“So in the Libyan fable it is told That once an eagle, stricken with a dart, Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft, With our own feathers, not by others’ hands. Are we now smitten. – Aeschylus
Fellow Nigerians, I’ve been on tour of Africa, as I mentioned recently on this page, and I’ve covered parts of East and West Africa in the past two weeks. My conclusion and verdict is that things are happening out there while we are free to delude ourselves that we are the giant of Africa. The things that make us the giant, exceptionally brilliant citizens, humongous population, energetic manpower, fertile land, beautiful weather, we’ve refused to turn into useful assets but rather into liabilities. I won’t bore you with too much details of the countries visited but will summarise the things we lack and why we are lagging behind and what we need to do speedily to catch up and ultimately overtake the comity of other nations in their march towards genuine progress, development and advancement.
Nigeria parades some of the worst airports in Africa today. Let no one preach to me that it is because the PDP government stole the money meant for the airports. As a matter of fact the Goodluck Jonathan administration made some remarkable effort compared to our own government of change which in nearly three years has revamped only the runway in Abuja. The most disgraceful airport for a seat of government is the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport. I plead with President Muhammadu Buhari or Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to pay unscheduled visits to that disgraceful airport, I’m sure they will shed tears. Next they should please come to Lagos and ignore the Presidential wing and head to the odoriferous sections ordinary mortals like us use regularly and I’m certain they would be warmly received by some putrid spirits.
It is unexplainable how we can continue to disgrace our dear beloved country without a care in the world. There is no other country you have to give your passport first to secret service agents before you queue up again in front of Immigration officials. There is no airport you get accosted by countless uniformed officers at the entrance of departure and at the exit of arrival. There is no airport where on arrival, all passengers must exit the airport in one direction only and no taxis within range. This is the situation in Lagos. Let me not talk about the rickety elevators and escalators. We are indeed a most difficult race. The only reasonable and professional airport is the MM2 in Lagos which is privately owned.
I saw better airports in much smaller country. By the time Ghana opens its Terminal 3 very soon to the public, it would be about the best in West Africa. This was a project that was substantially worked on under the Government of President John Dramani Mahama. The cargo section which is already in operation is wearing the powerful signature of Swissport as its operators. The Immigration section at the Kotoka International Airport is one of the most advanced in Africa complete with cameras for iris and fingerprinting machines for data capturing. We have neither despite our being prone to terrorism. I could not believe my eyes when I landed in Dakar, Senegal, last week at its brand new airport opened by the obviously visionary President Macky Sall, only last December. It is such a beauty to behold. Even the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, which was destroyed by a towering inferno years back, has since been restored to its old glory and expanded to cater for millions of passengers. The international Airport in Kigali is very small but running efficiently. My favourite part is the Immigration area where you pay $30 for visa on arrival without stress and thereafter pass your bags through x-ray machines instead of a multitude of officers rummaging through your luggage. I hope Rwanda would drastically reduce the time passengers have to spend clearing security on departure and also improve on the quality of food and services in the Business Class lounge. Rwanda has become a country of choice for me as an example of a serious country that wants to engage the world in serious business.
No nation can be considered civilised without putting certain things in place. One of such is infrastructure. Electricity is on top of the priority. Many African countries have improved their power generation, transmission and distribution processes. Too much politicisation and bureaucracy has turned Nigeria into a jinxed nation despite the billions of dollars spent and obviously wasted by successive governments. As a matter of fact, one of the most ambitious power projects in our country has already gone to international arbitration because of the excessive power show in Abuja. Every effort to upgrade our power sector has met with foolish resistance. Whereas, Ghana again, under the former President John Dramani Mahama, was able to fix the erratic power outages, nicknamed Dumso Dumso, within two years. And the Ghana Electricity Company was very creative by rationing and rotating power supplies to different zones interchangeably.
I can list a myriad of problems facing us but the biggest is the failure of leadership. Our leaders have blatantly refused to do the needful. The biggest of all the afflictions is ethnicity which turns otherwise intelligent human beings into morons. Most of our problems would evaporate and disappear the day we are ready to exorcise the demon of ethnicity. I saw the evidence of this thesis in Rwanda where everyone must regard each other as Rwandese rather as Tutsis or Hutus. It has become a crime to so describe any citizen of Rwanda.
On the contrary, Nigerian leaders prefer to be identified as local champions instead of being global personalities. Our clannishness has stultified us beyond reason. I used to be an incurable optimist but recent events have turned me into a paranoid pessimist and unless we urgently rescue our country back from those who are too short-sighted to see the power and strength in the indivisibility of Nigeria, this union may collapse like a pack of cards. No Nigerian should be treated like a second class citizen in his own country. No ethnic group should feel superior to another. Every Nigerian should treat the other as equal partners. The next set of Nigerian leaders must be scrutinised and confirmed to be those who are detribalised and religious-tolerant. Nigeria has suffered too much as a result of unbridled parochialism.
As we approach our next general elections, we must prepare to find, select and elect leaders who would detach us from the superstitions that have held us down for far too long than normal at this time and age. We must seek leaders with an acceptable modicum of education. This is not an attempt to deride those who have no formal education. My mum who brought me up had none but she knew the value of education and invested her modest resources in us. Nigeria is too blessed with geniuses to keep settling for leaders without substantial education. Education and exposure to modernity should help reduce our proclivity for backward behaviours.
We must make up our minds about what we want as a people. Do we want to remain forever backward in the name of ethnicity, religion and incredible propensity for material acquisition? Everyone in the world is trying to break free from a useless past, why can’t we emulate them? Our universe today is knowledge driven, why do we continue to wallow in ignorance? Until we fix our education which has collapsed, almost irreparably, our country is doomed. I was regaled with stories of how the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, is turning his country into a technology hub in Africa.
I have no doubt that even our ruling government in Nigeria has some of the brightest guys who would readily match their counterparts anywhere in the world, but we won’t give them the chance to function optimally. We all remember how Professor Yemi Osinbajo was able to unite Nigerians last year in the middle of the threat of secession from Nnamdi Kanu and his Biafran agitators. If APC had continued along the new path created by the Vice President, things would have been much better for the government and our country by now. We saw an Acting President who was visiting everywhere and interacting with politicians across divides without discriminating against anyone. The erudite scholar gave us all a sense of pride and place. But soon after the President returned from his medical sojourn in the United Kingdom, things fell apart. We returned conveniently to our perfidious ways. Some people even accused the Vice President of working to outshine his boss despite is avowed loyalty to his principal. Why would anyone change a winning strategy that everyone was already applauding? If the President had maintained that tempo and pace of activities, perhaps the APC would have saved itself from the present calamity. If the APC fails in next year’s general election, it would only have been a severe punishment for its recalcitrance and myopic nature. Things should always be done according to merits.
The youths who wish to take over power from the elders should also be fully prepared to work very hard and not sit down, arms akimbo, expecting a miracle from heaven. Their only qualification should never be that they are young and youthful. They must be accomplished in their own rights and market their credentials energetically. There is no point taking over power only to continue the monumental mess of the past.
Is shall be well with Nigeria…
PDP to APC
“Nigerians watched with rude shock as President Buhari, the African Union anti-corruption champion, directly superintended over the worst kind of corruption in a political party by overthrowing its constitution and democratic processes, all in the bid to shut out other contenders in the presidential race, a development which further confirms that the president has lost popularity even in his own party.” – The opposition Peoples Democratic Party mocking tenure extension for the executives of the ruling All Progressives Congress.
JUNE 12TH, DEMOCRACY DAY AND NIGERIA’S DANCE OF DEATH, by Fani-Kayode
We Need National Meeting To Settle Nigeria’s National Identity Now —Obasanjo
My lord Bishop, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, if you ask me and if I am permitted to… once again air my views, I will, without hesitation recommend that we go back to that number one concept in human behaviour, which is ‘Politics’, and on the part of the leaders and the led, politics matters most. Politics here embraces governance, political will, political economy, economy itself and understanding global situation as it impacts on the fortune of our nation, and the welfare and well-being of our people individually and collectively. Leadership is the bases of our politics. If politics is right, the other four Ps of population, prosperity, protection which is security and partnerships will invariably be got right. In economy which must mean prosperity for all, government must get out of temptation of over-borrowing and consequent devaluation trap. What have we gained from moving Nigerian currency value from one naira to almost two dollar to 360 naira to one dollar in one generation – impoverishment?
Every issue of insecurity must be taken seriously at all levels and be addressed at once without favouritism or cuddling. Both Boko Haram and herdsmen acts of violence were not treated as they should at the beginning. They have both incubated and developed beyond what Nigeria can handle alone. They are now combined and internationalised with ISIS in control. It is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youth in Nigeria which it began as, it is now West African fulanisation, African islamisation and global organised crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change. Yet we could have dealt with both earlier and nib them in the bud, but Boko Haram boys were seen as rascals not requiring serious attention in administering holistic measures of stick and carrot. And when we woke up to the reality, it was turned to industry for all and sundry to supply materials and equipment that were already outdated and that were not fit for active military purpose. Soldiers were poorly trained for the unusual mission, poorly equipped, poorly motivated, poorly led and made to engage in propaganda rather than achieving results. Intelligence was poor and governments embarked on games of denials while paying ransoms which strengthened the insurgents and yet governments denied payment of ransoms. Today, the security issue has gone beyond the wit and capacity of Nigerian government or even West African governments. The Economist Magazine of May 4, 2019, p. 15, has this to say:
“The conflict is spread across a broad expanse of Africa, from Somalia in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. It is concentrated in some of the poorest countries on Earth, where it is fuelled by bad governance. Some of these states barely control much of their own supposed territory. Many jihadist recruits come from ethnic minorities, such as the Fulani, who see officials as alien and predatory. Many join up after being beaten or robbed by police. Global warming, meanwhile, has withered pastures, intensifying conflict over land. These pressures are most keenly felt in the Sahel, on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. In Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the number of people killed by jihadists has doubled in each of the past two years, to more than 1,100 in 2018. In the Sahel as a whole, some 5,000 have been killed in the past five months. In the area around Lake Chad, some 2.4m people have fled from attacks by Boko Haram, a group that straps bombs to children. The number of jihadist groups in the Sahel has multiplied, from one in 2012 to more than ten at the last count by America’s defence department.”
But all the same, our charity must begin at home. Government must appreciate where we are. Summon each group that should make contributions one by one and subsequently collectively seek the way forward for all hands on deck and with the holistic approach of stick and carrot. There should be no sacred cow. Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are: traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of para-military organisations, private sector, civil society, community leaders particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service andrelevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant. After we have found appropriate solution internally, we should move to bilateral, multilateral, regional, continental and global levels. With ISIS involvement, we cannot but go global. Without security and predictable stability, our development, growth and progress are in peril. Let me hasten to add that we must be at the appropriate seat at the table of international discourse, deliberations, agenda and action. That Nigeria from independence has always been in the forefront of any continental initiative, decision, action or programme has put us in some form of leadership position. For Nigeria to be outside the African Continental Free Trade Zone Agreement when it automatically came into effect with twenty-two-nations’ ratification is to say the least unfortunate.
If we get the politics correct, every other human activity would fall into place: culture, ethics, way of life and adherence to rule of law/equality before the law/ruthless application of the law, economy, education, defence and security, etc. I hold the view that it is because we have not been able to get the politics of our coexistence right that nearly sixty years after independence we are still battling to answer the most basic questions involved in nationhood. I think it is like a building, which once the foundation is faulty, becomes wobbly with the tiniest turbulence. Consequently, the issue of nationality identity, values, ethics and national dream must be settled once and for all. This may require a global national meeting. If Miyetti Allah is truly encouraging herdsmen violence and killings and truly they have to be appeased or placated with 100billion naira and they are equated to Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, etc, then we have to appease those other organisations similarly or be ready to allow them to unleash havoc of their own. We need politics of a united Nigeria for all Nigerians – not one for Yoruba, one for Ibo, one for Hausa-Fulani, one for Ijaw, one for Nupe, one for Tiv, one for Kanuri and one for Isoko. If we fail to do this, I am afraid all the EFCC, ICPC, Plans and Strategies and the rest of the political re-engineering and manoeuvres such as creation or contraction/merger of states, forms of government, attempts at ethical re-orientation, constitutional amendment, etc, may not usher in the much desired peace, stability, national development, and of course, improvement in the quality of life of the majority of Nigerians. We shall merely be going round and round in circles which has been our lot since independence.We must move away from taking two steps forward followed by one and two or three backwards. Let us continue to build positively on existing structure. If the issue of politics and governance is firmly settled, the issue of development, stability, growth and progress will constitute no problems because humans, materials and funds will be mobilised internally and externally for the good of all and all will be partners, stakeholders and defenders of our common wealth. There are some of assumptions in our Constitution that time has shown are too presumptuous and we have to deal with this issue of assumptions; either those assumptions are clearly spelt out with ways and means to live up to them or to amend our Constitution in accordance with our inability to live up to those assumptions. When all these are done, mobilisation of everything we have and which we can muster will be easy for our development, stability, growth and progress.
What is the roadmap for economic development? If we have one, it may not be well spelt out or well known. But let me in drawing to conclusion suggest a five-point strategy as follows:
- Commodity, agriculture and mineral b. Infrastructure c. Manufacturing d. Services e. Fourth, industrial revolution.
These can be fleshed out in details and must be accepted as national programme and strategy to be followed and actualised by any government for the welfare and well-being of the people.
In all these issues of mobilisation for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus. Like in the issue of security, government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society. It will be a national programme. We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap that will not change with whims and caprices of any government. It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government no matter its colour and leaning.
Election fraud undermines legitimacy and it is a killer of democracy. To destroy democracy is to destroy hope for most Nigerians and the consequence will be grave. And we must all appreciate that democracy that fails to deliver dividends to the citizenry in terms of security, safety, freedoms and general enhancement of livelihood will lead to frustration and desperation and all other dangers that can follow.
Through division and alienation wittingly and unwittingly encouraged by government, incipient factors of state destruction are observable everywhere in hate preaching and advocacy, upsurge tribalism and sectionalism, silence and complacency among those who should care and a dangerously rising feeling that your votes don’t count and elections don’t matter. And yet we spend colossal amount of money on elections every four years with apparently not much to show for it. With other ills within our society, if these observable symptoms are not addressed and speedily too, we are heading to self-destruction. It will not matter where the fire commences from, it will spread fast and widely leaving no survivor on its trail. In the last three weeks, I have been close to two countries and learned how they self-destruct. I was in Somaliland to learn at first-hand the story of self-destruction of Somalia. And I was in Colombia to similarly learn the story of self-destruction of Venezuela. They both started with destruction of democracy. And Venezuela used democratic process to destroy democracy. Nigeria seems to be embarking on the path of Venezuela. With only a population of about 30 million, the Venezuela humanitarian situation today, heightened by drug trafficking, illegal mining, pervasive corruption and terrorism, is crying to the world. But the world can turn a blind eye and it would be our funeral. Over the same period, I was in Malaysia and Vietnam and I could feel the palpation of nations on the right path by and large. The forewarned is to be forearmed and the impunity is already there. But with collective goodwill, the right leadership and good governance, the sky is the limit for Nigeria, a country surely in the hands of God for us to move forward, unitedly mobilising all necessary resources to make Nigeria a leader in Africa and the leader of the black race. That is the role God has created for us.
I thank you for your attention and God bless you all.
CAN Tells Kogi Gov. What To Do About Workers’ Salary
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Kogi chapter, has called on the State Governor Yahaya Bello to pay up workers salary, Concise News reports.
This online news medium had earlier reported that the Yahaya Bello said the North-Central state will pay the N30,000 minimum wage.
Speaking on Sunday in a statement in Lokoja, the Chairman of CAN in the state, John Ibenu, described the payment of salaries as a “pressing.”
”We call on Kogi Government to do all it can to address the issue of staff salaries, pensions and gratuity, judiciary and other pressing issues to ameliorate the suffering of the people of the state,” he said.
Ibenu, who is the Bishop of Chapel of Freedom Int’l Church, Lokoja, called on Christians to take after the exemplary life of Jesus Christ “which is love, sacrifice and forgiveness for a better society.’’
This is as he described Easter as the solemn celebration of the highest sacrifice made by Christ by accepting to die for mankind.
Onnoghen stands to get N2.5bn benefits in ‘soft landing’ option
If President Muhammadu Buhari goes by the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Walter Onnoghen, the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) could get retirement benefits in cash and kind up to N2.5 billion.
As part of the package for a retired chief justice, a house will be built for him in Abuja with a nine-digit sum for furnishing — in addition to a severance gratuity that is 300% of his annual basic salary of N3,363,972.50, as well as pension for life.
Just like state governors, a retired chief justice is entitled to a number of domestic staff and sundry allowances for personal upkeep.
This package for judicial officers was put together by the NJC long before Onnoghen became the CJN in 2017.
However, if he is dismissed, he will not be entitled to any benefits.
The president still needs the confirmation of two-thirds of the senate to dismiss or retire him.
Section 292 (1) of the 1999 constitution says a “judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances – (a) in the case of – (i) Chief Justice of Nigeria… by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.”
Recall that the NJC has recommended the embattled CJN for compulsory retirement after deliberating on a petition by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which alleges “financial impropriety, infidelity to the constitution and other economic and financial crimes related laws”.
Onnoghen, who denies all allegations, is also undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over charges of false asset declaration.
TheCable reports that members of the NJC were not convinced by his defence but also decided that he should be offered a “soft landing” through retirement.
This option may also include withdrawing criminal charges against him.
“The major problem Onnoghen’s defence had was that even though he claimed those funds found in his accounts were his, he could not provide evidence on how he made the money,” a source in the know of the deliberations said.
“He provided evidence of source of income from one investment but that went nowhere near the $200,000 per annum deposits in his account. Unfortunately, there is a supreme court judgement that says where your assets exceed your income, the burden of proof is on you, not on the prosecution.
“It also did not help Onnoghen that he never touched his salary account for so many years. He said he was living off the proceeds from his farms, but he did not provide a single proof to back this up.
“Also, money paid into his account by senior lawyers is completely unethical. You can say they do not amount to much, but you cannot justify such impunity. It was a very difficult case to make.”
NO EASY ROAD TO SOFT LANDING
Presidency sources, however, told revealed that the option of “soft landing” will be difficult to justify “given the anti-corruption efforts of President Buhari”.
It was discovered that before the scandal blew into the open, Onnoghen was given the option of early voluntary retirement.
“Under this arrangement, he would have kept all the monies found in his accounts and received all his benefits from the system, but he chose to fight till the very end,” the source said.
“The implication now is that the criminal charges may go on, his assets will be frozen and will most likely be forfeited to the federal government after his trial and he will be banned from holding public office for at least 10 years.”
Onnoghen has closed his defence at the CCT and the tribunal is expected to give its judgment at the next sitting on April 15.
But for the crisis, Onnoghen, who is 68, was due for retirement in 2020.
Misery Index: Nigeria not a miserable country
In a report titled: “The Misery Index 2018,” authored by Dr. Steve Hanke of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, Nigerians have been labelled the sixth most miserable people in the world. The misery index was introduced in the 1970s by Arthur Okun, an American economist, author of the seminal work, Equality and Efficiency: The Big Trade Off (1975).
The original index considers such factors as unemployment rate and inflation rate. It is a formula, a methodology, as it were, consistent with what is known as Okun’s law, but modified subsequently by Harvard Professor, Robert Barro, and Professor Steve Hanke. The latter releases a Report annually. He tells us: “My modified Misery Index is the sum of the unemployment, inflation, and bank lending rates, minus the percentage change in real GDP per capita. Higher readings on the first three elements are ‘bad’ and make people miserable. These are offset by a ‘good’ GDP per capita growth which is subtracted from the sum of the bads. A Higher Misery Index score reflects a higher level of misery, and it’s a simple enough metric that a busy president, without time for extensive economic briefings can understand at a glance.”
In the 2018 Report, which is basically a forecast of what to expect in the year 2019, Hanke identified Venezuela as the most miserable country in the world, followed by Zimbabwe, Argentina, Iran, Brazil, Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt and Ukraine.
Is Nigeria the sixth most miserable country in the world? Where is Syria? South Sudan? Somalia? Steve Hanke’s Report does not necessarily cover all the countries of the world. But certain points are clear from his submissions.
First, the Misery Index makes the point very clear that economic growth is linked to the people’s prosperity and happiness. Countries that suffer from stagflation are likely to have very miserable citizens. Second, lack of economic growth or a poor economy can result in political and social crisis as we have seen in Venezuela where inflation rate is said to be above 6,000 per cent and Zimbabwe where inflation is allegedly over 97 per cent, although this has been disputed in other evaluations, which, unlike Hanke’s Index, accommodate the employment rate in Zimbabwe’s informal economy. Third, good governance, leadership and political stability are important factors for macro-economic growth. The least miserable countries in the world as seen in the Misery Index 2018, would also seem to have strong leadership, and institutions and a certain measure of stability. Fourth, poverty should be avoided because it could lead to misery. Fifth, the state has a responsibility to prevent the growth of poverty and promote economic growth.
It is important to break down and outline some of these well-known, elementary points because I see a tendency in this season to ignore external rankings or politicize them. The Peoples Democratic Party has already jumped on the back of the Misery Index to say that the Report confirms the party’s position that Nigeria’s economy “has virtually collapsed under Buhari.” The Hanke index does not say that the Nigerian economy has “virtually collapsed”. It says the people are among the 10 most miserable people in the world. It is an economist’s index not a political review.
Nonetheless, there are certain basics that should be established. Indeed, unemployment rate in Nigeria is about 23. 10 per cent (Q3 2018, an all-time high between 2006 and 2018. Youth unemployment according to the National Bureau of Statistics is even higher. Inflation rate is about 12%. Food inflation is higher at 13.5%. Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria reduced Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to 13.5%, down by 50 basis points from 14%. Nigeria’s GDP growth is 1.8%. Compared to statistics from other parts of the world, these Nigerian statistics paint a gloomy picture. Unemployment rate in India, for example, is 6.1%, Canada (5.8%), Australia (4.9%), United Kingdom (3.9%), Germany (3.1%), Ghana (2%), Cote d’Ivoire (2.6%), Saudi Arabia (12.7%) etc.
There is also no doubt that the Nigerian economy has gone through major contractions in the last five years. The sharp drop in the spot price of oil depleted the country’s reserves, created a foreign exchange crisis and soon resulted in recession. In 2016, Nigeria faced the consequences of a negative growth of up to 2.3%; in 2017, inflation was as high as 18%. In September 2018, the Economic Intelligence Unit of The Economist Magazine and the HSBC Research Unit predicted a gloomy economic prospect for Nigeria in 2019 and also jumped into the troubled waters of analyzing Nigerian politics, with predictions about the likely outcome of the 2019 Presidential election in Nigeria. Both the ruling party in Nigeria – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Nigerian government kicked. They told the “experts” to keep their opinions to themselves.
The EIU/HSBC in retrospect got the political analysis wrong (PDP lost the 2019 presidential election, APC won) but the economic projections remain relevant and instructive. The Steve Hanke Misery Index Report may have been influenced by the EIU report. Rather than dismiss it however, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Presidency (Hanke insists the message is so straightforward even a busy President can follow it) should study the report and attend to the messages about economic growth and the careful management of certain indicators to deliver prosperity to the people. Nigeria’s palace economists may quarrel over the statistics and the methodology, but not the common sense.
But is Hanke’s description of Nigeria as the sixth most miserable country in the world accurate? Even if the Nigerian economy has not “virtually collapsed”, can misery be affirmed strictly on the basis of unemployment rate, inflation rate and lending rates? Does poverty necessarily translate into misery? Is the correlation absolutely given? Nigeria ranks low in this 2019 Misery Index, just as it ranks low on the Human Poverty Index and the Human Development Index – these are challenges for governance and leadership. But does all that mean that Nigerians are miserable? The word misery connotes unhappiness, distress, wretchedness, hardship, suffering, affliction, anguish, sadness, sorrow, melancholy.
I think there are gaps in the Hanke Misery Index in terms of the parameters adopted; perhaps a more holistic assessment of the connection between economic growth and a people’s response as individuals and communities may have shown that economic prosperity and growth do not necessarily guarantee a people’s happiness. There may well be more misery in all the developed countries of Central Europe taken together than may be in Kenya or Cape Verde.
There are perhaps certain anthropological factors, a certain kind of neuroscience that accounts for a people’s happiness rather than cold macro-economic statistics. In 2011, Nigeria was classified as the happiest place on earth in a Gallup Poll and its people as the most optimistic. This was within the context of widespread underdevelopment, and all forms of social sector crisis. Nigeria’s status as a happy country was again confirmed in a World Values Survey in 2014. It is noteworthy however that in 2018, Nigeria was listed as the 91st happiest country in the world, and the 5th happiest country in Africa in the World Happiness Report. Obviously so much happened negatively in Nigeria between 2014 and 2018. But the sum indication is that as at 2018, Nigerians were adjudged happier than they were between 2014 and 2016.
How then can we suddenly become the sixth most miserable country in the world a year later? The difference is who is looking at what. The UN 2019 Happiness Report, for example, focusses on the human being and community, on relationships, or the neuroscience and the anthropology of happiness, rather than economic indicators. The World Happiness Report is more reflective of the Nigerian situation in my view than the Misery Index. We may have moved from being the happiest people on earth to the 91st in the world, a reflection of the existential crisis that Nigeria faces, but the word misery does not quite capture the people’s true essence.
My point is as follows: the measurement of happiness or its antonym, misery is perhaps more subjective and experiential than academic and statistical. Culture and context should matter. Nigeria has been described as one of the poorest countries in the world. The country faces a problem of low level insurgency in the North East. Corruption is rife. Reports of all shades of violence are common place. The country’s wealth is concentrated in a few hands. Steady economic growth is a challenge. But we the people are not in misery. There may have been a slight increase in cases of suicide and depression in the country since 2015, but generally Nigerians are a resilient lot.
The average Nigerian is imbued with a fighting spirit. If people in other countries go through what Nigerians have gone through and are still going through, such countries would have imploded. But Nigeria has not collapsed because the people’s fighting spirit is unique. In the midst of risks and vulnerability to poverty due to economic mismanagement by Nigeria’s leaders, the average Nigerian continues to forge ahead. These are people who don’t give up easily. They believe that tomorrow will be better. When they are faced with election rigging, voter intimidation, outright theft of public resources, these are people who are likely to say: is it not four years? “Let them come and do what they want to do and go away.” When people get killed and are abandoned by the roadside, you’d be surprised that with the corpses lying in open spaces, some Nigerians can just pull seats together and begin to have a drink, a few metres away from a decaying body.
There is no weekend when there is no celebratory feast in a Nigerian community: flashy attires, expensive cars, exotic drinks, musicians waxing lyrical, and the men and women dancing away with no care in the world. I do not know any other country in the world where the parties and celebrations are as elaborate as the parties we throw in Nigeria. The Misery Index is talking about high unemployment rates in Nigeria. This is true but the people are so resilient, they manage to get by. They have learnt to move beyond their governments. Nigeria is the biggest market in Africa. Those who cannot get formal jobs find other things to do.
Come to Lagos, Dr. Hanke. Some of the young ladies you would see on the streets of Lagos and on Nigerian Instagram are from very poor backgrounds and they have no extraordinary skills, but you are likely to see them driving expensive cars, wearing bespoke clothes, the type that Kim Kardashian cannot even afford. This is the “small girl, big God” generation that puts a lie to all that talk about misery in Nigeria. Besides, thuggery and cultism are considered professions in Nigeria, and regarded as more profitable and influential than medicine, law or engineering. Thugs and cultists are patronised by political leaders and they are well-paid for their efforts, particularly during election seasons.
It is only in Nigeria, I guess, that a security guard, earning less than a $100 a month, will have three wives and 10 children, while his own employer will be struggling to maintain a family of four. It is also in Nigeria that you will find a civil servant having five wives and two concubines, even when he has not been paid a salary for 24 months. Misery? Prof. Steve Hanke is an applied economist. He may not have visited some of the countries covered by his study, but in the case of Nigeria, he should not rely on textbook statistics. Unemployment rate, lending rate, inflation rate, GDP per capita may make sense to the economists, but those things sound like voodoo to the average Nigerian.
The people live in a zone that is beyond theory. The average Nigerian is not intimidated by the gap between the very rich and the very poor, for him or her, there is a religious, rather, a spiritual side to this thing called poverty or inequality. The Nigerian is told by the large population of prosperity evangelists in the country – Muslim, Christian, and animist – that he or she can become rich overnight. In Nigeria, you can see a man as poor as a church rat in January and by December he has a mansion in his village, attended to by a retinue of hangers-on, all very happy, and he too has become an employer of labour and he is likely to pay salaries more regularly than government! Nigeria is the ultimate headquarters of trade-offs; not even Arthur M. Okun could have imagined that. The Nigerian character and attitude both raise questions about the true nature of work, employment, economic growth, or the meaning of misery beyond the theories and “forecasts”. The other question is: what is the integrity of the applied data?
Will Buhari give Emefiele a second term as CBN governor?
Joseph Sanusi. Charles Soludo. Muhammad Sanusi II. Since the return of democracy in 1999, no governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has served two terms. Is Godwin Emefiele about to be the breaker of the CBN tenure jinx?
Appointed by former president Goodluck Jonathan on June 3, 2014, Emefiele will end his tenure as CBN governor in less than three months from Wednesday.
The president has been duly informed, but as a former general who has learnt one or two things from Sun Tzu, Buhari is best at keeping his cards to his chest and watching speculations run riot in Africa’s biggest economy. After all, Tzu said: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
Rumour mills have been very busy second-guessing the next line of action of President Muhammadu Buhari. They have even come up with a list of possible replacements for Emefiele, suggesting that he has received a letter asking him to go “in two weeks”.
While Buhari may want to fall like a thunderbolt and shock Nigerians with his move on the leadership of the CBN, This is what the past four to five years mean for Emefiele’s chances as second term CBN governor.
APPOINTED BY JONATHAN, RETAINED BY BUHARI
Only a few top shots survived the administrative purge that came with change in government from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) Goodluck Jonathan government to the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership of Muhammadu Buhari.
Of those few, Solomon Arase, former inspector general of police; Yemi Kale, statistician general of the federation; Joe Abah, director general, Bureau for Public Sector Reform; and Emefiele, easily come to mind.
These few have shown that Buhari is not entirely against the appointees of a previous government as seen in Nigerian politics before 2015. As long as value is presented, Buhari does not mind keeping a Jonathan appointee in office.
QUICK FACT: Buhari is the first Nigerian president since 1999 who did not reshuffle or fire any member of cabinet for four years.
BUHARI AND SECOND TERMS
If we have learnt anything from Buhari’s many interviews and acts of office, it is clear that the president prefers steady trusted hands than new untested ones — no matter the level of experience they bring to the table.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY, Buhari gave us an insight into how his experience has shaped his decision-making process. He explained why he has not changed any of the service chiefs despite their “disappointing” performance.
“I have been a governor, I have been a minister, I have been a head of state, I came back, I tried to come back to this office three times but lucky on the fourth time,” Buhari had said.
“I am measuring the options critically, when you have a case of emergency, if you don’t wait for an appropriate time to do it, then you create competition within the service, there are so many ambitious people waiting, only one man can be chief of army staff in the army, only one man can be the inspector-general of police”.
While one may say this is a security matter, and service chiefs appointments are not measured in terms, we have found that Buhari prefers continuity to change, when it comes to matters of appointment.
Elias Mbam: As the chairman of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mbam served out his term in November 2015, less than a month after Buhari unveiled his ministers. Rather than change Mbam, Buhari preferred him as a steady hand at the helm of the revenue mobilisation team.
Yemi Kale: In 2011, Goodluck Jonathan appointed Kale as statistician-general of the federation, taking over from Rasaq Sanusi. Kale served out his five-year term in 2016, and was expected to be replaced by Buhari. But the president renewed his appointment after a period of silence and speculation.
Uchechi Orji: Orji was appointed by Jonathan in 2012 as the Managing Director of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). Also after a five-year tenure, Buhari was expected to replace him in 2017, but the president renew his appointment for another five-year term.
Segun Awolowo: This was a special case. Segun Awolowo’s tenure as executive director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) came to an end in 2017. He continued in office, following Buhari’s silence.
Boss Mustapha, the secretary of the government of the federation (SGF), then issued a memo dated December 4, 2017, stating that all head of MDAs, whose tenure had expired should hand over to the most senior director. Awolowo eventually handed over before he was re-appointed by President Buhari.
Buhari has replaced some other heads of MDAs at the expiration of their tenure, but he has also given renewed terms to many.
DOES EMEFIELE DESERVE A SECOND TERM?
Exchange rate regime: Following a fall in crude oil prices from 2015 through to 2017, Nigeria experienced a currency crisis which forced the CBN to an attempt devaluation of the naira. But the president opposed the idea, saying he will “not kill the naira”. CBN under Emefiele managed to hold the currency for 16 months while depleting reserves as oil prices hit a record low of $27 per barrel.
Eventually, the CBN devalued the local currency to mirror the realities in the local economy. The naira fell from 197 per dollar to 283 per dollar on the first day of what was called a “managed” float of the naira. The local currency went as high as N520 per dollar. It was a tough time for Emefiele’s CBN.
The former Zenith Bank CEO introduced policy suites to mitigate the problem in the FX market, restoring the naira from 520 per dollar to 360 on the regular. And for the first time in Nigeria’s recent electoral history, the naira has been stable before, during and after a presidential election.
While we have the official CBN N305/$1 rate and N360/$1 rate — the CBN claims Nigeria does not operate multiple exchange rate regime. In all these, the president and the CBN governor align on the management of the exchange rate system. A plus for Emefiele.
Buoyant Reserves: When Buhari took office, Nigeria’s foreign currency reserve was at $29 billion. Following the crude oil crash, the reserves went as low as $23 billion territory in October 2016.
Less than two years after, with the aid of crude oil and shrewd management, the Emefiele-led CBN had doubled the foreign reserves, bringing it to $47.6 billion in May 2018 — the highest since the oil crash.
Rice farming policy: Did you get the news? Nigeria is now the highest producer of rice in Africa. This definitely did not happen overnight. Following the shortage of forex to import rice, and other farm produce, the CBN and the federal government flagged off the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to make finance available for smallholder farmers, especially rice farmers.
The poster boys for that policy are the Kebbi rice farmer, who have gone a long way in delivering on LAKE Rice, Olams, and many other rice brands popular in Nigeria today. The CBN says it has disbursed at least N120 billion for these farmers, who make a large chunk of the number of people Buhari flaunts as employed by his government.
Many ministers, including the minister of agriculture and the minister of power, works and housing have claimed that Buhari has employed millions of farmers through the ABP. Emefiele would be smiling.
Politics of Everything: Emefiele, while speaking at the annual bankers’ dinner of 2018, said he is not a politician and would not be light on those who play politics with CBN policies.
“I am not a politician, but people should be very mindful when they open their mouths to say what is untrue because we would come out as central bank to attack it particularly if you use data incorrectly,” Emefiele had said.
Fortunately for him, one of Buhari’s opponents was one of those who spoke ill about CBN policies — and Emefiele did not spare Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Atiku had said Emefiele has not pursued the right policies as CBN governor, stating that he would change the governor — if he is elected president.
Emefiele was quick to desecrate Atiku’s economic plan, describing it as a road to perdition.
“It will certainly lead to capital flight, lead to massive depreciation or devaluation of the currency and ultimately to currency crisis in Nigeria and I think we should all know that it is a road to perdition to ever go in that direction,” he had said.
In government, politics trumps everything, and in this regard, Emefiele seems to have done just fine, in fighting Buhari’s enemy. After all, the enemy of my boss is my enemy.
How Buhari Won The Battle But Lost The War
By SKC Ogbonnia
I am very happy that President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) won again in 2019, but I am equally finding it difficult to celebrate the victory. While accurately predicting the outcome two weeks before the presidential election, I remarked that many Nigerians were not in a hurry to bring the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) back to power so soon, having squandered our overflowing oil wealth during its 16-year reign. I also noted that its presidential nominee, Atiku Abubakar, was fundamentally flawed and had no game-changing message to crack the wall of Buhari’s fervent cult-like following in the vote-rich Northern Nigeria. However, unlike in the 2015 exercise when both the loser, President Goodluck Jonathan, and the winner, Buhari, emerged from the election as heroes, Buhari’s victory in 2019 is plainly pyrrhic—and with sweeping consequences.
Any objective history on the ills of the 2019 election ought to begin with how President Muhammadu Buhari backpedaled the wheel of Nigeria’s democratic journey by refusing to sign into law the reforms to the Nigeria’s Electoral Act. Every electoral season since the 4th Republic has seen a review of the nation’s electoral law with a view to improving the electoral process. Buhari stalled this basic trajectory of progress with audacity. The failure quickly gave rise to a perception of executive subterfuge, which tainted the 2019 electoral process from the get-go.
The embers of impunity grew into wildfire within the ruling party. Led by Buhari’s self-appointed national party chairman, an active gaga figure in the person of Adams Oshiomhole, the APC rubbished the concept of internal party democracy within its ranks. The party imposed exorbitant nomination fees on aspirants, thereby further entrenching Nigerian democracy as the sole province of the highest bidders. But that is not even all. Aspirants who managed to cough out the nomination fees were either excluded or arbitrarily disqualified. In the words of Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari, “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard-earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on Election Day…” This fiasco on the part of the ruling party prompted the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, to lament that the primaries ahead of the 2019 elections were “some of the most acrimonious party primaries in our recent history.” He regretted that the apparent lack of internal party democracy dealt a big blow “to our electoral progress.”
The ichor of the growing infamy spiraled down to Buhari’s sole claim to power, his war against corruption, where the president himself appeared to be aiding and abetting corruption. Nigerians would gape as Buhari accepted a N45 million nomination form purchased for him by a shadowy group, a clear mockery of S91(9) of the Electoral Act. As if such act lacks in folly, he embraced a phantom presidential primary, through which he was allocated about 15 million votes. But his storied integrity finally hit an olid seabed at the point the president penetrated the inner circle of Nigeria’s corrupt canton to enlist the worst of its examples into his presidential campaign council. Public trust in Nigeria may never recover from the conflicting optics of Muhammadu Buhari, of all people, campaigning across the country while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the most notorious corrupt kingpins in the land.
Nothing exposed the hypocrisy in Buhari’s re-election campaign more than his brazen assault on public institutions. For instance, alleged to have been worried that the election could end up in the courts, Buhari removed a sitting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, on accounts of corruption—few weeks to the election and without due process—while at the same time providing safe haven to some principal members of his party who had similar corruption charges or worse. This move prompted a unified rebuke by the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union.
Buhari finally threw caution to the wind with his tacit support for hostility against the international community. Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, a pestilent personality, and close ally of the president, had responded to the concerns of the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union by charging that foreign bodies who “intervene” in Nigeria’s election “would go back in body bags.” To the chagrin of the human society, General Buhari backed the governor. Recall that my person was impugned when I had hinted in the course of my presidential campaign that the international community views Buhari as a bellicose dictator, only for the ruling party to come to that realization later in the electoral season. Instead of any sign of penitence, Buhari’s militant body language took a turn for the worse throughout the campaigns. The immediate effect was military brutality during the election, resulting in loss of many lives, a situation that is bound to echo as Nigeria continues to seek the much-needed foreign investment into its economy and foreign ‘intervention’ in her national security challenges.
Leadership is contingent upon the environment, quite alright, but prudence remains a universal virtue of good leadership. Thus, while it can be reasoned that Buhari deserves commendation for his victory, because the alternative was definitively worse, which is sadly true, his do-or-die tactics were as unpatriotic as they were needless. Like the situations in 2003, 2007, and 2011, even if the umpires were saints, the opposition in 2019 had no path to victory. The palpable anger trailing Buhari’s victory, including the outright rejection by the opposition, has more to do with the fact that the president ran a campaign charged with naked despotism, crass impunity, and stark arrogance. Yet, political retribution is an antithesis to progress. At any rate, Nigeria has found itself at crossroads. The way forward is for Muhammadu Buhari undergo a true change.
SKC Ogbonnia, a former 2019 APC presidential aspirant, is the author of the Effective Leadership Formula.
Do The Igbo And The Yoruba Know They Are Sons Of ‘Oduduwa?
By Fredrick Nwabufo
And the Supreme Being commissioned Oduduwa, a “sky-god”, to carry out a terrestrial task; he descended from heaven with a cockerel which had six fingers. And the earth was made by him through the ingenious deployment of his avian subject. But that was after ‘Atewonro’ had sprinkled some dirt on the ocean to found Ile-Ife. And he had wives, and sons who founded other kingdoms. So the mythic origin of the Yoruba says.
In Igbo mythic origin, the Supreme Being sent Eri down to earth to establish balance and social order. The “sky-god” founded Nri, and he had wives, and sons who founded other Igbo towns and communities.
The Yoruba and the Igbo share a lot more than similar mythic origins. They are the oldest inhabitants of the areas they live in. In other words, the Yoruba and the Igbo are indigenous to the geographical area called “Nigeria”. And it has also been argued that both groups are of a singular ancestry.
The two groups have had established trade-links dating to the period before contact with the first Europeans. And they are known to share passion for industry; are convivial, accommodating and peace loving.
Also, there is no documented history of war between the Igbo and the Yoruba despite occupying the same “southern hemisphere”. In the precolonial times, wars among kingdoms and natives were common, but there appears to be no recorded incident of battle between the clans and kingdoms of the two groups.
In language, they are both of the Kwa-group Niger-Congo origin. The similarities between the Yoruba and the Igbo language are remarkable, if not uncanny, which point to an identical fount.
Despite having so much in common, politics has been a pesky point of dissonance for both groups. Though the Igbo and the Yoruba do not have a romantic political history; they have kept the dagger away from their rivalry.
The outcome of the Western Region elections of 1951, in which Nnamdi Azikiwe claimed he was sabotaged by Obafemi Awolowo, perhaps laid the molten magma of political rivalry between the two groups.
Some associates of Azikiwe alleged that Awolowo, leader of the Action Group, bought over members of the NCNC, after they had won elections on the platform of the party in the western region, to scuttle Zik’s plan of being the leader of the regional assembly.
They also claimed that Awolowo scuttled Zik’s “one-Nigeria” agenda, and introduced tribal politics.
However, there is no proof to substantiate these claims. In fact, the allegation regarding Awolowo’s sabotage of Zik was disproved by the colonial government at the time.
So, over the years, stories have been revised and passed down to generations who do not probe the information but hold it as a grudge against the other.
Most young people trading hate on social media cannot actually say their grievance against those they are tugging with, except to echo the refrain of revised stories handed down to them and to act on stereotypes they have been socialised by.
But can the Igbo and the Yoruba ever unite? Yes, they can. And they will. There will come a time when there is no option, but for them to hold each other in a warm embrace as “descendants of sky-gods.”
There will come that time.
Fredrick is a media personality.
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