Corruption vs Mismanagement 

My dear country Nigeria is in serious need of rationalisation – a rationalisation that goes beyond government or political class inanity. It appears every adult Nigerian needs to reappraise their value system and sense of humanity with the aim being to ascertain whether or not we are getting the basics right. Basics like common decency, sanctity of life, basic self-management, basic selflessness, basic health – personal and communal.

Much has been made of how corruption is the bane of our society, but I disagree with this. Our biggest challenge and bane in my opinion is mismanagement. As individuals and a society, it seems we are unable to manage most things right or appropriately. This issue of mismanagement isn’t new either. It has been a challenge prior to independence.

Our independence should have happened earlier than 1 October 1960 but mismanagement. When independence finally arrived, we mismanaged our expectations. The founding fathers mismanaged democracy by not committing to it fully. The fear of ethnic domination (read political class’ loss of influence) ensured they couldn’t see beyond their noses. In truth Chief Awolowo realised this and tried to warn his compatriots, but they ganged up on him (NPC and NCNC coalition). Chief Awolowo had his faults, no doubt, but any democracy without opposition or where the incumbent seeks to eliminate opposition is no democracy at all. If our democracy does not encourage an active opposition, then we’re mismanaging democracy.

We like to quote Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew as models Nigeria and its leaders should embrace, whilst LKY was ruthless (rightly or wrongly) at supressing communism in Singapore, what he did do was submit himself publicly (and at least annually) to opposition (televised) debate to encourage and support the right opposition as a replacement to communism. LKY didn’t just submit himself to local opposition but also to foreign ones. He never saw it as an irritation, but more as a way of putting his policies through opposition fire in order to distil it as you would liquor or purify as you would gold. But not us, we prefer to ridicule opposition by calling them “mushroom” parties, or eliminate them through our “winner takes all attitude”.

There’s no society on earth that does not suffer some form of corruption. Denmark has ranked top on Transparency International’s corruption perception index and even it has never achieved a score of 100. Its highest score of 92 in 2014 suggests there is still some 8% of corruption in the country. Whilst Denmark was the least corrupt country, it isn’t the country with the highest per capita income according to World Bank data. It came 7th on that metric in 2014, the year it scored its highest on the corruption index. Although Qatar is 22nd on the corruption index, it is 3rd on the per capita income table. Finland is 2nd on the corruption index but 16th on per capita. Kuwait is 55th on corruption index, but 24th on per capita table. Apologies for stating the obvious, but the implication is that more corrupt countries had better per capita income than less corrupt ones. The point is waging an anticorruption war shouldn’t be our main focus but our mismanagement of corruption as with everything else should be. Of course if we want to play maths, I’m sure we’ll find a link, most likely an inverse one, between corruption and per capita income. What corruption does is undermine societal trust – trust in political, economic, judicial systems and other institutions necessary for reasonable development.

The best way to fight corruption sustainably is to institutionalise its management and be transparent about it. Let all of our laws be made easily accessible and in languages citizens can understand. We also should reform our judiciary, including the police and make them truly independent. The working condition of the Nigerian Police Force needs vast improvement. Their pay, equipment, training, quality of recruits, health and life insurance covers are all in need of professionalization. We cannot mismanage our security forces or the judiciary and not expect corruption to be a symptom or outcome of such dysfunction.

The Constitution makes the security and welfare of citizens the primary purpose of government. In order for this primary purpose to be met, basic welfare facilities such as primary healthcare, community policing, basic education – primary and junior secondary, basic promotion/support of business activity, basic dispute mediation and/or justice need to be provided by the government. Are our government, at any level, delivering excellence in any of these basic primary purposes? These primary purposes are the foundation that any society with developmental aims needs to excel at. If we are not excellent in any of these basic activities, how can we expect or hope to deliver on more complex socio-political and economic issues?

Are we managing our economy well? The short, medium and long-term outlook for our economy is painful. We’ve always mismanaged our economy right from pre-independence. Government’s role in our economy has been overbearing and more about rent-seeking and maintaining patronage of a select class. The public and civil services are mismanaged – a significant portion of the public service/servants are adding zero value to the government or society. The proof is all around us – or if you’re in doubt look at the budgets at all levels of government and the institutionalised “yam” process within it.

Is the private sector any better at management? There are various ways one can look at this. One obvious way is to look at how well the private sector can withstand economic shock or to what extent non-oil industries catch cold when the oil industry sneezes. To what extent is the private sector taking or seizing initiative? How well are they lobbying government especially the legislature to ensure enabling laws are passed or revised where necessary? To what extent is the private sector creating or taking advantages where service/products gaps exist? Is the banking sector especially taking any risk in the real sector and away from public sector? Is the banking or finance sector sufficiently lobbying the right arms of government to create a better business environment for providing capital/lending?

Since the oil price crash, newspaper headlines have been filled with one cabal or another seeking government protection, patronage or companies laying off staff. But more importantly, is there any company, industry or sector that we can refer to as a “centre of excellence” any where in Nigeria? This is a genuine question. Is there a company, industry or sector that delivers “excellence” at least two-thirds of the time in product and service quality, operational efficiency, staff welfare, website functionality etc? To be fair, I have observed pockets and instances of excellence, for example, BudgIT NG (God bless you guys), Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (Dr Kale and team – chop knuckle), Social Liga & TPL promo campaigns and I’m sure there are probably others. I am certain that if we ask most Nigerians now about their general life management (family, career, finance, citizenship, business/personal relationships etc), few to none will admit to being less than consistently excellent. This begs the question, if most are individually excellent, then why is the aggregate so deficient of it?

Several opinions have been posited on devaluation or the Naira’s current valuation and why the government should devalue the naira. Mr President said he remains unconvinced by these opinions. What he hasn’t done is provide us the reasons why he is convinced that his current stance is appropriate. Why or how will the short-term pain of his current stance turn into long-term gain? What is that long-term gain and why should Nigerians accept it? What will be the sign(s) of the inflection point for this long-term gain? That is, how long is this short-term pain expected to last?

Fellow Nigerians, take your time to consider every sector you can think of. Let’s for the sake of argument agree that consistency is defined as two-thirds of the time (this is even short of 70% normally needed to get an A in an exam). See if you can find consistent excellence, whether from the private sector in any industry or public service local, state or federal. And while we are at it lets also consider if we are managing being a citizen right. What liberties are we as citizens willing to give up for a better society? Did we give the liberties up or were they taken from us? Do we agree to the liberties our Constitution says we’ve given up to our government? How do we ensure that what we’ve given up is used judiciously? How are we ensuring that the process that produces those that want to offer to represent us in government meet our standards? We give up our liberties because through collective bargaining and bulk purchasing by our reps in government, we expect to get a better deal than if each citizen were to negotiate or provide their own security, hospital, road, rail, airplane or airport etc. Are we getting due or reasonable returns?

Delivering excellence on any endeavour, in any area of life is about management – efficient and effective management of time and resources. When management is inefficient – then we get symptoms like bad products, injustices, bad finances, inadequate infrastructure, inadequate strategy, low quality service, insecurity and of course corruption. It is time we ask ourselves and our representatives the (mis)management question.

The only way to finish up is to recite the second stanza of our national anthem:

O God of creation, direct our noble cause

Guide our leader’s right

Help our youths the truth to know

In love and honesty to grow

And living just and true

Great lofty heights attain

To build a nation where peace

And justice shall reign.

 

Corruption vs Mismanagement 

Political belief and party affiliation

First, I am glad that we are now a democratic nation. Second, I’m also glad that its embrace as the best system of government is now main stream with the probability of a military coup now seriously reduced. Finally, I am glad that social media provides a huge opportunity for enlightenment, engagement and scrutiny of government and related political elites/class. The combination of these three gives me some hope that a better Nigeria may be possible, yet.

Given our relatively short history in democratic embrace, our progress with this system of government delivering governance dividend is understandable. Unfortunately we now live in the information age, so our progress though positive, appears quite lethargic. Given the resources available in the world now and the fact that we have a high number of intelligent and exposed citizens, our sluggish pace of development can’t be forgiven. I’d like to think there are at least 1% of Nigerians that fall in this intelligent category. Surely this number is enough to drag us forward and upwards? Perhaps the system is structured in a way that dissuades these types of people from participating in governance or some other endeavour of social and developmental importance but then, is anything of value handed over on a platter? Should they not force their way in/through? Maybe politics is a calling and one needs to be called especially if one considers how dirty measures of the current participants have made it seem? May be a more important question to ask is what size should the “enlightened” political class that drives progress in a nation be and do we have the quantity? Is this where we are lacking? That is, are our enlightened citizens of insufficient quantity or geographical spread to pull us out of our misery? Hopefully the sociologist among us will do a research on this as we need as much contribution as possible to the body of knowledge that will drag our nation forward.

I’m not a member of any political party in Nigeria but I often wonder how their meetings go. What do they discuss? How are they organised? How are policies decided? What is the interplay between top-down and bottom-up view on policies? How extensive are their policy researches? What resources do they use? Are these resources local or international? Do they engage in focus-groups-type researches? What is the social and educational class mix of these focus groups?

Political parties ultimately provide guidance on ideology and produce candidates whilst the public produce incumbents or their replacement. For these three critical points in the electoral cycle to achieve ultimate success i.e. move society forward, then they broadly need to agree, move in lock-step and seamlessly. It seems to me a complete and utter waste for people with divergent beliefs in ideology to belong to the same party. Such a scenario can only lead to unnecessary and distracting arguments at internal party meetings. Beyond that, it can also lead to unwanted polarity among supporters of popular politicians within the same party. For example, Gov El Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani don’t strike me, based on their ideologies, as politicians that should belong to the same party. Their views of the role of government or the extent of its power, its priority in delivering governance are polar opposites. Senator Sani is a self-confessed leftist, whilst Gov El Rufai’s rhetoric and certainly his policy pursuits is at least centre-right if not rightist.

Now imagine a Kaduna State APC party policy meeting with these two popular politicians in attendance. Clearly both men have strong beliefs in their ideology and will defend their positions. Rather than debate what policies should be priority and how it should be delivered, it is more likely that the discussion or worse argument will unhelpfully be focussed on left vs right policies. With Gov El Rufai being the State’s CEO/CSO, he is more likely to do what he believes in anyway (rightly so as he won the people’s mandate) even if the party ends up deciding on pursuing a leftist agenda. We have already seen this play out in his climb down from his directive on beggars in Kaduna. With this mild win, Senator Sani has gone on the offensive, claiming that his decision to yield the primary to Mallam El Rufai is almost solely what gave him victory. This is clearly not ideal for the party and is a needless distraction.

With political ideology playing a reduced role in the coming together of politicians, it is hardly surprising that our big-two parties seem a collection of strange bedfellows. It doesn’t really matter where one looks or which party one considers, there just seems to be several contradictory politicians in the same parties. Given their utterances and policy delivery(s), I’d expect Governors Fayemi, El Rufai, Fashola, Donald Duke, Saraki, Chime, Atiku etc to belong to a party that is conservative or at least centre right whilst Governors Aregbesola, Fayose, Tambuwal, President Buhari, Senator Sani etc to belong a populist/socialist party or that is at least centre left. The first group seem to me to want government to be less interventionist than the second group going by their rhetoric.

This mismatch of politics, politicians and ideology can’t be good for the pace of development the nation so earnestly needs. My hope is that by the next election cycle in 2019, cross carpeting of politicians and their followers will be led by ideology rather than self-interest. I believe aligning ideology will make internal party discussions more qualitative and reflective in policies pursued by incumbents. It’ll also make it easier for the public to have reasonable policy expectation which in turn would be supportive of economic activity as capitalists will find it easier to plan and commit to a multi-year investment schedule.

Personally I would classify myself as centre-right on the political spectrum. I have conservative values when it comes to family and its role in the society, I prefer a small government (size and welfarism) that isn’t interventionist, I prefer capitalism as an economic system and I also prefer to minimise my tax liability. If I were to join a party, I’d join Kowa. Whilst it remains difficult to place it on a political spectrum, most of its values are in least disagreement to mine. If you want to find out where you are on the political spectrum, this link is a good place to start.

Political belief and party affiliation

In need of pan-Nigerianism

Becoming a developed nation like the US, UK, Singapore, Japan etc is a deliberate action, a deliberate action taken by the citizens of those countries, their founding fathers and leaders in government over (generational) time. The actions these developed nations took encompassed every strata of society. They also allowed themselves time to work through inevitable issues that arose. They stayed on the path of development, their leaders taking care to not lose sight (in face of civil wars and internal clashes) of common vision and ideals of prosperity for a better nation. There is no developed nation in the world today whose development occurred by happenstance. 

Most had visionary leaders, leaders with clear ideals, ideals that made their resolve unwavering in the face of incredible challenges. Martin Luther King had a dream, Nelson Mandela had a dream, Lee Kuan Yew had a dream, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson et al all had dreams, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara and Obafemi Awolowo all had dreams. The dreams of these men was for a prosperous and peaceful society. Their unshakeable belief in the ideal of their dreams held them steady in the face of adversity. Some of these men lived to see their dream take root, others weren’t so lucky. The unluckiest of all lived for too long and saw their dreams planted but uprooted before taking firm shape. The founding fathers of Nigeria belong to the unlucky group. 

Since independence and the death of our founding fathers, there has been a dearth of visionary leaders in Nigeria. Leaders that can unify ethnicities behind a common goal through the sheer power of their ideal and not on shallow rhetoric. It is most unfortunate that 49 years on from the military’s first incursion into governance, we have struggled to find a common vision for Nigeria. We even had a great opportunity during the Abori Accord discussion to agree a new vision, but like everything else, we squandered it for lack of foresight and understanding. To compound the issue, we also seem averse to learning not only from our history, but also of others that have been through the sort of challenges we’re facing as a nation. The best period in our short history coincided with when we had strong regions and the regions visionary leaders. There was a societal and communal purpose to every policy initiated by these leaders. Educational, health, infrastructural, sports, science, political – no matter where one looks, every policy had an ultimate goal of uplifting the society as a whole and in a coordinated logical manner. Idealism not only led realism, it matched realism at every point of the policy effectiveness cycle.

The effectiveness of these leaders is hardly surprising. Their ideals were well researched, thought out, tested and contested over time but the strength shone through still. In his independence day speech, our first Prime Minister, Alhaji Balewa said “today’s ceremony marks the culmination of a process which began fifteen years ago……each step of our constitutional advance has been purposefully and peacefully planned with full and open consultation, not only between representatives of all the various interests in Nigeria…..” Chief Awolowo in his speech March 1951 introducing the Action Congress (AG) at a members conference emphasised two basic guiding principles agreed by the party “life more abundant” and “freedom for all” but went further to list how these could be achieved through “education for all children, enlightenment for illiterate adults and children above school age, provision of health and general welfare, abolition of want by means of economic polity”. He opined further “having agreed on these basic principles, it becomes necessary to take the next step, namely: to agree as to common methods in the application of those principles. This is a very important step: because, even though people may agree as to principles, if they don’t agree as to methods of application it would not be possible for them to work together. Only we must make sure about two things, namely: that our principles are just, and that our methods are practical. For nothing defeats their own ends so easily as unjust principles and impractical methods of approach”.

In comparing these leaders to the current crop, it is easy to see what is missing. The current crop of political elite are lacking in ideology, vision and belief of what it means to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation as described in our constitution. This lack of ideal plays itself out in uncoordinated and ineffective policies at all levels of government with resultant hardship for the majority of the people. It seems to me that the political elite don’t ask this very fundamental question – to what purpose or end are we considering a policy? Other related question is does this policy benefit the majority of the people? Is it guided by a common and shared ideology?

One of the worrying things about Nigeria today is the level of distrust among various ethnic groupings. Distrust sowed by years of military and elite “divide and conquer” rule. Some may argue, with merit, that this lack of trust preceded military rule and was only mitigated by strong and independent regional government during the early days of an independent Nigeria. What is undeniable however is that we have a terrible record of dealing with ethnic disharmony. Too many within the political elite find it too easy to stoke ethnic sentiment to perpetuate and pursue self-serving interest. It is why I was particularly disappointed at how badly the President responded to a question on government inclusion during his recent visit to the US. Less than 20% of Nigerian’s voted at the last general election – 54% of which voted for President Buhari, implying a staggering 46% of those who voted did not vote for him. Whilst there’s a national outlook to the spread of the vote he received, the total number of those that didn’t vote for him cannot be flippantly dismissed. Further, whilst he was APC’s presidential candidate, he is Nigeria’s President. Once elected and considering the level of disharmony, 97% and 5% should never feature in the President’s mind. That he opened his response to that question with it suggests he’s dwelt on it for far too much than is expedient for his government.

Those that saw little wrong with it and agreed with the President’s retort of it being political reality overlook the immaturity of our democracy. Indeed the Constitution of our country provides certain protection to federating units, what it doesn’t do is prophesy the budget of the federal government. With the budget being under the President’s full discretion, he can direct federal resources to states where he received the most votes whilst still meeting the minimum protection guaranteed by the constitution on other states or regions where he received fewer votes. For example, former President Jonathan created 12 new federal universities during his tenure, 9 of these were based in Northern Nigeria. Nothing within the Constitution prevented or says he can’t do this. So it is slightly disingenuous for President Buhari to say that the constitution prevents him from bias. Of course, there is a thing called ‘federal character’ but that only goes as far as top government agency appointments, federal civil service and the security services.

In matured democracies, ideologies are the contest in election campaigns as it is what will guide whoever wins the election. For example, in the UK regardless of who wins the general election, the aim of the victorious party is to demonstrate to the whole country how their ideology is beneficial to all. It’s about demonstrating for Labour, left wing policies is best for the country or that right-wing policies is best if Conservative is in office. What these parties do is announce policies that galvanises their base but also appeals to the other side in order to win. It is never about 97% vs 5%. Our leaders should learn from how Lee Kuan Yew’s unshakeable belief in meritocracy endured and catapulted Singapore into a developed nation in the same time we’ve been an independent nation.

Our challenges are great, but our resolve must be greater. We cannot continue to enact policies based on bottom-up analysis with each ethnicity thinking of themselves only. Top-down solutions are of greater importance in nation building. Received wisdom says a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are a multi ethnic and multicultural nation. We need a shared ideology(s). Our political elites must promote this. Ideologies can be as strong a unifying force as link to ethnic heritage. Perception can often be reality in politics. President Buhari must not tire of selling the pan-Nigeria perception. He has to be a parrot about it, even bordering on constituting a nuisance. His cabinet appointees have to follow his lead on this and follow it up with implemented policies. We need our President to be as pan-Nigeria as he is anti-corruption.

 

 

 

 

In need of pan-Nigerianism

Idealism vs Realism

So our politics is still largely a propaganda driven one. Rather than political parties differentiate themselves based on ideology, their campaign rhetoric is very much based on the familiar Nigerian refrain “i-better-pass-my-neighbour”. Campaign spiel during the last general election was much more about why my guy isn’t as bad as the other guy and quite light on policies. The campaign was so light on policies that a month into the new dispensation, the ruling party is still unclear on its policy direction. This lack of a clear ideology, in my opinion, is contributory to the “slow-going” of the President Buhari administration, where personal interest and position jostling is causing a distraction for elected officials and a friction between party and members. Clearly this is an unacceptable situation to put the new President and the country in.

In my previous article, I reiterated that we need our parties to develop ideologies so that it’ll be easier for the public to have a reasonable expectation of policy direction. A political ideology encompasses every strata of society from taxation to economic structure, defence spending or foreign relations to health infrastructure, welfarism to citizenship/ownership rights.

So what is an ideology? An ideology is a set of ideas, principles or beliefs that those who hold it true use as the bedrock of how a system should run. A political ideology concerns itself with how a society should work, institutions should function, the role of government, the extent or allocation of power to government and the related power-play between the government and the governed.

The most common way of describing ideologies is broadly dependent on their positioning on the political spectrum, that is, left or left-wing and right or right-wing. There are a lot more sub-groups of political ideologies beyond the two mentioned above but these are the oldest of the political spectrum and a good place to start my discourse on political ideology.

Left-wing ideology – this ideology is broadly socialist and aims to reduce class inequality or improve social equality. For example, communism (China) and socialism (Greece – Syriza) are forms of government widely accepted as being on the left axis of the political spectrum. An example of how this ideology can impact policy is this: on taxation, a leftist political party will most likely (and have been known to) push for tax policies that will be hierarchical or tiered, that is, effective tax rates on income will be linked to how much a citizen earns. For example, someone that earns N1.5m per annum may pay 20% in income tax whilst someone that earns N20m per annum may pay 35% in income tax. The aim of this structure being that those that earn more or deemed wealthier should contribute more to government coffers and society. More often than not, a left-wing government will raise taxes rather than reduce it to source funding for its social policies.

Another example of how a left-wing ideology can drive a party or government policy relates to welfarism or the part of society deemed disadvantaged. A left leaning government is more likely to be generous with policies on benefits to those unemployed, spend more on making sure the disadvantaged (lower class) aren’t left behind by those deemed better off (middle or higher class) and is more likely to run a big welfare program in its budget. Such a government will want to spend on education or public schools to ensure the quality is comparable to private schools with the assumption being that children of lower class citizens are more likely to attend free or low fee paying public schools – basically ‘equalising’ exposure to quality education irrespective of social class.

On economy, a left leaning government is more likely to be interventionist in nature seeking to interfere in markets where it feels it has a social responsibility to do so in order to reduce perceived exploitation of citizens by businesses, with lower class citizens the most vulnerable. This often leads to central planning, a dominant federal government, trade unions, labour strikes, high red tape or bureaucracy and increased cost of doing business.

A left leaning government also tends to be big in terms of size (employees) or budget relative to the economy which right-wingers criticise as they believe it leads to corruption and inefficiency whilst left-wingers argue against small government because they believe it leads to nepotism – “increasing the chances that the rich will get richer” and social inequality.

Right-wing ideology – this ideology is broadly conservative and believes that social inequality is normal, natural or inevitable. This belief is often defended with natural laws such as the “survival of the fittest”, that is, it is natural that the strong will dominate the weak. A right-wing party is more likely to believe in free markets or capitalism, be traditional in its views e.g. pro-life and anti-abortion and be hierarchical in its view of societal class. Back to taxation, a right-wing party or government is more likely to push for policies that reduce the effective rate of taxes. An extreme right-wing tax policy could be a flat personal income tax rate, say 20%, for all citizens irrespective of social class. The argument here is that the impact of the flat rate is the same on everyone, salary or wealth size notwithstanding and presumes this should result in equal indignation on the impact of taxes.

A right leaning party or government also tends to have a reduced welfare budget in comparison to a leftist party or government. Whilst a left-wing government may be generous with unemployment benefits, a right-wing party will be very reluctant to pay benefit to anyone not demonstrably seen to be doing everything they can to become employed. Right wing governments believe in rewarding hard work and that workers should get and are entitled to more relief from the state than non-workers.

As previously mentioned, governments based on right-wing ideologies tend to favour capitalism and would normally promote policies that frees up the market, stay out of the way of businesses by reducing bureaucratic regulations and red tape. The belief here is that, and this is linked to tax policy, citizens should be left with as much disposable income as possible and that this should lead to increased spending (consumption in GDP equation) which should be supportive of economic activity and growth. This is similar to the argument those against left policies often use that government doesn’t know best and that increased GDP or economic activity shouldn’t mainly be as a result of government spending i.e. G in the GDP equation where GDP=C+I+G+(Export-Import).

There is another ideology that is equally as relevant to this discourse other than the two mentioned above called Centrism. The centrist political stance is more of a pragmatic or balanced outlook on ideologies than being an ideology itself. However, in my opinion, a true centrist stance of perfect equal balance between left and right ideologies does not exist, and that one is more likely to be centre-left or centre-right.

What does this all mean for Nigeria? Looking at the two main parties, one cannot place them categorically in either political spectrum. Further, both parties can hardly be referred to as centrists either. Let’s consider APC, the ruling party at the centre. On the one hand at the federal level, the party has left leaning policies such as the manifesto promise of a social welfare program that pays at least N5,000 per month to the poorest family potentially adding an annualised N1.5tn recurrent expenditure to the national budget, embark on an agricultural reform to support farming (interventionist), provide allowances to discharged unemployed youth corps members or at the state level, several APC states want to run similar free student meal programs to Osun, implement free education policy whilst on the other hand, at the federal level manifesto promises on PPP led infrastructure, Oil & Gas technology support policies seems to suggest the party will need to come up with capitalist-type policies that’ll lean it right-wing.

However having policies that lean heavily to both ideological spectrum does not make the APC a centrist party. To be centrist, its policies need to be closer to the centre i.e. support both social equality and hierarchy simultaneously rather than policies at both ends of the spectrum that seemingly balances the societal lever on a fulcrum. The PDP isn’t dissimilar to the APC in this regard. Some of its economic policies can be deemed left leaning e.g. SURE-P, YOUWIN or the discrete automotive policy that attempts to be capitalist.

To be fair, we are new to this democracy thing and years of military rule has deprived us the opportunity to properly evaluate the various ideologies in the world and ultimately group ourselves along ideological lines as strongly as we identify with our ethnic heritage. If the belief in ideologies and the resultant groupings is strong, it could form the basis of strong inter-ethnic linkages and aid unity. This is why I believe our political parties need to come up with what they believe is ideologically the right way for our society to be structured or governed. Clarifying this will give the parties an enduring compass that will guide generations to come.

President Buhari, per his speech at Chatham House on 26 Feb 2015, became a converted democrat in 1991 following the peaceful dissolution of the USSR. It’s been 24 years since and in that time the President has run for the highest office in Nigeria thrice. It has to be said that it is disappointing that in all of that time and given his experience and resources, the President still seems to be unclear on his political ideology, the very thing that should be guiding him now.  A lot of the rhetoric coming out from various APC intelligentsias suggests that they are more concerned about running an efficient government rather than an effective one. I like the way Chuba Ezekwesili describes it “effectiveness is picking a direction and efficiency is running really fast in that direction”. A current issue of discussion is the need for the government to increase IGR, tantamount to improving tax collection. This will make government more efficient, obviously a good thing, but hardly effective as policy direction remains vague. The key question is, with ideology unknown, how can we trust the government to spend increased IGR in a manner that is strategic and improves the general standard of living of Nigerians?

There are so many issues we need top-down direction on, issues that the presence of ideologies will help shape the narrative for their discussion. For example, we need to decide whether we are a multi-ethnic society seeking seamless integration or we are a society of several ethnicities seeking peaceful coexistence. We need to decide the role of religion in the affairs of state and if we are going to run a truly secular state. We need to decide if our current political and governance structure is sustainable given our challenges. We need to decide if want to devolve power and resource control away from the centre.

We are too realistic in our approach to solving our numerous problems. We need a good measure of idealism. Idealism is what fuels vision and creates aspiration whilst realism can lead one to be too short-termist in outlook. We need a roadmap, an all encompassing and strategic one for where we’re headed as a nation. If our politics is going to be aspirational, then it needs to be built on clear ideals.

Idealism vs Realism

Class of 2015 in crisis

I have to say I am really worried about Nigeria. I don’t think we have been more divided than we currently are in recent history. Whilst President Buhari won the presidential general election, 46% of those that voted didn’t vote for him. Considering the lack of inter-ethnic empathy and trust currently prevalent in the country, 46% is a huge number. Whilst the goal to defeat the incumbent president Jonathan was a great unifying factor for the APC, it was quite clear that the party remained an association of strange bedfellows to most objective observers. The conflicting personal interest within the APC was quite clear as the party, throughout the general election, failed to articulate its common ideology beyond defeating the incumbent. This ideological failing is one that can be levied against all political parties in Nigeria and not just the APC. Without the presence of a common ideology in a party, it is difficult for trust to be established between the members in government and those not.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about whether the APC will be successful where the PDP failed in separating the governance of the party from that of the state. By the shenanigans in the NASS and the arrogant way the APC leadership has sought to impose itself on an independent arm of government, I think I have my answer.

In the three months following the victory at the general election, if the APC leaders were serious, their focus would have been clarifying and cementing its ideological policies with its elected members so that regardless of who ends up in principal offices, the direction of the party would be maintained. Let me explain. For example, the President promised to create 20,000 new jobs to improve the unemployment situation, one way of achieving this is by revitalising the housing or construction industry. In order for the impact of executive policy to be far reaching in this regard, new enabling laws and reform of existing ones such as the Land Use Act was necessary. The APC leadership focus will then be on establishing/clarifying its policy or ideology on land ownership and governmental role so that regardless of who becomes the Senate President or House of Reps Speaker, the agenda will be the same. This way, the elected NASS members can nominate whoever they want into principal office without interference from party leadership with the leadership also confident that its objective remains unthreatened. Doing this would not only have preserved the independence of the National Assembly, it also would have deepened internal party democracy and improved overall governance. But here we are, instead of the government to hit the ground running” as promised, the elected officers are distracted by selfish interests.

Countries with more developed democracy like the US and UK have parties established along ideological lines. Whilst cross party switching does occur these countries, it happens rarely and never en-masse like we’ve come to expect in our dear country. You’d hardly hear of a democrat becoming a republican or a conservative becoming a labour. A labour member knows that it doesn’t matter who from their party gets into a principal office, that person will always be left leaning. Trust between members have been entrenched on that basis and makes it really easy for internal democracy to flourish. This applies to all other parties in these countries. This is where we need to get to as a country practising democracy. There are several key areas of our socio-economic life that clear ideology by political parties is required e.g. taxation, political and governance structure, welfarism, religion and secularism, federal constitution, economic structure or even devolution.

Equally as important as clarifying party ideology, I believe is the need to clarify what it means to be Nigerian. I don’t think a Nigerian homogenous identity exists yet. There is still little inter-ethnic empathy or recognition of common and undeniable rights regardless of ethnic origin. It seems from my observation especially on social media that we mostly identify as Nigerian last and ethnic first. I think this identity issue will remain a stumbling block to our national development if it isn’t clarified. I believe it is why our interests remain seemingly conflicting and as we all know, a house divided against itself will not stand.

Whilst it is easy to criticise the APC and disappointing to see them make possibly avoidable mistakes, we should not fail to remember that the party did successfully come together recently to defeat quite a strong party in the polls at the centre. This is no mean feat. The victory suggests that it is possible for the APC to be strong and democratic so long as they have a unifying goal. Its leadership just need to come up with an enduring ideology that is about the country rather than the individual. It has to and should be able to move beyond individual interests.

Rather than establish a shadow cabinet that I believe is quite difficult to do in a presidential system, I hope to see each party establish a strategic policy unit that will form the bedrock of its monitoring and oversight duty. This unit will be responsible for making sure that party ideology is harmonised nationwide and monitor opposition policy. The establishment of such a unit will also help each party identify the weak spot of other parties. For example, a list of NASS members that didn’t sponsor any bill in the last parliament was recently released. Whilst some NASS members won their election off the back of President Buhari’s popularity, opposition parties could have used the ineffectiveness of certain NASS members against them and ensure that riding on the back of President Buhari’s popularity was impossible or at least not so plain sailing. Every elected, or at least re-elected, official need to be elected purely on the merit of their service and effectiveness. Further the establishment of such a strategy unit should enable opposition parties find it easier to initiate recalls of ineffective state or federal legislators.

Professor Oluremi Sonaiya and the Kowa Party have been very silent since the election. I hope this is due to the fact that they’re engaged in serious soul searching. I hope that they establish a unit described above or something even better. There’s no reason why we need to wait until 2019 before contesting some legislative positions. Legislative representatives that haven’t done anything concrete within two years of parliament inauguration should be recalled. Whilst it may be difficult to impeach executive office holders, it shouldn’t be similarly difficult to change legislators. Kowa can get some of their members into office through this means. At least the financial cost of getting someone into office this way should be limited compared to during a general election.

The current crisis in APC is an opportunity. It is an opportunity for the party to clarify its soul, raison d’etre, shed dead weight and entrench internal democracy. There are simply too many good and intelligent people with a passion for service in the APC for it to do anything but seize this as an opportunity.

Class of 2015 in crisis

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

Political expediency vs Economic rationality

My name is Adamu Ikemefuna Olakunle. I am 55 years old. I have six wives, one concubine and 30 children. Hadiza, my concubine is my first love but three of my wives I inherited from my father and the others I married to further my business interests. For reasons not relevant to my plea for help in this write-up, I won’t go into why Hadiza and I are not married.

I am well educated and have a business, OG Oni Deltoid E&P Ltd that was thriving but is now facing sustained pressure from competitors. My first wife Tamunoibi is highly educated, intelligent and has incredible understanding of the murky world of finance. She is the CFO of Deltoid and her brilliance explains more than half of why Deltoid remains somewhat competitive. The business has been earning enough to make my family one of the most talked about in the society. We own several private jets, travel around the world on expensive vacations, drive in choice cars some of them bullet-proof, we basically live babyboy lives. Unsurprisingly my wives don’t always see eye to eye and I suspect detest each other. In order to maintain peace among my wives and their children, I gave them about 50% of the shares of the business. Tammy, being co-founder and CFO owns 13% with the other wives, also educated and intelligent in their own way, owning about 7.5% each.

Some years ago, when Deltoid was really thriving, I took out a big mortgage. The mortgage was for an estate befitting of our status with one main house and six other wings. The wives occupied the wings and I the main house. The mortgage was based on a multiple of profits earned by the family business.  Although the mortgage was based on total profits, my share of profit was big enough to pay for the monthly repayment as well as cover most of the maintenance of the estate – as big man consign. As part of the peace deal, I agreed with my wives that they could spend their share of profits or any other earnings however they deem fit with me having no control or influence. So far, the wives unsurprisingly only spend their profit on their own wings and leave maintenance of everything else to me e.g. the footpaths between wings, the golf buggy-like vehicles they use to move around the estate and even the education and upkeep of the children. The wives on a monthly basis rotate on who occupies the main house with me, so I never need to go to them. As you can imagine, we’re talking big money but as big man, I was happy to bear the expenses.

But in the last year profit has come under serious challenge and Tammy has been raising alarm. I haven’t been paying as much attention to it as I’ve always let Tammy take care of the financial part of the business. She says we are facing a new kind of competition, mainly from disruptive technology and that this new threat may be around for a while. With Deltoid being a price taker, our previous approach of using financial engineering to overcome business challenges won’t work this time. In fact things are so bad now that the bank that provided the mortgage says I’ve been running an overdraft account for quite some time and that if I want to keep the estate, some serious cut backs and lifestyle changes have to be made. But Hadiza my love reminded me that I should have a fall back option in that it is my share of the profits that has been paying for the family’s larger than life lifestyle and all of my wives should still have majority of their share of profit intact.

You can imagine my shock when my wives revealed that they all had no money to immediately cover the overdraft. How I did not suffer a heart attack is a miracle.

This is why I am writing this piece as my wives and I need your help, yes you reading this. I have been racking my brain on the options available to me and can only come up with two options. I need to know which option is best or if there are others.

Option 1 is that I assume full control over all family profits. I will consolidate the family’s budget into one, assess what each wife’s wing needs and give them money on that basis. It makes little sense for me to have full responsibility for the estate but only have control over half of family earnings. This option is risky as it involves dismantling the deal that is the bedrock of the peace in the family, which is further complicated by Hadiza – the wives know of her. Adopting this option will require that I become a peacemaker which has not always been my strongest suit.

Option 2 will involve me making it clear to the wives that my responsibility to maintaining our estate and lifestyle will be limited to my percentage share of earnings. I will from now on only maintain the main house and ensure there’s security around the estate to keep robbers out and only contribute a very small amount towards the education of the children, perhaps pay a maximum amount per wife irrespective of the number of children she has or what stage they are in life. The wives will need to ensure that they meet the other needs of their children. If they want the environment around their wings to be neat and tidy then they’ll need to pay for it. They are all educated, so they can pursue new careers to earn more in addition to whatever they currently or will get from Deltoid in the future. Of course, they can keep the earnings from any new career they pursue but if things at Deltoid get any worse, I will ask for their help.

So what do you think? Which option do you think I should go for?

I can sense that you’re thinking I have an option 3 that requires I sell the estate, downsize and attempt to live within my means. Unfortunately President-elect Buhari cannot sell Nigeria. So no, this is not a viable option.

Political expediency vs Economic rationality

Are we ready to be sacrificial?

So we all are agreed that our country is in serious need of change. We need improvements in security, infrastructure, health, energy, unemployment, education, food, economy, politics and governance, in fact it doesn’t matter which strata of society you look at, we need major help.

Unfortunately we also have to contend with corruption, mismanagement, dwindling government revenues and impending austerity whilst trying to deliver the improvements erstwhile stated. Besides these contending challenges, we also have a nation that is struggling with inter/intra ethnic disharmony from years of ‘divide and rule’ strategy initially imposed by the colonial masters but more recently by “cabals, vested interests and ruling elites”. Further, the underdevelopment among regions and states is unequal meaning some regions in spite of our challenges have developed better than others.

We currently use a top-down revenue allocation structure that besides the Niger Delta derivation formula, seeks to distribute revenue in an equitable manner. In the words of the Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) from their recent review of the revenue sharing formula, “the need for distributive justice, fairness and equity in the allocation of resources as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution guided the review exercise. According to him, the basic principles taken into cognizance include the indivisibility of the country, public opinion and weighted constitutional responsibilities and functions of the three levels of government”.

What we can deduce from the above is that resources are not shared based on developmental needs of the states or regions. In effect the government will find it difficult if not impossible to allocate more revenues to say Borno state to help it recover from the aftermath of boko haram without other states screaming blue murder as a result of reduced federal allocation. Our current allocation structure lends itself to a zero-sum game. If we are going to make effective use of our revenues and develop at a pace that is reasonable given our human and natural resources, then we need it to be less so. For example, the Buhari campaign promised a N300b (circa $1.5b) regional development fund (RD Fund) for each geopolitical zone with each zone receiving N50b (circa $250m). The SW region represents about 15% of Nigeria’s GDP based on rebased figures, the RD Fund will represent circa 0.32% of the region’s GDP. I understand the need to be equitable in dividing the RD Fund equally, but what impact will less than 1% of GDP really have on the SW region? Does this offer the most strategic use of our meagre resources? Will it not be better to allocate funds to the region that is most in need or the region that offers more strategic opportunity of realising the nation’s economic diversification goal, e.g. through improvements in the agricultural sector?

A widely held wisdom in financial markets is that besides good business results, successful companies also achieve success through efficient and proper allocation of capital. The importance of efficient resource allocation cannot be over-emphasised as poorly invested capital can act at a minimum as a temporary tax on future productivity. The way the Jonathan administration allocated revenues from the excess crude account (albeit due to pressure from state governors) is a good example of an inefficient use of revenues as little to no productivity has been gained from their disbursement. This is one of the reasons why we cannot continue to do things the way we’ve always done. We cannot afford to make fairness and equity the only driving force behind how we allocate national revenues. If we have to retain the top-down revenue allocation method, then we should let comparative economic advantage play a more pivotal role in the revenue sharing formula. So if allocating half of the RD Fund to one region offers the most strategic economic advantage that aids diversifying our collective dependency on oil, then that is what the government should do.

The reality is our resources are finite and we’ve so far been unable to avoid the resource curse known as the Dutch Disease. Similar to how corporations seek to achieve the optimal product mix that maximises productivity risk and reward, we need to also ensure that the capital expenditure of the federal government and/or invitations to foreign capital reflect the optimal resource mix that maximises our capacity and economic productivity. Of course this will require huge political capital to be spent by the President-elect as the returns from such investment or policy may not be realised during his term of office but he must convince Nigerians of the need for this path.

Further, the burden on the federal government to develop the whole of Nigeria at a pace that is almost equal among regions is too great to bear. Sacrifices will need to be made with allocation of resources being a near zero-sum game. We need to help the federal government allocate resources better and this goes beyond just appointing the right people. Regions that aren’t immediate beneficiaries of government expenditure will need to be sacrificial and keep the bigger picture in mind.

Of course there is another alternative which involves devolution of powers by giving the federating units more constitutional power to control revenue generation and natural resource exploitation. This should enable each unit to develop at its own pace using the resources available to it rather than depending on hand me downs from others. Besides the dignity from self-providence, the reliance on resources local to each federating unit could foster better inter ethnic relation once the ‘Abuja’ factor is removed from the resource governance structure. This alternative approach is one of the key points of the Kowa Party.

The Buhari government is still in its honeymoon period, it also benefits from added advantage of its party being the majority in the National Assembly. It will be a real shame if it fails to seize this opportunity to make positive structural changes necessary to unshackle and unleash the potential within Nigeria.

But are we ready to be sacrificial for the greater good?

Are we ready to be sacrificial?

Political Pay & Finance Reforms

Here’s an excerpt of an opinion piece I wrote last May:

1. Salaries and Allowances paid to all public office holders within the Legislative and Executive arm will be the same as that of the Federal Civil Service.
2. Political campaigns can only be funded from:
 – grants from the political parties to which the aspirant belongs.
 – funds raised by the aspirants electoral campaign office directly from members of the public.
 – the maximum amount a member of the public can donate directly to an electoral campaign office is N250,000.
 – the maximum amount an individual official member of a political party can donate to the campaign fund of the party is N5,000,000.
 – the maximum amount an official individual electoral political party aspirant can donate to the campaign fund of the party is N15,000,000.
 – the maximum amount an institution can donate to a political party is N25,000,000.
 – no foreign organisation can donate any funds to any political party or electoral campaign office of any political office aspirant.
 – no foreign individual can donate any funds to any political party or electoral campaign office of any political office aspirant.
 – every donation worth more than N250,000 to a political party or electoral campaign office must be declared and registered with INEC.
 – within three months of the end of each general election, INEC is to publish on its website the list of donations registered with it.
3. Members of the legislative arms should be permitted to hold jobs outside of their legislative roles provided that:
 –  such jobs do not, in addition, take up more than 25% of their statutory working hours;
 –  they declare how much was earned from all outside jobs;
 –  they declare how many hours they worked;
 –  they declare who paid them;
 –  such jobs do not necessarily need to relate to their political role.
Political Pay & Finance Reforms