can’t see how he’ll pick up APCs ticket. In my view, incumbent President Buhari is ahead of him and if he decides not to go for a second term, Gov El Rufai is also ahead in the pecking order. His options will then be to either form a new party or join one of the existing ones. Decamping to PDP for example will ensure his defeat. He could choose to exit APC with ACN/nPDP and align with Asiwaju Tinubu and Senate President Saraki. Asiwaju doesn’t seem to be interested in becoming president so he can be a real tool for Atiku to get as much support as possible. If Asiwaju and Atiku join forces that will increase the likelihood that VP Osinbajo may not be on President Buhari’s ticket in 2019. The assumption here is that they will accept that they won’t win SW votes; most they can get is Ondo and maybe Ogun given the recent outcome of the Ondo election and President Buhari’s longstanding relationship with Gov Amosun. That will leave President Buhari to go for the SS/SE votes to compliment his Northern votes to retain office. Front runners for running mate in that case appear to me to be Rotimi Amaechi or Adams Oshiomole. Rochas Okorocha seems to me to be a political lightweight.

Where does this leave Gov El Rufai? He’s been trying his best to be and sound more like President Buhari in order for the President’s inner caucus to accept him as a worthy/direct replacement should the President choose not to pursue a second term. Given what he wrote about himself in his book The Accidental Public Servant, El Rufai has had to contradict himself or who he claims to be just to be accepted as successor. The extent of this contradiction and the length he is going to prove it seems to suggest that the inner caucus aren’t quite buying his act. If he misses out on the 2019 ticket and given the rotational nature of the ethnicity of who should occupy the Presidency, Gov El Rufai may need to wait until 2031 to have another shot. By then though, he’ll be 71! I can’t imagine he wants to be President at that age so I expect the heaviest push for his candidacy from 2H2017 all through to 2018.

So when the campaigning begins officially in 2018, please remember this point.

A little musing and some speculation

Considering a National Legislative Agenda for 2019

Quite a few Nigerians have commented on the structural issues plaguing governance and nation building in Nigeria over the years and since independence. Our country has particularly been hindered by the “big man” syndrome since the first coup of 1966. Given the lop-sidedness of our constitution evidenced by the excessive concentration of power in the federal government and executive arm of government, it is hardly surprising that we have become beholden to the messianic politician who promises to fix our problems out of the goodness of their heart. Whilst the constitution enslaves us to this messianic executive, the reform our governance needs requires near equal cooperation from the legislative arm of government to succeed.

Candidates for executive office know the power they’ll have prior to getting to office and can promise to deliver heaven on earth on that basis when they get into office. Not so much Members of the federal legislature. The Members of the National Assembly make promises to their constituencies only and this can lead to conflicting agendas between constituencies even from the same State. Further, any one of these Members can be elected to principal offices in the NASS. The problem given our current state of affairs is that NASS principal officers do not have a national agenda. The welfare of their fellow Members is their principal task if they intend to retain their office. It is this lack of a national legislative agenda that informs some of the clamour for political parties to be ideologically based. The idea being that whichever party holds the majority in the NASS will be pushing to implement their party’s ideology on how a society should be run. Essentially, this is why it matters not who from the Democratic, Republican in US or Conservative, Labour parties in the UK is elected into principal offices – the policies they’ll pursue in government will align with their party’s ideology.

We’re all witnesses to the ineffectiveness of our current NASS and their failure to propose any meaningful agenda that advances our country and unlocks the legal bottlenecks that continue to be a headwind to our nation’s development. Whilst the executive arm controls the majority of the resources of government and is not unreasonable to expect it to be the arm that proposes most bills, this shouldn’t really be an impediment to the NASS itself taking the initiative in certain instances and set the ball rolling on reforming some of our laws. For example, the NASS can reform the Land Use Act without waiting for the executive to propose a bill on it. A lot of resourceful material has been written on the headwind that it is the Land Use Act for NASS to push a reform bill through.

Our current bunch of political parties are evolving slower than ideal and we can’t force them to clarify their political ideology(s) or announce where they’re positioned on the political spectrum. What should be easier to do is to require every party to have a national legislative agenda that is published in the same manner as the manifesto used by the executive to campaign for office. So when a presidential aspirant promises state police in their manifesto, the public can search the party’s legislative agenda to see if it has a working blueprint or legal framework that will establish a State Police Act that backs up the manifesto of the presidential aspirant. Besides the collective matching order that a party’s national legislative agenda will give its elected legislators, it can also help Nigerians avoid getting drawn into or distracted by the usual manoeuvring and infighting that seems to plague political parties once elections are over. Nigerians will be able to expect delivery of an agenda irrespective of who becomes Speaker or Senate President.

Our dysfunctional constitution compels us to focus on presidential aspirants during the general election, but we need to pay at least equal attention to the legislative arm of government and at all levels too.

Considering a National Legislative Agenda for 2019

Who will volunteer?

The chatter about Nigeria getting back on the path of economic and political development has been going on for 50 years now. There’s been little to show that all the shouting has had effect. The closest we’ve come is the Nadeco shouting match against Abacha, even that needed divine intervention to succeed (relatively).

Whilst I personally haven’t engaged in the shouting match for long, I am becoming despondent about Nigeria’s future given the refusal of the old order to pave way for the young and energetic to takeover and even starker the fact that some of the young ones are beginning to demonstrate the same trait of the older generation that has led us to where we are.

So my appeal now is for a volunteer ward or local government, may be one in every geopolitical zone, to demonstrate whether we can actually organise ourselves as a modern society. Let’s test if we are even capable of that which we dream of. If we are not, then we stop trying and all man for himself.

Top down changes to bring about development seem impossible. We seem too divided to effect changes bottom up and wholesale. So we may as well try piecemeal bottom up changes.

Whichever local government volunteers will need to embrace everything that makes a society modern. Democratic politics, a government that acts with the knowledge that its power devolves from its residents, transparent public finances, trim and efficient public service, residents that pay their taxes, adhere to their civic responsibilities strictly and be socially responsible to their fellow residents. The volunteer local government will also need to commit to providing progress reports, preferably online, so we can track their successes, challenges and failures for learning purposes.

It won’t matter which party controls the volunteer government as all parties lay claim to having the solution to our problems. Let them demonstrate it with little so we can trust them with much in the future. In fact each party that controls at least one local government can volunteer a local government that demonstrates or to demonstrate the efficacy of its ideas or party manifesto.

So, are there any takers?

PS- apologies for any errors. Hurriedly written.

Who will volunteer?