Tuesday, August 24, 2010

IBB: The Enigma

Below is an interview that IBB gave AIT a few weeks ago. In this case, we will allow you to form your opinion on IBB. May I add that I am impressed by his intelligence. In the last 12 years we have had a heartless and selfishly intelligent President (OBJ), and a pure-hearted but not so intelligent President (Yar'adua).

1. Why do you wish to return to power?

It is not unusual for leaders to wish to return; it is common knowledge and common practice in democratic countries all over the world. My right to contest (to vote and be voted for) is guaranteed by the Constitution. I am free to exercise this right. (it is simply not right for anybody to use his or her constitutional right to deny me or abort my own constitutional and democratic right). I also have moral and social rights to contest any elections in the country – local, state and national elections. Over the years I have developed a stock of new ideas based on experience, knowledge and deep reflection on the state of the nation. I am an advocate of “new breed” politics defined by agenda, program, leadership and mindset, and not necessarily by age. As a tested hand with experience, grasp and national outreach to confront the immense challenges facing the nation and to stabilise the ship of state. I am a member of a political party; we are in a democracy for which I worked hard to build and sustain. No one can fault or doubt my experience; I claim a good level of hindsight, insight and foresight, even national outreach as well as determination to build on well known and documented achievements in the past. As a national figure to foster the bonds of national unity – one of the critical challenges of the country. From across –the- country findings, an excellent pool of Nigerians believe in and trust that our knowledge, experience, personal profile and outreach are needed to reposition and consolidate the country’s economy, social structures and political processes.

2. Dele Giwa’s assassination

It is unfortunate that it happened, more so under our leadership at the time. However, the Supreme Court heard the case of Chief Gani Fawehinmi application to compel a trial of two officials of our administration. The two officials who were wrongly accused or suspected of involvement were never charged to court, any court for trial because of lack of evidence. IBB was only President at the time, and was never indicted personally; neither was any member of his government One of those wrongly accused or suspected has provided written accounts of what happened – published in a book which is available to the general public. A high ranking Police officer and and respected crime investigator (now retired) has published his own findings in a book also available to the general public. We gave full support to the investigation by the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.


3. Annulment of June 12 (1993) Election

It was an unfortunate event in our history. As President at the time I take full responsibility for the annulment. But I must say, with due moral, constitutional and social responsibility that the decision was based on what in our estimation was in the highest national interest. It bears lessons for me and for the nation.

4. Structural Adjustment Programme and its consequence

This was a programme of fundamental economic and social reform. The country was in a bad economic situation before we came in. Nigerians would recall the traumatic experience of queueing for “essential commodities” (essence!). Just before the Second Republic was overthrown on December 31, 1983, there were negotiations with the country’s major economic and trading partners on reopening credit lines which were blocked; these negotiations were to be facilitated principally by reaching an agreement with IMF on a standby arrangement on its loan facility and conditionality. The regime that preceded mine which overthrew the Second Republic continued to try to improve the resources for national economic management through various policies,, including more stringent budget measures; use of counter-trade arrangements (“trade by barter”), rearrangement of the country’s overdue debt obligations and negotiations with the IMF; that regime eventually discontinued the “negotiations. The situation clearly posed an impasse for Nigeria as: The country’s finances were in a parlous state; Credit lines, essential for commerce and physical imports, remained blocked as creditors were not ready to reopen them; Imports from our trading partners (nations) were off cover by the official export credit agencies; The country had lost its international credit worthiness; The country needed to embark upon contingent measures and policies such as: Privatization and commercialization of public enterprises Deregulation of banking and other financial institutions, aviation (airlines), telecommunications and broadcasting (radio and TV), etc; Improved external debt management Establishment of the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) for the control and oversight of banking and finance. As with most reform policies of any government, there were unintended hardships resulting from genuine measures to salvage the economy. Government did a lot to cushion some of the effects through a number of institutions and programmes such as settlement of outstanding debts to contractors and salary arrears, prompt payment of salaries, introduction of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), Peoples Bank, community banks, NERFUND, National Directorate for Emloyment (NDE), Better Life Programme for Rural Women, Urban Mass Transit Programme, etc. It should be noted that before SAP, the country was at the edge of an economic precipice with dire political and social consequences. Oil, our major export commodity, was then being sold for as low as $11.00 per barrel, and even then it was difficult to find buyers. We organized a national debate on the IMF loan. SAP was agreed on by the experts we consulted. Consequently, we introduced an economic reform whose key elements were: budget reforms abolition of import licences liberalisation of access to foreign exchange through introduction of the Second –tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM) financial and banking system reform including liberalization of access to credit, and of many credible “new generation banks” abolition of commodity marketing boards. It should be noted that the economic reform programme (SAP) inaugurated a paradigm shift in the economic management and economic history of our country – from government dominated and controlled economy to the “expansion and deepening of the private sector economy”. Our foresight on SAP prepared the national economy and society for the new paradigm of globalization and primacy of market-driven economies, and for acquisition of new management skills, etc.

5. Corruption and its sociology

Corruption in government or by officials in government has been long standing problem in Nigeria. It was there during the First Republic. The first military coup d ‘etat was largely justified on the basis of allegations of corruption among past political leaders and public officials in that era. Regrettably, corruption is still very much with us and we need to curb it. Specifically on our last government, we inherited a system in which corruption was rife. The perception that our government was corrupt or that it institutionalized corruption”, whatever the phrase means, is grossly incorrect. First institutions and measures were established or under-taken by our Administration to fight corruption such as NDLEA, an anti- economic sabotage unit in the SSS, an economic intelligence unit in the Defence Intelligence Agency. We also strengthened the Police Force Special Fraud Unit. Second, any member of our government who was indicted or found guilty of corruption was brought to book. Finally, on the issue of my personal wealth, I want to state for the record that I am one of the most investigated former leaders of this country, and 17 years after leaving office I have not been indicted for corruption or misappropriation of public funds.

6. “Maradonna”, “Evil Genius”; Issue of Trust or Trustworthiness; “Transition (agenda) without end”; Credibility

These issues and appellations were ascribed to me by others, especially my relentless critics. I have never described myself or our Administration in any of those terms. When people make reference to drawn- out programmes of socio-economic transformation and political transition which we embarked on, they deliberately ignore the lesson of our determination to establish a stable political system; the transition agenda was based on expert advice, had to be gradual to ensure some experience and learning, and with measures to establish best practices. Yes it took long. Yes, there were changes. However, because it was geared towards far-reaching transformation of social, economic and political processes and attitudes, the programme needed appropriate adjustments from time to time. Yet, the focus remained the same. (in fact, it was only twice that the date of handover was formally adjusted- from October, 1990 , as the original date to October, 1992 as advised by the Political Bureau and accepted by the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) , and to January, 1993. It was the confusion arising from the conduct of party primaries for presidential aspirants in late 1992 to February 1993 that led to the election being held by June 12, 1993. Above all, it was a military regime at the time. Today we have a democratic regime based on rules and regulations, as well as codes and norms to which I fully subscribe.

7. Failure to appear before Oputa Panel

First, my lawyers appeared before the panel on my behalf and made definite requests to enable me to appear personally, including assurances about security and confidentiality. Unfortunately, these guarantees were not given and I had no option than to turn down personal appearance. Second, I got the intimation that the government at the time was trying to use the white paper on it to intimidate opponents and cast aspersions on my person. We were constrained to go to court to restrain this political and potentially partisan use of the report. The court upheld our prayers and protected my constitutional right, freedom and liberty.

8. “Oil Windfall” – Okigbo Report

All sorts of figures have been mentioned. Strictly speaking, the so-called “oil windfall” receipt in the Okigbo Panel Report was barely $2 billion in the Stabilization Account, not $12.4 billion. As a person and as a President, I was not indicted in any way; in fact, IBB was never personally inferred in the report. The report only said that the fund could have been applied to more productive or regenerative uses like agriculture, more debt repayment, etc. but in our judgement as the government of the day, it was also important to support some worthy causes of national interest such as ECOMOG; development of Abuja, the new FCT; provide more appropriate support for Nigerian embassies abroad; and meet certain defence and security imperatives. (see the IBB Centre’s advertorial on this matter in several newspapers, e.g. This Day, Thursday, June 10, 2010; Vanguard, Thursday, June 10, 2010).

So what do you think? You have to admit though, you would rather have him on BBC HardTalk...

Monday, May 17, 2010

In Unity We Trust

            “The size of the task at hand is momentous but by being together, I fear no one.”

On the 8th of June 1998, Nigeria’s military dictator, General Sani Abacha died of an alleged cardiac constraint brought on by the use of the drug Viagra. Other reports also claimed the world was rid of those prominent dark rimmed sunglasses by a poisoned apple.  I will never forget that day because one thing stuck out in my mind that makes me believe a strong, successful and equal nation of people will one day prosper in Nigeria. The collective sense of hope and joy were a stark contrast to the dark and overcast feelings normally associated with death. 

At the age of twelve, my canvas of thought, ideas, notions and beliefs were still very much in the process of being formed and were cast deep in the background to make enough space for my vital views and opinions on sports (my dreams of playing in the NBA holding highest precedence). But alas, the happenings of that ill-fated day were strong enough to knock me into rank, willed to join in and swing my dangly arms left and right to the imaginary tune of unity and faith, peace and progress.

The following are inserts from the article below:
A Broken Mirror: How the Similarities Between India and Nigeria Led to Their Differences
August 29, 2005 by

On January 26th, 2000, India celebrated their Republic day, commemorating their fiftieth year as a sovereign, secular, and democratic Republic. India’s Republic day was also celebrated by the Indian High Commission and Indian community in Nigeria. The celebration in Nigeria showed good will between Nigeria and India, two nations that, according to Indian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Atish Sinha, “share the same historical and cultural-background.” Sinha was referring to India and Nigeria’s shared experiences as former British colonies, and their similarities facing the problems common to poor governments ruling over large and diverse populations.

The British brought western education and English language to India, to make Indians more useful to imperialist Britain. Founding leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru were educated in Europe, where they were infused with western rhetoric and philosophy. When Great Britain eventually pulled out of India, India’s exposure to institutions, education, and democratic ideals led to India’s adoption of colonial political institutions. “(India’s) main political institutions have not evolved from within her society and culture. On the contrary, these are colonial transplants. And yet the legitimacy of these institutions is not questioned by India’s main political parties.” India’s confidence in the democratic system has enabled the state to maintain legitimacy in the face of extreme cultural pluralism, increased social demands on the government, and drastic changes in leadership. While the problems that India faces are not easily resolvable, “India has developed a political system where the norms of democracy are widely shared by all major political parties and social groups, although they might differ radically in their basic ideological positions.” This confidence in democracy, introduced to India by colonialism, has served as an important unifying force for a diverse people. Nigeria’s experience as a British colony was not as involved. Great Britain’s interest in Nigeria was far less than in India, so their investment in Nigeria was also far less.

Only the elite and Nigerians living amongst the colonialists in the south were educated by Great Britain, learned English, and were integrated into the colonial bureaucracy. Thus, only a few out of Nigeria’s great population were taught how to work in a democratic system. Overall, Nigeria does not share India’s confidence in democracy, as exemplified by several coups and revolution that have rocked the country since independence. Rather than faith in the democratic system, Nigerians, like many third word countries, associate democracy with wealth. Thus, the legitimacy of the state is based on performance, rather than ideology, and “calls for better leadership and the welcome initially extended to some military regimes suggest that Nigerians’ highest priorities are economic security and rule of law.” A study of Nigerian university students shows that, while they believe that democracy is useful now, they would be as willing to adopt an authoritarian government if it could deliver more to its people.

Another significant difference between colonialism in India and Nigeria was the way the two nations gained their independence. India’s independence came after almost a decade of mass movements and organized agitation against the colonial government. The anti-colonial movement was centered around charismatic leaders and the formation of the Indian National Congress, which used nonviolence and public embargos to send their message. In this way, India’s struggle for independence “as a whole was constitutionalist and liberal in nature. The movement as a whole always remained under the control of national leaders who formed policy in the spirit of accommodation and consensus.” The emphasis of the movement was on consensus and unity and the nature of the struggle was a nationalistic endeavor. India’s struggle for independence created a greater sense of nationalism, and the success of the movement granted greater legitimacy to the leading organizations. Great Britain gradually withdrew from India over the course of 50 years. In contrast, Nigeria’s road to independence was much shorter. Great Britain withdrew over only ten years, leaving Nigeria with little resistance, limited infrastructure, and a very weak understanding of how to rule itself as a unit. Whereas India had emerged from its independence movement with a belief in their leaders, strong political parties, and a greater sense of nationalism, Nigeria was left floundering with no unifying forces or real understanding of their new government. In many ways Nigeria’s experience with colonialism both caused and exacerbated ethnic tensions. Nigeria is a product of imposed political borders created during the Berlin West Africa Conference by colonialist nations. In this way, various peoples found themselves within the arbitrary borders of a new national label. But, this national label alone was unable to unite the various groups, who were extremely diverse and had no common history before colonialism.

Great Britain intensified the ethnic tension by only creating a stronghold along the southeastern coast, the lands of the Igbo, one of Nigeria’s four ethnic groups. The Igbo were educated by the British and integrated into British systems, giving them an advantage after independence. The Igbo were initially able to gain power in the government and the military, and eventually attempted to split from the rest of the nation in a violent revolution. Unlike India, who were united by strong political parties and their movement for independence, Nigeria had very few unifying points. The result is nation strife with religious and ethnic violence, where the population identifies more with their differences than with their national commonality.
It is debatable whether Nigeria will be able to develop into a liberal democracy, or if will succumb to another set of coups and system changes. “Too much had been asked of Nigeria: that it forgo ethnic identity for the promise of nation-building; that it develop, almost overnight, a culture of democracy; that it temper its expectations of what independence would bring when those expectations were not met.” Overall, without a foundation in unity, education, and democratic ideals, Nigeria will have to find a separate path than India.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had three key ideals of unity, independence and non-violence. Three distinct philosophies that enabled him to wield a significant level of influence in preparing his countrymen and women in their quest for complete and total independence.  

  • I implore you the people of Nigeria to seek to understand the truths of our past – the triumphs and mistakes that were committed by our leaders.

  • I implore you to learn about the traditions and heritage of your kinsmen. Be accepting of that that is different. On the same note, be patient and compromising in your views and beliefs. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. The rocky road associated with a marriage is very similar to that of our ethnic groups but with one major difference. We have been forced straight into the hostile period of the relationship and are long overdue our honeymoon.

  • I implore you to understand the greater good of the country. Unifying Nigeria is not a ploy to exploit the poor and line the pockets of the rich. Neither is it a ploy to have one up over your territorial brothers and sisters. We are all equal in this fight to awaken our country from its perpetual sleeping sickness and rid it of all that is corrupt.

  • I implore you the great people of Nigeria to feel the need to lead and educate others within whatever capacity you may possess. The lack of good leadership in our country is a significant hindrance in our ability to progress but should not damn the people to the wayside, unable to speak out and encourage that which is right. Without trying to help out those less fortunate than ourselves, our collective strength in the power of our people will be greatly weakened. 

Be Nigerian. Get involved. - Deji

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Home & Abroad: A Nigerian Paradox

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any of us that our national export is not only crude oil; Nigeria is also one of the globe’s foremost exporters of human capital and talent. Some 1 million Nigerians (living in Nigeria) apply for a US visa every year, not all of these people migrate to the Land of the Free but many do eventually (both legally and illegally). Today, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are permanently settled in the US, UK and indeed in all corners of the world from mainland China to coastal Chile. No exact figures are available but it has been estimated that the Nigerian diaspora community is approximately 15 million strong (that’s about 10% of the domestic population), a vast sum by any standards. Moreover, Nigerians are uniquely capable of carving out a space for themselves with the impressive ability to assimilate and adapt to almost any modern environment, culture or language.

Not only do we blend into our host communities, we excel in them. To highlight some our more notable successes: in the recent UK general elections 5 Nigerians campaigned for parliamentary seats, 3 were victorious (Labour MPs, Chi Onurah and 27 year old Chuka Umunna and Helen Grant- the first black female Conservative MP). Believe it or not, there are Nigerian scientists in prominent positions at NASA, such as Dr. Augustine Esogbue (member of the NASA advisory board and director of the ‘intelligent systems & controls laboratory’). And as far as sports are concerned, there are simply too many successful Nigerian athletes to tribute here. In the Art world, our country can boast Turner Prize winning contemporary artists Yinka Shonibare and Chris Ofili. Away from our native soil we appear, almost unquestionably, to thrive. Even our military personnel have and continue to do us proud. The conspicuous efforts of Nigerian peacekeeping forces in situations of African conflict (such as in Darfur, Liberia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo) have made this continent more stable and helped accelerate the possibility of peace for our troubled neighbours. Since 1960 Nigerian peacekeepers have participated in 20 UN missions, making the 4th ranked nation out of 130 UN troop and police countries.

Contrast our exceptional list of accomplishments abroad with the extravagance of failures and disappointments that is our domestic record. Outside our borders the sky is the limit for achievement while on home turf standards remain abysmally low. Economically moribund, infrastructurally challenged and corruption ridden. Could such a dramatic paradox be explalined by the claim that it is, by and large, the ‘best and brightest’ who emigrate to form the diaspora community? I take issue with this view, though, the frequent emphasis on the phenomenon of ‘Brain Drain’ and the familiar suggestion that repatriation of talented and educated individuals will help unlock barriers to progress, may often distract us from the truth of the matter. To be sure, ‘Brain Drain’ is something of an issue for Nigeria; for instance, research reveals that the higher their level of education, the more likely science and technology professionals are to emigrate in search of better opportunities. But the real loss of valuable talent, ability and human capital is happening on a domestic level; a national haemorrhage draining at our future. The enormous human resources we have at home, especially the younger generations, are being squandered due to the frustrations of squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. The successes of a small population of Nigerians abroad is heartening evidence that with stronger education, access to capital and the necessary infrastructure Nigerians at home can achieve as much. Because, generally speaking, it is not the especially talented or the ‘best’ who emigrate, but merely the fortunate and lucky.

In 2003, Western Union reported that Nigerians utilised its services to transfer some $3 billion to Nigeria and current estimates state that between 4-5% of annual GDP can be attributed to diaspora remittances. Though it carries costs, our unwitting exportation of human capital is not without its benefits. But more than the financial and economic gain inherent in our prosperous diaspora communities, when we witness individuals of Nigerian heritage across the globe fulfil their potential, Hope for the nation they have left behind blossoms with the evidence of what we are ultimately capable of.

Be Nigerian. Get Involved.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A New Window

Anyone who's ever had a window replaced will know how fresh glass easily trumps a bucket of soapy water for effect. A new window, apart from having that novelty about it, will always shine brighter than a washed-and-polished old one because those hard to reach corners will still harbour grime and those telltale rag marks and wet streaks will persist long after the window-cleaner is gone.

Right this minute, it would appear that Nigeria is getting a new window put in. Goodluck Jonathan has stepped into office albeit over the unfortunate remains of our late President Umar Musa Yar'Adua (R.I.P.) and embarked on a process of renewal: prominently Maurice Iwu was replaced as INEC chairman after a tenure in which he did little to distinguish himself; and a new cabinet was hauled into power. His actions appear glittering, and like a new window, they offer clarity, or do they?

Much has been made of Jonathan's unexpected individual approach to government. Many had thought him a shrinking violet placed on the Yar'Adua ticket by Obasanjo more for his lack of character and obeisance to the party elite than for any personal genius or charisma. In a few months, first as Acting President, and now as a sworn-in Commander-In-Chief, he has demonstrated that he is prepared to be more than a mere concession to the militant South-South and, by extension, a concession to all marginalised groupings and enclaves in Nigeria. He has installed himself as saviour of the power sector, declining to appoint any minister to cover that portfolio and presided over changes in the constitution that are designed to tackle an impasse of the sort faced by the country in the absence of the former president, should the unlikely scenario re-occur. Many have sworn that this is the shot in the arm Nigerian leadership has been waiting for. Suddenlywe are all sitting up and taking notice. What, though is there to see?

Even if your neighbours installs a new window to improve lighting in his home, it does not necessarily improve your own vantage point. The angle of the sun, or indeed its brightness (O the irony) will still obscure your vision and suggest the reality that the window was not changed for your benefit but for your neighbour's. These political calculations made by President Jonathan are yet to yield enough fruit to truly merit his administration a passmark and certainly not just for changing a few things around. Come next year he may still fall to the depredation of the ruling classes and may yet prove himself a puppet on the end of a string or else an uncontrollable leader who is only self-interested. His actions so far, despite their sheen, have yet to provide true evidence of the transparency that Nigerians everywhere desire.

So, with the announcement that Namadi Sambo, a little known political player from the Kaduna State seat of government, will be Goodluck Jonathan's nominee for VP (courtesy 234next.com), we must not stand back and marvel at this surprising pick and conclude that it is evidence that Jonathan is on the right track. We must still probe and wonder at the choice, whether it is Jonathan's attempt to emasculate the voice of the North in his kitchen cabinet by failing to pick one of the more powerful personalities or indeed the men favoured by the PDP inner caucuses. Why did he pass on Makarfi, Gusau and all the other frontrunners for the pivotal position which holds special meaning in the context of next year's looming elections which convention foretells will annoint a Northern president. Because what we need is not a new window looking out but any window looking in.

Abandoning the metaphors and the vitreous humour (hermetic pun intended: email this group if you need that explained), let us not fail to be vigilant and to continue to hold our leaders to account, whatever new spot of dribbling they engage in. Let us continue to strive to be Nigerian and get involved.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Power Outrage!

There are many who say that Nigeria's biggest problem is in the power sector where shortages have crippled the economy. And even though the average Nigerian has become accustomed to situations where there is 'no light' or 'half current', the overlords at PHCN still find new ways to shock us out of our desensitized state.

Saw this at http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Home/5566404-146/story.csp and was maddened. Only because it was so laughable that at the nation's busiest airport we have to contend with a 3-hour power outage that is entirely man-made (that is to say, not the result of some freak accident or natural disaster) and potentially worth losses of several millions of naira.

Check these stats out: Nigerians in their individual households and as businesses spend in the trillions to feed our unavoidable addiction to power generating sets; yet the nation's power generating capacity is billed at 4,000 mw at source and trickles down to a measly 3400mw delivered to these Nigerian homes and companies because transfer cables and transformers are badly maintained; moreover this current power generating capacity is up only 400mw from two decades ago when it was projected that 10,000mw would be generated by, well, now; as a sort of concession to public unrest, 6000mw were promised by the government by the end of last year, a jump that is yet to be seen; but perhaps most startling is the standout statistic that only 40% of the urban population and 10% of the rural population of the entirety of Nigeria has access to electricity! It's enough to drive anyone right around the bed. No wonder a lot of us seem to be barking mad!

The pressure group LightUpNigeria does a grand job of informing Nigerians about the utter ludicrousness of the power problem while also offering workable and sometimes green solutions to the issues at hand. Check this organisation out at http://www.lightupnigeria.org/ to build up your understanding.

As a small sign of progress, the current Presidency has promised to make the power sector a priority. Goodluck Jonathan has made the supervision of this promise his own legacy for the rest of his first short stint at Aso Rock. It remains to be seen if anything comes of it. Let us make sure we hold him to account. Every time you experience a power outage, express your outrage by screaming 'JONATHAN!' instead of the customary 'NEPA!' and watch how quickly your umbrage grows.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Development Fallacy

The United Kingdom (and Northern Ireland) went to the polls on Thursday in general elections that were supposed to decide the fate of the country for the foreseeable future. This year, more than any other since 1997 when Tony Blair and New Labour swept into office, there was widespread interest in the elections revved by the global recession and its attendant misfortunes. Turnout was high and people divided over what party to vote into power. All the ingredients were in place for the transition of a highly- democratized society from one epoch to another through the legal expression of the popular will. Or so it seemed. What happened was that registered voters were turned away by ill-prepared staff at booths who cited time constraints and insufficient ballot slips among their excuses.

One has to wonder what might have been made of the same situation were it to have transpired in some sub-saharan African nation, or even in the Middle East or Latin America. Indeed one must consider how electoral 'malpractice' has been reported in the UK press when the malpractitioners were from these aforementioned regions. The general impression you get is of the untenable nature of such a situation. Any government stemming from these circumstances cannot be fruitful in the long run, rooted as it is in confusion. Yet, though it may not be completely true to claim that electoral fraud is a given in the UK or other parts of the 'developed' West, experience has proven that it is not uncommon to witness such disappointing scenes in the electoral process. In America, foul play at an even higher level has been reported. Al Gore took his case against George Bush all the way to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, when the infamous 'dimpled' chad had the President smiling to victory in the 2000 polls. And before that, the Kennedy- Nixon race as far back as the sixties introduced ballot-stuffing to the so-called Third World well before many countries in those parts had begun conducting their own elections.

In 2007, when the Nigerian Presidential elections were concluded with allegations of fraud jumping out across the airwaves, authorities in the UK were quick to weigh in with condemnation of the entire process. Nigeria would have to kick off the entire process again for it to be legitimate. Or so they said. However, it has been full three days since votes were cast up and down the UK and a clear Prime Minister is yet to be named by Her Majesty the Queen. Conversely, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was declared as president swiftlyy and without kerfuffle, free to begin running his country without the distractions of a political impasse.

And these double standards- as they appear to be- do not begin and end in the field of electoral exercise. Countries in the Third World, labelled 'developing' countries, are so ranked due to a multitude of intersecting factors among which corruption which is the hallmark of bad governance, is of primary importance. The not-for-profit group Transparency International frequently gives vent to its discontent with the endemic corruption at all levels of Government in Nigeria. But if you consider the scale of corrupt behaviour exposed in the Westminster Parliament of late, with the discovery of elaborate schemes to fleece the public coffers under the guise of expense claims, you begin to wonder whether double standards are in operation in today's world where 'definitions belong to the definers' ( as so eloquently put by the Nobel prizewinner Toni Morrison). Because of their economic prosperity and their dominance of international organisations, the elite nations in the developed world are allowed to declare countries like Nigeria to be inferior.

Herein lies the contradiction: a nation like China consistently falls below average in its performance on factors that act as a bellwether for political maturity in the modern world yet itis still ranked as a developed country whereas Botswana, with its impeccable political institutions and economic management is considered otherwise. China with its human rights crimes and poorly developed labour laws, with its restrictions on fundamental freedoms, is ranked higher than Botswana which is the exact opposite. It would seem then that economic prosperity is, in fact, the only measure of development. Thus, every other matter of quasi-moralistic importance pontificated by the Western media and its governments needs must be discarded and the true measures of development (being GDP size and GDP size alone) put front and centre in this particular discussion.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kansas City Shuffle- Naija Style

We all know what has been happening in Nigeria in the last few weeks, with the Acting President taking over, dissolving the cabinet and then replacing the cabinet with new ministers. Again, we all know that there are going to be elections at the start of next year.

So this is why I find it quite interesting, and also not so surprising that the 2010 budget was passed by the National Assembly at a time when the executive was in disarray i.e. when there were no ministers. Normally, there are intense negotiations between the Executive and the Legislative on the items in the budget before it is finally passed- this year, that wasn’t really the case.

The budget for 2010 was passed on March 25th- 3 good months after the start of the year- meaning that it has only 9 months of implementation left in it!!!! Again, like in my previous notes, I will apologize for my naivety, but when I say that I expected increased spending this year, especially as it is a pre-election year, I didn’t really think it would be this bad. What is worse, is that it happened without anyone noticing? Like what they called it in the film, ‘Lucky Number Slevin’- it was a near perfect "Kansas City Shuffle".

The National Assembly increased the budget expenditure by about 13% compared to the proposal that was submitted to them!!!!! Let me try and put things in perspective- this is a 48% increase in spending compared to last year-and I ask you, what has changed? I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed:

  1. Budget implementation is still below 50%
  2. Nigeria is still vulnerable to the swings in international oil prices- at a time when the global economy is still trying to stabilize itself
  3. There is still widespread corruption in Nigeria
  4. Capacity in the Ministries, Departments & Agencies which are meant to implement this budget is still very low!!

I'll re-iterate what has changed:

  1. Next year is an election year
  2. There were no ministers to scrutinize these increases
Ok, so you ask me, what are the numbers…?

Expenditure (in trillions):

  • 4.608 (2010 Budget Passed)- i.e. 48% increase from 2009
  • 4.079 (2010 Budget Proposed)
  • 3.10 (2009 Budget)

Benchmark Oil Price ($/bbl):

  • 67 (2010 Budget Passed)
  • 57 (2010 Budget Proposed)
  • 45 (2009 Budget)

Oil Output (million barrels per day):

  • 2.350 (2010 Budget Passed)
  • 2.088 (2010 Budget Proposed)
  • 2.290 (2009 Budget)

Two key things to note:
  1. It assumes an oil price of $67/bbl…quite high in my opinion
  2. Oil production of 2.35 million barrels per day…until the Niger Delta conflict was resolved by Yaradua…Nigeria’s oil production was still below 2 million barrels per day…there are still uncertainties as to the sustainability of the measures taken to resolve the conflict..so again, this number is quite optimistic.

This increased spending/ debt comes at a time when the excess crude account has been depleted. You should equate the excess crude account to an emergency savings account that you could use in an emergency when you don’t have any more money. Due to the economic recession, the Excess crude account which you would equate to your personal savings was at $20.1bn at the end of 2008, and $7.8bn by the end of 2009. Now its currently at about $3.2 bn!!!!

After looking at this, I thought, it might be wise to see the National Assembly’s share of this money & how they plan to spend it….and I was quite shocked!!!

There are about 109 senators in Nigeria, this would equate to a rough 17million naira salary for each senator. What shocks me most is the budgeted spending on things like Office Materials & Supplies- it is 1.6 billion. Are you telling me that pens, paper, pencils and office files cost 15 million per senator for a year??? I don’t know about you but I wanna buy whatever pen they are buying…cos it must be made with gold dust. We’ve all heard about sitting allowances, and by my rough calculation the number comes to about 139 million naira per senator??? And this is for sitting for about 3 times a week to deliberate bills. But yet, we still havnt had the electoral reform bill, the petroleum industry bill and several other key bills which need to be passed. In fact how many bills did they pass in their sittings last year?

Be a Nigerian...Mahmoud