Known, Unknown and Speculation 

The Known

Hearty congratulations to Nigeria and Nigerians on the swearing in of our new democratically elected President and his Vice, Muhammadu Buhari and Prof Yemi Osinbajo. This is a truly remarkable achievement in our young journey towards becoming a truly democratic nation. I join my voice with others and pray for divine wisdom, strength, harmony and deep resolve to stay the course for our leaders. I wish them success in their term of office and hope they deliver on their promises.

There are a few citizen awareness initiatives also springing up as a result of this transition to a new government, namely; the knowledge that Nigerians votes count in an election and that we can effect a change in government through the ballot box, the value of a qualitative opposition, the good work that the people at BudgIT etc do like the promotion of “The Office of the Citizen” ably driven and supported by Madam Oby Ezekwesili, the Buharimeter, #ActiveCitizen and various other citizen engagement hashtags on social media. All of these will be needed to stay the course for a better Nigeria.

Whilst it may be tempting for supporters of APC to want to take no prisoners as they bask in the victory of recent events, the Buhari administration will do well to realise that the presence of a qualitative opposition is beneficial to them and necessary for good governance but more importantly APC must avoid  conflating public criticism as opposition criticism.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the PDP is well placed to be the main opposition party. They will need to get their acts together in double time. Whilst the new Buhari administration will enjoy a honeymoon period, such will not be available to the PDP. If care is not taken and swiftly too, the risk to PDP isn’t just haemorrhaging qualitative members, but its actual future as a political party may be at stake.

I supported Kowa in the general election. The main focus of the party now must be getting one of its members into elective office especially legislative ones. The party must contest vigorously any by-elections that come up in the future. The party can’t afford to still be a “mushroom” party by the next general election cycle. It has to have seats it is defending and must have delivered on its ideological promises in such seats. This will aid the wider public taking the party more seriously during the next general election. I believe our nation needs to see that unencumbered parties and candidates are viable options too.

The Unknown

I have to say that I am extremely surprised we still don’t have details of anyone that will be supporting our new President or be in his cabinet. Whilst I understand that the revelation and nomination for ministers may be delayed until after the 8th NASS is inaugurated on 9 June, shouldn’t positions that do not require legislative clearance have been made public? The APC has been aware for quite some time now that they will be forming a new government come May 29. So Presidential Aides such as the Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Principal Secretary and other special advisers, however few, should have been decided on well before now. The Presidency is a 24/7 job, who has been assisting the President since being sworn in? Surely it can’t just be Vice President Osinbajo? Is it acceptable that members of the campaign organisation have just carried on as if they’ve retained campaign positions? Is Amaechi de facto Chief of Staff with him being DG of Buhari’s campaign? Was that why he was at Eagle Square rather than Rivers State where he should have been handing over to Gov Wike? Or is horse trading still going on even this late straddling into the new dispensation? 

This doesn’t look well on the APC in my opinion and makes me wonder how much of a party man the new President is going to be. One of PDP’s undoing is not separating the party from the state. It has to be extremely challenging for a holder of elective office to comply with the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office whilst simultaneously being a principal officer of his party as PDP are wont to do. The obvious conflict of interest being the office holder isn’t just the Governor or President of his party members but of all resident of state or all Nigerians. I imagine that APC is aware of this conflicting structure (at least should be from its current members that were previously in PDP) and will be doing its best to avoid making such basic governance mistakes. So if APC separates party from State, it risks there being ideological divergences between it and the President. How will it handle it? How will it handle the President belonging to nobody?

The Speculation

APC ran a very effective presidential campaign. They clearly had a strategic and forward looking plan that ultimately culminated into victory. If the theory that APC will be looking to separate party from state holds, then it stands to reason or at least speculation that it will already be planning for 2019.

Premature to be already thinking of 2019 with the new administration yet to properly take off? not really if one considers the age of the new president, the obvious toll the presidency will have on him physically and the scale of task ahead of him. Even in better developed countries such as the US, UK etc, the top job takes obvious physical toll on the leaders. More relevant is Nelson Mandela as he was similar in age (76 to Buhari’s 72) when he became president of South Africa and he only served one term in office. 

Away from President Buhari and in keeping with separation of party from state, APC will possibly be considering likely candidates to present in place of Buhari in 2019. With the president having only served one term in office, it is likely candidates considered will be Northern. I imagine that Governors Tambuwal and El Rufai will be early front runners. Both have positives going for them e.g. Gov El Rufai has proven he can deliver good governance in an executive office whilst Gov Tambuwal has proven he can work well with others in his stint as Speaker. What both need to do between now and 2019 is prove they’ve got the positives the competition has. By this I mean Gov El Rufai’s successful stint in executive office as FCT Minister didn’t require that he needed to work well with a state legislature whilst being a good speaker and leader of legislators doesn’t confirm Gov Tambuwal will be a good executive.

In proving their mettle, this will hopefully raise the governance barrier, be a marker for other governors and as just reward in getting the party’s presidential ticket. Anything that forces governance barrier to be raised is good for Nigeria as a whole as the opposition parties will need to match this if they hope to be successful in any electoral contest.

Known, Unknown and Speculation 

Time to roll up our sleeves

There is a lot of hope riding on the Buhari government. Too many people have an illogical expectation of the Buhari government, illogical in that their hope does not reflect the scale of the challenges we face as a nation. How do I know this? Too few people are having the sort of conversations that is focused on finding the structural solutions to our teeming problems. Some of those that are having it like Onye Nkuzi are unnecessarily and occasionally confrontational especially when there’s no Martin Luther King to their Malcolm X.

The truth is if we truly want Nigeria to get on the path of becoming better, then it is likely that the most appropriate solution is also the most painful one. Painful in that some people will have to accept to lose their jobs (mostly civil servants) and seek alternative means of employment that adds value, others will need to go to jail but more importantly many will need to give up some of their inadequate earnings in form of taxes to fund government. Leadership is extremely important on the journey Nigeria is about to embark on from May 29 but as a result of the sacrifices, individual and collective that need to be made, followership will be equally as important.

No shortcut can be taken by Nigeria if we are to fulfil our potential and deliver on democracy. Politics and policies based on sentiments, religious or ethnic, should have no place in our discourse. Our ideology has got to be clear, strategic and precise. In fact, any party that has no clear and strategic ideology on how to move Nigeria forward should henceforth never be accepted at the political table or consciousness.

There’s a lot wrong in Nigeria, and a lot wrong with Nigerians. We seem to get too easily distracted by the mundane e.g. President-elect Buhari shaking the hands of Mrs Oshiomole. Surely, there are far more important socio-economic issues to discuss and lose decorum on than who the President-elect chooses to shake? We far too often expect more from others than we expect of ourselves. We are too quick in moving the ‘goal post’ when a person of interest is concerned. The value of our truth and objectivity far too often depends on how far removed we are from the ‘accused’. On to more important issues…

If governments in Nigeria are going to deliver on good governance, then we need them to be completely reliant on the citizens – politically and economically. Politically in that every Nigerian of voting age should be encouraged to be electorally engaged, that every vote must count and that there should be no room for electoral malpractices. Every instance of electoral fraud must end in jail terms for all guilty of electoral fraud. No ifs, no buts. Further, the government also needs to be completely economically dependent on its citizens i.e. government funding is mainly dependent on income tax, value added tax, property related taxes and then corporation tax. We need to re-establish the link between government and business. The raison d’être of government should along with protecting the lives of its citizens also be securing the interests and improving sustainability of businesses.

Our current structure confers full responsibility for the development of Nigeria on the federal government as evidenced by the composition of the ‘exclusive legislative list’. This structure also handicaps the same federal government from being able to deliver on the development with circa 50% of government revenue outside the control of the federal government. It is why in my opening gambit I said that the expectation on President-elect Buhari is illogical as he lacks full control of the resources necessary to deliver on what he promised and what people are hoping for. Whilst it is ‘theoretically’ possible for him to deliver on these expectations, and for this to happen, there’ll be a need for “divine never-before-seen-in-the-world coordination” among all tiers of government. The coordination will need to work better than clockwork.

Whilst I am an advocate for the enshrinement of true fiscal federalism, power and resource control devolution, I am also aware that devolving too quickly and too soon to tiers of government that are unprepared will probably not achieve the aim of devolution. Besides preparing the various tiers of government for handling new powers, the citizens also have to be fully sensitised to appreciate the new structure and its shortcomings. There will need to be a transitional framework for devolution – a framework backed by law. Just giving states or local governments the constitutional power to grant exploratory licenses on natural resources will not be enough to avoid the mistakes of Abuja and the past. I think we need to go further and sanitise revenues derived from such activity. Sanitisation will help to avoid transferring the resource rent curse known as the Dutch Disease from federal to state or local governments.

For example, let’s assume oil was discovered in the Niger Delta in 2015. Instead of going with our current method of accruing and immediately spending the revenues generated per barrel of oil, the revenues could be deposited in a reserves account held outside Nigeria with oversight maintained by the CBN for the benefit of ND states or future generations of residents of the ND. As part of licenses granted to companies by ND states, a local content law could be added that requires and encourages licensee to employ locals at fair wages, invest in local research & development institutes to produce future local scientist and engineers. The government could for example ensure that at the time or as part of the granting of crude exploration licenses, ‘value added services’ firm/industry (e.g an oil refining industry, port facilities, airports and other transportation infrastructures) are also encouraged to be created perhaps through PPP’s or targeted policies that encourages specific FDI into ancillary industries. The government will then need to depend solely on income tax, VAT and corporation tax generated from these industries for funding rather than resource rent directly.

Besides the better governance that this sanitisation (keeping government hands away from resource rent) is likely to incentivise, there are also the additional benefits that the nation’s currency will be properly valued with currency valuation likely to be better linked to real productivity, remove the need for CBN to intervene in the forex market and make manufacturers/exporters more competitive. Again this will need to be implemented as part of the transitional framework due to the level of infrastructural deficiency as well as current over-dependency on oil revenue from the ND.

The oil industry is now quite rotten and the above approach will be difficult to implement in it. However, we have the mining industry to use as a test case for controlled devolution of power with non-oil natural resources geographically well spread. Further, due to advancement in technology especially electronics, growing global population, increased regulation for green technologies, the demand for strategic resources is increasing at a rate much faster than supply. Some of these strategic resources are abundant in Nigeria e.g. uranium, tin, iron ore, niobium, natural gas, arable land etc. The task is to not limit the development of the mining sector to just extractive industries but to ensure we can also process extracted resources within Nigeria. We need to get ahead of the curve of the increasing global demand for strategic resources. Rather than creating federal universities willy nilly, we should be establishing specialist educational and research institutes that will produce deep thinkers, scientists and engineers of the future. Our mining industry has been ignored for far too long. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, learn from the mistakes of the oil industry and correct it in the mining one. It’s time to create the best mining industry in the world and we can use the transitional framework strategically to this end.

Time to roll up our sleeves