Fueling Troubles for Jonathan, By Olusegun Adeniyi

It was with rapt attention that President Goodluck Jonathan listened to the briefing by Mr Godwin Emefiele on why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had to unify the foreign exchange markets by scrapping the bi-weekly Retail Dutch Auction System. With graphic details about how some marketers were round-tripping the dollars purchased from CBN, the apex bank governor explained why if nothing was done, Nigeria’s foreign reserve could soon be depleted. An ominous report from Standard & Poor’s, the international credit-rating agency, which Emefiele showed the president buttressed his position. By the new measure then being proposed, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) would no longer enjoy any special dispensation on Forex which the marketers would have to source from the interbank foreign exchange market.

While the president did not discourage the CBN from going ahead with the policy, he nonetheless made one comment that has turned out to be prescient: “I hope this measure will not disrupt fuel supply, especially at this crucial period.” Whatever assurances Emefiele may have given to the president, by not taking into confidence the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which accounts for 50 percent of national fuel need (and often takes responsibility for the entire 100 percent as supplier of last resort in times of crisis) before announcing the measure, CBN was taking a gamble. Not surprisingly, the moment the decision was made public, virtually all the independent marketers decided to close shop. That is the beginning of the fuel scarcity that Nigerians now experience but that is just part of the story.

Last Thursday in Lagos, Emefiele held a crucial meeting with fuel marketers and managing directors of banks, following threats by the bankers that they would no longer finance fuel importation because of accumulated debts. Although the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had assured the marketers a few weeks ago that the N264 billion owed them would be paid, the commitment had not been met. But the real problem, according to insiders, was not so much that the payment had not been made but that a letter was believed to have been written by Okonjo-Iweala to the PPPRA, asking the agency to stop payment on foreign exchange differentials and interest on “delayed payment” (payment exceeding 45 days after supply).

With the bankers adamant that they would no longer fund fuel importation because they were already experiencing liquidity problems, the CBN Governor last Thursday pleaded with them to reconsider their stance, mindful of the political sensitivity of the period we are in. Many of the bank CEOs who spoke said they were already having difficulty with their boards because of lending to upstream, mid stream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry and that they funded both the Shell and Chevron divestments. They also reminded Emefiele that he himself warned only recently that they were getting too exposed to over-borrowings from the sector. But as an insider told me, the marketers, acting in collusion with the banks, thought they could use this election period to pressure the federal government into paying all their arrears at once.

At the end, the bankers gave a condition under which they would continue to fund fuel importation: Emefiele would have to persuade Okonjo-Iweala to direct the Debt Management Office (DMO) to issue the requisite Sovereign Debt Note (SDN) and that the federal government must liquidate the existing subsidy debt. Apparently in line with that agreement, Okonjo-Iweala on Monday released N59 billion to the marketers through the PPPRA but that can only provide a temporary reprieve.

However, Okonjo-Iweala confirmed on Tuesday that the Federal Government had reached an agreement with the marketers on the N185 billion balance of their payment. “As part of this agreement, we are paying not only the costs they’ve incurred and their fees but also interest and Forex differentials”, she said, adding that the DMO has issued SDNs to cover N100 billion out of the N185 billion agreed upon as balance for the next payments while the CBN “has also given approvals for the banks to issue letters of credit.” Okonjo-Iweala further explained that the scarcity is being fuelled by “a mix of factors including disruption of pipelines and logistical issues and they are being attended to urgently”.

While I am aware that all the critical stakeholders in the sector are working hard to ensure that the fuel queues disappear, it could not have been pleasing to the president that the scarcity has come at a period he is seeking re-election. But it is a shame that some people within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign structure would politicise the issue by blackmailing the marketers just as it is lazy of the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) to mouth some ill-digested reasons for the scarcity. The real challenge today is not availability of PMS, given the prompt intervention by the NNPC, but how to deliver the product to every corner of Nigeria on a sustainable basis.

As at Tuesday, the NNPC had in its stock, 676,651,000 (676 million) litres of fuel which is enough to last Nigeria about 17 days while another 1,097,077,392.92 (one trillion) litres is expected to arrive within the next few days, thus pushing the stock to 1,773,728,392.92 litres. Against the background that the total national need for the period until March 31 is 1,160,000,000 (1.16 billion) litres, that means there would be a surplus that could last the country until late April at a national consumption rate of 40 million litres per day.

In my column of last week “On The Trail of Oil Thieves” , I explained the problem that has led to a situation in which 1212 trucks are put on the dilapidated roads in our country on a daily basis just for us to have fuel. It is all the more unfortunate when one realises that the idea of having several depots across the country was so that no truck should travel beyond a radius of 250 Kilometres to discharge fuel. And despite that the depots are in good condition, practically all of them have been rendered redundant because of the activities of pipelines vandals and oil thieves.

To understand the waste within the system, here is how the pipelines delivery of fuel should work. From the Atlas Cove in Lagos, fuel is pumped to Mosimi which then branches into Ore and Ibadan and terminates at Ilorin. That accounts for the South-West axis where between N600 to N700 million is lost on a weekly basis to vandals who either insert valves with which they connect to tankers or scoop the fuel in their canoes laden with drums. Because of the several breaking points, pressure is usually low in the process of pumping but detecting the actual place takes time and repairing such damages even longer periods. Yet as bad as that situation may seem, the situation is worse in other parts of the country, perhaps because of the distance.
From the Warri depot, fuel is pumped to Benin and from there to Suleja which then discharges into Kaduna. From Kaduna, fuel is pumped to Kano, Jos and Gusau. It is from Jos that Gombe is served and from there to Maiduguri which is the northern terminal. Also from Port Harcourt, fuel is pumped to Aba and from there to Enugu which serves Makurdi that in turn discharges to Yola. The combined storage for these 21 depots is 2.6 billion litres and that is excluding the depots owned by private individuals. But the vandals have made fuel supply through the pipelines a risky enterprise and for that reason, the biggest economy in Africa relies on trucking for its fuel need in the 21st century.

With the situation of things in our country today, as I explained last week, fuel scarcity will be with us for a long time and we may also not be able to develop the refining capacity to meet national need, except we tackle the issue of pipelines vandalisation. In my earlier column titled “Petrol and the Looming Catastrophe” on 17 January 2013, following an explosion at Arepo Village in Ogun State caused by pipelines vandals many of whom lost their lives, I engaged this same problem and below is an excerpts from what I wrote back then:

 

“With 5,120 kilometres of pipelines network, 2,965 kilometres of sea-lines, 112 flow stations, 16 gas plants, 126 production platforms, 17 loading buoys, 13 export terminals, 21 petroleum products depots, nine LPG Depots and 14 pump stations, Nigeria has a huge oil and gas assets but these assets are also perhaps the most unsecured in the world. That explains why we now have a situation in which almost everyone believes he could help himself with what belongs to all of us without consequences.

“Pipelines vandalism has indeed become such a lucrative and organized criminal enterprise that in its Christmas edition last year (2012), PUNCH carried a story of how a young medical practitioner abandoned his stethoscope to act as middleman for vandals. ‘People started calling me ‘oil doctor’ because I always had ready buyers for all kinds of petroleum products. Oil business is very lucrative especially in Kogi State where as many as 17 trucks of petroleum products could be siphoned and sold in one night,’ the medical doctor turned pipelines vandal said.

“Yet this is something that has been going on for far too long. For instance, a March 4, 2010 working paper by then NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr Mohammed Barkindo, is quite revealing. Looking at the number of incidences and the costs incurred on losses and repairs of petroleum products pipelines over a period of ten years (between 2000 and 2009), Barkindo painted a picture of a sector in serious crisis.

“According to his figures, within that ten year period in Port Harcourt, there were 199 fire incidences, 7,961 cases of pipeline vandalism and 144 ruptures, the total cost of which amounted to N78.15 billion. In Warri, there were 95 fire incidences, 3,181 cases of vandalism and 78 ruptures, the total cost of which was N20.39 billion. In Mosimi, there were 69 fire incidences, 2,320 cases of vandalism and 120 ruptures, putting the total cost at N78.15 billion. In Kaduna, there were 33 fire incidences, 817 cases of vandalism and 51 ruptures, totalling N1.6 billion in financial cost.

“In Gombe, there were 22 fire incidences, 1406 cases of vandalism and 5 ruptures, with the cost put at N690 million. In all for the five pipelines highlighted, within a period of a decade, there were 418 fire incidences, 15,685 cases of vandalism and 398 ruptures. The total cost for that ten years was N174.57 billion.

“Even if we use today’s value, that is more than a billion dollars stolen or wasted. Yet as grim as that may seem, the situation is actually worse today given the latest statistics on breaks and ruptures where year 2010 recorded the highest number in history followed by 2011 and 2012 in descending order which is at least good news. According to a November 2011 PPMC data, financial losses incurred between 2006 and July 2011 to pipelines vandals are as follows: N69,764,197,815 for PMS; N7,556,346,473 for DPK; N9,970,210,900 for AGO and N169,869,483,266 for crude. The total: N257,160,238,454. We are talking of almost two million dollars for a period of just five and a half years. How can a nation continue to waste its resources like this?

“But the impact of the activities of these criminal gangs goes beyond the value of products being stolen and the money spent on expensive repairs, litigation and remediation costs. The real problems are that they force refineries to operate below their installed capacities; encourage high level of trucking thus putting more pressure on our roads (aside causing several accidents); they ignite fire incidences that have claimed several lives, including innocent bystanders and also cause environmental pollution.

“Against the background that pipelines are vital security assets of any nation, in most countries, tampering with them is almost akin to treason. But we are yet to come to terms with this critical challenge and for that reason, criminals are having a field day at our collective expense as a nation…”

What the foregoing reveals quite clearly is that the protection of pipelines–without which there will always be fuel scarcity in many parts of our country–has become a serious national security issue. I know many commentators have talked glibly about building local refineries but the fact being ignored is that even if the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is passed today, reform efforts within the sector which would include building refineries as well as stable electricity in the power sector would remain a mirage until we effectively confront the challenge of effectively manning our pipelines.

 

I am aware that the timing of this current fuel scarcity is most inauspicious but perhaps it is just as well. If President Jonathan is re-elected, this should be another wake-up call that he has to find a lasting solution to the problem that would not just go away. And if the winner happens to be Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), then I extend to him my sympathy, given the burden of expectations that would come with such victory and the enormity of the challenge he would inherit in the sector.

Of Jega and Mob Hysteria

The tenure of Prof. Maurice Iwu was due to expire on 13 June, 2010. But as acting president who was riding a crest of popular opinion, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan knew he would score another big point if he sacked then Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman. Despite the fact that the law did not expressly grant the president—a position Jonathan had not even legally occupied at that period–such powers, he went ahead to remove Iwu on 28 April 2010 through the subterfuge of a “terminal leave”, just about six weeks to the end of his tenure.

Of course, as to be expected, Jonathan was hailed for the move by many Nigerians, including the current promoters of the All Progressive Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari. And when Jonathan appointed Prof. Attahiru Jega as Iwu’s replacement, his popularity went a notch higher at a time all the ills in Nigeria were credited to one imaginary “cabal”.

 

However, in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election which promises to be more competitive than the ones previously held in this Fourth Republic, some people within the administration feel that the use of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and Card Readers by INEC would not give them any “elbow room” to nudge fate in the right direction in the course of the election. And because of that, a stupendous amount of money is being expended in running a media campaign against the INEC chairman and all the adverts bear the PDP logo and photograph of the president.

Ordinarily, I am one of those who believed the president when he said he would not remove Jega having considered the wider national security implications of tinkering with INEC on the eve of an election that has put the nation on edge. But there is also a lesson to the civil society. Whatever may have been the failings of Iwu as INEC Chairman, process also matters. By approving, and even hailing, Iwu’s removal through illegal means, a dangerous precedent had already been created but thank God that the president appreciates (as he said in his Aljazeera interview on Monday) that removing the current INEC chairman for no just cause and at this period would put the elections in jeopardy.

 

Instructively, against the background that the President usually touts credible elections as his major contribution to our democracy and has always used the name of Jega to buttress his point, what is going on in our country today resembles the story in James Hardley Chase novel, “My Laugh Comes Last”. In that particular offering, a wealthy bank president had asked a young man versed in the intricacies of electronic security to build for him the “safest bank in the world”. He got his wish but the bragging rights of having the “safest bank in the world” also came with the realization that he had built something impregnable even beyond his own machinations.

Apparently taking the mandate from President Jonathan seriously, it would seem that Jega has put in place anti-rigging measures that go beyond the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and Card Readers. I got to know that through two programmes I have had to attend in the last one week, one in Uyo, the other in Abuja. Last Saturday, Patrick Okigbo’s “Nextier Advisory” organized its Development Discourse session in Abuja titled “2015 Elections: D-Day and the Morning After”. The discussions centred around public concerns on the readiness of INEC for the polls and the preparedness of the Police to forestall any election-related violence. The discussants included Professor Mohammed Kuna (Special Adviser to Jega), Mr. Innocent Chukwuma (West Africa Representative, Ford Foundation) and myself. But the star of the day was Kuna who revealed many things that most Nigerians may not be aware of.

According to Kuna, a number of security features have been introduced such that the rescheduled 2015 elections would be very difficult to rig. For instance, the ballot papers and ballot boxes have been colour coded by State, Local Government Areas, and Polling Units. As a result of the colour codes, ballot documents or boxes that are for particular polling units cannot be used at any other polling units. Also, there is only one result sheet for each polling unit and any destruction of the result sheet nullifies the votes from the polling unit. Any errors or mistakes in registering the results must be counter-signed (like a bank document) by all the authorised parties. Interested readers will find Kuna’s view in the communiqué on http://www.nextierlimited.com/publication/.

Also last Thursday, I was in Uyo to speak at a two-day workshop on ‘the Media and the 2015 General Election’ organized by Vibram Nigeria Limited in collaboration with the Akwa Ibom State chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). Among other speakers were State Director, Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Tom Minti, the State Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Gabriel Achong and the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Austin Okojie. In his presentation, Okojie revealed that INEC has created “FORM EC 40G series to ensure that cancelled elections and where elections were not held are recorded for accountability” while engaging “lecturers of tertiary institutions as collation and returning officers in order to insulate the Commission staff against any underhand practices.”

Given all the measures being introduced, Okojie said, he is “confident that we (INEC) will conduct elections that will reflect the will of the Nigeria people.” That also happens to be Jega’s pledge. And since the president has assured Nigerians that he never harboured any plan to remove the INEC Chairman, the unhealthy campaign for or against Jega should stop.

 

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Boko Haram Terror: As Chad Accuses Jonathan By Peregrino Brimah

Not too long ago, the Nigerien military accused Nigeria’s army of being cowards, for having been unable to battle Boko Haram. Nigeria via its defense spokesman, Gen. Olukolade responded by accusing Niger of supporting Boko Haram and providing the sect with insurgent fighters; very weighty accusations by any means.

The Chadians have come out harsher. They have leveled direct accusations at the Nigerian Jonathan-led government of repeatedly “stalling” the war against the dangerous terrorists for political gains. The Chadians have said as contained in a March 3rd Reuters report from their army spokesperson, Colonel Azem Bermandoa, that Jonathan stopped them from proceeded to recover terrorized territory under Boko Haram because Jonathan wants to do this himself whenever ‘his’ military gets to it, for ridiculous political points.

Chad did not just accuse the Jonathan government of stalling the defeat of the terrorists right now during this 6-week election war, but accused Jonathan’s behavior for the past months/years, pointing out that he (Nigeria) failed to “cooperate” with its neighbors to form the Multinational joint task force, MNJTF as agreed in the Paris summit of 2014. Chad claimed that due to choking of its trade with Nigeria by the terrorists it unilaterally decided to take action against the terrorists in Nigeria this January, without necessary permission from President Jonathan.

In the unfolding embarrassing and exposing row between the two auspicious partners, the truth behind Boko Haram and its unusual success in West Africa for the past 6 Jonathan years, as well as the truth of this 6-week election war to finally crush or deactivate the terrorists is coming to the open.

Not only is Jonathan’s midnight friend, his Chadian counterpart, (with whom he signed that treacherous September 2014 cessation of fire-against-the-terrorists “agreement” that allowed Boko Haram recoup, occupy more territory in Borno as well as the top half of Adamawa state, while killing thousands more Nigerians) accusing Jonathan of stalling the war against the terrorists and allowing Nigerians continue to live under the government of the murderous barbarians, but Idriss Deby is also contesting with Jonathan over Boko Haram’s nine-life leader (or his current double as the case may be). As Jonathan announced, surprisingly, that he will capture Boko Haram’s Shekau (Shekau” is a title akin to “Emir”) alive; his Chadian counterpart ensured he shared pants with Nigeria’s president by stating that he knows where Shekau is.

In our article last week, [Boko Haram 6-Week Election war: the Chad MoU, Prisoners of War and Other Critical Questions; ENDS.ng, Feb. 28, 2015] we raised some pertinent, urgent issues, making essential inquiries into the details of the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU between the Nigerian army and their Chadian counterparts. We are yet to get an official government response.

In the absence of Nigeria formally informing its people the truth about its engagement with the Chadians, we the people are left no option than to believe what we choose of what Chad says including: the accusation that Goodluck Jonathan stalls the war against the terrorists; that Jonathan did not cooperate with the MNJTF thus directly leading to the Baga massacre of over 2500 defenseless Nigerians and that Goodluck Jonathan continues to use Boko Haram for political purposes.

Our people do not deserve to spend an additional hour, talk less day under Boko Haram government – not for Jonathan’s politics, nor for any other purpose whatsoever. Fighting Boko Haram and providing the people of Nigeria the essential human right to life, security and opportunity, is not a favor by Chad or Nigeria’s government but a duty and responsibility that deserves to be fulfilled exigently.

We summon the Nigerian government to defend themselves and confess and come out clean to tell Nigerians and the observing global community all we need to know.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; http://ENDS.ng [Every Nigerian Do Something] Email: drbrimah@ends.ng Twitter: @EveryNigerian

 

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Goodluck Jonathan’s Olorunsogo NIPP Pipe Dream By Nasiru Suwaid

It was just recently that President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the Olorunsogo National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) in Ogun State, South-Western Nigeria, a project owned by the Niger-Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), with an installed capacity to generate 750 (MW) megawatts of electricity to the national grid. Actually, to be much clearer, the project commissioned by the Nigerian president was the Phase II of the tranche, as the first part of the project or Phase I of the Olorunsogo National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), was unveiled some time in the year 2007, which is having an installed capacity to generate 335 (MW) megawatts of electricity. The president was so happy and so elated about the occasion that there and then, he declared for all the people in the world to hear and see, if he does nothing else after, for the remaining part of his tenure in office, he has finished with the power sector of the economy, as a challenging problem to the electricity needs of the Nigerian citizenry.

Because, as it could be inferred from the fact of the important launching, the simple reality of the Olorunsogo National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) Phase II coming on stream, has raised and elevated the national power grid capacity of the Nigerian government, from somewhere around 4000 (MW) megawatts of electricity, to over 5000 (MW) megawatts of electricity. It was a great story to be told and an even more gladdening image to conjure, except for some fundamental facts, which the Federal Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Osita Nebo, did not much care to announce or elaborate upon. The first fact being that the concept of National Integrated Power Project in itself was not a new thing, in fact, it was conceived as per back as the year 2004, by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, as a jointly funded federal, state and local government’s partnership project.

It was also the same Obasanjo government, which entered into contract for the building of the Olorunsogo National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), with a Chinese company called SEPCO III, in fact, although the minister claimed both the Phase I and Phase II of Olorunsogo National Integrated Power Projects, were built based on a separate and distinct contracts, a little investigative perusal into similar type projects, would reveal that usually, such types of contracts are formed in tranches, with the completion of a single phase, automatically activating the beginning of the next phase, which is also what happened here. When the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2007, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated the Phase I of the Olorunsogo National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), besides, why is it that there is no evidence of when the current Nigerian president approved the initiation of the project, it should be noted that, if ‘ownership’ is the basic determining difference between Phase I and Phase II of the Olorunsogo National Integrated Power Projects, then they are one and the same project, because, both of them are jointly owned by the trio of federal, state and local government’s.

It is worth noting to any discerning observer, that what happened that day with President Goodluck Jonathan, had actually occurred before with a completely different president, indeed, most of the last days of the Obasanjo administration, were spent inaugurating a multitude of similar type projects. Yet Nigerians, including members of the present administration, had often accused the former president of fraud, for commissioning projects that did not bring them more electricity. What they did not know, was that the concept of National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) was built on faulty foundation of ‘insecure’ gas pipelines, that are prone to constant vandalization, leaving the power complex without its basic and primary source of raw material, gas. In fact, it is what rendered the Obasanjo’s National Integrated Power Projects, a pipe dream. It is also what would make the newly established Olorunsogo II National Integrated Power Project an unproductive white elephant project.

The question that needs to be asked is why is it, that at the time the Nigerian gas pipelines are being tempered with almost on a daily basis, it is also the same time that the Nigerian oil production output, which used to be around 1.6 million barrels per day (mbpd), has risen to nearly 2 million barrels per day (mbpd) or to be most specific, the crude oil output had reached 1.9 million barrels per day (mbpd) by January ending and what is most gladdening, it is rising by the day, to the extent that by February ending, Nigeria is able to nearly meet its 2.44 million barrels per day (mbpd), Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production quota. Does it mean that crude oil thieves would rather vandalize an unprofitable gas pipeline, than a very lucrative crude oil pipeline, also, is it reasonable to infer that crude oil pipelines are more secure than the liquefied natural gas pipelines but looking at the pipelines from the physical perspective, they looked similar in nature, by geographical location, physical structure and weathering capacity.

And this two other things:

THE ‘IMMORALITY’ OF NGOZI IWEALA’S NEW REVENUE ENHANCEMENT INITIATIVE

There is no other way to put it, than to admit that Nigeria is in big trouble financially, especially in the arena of collectible revenue receipt, that would be able to sustain the nation economically and the reason is quite so obvious to discern, which is the fact that it is the problem of a typical mono product economy, in this case being crude oil, thus, whenever its selling price goes down, the nation has to be scrambling for how to augment the lost revenue, occurring due to much cheaper exports. It is in the premise of this reality, that the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and the Federal Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, proposed a proactive new policy of ‘plugging the loopholes in the system’, where all leakages that usually drain government revenue are to be blocked, thus, the administration’s lost revenue is protected while enhancing and increasing the monetary volume of what accrues to the treasury.

It is under this initiative that in the beginning of this week, the Minister of Finance loudly proclaimed to the media world, that she has been able to save for the nation, the sum of over one 100 billion naira, an amount that usually before now, goes to the ghost workers, an euphemism for allocating monthly salaries to none existent public servants. Generally, this is a commendable effort but it is a counter-productive measure and a futile exercise, as to use the seemingly administrative term and an innocuous innocent ‘tag’ of plugging of leakages, for something that is essentially a prosecutable act of illegality is quite disingenuous and surely, does not aid nor help in the ethical discipline of the Federal Civil Service of the Nigerian Federation.

Because, it is the same civil servants who usually set up, promote and perpetuate the criminal enterprise called ‘ghost workers syndrome’ and most importantly, it is a concept that has been with Nigerians for quite a long time, thus, mere blocking of leakages and leaving the culprits to enjoy past loot, does not recover anything to the treasury, it cannot present exemplary deterrence to the future likely partakers in the corrupting personal enrichment activity, most significantly, it could not project a type of preventive mechanism, of the type only penal sanctions can confer on any habitual law breaking citizenry. It also will never present Nigeria as a country that respects the rule of law, where financial crimes are punished and honest civil services ethics are extolled and celebrated, in fact, have you even wondered why the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been so quiet these days, when so many ‘deeds’ requiring its earnest attention are being repeatedly committed.

  1. PRESIDENT! IT IS NOT ONLY THE OPPOSITION WHO ARE ANGRY

For any keen public affairs observer of the past few days, he or she would not have failed to notice a change in demeanor as well as conversational narrative of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. First, he seems more inclined to engage with a much wider select group of Nigerians, perhaps it is because of desperation for re-election into power or the highly unlikely but yet strongly rumored corrupt inducements of strategic opinion leaders, to make them tinker with the cemented perception of a carefree leadership by most average Nigerian citizens. Also, unlike before, he now prefers to frequent engagement with the media, all of which are very good, especially for regime with a tainted image of derelict governance, which has suddenly but conveniently become actively responsive in the past few days, primarily, due to the stark reality of a likely if not probable election defeat.

However, one unique thing about the president’s repetitive appearances is his open complaint about the Nigerian opposition party, the All People’s Congress, most specifically, the leadership of the political party. According to Mr. President, the Nigerian opposition party is very angry and exhibiting so much bitterness of the heart or rather, it is what is portrayed to the world atop the campaign podiums, as he stated, their anger could set the nation on fire, making them to arrest criminals while handing the felons long jail terms and tackling every government social service duty with an angry resolve albeit it most have been to solve it. Unfortunately, I had to disagree with President Goodluck Jonathan, because, it is not only the opposition leadership, as even average Nigerians are equally angry with the current state of things in Nigeria and believe me, calmness just would not do.

But why is that so? It is very simple to understand and even comprehend, you just cannot be happy and calm, when you spend hours in petroleum filling station, searching for a product in which your nation could produce and even refine at a much cheaper cost. You can’t help but be bitter, when your country is being rated as the number one terrorist nation on earth, as more people have died and are dying in Nigeria today, than in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan combined. You might even exhibit signs of deep frustration, when your loved ones had to die almost every day due to suicide bombing, just because they had dared to travel by going to a motor park garage. In fact, you could even be left with a lot of guilty feelings, when you could not watch the evening news of the Nigerian Television Authority and marvel at the ‘transformation’ work of a very ‘calm president’, simply because there is no light and the generator is out of gas and the petrol to fuel the engine cannot be found anywhere in petrol stations. Please, ponder at this scenario Mr. President, as I am sure, even you would be angry and bitter with the rocking ship of the Nigerian state.

Follow me on twitter: @neeswaid


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The Futility Of The ‘Big Lie’ Strategy By The PDP Against Tinubu By Alfred Omolewa

“If you tell a lie that’s big enough, and you tell it often enough, people will believe you are telling the truth, even when what you are saying is total crap.” – Richard Belzer in his book UFOs, JFK, and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Believe

From time immemorial,  dishonourable men have thrived in politics by peddling fabricated and concocted lies and half-truths. And while truth and sound principles will eventually outshine falsehood and opportunism, those who deal in such stock record some successes, albeit temporarily, at the expense of the people striving to bring some difference to politics.  Sir Winston Churchill was therefore right when he observed that “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on”.

These charlatans and opportunists are champions of the Big Lie theory endorsed and popularized by Adolf Hitler and his chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels and simplified in Richard Belzer’s book referenced above. This is the strategy now adopted by the PDP apparatchik in their futile attempt to politically lynch Bola Tinubu, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Their grand plan which is not new is to discredit him and other honourable men in the progressive fold in the belief that if the same big lies are repeated over and over again, people will begin to believe them and their targets will become discredited thereby truncating efforts to wrest power from the clueless and inept PDP politicians.

They adopted this strategy in Ekiti State.  They deployed it in Osun State and are now employing it fully as the national elections approach. A manifestation of their desperation is the recent churning out of unsubstantiated allegations both on television and in the social media against Tinubu, Buhari and a host of APC leaders. Of note is that they seem to have gone into overdrive in their circulation of outlandish accusations of inordinate wealth and property acquisition Bola Tinubu. These politicians turned blackmailers who are clearly of the PDP brand are identifiable. They must not be left to roam free and get away with libel and their criminal activities in character assassination. Tinubu and the APC must approach the courts of the land and, with the decorum and formalities afforded by the rules of courts, put them to the strictest proof of these allegations.  Because of their cowardice, they work as faceless persons.

However, they have now been uncovered. The Fayoses. Fani Kayodes. Mimikos, Olisa Metu of this world. They have also recruited many into their ranks using slush monies.  They go by phony names and acronyms shielding their cowardly sponsors.

In the past, these characters made allegations against Tinubu and went ahead to orchestrate his arraignment before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.  It is a matter of record that all the charges against Bola Tinubu were quashed by that tribunal. Several other allegations against him remain in the realm of speculative rumour, with no evidence to back them up. In the latest round of falsehood being circulated in some sections of the media, a list of “purported choice properties said to belong to a Chieftain of APC is
being peddled.  Those behind this list do this without regard to whether the properties in the list in fact exist.

Their story admittedly describes them as ‘purported choice properties’, and raise doubts of ownership by stating ‘said to belong’!!! How irresponsible and how manifestly mischievous!

For the records and for the avoidance of doubt, it is clear that these allegations are totally false and baseless and this attempt to play on our people’s collective ignorance and emotion is sad. The ‘Big Lie’ strategy of the propagators of these lies is about to come to an end. Because he who alleges must proof, these attackers must face the law and provide incontrovertible proof.

The Tinubu inspired 25-year development plan of Lagos helped lay the foundation for the infrastructural renewal, revenue breakthrough and related reforms in Lagos. No elected governor, past or present today in Nigeria equals the vision, vigor and vitality Bola Tinubu brought to governance. Today, Lagos is a national and global model of good governance thanks to Tinubu and his party.

Indeed, the falsity of the accusations against Tinubu and Fashola by the faceless would be apparent to independent and fair minded citizens if, in the absence of the opportunity for formal proof and denial otherwise afforded in responding to identifiable accusers, and with the benefit of seeing through the Big Lie Strategy, they consider:
– Whether accusations of secrecy bordering on the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law of 2007 are valid and reasonable when: (a) the law is available for public scrutiny in the Lagos State of Nigeria Official Gazette Extraordinary No. 37 Vol. 40 of May 18, 2007; (b)  the law, in fact, documents the benefits payable to retired public officers instead of arbitrary pay-outs; and (c) the approach agrees with internationally acceptable practices including the model in the United States under the Former Presidents Act, Presidential Transition Act and Former Presidents Protection Act.

– Whether there is, in fact, a property on Oyinkan Abayomi that has served as Guest House to the Lagos State Government since 1979?

– Whether the outlandish value of the properties listed in the publication are not arbitrary, unsubstantiated and indicative of the mischievous actions of desperate political operatives.

– Whether reputable publicly traded organizations with internationally sanctioned codes of corporate governance such as Oando Plc and UACN Plc would engage, without obvious consequences, in such shady deals as described in the publication.

– Whether the fact that I share a common surname with the CEO of Oando Plc is not being used as a
fodder to feed damaging conspiracy theories and score cheap political points at the expense of the truth.

– Whether the relocation of the Ikosi Road Campus of the Lagos State Polytechnic to its permanent site at Ikorodu was not in fulfilment of the Master Plan for the institution.

– Whether it is not lazy and outlandish to suggest that every major property developer in Lagos State is fronting for me.  Are most of these developments not funded by facilities from the banks?

– Whether the matters relating to Federal Government properties in Lagos State are not presently before the Supreme Court of Nigeria and whether there is any shred of documented evidence substantiating the accusations concerning the old Federal Secretariat.

– Whether sharing a surname with a doctor working at the Critical Care Unit of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital is sufficient to reasonably conclude that I personally own the unit.  Is that not laughable in itself?

The truth of the matter is that the detractors do not understand Tinubu and the progressives with their style and innovative approach to governance.  Not because they are incapable of doing so, but because the years of waste and charlatanism presided over by these same detractors have become conditioned to their tired, regressive and destructive approach to governance, wealth management and infrastructure development. Tinubu is a trail blazer and represents that new progressive and aggressive generation of managers who, having won the confidence of their people to occupy political offices, have embarked on new methods of financing projects. This group has fully tapped and developed the potentials of Public Private Partnership initiatives. By so doing, being able to complete and embark on projects that only decades of reliance on federal allocations would achieve.  Yes, private sector people benefited but the benefits were legitimate and the people got value. And, what is more, it accords with international best practices.

The APC approach to governance in Lagos has empowered the private sector players.  It has led to the creation of jobs and opportunities for ordinary citizens. Citizens have gotten value and are positioned to continue to get long term value. This approach has in fact, reduced corruption and waste in governance.

Do the PDP detractors know these? Yes, they do. Why, then, are they falsifying the records and creating and spreading malicious innuendos?  Because they want to play on the people’s readiness and tendency (justifiable by years of disappointing governance) to believe that ALL politicians are corrupt and that any new agenda is an avenue to siphon funds.  It is evil, devilish, criminal and morally reprehensible for our detractors to attempt to take advantage of our people in this way.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the objectives of the publishers of this otherwise defamatory articles are to malign the person of Tinubu and attack the viability of the APC platform, to manipulate the people and impede the progress of the Progressives. It is an act of desperation and politically motivated character assassination carried to its highest and nauseating level against Tinubu. Like it failed in the past, this attempt again will kiss the dust.

Omolewa writes from Ibadan

 

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Why I Support Buhari, My Jailer By Adeyemi Adefulu

I found Lola Shoneyin’s piece on Buhari titled, “How My Father’s Jailer Can Offer Nigeria A Fresh Start” very engaging although it dredged up some very painful memories. It took me down memory lane; indeed, it was a vivid reminder of an awful road on which l and others like Audu Ogbeh, now an ardent Buhari backer, travelled. It was my painful duty as the “Captain” of the detainees, to receive Lola’s father, Engr. Tinuoye Shoneyin into the Abeokuta prison and to make him as comfortable as possible in the extremely difficult prison environment, providing him with clothes, a towel and toiletries. Engr. Shoneyin had, as a matter of courtesy, responded to the invitation of the government of Ogun State then led by Colonel Oladipo Diya, who later became the deputy to Gen. Sani Abacha, to answer some questions and had expected to be back home that evening. He was not to return home for six months! 

Lola’s account dwelt on the torture that she (at such a young age) and her family had to endure and the telling effect of such an experience on the family. Many detainees never recovered from the torture and the injustice that this experience represented. In many cases, mine included, there was no accusation, much less a charge. One slight misstatement in Lola’s account was that the detention was at the behest of Col. Tunde Idiagbon, the erstwhile deputy to General Buhari. I doubt if that is quite true. The problem with autocracy is that once the atmosphere has been established or allowed by the leader, many tin gods at the various levels of the strata will for any number of reasons, exploit the situation for the purpose of settling personal and petty scores including disputations over girlfriends! So in the case of Lola’s father, the local despot at the time was Colonel Oladipo Diya who was mean, brutal and sadistic and locked up as many people as he wanted, for good, bad or sometimes no reason at all. He flogged civil servants for lateness, taxed the people on every imaginable score, and signed for nearly 20 people who had been sentenced to death (none of whom his predecessor permitted to be killed), to be executed by hanging in one day. He reveled in making people suffer wherewith he was promptly given the name of “Kunya” meaning tormentor which was the direct opposite of what his name “Diya” means in the Yoruba language. He was, indeed, the harbinger of torment and suffering. He it was who saw a ghost in every situation. If the sun was too bright he blamed it on the dethroned politicians. He was a cruel taskmaster who tried irrationally to get water out of stone. At a stage he rounded up contractors who had done various jobs for the state government and dictated that they should either pay certain arbitrary fines or be locked up in prison.

I was in the gulag for 18 months, 16 of which l spent in the Abeokuta prison. Prior to this time, I had presided over three Ministries in four years and three months. There was never an accusation or a charge of any sort against me. His investigators were surprised at how clean my affairs were and how l could succinctly explain every transaction l was involved in including providing photocopies of cheques that even pre-dated my appointment. “Were you expecting that this type of thing would happen? Why did you leave a thriving law practice for a job like this?” they asked me repeatedly. Therein lies the dilemma of our country that needs good people to preside over its affairs, yet castigates the few who dare to get in the fray. “The punishment for the wise who refuse to take part in the government of their people,” said a Greek philosopher, “is to be ruled by fools.”

I came to understand that Diya’s grouse with me was that l was so close to the late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo, my governor, and that there was no way of getting Onabanjo without getting Adefulu his political son and confidant! “Onabanjo did nothing Adefulu did not know of,” Diya was reported to have said repeatedly. So l had to be purged! Oluokun the head of state security, himself a dastardly character, was Diya’s hatchet man. When all efforts at intimidation and harassment failed, they changed tactics and tried to recruit me as an informant against Onabanjo. It soon became clear to them however, that I was not going to be party to their pursuit of crass injustice and motive hunting.  I asked Oluokun pointedly to cock his gun and shoot and kill me because under no circumstances would l be part of such villainy. In any case, unless l wanted to become a liar, such incriminating evidence did not exist except in the figment of Diya’s convoluted imagination. Onabanjo was the quintessential leader – open, fair minded, as straight as a spoke and a great lover of the people; a man who, to this day, several years after his demise, l still hold in the highest regard.

At the time of my incarceration, my family was at a more delicate stage than the Shoneyins, because it was younger and less endowed. My first son Adeoye, was just under 10 years and our last daughter, Dayo was three months old. I was 37 years old at the time of the coup. My family was subjected to a long and extremely humiliating deprivation. It was the unjust compensation l received for a job to which l gave the very best of my life at a very young age (try as you may, such injustice never leaves you. The wound may heal but the scar is there and sometimes stares you in the face). I tried hard to be strong and for the most part, l was. The knowledge that I had served with the very best of my ability in a job l truly enjoyed, gave me peace of mind and assurance. The open and vocal agitation of many well-meaning citizens such as Professor Wole Soyinka for my release was an act of grace for which l will forever be grateful. The only time l broke down was the day my son, Adeoye, turned 10. With a smuggled recorder, I had recorded a birthday message for him and his young siblings admonishing them to be strong in the knowledge that God was on our side. After recording the message, l wept profusely. It was terrible! My co-prisoners, including my Deputy Governor, the late Chief Sesan Soluade, and the present Emir of Suleija, Alhaji Anwal Ibrahim, the erstwhile Governor of Niger State, and the others, tried hard to console me. I had been the strong one, the encourager of the brethren, but l guess the cup had become too full and it ran over.

While time heals, the impact of such injustice endures.  It leaves a telling effect which you carry for the rest of your life. Ironically, when l was finally released, l was in hospital where l had just undergone an emergency operation. Liberty had come at last but it met me totally broken and incapacitated. At my release and after, no one offered any apology for this gruesome and very unjust recompense. Nobody, without due process, should ever have the power to visit such humiliation and injustice on any human being. The irony of dictatorship is that a leader can be so conscientiously wrong in his crusading mission. The Buhari regime was very wrong in my case as in the case of several others. I, along with many others, had come into office with the purest motive of service. It was what l had always wanted to do. I thought it was my life’s mission and when the opportunity came l did the work as if my life depended on it. I left a lucrative practice to serve my people. I was totally accountable, yet l was unfairly thrown into jail for no just cause for 18 months!

That was many years ago and since l have focused on re-building my life and raising my family. I have prayed and tried hard to forgive my unjust tormentors but l know that the scar is there and people like Lola Shoneyin stroke that weak point now and again, albeit unwittingly. Obviously this is not an experience that can be wished away because it evidently affected my being and changed my life fundamentally. It makes me appreciate people like Mandela so much – 26 years on Robben Island (have you been there?) and he came out with no bitterness and no guile! Such men are rare!

Understandably then, it has taken some effort for me to embrace Buhari’s candidacy. I have never voted for him. I did not even like him. But as my friend, Audu Ogbeh said to me once, “so much has gone wrong with our polity, that our emphasis now must not be on ourselves but on the survival of the nation.” I have no doubt he is right. This is a time when the overriding interest must be that of the country.  As a student of history, l know that while constitutions can be copied and adopted, in the end every nation will only learn by its national experience. The history of many of the democracies we admire today is replete with unimaginable and odious occurrences that characterized their development. It is obvious to me that the trust we reposed in President Jonathan in 2011 has been wantonly squandered.

The sobering state of our nation and realpolitik has made me take another look at Buhari. How viable is he for our polity given the available options? Is the General, the devil he is portrayed to be, or a victim of circumstances or a misunderstood individual? To me President Jonathan has been such a disappointment in many critical areas of our national life. There has been unprecedented violence and blood letting under this administration, which, naively in my view, treated the Boko Haram insurgency with kid gloves and a total lack of resolve. Today, Boko Haram has established a formidable force and has succeeded, before our very eyes, in changing the map of Nigeria. The President appears to have turned deaf ears to the voices of wisdom and surrounded himself with cronies whose main pre-occupation is to exploit him. Some of his spokesmen have made a virtue of rascality and turned public relations upside down. Miscreants who should be in jail for their past deeds are the ones now threatening that our collective vote must go a particular way or there will be insurrection. We never heard of  “democracy” at gunpoint till now.

To the discerning, it is clear that the Boko Haram insurgency has been employed as a source of inscrutable abuse, or how else do we explain a Nigerian private plane filled with raw US dollars being impounded abroad? How many such planeloads escaped without being caught is anybody’s guess, yet our troops are said to be so ill equipped that the insurgents have better arms. All this despite the huge sums that have been voted for defence under this administration; one wonders where all that money went. Then the massive corruption in every sphere of public office – pension funds stuffed into pillows and mattresses, etc. The disgusting state pardon for a man who, before an incredulous world, broke the terms to a court order and left Britain dressed as a woman! This is not how a leader should exercise such hallowed prerogative power. The President’s conduct sent a chilling message down the spine of the polity that corruption and stealing are the way to go. You can add to that the company of shady men wanted abroad for all manner of crimes, including drug offences, who have been installed in positions of leadership in the PDP or have been fielded as Senatorial candidates. The management or lack of it of our foreign reserves (which have become totally depleted) and reports of billions of missing dollars dominate the air. Everybody who is working hard is in trouble. Joblessness has risen to record levels.  The youths are, justifiably restless because they have no future in the present dispensation. The tales of woe are just endless. Billions of dollars have disappeared into petroleum subsidy yet even the cost of kerosene, the poor man’s fuel, is at an all-time high. It is the oil sheiks that are being subsidized not the ordinary people.  To say the ship of state is clearly adrift in Nigeria is an understatement. A land that should be flowing with milk and honey has become the laughing stock of the international community. We simply can no longer tolerate this grotesque level of gluttony and of corruption. There is an urgent need for a change otherwise, we face a huge problem and social dis-location ahead beyond what we already have.

These are the reasons why l have embraced Buhari. If you look at his past, and some of the statements credited to him, he is not an easy man for a person like me to embrace. But 30 years is a long time and l honestly believe he has had enough time to reflect and to change. He is no more a military officer. He has retained a sharp, social conscience for the people.  I am impressed with the hunger with which he has fought for elections. I want to believe that it is out of an earnest desire to work for the people and to do some things right that General Buhari has struggled so hard to win the nation’s leadership through the electoral process.  While he may not be a saint, he is certainly not a villain. His choice of a very good man in Professor Yemi Osinbajo, for a Vice President gave me the assurance that Buhari was listening to the comments on his areas of weakness. There are enough checks and balances in a democratic set up to make fears of a return to dictatorship a joke.  I am also impressed by his modest lifestyle, unlike many of his ilk who live in opulence and indulgence. This says something about the man. I can trust this man with my wallet in a way l cannot do with Jonathan who appears to have forgotten where he came from. Jonathan has lost the golden opportunity to fundamentally affect the lives of the ordinary folks. I am persuaded that it will be a tragedy for us to continue in this drift for another four years. While Buhari is far from being my ideal candidate and l worry about some of his deficiencies, my perception is that although he may be short on the skills required for the modern management of a state – technology, economic management etc. – his record shows that he has the ability to enlist support. I hope this time he will choose the right people and avoid those who will use his name to do iniquity. While Buhari may not be the ideal candidate we need, he is, certainly the best we have. There is a time in the history of a nation when an individual is needed to rescue it or perform a historic role.  As it was with Winston Churchill who provided Britain with the much needed war-time leadership, General Charles de Gaulle who restored the confidence of France, Madiba, Nelson Mandela of South Africa who championed the cause of majority rule and showed the way to national reconciliation and our own Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo who provided leadership to a country on the brink after the Abacha years, my belief is that this is the hour for Muhammadu Buhari to stop the torment of a hemorrhaging nation and restore its confidence.

Lastly, the General owes me one.  I will still like Buhari to vocalize an apology and offer some succour to people like me whom his government brutalized in the past. It is the least he can do. To do so is not weakness. Indeed, it is strength to admit the mistakes of the past and to promote national reconciliation.  For now, even ahead of the apology, and in the national interest, l have thrown in my hat with Buhari. So has Lola Shoneyin’s father. Now 87 but still spritely and alert, my big brother and comrade, Engr. Tinuoye Shoneyin, always a big heart, is enthusiastically by my side at political rallies and party support meetings. Our jailer has become our hope. Life is indeed nothing if not an agglomeration of ironies.

Adeyemi Adefulu MFR , is a Lagos-based lawyer.

 

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Is Robert Mugabe’s Fall Symbolic? By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Not a few across the world are convinced that it has become completely impossible to feel any sympathy for President Robert Mugabe no matter what happens to him. Mugabe’s 35-year old rule which has rewarded Zimbabweans with untold hardship has continued to defy any attempt at rationalization.

But when he tripped on a red carpeted staircase last Wednesday (February 4, 2015) and came crashing down to the ground as he descended a podium at the  Harare   International   Airport after addressing a very enthusiastic crowd of Zimbabweans, I could not help nursing some discomfort over the prompt, massive celebrations that greeted the accident across the world. I almost found myself agreeing with the Zimbabwean Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, that the global bacchanal over Mugabe’s tumble amounted to “morbid celebrations.”  
 
Mugabe must have been in a very pleasant mood that Wednesday. He had just returned from the 24th African Union (AU)  Summit  in  Addis Ababa  where, despite stiff oppositions from Civil Society organisations, he was crowned the new Chairman of the 54-nation body, a position that would now afford him a more elevated platform to periodically deliver well-aimed sound bites to the West, his mortal enemies.
 
Also, as his plane touched down in  Harare and he saw such a large crowd of supporters waiting to receive him, he must have reassured himself that his western antagonists would once more get the message he has been trying hard to send across to them, namely, that he is still in power because Zimbabweans want him.  
 
Again, on February 21, 2015, Mugabe will clock 91. He must have been happily looking forward to that day and hoping that his 49-year old, extremely fashion-conscious wife, Grace, would be discharged from the Asian hospital where she is recuperating from an appendix surgery, to enable her be on his side as he blows out the 91 candles that would be lighted on his usually very large Birthday Cake.  And then he would once again announce to those eagerly awaiting news of his death or incapacitation that he is still “fit as fiddle.”
 
Mugabe had landed heavily on his knees and hands when he fell last Wednesday. For a 91-year old man, the effect would be quite enormous on his joints and ankle bones considering the height from which he fell, assuming there was no fracture. It would, therefore, really take a lot of work by his doctors and physiotherapists to get him up on his feet again very soon, although Mugabe is not lacking in his usual surprises.
 
Matters are not helped by the fact that he might be quite reluctant fly to  Singapore  to see his favourite doctors for quality medical attention due to the predictable deluge of more scornful coverage and speculations from the western media whose searchlight must be focused on  Harare  by now.
 
Indeed, these are not the best of times for the once ever calm, unflappable Uncle Bob, and one is left wondering if this historic fall, which caught his usually very alert, sharp and efficient bodyguards unawares, is symbolic. Could it be indicating the commencement of Mugabe’s long-expected demystification or  the loosening of his grip on the soul of  Zimbabwe  and eventual exit from power? Is it being rudely impressed on Mugabe’s rocky heart that for every beginning there is always an end, and that even the most reliable security structure can sometimes embarrassingly disappoint, and well-cultivated public image suddenly marred.     
 
The frantic image reclamation effort in  Harare  since “the fall of Mugabe” has been surprisingly shoddy. Immediately Mugabe’s aides picked him up with the speed of lightening, rushed him into his waiting Mercedes Benz and sped off, operatives of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation, rounded up all the journalists covering the event and ordered them to delete all the images of the fall from their cameras. But, despite this prompt preventive measure, the global media soon began to feast on pictures and footages of the great fall. It soon went viral on the internet spiced with memes further mocking him.    
 
And then, the Zimbabwean government entered stage two of image management. Information minister Moyo told the Herald, the state-owned newspaper:  “What happened is that the president tripped over a hump on the carpet on one of the steps of the dais as he was stepping down from the platform but he remarkably managed to break the fall on his own… I repeat that the president managed to break the fall.”
For once, Mugabe’s usually very reliable image managers would be wondering what was happening to them!  
Always sharply turned out in well cut designer suits, Mugabe represents a beautiful image of what it means to “age gracefully.” At 91, he is still intellectually and psychologically intact, always at his impressive best during press conferences or interviews. Due to stiff sanctions imposed on his country because of his face-off with the West led by  Britain  after his “land reforms” which saw him “recovering” large expanses of land held by very few white farmers to the gross disadvantage of the black (native) majority, the economy of the country has been in tatters, and public infrastructure virtually collapsed. In  2010, a  Zambian friend showed me a 40 billion Zimbabwean dollar bill which he said could not buy a loaf of bread!
 
You could be forgiven for admiring Mugabe if you neither lived in  Harare  nor  Bulawayo . Many Africans are, however, at a loss as to how to deal with Mugabe. Will the West be hounding and demonizing him today if the vast lands were still in the hands of the few whites, even if he was the most ruthless dictator in  Africa ? That is the disturbing question.
 
Mugabe is driven by immense fear and, therefore, trusts no one except himself and, maybe, his wife. Would he not end up at  The Hague  and get the Charles Taylor treatment if he quits power?
 
This fear often leads him into hasty suspicions and dealing ruthlessly with his real or imagined enemies. Although he continues to deny it, a 1980s tribal massacre of over 20, 000 mostly Ndebele people which he was said to have ordered still make people shudder.     
 
Mugabe told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in 2009 that the US and Britain are hell-bent on successfully executing what he calls their “regime change programme” in Zimbabwe which he says, “is aimed at getting not just Robert Mugabe out of power, but Robert Mugabe and his party out of power?” And that “naturally means,” he said, that “we dig in [and] remain in our trenches.” 
 
Now “digging in” and remaining in their trenches have been at very grave costs to Zimbabweans. The MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsangirai, widely seen as the western tool for unseating Mugabe has been trashed in every election by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.  And just recently, Mugabe sacked his deputy, Mrs. Joice Mujuru, accusing her of planning to assassinate him. His wife is now being touted as his favoured successor.
 
With Mujuru and her supporters reportedly planning to form their own party, a weakening crack is appearing in the once very formidable ruling ZANU-PF. And that for Mugabe presents a future pregnant with unnerving possibilities. Could it be that it was that future that was presaged in last Wednesday’s fall?
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*Mr. Ugochukwu   Ejinkeonye  is a commentator on public issues is columnist with Daily Independent newspaper,  Lagos . His column appears on the back page of the paper every Tuesday. ( scruples2@hotmail.comwww.ugowrite.blogspot.com)
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Governor Akpabio, Supporting Your Stooge Is Not By Force, By Inibehe Effiong

As politicians and political parties in the country continue in their campaigns to lure the electorates preparatory to the rescheduled elections, governor Godswill Obot Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State and his stooge Udom Emmanuel have taken their insatiable plot to get power to a ridiculous and provocative level. Governor Akpabio has continued to dissipate public funds in promoting his ungodly third term agenda using Udom as a veil even as he manipulates critical state institutions and apparatus for egregious and partisan objectives.

Recently, I watched governor Akpabio’s stooge, Mr. Udom on television talking arrogantly in a very desperate attempt to deceive credulous and unsuspecting voters in the state. While speaking in a campaign rally, Mr. Udom declared that he will carry – out a census of all youths in the Akwa Ibom State within his first three months in office in order to determine those that should be sponsored abroad for education and those that should be empowered to start businesses and so on.

In case Udom Emmanuel and his supporters do not know, census is item 8 in the Exclusive Legislative List under Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ( as amended ). The undeniable import of this is that only the federal government is vested with constitutional vires ( power ) to determine population.

Therefore, no state government can conduct census. In any case, we are all conversant with the chronic and alarming level of unemployment in Nigeria. As such, any candidate that says he will conduct census in order to determine the rate of unemployment in a state if elected is being deceitful and insincere. In any case, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics is there for any administration that requires official information on demographic related matters and statistics for planning.

In the said speech, Udom also admonished youths in the state not to “play opposition” saying that opposition is not good. What other evidence do we need of Udom’s autocratic inclination? What is democracy without a strong opposition? That statement smacks of sheer arrogance and intolerance by a man that was forced on the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ) in Akwa Ibom State as her gubernatorial candidate. It clearly shows that Udom, if given the chance will be more brutal and monstrous than his imperial benefactor.

Not done with his nauseating campaign shenanigans, Udom Emmanuel a supposed banker and economist of repute, went on air in a radio interview and declared that the price of garri will be reduced by 50% if he assumes office as the governor of Akwa Ibom State. I have said it repeatedly, “a product cannot sell beyond the limits of its marketer ( s ). Illegitimacy cannot give birth to legitimacy”.

Udom Emmanuel, an illegitimate child of Governor Akpabio’s brigandage, despotism, corruption and politics of exclusion should stop teaching our people nonsense. Akwa Ibom State as at today is not known for large scale agricultural exploits. The state largely depends on neighbouring states and importation of food supplies to meet her food needs. Is Udom Emmanuel going to subsidise the price of garri if at all he’s elected? How will this banker reduce the price of garri by 50%?.

During his 2011 electioneering campaigns, governor Godswill Akpabio had audaciously declared that he was going to build one industry in each of the 31 Local Government Areas of the state if elected for a second term. Though the gubernatorial election in the state was marred by rigging, violence and fraud, in the end, the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC ) declared him elected.

With less than three months to the expiration of his tenure, Akpabio has not laid the foundation for even one industry in the state. Ironically, governor Akpabio in 2013 presented a N459. 9 billion budgetary estimate to the rubber stamp Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly which he christened “budget of industrialisation and consolidation”. The truth is that no industrialisation has taken place. Akpabio has however consolidated his insatiable proclivity for wasteful spending, extravagance and suppression of dissenting voices.

On Friday February 27, 2015, all markets in the state capital were forcefully shut down on the orders of governor Akpabio because Udom Emmanuel wanted to sell his manifesto to market women in the state ostensibly as a counter to an earlier visit to major markets in the state by the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress ( APC ) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Umana Okon Umana. Angered by the popular reception said to had greeted the APC campaign in the markets, Akpabio ordered the closure of markets for his stooge.

As if our people are fools, the media apologists of Akpabio went to town with the insulting lie that it was the market women who willingly closed the markets in solidarity with the PDP. Is it possible for everyone in a market to support one candidate? However, my discussion with the leadership of the market women in the state revealed that the closure of the market was not of their volition.

The truth is that the market women were not consulted nor was their consent sought. This crass provocative lawlessness and impunity is happening in a state without a viable economy; a state without employment opportunities and industries despite receiving the highest allocations from the federation account.

How can Udom, a man who prides himself as a clean intellectual consent to such cruel obstruction of peoples’ only source of livelihood in an effort to make him a governor? With what we  have seen, is Udom Emmanuel not another imperial Godswill Akpabio? A candidate who seeks to ride to power on the tears and blood of the down trodden is a disaster that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

The whole country was recently incandescent with rage over the dubious donation of a whooping N100 million to Udom Emmanuel by some ragtag “student leaders ” in Akwa Ibom State as their contribution to his campaign. Only a candidate with a criminal mind whose goal is to steal and loot will accept ONE HUNDRED MILLION NAIRA from some unemployed lazy minds? How does Udom Emmanuel Intend to repay them if he emerges the governor? That donation cannot be charitable, it was made with an expectation.

Governor Godswill Akpabio is using state funds to secure bogus endorsement for his stooge from the labour union leadership in the state, traditional rulers, religious leaders, transporters and all sorts of money seeking groups in the state. Few days ago, it was widely reported in the media that some so-called youth leaders in the state were summoned to the government house where the governor reportedly shared N155 million to the youths who are said by some reports to be cultists.

With the way Akpabio is going, Nigerians may wakeup to the news that Mr. Akpabio has summoned mad people roaming the state, Boko Haram, witches and wizards, rapists, armed robbers, kidnappers, prostitutes and like persons to the Akwa Ibom State Government House for them to endorse his stooge.

Democratic dividends should not be reduced to construction of some roads at highly inflated rates. Let us not wittingly or unwittingly reduce democracy to pettiness and mediocrity. It is an abuse of language to credit a governor and a gubernatorial candidate who can shut down markets in a gestapo and primitive show of power to score cheap political goals with the appellation ‘democrat’.

There should be no compulsion in political choices. The freedom to choose who should govern us is the hallmark of democracy. It was former American President, Abraham Lincoln who posited that ” no man is good enough to govern another without his consent “.

Nigerians should deprecate this crude, illegal and tyrannical plot to foist a candidate on Akwa Ibom people. If this is allowed to go unchallenged, then there is a justifiable reason to be sceptical about the forthcoming elections.

The time to act is now!.

Inibehe Effiong is a Human Rights Activist based in Lagos, Nigeria and the Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders ( COHRD ).
Email : inibehe.effiong@gmail.com

 

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Where lay the Spirit of Class Struggle? By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye

Class struggle, as opined by Karl Marx, a German Scholar, in his theory of historical materialism, is about the peasants’ strives for success. It is about war commissioned against perpetual hegemony, status quo and exploitation by the proletariats being used by the bourgeoisies to produce what they cannot buy. Class struggle is about the common people struggling towards restoring their battered souls. It is about the poorest of the poor striving towards becoming the richest of the rich.

In Nigeria today, the spirit of class struggle seems to have died amongst the youths. The youths have had their today and tomorrow strangulated by the old cargos that currently held the insignia of power. Sadly, the youths are not thinking. They have accepted that their future be mortgaged. The youths have refused to take their destiny into their hands.

Those who ruled Nigeria in first and second republics are still controlling the polity and economy of the country. Edwin Clark was 35 when he was appointed Minister of Information; today, at 83, he still determines who get what, when and how in Niger/Delta. Ebonyi State Governor, Martin Elechi is 76, yet, he still want to be a Senator. Chief Tony Anineh is still on the throne at 81.

Senate President, David Mark has been in power before the advent of second republic, but still remain a very powerful element in the country. Chief Obasanjo, 78, has been in power since 1975; yet, he has refused to bow out. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, 79, has been in power since second republic, yet, he has refused to retire for the younger generation to take over. Bernabas Germade, 74, is presently fighting 52 years old Governor Gabriel Suswan of Benue State for political relevance

The nation of Nigeria is presently being governed by those who had in one way or the other contributed to her woes, yet, the youths are looking. The current advocates of Change are not exempted. Atiku and Obassanjo governed Nigeria from 1999 to 2007 without achieving much. The Saraki dynasty have been in charge of Kwara State since the return of democratic rule to Nigeria, yet, the state has the worst road network in North Central Nigeria. Rotimi Amaechi has served as Speaker and Governor in Rivers State for 16 years, yet, the debt profile of the state keep increasing. The progressives have been controlling the string and button of Lagos State since 1999, yet, pipe borne water is not available for people to drink in the centre of excellence despite the fact that the state is surrounded by water.

Chief Bode George ruled Ondo state when I had not been born, yet, he still determine who get what and how in Lagos PDP. After serving as Commissioner for four years, Chief of Staff for four years and Governor for eight years, Abia State Governor, Thoerdore Orji, 68, is about to move to the Senate. Orji’s Wife, Nkechi and Son, Emeka, are about to become House of Representatives’ Member and State Lawmaker respectively. The PDP and APC House of Reps candidates for my federal constituency in Ekiti State are 72 and 76 respectively.

The Elites are rotating power amongst themselves while the large numbers of the less privileged youths are wallowing in squalor. Our fathers continue to recycle themselves in government instead of giving way for the younger generation. They made education, which most of them in the western Nigeria acquired free of charge, almost unaffordable.

The older generation has refused to retire and quit the civil service so that the younger ones could be employed. Instead, they continue to hang on by falsifying their age. The looting and widespread corruption by our fathers has battered the economy so badly that small and medium enterprises, which should be the main employers of labour aside the government, are virtually non-existent.

Youths are the building blocks of a nation. The stronger, more vibrant and politically aware the youths are, the more developed the nation is. Countries that had empowered the younger generation in the past are now better off. David Cameroon became the Prime Minister of Britain at 43, one of his predecessors; Tony Blair has already retired from politics at 63. Americans elected Barrack Obama at 47.

Furthermore, Juan Barreto became the Prime Minister of Dominica at 32 in 2004. Joseph Kabila became the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 31 in 2001. Nikola Gruevski became the Prime Minister of Macedonia at 36 in 2006. Today, Macedonia has risen from a periphery nation to a semi-core country in the international politics.

Mikheil Sakashvili fought a fierce battle against the order of gerontocracy in 2004; he triumphed and became the President of Georgia at 37. Faure Gnassingbe was inaugurated as the President of Togo at 39 in 2005. Bulgaria elected Sergei Stanishev as Prime Minister at 39 in 2005. Dmitry Medvedev made history when he became the youngest President of Russia in 2008 at 41.

All the examples cited above are successes recorded in 21st century. In Nigeria today, many youths at 36 are still single, looking for jobs whereas their mates are already Presidents and Prime Ministers in European and American sovereign nations. The next British Prime Minister might be a Nigerian. The young guy, Chuka Umunna, 37, a member of the British Parliament, hail from Anambra State.

Unfortunately, i once coined a piece, arguing that age is not a barrier; hence, Gen. Buhari who served as Minister of Petroleum Resources at 33 and Head of States at 41 in 1977 and 1983 respectively, becoming the President of Nigeria at 73 is not a bad idea. While many Nigerians wrote to commend me over the article, Femi Dasilva, a Nigerian student at Central Michigan University, United States sent me a mail thus;

“My dear friend, you wrote well but i want to advise you to stop writing like an Ancient Analyst; start writing like a modern commentator. At your age, instead of demanding for generational shift, you are agitating for institutionalization of the politics of gerontocracy. My brother, though I am not a fan of Tinubu and Obasanjo, but we can count of many young people that they have empowered; please how many brilliant young Nigerians can we trace to Buhari’s school of thought? I agree with you that the Fulani man is the only one who can give the PDP the run for its money; he’s loved by the majority of almajiri’s in the north, but through Buhari’s utterances, it is obvious that the Daura born former dictator has lost touch with the reality of 21 century. Ask, why Americans rejected Senator Mc Chain (71 then), in 2009? Buhari is just being packaged by those who have money but lacks electoral value”, my friend concluded.

Many people constantly intimidate the youths (in fact, the youths intimidate themselves as well) that we are too corrupt, but they did not say that our fathers and grand fathers used their ill-gotten wealth to destroy our sense of decency and value system. Will those supporting the status quo to remain not allow God to take the likes of Anenih, Clark, Elechi, Germade, Buhari, etc away when he chooses to do so? Anenih has stolen more than 1000% of what Dimeji Bankole and Lucky Igbinedon mismanaged.

Arguing that there’s nobody below 45 to govern Nigeria is an indictment of the older generation. A good leader produces good successors. Nigerian youths seem to have succumbed to the status quo. We have refused to fight. It is no surprise when a former Nigerian’s Head of States, Ibrahim Babangida described Nigerian Youths as unfit and unprepared for leadership. He was aspiring to be the President of Nigeria then at 70.

Most Nigerian youths are so disconnected from political happenings and government’s activities; as they do not know or care how they are being governed. The way youth argue blindly on social media whenever salient national issues are raised call for concern.

One of the cogent reasons Nigeria is moving a step forward then four steps backward is because we lack vibrant and informed youths. We youth are supposed to be the center of gravity of the society. The youth should be the ‘life’ of a society. The youth should be the hope for a better and brighter future of any society. But this is not the case in Nigeria.

Even the older generation does not have ample confidence in us. In Nigeria today, our leaders have abandoned the youths to start grooming their children who will eventually take over from them. It is not surprising, therefore, that most of our former and outgoing state Governors, Senators, Ministers and Presidents have already “planted” their children into politics.

Now, i begin to wonder and ponder, what then is the gain of millions of youth who support these leaders? Is it that the youths aren’t good for anything than being used for “hallelujah jobs” only to be dumped afterwards? For how long shall we continue like this? Nigerian youths, where lay the spirit of class struggle?

Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye, Magodo, Lagos.

Maxwell_adeleye@yahoo.com

Twitter handles: @adefolamax

Tel: +2347039168005 (SMS Only)

 

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Nigeria’s Dangerous First Lady Instigates Election Violence At Calabar Rally By Peregrino Brimah

Once again we are raising the alert as the first family continues to instigate election violence and ethnic radicalism in the country ahead of the general elections.

Nigeria’s first lady has while speaking in Calabar has directly promoted violence against the opposition. Patience Jonathan told the small crowd in attendance as recorded on tape, to stone anyone who promises them change.’ This referring to the opposition option and ‘change’ craving of Nigerians.

It is unconscionable that Nigeria’s PDP party, the president of Nigeria and his wife continue to invest in the promotion of election violence openly in campaigns across the nation. It can be recalled that we alerted the public earlier last month when the president, Goodluck Jonathan promoted violence while speaking in Bayelsa on the 6th of February this year. He at the time told the few youth in attendance at his rally to “bar the opposition from campaigning in the region.”

These instigations by the PDP leadership directly led to the bomb explosions, shooting and stabbing deaths and injuries of police officers and journalists at the Okrika (president’s wife’s hometown) APC opposition rally on the 17th of February.

To further on the ruling party promotion of deadly violence and intolerance the president’s wife made some unthinkable utterances in Calabar. Patience told those in attendance and had recorded for a larger population, the hate message as follows: “Our people no dey born shildren wey dem no dey fit count. Our men no dey born shildren throway for street. We no dey like the people for that side.”

She was insulting the parts of Nigeria’s north where the wayward ‘Almajiri’ practice of child abandonment still occurs. The Almajiri crises is indeed a stain in certain regions and among certain families, but such social and cultural deficiencies are not unique to only certain parts of Nigeria. There are similar social and cultural issues across the nation and world. In parts of Nigeria we have high reported levels of domestic violence and spouse abuse; in some areas we have children lead poisoning, in some areas we have high rates of terror in others we have high rates of crime and child involvement in crime; in some parts of the country we have child branding as witches, while in others we have child slave labor and even child slave trade. It is illiterate, uncouth, reckless and criminal for politicians and political families to use the podium to preach intolerance and denigrate regions of the united nation.

The reference to the north as ‘that part’ with ‘that problem’ as Patience just did reminds of a similar reference made by her husband, the president of Nigeria while speaking in Namibia where he referred to the Boko Haram crises as a problem in ‘that part of the country,’ which was now becoming his concern because it may come to ‘our part of the country,’ as he said. We immediately raised an alert on this then, in March of 2014.

Nigerians are worried that with this type of open bigotry and open promotion of intolerance and electoral violence, should the incumbent win, Boko Haram would return and it would be once again supported by those Jonathan ‘dines with’ to be even more violent and deadly this time to continue its pogrom and decimation of the north, that has been strictly limited to the north of Nigeria in accordance to its sinister contract.

We once again call on the immediate resignation of the president for his promotion of violence in Nigeria. We call on the restraint of the first family and the proceedings of charges against them for directly promoting and leading to death and harm to Nigerian life at Okrika and beyond.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; http://ENDS.ng [Every Nigerian Do Something] Email: drbrimah@ends.ng Twitter: @EveryNigerian

 

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At A Table With The King- A Memoir Of ‘Meet The President’ By Adekoya Boladale

‘Yahaya, how are you doing?’ I asked. ‘Fine, oga’ he responded. Its been a while I last called my friend, Yahaya, who works at one of the Bureau de change in Yaba, Lagos. Ever since the depreciation of the naira, clients have stopped paying in dollars, most have attributed the move to the strict Central Bank regulations on foreign currencies but today, luck seems to have found me or so I thought.

Few days ago, I got an invitation to attend the “Meet The President’ event organised by a group called Participate, Vote, Country (PVC). On the special invitation was clearly written ‘A Once in a lifetime Event’ and though the invitation came with the emblem of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), I made up my mind to attend the event despite my nonpartisan disposition for three reasons.

For Individuals like myself who have spent years criticizing governments, public office holders and policy makers, such event avail us the opportunity to take the bull by the horn and challenge these public servants one-on-one, throw punches at them and leave them gasping for answers. Secondly, a meeting with a president is indeed a unique gathering and one with that of the President of the most populous black nation in the world to paraphrase what the organizers called it, is a lifetime opportunity.

Lastly, there have been rumours and reports in the media recently on how the president moves around with bullion vans and dole out dollars in millions at every meeting as honorarium. So, when the invitation to be part of such meeting came, you wouldn’t  blame me for calling Yahaya to get an update on the exchange rate between the dollar and naira at the black market. Infact, I was so robed in the rumour of this distribution of largesse and the anticipation of a dollar-choked ‘brown envelope’ that the thought of calling the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) to request for two fully armed mobile police officers repeatedly crossed my mind. I thought to myself, ‘you can’t risk moving around Lagos unprotected with such volume of cash’ but after a second thought I decided to let the DPO enjoy his peace.

The atmosphere was cool and calm consisting of mainly youths mostly in their late thirties say for few who apparently should almost be hitting menopause. As I moved to take a seat, I was approached by a waitress who offered to serve me a drink. I gently asked what was on the menu hoping to have a taste of the well rumoured flamboyant presidential lifestyle where Vodka Martini are served on the rock while Moèt Champagne are generously mixed with it. I was disappointed when she told me all they have were the everyday soda available in traffic and shops.

In the past few days, the President seems to have been giving a good account of himself. Public perceptions which seems battered before the postponement of the election is taking a new shape and since his campaign started this year, these past days has shown the birth of a new determination to win the election as against his previous disposition of being able to railroad his way via incumbency factor. Rumour has it that the president has made some urgent changes in his kitchen cabinet. With the inclusion of the former Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, into the fold of advisers, little wonder why the tide is suddenly turning.

After few hours of waiting, President Jonathan came in dressed in a polo shirt with a customized facing cap branded ‘GEJ’ apparently to fit into the lifestyle of the youths. He sat quietly between the two moderators of the event. I had expected a serious gathering were serious issues that bothers on national development and policy implementation will be asked but instead the organizers wasted an appreciable portion of the day talking about what he loves eating, how he sleeps and so on. The look on the president’s face shows a man though tired, obviously from rounds of meetings and counter meetings, disappointed on the questions being asked. Even though he answered each diligently, I felt unease where I was seated, but why won’t I? Before leaving home I already prepared just one question for the President and even rehearsed a pose.

Mr. President’ I would start, ‘ Right after the subsidy protest, you promised to ensure our refineries are back to life, a promise if kept would have impacted greatly on our economy, the prices of petroleum products for Nigerians would have reduced and even the naira wouldn’t be gasping for value as it is now. Why are we still importing refined petroleum products?’ Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to ask.

Away from the tea questions asked by the moderators which made most of us look stupid, some of the questions asked by some of the attendees who had the opportunity to engage the President were issues based. Far from the man many had (including myself) described as shallow in thought, the President as if in a new body was spontaneous with his responses and sharp in providing answers. If there is one thing the tension of this election has achieved, it is the bringing into life a long-buried quality President Jonathan may have forgotten he has. Apart from his smilish posture, he appears confident and well in control of his space.

I reached for my glass of juice and before I could take a sip, my stomach started rumbling, I remembered its been almost 12 hours since I last had something to eat and though buffet was provided at the venue, I decides to starve myself a bit in anticipation of a war with the president. In the part of the world I grew up from, you don’t eat in the house of a man who you plan to declare war on. Now I have to pay for it.

As if there isn’t enough salt on my injury, when the waiters started distribution of the heavy goodie bag, to my utmost dismay the contents were books, pamphlets and compact disc of the achievements and strides of the Jonathan administration. I hissed.

I already instructed Yahaya to close late for my sake and now I will have to compensate him for the disappointment. My driver waited five hours beyond his closing time which means extra pay as overtime. I glanced through the books while Mr. President takes his leave.

I have to call my lawyer, Dapo. There must be something in those big law books at his chamber which can be used to sue the federal government for falsely placing me on high hopes.

Adekoya Boladale wrote via adekoyaboladale@gmail.com. Please engage on twitter @adekoyabee and Facebook www.facebook.com/adekoyabee

 

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Paying For APC’s Spending Promises By Femi Edun

The Buhari-Osinbajo ticket and the APC Manifesto make a number of social spending promises, which have been picked upon for criticism by certain public commentators, as not being consistent with the austere times that are upon us as well as not having been well thought out in terms of their affordability.

These spending promises are as follows:

  1. Cash transfers of N5, 000 per month to the 25 million poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
  2. Job seekers allowance for graduates who have completed National Youth Service and received discharge certificates, during a period of 12 months whilst they receive employment and entrepreneurship training.
  3. One meal a day for primary school pupils.

The approximate annual costs of these programmes are estimated below.

 

  1. Cash Transfers to the Vulnerable Poor

This programme proposes to give 25million of the poorest and most vulnerable households the sum of N5, 000 monthly subject to the achievement and continuing compliance with conditions such as enrolment of children in school and meeting immunisation requirements.  The programme will also incorporate means testing such that families transit out of the programme as their household income improves.  At the target of 25 million households, this programme will cost N1.5trn annually.  The scale and cost of this programme will require us to make some tough choices.  But this is exactly what political economy is all about – making choices based on priorities.  In 2014, the Federal Government budgeted N971.14bn for fuel subsidy on PMS (petrol).  This subsidy that paralysed the whole country for almost a month in 2012, is the subject of continuing controversy, allegations of corruption and outright theft and dubious claims as to its real benefits to the most vulnerable poor.  The amount budgeted for petrol subsidy in 2014 represents 65% of the cost of this cash transfer programme. Whilst I acknowledge that the 2015 budget estimate for fuel subsidies is a much lower sum of N291.03bn, fuel subsidies are still a very poor way to spend so much money, in the context of our current fiscal challenges as a nation.

Back to the cash transfer programme, the sheer number of 25million of our most vulnerable poor creates the challenge of implementation.  The logistics of registration, tracking and monitoring therefore mean that 25 million is a target that will be achieved gradually over a number of budget cycles.  This also means that the cost of N1.5trillion is a target to be attained at full rollout of the programme and not at inception, thereby allowing the multiplier effect of spending in earlier budget cycles to have a beneficial impact on the economy and therefore improve its affordability over time.

Cash transfers to the poor strengthen private consumption and have been proven to work in alleviating poverty, improving human development, creating jobs, making economic growth more inclusive, improving social cohesion and in fact, stimulating economic growth.  Cash transfers are being used as an important tool for economic stimulus in several countries across the world – Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Germany and Brazil – the most visible and most successful, with its Bolsa Familia programme, amongst several others.

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, (IMF) speaking about the challenge of inequality and promoting inclusive growth in October 2014 at the IMF Annual Meetings said: “…Within budget constraints, governments can design more growth- and jobs-friendly policies. For example, we can explore redirecting public resources towards activities that are more effective at promoting job-rich, inclusive growth. Something that immediately springs to mind is reducing untargeted energy subsidies, and reallocating those resources (which we estimate {globally} at about $2 trillion per year) to activities that promote inclusion—such as better education and training programs and strengthening of safety nets.”

Paying for this programme will require Government to redirect resources away from: obtuse and badly targeted fuel subsidies, CORRUPTION, WASTE in government, bloated payrolls and duplicated jobs and the OSTENTATIOUS LIFESTYLES of our public officers and towards the more critical mission of looking after the most vulnerable in our midst and thereby improving overall well-being, social cohesion and economic growth.  It requires us to ask several pointed questions of both the Executive branch that prepares our budgets and the Legislature that approves them.  We must also demand greater value for money in government spending.

Some, just a few, of these questions readily come to mind.  Can we justify an allocation of N150bn as the cost of running the National Assembly, particularly in an era of low oil prices?  More fundamentally, can we justify the amount, even with high oil prices?  Should we not interrogate more closely and demand detailed explanations of the line items that make up the caption “Other Service Wide Votes” of N348.69bn in the 2015 draft budget of the Federal Government?  How many times will Government House continue to be rebuilt and refurbished?  How many cars and aides should accompany our elected and appointed leaders? How much longer can we afford the embarrassment of the bloated Nigerian delegations at international events?  The list can continue.

 

  1. Post NYSC Job Seekers Training Allowance

For the first 12 months after discharge from NYSC, unemployed graduates will receive training to either make them more attractive in the job market or ready for self-employment.  Let’s assume that of the roughly 250,000 Youth Corpers that pass out every year, 150,000 enrol in the Job Seekers Training Programme and continue to receive the NYSC monthly allowance of N19, 800.  This translates to N2.97bn per month or N35.64bn annually.  This Job Seekers Training Allowance represents roughly 2% of the amount budgeted for personnel costs of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government in 2015.  The Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation disclosed in his 2015 budget presentation that N160bn has been saved and 60,000 ghost workers eliminated so far from the introduction of the IPPIS programme.  This saving represents almost 9% of budgeted personnel costs for 2015 and covers the cost of the job-seekers training allowance a handy 4.5 times.

Let’s digress and go back for a minute to the central and elementary economic issue of making choices in the allocation of scarce resources.  The estimated annual cost of this programme to make our unemployed young graduates more “employable” or prepare them for a life of entrepreneurship as earlier stated, is approximately N35.64bn.  It has a precedent in another government initiative – the Presidential Amnesty Programme for former militants, where the nation agreed to pay the price of peace and uninterrupted exploration and production of oil and gas in the Niger Delta region. The Amnesty Programme was designed to achieve the laudable objectives of training and preparing young Nigerians for productive enterprise and employment amongst others and resources were allocated to this policy choice. The provision in the draft 2015 budget for this programme is N63.28bn.  Conceptually, both programmes are similar in their focus on helping young Nigerians become active and productive participants in the economy.

 

  1. Primary School Meal Programme

The World Bank 2010 estimate of gross primary school enrolment was 21,558,460 with a gross enrolment ratio of 84.8%.  Based on an estimated cost of provision of N70 per child per day and 36 school weeks per year, the annual cost of this programme nationwide is estimated at N271.6bn.  School feeding programmes deliver the several social benefits including but not limited to the following:

  • Improved pupil enrolment attendance and retention, especially for the girl-child and urban and rural child labourers.
  • Improved child nutrition and health and the corollary, reduced child mortality
  • Improved learning outcomes and pupil performance due to the impact of improved nutrition and school attendance on educational outcomes.

In addition, using cost and employment generation estimates based on extrapolations from the Osun State Home-Grown School Feeding & Health Programme, this programme has the potential to create over 250,000 direct jobs nationwide for cooks alone, excluding ancillary jobs for food and input suppliers and the beneficial impact on agriculture and rural economies.

This is a programme that deserves to be rolled out nationwide in a collaboration between the Federal and State Governments.  The cost of a national school feeding programme can be readily incorporated into the UBEC framework and the Federal Government’s share of the cost substantially funded from there.  For example, on 3 July 2014, the Punch newspaper reported that N53.6bn of unutilised UBEC funds was sitting in the Central Bank of Nigeria.  This is a programme that deserves support by consensus across party lines, for implementation nationwide.

The aggregate cost of these programmes, when fully rolled out is N1, 807.24bn.  The strength of cash transfer and spending programmes such as these is the multiplier effect. Using a multiplier of 3.25 which is an average from the estimates of leading private sector economists in Nigeria, this spending has the potential to create additional output of over N5.8trillion over time with the associated jobs and taxes.  The numbers speak for themselves.

However, these costs will not pay for themselves in advance.  They need to be funded in a world where oil prices are likely to be much lower than those we have enjoyed in the recent commodity price “super-cycle”.  Therefore, some tough decisions are required.  In addition to cutting corruption and waste, some of the other issues to consider include the following:

  1. We need to moderate the pressure imposed by the public payroll.  The Budget Office of the Federation estimates, in the accompanying commentary to the 2015 draft budget, that personnel costs have increased from under N600bn in 2006 to over N1.8trn budgeted for 2015 and from under 30% of Federal Government expenditure to over 40% today.  If our elected leaders show restraint in benefits and allowances, they bring valuable capital to the engagement with public servants in a new partnership that balances employment benefits with affordability.
  2. Governments should not be in the business of creating jobs. They should design and implement pro-growth and pro-jobs policies in a disciplined and transparent way and get out of the way of the private sector.  Jobs are created by the interplay of entrepreneurial talent and energy, capital and an enabling environment amongst others.  Government cannot be the umpire and a player at the same time.
  3. We cannot continue with the fiction of “capital expenditure” in our federal and state budgets. I say so in the context of the generally accepted orthodoxy that governments should tilt budgets in favour of capital expenditure rather than recurrent.  This is based on the idea that capital expenditure is investment in increasing the productive capacity of the economy and providing social goods such as education, health care, security, law and order and so forth.  However, when we look closely at our federal and state capital expenditure budgets, the question that arises is: how much of this money is really for expanding the fixed assets of government – offices for newly created government departments and agencies, motor vehicles for government officials, office furniture and equipment and such like.

In the 2015 draft budget, out of the total capital expenditure budget of N633.53bn, the amount allocated to ministries such as Education, Defence, Works, Transport and others having direct social impact, including the SURE-P programme, was N236.7bn or 37% of the capital expenditure budget. The balance of N396.8bn is likely to be spent on the infrastructure of running government.  Of the N20bn capital expenditure vote for the Federal Ministry of Education, N5.8bn or almost 30% is allocated to the ministry’s “Headquarters” where not a single pupil or student is enrolled.  The balance is allocated to over 200 institutions – all the federal universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, unity schools and several “parastatals” of the Ministry.  We need to change our priorities!

  1. We will have to increase selected taxes and improve tax collection. Value Added Tax (VAT) has grown to become an increasingly significant source of revenue for Government.  The Finance Minister suggested in her comments at the public presentation of the 2015 budget, that by increasing the rate of VAT from 5% to 10%, an additional N614billion can be generated.  Since we are increasing VAT from a low base, this is a good idea that deserves greater attention.  However, one of the practical issues in implementing this will be the challenge of encouraging states such as Lagos that already charge sales taxes, to drop their state taxes in return for more VAT.  Also, the current efforts to improve tax collection and remove leakages are commendable and should be continued.  Some of the ideas for increasing taxes, such as the proposed taxes on luxury goods and services are worth exploring further, as much for the signals they send as their impact on the treasury.

 

My list is by no means exhaustive, but if it helps the debate around the tough choices we have to make, its purpose would have been well served.  And I think it appropriate to end with borrowed words that I cannot improve.  Almost twenty years ago, in its 1996 Annual Report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) made a statement that is perhaps more true today than it was then: “…policy-makers are often mesmerized by the quantity of growth. They need to be more concerned with its structure and quality. Unless governments take timely corrective action, economic growth can become lopsided and flawed. Determined efforts are needed to avoid growth that is jobless, ruthless, voiceless, rootless and futureless.”

 

*- Edun works in Financial Services and lives in Lagos

 

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President Jonathan’s True Achievements in the Last Six Years

Editor: This “achievements’ by President Goodluck Jonathan in the nearly six years of his administration as Nigeria’s president was compiled and sent to us by an author who choose to remain anonymous.

For those who care to know, the following are Jonathan’s true achievements so far:

President Jonathan met the National Debt at $26bn, today it is $70bn.

Jonathan met Excess Crude account at $20bn today is $2bn.

Jonathan met unemployment rate at 11.8%, today it is 24%.

Jonathan met debt servicing at 10%, today debt servicing today is 20%.

Jonathan met the Naira/Dollar rate at N119. The Naira/Dollar rate today is N225–N230.

Jonathan met the poverty level 54%, today poverty level is about 71%.

Jonathan met recurrent expenditure at 62%, today recurrent expenditure is 86%.

Jonathan met the GDP Growth averaging nearly 11%, today GDP Growth is about 6%.

Jonathan met petrol price N65, today petrol price is N87 following its recent reduction from N97.

Today the stock market that was thriving before Jonathan came is down by N3.4trillion in 12 months.

The prognosis for four more years under the same management looks dire.

The choice is yours.

 

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