Heads I win, tails you lose

The respect for the rule of law has got to be sacrosanct. If you aspire to the number one office in the land, then your respect for law and Nigeria being bigger than your ambition must be evidently displayed in your utterances and more importantly how you live your life, every day.

General Buhari has to apologise to Nigeria and Nigerians for participating in or benefitting from a coup. The apology is necessary because he now has the benefit of hindsight to know that his actions were regrettable regardless of the nobility of his intentions. If any coup plotter/beneficiary was dissatisfied with the way those in government were conducting public affairs, they could have shed their uniform and contested for public office in order to conduct affairs of government in, what is in their view, the appropriate manner. Coup is never a resort let alone the last one. So can General Buhari make us aware of every step he and his comrades took within the ambit of law to bring about change of government attitude during the Shagari regime? Who did they sue to court? Did he or his comrades attempt to shed military uniform and join a political party to seek elective office? If the issue wasn’t important enough for them to shed uniform, who did they encourage from the civil populace to seek office and correct anomalies? Did they publish any article or whistleblow on the government to sensitise the nation on what was wrong and how it could be corrected or was option 1 always a coup d’état? If as it is claimed by some that Buhari was only a beneficiary, who did he prosecute for organising the coup if he respects the law as much as he claims?

On the certificate saga, the General lied on oath about the whereabouts of his certificate. Personally I don’t care about the certificate itself as to me he’s qualified by experience. What I do care about is that he swore an oath that is now proving to be untruthful. I’m not a legal expert but my understanding is that lying under oath is perjury and perjury is a criminal offence. Now that he’s aware that he may have committed perjury, how should the General handle the matter? In his statement on the issue, he said “I would have dismissed it for what it is – sheer mischief…” Are you shocked? Perjury=Mischief – from an anti corruption czar that is a presidential candidate? Or does he not appreciate the gravity of perjury? So when or if he becomes president, what aspects of the rule of law will he dismiss as mischief?

In previous presidential campaigns, General Buhari did not have the quality of people he now has at his disposal running his campaign and so makes clear what has changed. Question is, has General Buhari changed personally? If yes, to what extent? Is it extensive enough to deliver the “change” mantra?

In January, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola accused Jimi Agbaje of the criminal offence of tax evasion. Ideally, we should only find this out after a good investigative journalist unearths it from court filings, but here we are. Jimi Agbaje on his part reacted with surprise at the unprovoked attack but went on to produce a document purportedly signed by the Lagos commissioner for finance commending him for fulfilling his tax obligations. Is Jimi Agbaje’s reaction commensurate to that of someone that has just been accused of a criminal offence? Now consider the profile of those involved in this matter. Governor Fashola is a SAN and Jimi Agbaje is the main opposition in the contest for the Lagos State gubernatorial election. Governor Fashola may possibly have perverted the course of justice by revealing the matter in the court of public opinion. Does the governor’s action follow the normal procedure for dealing with criminal offences against the State? Or is the procedure of dealing with tax evasion that the governor announces offender’s names at conferences? Why should Jimi Agbaje be treated any different to other evaders? Are their actions not reminiscent of that of boys that belong to the same sorority?

Politicians as a matter of course are like parrots, they say a lot and have much to say. However, we need to pay more attention to what they don’t say and be better at reading between the lines so that when a politician tells you “heads I win, tails you lose”, you’ll be able to tell when you’ve been truly buggered.

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Heads I win, tails you lose

Delivering a sustainable Nigeria III

Infractions are normal human frailties. Even in the most loving relationship, causing offence to ones friends and family is expected let alone to those with whom we have less emotional ties. There are people that go out of their way to willingly upset another, whereas there are others that cause offence based on actions they thought would be pleasing to those they’ve now offended. What can be difficult to forgive is when the offender, in hindsight, has been made aware of why and how his or her action caused another to be offended regardless of the innocence of their original intention but still refuses to apologise. This is what, in my opinion, General Buhari is most guilty of. I haven’t read anywhere or heard the people’s General, as his voltrons choose to call him, apologise for the coup he organised or benefitted from. It does not matter whether or not military regimes were popular then, now that you know better, an apology to the nation is proper. It is what the father of a nation (or one that hopes to be one as that is what he’ll need to be if he wins) will do, one that hopes to inspire healing, reconciliation and bridge class, ethnic and religious divides.

In my last opinion piece, I mentioned that APC had excelled in the current presidential campaign. By that I meant relative to the PDP. APC have on the most part managed to stay on point, avoid any gaffs and more importantly keep the illusion that General Buhari has more to offer than just be the poster person for anti-corruption. PDP’s persistent “unforced errors” has done the rest of their campaigning for them. Besides that, they have offered no real solutions to our teeming problems. I know there’s a manifesto, but that document is too expensive considering our falling revenues and weak currency. We can hardly benefit from exports as we don’t have the production/industrial base.

Anyway, back to delivering a sustainable Nigeria. If nothing at all, we all know common sense tells us that we can hardly build a strong structure on a faulty foundation. Our current democratic sojourn is built on the foundation of a Constitution handed to us by the military. 16 years on, most Constitutional amendments have been laughable at best. Our Constitution is first and foremost fundamentally flawed. Fundamentally flawed in that the only thing that attempts to be proportional in the document is the Federal house of representative where Federal constituencies are linked to size/population of States. Every thing else in the document is very top heavy. In a country where mismanagement is its biggest problem, we don’t only have an implementation problem we also have a structural one.

One of the main effects of the structural problem is that it gives public officers like LG Chairmen or State Governors a ready excuse when it comes to revenue generation, control and dearth of any meaningful implemented public project. Because most of the revenue is fed top down, those at the bottom are at the mercy of those at the top. If a citizen complains to his LG chairman about lack of say functioning street lights, the chairman can simply say, the State governor hasn’t released any money to them or what they expected to get has been halved so they can’t afford their projects/policies. Question is, can the LG chairman ask the governor why money isn’t forthcoming or why what was released wasn’t what was expected? Do governors offer any explanation to LG chairmen when they do as they will with LG allocation? Your guess is as good as mine. So on what reasonable basis can a LG chairman propose a budget and can such be realistic? Aren’t LG chairmen then just governor’s errand boys? Further, let’s consider State revenues. The main source of revenues for most States is allocation from the federation account (read this as oil revenue). Only a handful of States can survive without ‘hand me downs’ from the FG with Lagos being the most resilient. If and when Federal allocation tightens, then most States will be buggered. Right now, we have States that owe up to five months in salaries and some that are already technically insolvent. They are technically insolvent because they generate little to no internal revenue.

So let’s personalise this argument. Can you, yes you reading this, survive or plan for your future based on decisions made by someone else? Won’t you at least want influence if not control over decisions that directly impact on what your aspirations, hopes, desires are and how best you can fund/achieve them?  So why then shouldn’t our Constitution reflect what is the most basic of human tendency – the need for influence/control over ones affairs?

Our utopia should be a Constitutional and political reform that fully embraces proportional representation from top to bottom, guarantees complete autonomy among levels of government, concentrates majority of political and Constitutional power with Local then State governments with commensurate devolution of control over revenue and resources. I would advocate for a 42.5%, 30% and 27.5% of revenue/resource control devolution to Local, State and Federal governments respectively.

The first thing to note about this utopia is that it wouldn’t deliver a perfect democratic system as such doesn’t exist. What it could deliver is a structure that localises all issues and or differences of opinions. Debate of how to move governance and related social issues forward will mostly be between neighbours rather than between members of a cabal over a drink or two in a hotel in Abuja. Our nation is a multi ethnic and multi cultural one. Therefore it isn’t unreasonable to expect that our local needs and priorities will be equally multifaceted. Further, the capacity and pace with which we can meet our local challenges will also be diverse. With every region being blessed with one natural resource or the other, each State should be given the power to chart its own course. States should be able to issue exploratory licence to businesses, set corporate tax rates or determine where within the economic value chain it wants to position itself, be able to compete fairly with other States and enter into developmental cooperative agreements. For example, with increasing population a cause for concern in Lagos, the Lagos State government could enter into a cooperative developmental agreement with say Ogun State on improving transportation infrastructure so that persons living in Abeokuta could be only an hour train journey away from say Victoria Island where their job is. The possibilities that such an agreement could bring will be a great multiplier of economic productivity for both States. At the moment, Lagos is forced to go it alone on such projects because neighbouring States can’t even begin to contemplate embarking on such as their economy/revenue base is too fragile.

So why aren’t governors making judicious use of current federal allocation to deliver the above and why is devolution necessary? Answer is simple, government revenue isn’t majority funded by tax payers but by resource revenue. Think about it. Which State is the most advanced (relatively) in governance and development in Nigeria? Lagos. Which State has the highest generation and collection of IGR? Lagos. Which State does its residents question and demand accountability the most from its governor? Lagos. So if all Local and State governments stop looking to the FG for allocation money and rather within, it will be far easier for residents to demand accountability and expect good governance from their LG chairman and governors as they currently do with Lagos.

The way to look at it is this: if you know that the person (LG chairman) in most control of the public policy and implementation that directly affects your life lives in the next street from you, do you think after 16 years of this type of governance structure, Nigeria will still be the way it is today? If there is no Abuja, just you and your neighbours, would you allow it?

So, how can these changes be implemented? Well, we currently have a governance structure and the changes will have to be implemented within it. Besides en-masse citizen advocacy, these suggested changes will need a NASS sponsor – someone or some people to be its champion. Further, there will be a need for at least one State assembly from each of the six geopolitical zones to be in support of devolution of power and political reform to help accelerate public interest. There will also be a need for citizens to be fully engaged with their legislative representative’s right from ward councillor all the way up to the senate representative.

There’s little we can do without the support of our legislators.

Delivering a sustainable Nigeria III

Delivering a sustainable Nigeria II

It is often said that within politics, perception is reality and the truth is negotiable. It is with respect to this saying that I must confess APC have excelled in the current presidential election campaign. The perception of good governance in Lagos especially, has gone some way into solidifying it as a reality. Asiwaju Tinubu has also benefitted immensely from this perception of Lagos and has been able to use it to cement his place as national leader of the APC. Anyone that defeats an Atiku Abubakar in politics without the power of incumbency deserves plaudit.

Asiwaju is a deft politician. However he isn’t doing anything new. He is simply copying what Pa Awolowo did in the South West when he held sway, and what Dr Azikiwe and MI Okpara did in the East and Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and Sir Ahmadu Bello did in the North (collectively our founding fathers). Whilst Pa Awolowo was able to deliver on his electoral mandate in all of the South West, Asiwaju has only been able to do so mainly in Lagos. If Pa Awolowo failed to take his relative South West success to the centre, I doubt very much Asiwaju can as APC still seem a collection of strange bedfellows nationally. The East and Northern regions currently don’t appear to have their own version of Asiwaju, perhaps this supports Asiwaju’s ambition somewhat unlike Pa Awolowo that had commendable opponents in other regions.

What is interesting to note however is that this period, when the regions had considerable power, largely coincides with when all of Nigeria was mostly productive. During the first half of the 60s, prior to oil discovery and military incursion into power, agriculture was Nigeria’s biggest sector (some 60% odd of GDP) and main earner of foreign exchange. None of the regions had a mono control of the sector as each had its own area of strength within the sector. Further, Nigeria was a major exporter of agricultural products and was particularly a global leader in palm oil, cocoa and tomatoes. What the agricultural sector did then was that it allowed each regional leader to negotiate from a position of economic strength whenever they gathered to discuss central matters. It is not entirely clear to me, and I need to read more on this, why the founding fathers wanted control of the centre considering the autonomy and true federal nature of governance at the time. But jostle for the centre they did. We all know what happened in 1966 when tensions got too heated as a result of the failure of the struggle for power at the centre.

Whilst the various killings that led to the military’s incursion into power were wrong and unfortunate, it was hardly surprising considering that the formation of Nigeria as a country was never negotiated among those that were forced to bear the name “Nigerian”. Unfortunately our founding fathers failed to communicate with and reiterate enough to those that they led, the friction that was bound to occur, the length of time it was going to take and the need for patience to be exercised by all and sundry in the negotiation of what the “Nigerian identity” and “Nigerian dream” was. Perhaps, and in hindsight, what should have been made clear by the founding fathers was that all life was equal, irrespective of the region one came from and that justice would be full no matter whose ox is gored. This communication failure perhaps contributed to why the Aguiyi-Ironsi government was lenient and perceived to be lenient on the Majors that initiated the first coup and set of killings.

On the military’s part, the decision to create several states and weaken regional autonomy and power was a good strategy – a good strategy in that it allowed them consolidate power. Good for the military but bad for Nigeria. Why was it bad? It was and has remained ever so because that original question the “Nigerian identity” and the “Nigerian dream” are still unanswered some 55 years on.

The question is can we answer this question without each region going back to its position of economic strength – a position of strength that was largely enabled due to political and economic autonomy?

We’ve spent the last 55 years failing woefully at finding the answer to this question. There’s a Nigerian adage that says “when a youngster trips, they get up and carry on walking, whereas when an adult trips, they get up, look back at what caused the trip before carrying on walking”. At 55, we can safely assume that Nigeria is an adult. So why don’t we do what adults do, look back on what is causing us to trip over ourselves time and time again.

A lot of our national strife has been caused by the jostle for control of power at the centre. The jostle for power at the centre, when cabal interest wasn’t as complex today as it was in the 60s equally stumped our founding fathers. How much so now when vested interests are so vast (local and international), complex and when we have grave national economic and security issues on our hands.

Whilst we may not be able to revert 36 states back into 12 or even the original 3 regions, we should be able to produce a federal Constitution that guarantees the complete economic autonomy of state and local governments. Further, we should be able to come up with a Constitution that politically supports the economic autonomy of the state and local governments whilst at the same time pandering and recognising our multi ethnic multi cultural society.

In my last opinion piece, I mentioned the words “constitutional minimums”. I believe through these minimums, we can deliver a Constitution that guarantees the freedom of rights of every Nigerian citizen equally, whilst also delivering a social contract that is equitable. The basis of these minimums is purely “what is yours is yours, what is mine is mine, and what is ours, we decide”. I mentioned two examples of minimums in my last piece. I’ll give another one now.

Our Constitution can establish a federal police force that focuses on federal crimes eg crimes against the nation, those that threaten national security, sovereignty or crimes in violation of international law and when we’re obliged to cooperate with international partners. The Constitution would also have a law enabling the creation of state police forces. The Constitution would provide for each state to determine how it wants its police force to be structured and administered. The Constitution will also guarantee that any Nigerian can apply to join the police force of any state so long as they are resident in that state as a minimum. Of course such persons will still need to successfully negotiate the state’s police academy. Normal discriminatory laws will apply and would be filed and tried at federal courts. The rest of our judicial system would also have constitutional minimums similar to that of the police force.

The point of this piece is we need each level of government, each ethnic grouping and each state to be free from the fear of ethno-dominance and to be able to negotiate the future of Nigeria, their future, our future from a position of relative strength and not desperation or out of inducement of a stomach nature.

Delivering a sustainable Nigeria II

Delivering a sustainable Nigeria

Which way forward?
How we got to where we are as a nation considering not just our level of intelligence but also the number of people perceived to be intelligent is completely mind boggling. Considering the quality of our founding fathers and their level of sophistication, some of our pains could and should have been avoided but just like generations before them, we seem to be committing the same mistakes they did and careering down a ruinous path.

Our history seems to be littered with several spurned opportunities of guiding our nationhood unto a path where the collective hopes of all can be realistically implemented without the fear of ethnic and cultural cannibalism. First, our founding fathers failed to reach a mutually working arrangement following the declaration of independence. Second, we missed the opportunity during the Aburi Accord negotiation to agree on a lasting and workable federal or con-federal structure and thirdly, we failed to use the first parliamentary session of our latest dalliance with democracy to set out and agree a new democratic structure for the long term. In our rush to get rid of the military, we failed to properly consider the sustainability of our new democratic venture; a venture based on a document prepared by the very military we were running from.

Our failure to do the needful, always kicking the can into the future, has led directly to where we are today. A nation without a national identity where none of its citizen knows what “the Nigerian Dream” is. @xeenarh asked on twitter the other day what the ‘Nigerian Dream’ was and the consensus, based on a satirical but truthful comment by a responder, was “to become your own local government”.

There’s no sugar coating it, Nigeria to all intent and purposes is a failed state. The description of the Nigerian dream above is testament to that. Most social institutions, if not all, have failed. The Police are unreliable, other security forces have been compromised, the judiciary is hardly referred to settle injustice between ordinary citizens, healthcare, energy and other infrastructures are all in a dire state. Regardless of what strata of society you look at, there seems to be a clear failure of leadership and followership. Further, the country is one big giant welfare state with the civil/public (federal & state) service the biggest employers. To compound this, many states appear insolvent to the extent that payment of salaries (pension to retirees) to civil servants has become a serious challenge. All we do is consume, consume and then consume some more.

The years of military rule and its attendant abuse of society and its institutions has completely eroded any chance of the current approach working. One of the opening preambles of our Constitution states “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; having firmly and solemnly resolved, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God….” Unity and harmony aren’t just words that can be declared into being. There has to be a foundation on which basis those words are laid; foundations such as understanding, mutual respect, mutual recognition, truth, sanctity of life amongst others. Without these foundations, the words in the preamble are meaningless and without life. Looking at the Nigeria around us, it is clear that these foundations are not in place otherwise it won’t be so difficult for Nigerians to sit down and have honest conversations with one another. The ‘state of origin’ issue is evidence that there is no mutual recognition as Nigerians; the initial and prolonged indifference to the insecurity and insurgency in the north east is evidence of the little value placed on the ‘sanctity of life’ and its associated freedom of rights.

Whilst there are obvious differences between us, several commonalities also exist. Our reaction to one another regarding these differences reeks of prejudices. Rather than seeking to celebrate, understand and accept, we mostly seem to discriminate against them thereby sacrificing the benefit that we should be getting from our diversity.

The point is we can’t continue like this. We have to make our diversity work for us. We have to remove the contentious issues that so perpetually plague us and make it impossible for us to have peaceful, amicable and honest conversations with each other. We need to charge our National and State assemblies with the task of delivering a new Constitution that identifies and aligns with the cultural diversity in our nation over the next parliament. We need them to deliver a comprehensive political reform that customises the democratic system of governance to our unique national characteristic and panders to our multi ethnic society.

Constitutional Reform
Our current Constitution concentrates too much power in the centre implying that the government with the most power is too far removed from the people that are most in need of its policies. This concentration of power lends the federal government to be perceived as on overlord, whose favour everyone courts. This makes capturing power at the centre a do or die affair. The distrust created by years of military rule, as well as the unresolved repercussion of the civil war has also contributed to a nation where inter-ethnic empathy is almost non-existent. Unfortunately for us, globalization has made it nigh impossible for us to work through our ethnic disharmony without the international community scrutinising and possibly interfering in what should mainly be a private affair. It is to this end that I would suggest that rather than us continuing to painfully try and force the issue of sustaining an overpowering federal government, we should self diagnose and administer a healthy dose of morphine. This can be done by stripping the centre of much of its powers and transferring majority of it to the local and state governments.

The federal government should only have powers that I would refer to as constitutional minimums. Constitutional minimums are laws that will be common to all irrespective of place of birth or location. The minimums will be the social contract among all Nigerians. For example, a constitutional minimum could be a law eradicating the ‘state of origin’ and replacing it with ‘state of residence’. Linked to this law could be a further declaration that any Nigerian can contest for any public office so long as they are locally resident. We may choose to allow each state set the length of time a Nigerian needs to be resident in that state to be eligible to contest public office or we could agree to include the length in the constitutional minimum. Another example is to make education up to WAEC level a constitutional minimum for every Nigerian child. Whether it is an Almajiri school or an anglicised one could be up to the local/state governments. The education minimum could make education up to primary level free for every child with states determining if they want to subsidise secondary school fees. Every other aspect of our social life could have a constitutional minimum that makes sure that certain services and expectations are uniform regardless of where you choose to be resident.

Of course certain aspects of government need to remain national and controlled at the centre, for example, national defence, protecting the sovereignty of the nation, sovereign debt/rating, monetary policies, customs, some infrastructures like nuclear energy, citizenship & immigration, diplomacy and defending our fundamental rights. Everything else currently in the Exclusive Legislative List should be up for negotiation in terms of transference to local and state governments.

Furthermore, I believe the resource/revenue control of the nation should be shared in this manner with complete autonomy among the different levels of government; Local Government 42.5%, State Governments 30% and Federal Government 27.5%. A related constitutional minimum could be a law stipulating that each level of government should commit at least 15% of its revenues to a reserve account, only to be accessed if very specific requirements are triggered. On resource control, the issuance of licenses for exploration of natural resources should be vested with the state government where the resource is found. We need our States to collaborate and compete on their strengths. Whilst there is the Odua Investment Company and an Arewa one, most states in Nigeria can’t afford to cooperate. They’re mostly too insolvent to cooperate. Also, we don’t have any business creating more states. There is simply no economic basis to do so.

Democratic Reform
Alongside the need for constitutional reform is democratic reform. We need to decide what form of democracy suits us. Democracy by default is a system of government that facilitates debate. Plurality of opinions is healthy to any debate and contributes towards a qualitative outcome. The current winner-takes-all electoral system doesn’t appear to be the most suitable to our democratic maturity given the deep rooted disharmony and distrust among ethnicities.

Perhaps a proportional representation electoral system is more suitable to Nigeria. In this system, the distribution of seats gained by a party will be directly related to the proportion of votes cast for that party at a general election. The system is one that ensures all votes contribute towards the result rather than a majority. For example, if during a State House of Assembly election, the APC gets 40% of votes, PDP 25%, Kowa 20% and SDP 15%, this would mean that all parties will have members in the Assembly with the numbers of members gained by each party directly related to the percentage of total votes it received. This system also reduces the scenario where a State or State Assembly will be completely dominated by a single party.

There are no ideological differences between the two main political parties (APC and PDP) – neither political nor economical. What we need to accelerate our development and deepen our democracy are parties that differ along ideological lines. The ideology could even be influenced by culture or tradition. A proportional system almost forces the issue as parties will need to come up with ways of differentiating themselves beyond “they are bad, we are good”, “they are corrupt and we are not”. What I’ve found most disappointing about the current presidential campaign is how the main opposition party and its supporters attack the incumbent party on the very same thing their party is guilty of. For example, on one hand Jimi Agbaje is too old at 57 to be governor but on the other General Buhari is not too old at 72 to be president. If APC are really an anticorruption party, the allegation that Jimi Agbaje is a tax evader should have been found out when the government charged him to court and used as a political tool.

As a party, APC is as weak as the PDP. If APC were truly pro Nigeria, they would not avoid a presidential debate. The avoidance is a good strategy for them to win the election, but definitely a bad thing for our democracy. This tells me they are happy to sacrifice Nigeria, if it means they get their way. The PDP shenanigans regarding INEC can be read in like manner.

A matured democracy is one where the interest and opinion of the minority not only matters, but is protected. A democracy where no one is left behind, where everyone willing and able gets a chance to live a life of dignity. General Buhari referring to smaller parties as ‘mushroom’ parties suggests he doesn’t quite get it yet. As a military man, one would have thought he’d appreciate the importance of the voice of the little man, defending the indefensible etc. Neither of the two main parties is offering fundamental solutions to our problems. Neither of them is asking if our form of democracy is working or if our constitution requires overhauling. If they are, for example, one of them will be seeking to close the loophole used by Speaker Tambuwal to defect from his party yet retain his Speakership. If they truly cared about Nigeria, they will as a matter of principle or ideology be pushing for or willing to sacrifice the cost of maintaining the NASS given our economic headwind.

If the main parties are not going to be pro Nigeria, we the citizen may as well argue for a democratic system that increases the number of debaters and plurality of ideas. We cannot compare ourselves to countries with more mature democracies. What we have to deal with in the open to get to their level, they dealt with centuries ago when no one was looking and when the world wasn’t so global.

So let’s not repeat the mistakes of our founding fathers, let’s stop forcing the centralist issue.

Delivering a sustainable Nigeria

On Nigeria’s Feb 2015 Election – 18/12/2014

Here are my thoughts on the next presidential election and candidates;

I am pro-Nigeria, pro-democracy and pro-change. By change I mean change of party at the centre. We’ve had 16 years of a PDP government at the centre. That is long enough for any party to effect meaningful change on the polity. The PDP government during its custody did some things right and got some wrong – I won’t go into details.

Signs abound that President GEJ is fatigued. One only need look at his handling of Boko Haram, general insecurity, scandals involving cabinet members and especially the failure of his media/information team to articulate the President’s thoughts, his strategies and accomplishments. President GEJ deserves to rest, he’s done his best.

On Buhari, I am not impressed by his candidacy, primary campaign and manifesto. Truth be told, there are aspects of the manifesto that I agree with. However, all he did was copy and paste the same one he used in 2011. A few commas were moved, 2 changed to 4, 10% changed to 10-12% but other than cosmetic changes, it is practically the same document. Basically, Buhari couldn’t be bothered to try. In 2011, he developed a website to at least articulate his thoughts, on this occasion, he gave us two fingers. We weren’t worth it (if you’re one of his voltrons, feel free to disagree, it’s no less truthful). Compare that to Atiku’s campaign. Nigerians deserve your best effort every time you seek for the highest office in the country.

If one reviews Buhari objectively and against other performing public servants, it is difficult to accept that he is the best we can offer. Buhari’s insistence on himself being the only candidate capable of effecting change and an anti corruption drive is no different to what led Obasanjo to believe that he should seek a third term! Read that again, and now with less emotion (Buhari voltrons only). One would have thought, after vowing in 2011, that the General would have worked on developing a younger protégé. Further, there are as many people that recall Buhari’s tenure as Head of State with pleasure as there are those that recall it with disdain and trepidation.

So his past performance does not particularly swing perception of his record positively regardless of what his voltrons think. In fact Nigerians have soundly rejected him thrice with the 2011 rejection so emphatic that the General vowed never to contest again! In truth, it is President GEJ’s perceived ineptitude and inefficiency that is forcing people to line behind the opposition now. Unfortunately, the opposition has not given Nigeria a real choice.

Our democracy is very much in it’s infancy. For it to progress, deepen and mature, we need incumbents to lose elections from time to time. This will not only be healthier for our democracy, it is the only way to raise and/or improve the campaign bar, electoral promises, public inclusion & sensitisation and hopefully governance. Further, the raising of the governance stakes should, all other things being equal, eventually lead to the emergence of political ideologies. It is when parties begin to differentiate themselves by ideologies and campaign on such basis that the unhealthy focus on ethnicity and religion can take the back seat.

Is General Buhari better than President GEJ? Frankly and in truth, no one knows. He is different, but we don’t know if he is or will be better. So please vote for Buhari, if you must, not because he is better than President GEJ but purely because on the long run, in my opinion, having a different political party run the centre is better for our democracy. Finally, equally as important as incumbents losing elections is for the public to be fully engaged with their legislative representatives, that is the only catalyst for accelerating our democratic maturity.

@grandverve

On Nigeria’s Feb 2015 Election – 18/12/2014

Our Common Denominator – 24/10/2014

As those that will be the principal actors at next year’s general election continue to reveal themselves and declare for office, we need to take care and not let our support for whoever our preferred candidate is overshadow or cloud which side we are or should be really on. Let us keep at the forefront of our minds the denominators that is common to us all: corruption, unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, inadequate health service, educational sector reform, insecurity, inadequate energy supply, welfare especially for women and the girl child, our North East countrymen etc. It will be a real shame if we lose our civility as we go about campaigning for our preferred candidates.

Whilst the tendency of us not being able to find a common ground can already be noticed on Twitter from reactions to the various declarations. We need to punish and discourage chaos. Celebrate orderliness. Be disagreeable with each other without resorting to insult or violence. The truth is we all have varying levels of intelligence and exposure, so disagreements will happen between those that have more knowledge or information on issues than those that know less. Imparting knowledge with humility should be seen as a privilege. One is far more likely to succeed in imparting knowledge by being patient, gentle and zeal than through “know-it-all” attitude, cynicism or general obnoxious behaviour.

So please know and accept that it’s okay for others to disagree with your point of view as long as such disagreements does not lead to violations of human dignity or a further weakening of our already near comatose institutions.

#OurCommonDenominator

Our Common Denominator – 24/10/2014

Audacity of hope – 03/10/2014

I haven’t read Barack Obama’s book ‘audacity of hope’ yet, but I’ll title this piece that. I’ve chosen this title as it represents a personal turning point for me. I have up till now held on to the belief that there’s little to no hope of a better Nigeria emerging in my generation (I’m in my early 30s) or worse in my children’s. I didn’t take that stance flippantly. So how did I reach the ‘no hope’ stance? Here goes…

I have a few mottos that I try to use to encourage and/or guide my outlook on life. One of it is “the evidence of desire is pursuit”. I can’t remember where I first heard that statement, but ever since I heard it, I’ve held on to it. I, like many others occasionally desire things. I hold on to those desires and subconsciously wait for it to materialise. Sometimes, I take no active steps to ensure the desire comes to life, yet I hold on. After time passes, with said desire not appearing, I ask myself, where’s your evidence that you truly desire this thing? Where’s your pursuit? Cue light bulb moment. If I can’t show the evidence of pursuit, then it must mean I truly don’t desire that thing, and if evidence of pursuit exists, then I assess why said desire remains elusive and if there’s anything I can do about it.

This brings me to Nigeria’s current situation. I read a lot of complaints by Nigerians about Nigeria re politics, economy, elitism, unemployment, insecurity and the general breakdown of a social contract. With twitter and other social media platforms, instantaneous reactions are easily observed on every government move or societal happenings. So in the midst of all these complaints, quite a lot of Nigerian’s express desires on what they want out of Nigeria and how things should be. This often makes me wonder, where’s the evidence that these people truly desire these turnaround or things they complain about?

Is there evidence of the personal sacrifices necessary to actualise these desires? Can a mentality change be assessed or observed? How do ordinary Nigerians interact with each other? Are they peaceful, cordial, and respectful? Does anything in their interactions with each other demonstrate that there’s a sane and humane value placed on the Nigerian life? For example, people with vocational jobs, do they try and fleece their customers with exorbitant and outright criminal quotation for tasks? Do same customers negotiate project cost down to such an extent where it leaves, say, the plumber no other choice but to seek to cut corners? Think about it, do you expect your vocational worker or handyman to be able to survive (feed a family) on the beat down project cost you’ve just negotiated? Would you survive if it were you? To some it is just business and all man for himself, but it isn’t just business. If there’s breakdown of trust with every market participant suspicious of one another with presumptions that the other participant will, on average, fleece you without thought, how is this not clear to all that this attitude erodes value creation? I mean, look around you. Has this attitude improved the average standard of living of Nigerians in the last three decades? No. Is anything being done to change it? No. It’s PDPs fault says APC. It’s APC’s fault says PDP. And on and on the blame game goes, but does anything get done? No, but rice is shared, perfect, our problem is sustainably solved.

You’re a customer service officer at work, are you cordial, respectful, professional in your dealings with your employers customers? Or do you always have a chip on your shoulder with the intent to prove to the customer that just walked in that you’re in an equal class of society regardless of the Cayenne the customer just parked outside or turn your nose up on those deemed of an inferior class? Whilst it may be true that some employers have failed to train their customer service officers appropriately, basic human decency surely need not be trained or basic common sense need not be farfetched? Take Nigerians working at our various airports, it may be true that the FG or whoever does not pay them well enough, but should that stop them from ensuring that travellers don’t experience hell at airports? I get that they don’t earn enough or working environment isn’t always conducive, but is the traveller the cause of it? Should you then exert your discomfort on them? How does that alleviate your own discomfort? That’s right, it doesn’t at least not permanently or sustainably. What ever relief you get from exerting hell is only fleeting or temporary at best. So why do it? Our IQ can’t be so low to not grasp this.

A good nation does not come about by happenstance. Deliberate and active steps have to be taken by all and sundry to make it so. Those in government don’t exist or live in a vacuum. They dwell among us. Some of them are our blood relations, others are within six degrees of separation from us. So those we’ve saddled with the responsibility of making the collective benefit materialise live among us, why then aren’t we communicating with them? Like walk over to their house, knock on the door and have a proper conversation. Why do we find it so difficult to organise/hold/attend community meetings with an objective view of discussing our common ails with a view to agreeing solutions that make our collective lives better? Why do the so called “elites” think it beneath them to be part of these conversations especially when their lives are so impacted by it? In reality, these conversations are happening somewhat, but who has been attending?

We all need to take stock and appreciate where we are as a society. We need to understand how badly our resources have been embezzled in the past. The fact that the misappropriation continues today does not mean we are wealthy and that we should take “wait your turn” stance, our resources are more finite than we care to admit. The cold truth is we all need to make personal sacrifices. If you want something of value, be ready to pay for it.

We need better education. If teachers, lecturers, VC’s and other admin staff don’t first make a personal commitment to be incorruptible, then it’ll be very difficult to improve our educational standard. Increase the budget all you like, improvement will hardly materialise, those that have made the personal decision to steal will steal any increase. Perversely, the society will celebrate them as material wealth automatically confers character worthy of emulation on thieves. Values, warped.

We need jobs to reduce unemployment, so need to encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses, even accidental entrepreneurs. Whilst company registration process may not be the global standard 48hours, ordinary Nigerians that work for the CAC need not sabotage the process to make it difficult for risk takers to register their businesses. Surely they can and need to appreciate the wider impact of their sabotage on the society? No, they only care about themselves, damn the society. Has the sabotage turned them to billionaires? No. Yet they perpetuate the impunity.

We need improvement in security. Both the public and the police force need to make sacrifices to make our nation more secured. Members of the police force should desist from soliciting for bribes before doing their jobs. You’re there in the first place because you (presumably) had a heart to serve. The public also need to do a whole lot more for our security officers. They deserve a lot more than they’re currently getting for putting their lives in harm’s way so that the rest of us will feel safe. If anything is worth mass protesting for, it’s better working environment for members of our security services. We’ve neglected them over the years, is the current insecurity any wonder?

We need better leaders. That can only happen if the followers are better too. The quality of our present leaders reflects the quality of the followers. Bad followers can’t produce good leaders. The kind of change we yearn for starts with self. We need to improve our political consciousness and engagement. We all don’t need to be political experts or be members of a political party but we do need a significant percentage of the population to understand the various political ideologies that exists, their impact and how they can be applied/customised to the Nigerian situation. At a minimum, the bigger political picture should be clear to a significant portion of the public, how the actions and especially inactions of every individual contribute to the whole. We need to appreciate that we the people create the systems and establish the institutions that allows and enables us to live an equitable life. We need to maintain those systems or ensure that those we select to represent us maintain the systems and institutionalise a decent standard of living. Our collective complacency so far has led us to where we are today. We simply cannot continue like this.

Religious intolerance and the illusion of ethnicity. One of the evidences that is currently absent and shows me a lack of desire for a better Nigeria is the lack of depth to our thoughts. Although, in my opinion, there aren’t enough historical and factual books written by Nigerians about our history, we can and should be able to observe (at least in the last 34years) that ethnic and religious intolerance has never served us. Whilst those we have been unfortunate to have been led by have used religious and ethnic sentiments to divide and rule us, I still struggle to accept how easily we’ve made ourselves susceptible to such bile and bigotry. Indeed our educational standard hasn’t been up to scratch, surely it can’t be that bad that graduates are unable to see through the bigotry of ethno-religious sentiments? I mean, what evidence exists to support the superiority of one ethnic over another? Aren’t we all just as insecure, do we not all suffer from inadequate infrastructural development, aren’t we all affected by inadequate health services? Poverty, corruption, mismanagement of national resources and their facilitators remain indiscriminate, yet we continue to let it divide us and worse, shed blood for the illusion? Surely one doesn’t need an OND let alone a PhD to realise this?

A similar argument can be made for religious bigotry. Those that oppress the masses come from the two main religions, clergy included. Yet, the masses, even the educated ones, continue to allow religious sentiments stoked by false clergies and leaders divide us. If you’re all so righteous, prim and proper why is corruption so high? Why is there no evidence of your moral uprightness as influenced by your religion reflected in your everyday life and dealings with others? Why do you “se aloala” on a Friday, sing kumbaya on a Sunday, but steal blindly on a Monday?

Hard work. Why are we so loathing of rewarding the dignity and integrity of hard work? Why have we made cutting corners a national past time, celebrating those that circumvent due process, giving them national honours, pardoning them after completing unfairly short sentences, making them VIPs at social events. It is abundantly clear that on a cost/benefit basis, our politicians aren’t delivering – most are not even trying to deliver, yet we freely refer to them as “honourables and excellencies”. What exactly is honourable by their conduct? Why are we so docile as a people?

So, back to my original point, in observing how Nigerians interact with each other on social media, the intolerances, the far too often lack of depth to thought, the lack of critical thinking, the irony of accusers and accused behaving in the exact same way, the astounding selfishness, the immoralities in all forms of life – none of these suggests the presence of “evidence of pursuit” of a better Nigeria – yet, I have decided to have the audacity of hope. Perhaps I am foolish, I don’t know. What I do know is, I have no other choice.

Audacity of hope – 03/10/2014