Should Degrees be Necessary for Leaders?

There is a whirl of activity online at the moment as Kenyans try to “find” their old school mates to stand by them in case they are required to prove that they did in fact attend school and sat national examinations.
It is all a light-hearted mock of the serious situation in which the Governor of Mombasa, Ali Hassan Joho, has found himself in.

Police are investigating whether Mr Joho forged his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) as alleged by the Kenya National Examinations Council.
He denies any wrongdoing but if these allegations are proven, Mr Joho could be in danger of criminal charges and could be stripped of the degrees he subsequently obtained at university.

A person vying for the position of governor is required by law to hold a degree from a recognised university.
This means Mr Joho could potentially be locked out of the race to defend his seat in the August general election.
It is this last point that leads Mr Joho to describe the whole situation as attempts to intimidate him.

Mr Joho, who is a member of the opposition ODM party, is a fierce critic of the ruling Jubilee Party government and is never afraid to clash publicly with the president.
It is unlikely that the learned men and women who drafted the 2010 constitution of Kenya had Mr Joho in mind when they included a university degree requirement for holders of the office of president, governor and deputy governor.
The thinking was that the president is the CEO of the country while governors are the CEOs of Kenya’s 47 regional county governments.
These positions require governance experience and a visionary leadership that is partly the product of a mind broadened by education. But perhaps the big issue the constitution was trying to address was the culture of the 1980s and early 1990s, when the Kenyan president tended to be surrounded by half-educated sycophants.

These handfuls of men who had the ear of the president were so powerful they could influence public policy on just about anything.

Arresting Marx?
The story is told of how in a bid to stem anti-government sentiments at public universities, one of these semi-literate leaders said: “The government has enough resources to hunt down and arrest this Karo Makisi who is inciting the students to riot”.

The poor politician was convinced that Karl Marx was a man physically present at the universities and was causing trouble for the government.

No-one had educated him on popular social, economic and political ideologies.
Another of the inner-circle politicians who barely went to school is famously said to have proposed a great solution to the frequent unrest and clamour for political change taking place in public universities.
“If all that the students want is dayarog, they should be given the dayarog to eat so that calm returns to the institutions.”
He mistook the students’ demand for dialogue as a type of food that was missing from their menu.

This is how far Kenya has come in the evolution of its political leaders.
Now fearful of being barred from running for the lucrative position of governor, many politicians who did not go to university have been studying day and night to obtain degrees.

Long-lost classmates
But based on experience of poor leadership, Kenyans know that a university degree does not define a leader nor guarantee competent leadership.

Some of the worst cases of mismanagement of resources and abuse of power have involved highly educated people.
On the contrary, Kenya has in the past witnessed brilliant leaders who were elected into office without degrees and who have gone on to personify exemplary leadership.

The constitution of Kenya has another provision on leadership and integrity.
This requires people vying for public office to be elected on the basis of personal integrity, selfless service and honesty.

However, these core leadership principles have been reduced to a mere process of certifying that the candidate is of good conduct and free from corruption charges.

The clearance procedure is open to manipulation and abuse, and judging by the number of leaders who have been involved in grand corruption over the last five years, it is an exercise in futility.

So Kenyans can be forgiven for turning Mr Joho’s education pain into a national pastime online.

There is a Dino in All of Us, By Niran Adedokun

Psychologists talk about a condition known as narcissism. I understand it could have varying degrees of effect on people but pathological narcissists are said to be in love with an idealised self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling and being perceived for their real, sometimes internally wounded self.

Narcissists are usually identified as haughty, self-centred, manipulative, and demanding. They also generally dwell on grandiose fantasies about their own successes, beauty or intelligence in addition to living with an obsessive sense of entitlement.

Experts say that in sustaining the attempt to pull one over people, narcissists are willing and able to tell lies and exaggerate to no end. All in a bid to gain the respect of people and remain on that high horse which they have set for themselves.

So, it is not out of place for such people to claim to have attained degrees that they have not attempted, journeys they never embarked on and possessions they never owned. And when they have indeed attained these milestones, they flaunt their accomplishments without consideration for the feelings of others!

Thoughts about this have nagged since allegations began making the rounds about Senator Dino Melaye’s certificates. While I had indications that the senator indeed graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University pretty early into the controversy, I found Melaye’s boast about being on his seventh degree consistent with tendencies to seek unnecessary attention and feel superior to others. Then, consider the unsolicited display of flashy automobiles and houses and Tuesday’s infantile adornment of an academic gown to the National Assembly!

But I then wonder whether Melaye is different from a lot of other Nigerians in any substantial detail. Here is a country where a vast number of the people are drunk on the pursuit of self and selfish interests. Good enough, psychology attests to the fact that there is a measure of the narcissistic in virtually every human being. In other words, as our world gets increasingly individualistic and goal driven, levels of narcissism, ranging from mild to severe are becoming more widespread. It is doubtful that any Nigerian would want to dispute this given that we see so much vainglory and covetousness around; it is sickening!

In the less than two decades of return to democracy for instance, four instances of false certificate claims have reverberated nationally.The first scandal was blown open by The News magazine in 1999. It involved a young man with the name Salisu Buhari, who had just been elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. The News reported that Buhari did not attend the University of Toronto as he had claimed and that he falsified his age. After a series of denials and the magazine’s insistence on its scoop, Buhari admitted that he indeed forged documents and perjured himself.

Not long after, Tell magazine went to town with the alleged fraudulent educational claims by the then Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In some sense, the claims against Tinubu were a tad more grievous than Buhari’s. He was alleged to have lied about information regarding his primary, secondary and tertiary education.

There was also the accusation that a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, might have lied about her qualifications. According to the report, officials of St. Paul’s College Lawrenceville, Virginia, United States, where Oduah claimed to have gained a Master’s in Business Administration, told an online news platform that no such programme ever existed in the institution. The report further insinuated that the woman might not even have obtained her first degree from the institution.

After we “ooed” and “aaed” for a couple of weeks, these allegations died natural deaths with each of those alleged to have infracted moving on with their lives. In fact, the only one of these allegations that the nation had the tenacity to resolve was the case of self-confessed Buhari, who later got a “go and sin no more” presidential pardon, and an appointment on the Governing Council of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to boot.

Tinubu has gone on to be one of the heroes of Nigeria’s democratic growth and the seeming poster boy for what is the most progressive of our politics. Of course, queries about the school certificate of President Muhammadu Buhari have met their untimely death given the inability of the people to agree on the morality behind giving Nigerians closure by proving the availability or otherwise of the certificate. But that is just by the way. Only God knows the number of our compatriots in and out of high office who walk the corridors of power and corporate offices armed with bogus educational achievements.

Why the theory of the possible prevalence of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder is appealing, especially amongst seekers of public office in Nigeria is the fact that no one, including the President, needs more than a secondary school certificate, which they do not even need to pass to attain to any office. This is according to Section 131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). So why do people lie about higher certificates which they did not acquire when the same is not a prerequisite?

This says a lot about our values as a people. In this same world in which three of the most influential people in the last century voluntarily dropped out of universities, Nigerians are cooking up stories about degrees that they neither attempted nor got.

For most of the past decade, the founder of Microsoft and one of the most benevolent givers to Nigeria, Bill Gates, has remained on top of the list of the wealthiest people in the world. Strikingly, Gates voluntarily dropped out of Harvard University!

Steve Jobs, late founder of Apple, was quoted by his biographer, Walter Isaacson, as saying in an address at Stanford that: “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out okay.” Even in death, he remains one of the most talked about personalities from the United States of America.

And then the much younger Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to devote his time to his startup social networking site, facebook.com, in 2005. Ten years later, the company was worth $12.5bn with 1.5 billion active users monthly! Yet, Nigerians are falling over each other to acquire certificates which literarily have no meaning to their lives.

A corollary to the diminished value of our paper qualification is the premium that we suddenly began to place on the class of degrees that people earn. Companies, even those without any iota of academic objective started to insist on employing candidates with first class or a minimum of second class upper degrees.

To beat them at their game, some dumb blonde, whose only aptitude is a pretty face, would succumb to the devices of a randy lecturer, settle herself and curiously come up at the top of her class. Not to be left in the cold, the young man who is not so endowed would bring out some money (usually nothing enough to prosper anyone), and buy any class of degree that he wants ready for sucker companies that value certificate over the quality of the personality that they intend to employ. No wonder so many companies end up employing incompetent impostors who cannot help themselves when confronted with the reality of the task at hand.

This is the tragedy of a nation without class. A nation which stifles the ability of its people to attain their best potential would most definitely breed manipulators, some of who will falsify things just to survive or for an ego trip, a desire to lord it over others.

The only thing that is worse than our vain disposition is our enthusiastic dishonesty, the inability to own up to our malady and redress. The way it is in Nigeria now, we are all holier than the Pope until we are caught in the same malfeasance for which we condemn others. Reminds me of something a musician once said to the effect that: “we all steal, but it is the thief that is caught red-handed that we join the mob to lynch” But until Nigerians sit down as a people and reassess our values, those wrong-headed values that drive the leader and the led in Nigeria will continue to clog our progress.

Constitutionalism, The Senate And Ibrahim Magu: The Need For Magu To Stay By Kabir G. Ibrahim

The 15th of March, 2017 was a Wednesday that promised hope for the teeming citizens of Nigeria who are assiduously working and hoping for a Nigeria free of corruption that would be bequeathed to subsequent generations. The significance of that day to those Nigerians was the optimistic expectation that the Nigerian Senate would confirm Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after his invitation by the Senate to appear for his ‘confirmation screening’ on that date. The ‘confirmation screening’ was ‘conducted’ by the Senate, and, as the saying goes, ‘the rest is history.

Although in this historic unfolding of intrigues, history is still in the making and will eventually judge all the characters involved. The ominous conduct and outcome of that exercise has postponed the actualization of the desire of generality of Nigerians to have a person with an unparalleled record in the anti-corruption war confirmed as the Executive Chairman of the EFCC. The Senate exercise also raised pertinent constitutional and administrative issues which this piece seeks to raise and draw the attention of Nigerians to, especially the President and the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation.

Does Magu have to be ‘screened by the Senate’ before his appointment as Executive Chairman of the EFCC becomes legitimate and valid?

The answer is ‘NO’ for the following legal reasons. It is not arguable that Ibrahim Magu is a public servant. Chapter VI, Part I of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the Constitution) makes provisions for the “Federal Executive” and Column D therein titled “The Public Service of the Federation” contains the instructive and unambiguous Section 171(1) which provides thus: ‘”Power to appoint persons to hold or act in the offices to which this section applies and to remove persons so appointed from any such office shall vest in the President.” Subsection (2) states that “the offices to which this section applies are, namely-

Secretary to the Government of the Federation;

Head of the Civil service of the Federation;

Ambassador, High Commissioner or other Principal Representative of Nigeria abroad;

Permanent Secretary in any Ministry or Head of any Extra-Ministerial Department of the Government of the Federation howsoever designated; and

Any office on the personal staff of the President.

It is clear that section 171(1)(2)(d) applies to Ibrahim Magu who heads an Extra-Ministerial Department of the Government of the Federation in the EFCC. Flowing from the above constitutional provision, it is safe to posit that once the President appoints a person as Chairman of the EFCC, such person does not require the confirmation of the Senate notwithstanding the provisions of section 2(3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 (EFCC Act). Some may argue that the intendment of the legislature in section 2(3) of the EFCC Act is to confer power on the Senate to confirm the President’s nominee but it is trite law that where a constitutional provision has adequately covered a particular legal field no subsequent statutory legislation can cover such field. In the Supreme Court decision of I.N.E.C. v. Musa (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt. 806) 72 at 158, paras C-E Ayoola JSC (as he then was) decided the position of the law thus:

“Howsoever it is described, where the Constitution has covered the field as to the law governing any conduct, the provision of the Constitution is the authoritative statement of the law on the subject. The Constitution would not have ‘covered the field’ where it had expressly reserved to the National Assembly or any other legislative body the power to expand on or add to its provisions in regard to the particular subject. Where the Constitution has provided exhaustively for any situation and on any subject, a legislative authority that claims to legislate in addition to what the Constitution had enacted must show that, and how, it has derived its legislative authority to do so from the Constitution itself.”

On page 199 of the same judgment, the apex court also held that:

“The supremacy of the National assembly is subject to the overall supremacy of the Constitution. Accordingly, the National Assembly which the Constitution vests powers cannot go outside or beyond the Constitution…”

The origin of this position of the law on covering the field in our jurisprudence is traceable to the classic decision in Lakanmi v. A-G. Western Region (1971) 1 UILR 201 decided by the Supreme Court. The above exposition of our constitutional law leaves no one in doubt that Mr. President does not require the confirmation of the Senate to appoint Ibrahim Magu notwithstanding the provisions of section 2(3) of the EFCC Act which simply covers the field already covered by section 171(1) and (2)(d) of the Constitution and therefore null and void in line with the reasoning of the Supreme Court in I.N.E.C. v. Musa, supra.

Now, to the argument of those who canvassed the position that Ibrahim Magu cannot act indefinitely as Acting Chairman of the EFCC or that he ceases to act immediately after his ‘confirmation refusal’ by the Senate, I posit that nothing is further from the truth than this erroneous argument. To start with, section 171(1) of the Constitution which empowers the President to “appoint persons to hold or act in the offices which this section applies and to remove persons so appointed from any such office’’ did not provide any time limit within which such appointees will cease to act (as in the case of Magu) other than to say such appointee can be removed by the President at his discretion and nothing more. It does not also state that such appointee shall cease to act if the Senate rejects his ‘confirmation’ if any such confirmation is envisaged therein at all.

This position of the Constitution is further underpinned by the provisions of section 11(1) of the Interpretation Act, Cap. 123, LFN, Vol. 8, 2004, which states thus:

“Where an enactment confer a power to appoint a person either to an office or to exercise any functions, whether for a specified period or not, the power includes-

Power to appoint a person by name or to appoint the holder from time to time of a particular office;

(b) Power to remove or suspend him;

Power, exercisable in the manner and subject to the limitations and conditions (if any) applicable to the power to appoint-

to reappoint or reinstate him;

to appoint a person to act in his place, either generally or in regard to specified functions, during such time as is considered expedient by the authority in whom the power of appointment in question is vested.

(2) A reference in an enactment to the holder of an office shall be construed as including a reference to a person for the time being appointed to act in his place, either as respects the functions of the office generally or the functions in regard to which he is appointed, as the case may be.”

It is also worthy of note to point out that section 153 of the Constitution does not list the EFCC as to make the appointment of its Chairman subject to the provisions of section 154 of the Constitution which requires confirmation by the Senate. These sections of the Constitution are therefore totally inapplicable to the EFCC and the appointment of its Chairman because the position of the law is that the express mention of a thing means the exclusion of that which is not mentioned.

It is apt at this juncture to quote from the treatise of Abraham Lincoln, constitutional lawyer and 16th president of the United States of America, on ‘Constitution, Freedom and Liberty,’ who declared: “don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”

Ibrahim Magu’s continued occupation of the office of the Executive Chairman of the EFCC in an acting capacity after the Senate ‘confirmation rejection’ vis a vis the above constitutional, statutory and judicial position of the law is absolutely legal and therefore gives the lie to the misleading propaganda of the opponents of the anti corruption struggle in our polity. It is also indisputably clear from the foregoing provisions of the law that the President can choose to allow Ibrahim Magu to continue piloting the anti corruption drive of the EFCC in an acting capacity at his own discretion.

This brings us to the role of the DSS in this intrigue. Is the Director General of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) answerable to the President? This question begs answer in the light of the ‘drama’ that played out towards the end of the ‘confirmation screening’ of Ibrahim Magu in the Senate Chamber on the 15th of March, 2017 when one ‘Distinguished Senator’, while questioning the nominee, waved in his hand what he termed ‘DSS letter received yesterday stating that the nominee failed integrity test’, whatever that means. That ‘letter’ which purports to have emanated from the DSS a day before the ‘confirmation screening’ according to the Senator has left majority of Nigerians wondering who the DSS, as an institution and its Director-General, are answerable to in the Constitutional setting of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

As bad, dangerous and bewildering as the precedent set by that ‘letter’, it is not difficult to locate the supervisory power over the DSS in our laws. Section 3(1) and (2) of the National Security Agencies, Act, Cap.74, Vol.11, LFN, 2004 provides that:

“There shall be appointed for each of the agencies, a principal officer, who shall be known by such designation as the President may determine.”

Sub-section (2) further states that:

“the principal officers of the agencies shall in the discharge of their functions under this Act- (a) in the case of the State Security Service and the National Intelligence Agency, be responsible directly to the President.”

The lingering and disturbing question is; how can an appointee of the President who heads an agency (the DSS) answerable to the President contradicts the President so brazenly? This is the height of official rascality unheard of in our short democratic experience! This is because it is a matter of public knowledge that the President forwarded a letter to the Senate, after the first DSS report(s), informing the Senate that Ibrahim Magu has been queried and the allegations against him investigated and found to be baseless thereby clearing the way for his re-nomination and representation to the Senate for ‘confirmation screening’. Then, the DSS sent a ‘letter’ flying in the face of the President’s earlier letter and contradicting the President’s position that Ibrahim Magu has been cleared of all allegations.

Let us even assume that the DSS can conduct what they called ‘integrity test’ on any nominee presented to it for confirmation screening. The question that would logically follow in the case of Ibrahim Magu is whether the DSS afforded him fair hearing before their so called ‘indictment’ that made him to fail their ‘integrity test’. Right to fair hearing is a spiritual, universal and constitutional right with a sacred place in the history of mankind and constitutionalism. I say it is spiritual right because the notable scriptures informed us that even God did not condemn Adam to life on earth away from the Garden of Eden until after he queried him as to why he ate the forbidden fruit. Such is the place of fair hearing even in the presence of the almighty! But the ‘almighty’ DSS simply forwarded a ‘report’ according to the Senate, that Ibrahim Magu has ‘failed’ their integrity test, the basis of which is only known to them, not us and not even the accused! What a travesty of justice in a constitutional democracy that reserved a special place in section 36 of the Constitution for this sacred right with origin from God!

The constitutional foundation of this universal right in our Constitution is section 36 which is imbued with the spirit of the Latin phrase ‘audi alteram partem rule’ which literally translate to ‘listen to the other side’ or ‘let the other side be heard as well’. Did the DSS listen to Ibrahim Magu ‘to hear his own side’ before they concluded that he ‘failed their integrity test’? The answer is NO. Did the Senate verify the defense of Ibrahim Magu to the old DSS report after listening to him during the ‘confirmation screening’? The answer is NO. Nevertheless, the Senate ‘rejected’ the nomination of Ibrahim Magu few minutes after he had orally defended himself against the allegations in the DSS report(s) without taking time to verify those allegations despite the constitutional power of the Senate to conduct investigations under section 88 of the Constitution! What a sad scene in a supposedly democratic Chamber!

The centrality of the place of the right to fair hearing in our constitutional order cannot be over emphasized by making reference to some of the pronouncements of the apex court, if only to remind the Senate. The Supreme Court in Lazarus Atano & Another v. Attorney General of Bendel State (1988) 4 SC 102 held that “the principles of natural justice are easy to proclaim but their precise extent is far less easy to define.” Similarly, in P.C. Mike Eze v. Spring Bank Plc (2011) 12 SC (Pt.1) 173, the Supreme Court also held that:

“The principle of natural justice as enshrined in the rules of natural justice, the common law and the Constitution of this country is certainly not confined to the proceedings of courts or tribunals under section 6(5) of the Constitution but to every situation wherever a person or authority is concerned in the determination of rights of another in such a manner that the version of the person against whom the determination is to be made, is an essential requirement of the process of determination.”

Despite these constitutional provisions, the Senate did not bother to verify the defense of Ibrahim Magu but acted only on the DSS report to reject his nomination! It is my view, anchored on the foregoing constitutional provisions, that the President can and should allow Ibrahim Magu to continue running the EFCC in acting capacity indefinitely since he will not be violating the Constitution by so doing.

It is also a matter of public knowledge that Ibrahim Magu had investigated many of the Senators leading to the ongoing prosecution of some and their cronies. It is therefore inconceivable to expect that the Senate, particularly those Senators under investigation and prosecution including their President, would give Magu any fair hearing. The recent pronouncement of the Supreme Court on the principle of fair hearing in the case of Alhaji Auwalu Darma v. Ecobank Nigeria Limited (Appeal no. SC. 20/2005) delivered in February, 2017 at ratios 2 and 3 is instructive on this point.

I will conclude this piece by quoting Abraham Lincoln again in his treatise on ‘Constitution, Democracy, Freedom and Liberty,’ whence he said, “we the people are the rightful masters of both the Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” I and majority of Nigerians hope that our Senators will reflect on this before it is too late.

Kabir G. Ibrahim is a legal practitioner and ant-corruption activist. He can be reach at [email protected]

Femi Adesina: Firing Blanks, Dangerously By Kennedy Emetulu

I like and respect Femi Adesina and I consider him a friend. I have tried not to criticize him publicly; indeed, whatever I’ve had to say to him, I’ve said it to him privately. But I’m going to make an exception here. I’m doing so because I consider this piece an insult to Nigerians who endured 50 days of unmitigated insults from him and all those who spoke publicly for the president while he was in London. It is my view that rather than write a piece like this publicly upon the return of the president, Femi should have quietly thanked God and learned the lessons of the episode, the most important one being not to insult Nigerians over this matter, no matter their stance. Femi needs to get a good talking-to over this and I’m not hesitating to be one of those to tell him the truth loud and clear.

What we have in this piece is what happens when you cross the line from the public to the private, from the professional to the personal. Oh, of course, I’m not saying when you occupy the position of a media spokesperson for the president you shouldn’t have a personal relationship with him, no; however, the most important relationships are the professional and public ones because those are the primary reasons you are there.

You are not appointed as an ab’obaku or someone who must follow the president or whoever you are appointed to represent in the media to the grave. You are appointed to sell him and his program to the Nigerian people. You are appointed to do so professionally and respectfully and to do so with the voice and mind of the Nigerian people themselves because they are the people you are actually working for, not the president.

The president is elected to do a good job and you are appointed to constantly inform the people about this good job that the president is expected to be doing. You are the bridge between them and the president and his administration. Your job is to make your boss acceptable to Nigerians; your job is not to vilify the opposition, tag them uncharitably and insultingly or divide Nigerians along partisan lines. Your job is to win over all the haters of the president. You might not succeed in doing so fully, but you must be seen constantly to be attempting to do so at all times.

The way you talk in public and the way you respond to criticisms of the administration and the way you explain or defend your principal must show that you respect every Nigerian, no matter their view. For instance, as it concerns this matter, whether these Nigerians are mischief makers, people who wish the president dead or people opposed to his person and his administration, it shouldn’t matter. They are not the controllers of fates and the president’s well-being does not depend on them. Joining issues with them this way is childish, unintelligent and demeaning. Nigerians have seen that their president is back, they know he is recovering from an illness and is likely to return for more treatment and they have heard from him themselves; so of what value is Femi jumping in the gutter to engage anyone over this? While the president must receive flak as par for the course because of the nature of his job, you must be like Caesar’s wife, above reproach, because you are there to make things easier for him with the people, not harder. Rather than creating a siege mentality around the president, you should be showing with your open door and your open heart that the president is not ensconced in Aso Rock, removed from national reality.

This piece shows what happens when you cannot rein in your emotions or check your bias when occupying a public position. Does Femi think he’s helping the president’s cause with this piece? Does he think this shows how loyal he is to the president? Does he think this would win anybody over to his side? Does he think this absolves him and his office from the blame that must surely be theirs for the ineptitude and shoddiness that attended their handling of the whole affair? The obvious irony here is that this piece is the biggest case of gloating we have seen since the president fell ill and was rushed to London. Can’t he see that he’s actually contradicting the maturity he attributes to the president’s conduct upon his return? To cut a long story short, this piece is unhelpful. Femi should not have written it.

Bukola Saraki: A Smart, Powerful, And Dangerously Corrupt Political Operative By Churchill Okonkwo

It is no longer a secret that Senator Bukola Saraki has emerged as a powerful symbol of the rotten sweetness of democratized corruption in Nigeria. As you read this, the thugs in the pocket of Senator Saraki masquerading as Nigerian senators are tightening the rope of strangulation on President Buhari’s lackluster anti-corruption war. They have vowed that Magu’s head must be cut off or everything in Nigeria will be grounded to a halt. This National Assembly under the leadership of Bukola Saraki is the most dangerously corrupt Assembly in Nigerian history.

Consider this scenario: a sick President was recuperating in London; the cabal that caged Mr. President allowed Senator Bukola Saraki to pay him a rare visit (a special privilege you will think); Mr. President comes back and went into a closed door meeting with Saraki and less than 48 hours, the Senate soundly rejected the confirmation of Magu as EFCC chair for the second time (facilitated by Saraki’s thugs and DSS director appointed by Mr. President). Troubling?

On the surface, you will be tempted to believe that our democracy is finally working – checks and balances and independent DSS. Illusions! The reality is that we are witnessing the smooth operation of one of the smartest and “pathologically corrupt” political operatives in modern Nigeria in Bukola Saraki (I have not forgotten the gibberish of “innocent” until proven guilty).

To say that Senator Saraki is the most powerful political operative in the Nigeria is not an overstatement. Even before he rose to power, he was highly connected by virtue of his father Dr. Olusola Saraki – the strong man of Kwara politics. To understand how powerful the Sarakis are, look at the history of their dynasty in Kwara State dating back to the late 1970s. Unlike other dynasties in Nigeria, the reign of the Sarakis has not been challenged for over 35 years.

To demonstrate that he is “untouchable,” Senator Saraki, who is already involved in a series of corruption trials (false declaration of assets, embezzlement of state fund), is not shying away from adding to his collection of corruption-stained-feathers. The newest scandal is the disappearance of about N3.5 billion refund of Paris Club loan. Fingered in this scandal are Aliko Dangote, the Nigeria Governors Forum and the Central Bank of Nigeria. This has once more rekindled the debate about how to tackle democratized corruption in Nigeria.

The primary reason why corruption has thrived in Nigeria is because perpetrators at all levels have been clever enough to ensure that all relevant parties are “settled.” High and Supreme Court judges, law enforcers and political whistleblowers are, most times, silenced by receiving a cut from the loot or forced by unseen hands wielding more power than the government to succumb to intimidation and blackmail. Dasukigate and Diezanigate are two good examples.

To underscore the seriousness of democratized corruption, Godwin Elumelu, who led an investigation into the misappropriation of billions of Naira in the power sector under Obasanjo’s administration, confessed that the “fight against corruption poses grave and unpredictable risks to those who dare to challenge this gargantuan monster.” He added, “the greater part of the Nigerian problem is the ruling elite; selfish, greedy, unpatriotic and often lawless.”

Apparently, Senator Saraki is not only a smooth operator, but so powerful and lawless that it was rumored last week that he threatened to unleash hell on Buhari’s administration if they push him too hard. This threat came after the EFCC had submitted a damning report on Senator Saraki’s involvement in siphoning N3.5 billion from the Paris Club loan refund – a gargantuan scandal.

In a shocking response, Mr. President ordered an additional release of the Paris Club loan refund even in the face of these allegations. This singular act by President Buhari is an indication that he has been caught by the charm of the rotten sweetness of democratized corruption.

Is President Buhari complicit in encouraging the democratization of corruption in Nigerian institutions? Will Buhari sanction the plot by the DSS and the thugs called senators to redeploy Magu? Is he completely caged now? Is it a “major, general mistake” (thanks Sowore) for President Buhari to be romancing corrupt institutions and individuals while pretending to be fighting corruption? I see the ongoing caricature as simply a case of democratization of corruption; a case of the more you look the more you see, literally.

Recently this administration demonstrated what looks like rare courage by going after the untouchables in our judiciary. The question, though, is: was the show of power against the judiciary selective and cosmetic? Is there any real intent to punish corrupt government officials? Or like the administrations before this, is the story of anti-corruption in Nigeria an illusion?

The clampdown, or what the Presidency called a “surgical” operation, on corruption in the Nigerian judiciary, though a welcome development, is not enough. If indeed there is a real attempt to fight institutionalized corruption in Nigeria, why limit the “surgical” operation to the judiciary? What of the Nigeria Police Force and Nigeria Customs Service – the two powerhouses of institutionalized corruption in Nigeria? What of NNPC – the goose that is laying the golden eggs? What of the Nigerian National Assembly – the cog in the wheel?

Gone are the days when corrupt practices led to the demise of the leadership of the Nigerian National Assembly. Where the likes of Okadigbo, Wabara, Evan(s) Enwerem, Etteh and Bankole failed, Bokola Saraki is thriving. You know why? He has simply perfected the act of institutionalized corruption in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, he took on the persona of a mini god, terrifying and controlling the Presidency and the National Assembly.

Senator Bukola Saraki is a smooth political operator that financed the election of President Buhari. He is an APC member on paper, but was elected Senate President by the opposing PDP members after outsmarting his party. Initially haunted by Buhari’s Presidency, Saraki is now being courted by the cabals behind Buhari for fear of giving Atiku or Tinubu an edge in the repositioning for the 2019 presidential election.

The President is currently limiting the anti-corruption “fight” on the tilapias like Dasuki, Badeh, Metu, etc. But until the cabals around him can summon the courage to point a real “surgical” anti-corruption knife on the crocodiles at the National Assembly, Saraki, who has not been convicted of any corrupt act, will go scot-free under the present state of democratized corruption in Nigeria. Forget about the ongoing drama at the CCB meant to deceive the general public.

Senator Bukola Saraki is a friendly, well-spoken, handsome guy and above all, a smooth political operator. There’s little question that he is a political hottie now, but whether his charms will stand the test of time remains to be seen.

You can email Churchill at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi.

In Defence of Aregbesola and the State of Osun by Azeez Olaitan

One of the reasons the conservative party won the UK elections in 2010 was their relentless attack against the then Labour Government on the issue of national debt. They labeled Labour party ‘reckless’ for plunging the country into more DEBT. They said the only language Labour understands is “Borrowing, borrowing and more borrowing”. The conservative manifesto also read: “Failing to control our debt would be more than an economic failing, it would be a moral failing – leaving our children and grandchildren with debts that they could never hope to repay.” People bought it and they voted Labour out.

The Conservative Party came to power in 2010. By 2013, they had borrowed ‘more’ in 3 years than Labour did in 13 years. In 2016, it was reported, the conservative party had created more DEBT than every Labour government in history i.e created more debt in 6 years than Labour did in 23 years. Isn’t that incredible!

My point is, no state or nation can pursue any meaningful programmes or projects without borrowing, regardless of their IGR or how stable their economy is. Politicians or parties that say otherwise are simply not telling the truth, just like the UK conservative party. And anyone with knowledge of governance wouldn’t believe it a bit.

States like Osun, with huge infrastructural deficit, poorly skilled working population and decayed educational system, lack the most basic of elements that attract investors. That is a fact. No investor will bring their money to a state with dilapidated infrastructures, a poor skilled working population. And that is what Osun was before Aregbesola. Some do say states should look inward. Of course, they must do so. But they can only go so far in improving on their IGR if they don’t invest in infrastructures and develop human capacity. Boosting economic growth and building IGR that knows no bounds requires investment in critical sectors complemented with progressive policies; this will ultimately create an enabling environment for businesses. No two ways about it.

According to Awolowo, three things must be worked on by any government to boost its economy: Infrastructure, Education and Health. On Health, he further said, it is safer and economical if a government pays more attention to preventive medicine which consists of measures taken for disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment. Since Aregbesola came to power, all his policies and programmes have revolved around these three key elements.

Since he came to power in 2010, Aregbesola has built more roads than all democratically elected governors of the state combined. It earned him an epithet from the populace, ‘Ona baba ona’. Road constructions/improvements decrease transportation costs, improve access to markets, foster economic integration and provide a number of other wider economic benefits. This is why roads construction/improvements are frequently proposed as a strategy for economic growth, integration and local economic development. His government has constructed over 1000km high class urban and rural roads.

Osun is not the first state to initiate a school feeding programme in Nigeria. It has been done by some other states, but they failed. When Aregbesola started Osun free school feeding programme, many people said it will also fail just like those before it. They said it was a white elephant. The programme is now over 4 years old, and it is still going strong. The state has now become a model to all states of the federation in the area of the school feeding programme. Niger state recently sent a delegation to Osun to understudy the programme- not to mention the FG delegation. The programme was also well applauded by the international community. The Governor was invited by Imperial College London, where he was the keynote speaker, he spoke on the success of the state’s school meal programme. The programme feeds over 250,000 children every school day. It provides direct employment to over 3,000 women, with indirect employment of over 7,000 and purchases food from over 1000 local farmers.

School enrollment has increased by 62% since the inception of the programme. What the state is doing on education is as clear as daylight; and it is not just structures like some do say. The impact reflects in the performance of students from the State. The WAEC success rate in Osun was 6.86% in 2007, it is now 46.3%. Of course it can be better, but there has been a giant leap in the performance. The State of Osun is now among the top 3 states with highest university admission in the federation. All these do not happen by sheer coincidence.

Before Aregbesola came to power in 2010, the IGR was about N300 million monthly; now it swings between N1 billion and N1.2 billion. The highest was N1.5 billion but dropped due to the current economic situation. The few programmes I highlighted and many others require funding to put in place. Relying on IGR and FAAC alone cannot just do it. Osun used to be a civil servant state. What that means is, the government only pay salaries to civil servants, 99% of the populace benefits close to nothing and all these left the state completely stagnant. Since Aregbesola came on board, the resources of the state is being evenly spread. I doubt if there is any household in Osun that has not been positively touched one way or the other.

The Nigeria Extractive Transparency Initiative, NEITI recently reported that Osun debt stands at N165.91. To put this in perspective, the state has put a burden of N5.56Kobo on every citizen (4 million) of the state. Osun feeds every pupil in the public school with N70 every school day. This and other achievements of Aregbesola since 2010 that has catapulted the state from completely nowhere to be ranked top of the lowest unemployment rate in Nigeria today; Second after Lagos with the least poverty rate in the whole federation and one of the state with lowest crime rate.

I sincerely believe the debt profile of the state is nothing, compared to what has been achieved in the state. We can moan and moan about debt or size of it, it won’t stop any government that aspires to positively transform the state to the benefit of the people in borrowing to facilitate its agenda.

Naturally, politicians and political parties will prey on the ignorance (on the part of some citizens) but the truth is when they get there, they will do the same or even worse. The other thing that can also happen is, not to borrow and allow the state to remain stagnant just like some governors are doing. Governors are elected to move their respective states towards prosperity and not just to pay salaries or do nothing, just like some are also doing. It is no coincidence that the least indebted states like Zamfara, Yobe, Plateau are also the states with the highest level of unemployment and highest poverty rate in Nigeria. I will rather have a Governor who will borrow to invest in critical sectors of the state and the citizens, move the state positively from what it used to be than the one who will borrow to loot or only pay civil servant salaries and stagnate it.

Nigeria’s Angry Children of Suicide, By Reuben Abati

I once wrote about Nigeria’s “children of anger”, but the country seems to have progressed from anger to clinical depression, resulting in a rise not merely in social aggressiveness, but a determination by certain individuals to escape from it all. The percentage of Nigerians seeking escape through suicide nonetheless remains small relative to the size of the population, but the sharp increase in the number and frequency of reported suicides in the last two years alone speaks to a certain dysfunctionality requiring closer inquiry.

Suicide is an act of self-destruction, an escape from the self, an act of self-defeat. Whether the suicide is anomic or fatalistic, due to loss of job, broken relationships, dis-inhibition, economic deprivation, environmental factors, disability or psychosis, it usually arises from an awareness of the inadequacy of the self. What Germans call “weltschmerz”, that is, a discrepancy between personal expectations and the reality of personal space, which for many may result in anger, aggressiveness, a feeling of rejection, isolation, inadequacy and ultimately a revolt against the self.

It is often assumed that poverty is synonymous with this resolve to deconstruct the self but the highest suicide rates are actually found in countries with wealth, and better environment, and all ten of the most popular spots for suicide in the world are in developed countries. What is certain however regardless of the place and time, is that human beings decide to abbreviate their own mortality when they resolve that they can no longer live with the discrepancy between what they are and what they would like to be, or what they have been and what they have suddenly become or what they expect and what happens to them eventually, all of this basically in the context of the imagined stigma, shame, disgrace or disappointment.

What is instructive in our own circumstance, however, is that suicide has always been frowned upon in our society: It is forbidden by law, religion, society and tradition, to the extent that in local communities, persons who commit suicide are not given any decent burial, they are thrown into the evil forest to serve as a deterrence to others, and the affected family is stigmatized. It is for this reason perhaps that suicide cases used to be very few in our land. Besides, Nigerians are known for their optimism and resilience.

We were once described as one of the happiest people on earth, and one Dictionary describes a segment of our population, the Yoruba as the “fun-loving people of the South West part of Nigeria.” Nigerians love life so much they describe virtually every funeral as a “celebration of life” and every life, including the poorest is advertised in funeral posters as “a life well spent.” The cemetery is seen as a desolate, lonely, outside corner of the social space where no one is in a hurry to go. But all that has changed; or appears to be changing, for in the last two years, suicide seems to have become fashionable among seemingly ordinary folks.

I use the phrase “seemingly ordinary folks” advisedly, because the other kind of suicide that is known to Nigerians remains even surprising, and I refer here to the terrorism, religious fundamentalism-inspired suicide attempts of the likes of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Boko Haram agents. When the news broke in 2009, that the former had been uncovered as a suicide bomber, Nigerians were shocked. The reaction then was that it was impossible for a Nigerian to willingly decide to die for, of all reasons, ideological or religious reasons. We were soon proven wrong when Boko Haram began to deploy both male and female, mature and teenage, suicide bombers who turned Nigeria into an extension of the killing fields of al-Qaeda. This trend continues, with the hope within the larger society, that it is something that would end someday.

What the emerging literature shows is that the conditions for every suicide vary in time and space, but in Nigeria, the reported cases point to too many cases of self-deconstruction on the basis of economic deprivation, loss of status, debt, helplessness. The responsibility of government is to ensure the security and welfare of the people. There has been a great failing in this regard, with the people driven further below their perceived reality, which reinforces the causative principle earlier defined. Some of the recently reported cases are as follows: a man ended it all because he could not give his wife “chop-money”, another woman chose to die because she could not pay off her debts, in one week in Lagos, a doctor, two women and an elderly man chose the Lagoon as their death-spot. With the way the Lagos Lagoon has suddenly become a popular spot for suicide in Nigeria, it may well in due course, become one of the most popular suicide spots in the world.

It is noteworthy, if I must say so, that the ten most popular suicide spots on earth are associated with the sea, and bridges, with perhaps the sole exception of the Aokigahara Forest-Mount Fuji in Japan where suicide rate is as high as 100 per year. The Japanese may tolerate suicide and consider it supernatural, but here in Nigeria, it is a growing trend that should be discouraged. Some priests have said the Lagos Lagoon is angry and that is why it has been attracting persons to jump into it: if indeed whatever spirit that controls the Lagoon is hungry, the Oba of Lagos and his chiefs should hurry up and feed that spirit with whatever it eats. I assume that this would be a more useful venture than the partisan declaration by the Oba of Lagos that nobody should contest against the incumbent Lagos State Governor in 2019! But how about the other unreported causes of suicide, far away from the Lagoon? This is where the dilemma lies and where our constructive social theory, and the admissibility of every piece of evidence, empirical and customary, meets a brick-wall.

As a country, society and government, we would always have to deal with deviant behaviour, into which category suicide – the ultimate act of violence and rebellion against self and society falls in this particular context, what is crucial is society’s level of preparedness to reduce the scope and range. In Nigeria, we are not prepared at all. When people fall into depression in other countries, they visit counselors and psychiatrists. In Nigeria, a prominent leader once dismissed psychology as a useless course that should be removed from the curriculum. Graduates of psychology end up doing something else, or they end up offering pro bono counseling on social media like my in-law, Joro Olumofin, but with people dying for no just reasons and jumping into the river or hanging themselves or killing their spouses and family members, this is a country in urgent need of professional counselors. Psychiatry is another relevant discipline that has been utterly neglected.

I once gave a keynote address at the Psychiatric Hospital, Aro in Abeokuta and I was again Keynote Speaker at the 100th anniversary of Psychiatry in Nigeria. Nothing has changed since then. We don’t have enough psychiatric doctors or hospitals in Nigeria. The few psychiatric hospitals are poorly funded, psychiatric doctors are poorly treated, the discipline is disregarded, and yet this is a country of psychotic cases at all levels, the more serious cases are in government, making decisions that create more problems of bipolar disorder in the larger society. Nigeria is a victim, like many other developing countries, of a one-sided embrace of globalization and its gains and evils. People watch TV and they are socialized into a new form of thinking that is disconnected with local values and culture. They become anti-heroes in the process. Suicide or attempted suicide has not fetched any one or any family any kind of honour in our society.

Given this sociology, greater attention needs to be paid to the increasing incidence of suicide, in the North and the South particularly, with the most vulnerable states properly identified and strategic intervention measures put in place. A preliminary observation indicates that the most affected persons in the North are radical Islamic extremists used as pawns by the Boko Haram, while in the 10 most affected states in the South, the cause is basically existential. This observation is based on reported cases, but with the increasing frequency, it is safe to hazard a guess that there are many more unreported cases, which may provide additional or different sociological conclusions.

Whatever the case may be, this rise of despair in the country needs to be managed. Suicide prevention hotlines have been announced, but the thought of suicide should be discouraged in the first place, through better governance, opportunities for professional counseling, and better management of mental health. Most Nigerians don’t even know who to go to, or talk to when they are depressed! And if they know, they don’t want their private secrets to be known. When the suicide succeeds or fails, the relatives are in need of help: they will need counseling, to deal with the frustration and the shame.

I believe that suicide-related problems can be fixed. The challenge is to convert the people’s pessimism into optimism through people-centred governance and to deliver the much-expected, much-trumpeted change in their circumstances. Disappointment leads to frustration, to anger, to despondency, to losses, to despair and ultimately to self-destruction for the weak-hearted. But suicide is not a solution. And to those who doubt this, Teebliz, Tiwa Savage’s husband is a living testimony. Not too long ago, he wanted to jump into the Lagoon. He said his wife, the award- winning singer, had disappointed him. He accused her of many better-unmentioned-again-thing s. He could not take it anymore and he wanted to self-destruct.

His suicide attempt was more or less televised, because it was everywhere on social media – it is not every suicide that is so televised- eventually he was prevented from taking the plunge, and he raved and ranted afterwards and then went quiet. Months later, he has been shown taking photographs with the same woman for whom he wanted to play a Romeo without a Juliet. In their most recent outings, they have been shown with their son, Jamil who looks like his father’s twin, and last weekend, the boy had his Christening at a church in Lekki. Teebliz has been pictured bonding with his son and beaming with fatherly pride.

If he had jumped into the Lagoon when he wanted to do so, he would have been long dead and forgotten. But Teebliz looks much happier now, and deep within him, he must be grateful to the persons who did not allow him to jump. He must be particularly happy seeing his son growing up into a fine young kid. There is nothing in this life that cannot be fixed and there lies the futility of suicide.

Mo Ibrahim: Africa’s future lies in harnessing youth energy

Africa’s future will depend, more than anything else, on Africa’s ability to harness the energy of young people and meeting their expectations in term of job provisions and opportunities. The latest forum report by The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Africa at a Tipping Point said.

Although the the continent is making progress, it faces a real risk of falling back, the report noted.

Among Africa’s key opportunities and threats are:

Today, 60% of the continent’s population is already under 25 years of age. By 2050, Africa will be home to 452 million people under the age of 25. Their drive, ambition and potential provide African countries with an extraordinary asset. But this demographic dividend is at risk of being squandered.

  • Too many young Africans feel devoid of economic prospects and robbed of any say on the future of their own continent.
  • The fastest growing African economies have not created enough jobs for youth.
  • In 2016, the average age of African presidents is 66, while the average median age of the continent’s population is 20.
  • Of the 25 fastest growing economies in the world between 2004 and 2014, ten are African.
  • Nearly 30 million young Africans were unemployed in 2015.

In 2015, four African countries featured in the global top ten for the highest terrorism levels: Nigeria, Somalia, Egypt, Libya. Over a decade, the number of terrorist attacks on the African continent has increased by more 1,000%

Between one-third and a half of the tertiary educated populations of Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Mozambique and Ghana leave their country.
A majority of African citizens trust religious leaders, the army and their traditional leaders more than their elected representatives.
On average, almost half of the African population is currently still below the legal voting age.
The commodity cycle may have fuelled GDP growth for many African countries but it has created almost no jobs. Over the last ten years, while Africa’s real GDP has grown at an annual average of 4.5%, youth unemployment levels have remained high. Despite being the second-largest African economy, South Africa is not able to provide jobs for more than half of its youth population.
Young people have spent more years in school but few have been effectively equipped with the skills the economy needs. Despite having some of the most educated populations, with gross enrolment ratios in tertiary education over 30%, Egypt and Tunisia also have some of the highest youth unemployment rates on the continent, greater than 30%.

“Free and fair” elections have indeed multiplied over the last decade, but voter turnout is declining and scepticism about elected representatives is growing, especially among the young people.
Disenchantment with democracy and lack of economic opportunity form a “toxic brew”, bound to strengthen the appeal of migration and violent extremism.

Terrorism has become a well-organised multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise with growing control over the drugs trade, people trafficking and other parts of the black market. The jobs, status, income and feeling of “belonging” it seemingly offers to young people cut off from the mainstream economy may be more attractive that the ideology itself.
Mo Ibrahim, Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said: “The energy and ambition of Africa’s young people is our greatest resource and best hope for strengthening our continent’s progress. But their expectations could turn into frustration and anger unless they find a job and get a chance to influence their own future. Africa stands at a tipping point. The decisions taken now will decide whether our continent continues to rise or falls back. More than ever, wise leadership and sound governance are key.”

What Trump and Ryan Can Learn From Mandela, By Mohamed El-Erian

In stating on Friday that Republicans are “going through the inevitable growing pains of being an opposition party to becoming a governing party,” House Speaker Paul Ryan was identifying a phenomenon that has challenged many new governments around the world — and tripped up quite a few.

It constitutes a test for President Donald Trump, along with members of his team who have no prior public-sector experience, and the elites who lead Republican lawmakers in Congress and at the state level. Their success making the adjustment from politics to administration will have important economic, financial, institutional, political and social implications.

To those of us who have been interested in political transitions around the globe, what is taking place in the U.S. can be reminiscent of a more general phenomenon that has repeatedly played out in the developing world. In particular, it’s one that has hit hard in countries seeking to pivot away from colonial rule – especially those where freedom fighters, invigorated by their triumph over the evil of deeply embedded discrimination, struggled and failed to deliver on their promise of social justice and more inclusive growth.

South Africa’s Nelson Mandela is, in my opinion, the best modern example of a leader who understood the hardest complexities of the transition from opposition to governing. In leading his country away from many years of repressive apartheid rule, one of his first challenges was to equip his new government with the ability to govern effectively, secure early wins and sell to his citizens a vision that helped protect against unanticipated internal and external shocks.

From day one, Mandela looked past the senior set of likely government appointments and quickly developed and trained a new cadre of junior technocrats. He resisted the temptation to dismantle laws and institutions until credible alternatives had been designed and discussed. He set up a “truth and reconciliation” process that provided a basis for assessing the damage incurred during long decades of repressive minority rule, and thereby contained harmful blame games. And, in one of the most remarkable examples of leadership and vision, he urged South Africans to live under the mantra of “forgiving but not forgetting.” (In today’s verbiage, he understood the need to work with the establishment even when the stated objective was to dismantle it.)

In doing all this, Mandela secured an important mix of coalitions among new and old that enabled his country to undertake an historical pivot without the violence and disruptions that crippled many other post-colonial transitions. He developed public-private partnerships to supplement meager government resources and to counter the flight of capital and talent out of the country. And he worked hard – though, as subsequent developments (including today’s crippling corruption and the incomplete corporate embrace of diversity) would prove, far from perfectly – on succession planning to ensure that the initial gains would serve as foundation for more important ones down the road.

As they draw lessons from their defeat, Trump and Ryan would be well advised to take note of some of the lessons from Mandela’s remarkable government experience – and this notwithstanding the very different circumstances of the U.S. For example:

Reconciliation, rather than finger pointing, needs to guide crisis management and communication.
The effort cannot be limited to just engaging the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party that went rogue on the health-care bill.
Success will require making room for elements of the Democratic Party.
Better preparation, sequencing, communication and buy-in will be key to ensuring that other elements of the Republican legislative agenda, including tax reform, do not suffer a similar fate.
Ironically, the Trump administration doesn’t have as much time as one would think, given that it has only been in office for two months. It needs to move quickly to extend the federal debt ceiling lest normal government operations be disrupted. Significant progress on tax reform, infrastructure and the budget needs to be secured before lawmakers’ attention turns to the mid-term elections of 2018. It must be careful not to spook financial markets that, having given it the benefit of the doubt, have decoupled prices from fundamentals. And it must convince the rest of the world, including worried allies and mischievous others, that its international efforts will not fall victim to the quick return of domestic political dysfunction.

Mohamed A. El-Erian is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is the chief economic adviser at Allianz SE and chairman of the President’s Global Development Council, and he was chief executive and co-chief investment officer of Pimco.

Kayode Fayemi: Six Lessons UNILAG Taught Me

An excerpt from the lecture delivered by Dr. Kayode Fayemi at the 2017 Convocation of the University of Lagos, his alma mater

Universities, like the people within them, must embrace change, re-imagine possibilities, and revitalize continuously (Faust, 2012). In contemplating the challenges of leadership and development in Nigeria therefore, we have to critically reappraise our educational institutions and make necessary interventions to ensure they not only have adequate funding, world class physical structures, and functional teaching equipment, but also the right social environment that supports the education of the total man. In the words of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “Whether we are conscious of or acknowledge it or not, the fact remains stubborn and indestructible that poverty, disease, social unrest, and instability, and all kinds of international conflicts, have their origins in the minds of men … It is only when the minds of men have been properly and rigorously cultivated and garnished, that they can be safely entrusted with public affairs with a certainty and assuredness that they will make the best of their unique opportunity and assignment” (Awolowo, 1967).

I would be highlighting certain life lessons that must be learnt in the university environment that promotes the inculcation of progressive values, and the development of sound character in young people. If we are to improve the quality of our country’s human capital and invariably have better national development outcomes, we have to pay attention to the factory that produces the most important segment of our work force that we expect to drive development in every sector, and which is the crop from which our future leaders would arise.

These crucial lessons are present in the ideal university setting, and some of you have done well to imbibe them. Some others have ignored them in pursuit of “more important matters”, and are thus deficient in some of them. The misplaced emphasis on certificates – that is to say the sole concentration on obtaining a certificate as the end result of your 4/5/6 years of study here, has stopped some of you from imbibing critical life skills that ought to have been learnt concurrently with your academic studies.

Year-in, year-out, thousands of young people graduate from our universities. Many of them end up swelling the ranks of unemployed or underemployed people, leading to a massive youth unemployment crisis that has calcified over the years, with grave socio-economic portents for the future. How are our universities addressing this and other strategic national priorities? Are we paying enough attention by ensuring our graduates are well equipped to respond to this and other challenges of our time? We also have the tragedy of academically sound graduates that have no fibre of ethical awareness, locus of control, or moral judgment in their beings. These ones are cannon fodder launched into the larger society to complicate already existing socio-economic malaises – disasters waiting to happen.

My thesis is that knowledge alone is not enough; neither is character by itself sufficient. A fit and proper UNILAG graduate is one that has successfully straddled the obligations of being found worthy in both ‘Character and Learning’. I would now be sharing with you from my own personal experiences, six key lessons and life skills that UNILAG taught me, which I would be commending to you.

Knowledge is Power – Learn How to Learn
The university offers the opportunity for serious minded young people to acquire knowledge. The centrality of academics to university life is such that, your ability to prove that you have learnt what you ought to, in accordance with the curriculum, is the singular criterion for progression from level to level till you graduate. However, some people mistake passing exams for acquiring knowledge – they are two different things.

As a student, you have to learn how to learn. That is, you have to learn the principles behind actually acquiring knowledge. When you receive information via lectures, books e.t.c., the first impulse should not be to commit it to memory for the purpose of ‘dumping’ on exam day, or to go on social media to display your familiarity with certain subjects. You should meditate on new information and study more deeply and widely, allowing it to truly illuminate your mind – that is what new information is supposed to do after it has been thoroughly processed.

Sometimes, new information dislodges dated ones in your mind, at other times; it reinforces what you already know, and gives you greater depth of perspective – one thing it never does is to leave you the same. As futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler once wrote: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

So, you have to decide, do you want to merely pass exams or do you want to truly acquire knowledge and prove this by passing exams? This generation is one that is increasingly characterised by quick fixes in every area of life. We see it on social media every day, where oftentimes the most influential and most vocal, are those with the quickest fingers to type out bunkum. There would come a time you wouldn’t be required to write an exam again, for some of you, that time has come already as you may have decided not to earn another degree after this. Does that mean you would stop learning?

Consider your attitude to the acquisition of knowledge. How many of you ever attended a lecture in a different faculty, just for the purpose of learning something new? How many of you ever read beyond the reading list that you were served? How many of you ever attended an inaugural lecture or any other public lecture for that matter in the course of your time in UNILAG? It breaks my heart to attend some of these academic events right inside a university, and the hall is half empty, simply because there is no credit to be awarded for attendance.

I’ll tell you a personal secret. By God’s grace I have held public office for the most of the past six years. Consequently, I have many people trying to reach me for one thing or the other. Those that find it easiest to get my attention are not those that come to me with notes from influential people, or those that can breach protocol and get to see me – they are people that are smart enough to write out what exactly they want; what advice they have for me; or what input they want to make; and send to me by letter, email or text. In all my years in office, I have treated all my letters and files personally and similarly attended to all my emails myself, in order to ensure serious minded people have access to me. I have also retained the same phone number for over a decade. There is a light that shines through when an educated mind writes to you, as deep calls to deep, and I am quick to single out such letters and messages for attention.

In the days to come, many of you would have elevator pitches, where you have few unscheduled moments to intelligently engage an important person. How prepared are you for such opportunities? I encourage you today to commit to a lifelong attitude of learning. Read more and speak less. Stop hustling to get attention and let your mind set you apart from the rest of the noisy pack. Go beyond the narrow confines of disciplinary specialization, and adopt a multidisciplinary approach to learning, in order to be grounded in vast areas of human endeavors.

2. Discipline – Master Yourself

Without discipline, knowledge is useless. In the world today, with the advancements in civil liberties, democratisation and freedom of speech, we operate in a freer world with increasingly less constraints placed on individual conduct. Now, anyone can do almost anything, at anytime. The impetus is therefore on discerning individuals to self-regulate and be disciplined enough to do what is right, and at the right time, if they want to be successful.

The university offers the opportunity for you to learn self-discipline which is very important for productive living. When you first enter into the university, you were enthralled by the new found freedom, because many of you were leaving home for the very first time. You soon discovered that this freedom actually comes with a greater responsibility. The academic environment promotes the development of crucial work ethics needed later in life. In the university, you have set targets that you must deliver in defined formats and before strict deadlines. Nobody would babysit you to know how you would deliver, nor would anybody celebrate your efforts or listen to your excuses, you are simply required to deliver results.

Many young people these days lack self-discipline and are given to blaming everybody but themselves for why things don’t work. Some people simply talk too much; others eat too much; while others sleep too much. At graduation from the university, you ought to have learnt how to moderate your impulses, and how to manage your time, money and other resources for greater efficiency, effectiveness and productivity.

You now understand why that lecturer you hated so much always walked late comers out of their classes – he was only trying to teach you to respect time. There is nothing African about arriving late for engagements, it simply shows you are not honourable, and honour is central to who we are as Africans. In our daily lives, we waste so much valuable time and resources because some people simply lack self-discipline.

Discipline is the very basis of human progress. Without it nothing can be made or properly maintained. Indiscipline causes all sorts of harms. The temporary pleasure it gives is not the genuine pleasure of freedom (Roy, 2015). Self-discipline and self-mastery are very important life skills you must develop if you would be taken seriously and given opportunities to advance your interests in an increasingly competitive world.

Adaptability – Be Flexible and Dynamic
The university environment is a universe of itself. It offers the unique opportunity to interact with different people from different parts of the world – people of different cultures, faiths, political persuasions and material circumstances. University students are not only expected to learn with others, but also learn from them.

A great mistake any student can make is to become so hermitic in the pursuit of excellent grades that he/she fails to robustly interact with other students and learn from them. I am always thrilled by the testimonials of first class graduates of UNILAG, who demonstrate that it is possible to be academically proficient and also socially well adjusted.

The reason for this is that you never know what life would bring your way, and you always have to be in a position to adapt to whatever circumstances you find yourself in. In the world today, your adaptability quotient is just as important as your intelligence quotient and emotional intelligence. Some people are just so stuck in their ways, and cannot see beyond the restrictive boundaries of their academic disciplines and socio-cultural backgrounds. It was Nelson Mandela that said “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.” It was his ability to adjust and rise to the challenges of his time that thrust greatness upon him.

How many of you ever went for excursions during the course of your university education? What do you know about other tribes and cultures? Do you have friends from any other department asides yours? Are your only friends the ones who speak the same language and practice the same religion as you? Geographic mobility and the ability to adjust in new environments is a major factor in recruitment considerations and career advancement these days.

Some of you that studied Biochemistry might find yourselves working in banks. Some lawyers might find themselves in consulting. Some of the Engineering graduates here today might find themselves in advertising, while some doctors might find themselves in tourism management. I studied history and currently find myself in Mining. Don’t ever stay idle waiting for the ideal job, do whatever your hands find to do, adapt and excel at it.

As important as raw intelligence and personality traits are, now more than ever, being able to adapt to change will profoundly determine your ability to survive in the current job market or get re-employed if you are in a transitional period. (Parkin, 2010).

Truly Live – and Follow Your Passion
For many of us, coming into the university was the first time we took some measure of control over our lives, because our parents and other authority figures had always taken decisions for us. The clothes we put on, the food we eat, the friends we keep. For many of us, our parents decided for us the courses we read in the university, and are still waiting on the wings to tele-guide our decisions going forward. Parents have their own agendas of the type of future they want for their children.

Don’t get me wrong, our parents mean well, which is why they project their understanding of success in life on their children, and try as much as possible to mould them in very conservative views of success. Many parents are inclined to encouraging their children to study certain courses in order to become successful in life. The issue is these widely held views of success constantly changes, and your studying certain courses considered lucrative today, might not necessarily guaranty your being gainfully employed tomorrow.

A World Economic Forum 2016 article asserts that some of the most profitable and employment creating jobs today did not exist 10 years ago, including: App Developer, Social Media Manager, Cloud Computing Specialist, Drone Operator, Sustainability manager, Millennial Generational Expert, Big Data Analyst/Data Scientist, e.t.c. It further reports that estimates suggest “65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that aren’t on our radar yet.”

Take Andela for example, the start-up recruits young talented technologists from across Africa and trains them to become world-class developers through a four-year technical leadership program. The enterprise has accepted over 200 young engineers since it was founded about two years ago, out of a pool of more than 40,000 applicants. Andela which was founded by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, a 26 year old Nigerian, recently attracted $24 million dollars in funding from a consortium led by Facebook’s Mark Zukerberg.

Technology hubs like Andela and Co-Creation Hub are on the increase in Nigeria, despite low internet penetration and limited infrastructure. They are creating the future because they have dared to find their passion and pursue it. The testimonials of the founders of many of these start-ups indicate that they faced uphill tasks convincing their parents of the paths they had chosen in life. There are many young people who after graduation, simply hand over their certificates to their parents, and start pursuing careers in areas where their passions lie, which are very different from what they studied in school.

Therefore, the advice I would like to give to young people and parents alike is – the most important thing to do is to find your purpose and passion, and commit to pursuing and fulfilling it – parents, let your children fly. The question to ask is “what does success mean to me”? The first step towards being successful in life is to identify what your own definition of personal success is, and the parameters you would use to assess and look back on your life when you are old and grey. The spoken word artiste Prince EA said, “It is not death that most people are afraid of, it is getting to the end of life, only to realize that you never truly lived.”

According to Steve Jobs, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Seize the Moment – and Just Do It!
The university environment imbues you with so much power. If you have applied yourself in the course of your university education, you should by now have not only the intellectual capacity and ethical awareness, but also some degree of experience and a vast network to leverage for your personal and professional interests.

One of the failings of our society is that we don’t give young people enough room to explore their creative abilities and make mistakes early. Equally as bad is the fact that young people don’t optimally take advantage of these opportunities where they exist. Universities as a microcosm of the larger society ought to be the grounds for students to explore and make mistakes in a protected environment. A person in his youth will have only one rival, that is his own potentialities; and he will have only one failure, that is, failing to live up to his own possibilities. (Fashola: 2011)

I can share categorically, that there is almost nothing I have found myself doing in my life and professional career that I did not first experiment during my time in UNILAG. As a leader, activist, writer and academic, I cut my teeth right here in UNILAG. I was exposed to leadership by serving as the Secretary of the great Eni Njoku Hall, which also made me a member of the Students Representative Council. I also served as the Secretary of the Youths United in Solidarity for Southern Africa (YUSSA), as well as the Secretary General of UNILAG’s chapter of the All-Nigeria United Nations Students’ Association (ANUNSA).

As an activist, I was involved in a number of social causes early in life. I even had the opportunity of volunteering at the secretariat in Keffi, Ikoyi, Lagos, of the ANC/SWAPO liberation movements who had an office in Nigeria at that time. Also, my immersion into writing and journalism was as the Editor of the Watch Magazine, together with Wole Elegbede who went on to become the Chief Press Secretary to former Governor Olusegun Osoba of Ogun state, Tokunbo Afikuyomi who went on to became a Senator, and Lekan Otufodunrin, now a senior editor with The Nation Newspapers.

The only one of my extra-curricular activities in UNILAG that hasn’t found expression in my life so far is acting and stage performances. Believe it or not, together with associates like Sola Salako, the media personality and consumer protection activist, and Oscar Odiboh, the advertising executive, I was a member of Theatre 15 that staged a number of plays during our time as students. Extra-curricular activities are very important. Giving wings to your imagination through activities you are passionate about, puts you on the path of success and fulfilment in life. According to Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

You have to learn the art of seizing the moment and trying new things. Never be afraid to put your passion to work and start something new. Trust me, failure is overrated. If you haven’t failed at something, that means you are not doing anything. Besides, if you don’t fail when you are young, when do you want to fail? When you are old and grey? Some of you have to be bold enough to start new enterprises. Others have to be bold enough to pursue a career different from what they studied. Yet, others have to leave their comfort zones to explore new horizons outside the country.

Late Chief Awolowo in his book ‘Voice of Reason’ stated that “a man whose personality is fully developed never fears anything; he cringes not, and never feels inferior to anyone; His breadth of mind enables him to exercise his freedom in such a manner as not to endanger the interests and freedom of others. He is a citizen of the world – free from narrow prejudices. He is what he is because the three main constituents of his entity – his body, brain, and mind – are fully developed.”

Likewise, in the words of Wilferd Arlan Peterson, it is time to “explore your mind, discover yourself, and then give the best that is in you to your age and to your world. There are heroic possibilities waiting to be discovered in every person.” You would never know the feats you can achieve until you overcome fear and procrastination, and JUST DO IT!

Quit Whining – No One Owes You Anything
The last lesson I want to talk about is the debilitating entitlement mentality that is commonplace among young people today. The earlier we realize that no one owes us anything, the better for us, and the more prepared we would be to face life’s challenges.

Don’t think you are entitled to a job, just because of your parents’ influence or what they have. Don’t think things would be all rosy because you graduated from UNILAG with good grades. Be prepared for surprises and disappointments because life is bound to hand you a couple. The only guarantees you have in this life is what you do for yourself with the grace God has bestowed on us all.

You have to be prepared to bend backwards and do what you might consider to be beneath you, because of the bigger picture. When you consider my resume today, you might see the prestigious organisations I have been privileged to work with. What you need to know however, is that as a UNILAG graduate and a post-graduate student in the United Kingdom, I have also driven taxis and worked as a security guard, amongst several other menial jobs I did in the past to survive.

We need to get off our high horses, quit whining and start doing – for ourselves and for our country. If something angers you so much, instead of whining, think hard about possible solutions and do something about it. Doers have a way of finding each other out, and before you know it, you are in good company with progressive minded people that exude positive energy – comrades with whom you can challenge the status quo, fight together, and succeed together. Some of the closest friendships I have kept to this day are from my UNILAG days – people I can actually trust to surmount challenges and get things done.

So also, complainers have a way of finding each other out, to indulge in very depressing rhetoric about why things can’t work and who is at fault. From their comfort zones they criticise without offering any solutions and always end up frustrated – run away from such people.

Henrik Edberg said, “… if you change yourself you will change your world. If you change how you think then you will change how you feel and what actions you take. And so the world around you will change. Not only because you are now viewing your environment through new lenses of thoughts and emotions but also because the change within can allow you to take action in ways you wouldn’t have – or maybe even have thought about – while stuck in your old thought patterns.”

The world has always depended on those that believe they owe themselves the duty to leave a lasting impact on the world. Are you one of them? You owe it to the world to leave a lasting legacy – the world owes you nothing.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, as I conclude my remarks, I hope you have benefitted from my sharing with you these key lessons UNILAG taught me. For those that have similarly learnt these lessons, and can therefore relate with me – good for you – I hope my words served the reinforcement of these lessons in your hearts and in your minds, and continue to guide you in life. For those that missed these lessons as students of UNILAG, I offer my assurances to you that there is the opportunity to imbibe these key values from today, and start practicing them. This is what would differentiate those that are merely ‘certificated’ from those that are truly ‘educated’ UNILAG graduates.

Once again, I congratulate you on attaining this major milestone, and pray that you would always remember this day as the beginning of great and mighty things in your life. I am extremely delighted to be here with other alumni, to join your loved ones to witness your convocation. It is a rare honour to see you celebrated, and join others to receive you into one of the most vibrant university alumni communities in the world. I hope our paths cross again on your way to greatness, and your life counts in the universal quest for a more just, safer, and prosperous world.

Remember to remain humble, compassionate and courageous. May God bless and keep you and grant you good success and fulfilment in your years ahead.

NAN

Stagflation, Fragility and Arrested Development Of The Nigerian Economy By Alex Otti

On Friday, March 10, 2017, I was one of the speakers at the Vanguard Economic Discourse where the erudite Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo gave the Keynote address. I hereby publish the paper I prepared for the discourse, even though I did not have the luxury of time to give a detailed presentation at the event.

INTRODUCTION: My intervention is going to focus on a long-term approach towards building a virile and resilient economy. My contention would be that the issue of stagflation popularly called recession is a short-term problem that even if we solve, will not resolve the deeper structural political and economic issues that have separated us from becoming the giant we hope to be. Until we address those problems, development will remain a mirage. The onus should not be left with leadership alone as it would not want to commit suicide. Civil society and patriotic elite should use all legitimate means to force the restructuring to happen.

It is not in dispute that the country is going through some economic challenges which has had a severe impact on people and businesses. As individuals, our personal finances and lives have felt the negative impact of the downturn. These impacts can be felt in the following areas:

High unemployment

Decline in GDP

Weak local currency value

High-interest rates

Increasing prices of goods and services

Weakening Stock market

Soft real estate market

General drop in the standard of living

PRESENT ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

Macroeconomic indicators have been challenged in the last couple of quarters leading the Federal government to officially declare by mid-2016, that the economy was technically in recession. An economy is said to be in recession when it witnesses negative growth rate in Gross Domestic Product for two or more consecutive quarters. We have experienced negative GDP growth rates for the four quarters of 2016. In quarter 1, the growth rate was -0.36%. It further declined to -2.06% in quarter 2, and contracted further to -2.24% in quarter 3, while quarter 4 recorded a negative GDP growth rate of -1.30%. In economic parlance, a recession is normally accompanied by a general decline in prices of goods and services. It was not until the 1970s that economists realized that it was possible for a recession to occur alongside inflation. This kind of situation, they called Stagflation. So, what we are dealing with in Nigeria is not recession as such,  but stagflation.

Our situation is caused by some short term and long term circumstances, though most analysts have dwelt on the short term causes. The short term causes will include oil price decline which resulted in massive revenue drop for the government,  the largest spender in the economy. Owing to the oil price decline, there was also a general strain on foreign capital inflow. The security situation in the country, particularly the North East and the Niger Delta has not encouraged investors.  There has, therefore, been a massive exit of Foreign Direct Investment in the country. All these and more have brought untold pressure on the country’s foreign reserves and exchange rate, further weakening the economy. The impact of Stagflation on businesses could be very damaging and in some cases, catastrophic if not properly managed. They include decline in revenue and ultimately, income, drop in production and productivity, the decline in demand for goods and services, delays in payment of wages and salaries, layoffs and outright closures.

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE: Somehow, we know there are more fundamental issues around the economic challenges than what we have been told so far. The point is that recession or stagflation may just be the symptom of a fundamentally flawed economic structure. An economy that has remained import- dependent for decades cannot withstand external shocks. An economy characterized by decayed infrastructure, in the area of roads, rails, airports, marine transport, and the biggest one, power cannot be said to be resilient. Table 1, below, highlights Power Generation Capacity for 44 selected countries divided into the Highest 10 countries and the lowest 10. Nigeria understandably is not only in the lowest 10 but boarded last in the list of the lowest 10.

A country which seems to have deliberately embarked on a de-industrialisation policy and cares less about the number of manufacturers and industrialists closing shops cannot claim to be ready for global competitiveness. A country that pays little or no attention to education nor health care delivery is not ready for sustainable economic development.

A country that has refused to diversify from a commodity to a knowledge economy cannot be said to be ready for the 21st century. A country that borrows to finance its recurrent expenditure even in an era of oil boom cannot qualify as being ready for development

We cannot take ourselves very seriously when we continue to defend a bloated, unreasonable and unsustainable political structure.

We cannot continue to deceive ourselves, pretending to be an oil economy when in the real sense of it, even with our position as the 6th largest producer of oil in the world, we are but a very poor country with some oil, whose impact on a per capita basis is at best insignificant. We conveniently fail to compare ourselves with other oil economies as doing this would puncture our hypnosis in our dream land. (See Table 2). This table shows that while a barrel of oil on per capita basis is shared by 2 people in Kuwait, 4 people in Qatar, 15 people in Angola and 35 people in Algeria, 105 people shared one barrel of oil in Nigeria, according to 2015 average daily production statistics. It also shows that we are the largest importer of refined petroleum products amongst all the countries analyzed.

A country that loves to humor itself as a large or potentially large economy when it knows its fundamentals are very fragile cannot be said to be serious. We say we are the largest economy in Africa measured by GDP after we rebased our GDP in 2014. We, however, conveniently forgot to tell the rest of the story. We failed to tell our people that what is important is not the absolute GDP figures, but GDP per Capita. The Current GDP figures of  $415b, (some analysts believe it is much lower) placed us at No 26 in the world, but when you look at our GDP per Capita of $2,800, we move down to No 180 out of the 228 countries ranked by the IMF World Economic Outlook, 2016. And in Africa, we ranked No 17 out of the 53 countries ranked. These are the real numbers that we don’t like to show, but they are the numbers that attempt to compare apples with apples and not with oranges.

Bottom line: ours is a very weak and fragile economy. In fact, we have continued to slide downwards in the Fragile States Index (FSI) ranking from No 17 in 2014, when we were ranked amongst the “Alert” category, through No 14 in 2015 moving downhill to the “high alert” category at No 13 in 2016 out of the 178 countries ranked. We are only better than countries like Guinea, Haiti, Afghanistan, Chad, Sudan and Somalia.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?: We have argued that recession is a temporary situation that can easily be reversed once the economy becomes GDP positive. If for instance, oil prices suddenly recover and we begin to see pre-2014 prices again, we will be out of recession in a jiffy. If for some reason we reduce imports either by fiat or by accident and begin to spend less foreign exchange or if foreign exchange supply increases for some strange happenstance either by reason of increased exports or inflow of foreign investment, recession will abate. If we increase spending in real terms, either by reducing interest rates or by borrowing, recession would give way. The government may also choose to reduce taxes and tariffs to leave more money in the hands of people and business. The same effect will be witnessed if the government finds a way of paying salaries and domestic debts owed to local contractors. An expansionary government spending policy by way of issuing fiscal stimulus package will put more money in the economy, encourage consumption, jump-start production, and create jobs. All these will cure recession, but the fundamental problems with the economy will remain, and recession can happen again if any of the challenges that led us here show up again and the bad news is that they are bound to show up again.

It is, therefore, important to look at those things that must be done to ensure a long-term solution to our economic challenges. My submission is that the solution transcends economic considerations as the major area to look at is the political structure. I am therefore, like every other student of political economy, inclined to locating our economic crisis within the context of the structure of the polity. Even at that, within the economic sphere, somethings must be done right to support a sound system. We must set up a robust economic development plan with clear deliverables and monitoring mechanism to ensure zero tolerance for non-implementation. I am not unaware of previous attempts at economic planning in the country. The major problem with those plans was that there was no will to implement them. Our suggested plan would be very heavy on implementation. The plan must set clear guidelines on how to industrialize the economy, how to build a non-import dependent economy, how jobs would be created and what number over a defined period of time. It must also set out how to build sustainable wealth for the country that is not commodity based. It must focus on infrastructure and the promotion of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises as a sine qua non for economic development. The economic plan should also provide for massive investment in education to eradicate illiteracy and herald an innovation and technology revolution while at the same time encouraging a sustainable health care delivery system for the populace. This plan must also not be silent on eradication of poverty and corruption.

Still, on structural reforms, we need to tinker with the democracy model we copied from the US. It is simply not working, and I do not see how it will work. We cannot afford it as it is not only inefficient, but it is unsustainable. We cannot afford a Presidency with a minimum of 36 ministers and thousands of aides. We cannot, in all honesty, continue to fund 36 governors and their deputies with thousands of aides and assistants. We do not need 109 senators nor do we need 360 house of representative members with over 2,500 aides. In fact, we do not need a bicameral legislature. We cannot afford close to 1000 house of assembly members with thousands of aids across the 36 states of the Federation. Neither can we afford 774 virtually idle or impotent local government chairmen and thousands of councilors maintained by the public till. We must reject a situation where over 70% of our annual budget is used to run less than 1million people by way of recurrent expenditure while a meager 30% is set aside as capital expenditure for the remaining 180m+ people (see Table 3). We should not tolerate a situation where government revenue cannot pay salaries of government personnel like have been the case in the recent past.

Since, it will amount to committing suicide for some of these far-reaching reforms to be made, given that it would require making changes to the constitution and those that can make those changes are also the ones benefitting from the status quo, I am sure people will wonder how they can be achieved. It takes the people to dictate the kind of changes they require. But for that to happen, the populace must be educated even to understand what it wants. The patriotic elite in the society must lead and insist on the reforms. Some of these absurdities have been encouraged by the silence and docility of the populace. It is the time people begin to speak out and reject leaderships that do not mean well for the country. It was Albert Einstein who warned that “the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Unfortunately, most of what we know today as civil society has become a clapping society, out of greed and penchant for “stomach infrastructure” but it is the people that must insist and get the reforms and changes they need. I do not see that we need more than 6 states with 6 governors and not 36. We need only one chamber of the National Assembly with no more than 60 members. We need a lot fewer ministers and aids. We can do with much fewer local governments. Public service at this level should literally be pro bono to attract the right caliber of leaders who had been successful in other endeavors and discouraged ‘chartered politicians’ whose interest in politics is self-serving.

CONCLUSION: The current economic crisis did not just happen. We planned for it by failing to plan for a resilient, self-reliant economy. The situation was compounded by a masturbative belief that we are an oil economy. We actually began to behave like one, when in the real sense of it, we are but a poor country with some oil and gas deposits in some parts of the country. We went on a spending spree, importing everything from the profound to the profane with its attendant impact on our foreign reserve.

Wittingly or unwittingly, we started a project of de-industrialisation of the economy by promoting infrastructural deficit and decay. We left our educational system in ruins, as well as our healthcare delivery system. At the same time, we were making little progress with eradicating corruption in virtually all aspects of our economy. To make matters worse, we have been operating a profligate political system that we can ill afford.

To get out of these on a sustainable basis, we must tell ourselves the truth and hit the reset button immediately with a view to institutionalizing sound economic and political reforms otherwise; we should prepare for a full blown descent into a failed state.

 

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