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Atiku Abubakar… the man of his own class

By Funsho Ademoye

Presidential election campaign has begin gathering momentum and both the pretenders, that have filled the Nigeria political stage as well as the few contenders that have shown their faces, are both making promises of what they can deliver. The biggest of it all, are promises coming from failed political officers’ holders, to Nigeria citizens, with return ticket to Mars’ in 2019 if voted in, and worthy of note is the man that has spent more time abroad looking after his health than days he has spent in active governance promising ‘heaven on earth’ in just a year to another election.

In reality, we don’t want to wake up in 2020, just as it happening now, and be calling on God for His intervention for the deceptive change that is coated with anti-corruption war that we would have consciously but ignorantly voted for.

Ideally, nation building is ten per cent about prayer and ninety percent about doing the right thing by voting the right candidate with right national vision into political office, not a person who wants to grab 5000 hectares of land in states across the federation for an ethinic group he belongs to in the name of cattle colony.

It is about what we choose to do with our PVCs in 2019 as Nigeria citizens that will determine what will become of us as a people post 2019 election. We don’t want to be like the tick that kills itself, thinking it is killing the dog. We should not look back after 2019 and begin to count our loses instead of our democratic gains.

The bitter truth is that loses are what we are counting in Nigeria of today under the current government that came into power with the promise of change which is rooted in falsehood and ethnic bigotry. Human killings is our new normal all over the county as a result of insecurity and gross negligence of government primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties.

With few months ahead 2019 election, not only are all of the so called able contestants suddenly in top form of their lives. This is evident in the way and manner the ‘accidental politicians’ that we have today are busy criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country soliciting support and ‘begging’ the kingmakers of the land for them to be anointed as the ‘saviour’ of the project called Nigeria.

Also interesting about Nigeria presidential race is a sudden awakening of lots of pretenders. This isn’t surprising at all as we are currently in the era of false change that has brought untold hardship and unimaginable agonies on the Nigerian masses that were cajoled to embrace the ‘change’ mantra that has no specific direction in terms of economic and social transformation of the most populous black nation on earth – the poor masses have been politically defrauded once again.

Among the few contenders and capable hands that can be trusted with the affairs of Nigeria at this moment is the former Vice President of Nigeria, Waziri of Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is an accomplished businessman, a detribalised individual, a visionary leader, someone with the burden to serve and a man that has been proven and tested when it comes to governance and leadership.

He is a generalist and a political titan – one man that dwarfs any political, industrial and charitable acheivements of anyone currently in the race to occupying the highest seat of the land. He was an exemplary public servant. A man of integrity that believes in proper restructuring of Nigeria as well as equality and dignity of all Nigerians lives irrespective of tribal or religious affiliations.

Atiku is an entrepreneur of note, a distinguished administrator and manager. Waziri Adamawa is one man whose immediate family diversity represents the Nigeria we really want. Every region in Nigeria can be said to be represented in his immediate family without any form of prejudice.

He is a seasoned democrats and a true federalist at heart unlike the clueless autocrat and ethnic bigot that we currently have at the helm of affairs in Nigeria. Knowing the threat that Waziri Adamawa, a political generalissimo in his own right, poses to the institutionalised corruption and ethnic bigotry of the acclaimed ‘owners of Nigeria’, many salacious false accusations and propaganda have been thrown into public domain to dissuade him politically. The reality is that truth will always triumph over falsehood.

As a leader, “If you are emotionally attached to your tribe, religion or political leaning to the point that truth and justice become secondy considerations, your education is useless. Your exposure is useless. If you cannot reason beyond petty sentiments, you are a liability to mankind,” said another political juggernaut, late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. It is no wonder that the situation of one of the most blessed nation on earth is what it is today because of the calibre of people we often entrust with power. Of course, when the clueless is in power, the whole nation will without doubt groan continually in pain!

Africa Diaspora Mobilisation Movement, as a progressive minded organisation, has weighed all the available options of both the contenders and the pretenders in 2019 Nigeria presidential race – including the clueless incumbent Nigeria president – and we have come to the conclusion that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is in the class of his own as the only genuine contestant for Nigeria presidential seat that possesses all the needed criteria befitting a Nigeria president.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa, is the only man in Nigeria political terrain of today, that has set a hard to surpass benchmark before now in public service. With our collective support, we strongly believe that he possesses the capacity and the needed experience to deliver to us the Nigeria of our dream in our lifetime. He has done it before as the executive vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he is more than willing to do it again, even in greater dimension, as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Ademoye is coordinator Africa Diaspora Mobilisation Movement, South Africa chapter.

Macron’s visit to Lagos

By Reuben Abati

One of the major highlights in Lagos recently was the event of the Lagos State Governor, playing host to two Presidents – President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Hage Geingob of Namibia. Lagos is no longer just the economic hub of Nigeria; it is gradually becoming a major centre for international diplomacy.

President Macron’s visit in particular had all the markings of soft power diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, citizen diplomacy and economic diplomacy. Lagosians are yet to recover from the excitement that was generated by that visit and Macron’s humility and humanity as well.

Macron’s visit has done more for Nigerian-France relations than any other initiative since a cat and mouse relationship was established between both countries in the 60s. Nigeria has always been resentful of France’s leaning towards its Francophone former colonies, and its support for Biafra during the civil war.

A 2018 visit by France’s youthful President has endeared France to many Nigerians. The Lagos state government not only rolled out the carpet, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode played the role of a perfect host.

For President Macron, the visit was a kind of homecoming, and a journey of remembrance, having lived and worked at the French Embassy in Lagos 25 years ago. He visited the New Afrika Shrine, where he danced, pumped hands, took selfies, paid homage to Fela and Afro-beat and spoke the language of the streets: “What happens at the shrine stays at the shrine”, he said.

He also granted an interview to the BBC where he spoke pidgin English. The following day, President Macron commissioned the Alliance Francaise building in Lagos, named Mike Adenuga Centre, and conferred on Otunba Mike Adenuga, one of France’s highest honours.

Not done, President Macron was a guest of the Tony Elumelu Foundation where he addressed over 2, 000 African entrepreneurs and interacted with young business leaders. Congratulations to the Lagos State Government, Otunba Mike Adenuga and the Tony Elumelu Foundation and to President Macron: that was really good and profound.

The Adebayo Adedeji example

By Reuben Abati

Professor Adebayo Adedeji, the towering intellectual, scholar, pan-Africanist, international civil servant and pioneer Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations (1975 -1991) died on April 25, 2018 at the ripe age of 87.

He was buried on July 6, in his home-town of Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State. On July 7, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) organised a symposium in his honour and memory in Lagos, with the theme: “Africa’s Development Agenda: Lessons from the Adebayo Adedeji years and policy options for the 21st Century.” I was privileged to be one of the participants at this event, which included participants from across Africa – Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Namibia, Liberia, Ethiopia, Cameroon – scholars, administrators, public intellectuals, economists, policy experts, who one after the other paid tributes to Professor Adedeji.

There was a serving President in attendance- H. E. Hage Geingob, President of Namibia, and two former Presidents – Dr Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria and Dr. Amos Sawyer of Liberia. Professor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Governor of the County Government of Kisumu, Kenya, a political scientist and scholar, delivered the keynote address. Apart from the tributes, the symposium later focused during three different sessions on three big issues viz: Africa’s economic development, governance and the challenges of economic transformation in Africa and Adebayo Adedeji in the trajectory of public administration and development in Africa.

I want to commend Ms Vera Songwe and her team at the ECA for putting together what turned out to be a befitting tribute and a fruitful symposium. Out of all the events that have been organized in celebration of the passing of Professor Adebayo Adedeji, I find the ECA’s loyalty to him most instructive. On May 14, 2018, the ECA had in fact also held a lecture in honour of Professor Adedeji. Instituted in 2015, the Professor Adebayo Adedeji Lecture Series is a major annual event on the ECA calendar, and that international body has consistently celebrated him during his lifetime and now, after. There is an important lesson here for institutions and governments in Africa.

We often find it difficult to remember, we forget too easily, and in the hot egoistic environment that Africa is, once a man leaves a position or organization, he is soon forgotten and pushed aside and his achievements are trampled upon by ambitious successors. In its various activities, the Economic Commission for Africa continues to prove that it is an institution that is driven by values, memory and ethics. By remembering and identifying icons and past memory for present constructions, we link the past with the present and erect new paradigms in the corridors of history.

What the Nigerian government has failed to do for Adedeji is what the ECA has done for him, by properly promoting him as an icon, and placing the right emphasis on his significance. In Nigeria, governments detest memory. They prefer to quarrel with the past. It is in part for this reason, I believe, that Nigerian government officials were conspicuously absent at the Adedeji symposium.

There is yet another reason. As far as I can remember, the Nigerian government itself has not done anything visibly in honour of Adedeji except the release of a routine obituary statement by President Muhammadu Buhari noting Adedeji’s passing. A few government officials also showed up at his burial in Ijebu Ode on July 6, wearing resplendent agbada. They probably just knew Adedeji as that old Ijebu intellectual and had no real inkling about his place in history. Nigerian leaders love ceremonies, any ceremony that would give them an opportunity to wear fine clothes and shoes, take photographs, and pretend to be what they are not.

But when it comes to a discussion of ideas, you won’t find them paying attention. The anti-intellectualism of not just Nigerian leaders but African leaders in general, with very few exceptions, is largely responsible for the crisis of mis-governance in the continent. A leadership elite that enjoys ceremonies and avoids ideas and intellection cannot summon the necessary capacity for the transformation of the continent. The silence, even in the South West, about Professor Adebayo Adedeji is not proportional to his greatness. It is scandalous.

In Nigeria, history is no longer a compulsory part of the curriculum, memory is short and emotions are more important than good reason, still, it is disturbing for an Adebayo Adedeji, dying at 87, to be unsung. And yet, he was in his life-time, one of Nigeria’s most prominent policy makers and ambassador on the international stage. Nigeria has been blessed with a number of international civil servants to whom present and future generations owe a debt of respect and gratitude. They include Simeon Adebo, Nigeria’s first Permanent Representative to the United Nations, his protégé, Professor Adebayo Adedeji, pioneer Executive Secretary of the ECA, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, also Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, who was also one of the speakers at the Adedeji memorial symposium, Alhaji Uthman Yola, UN Under-Secretary General, and Chief Emeka Anyaoku who made his mark at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London as an official, and later as Secretary-General.

There are others, many of whom also attended the Adedeji symposium, and who after retiring from service have been largely abandoned by Nigeria, whereas these are persons who should be properly de-briefed and given fresh opportunities in the governance and leadership process, considering their cosmopolitan experience and professional exposure and contacts. Adedeji suffered a similar fate, even if President Olusegun Obasanjo called him to service again in 2000 to help re-design the Nigerian civil service.

He was for the most part, “a prophet without honour in his own home”; his ambition to become Nigeria’s President never got off the drawing table, but the international community embraced him and continued to make use of his talents and influence till he chose on his own to retire from active public service in 2010, when he turned 80.

For all his international accomplishments however, Nigeria, a country that no longer knows how to manage and appreciate its talents, made Adedeji in his early years. He became a Professor at the age of 36 at the then University of Ife, and was one of the leading lights of the then famous Ife school in economics, social sciences and public administration. At the age of 40, General Yakubu Gowon, shortly after the civil war, appointed him Nigeria’s Minister for Economic Development and Reconstruction.

Adedeji was not only instrumental to the planning, design and implementation of the Third National Development Plan, he was at the forefront of the rebuilding, rehabilitation and the reconstruction of Nigeria after the war. Instructively, he was the first Director-General and Chairman of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme – one of the post-civil war national unity projects introduced by the Gowon administration.

It was indeed not surprising that General Gowon, Adedeji’s boss, attended his funeral in Ijebu-Ode, and was also at the ECA symposium where he gave a good account of himself as an intellectual in his own right: he not only responded to barbs thrown in his direction by irreverent intellectuals, he painstakingly explained the policies of the Gowon years.

In 1975, Professor Adedeji was appointed the pioneer Executive Secretary and UN Under-Secretary-General in charge of the ECA based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In this capacity Adedeji came of age – not necessarily as the longest serving ECA Executive Secretary, but as a man of formidable impact, intellect and resourcefulness. He transitioned from being a distinguished national servant to a distinguished international civil servant.

He built the ECA into an effective machinery for promoting the good interest and development of Africa and as a leading policy and research institution. Those who worked with him or came under his influence, attested at the Lagos Symposium, to his creativity, originality, pan-Africanism, abiding commitment to the future transformation of Africa, confidence, forceful personality and limitless capacity for hardwork. It was not all praises though. I got the impression that Adedeji was regarded behind his back, as an intellectual autocrat, who did not know how to accommodate crass incompetence or intellectual inadequacy.

He was respected and celebrated nonetheless for his distinction as a man of ideas, and for his commitment to African development and African issues. He was critical of the Western model of development and used the ECA as a platform for bringing an African perspective to bear on Western social science, and for seeking an alternative framework for African development and transformation. He led the search for Africa’s alternative framework for Structural Adjustment in the 80s. He also argued in various writings that Africa needed to be self-reliant and self-sufficient and for Africans to seek African solutions to African problems.

He was also a renowned visionary and architect of regional integration and co-operation in the African continent, believing that the whole is stronger than its integral parts and that an integrated Africa would play a stronger role in the global space. His efforts led to the emergence of regional communities such as COMESA, and ECOWAS, and he is today, generally regarded as “the father of ECOWAS”, and the thinker and main mind behind the Lagos Plan of Action (1980), the Final Act of Lagos (1980) and the Abuja Treaty (1991). He was also the main architect of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism designed to promote the objectives of good governance and responsive leadership in African states. Adedeji was outstanding in generating knowledge, providing leadership for the younger generation, designing and defining imperatives for the future with the force of his intellect, personality, example and capacity to manage processes and achieve results.

This was the man who was buried in Ijebu Ode on July 6 and who was celebrated by the institution he helped to build on July 7 in Lagos. His legacy is unblemished because ideas do not die. It is regrettable however, that his vision of African integration is still a work in progress and a scandal, that his own country, Nigeria has so far refused to sign or endorse the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) which he helped to conceptualize in the 80s. It may be right to argue that endorsement or mere signature does not guarantee expected outcomes, but perhaps principles matter. It is also disturbing that the African Peer Review Mechanism no longer complies with the original objectives. It has been reduced at best to a talk shop, and a pitiable praise-singing forum for negligent African leaders.

The transformation of Africa remains a major task. Intra-African trade is a miserable 15%, foreign companies and portfolio investors largely dominate the economic space, the market is at loggerheads with governmental policies, poverty and inequality continue to thrive, and on top of it all, the continent suffers from a leadership crisis as sit-tight leaders change the Constitution and violate term limits.

The key take-away is that there is still a lot of work to be done to transform Africa, for the people’s good. S. K. Asante has described Adedeji as “an African Cassandra” and may be he is right. After his retirement in 1991, Adedeji established in his home town, an African Centre for Development and Strategic Studies (ACDESS) which soon became a watering hole for intellectuals and policy experts. With his retirement from active service at the age of 80, the Centre went into limbo. His children – 11 of them, the man was prolific in every department – should consider the possibility of handing over ACDESS and its resources including the proposed permanent site, to the Economic Commission for Africa, which definitely has the means to turn the centre into one of its major units across Africa, and thereby sustain the Adebayo Adedeji legacy.


Before killing Kemi Adeosun’s over NYSC certificate scandal

By Justice N Okoro

I am negotiating for a country where I can travel to and never return again, reason being that there are more idiots in Nigeria than there are ordinary or normal human beings.

At the speed through which Kemi’s alleged NYSC certificate forgery is presently trending speaks volume about how mischievous and gullible the public can be just at once. Why do Nigerians prefer negative news and feedback than progress and truth?

Are Nigerians by nature evil? Is there anything naturally wrong with the position of Nigeria in the world map? What is the relationship between Nigerians and falsehood? How many kilometers is hell fire to Nigeria? Can any good thing come from Nigeria? Why Nigerians prefer lies than honesty?

Before you kill aunt Kemi, listen to me, Kemi the Nigerian finance Minister is a lady I know in and out, she was born, raised and schooled in London. At 41, Kemi was appointed by her state Governor in Nigeria as commissioner for finance, to enable Kemi work in Nigeria she obtained her NYSC exemption certificate. These are few questions you need to answer before you kill aunt Kemi, can Kemi be enrolled for national service at the age of 41? Is aunt Kemi in possession of NYSC exemption certificate?

Aunt Kemi is now 51 years old, she is a Nigerian citizen born in Britain, she is serving under president Buhari as finance Minister. The following are the Genesis of aunt Kemi’s ordeals, “during the federal government executive council’s meeting, I requested as the finance Minister the comprehensive details of expenditure by every ministry, though with the NNPC as my core target”, can you now see it?

Corruption is fighting back in Nigeria, the above was the sin of aunt Kemi, the criminals who are the targets of aunt Kemi suddenly remembered that Kemi was trained in London and came into the country for the first time at age of 41.

Nigerians are yet to forgive Dele Ali for switching his citizenship and service to England and the English national team. Nigerian criminals would have celebrated aunt Kemi had she been the Queen’s general accountant and auditor, aunt Kemi’s sin is simply working with rogues.

Now the Premium Time that carried aunt Kemi’s alleged NYSC certificate forgery shows how backward Nigeria is in media and reportage, some times I perceive Nigerian dailies and broadcasting networks as mere gossip mills. Unverified reports are daily been dished to the illiterate and gullible Nigerian population, the worst is that most Nigerian journalists are mere political contractors and even worst than social media propagandists.

We have a long way to go as a nation, if we can no longer trust our news papers and broadways then we are in for a centuries problem, thank you and God bless you before you kill aunt Kemi.

I am, Justice N. Okoro.

And honors goes to Abiola and Gani

By Azibola Omekwe

One wonders why it took our president this long to make us happy as a country. President Muhammadu Buhari for once did something that gladdened our hearts all by recognizing late Chief M. K. O. Abiola as the beacon of democracy we savour today. He has gone ahead to bestow on him with the highest honour in the land. Like he did to Chief Abiola, he also to honoured late Chief Gani Fawehimni, the signpost of rights activism in Nigeria.

Going head on, Nigeria indeed is unfortunate. Based on Buhari’s antecedents, it was believed he had the magic wand to turn things for good in the country. He won an election, which shortcomings continue to unravel by the day like the popular child voting. His opponent, a sitting president, had the ample opportunity to have doctored the process for his own interest. But remember APC said it was impossible for them to lose the election.

If they do, Nigeria would be ungovernable. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan being obsessed with peaceful coexistence and especially for the sake of ordinary Nigerians decided to hand over peaceably. His goodwill is haunting those who did not want him at all cost. Anyway that is not the matter for here.

And having achieved his goal of electoral victory, President Buhari became contented and allowed Nigeria to slide into mis-governance.

He has been at loss as to what to do. He has displayed crass ineptitude on governance. True to type, he abdicated responsibility to his cronies as he did in his days as PTF chairman, the ill-fated mini-Nigeria he chaired under late General Sani Abacha.

As a matter of fact, Buhari did not suffer to do anything special with this opportunistic action of mentioning Abiola and Gani, the latter being a defender of the rights of the masses. I tell you Buhari knows which Nigerians to honor to win 2019 election: Abiola and Gani. Nigerians are damn happy with them.

Because of their personality we momentarily thought of Buhari as Abraham Lincoln. But it was just for a moment. We know him to have plunged this country into the abyss and the present carnage. The motive is clear.

What he did was a mere declaration geared towards hoodwinking timid voters who cannot afford food again to shore up his dwindling chances of becoming president come 2019. He must know that what he did to these patriots who died for Nigeria is already with us in our sub consciousness.

They have written their names in gold and no amount of desperate decoration or humouring, especially from someone who never believed in their cause would surpass their sweat and blood for this country.

Recall that Buhari played a prominent role in late General Abacha’s government. Granted, that government did not cancel June 12, but it played a bigger role in sealing it. It had the ample opportunity to validate June 12. It chose to become its undertaker. Under Abacha, Abiola, his wife, Kudirat, and many activists clamouring for its validation were either killed or bundled into detention to obliterate anything concerning June 12.

Where was our present president then? He was the most beloved personality to Abacha then. He was so influential that Abacha carved out a portion of Nigeria for him to run a parallel government under the banner of the dollar bloated Petroleum Trust Fund. That was an ample opportunity for him to honour June 12, but he elected to wine and dine with the goggled one.

Look at what a lover of June 12 did. In less than a month, Buhari praised Abacha and Abiola. Abacha’s regime represents a very dark side of our history. He partook in that government actively and was proud to say so.

When he discovered a seething anger against his do-nothing regime, he decided to reinvent himself by associating himself with people of credibility. Praising Abacha was unconscionable. But praising Abiola was conscionable, an act of invention. As for Gani, he has surreptitiously captured the attention of the youth he denigrates.

Chief MKO Abiola was a great Nigerian who had laid down everything he had, his life inclusive, for good governance in Nigeria. Buhari, our president, should have identified with his values rather than using his name to propagate himself.

Let us look at how Gani lives on. Incidentally before Buhari’s pronouncement, a friend visited. He was once expelled from the university and went back to the village to loiter and be a motor park boy. Gani took up his case pro bono, flooring the university at the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal. The university readmitted him and today he is a graduate of Civil Engineering.

He lived throughout his life not knowing how to tell Gani thank you. Before 2015, he supported Buhari. Now he regrets he ever did. He is so angry with Buhari for identifying himself with Gani. And there are so many Nigerians seething with the same anger since the pronouncement.

This government is doing a macabre dance on late Chief Gani’s grave. It is a tragedy that Gani’s family would thank Buhari for honouring their father and accepting a mere wooden plaque for him. While he was alive, all governments coveted associating with him but they all fell short of his expectations. Those were governments who even did better than this present one. If by his act of sacrifice, he didn’t leave anything for them, they should accept it as part of his obsession to nation building that he lived and died for.

They should not fellowship with a government that is against the masses. They should remember their father was the only Senior Advocate of the Masses Nigeria ever knew. Gani’s name has been honored already and no political GCON would upturn that.

Let’s go back memory lane. The thought of the short-lived Shagari’s government would always provoke tears out of someone.

That was a government that practiced true federalism. The state governments then did not know what federal allocation was. It was a beautiful journey until Buhari came with the guns to unseat it. Thank God Atiku Abubakar is preaching the gospel of restructuring and Nigerians are accepting it as a retrace to that beautiful journey. What we are advocating today, true federalism, which Atiku, a presidential hopeful, stands for was practiced to a great extent under the very government Buhari and his ilk sacked in 1984.

Then we had 19 states and the federal government, the latter being unattractive in spite of its astounding developmental strides. Then there was Jakande in Lagos, Sam Mbakwe in Imo, Solomon Lar in Plateau, Abubakar Rimi in Kaduna, to mention a few. The president, Shehu Shagari, was even competing with them with his infrastructural strides. Painfully, Buhari sacked that government. With Decree 4, the junta he headed outlawed divergent opinions with a dreadful apparatus to checkmate the likes of Gani.

Where would Nigeria be if Shagari with a retinue of 19 other ‘presidents’ had completed his eight years in power and civil rule had continued in 1993 with MKO Abiola? Sad Buhari sacked a government practicing true federalism to a large degree as opposed to the present governors who survive on bailouts. He should stop proselytizing what he does not believe in.

Some are already saying that Buhari deserves a second term for honouring MKO Abiola. They are political profiteers. For them, unemployment, hunger, carnage in Zamfara and other places is worth living again. To them, the bloodletting in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Kogi, Southern Kaduna and the general insecurity in the land should be re-lived again for another four years.

The good news however is that the Yorubas would not be deceived by this symbolic gesture but would continue to hold this government accountable to its unfulfilled promises. By making sure this government does not walk away from its responsibilities, they should save Nigerians from hunger, misery, pestilence, death from killer herdsmen and the incompetence and cluelessness that has become the order of the day.

Abiola and Gani never befriended an incompetent government and would not do so in their grave. Happily, it is impossible to deceive the Yoruba people and indeed patriotic Nigerians across the country.

 Omekwe is a former member of Bayelsa State House of Assembly and writes from Abuja and can be reached via azibolaomekwe@yahoo.com

A Forex of Fraud

By Odilim Enwegbara

Just ask yourself how come the supposedly floated  naira, which makes its value be determined by the market forces is still defended by the same Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that floated it? Put differently, why did the CBN pretend to have floated the naira and contrary to this policy of floating around the world, the same CBN continues to intervene in the forex market rather than participate in the market?

Another important question to ask is: why, following the floating announcement, the naira lost the unheard-of 31% value, selling at N288.85 per dollar on June 20, 2016?

The next question you should ask yourself as a concerned citizen is: why did the CBN have to float the naira immediately after the 2016 budget was signed into law, with the naira officially pegged at N197 per dollar?

These questions will provide answers about how the forex coup was carefully orchestrated by those who would soon start making trillions of naira through forex management manipulations.

As they limited access to dollars to few large banks and traders, at N197 rate, the arbitrage created became so unheard-of along with the opportunities to exploit the huge gap created by the artificial scarcity. While the planned kill has been going on, the economy has been in flames.

Thanks to CBN preferring to intervene when the right policy would have been to participate in the forex market from time to time. Not minding this being the common thing done when a currency is floated, as part of the agenda to defraud our commonwealth, those behind this forex scam decided intervening in the forex market.

Also, the huge cost it imposes on the economy, notwithstanding. So, through intervention in the forex market, the CBN has continuously distorted the forex market; a supposed market where suppliers and buyers ought to be fighting to achieve equilibrium.

But before we go further, it is important to refresh our minds with the banning of 41 goods and services, which took place on May 3, 2015 at the critical time when neither Jonathan nor Buhari was fully in charge. I wouldn’t make us to dwell on whether or not the CBN went beyond its mandate by including what was ordinarily an important policy exclusively reserved for our fiscal policymakers, which should have been accompanied by an outright ban of such goods and services entering the country’s economic space by the Nigerians Customs Services (NCS).

But what we should not forget is the fact that most of the imported items banned from accessing forex at the Nigerian official forex markets such as “iron rods, cold rolled sheets, wire rods, reinforcing bars, polypropylene granules, glass and glass ware, textiles, plastic and rubber products, as well as tomato value chain sectors,” are among the high consumers of forex.

Yes! Most analysts were concerned that such a CBN forex policy was done without taking into full account the critical intermediate role most of these products play as critical inputs for many manufacturing activities. In the meantime, importers of critical industrial plants and machinery as well as raw materials who were either not ready to pay such huge difference as they are denied access to the official forex markets saw no other option but to lay off most of the workers as they are forced to reduce their business activities.

Importers of cheap Chinese and Indian consumer goods, who don’t mind the high forex cost, including accepting from the commercial banks at the black market rate, continued to have their import businesses to blossom, thanks to their readiness to being in bed with top CBN and commercial bank officials, who rechanneled billions of dollars to the black market through round tripping, from where their fronts sell it to these importers of cheap consumer goods.

For those who apply for forex from the official forex markets, once the commercial banks use their naira to secure the forex, and once the banks have the forex from the CBN transferred to their overseas accounts, the same commercial banks will turn around to lie to these customers, by telling them that they were unable to secure any forex for them from the said official market.

In the meantime, the commercial banks will then go ahead to advise them to accept the so-called forex in their foreign bank accounts, banks that are actually the partners. Since these importers of plants and machinery or critical industrial raw materials have no other option, they of course go ahead to accept the black-market rates these banks always offer them.

The negative consequences on our economy were unbelievably huge; leading to the economy’s eventual succumbing to the powerful forces of recession. While each year as a result, over a trillion of naira is made in this forex fraud perpetuated by these powerful officials of CBN and their presidency counterparts  — who hardly care about the huge cost and the sufferings their actions have continued to unleash on the masses of Nigeria  — many more businesses either collapsed or joined others in fleeing the country taking along with them hundreds of thousands of jobs.

But you see, that was not what those central bankers had in mind. Their interest, which was selfishly driven to eventually force the importers of these 41 banned items to henceforth source their forex from the black market at exorbitant price. This is where the free hundreds of billions of naira are made by top officials of CBN and their fronting commercial banks, especially with foreign currency (domiciliary) accounts with commercial banks forced to be shut down by the same CBN.

Now try to reconcile this policy with the CBN sharing forex among some bureau de change that are indirectly closely linked to, if not owned by, top CBN and presidency officials. It is here that this forex policy that pretended to be banning 41 imported goods and services for the good of economy exposes the fraudulent intentions of those who hurriedly made it.

The question, therefore, becomes: but why is CBN handing billions of subsidized forex (dollars) to the supposed forex users  —  through the banks  —  through its forex market intervention and done so at such an incredible loss to our commonwealth, when participating in the forex market would have been earning government and the whole country the same hundreds of billions of naira we are losing as a result of this carefully constructed forex policy summersault fraudulently perpetuated by the CBN at each intervention in the forex markets?

The answer if not already obvious is not far-fetched. By intervening rather than participating, the managers of our forex at CBN have decided to share with banks and many big time consumers of forex like Dangote, the gains that would have been accruing to government had they participated in the forex market.

Always selling the dollar far below the forex market value makes the CBN subsidise dollars from time to time at atrocious rates. To now know the level of forex fraud associated with this underselling of the dollar is to know the kind of huge gains that necessitate that.

Here is it: the CBN monetises the oil dollars to naira and hands the three tiers of government the naira equivalent, say at N197 from 2016 to May 2017  –  the month the 2017 budget decided to peg the oil dollars at N305 per a dollar.

As a result of this carefully engineered free fall of the naira, during the 12 months (June 2016 to May 2017), the CBN in pretence of defending the naira was pumping minimum of $1 billion into the forex market and the least naira exchanged for a dollar was at N350 when the parallel markets were selling at not less than N450.

Of course, you wouldn’t be wrong to say that CBN officials were making N153 (i.e. N350 — N197) for government on each dollar they sold in the official forex market, even though the Fiscal Responsibility Act permits the apex bank to keep 20% of that profit. But there is the hidden truth that makes top CBN officials such instant trillionaires.

Now, by selling at such a huge gap between official rate (N350) and parallel market rate (N450) a whopping N100 is stolen. How? For you to get the artificially scarce naira for your imports or other foreign transactions, you are required to accept dollars at the parallel market rate, and why shouldn’t you?

If you are an importer of finished consumer goods? Ok then, let us multiply 12 billion by 100 and what do you get, N1.2 trillion. That was more or less how much these folks at CBN stole from all of us between June 2016 and May 2017.

Again, this fraud will run from June 2017 to May 2019, since 2018 budget will run up to May 2019 at N305 per dollar. While since June 2017, they have drastically reduced government’s profit with naira officially increased to N305 and officially selling at about N310 against parallel market at N380 (more or less), the folks in charge of disbursing the forex at CBN go behind to insist on the difference between the official rate and the parallel market to be handed to them or else no dollars can be allocated to the said end user. And being importers of finished consumer goods, they always hand them N70 per dollar, being the difference between N310 and N380. Here, we are talking about N840 billion (70 x 12 billion) between June 2017 and May 2018.

By now, it is crystal clear for one to understand the kind of mind-boggling forex fraud taking place at our apex bank that is being hidden away from Nigerians. But then, that is not all, as you may presume that they have some human feelings.

What makes the crime total and devastating is the fact that, the loots are reinvested into the system by lending back the money to government at an atrocious interest rates — in most cases between 14% and 16% (N840 x 0.16) gives you N134.4 billion, that is more or less the extra money to be made from their N84 billion loot between June 2017 and May 2018. In the case of interest earned between June 2016 and May 2017 (N1.2 trillion x 0.16), they went home with as high as N192 billion free cash.

What we can’t tell is if in this scam, they have some powerful politicians whose interests are being carried along. It is difficult to believe that eagle-eyed politicians wouldn’t know about this fraud, especially given how they have been allowing such unbelievable exchange rates year in, year out. Whether they know about this fraud or not, is up to them and their conscience…

For us here, even though the obvious truth is that that should be their personal and collective preoccupation, we should insist that the two houses waste no time in inviting the top officials of the CBN and their presidency counterparts to a televised public hearing where they are questioned to tell the world what has been going on during the past years, especially since the beginning of the administration of Emefiele.

Understandably, it will be difficult for this to happen especially as we are about entering the electioneering period, a time all elected politicians would be looking for money no matter the source. That is why I am foreseeing surge in this unheard-of institutional forex fraud. And it explains why both the presidency and the National Assembly would support our mind-boggling low exchange rates at N305 per dollar in the 2018/2019 budget even when the facts on the ground are showing that as a result of more domestic borrowings and supplementary budgets, more and more money would soon be flooding the system, the naira wouldn’t be less than N450 per dollar.

That is the kind of officially supported fraud which has been going on as a result of the so-called CBN floating of the naira where rather than participating in the forex markets it prefers intervening with tens of billions of dollars. In this its fraudulent efforts to keep the naira artificially strong, there is no other reason than taking full advantage of the huge gap the intervention continuously creates.

As a result, there is no way presidency and our federal lawmakers, having received this kind of free money would ever want the current CBN leadership to be replaced. Not, and never in this world! After all, you can’t bite the finger that feeds you.

Odilim Enwegbara, a development economist wrote from Abuja and can be reached via 07038501486 or basil_enwegbara@yahoo.com

Beyond politics in Nigeria

By NewsDesk,

Nigeria is at a crossroads. We have, in the last three years, witnessed a horrendous descent to the fringes of anarchy and a failed state.

Collectively, our hopes for a better life have given way to horror as hunger, poverty, joblessness, rising crime, economic doldrums, insecurity and indeed, hopelessness increasingly ravage millions of Nigerians like cancer.

Worse, still, is the persistent flow of blood and tears. Our cities and villages have turned into killing fields, with human life metamorphosing into an item of little value in today’s Nigeria. Ethnic agitations for freedom and equity have become bloody, and our religious divide, ominously wider. The judiciary, the last hope of the common man, has been intimidated and significantly emasculated, while the legislature, the symbol of democracy, has been rendered near-impotent and a toothless bulldog.

With the routing of the legislature and the judiciary, the rule of law has now been thrown to the dogs. The executive now usurps legislative and judicial powers. The executive spends without appropriation by the legislature. It also interprets the constitution and decides which court order to obey and which to throw into the trash bin. Never in the history of our nation has our unity been so thinly stretched to a breaking point,

Beyond politics, there is now an urgent need to rescue Nigerians from hunger, poverty, joblessness, economic doldrums, rising crime, blood-letting, clannishness, divisiveness and imminent anarchy.

What is needed now is a coalition of political parties and patriotic Nigerians to unite, rally round and elect a courageous, visionary and cosmopolitan democrat as the new President of Nigeria in 2019. This is a national service that is beyond politics.

One error Nigerians must not make in choosing our next president is to gloss over the track record of the aspirants. It is time to begin to assess the suitability of candidates for political office, based on certain clear-cut leadership qualities exhibited by them in their personal and public lives. For if lack of good leadership is our bane as a nation, no effort should be spared in ensuring that we get it right next time around.

Some of the leadership virtues we must demand from aspirants to the office of the president include a track-record of foresightedness, of being good democrats, having proven economic management skills, honesty, courage and acceptability to the religious and ethnic divides that make up Nigeria. Known ethnic and religious bigots must no longer be allowed to come to power to disunite us.

Among those we know to be interested in running for the presidency, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa, possesses these critical leadership virtues in the largest measure.

In his decades-old involvement in politics, Atiku has always come out tops as the leader with the brightest ideas on governance and policy.

His views always resonate with the wishes of the people. His policy documents are the best articulated and that Nigeria continues to grapple with poor electric power supply is because the Atiku plan has not been implemented in Nigeria.

Atiku’s power strategy is the construction of smaller power generating plants all over Nigeria to serve clusters of people in the areas where these plants are located. Nigeria’s current power strategy has continued to invest and waste billions of dollars on white-elephant power infrastructure that have continued to produce darkness, decade after decades.

Atiku’s economic management dexterity has seen him founding and sitting atop some of the most successfully managed companies in Nigeria and overseas, which cut across several sectors including education, logistics, agriculture, oil and gas, media, hospitality, maritime, beverages, etc. He pioneered the call for ranching in Nigeria long before the farmers/herdsmen bloody clashes began.

His passion for, and understanding of qualitative education as the most important need of our youths to ensure a great future for our nation led him to found the American University in Nigeria (AUN), located in Yola, Adamawa State. One of Nigeria’s earliest private universities, AUN is listed among the best universities in Africa.

As a democrat, Atiku’s credentials are without parallel. Since his entry into politics in 1989 till he left office in 2007 after two successful terms as Nigeria’s Vice President, Nigerians have come to know Atiku as the politician who plays by the rule and is always on the side of truth and the constitution, hence the large followership he enjoys across all ethnic, religious and social divides in Nigeria.

In honouring Atiku with the prestigious Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award in 2011, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the U.S Peace Corps, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) said of Atiku: “No private businessman in Africa has worked harder for democracy or contributed more to the progress of higher education than Atiku Abubakar.”

A famously detribalized man, the Waziri Adamawa has over the decades positively impacted on the lives of millions of Nigerians, regardless of their religion, tribe, gender or social status. He is adept at creating opportunities for others and genuinely wants to help people to succeed in life.

None of those angling to become the president of Nigeria has Atiku’s job creation and economic management credentials; attributes critically necessary to be possessed by any aspirant to that office, especially in the light of our present sorry pass.

Atiku’s consistent call for restructuring has now been accepted by a majority of Nigerians as the only condition for sustainable peace, unity and progress in Nigeria.

Atiku is the only presidential aspirant that has a verifiable track-record of canvassing the need to alter the status quo in order for Nigeria to achieve sustainable peace, unity and progress. All other presidential aspirants are committed to the sustenance of the failed status quo.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delegates or any coalition of parties that want to present a joint presidential candidate must not be mistaken over the awesome electoral value of the Waziri Adamawa and his capacity to crush President Muhammadu Buhari and cause an upset in the 2019 general elections. If we are serious about sending Buhari packing from Aso Villa in 2019, we must rally round Atiku and hand him the mandate to confront Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.

If Atiku is denied the ticket, it will be very unfortunate for all Nigerians because besides Atiku, there is nobody from the North that can beat Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.

There is no northern politician that can divide the north and pull a large chunk of votes from Buhari’s stronghold more than Atiku. Also, there is no northern politician that can beat Atiku in garnering votes from South-south, South-east, and to some extent North-central.

Atiku has the capacity to massively crush Buhari in the South-east, South-south, North Central and share votes with him in the North-east, North-west and South-west. Even the South-west may yield to Atiku as the vast majority of the Yoruba will vote for a candidate that is known to be genuinely committed to restructuring Nigeria, one of Atiku’s major promises.

As PDP delegates weigh the options before them, and discussions grow among political parties for an alliance to present a joint presidential candidate against Buhari; party leaders, delegates and Nigerians will do well to appreciate that our best option to defeat Buhari and build the Nigeria of our dreams clearly remains Atiku Abubakar. Electing Atiku is a national service. It is beyond politics. Nigeria needs the Atiku touch now.

Orji, writer and political analyst and wrote from Abuja and can be reached via udennaorji@yahoo.com

The case for privatization of NNPC… Part 2

By Odilim Enwegbara

Let us agree that commercialisation is no better option. It is no better option here because, unlike most modern economies, including our peer economies such as South Africa’s, Mexico’s and Brazil’s, where commercialisation meant that the day-to-day operations of state owned enterprises have simply made these enterprises profitable to the extent that rather than government subsidy, these commercialised enterprises have become major source of government tax revenue, Nigeria’s commercialisation will hardly end the deep rooted patron-client system that promotes corruption, incompetence, waste and high operations costs.

What this means is that with the same incompetent people in charge, corruption and mismanagement will continue to persist in the refineries. Besides, as a result of the commercialisation arrangement, state monopoly that brings no form of innovation in the subsector will continue at the detriment of the end product cost reduction.

Not even commercialisation will bring to end the inherent sabotage of the refineries by the big boys involved in fuel importation who connive with the managers of the refineries to ensure that the refineries are not producing petroleum products so that they are always imported with huge subsidies given to these importers.

We should not forget that commercialisation would equally amount to these refineries easily transferring their artificially created high costs of operations to the consumers who have no option or else they will threaten to go back to demanding government subsidising their day-to-day operations.

The whole gist here is that there is no way we will continue to subsidise the running of state-owned enterprises like the refineries that are supposed to be the leading sources of tax revenue generation for the state. And there is no way we should allow them to transfer their high cost of operation to Nigerian consumers of their products as a result of state enterprise monopoly.

We also know that the only way to avert the impending transfer of state monopoly to Dangote monopoly of the country’s downstream subsector is to fully privatise these dilapidated refineries so that their new private owners will have no option but to fight it out with Dangote for their corporate survival. That explains why the only possible solution is this: saying enough is enough of these state owned enterprises lacking transparency, accountability, and operational and performance checks and balance.

We should thus praise this pre-eminent business man turn politician for being bold enough and clear enough by insisting that if elected president he will waste no time in handing the refineries to the best private hands. His decision to do the inevitable could not be unconnected with his vast business insight. Moreover, Atiku remains the only Nigerian politician who has the clear understanding of how best to resolve these problems inherent in state owned enterprise, which unless resolved will continue to undermine Nigeria’s long overdue industrialization.

But rather than be bold enough to agree that the privatisation of our refineries will attract world’s best companies to participate in oil subsector of the economy, the ill-informed Buhari Media Organisation, decided to attack Atiku, wrongly insisting that his proposed privatisation of the refineries “would directly translate to increased price of petroleum products…with dire consequences on high transport cost aggregating in high inflation rates with massive decline in the standard of living of the people…”

While one can understand the grammar, there is nothing else to decipher from their grammar. Or are they ignorant not to understand that the privatisation of the refineries will boost the oil downstream economy of Nigeria not only by making petroleum products readily available but also having the current high pump prices drastically reduced, as competition drives down costs and as a result the price of the products?

It is quite unscientific for the BMO to believe the commercial pricing of petroleum products in Nigeria would amount to a great harm to citizens of Nigeria since keeping these petroleum products subsidised remains the only way to keep them “socially priced.” But for how long we continue to wrongly believe that the only way we could truly make petroleum products socially priced is for government after government to spend trillions of naira, including Buhari administration’s whopping N1.4tn spent within a year from the Excess Crude Account with due process?

The irony here is that while the Buhari media people continue to defend fuel subsidy, many powerful APC politicians are boldly speaking not just against fuel subsidy but, in fact, insisting that the Buhari administration’s fuel subsidy is synonymous with corruption, including opposition from such powerful APC members like Gov Abdulazeez Yari, who notwithstanding being both the Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum and a leading APC Governor says this fierce opposition:

“When there was no cost recovery, the NNPC clearly gave us the number of 33 and 35 million litres per day as the consumption of Nigeria. But now that with the new regime of cost recovery, NNPC is claiming daily consumption of 60 and 65 million litres per day? So many of our international partners [have said] that even if we are feeding Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Niger, we cannot consume more than 35 million litres per day. So we are wondering where the 60 million litres is coming from!”

But why shouldn’t the beneficiaries of this mind-boggling debt incurring and deficit guzzling refineries be alarmed that their means of stealing from our commonwealth would soon be in private hands? This goes to explain that after all, it is all about protecting their narrow interests than the interests of other Nigerians, particularly poor Nigerian.

If Buhari is truly this lover of the masses he has always pretended to be, then, why has he not come up with such unheard-of economic plans to aggressively grow the economy in such a way that the masses of this country would have been exiting poverty since 2015? Or from where else are these Buhari people expecting the good paying jobs to come if not from the private sector driving the economy?

Today’s under Buhari Nigeria resembles the pre-Deng China, known for having spent between 1949 and 1980 major portion of its annual revenues subsidising non-profitable, non-transparent state owned enterprises, filled with incompetent cronies of those in government. But even though it was a taboo to ever think of stopping what became the best way to bribe Communist Party members Deng Xiaoping the political wizard did the unimaginable. He wasted no time in demanding that all state enterprises be commercialised and where commercialisation failed to make revenue generators, they should be immediately transferred to the private hands.

Atiku knows that rather than subsidising our non-profitable refineries along with paying trillions of naira annually in fuel subsidy, by privatising the oil subsector and freeing money from the subsector, that money would be better spent on building schools, hospitals, roads, waterways, railways, mass housing, etc. These are the kinds of investments government should pursue since they can directly enhance the lives of the poor masses, those whose predicaments this government seems to completely ignore.

Politics apart, we should all applaud Atiku for already insisting that as president he will make sure that government is lean, productive, efficient, dynamic, and above all business-like that promotes growth, real sector firm investments, and jobs in their millions for Nigerians, which are only possible if we hand most of our unproductive state enterprises to the private sector.

Are we not lucky to have someone with Atiku’s kind of business background who with our votes will from May 29, begin to preside over the affairs of this country? Being a private sector player like Donald Trump who within a year in office turned the US economy around and set it on such astonishing growth path, Atiku remains the right presidential material this time around.

Like how Franklin Roosevelt came to preside over the affairs of America from 1932 to 1945 at a time the US economy was completely messed up by his predecessor Herbert Hoover, and like Deng Xiaoping brought in from 1978 to 1989 to clean up the economic and social mess caused by his predecessor Chairman Mao Zedong, we too have no option to bring in Atiku in 2019 if we want to witness the cleanup of the present economic, social and security mess caused by Buhari.

Having learned our lessons in a hard way, I strongly believe that this time around we the electorate has become wise enough not to repeat the same mistake in 2019. We need the president with the gift of presiding over our economic affairs with an eye to fix it once and for all and get Nigeria working again.

Enwegbara, a development economist writes from Abuja  

The case for privatization of NNPC

By Odilim Enwegbara

Private ownership of businesses has been as old as the human civilisation. And there has never been any great economy without an army of private business owners. Why not so when private ownership of enterprises is always better than state ownership because unlike state ownership, they have optimal capital structure, high profitability, high efficiency, and above all, are set up with growth, investment and jobs in mind.

The US economy has remained the world’s best run and most efficient simply because it is always in the hands of the private sector firms. But that has happened also because the state has always provided the best level playing field ever; where all the competing businesses enjoy equal treatment, second-to-none enabling environment. For this reason, the US anti-trust law ensures that there is no place for monopoly to thrive.

Confirming this truth on page 824 of his famous book ‘The Wealth of Nation,’ Adam Smith the father of economics stated, “In every great monarchy in Europe the sale of the crown lands would produce a very large sum of money which, if applied to the payments of the public debts, would deliver from mortgage a much greater revenue than any which those lands have ever afforded to the crown…When the crown lands had become private property, they would, in the course of a few years, become well improved and well cultivated.”

This remained the case, until as a result of modern democracy made the state involvement inevitable in western economic activities, especially when it became obvious in the 19th century that private owners of business were abusing their business ownership through their inhumane exploitation of workers to the level of slavery and efforts to dodge paying taxes to the state.

Also their refusal to take some corporate social responsibilities in the promotion of the commonwealth made it inevitable for the state to begin to go into business ownership. This became more pronounced immediately after the Word War II, when capital as the most important means of production was scarce all over western societies.

Also during the Cold War fought between capitalism and socialism, to prove that capitalism too had a human face, western government made sure the state participated in the critical sectors of the economy in an effort to provide jobs and used state owned utility companies for example to provide these services far below their true market costs.

But as these state owned companies became synonymous with corruption and cronyism, exaggerated cost transfers to the public, forcing huge deficit spending on the state, privatising these state-owned enterprises became rampant throughout the 1970s and 1980s. And where privatisation could not happen to avoid product price skyrocketing, to stop the increasingly difficult to fill huge deficit holes, commercialisation became the next option.

During this same time, most western government created powerful regulatory institutions, set to ensure that private owners of businesses no longer engage in the race to the bottom, where they enjoy free ride, without having to take commensurate responsibility in the commonwealth. With these regulatory authorities, it became obvious that there was no more room for state run monopoly.

And as private owners of businesses were forced to provide better working environment and better pay for workers, it became obvious that these same roles once the main reason state had to also own businesses had become less important, hence state owned enterprises handed to the private sector for better management and for more taxes to government.

Not being purely created for profit making along with being created for political patronage-seekers, was why to save these quasi-bankrupt state enterprises, and stop continuing as subsidy guzzlers, they had to be either privatised or commercialised. Also with the problem of high unemployment resolved in most western economies through income transfer social programs along with high level of tax evasion and lack of corporate social responsibility fully addressed, the continued need for state ownership of businesses became finally defeated.

Today, as we speak there are few state owned businesses around development economies, and where they inevitably exist, they are highly commercialised with government having little or no say in their daily operations. And to ensure that they are never populated by top politicians’ cronies, hiring is conducted in the open where only the most qualified and best performers get the job. While in such cases where they still enjoy special government patronage, they are treated by government like any other corporate competitors in the economy.

Africa’s — particularly Nigeria’s — case remains different. Coming out of colonialism with capital mostly in the hands of colonial businesses, in such absence private capital accumulation, state ownership of businesses was the only way for the newly independent states to participate in growing and developing their economies, and above all create jobs and generate tax revenues for the state for the onward investment in critical social infrastructure.

But with politicians soon discovering how to use the state owned businesses as a payback for political allegiance, rather than these post-colonial state owned enterprises being focused on growth and profit-making, they became the easiest way politicians could channel the scarce resources of the state for personal gains. Hence the appointment of cronies to manage these state owned enterprises.

Thus, unlike developed economies where the inevitable changes occurred, the inevitable transfer of these state owned businesses to private ownership has never truly occurred in most African countries, including Nigeria. And where the transfer occurred, it was almost always done in the dark with politicians in power using their fronts to acquire these state owned enterprises for a pittance. Understandably, it is this obvious truth that has forced Nigerians to oppose privatisation of public assets, believing that at the end of such exercise, publicly owned assets are cheaply and illegally transferred to the politicians through their corporate friends.

But the fact that previous privatisation exercises were done in the dark does not remove the fact that to truly and genuinely grow the economy we too should transfer many of our public enterprises to the most financially and technically capable private hands, who by investing their hard earned money in them, by bringing in more competent hands and more technical know-how and innovations will drive these enterprises into the competitive edge as well as ensure with more profits mean more investment in plant and equipment and more jobs to Nigerians and more taxes to government. And above all, it would mean the permanent end of government providing subsidy to state owned enterprises.

One major reason this has remained unresolved is the very fact that state owned businesses, including the country’s refineries have since become sources of political, ethnic and religious patronage, where patron-client relationship is so strong to be easily done way with by the same politicians who have to appoint friends and well-wishers in both management and board positions.

And there is no place where this patron–client relationship is more pronounced than in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), especially in its four refineries populated by politicians’ inexperienced cronies, whose only qualification for getting the top jobs is because they are friends and family members of politicians. Synonymous with bloated cost of operations, over invoicing, sheer corruption through revenues diversion into private accounts, mostly accounts indirectly belonging to politicians in power.

It is ironic that the NNPC and its downstream oil subsector are kept alive thanks to government life support machines in the form of subsidies. But the question no government has ever boldly addressed is: for how long should what are arguably Nigeria’s flagship corporations, otherwise the economic engine-room, supposedly earning over 70% of government revenues and over 90% of its foreign exchange earnings continue to be run by incompetent cronies of every government in power, when handing them to private hands is the best way to make them more profitable, pay more taxes, innovate and compete locally and internationally so that petroleum products are made readily available to Nigerians at affordable prices?

Here we are talking about the country’s downstream oil subsector that rather than supposedly generating a lot of revenues for the country as it is the case in most countries, including our peer economies, we are talking about state owned refineries run in such absolute corruption that instead of refining petroleum products have their managers conniving with the big boys involved in fuel importation to always sabotage its refining operations. Quite understandably, the country’s refineries have always been the more you look the less you see.

It is not that we don’t know that this is true state of these refineries today. Of course, we all know that they have never worked and will never work. But the problem has always been who will have the gut to stop this by privatising these enterprises.

But speaking recently as part of his agenda to overhaul the whole economy and position it for growth if elected president in 2019, Atiku Abubakar announced his readiness to immediately privatise the country’s rundown refineries. Being a highly successful businessman, he understands that it is only by transferring these moribund and inefficiently run state-owned enterprises to private sector hands should we stop spending trillions of naira annually in fuel subsidy along with other trillions of naira lost in taxes. But for how long will government after government continue to bankroll the same refineries that should be the number one source of government tax revenue; he queried?

Reflecting over the reality of Nigeria’s economy, Atiku rightly argues that there is no way Nigeria should expect any serious economic growth with such moribund state owned enterprises. That is why to finally put Nigeria’s economy on the path of growth will require state-owned companies like the refineries be wholly in private hands.

Atiku was right to wonder how we intend to achieve the high economic growth we intended if we intend to continue keeping the moribund state owned corporations like the refineries on the same life support machines they have been for decades now. So, as far as he is concerned, privatising them remains the most plausible solution to maximise allocation efficiency. Of course, there is no way we should be desirous of big time foreign investors when in reality we continue ensuring that our state owned enterprises should still monopolise the critical sectors of the economy.

With the much needed culture of competition, operational transparency, and profitability replacing the present mind-boggling inefficiencies and imperiousness that have made it almost impossible for these state-owned companies to perform optimally, the refineries will begin to work since privatisation replaces cronyism with competent and professionally sophisticated managers.

That is bizarre to say the least. Or what is the reasoning behind wanting to grow the economy without wanting the private sector participants to lead it? Let us agree that increasing the private sector firms’ participation in the economy will generate millions of jobs along with trillions of naira in taxes, as well as lift millions of Nigerians out of poor. Without having our refineries privatised, big time investors’ money will unlikely come into the oil subsector.

Atiku’s refinery privatisation will come with two clauses. First clause will insist on a ten year review of the performance of the new owners of the refineries to ensure that they have been able to fully transform the refineries into high performing or else the refineries automatically return ownership to government. Second clause will insist on a spread-out local content within all the operation of the refineries, which means Nigerians will have contracts’ first offer of refusal.

Enwegbara, a development economist writes from Abuja  

Buhari and the JUNE 12 saga

By Reuben Abati

There are three aspects – the strategic, the political and the legal – to the Federal Government’s decision to replace May 29 with June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, and to confer on the late Chief MKO Abiola, the highest honour in the land.

Strategy: Long before now, the Buhari government had needed to review its strategy of engagement with the public, move from blame-passing, propaganda, in-fighting, enemy-seeking approach to a more legacy-driven, result-oriented mode.

It is like this: when a government is in decline, and it is losing popularity and goodwill, then it is time to change the narrative. That is precisely what the Buhari government has done with the masterstroke of a special focus on June 12 and Chief MKO Abiola at a time when virtually everyone from the Catholic Church, the opposition, prominent political figures, the media to estranged members of the APC are carrying placards against the government.

When you change the narrative, what you do is to divert attention from the prevailing negative discourse; you find something else for the people to talk about in the hope that this will give the government a breather, and allow it to get back on traction and restore some goodwill. Whoever suggested the June 12 and Abiola move to President Buhari is quite smart and I commend him and the government.

But the “changing the narrative” strategy is not a deus ex machina. Its fall-out has to be managed, and government must be in a position to manage the gains or the challenges. This strategy can also prove to be a test of a government’s status. An accident-prone government may even in the long run gain nothing from such a move.

For the Buhari government, however, the June 12 move should change the narrative for a few weeks, except there is another accident on the security or political scene. But whatever happens, President Muhammadu Buhari will be remembered as the Nigerian President who successfully placed the proper historical accent on June 12, and MKO Abiola’s contributions to the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.

The Jonathan government, which I served, had tried to do this in 2012 by renaming the University of Lagos after Chief MKO Abiola, but the UNILAG community – resident and alumni – reacted like cry-babies, they considered the name of their university too sacred, and too big for Abiola, and in the face of the overwhelming sentiment, the significance of the gesture was over-politicized.

The political: The politics of June 12 and Chief MKO Abiola has been a recurrent decimal in the debate about how best to remember the struggle that led to the exit of the military on May 29, 1999 and the role played by the pro-democracy coalition. Indeed, since 2000, the pro-democracy coalition and supporters of Chief MKO Abiola have lamented that the eventual beneficiaries of the struggle for democracy were the ones most determined to deny and erase Chief Abiola’s role in that significant moment in Nigerian history.

They wanted Federal Government recognition for MKO Abiola. When this did not happen, the states controlled by the then Alliance for Democracy in the South West declared June 12, Democracy Day and a public holiday.

In Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, and Ondo, monuments were named after Abiola, his statues were erected, other heroes of the struggle were honoured and every June 12, pro-democracy processions were held in these states.

The celebration of May 29 as Democracy Day has therefore been consistently opposed on the grounds that it is wrong to celebrate the exit of the military but better to commemorate June 12 – the day in 1993 when Nigeria held the freest and fairest election in its history – the Presidential election of that day united Nigerians across ethnic, religious and ideological lines.

But as it happened, some military leaders considered Abiola unfit for the office, for their own personal reasons and therefore annulled the election.

This brazen assault on the people’s sovereignty resulted in a prolonged protest for the restoration of the people’s mandate, and a nationwide rebellion against military rule. For six years, Nigeria stood at the edge of a precipice.

June 12 is indeed a watershed in Nigerian history. Its formal recognition is symbolic and instructive. This should assuage the pains of the pro-June 12 group, and help to restore the memory of that moment in history and the aftermath. I once wrote about how many young Nigerians born in 1993 or after do not even know who MKO Abiola is.

I was asked on one occasion by a young Nigerian: “This MKO Abiola, what about him?” In a country where history is not taught, that is what you get: an emerging generation that does not know Nigeria. With June 12 now part of the country’s calendar, the story will be told, and that turning point in Nigerian history will be recorded permanently for posterity.

The decision to honour Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi post-humously, and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe with GCFR and GCON is a good move, but the question of legality with regard to Abiola and Fawehinmi has been raised and here we confront the dilemma of a conflict between what is reasonable and what is legal.

The legal aspect: Are the post-humous awards really illegal? I recall that in 2014, the Jonathan administration had tried to honour Chief MKO Abiola and Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh by having their names on the National Honours List. Justice Alfa Belgore, former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) who has now spoken up to declare the post-humous award to Abiola and Fawehinmi, “illegal” was the Chairman of the National Honours Committee at the time.

The advice given at the time was that the awards could not be given post-humously, and that the law should not be bent to accommodate political interests. The Jonathan government, with the uproar over the re-naming of the University of Lagos still fresh in the minds of its officials, chose to tread with caution.

It is noteworthy that this same issue of legality has again cropped up. By giving post-humous national awards, the Buhari government has now provided us an opportunity to interrogate the law.

The relevant law is the National Honours Act No 5 of 1964 – Section 3(2) thereof reads: “Subject to the next following paragraph of this article, a person shall be appointed to a particular rank of an Order when he receives from the President in person at an investiture held for the purpose –

(a) the insignia appropriate for that rank; and

(b) an instrument under the hand of the President and the public seal of the Federation

declaring him to be appointed to that rank.”

The operative phrase here is “in person.” Can a dead person be honoured in person? I think not. But it would appear that upon a careful and calm reading of Section 3(3), the President is actually given the power of discretion to vary Section 3(2).

Section 3(3) states: “If in the case of any person it appears to the President expedient to dispense with the requirements of paragraph (2) of this article, he may direct that that person shall be appointed to the rank in question in such a manner as may be specified in the direction.”

With due respect, at issue is this: assuming that post-humous awards do not meet the conditions set out in Section 3(2), can the problem be cured by Section 3(3)? And is there any manifest ambiguity in the provisions or are the words in their ordinary meaning clear enough? Or could the action taken result in any absurdity? Or are there issues of procedure that may have been breached? Do we even have a National Honours Committee in place and if so, what recommendations did that committee make to President Buhari in pursuit of its functions as a clearing house? Any public-spirited person can go to court to test the National Honours Act and raise these issues. It is the duty of the courts to interpret the law, and with our progressive judiciary, I believe they can and should guide us on the true intent of the Honours Act. Ordinarily, a national honour does not harm anyone nor is it likely to injure the country itself.

However, the National Honours Act is overdue for review, and the process of appointing persons to the National Orders needs to be reformed. Should it become necessary to amend the Act, the National Assembly can do so in a week at most. In terms of process, the area of concern is the manner in which successive governments have tended to give out these honours as if they were mere chieftaincy titles or civil service allocations.

Section 1(3) of the Act lists the number of awards that may be given every year, but the prescribed total minimum number is so large that every National Honours investiture ceremony ends up looking like a carnival where all kinds of undeserving persons are decorated.

Still on the legal aspect, some persons have drawn attention to Section 2(1) of the Public Holidays Act CAP 40 LFN – while that section of the law gives the President power to appoint any day as public holiday, it does not grant him the powers to unilaterally substitute a day with another as he has done with May 29 and June 12.

The Schedule to this Act as it is, recognizes May 29 as Democracy Day, not June 12. The Public Holidays Act would still have to be amended appropriately but since there is no plan to declare June 12, 2018 a public holiday, and the President’s statement in its last paragraph specifically uses the phrase “in future years”, the Federal Government has more than enough time to seek a proper amendment of the Public Holidays Act by the legislature. So, I don’t see a problem here.

All told, the plan to honour the Abiola-Kingibe 1993 Presidential joint ticket and Gani Fawehinmi, the legendary human rights crusader, is imbued with much meaning and significance even if this does not automatically settle the matter about the results of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election. The Federal Government should take some additional steps.

First, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be directed to release the results of that election officially and for Chief MKO Abiola and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe to be recognized strictly as a matter of record as President-elect and Vice-President-elect respectively.

The results of that election need to be validly declared to put a closure to the injustice that was committed. This is the more important matter. The major legal issue here, however is that both men can not be accorded recognition as former Heads of State – they never took oath of office, and the Constitution under which they were elected – the 1989 Constitution is no longer in existence. It stands abolished. Since equity does not act in vain, what has been done is at best symbolic.

To further heal the pains of the affected, the Abiola family should be recognized and compensated for his arrest and detention that ultimately led to his demise. On Gani Fawehinmi: I had expressed fears about the likelihood that his family may reject the honour, Chief Fawehinmi having rejected a similar honour while alive. The Federal Government must be relieved that they have accepted the honour.

Chief Gani Fawehinmi is of course most deserving of the highest honours in the land. For more than 40 years, he was in the forefront of the struggle for a better Nigeria. He was committed to the progress and well-being of the ordinary man, the rule of law and human rights as the main pillars of good governance. He pursued this objective through the instrumentality of the law. Of him, President Buhari writes: “…the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN is to be awarded posthumously a GCON.”

I can only add that there are others who were also part of that struggle for the “actualization of June 12” whose contributions were no less important, and pain and suffering no less, who should also be considered for national honour.

They even did more for the struggle than Chief Abiola’s running mate, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe who is now being honoured, not for his contributions, I assume, but merely for being part of the ticket! They include Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Professor Wole Soyinka, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Frank Kokori, Col. Abubakar Umar, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, Alao Aka-Bashorun, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Ayo Opadokun, Kudirat Abiola, Chima Ubani, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, US Ambassador Walter Carrignton and all the journalists and media owners who were lied against, harassed, shot, assassinated, or jailed. This list is by no means exhaustive but it is representative enough for the benefit of those who insist on ethnicizing June 12.

It was a pan-Nigerian struggle: between good and evil, between heroes and villains, and by the way, I agree that Professor Humphrey Nwosu – the man who presided over the election as National Electoral Commission Chairman – also deserves recognition.

The reading of motives – all that talk about timing, the South-West and 2019 – is beside the point. In the South-West, there were many Yoruba anti-June 12 elements who refused to acknowledge Abiola as the symbol and focal point of the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, and who may still be indifferent today. Timing – it is better late than never. 2019 – there is no strong indication that this would have any significant effect on the voting numbers in 2019. The Nigerian voter may not be as stupid as we often think he or she is.