Tuesday, 2 February 2016


This is a nice piece written by someone I do not know but definitely hit at us, Nigerians, with the plain truth. Its time to start to CHANGE please. PMB is only to act as our navigator. It is either I do not understand economics and how exchange rates work or a vast majority of us Nigerians still don’t get how we have wrecked our country with our own curious choices. Just this morning I was listening to the radio and the lady on air went on and on about how she thought CBN governor Godwin Emefiele was incompetent and should be sacked because the naira was now exchanging at 309 or so to the USD. That view pretty much echoes the sentiments expressed by many people I know and it amazes me that there are Nigerians who actually think there is some magic POLICY that can make the Naira strong in the near term. If my economics and my understanding of the way the world works are right, then that is as far from the truth as Jesus Christ is black. The simple fact of the matter is that apart from oil that accounts for over 90% of our revenues, we really don’t have much of an economy. We hardly produce anything, we import even toothpicks, so exactly what policy is going to be implemented that will turn Nigeria into a top exporting economy in the near term? Where are our Apples, IBMs, Disneys, GMs, General Electrics, Coca Colas, Empire State buildings, Statues of Liberties, Lockheeds, Citibanks, JP Morgans, ExxonMobils, NBAs, Super Bowls etc? Let me bring that closer home. There was a time long ago when Nigeria had a truly strong economy and the naira was one to the dollar – even exchanged for higher than the USD, but that Nigeria is not this Nigeria. Sadly that Nigeria was laid by the British, and this Nigeria (if you don’t believe in the nonsensical imperialist conspiracies like me) – fueled by the DAMAGING Indigenisation Decree, has been the creation of us Nigerians.Back then we had a booming economy. We were either the top, or among the top exporters, of timbre, cocoa, groundnuts, rubber, palm oil, etc, in the world. Nigerians not only holidayed at home in their villages, at Yankari Games Reserve, at Obudu Cattle Ranch, at Oguta Lake, at Ikogosi springs, at Gurara Falls, at Mambilla Platueau, etc, we attracted international tourists who brought in loads of foreign exchange. Even Nigerian schools were foreign exchange earners because they attracted foreign students. We had different car assembly plants – Peugeot, Volkswagen, Anamco etc. Nigerian government officials only bought vehicles assembled in Nigeria for official cars. We had a thriving sports industry. We were not Man United or Chelsea fans, we were Rangers or IICC fans. We had the Nduka Odizors, people made money from sports. We also had companies like Lennards and Bata producing school shoes in their thousands, we had the thriving Nigerian Airways and the Aviation School in the north that produced some of the best pilots in the world. In those days if you were brilliant you were respected much more than the crass money-miss-road contractors of today. Most of the Aje Butters I knew had fathers who were university dons. Back then it meant something to ‘know book’. Our textile industry was alive and well. Just recently I watched a news report on the textile industry in Nigeria on CCTV News. Though the main focus was on the comatose status of the industry, I was stunned by the gigantic Kaduna Textile Mill built in 1957. I could go on and on. Today however, no thanks to our parents (and we must call them out the way Wole Soyinka did his generation) and many of us (and we should be remembered for failing our children if we continue like this), we have destroyed everything. Today for instance Nigerian football (which comes easy to me obviously) doesn’t appeal to us, we have to fly across thousands of miles to watch ‘our’ clubs play. Every year we collectively burn billions of Naira being fans of clubs that give us nothing back, but some ‘entertainment value’ – simple pleasures for which we are ready to destroy the future of our children. Well people, payback time is here. Even with our ta-she-re money we all want to wear designer clothes and carry designer bags, Armani, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton etc. We all want to drive jeeps with American specs, our children must now school overseas and acquire the necessary accents to come back home and bamboozle their ‘bush and crass’ contemporaries that they left behind. Who holidays in Nigeria anymore, is there Disneyland here? No one buys made-in-Nigeria school bags for their children, after all no Superman or Incredible Hulk or Cinderella on them. We are no longer top exporters of anything and the demise of oil means we have zilch… zero. A country of 170m fashion-conscious people has no textile industry. We take delight in showing how our made-in-Switzerland Aso Ebi is different class to everyone else’s. When we help our musicians grow and pay them millions, they repay us by immediately shipping the monies overseas to produce their “i-don-dey-different-level”music videos. It makes no difference that distinctly Zulu dancers are dancing to a Nigerian highlife song. As stars concerned they also wed and holiday overseas to impress us all. All the musicians who acknowledge their Ajegunle roots now speak in a cocktail of strange accents to symbolise how much they have blown their monies overseas. Were we a more serious people, the highly popular Kingsway Stores of the past would probably have a thousand outlets pan Nigeria today supporting a massive agriculture industry among others, but today we have the likes of SPAR, Shoprite, dominating the retail industry while Kingsway is dead. And we Nigerians make it a special point to shop from the Oyinbos who have ‘cleaner shops’, ‘better this and better that’. For our personal pleasure we don’t mind them dominating us in our own backyard and shipping proceeds overseas. I could go on and on, but I don tire. Even as you are reading this, stop for a moment and look around you. What you see will probably explain why we are lucky it is not N1000 to the USD yet. And don’t think for a moment that it cannot get there. Just continue to wear your Armani gear and Swiss-made lace, continue to spend your money on Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Barca and encourage your children to do same. (My article tomorrow in my Saturday column in This Day is on the Nigerian champions Enyimba FC – Nigeria’s most successful club – not having a sponsor, yet Nigerian brands pay over N600m to Man United and Arsenal for sponsorship to impress us.) Ehhh, no problem, continue to tell me the NPFL is rubbish or the clubs should clean up their act if they want sponsorship, mo gbo . Don’t curtail your interest in choice wines ( we were the number one champagne consumers in the world in 2015), continue to love your American specs, cheer the education ministry for letting schools sink to pitiable levels, don’t fight them to improve our schools, don’t chide them for letting schools drop Nigerian history and embrace British, America and whatever else curricula. Carry on with your love of French wines and Chinese silk, don’t bother about Jamiu Alli when there is Roger Federer. Stock up on your Italian, American, British products which you cannot live without, including the ‘baby soft’ toilet rolls produced only in that small unique village in England – the days are long gone since you were a broke student who used wet newspapers to wipe your butt. Don’t even consider holidaying in Nigeria, it’s too dangerous – you have to fulfill your dream of being Nigeria’s Henry Ford. Don’t listen to people like me who have a wardrobe full of only cheap adire that is actually cheaper than just one of your Tom Ford blazers. Please keep dressing in fine silk made in some exotic place so you can be addressed accordingly. Finally keep letting corrupt leaders who have looted your commonwealth and shipped all the monies overseas get away because to attack them does not fit your political narrative. Let us continue with the fine life, let us all continue to work for Oyinbo. But don’t forget that there is payback time and Emefiele is not your problem. Time for us all to look in the mirror and take responsibility. Read more at http://www.theheraldng.com/see-why-the-naira-may-fall-to-…/…

Sunday, 10 January 2016

3 D's: Diversification,Deregulation and Devolution. The Way Forward For Nigeria.- Pastor Tunde Bakare

TEXT OF SPEECH BY PASTOR 'TUNDE BAKARE AT THE STATE OF THE NATION BROADCAST ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 10, 2015 THEME: ROAD MAP TO SUCCESSFUL CHANGE SCRIPTURAL TEXTIsaiah 43:18&19 (NKJV) 18 “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” PREAMBLE Fellow citizens of our great country, let me begin this annual State of the Nation broadcast with a preamble in the hope that mischief makers will give us the benefit of the doubt that we truly do what we do for two compelling reasons: love of God and love of country. Many of you here today are living witnesses of what we went through, by the grace of God, after we placed an embargo in the spirit on the 2015 presidential election slated for February 14 to avert a bloodbath and national disintegration. We all stood here in agonising corporate intercessions with fasting for fourteen days and nights from Sunday, February 1 to Saturday, February 14, 2015, to dismantle all the negative and counterproductive power blocs hindering the manifestation of a New Nigeria. We kept on pushing in the spirit until our political euroclydon was averted and a successful transition took place. Those who neither saw what we saw nor heard what we heard thereafter began to disseminate ill - motivated rumours, concluding in confidential whispers to those who lent them their ears that we had joined forces with the opposition. May the good Lord in due season reward every true or pretentious stakeholder as his or her works had been, or shall be, in Jesus’ name. Amen. Let me for the sake of posterity state clearly here that I am not an agent of any individual and, up till today, whatever I have done for any government, past or present, publicly or behind the scenes, I have done pro bono. I recall with gratitude to God a conversation between Dr. Andrew Pocock, now Sir Andrew, the then British High Commissioner to Nigeria who was still in active service during the 2015 elections. After going up and down like a pendulum between the incoming and outgoing presidents, with stopovers at the residence of the British High Commissioner, he asked me a question: “What exactly do you want out of all these near impossible interventions?” I told him the story of how in 1994, while in the UK, my family applied for British passports for my wife and five children. Within the stipulated time, without a need to contact or visit any ‘connections’ at the British Passport Office, the passports arrived at our doorstep through the post. I then said to Dr. Pocock that I would like to see a nation that works like that in my lifetime and I am prepared to work alongside other patriots to make that happen. In correspondence following the elections, he noted with much appreciation my contributions to brokering peace and reconciliation behind-the-scenes. I seek no further reward or commendation than this. I believe God that I will see a nation that works in my lifetime. Now, to those who are muttering and whispering untrue stories about us behind the scenes while laughing with us in public, our conviction is tamper-proof: God will not forsake the righteous (Joshua 31:8; Psalm 37:25); He will not justify the wicked (Exodus 23:7); The righteousness of a righteous man will answer for him in times to come (Genesis 30:25-33); And the wickedness of the wicked will pour upon his own head (Ezekiel 18:20). And those in positions of authority who may believe or entertain their lies, I leave such with the words of Prophet Jonah: “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy”. (Jonah 2:8; KJV) As for me, regardless of how I am perceived, I will continue to contribute my quota, as long as I breathe, to building an enduring and progressive nation. I hope the audience will pardon my long preamble. Now, to the theme of our State of the Nation broadcast: ROAD MAP TO SUCCESSFUL CHANGE The buzzword in our nation today is “change”. It was perhaps the key word and message that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power as he campaigned all over the country on APC's platform. Now that the election is over, it is incumbent upon us all, citizens and government, to do all in our collective power to ensure that we are not short-changed by the change we so desired and voted for. Therefore, to ensure we are on the same page regarding how we define change, I have chosen a text of Scripture by Apostle Paul who definitely knew about change. He wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and from the depth of his personal transformative experience from Saul to Paul, in II Corinthians 3:18 (KJV): But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. The Greek word translated “changed” is metamorphoumetha, from which we get the word metamorphosis. Metamorphosis describes the process by which tadpoles lose their tails, grow legs, and become frogs; it is also the course through which caterpillars become butterflies. Metamorphosis involves changing into another form. Fellow Nigerians, we cannot rearrange the old and label it the new - that is an exercise in self-deception or delusion. The tadpole has to be willing to change if it is going to become a frog. The caterpillar must be willing to give up being what it has always been, spin a cocoon around itself, and wait until it is fashioned into a butterfly. In like manner, We the People, and those we put in power to serve our collective interests, must be willing to die to our inglorious past. We must expect and accept a clearly defined pathway to what we collectively desire to become. We must turn our backs on what used to be if we are ever to become something new. That is the secret to successful change. To settle for less that this is to short-change ourselves. Let me state clearly here that I firmly believe that change is possible. And, much more, I am fully persuaded that Nigeria can and will change for the better. My strong persuasion is based on the Word of God revealed to me in January 1996 as I was praying in Jerusalem during a conference. This revelation is contained in the Book of Zephaniah detailing the wickedness of Jerusalem just like we are today and the turnaround brought about by God Almighty. First, the wickedness: Zephaniah 3:1-5 (NKJV): 1Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! 2 She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the LORD, she has not drawn near to her God. 3 Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning. 4 Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people; her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law. 5 The LORD is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame. Then, the turnaround: Zephaniah 3:9-13 & 18-20 (NKJV): 9 “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, My worshipers, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring My offering. 11 In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds in which you transgress against Me; for then I will take away from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain. 12I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. 13The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.” Zephaniah 3:18-20: 18 “I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, who are among you, to whom its reproach is a burden. 19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, and gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame in every land where they were put to shame. 20 At that time I will bring you back, even at the time I gather you; for I will give you fame and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I return your captives before your eyes,” Says the LORD. I pray the Father that this will be our portion, in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen. Some of you will recall that, after that encounter, I returned to Nigeria to preach the message “From Shame to Fame because of His Name”. Nevertheless for that to happen, we all have to start acting differently at all levels: individual, organisational and societal. For this to happen a crystal clear direction must be provided by leadership at all levels: parents, teachers, CEOs, religious leaders and especially leaders in government. WHAT DO WE NEED TO CHANGE? 1. We need to change our way of thinking and then doing. Only transformed people can transform nations. Difficult as it may seem, National Transformation is not rocket science. Even if it is, rocket scientists are not aliens from another planet - they are human beings like you and me. I will share further thoughts on this shortly; 2. We need to change our governance structure. The present system is severely wasteful. Left as is, it will continue to generate as well as perpetuate a syndicate of scams and profligacy at all levels of government; 3. We need to change our Grundnorm by creating a true federal system of government while making the welfare and security of our people the raison d’être of government; 4. We need to change our cash and carry judicial and legislative systems. Thus, in order to obtain the new, we must release a decaying system that has arrested our development and growth as well as created a very wide gulf between the opportunistic elitist rich and unfortunate poor among our citizens. After all, the resources of the nation belong to all the citizens as clearly stated in: Ecclesiastes 5:8&9 (NKJV): 8 If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them. 9 Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field. That being so, and in order to correct this abnormality, we must critically assess and evaluate our journey so far before adopting our new Road Map to Successful Change. I have chosen a parable for this critical evaluation. THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT MANSION A great mansion had a large and beautifully decorated banquet hall. Adjoining the hall were three large kitchens, each with a large storeroom. Each kitchen was unique and servants served various kinds of food and drink to the people in the hall. The banquet hall was filled with people eating, drinking, dancing and rejoicing. Suddenly, the security guards invaded the mansion, killed some servants, drove the rest out of the banquet hall, settled on the food, ate all they could, and carted some away. Then they broke down the great mansion and, with time, built another edifice. The new edifice had a large banquet hall and six large kitchens, though not as large as the initial three. Each kitchen had a number of storerooms. In all, there were a total of thirty-six storerooms in the edifice. The security guards hired a new set of servants to manage the edifice and handed the bunch containing all the keys to the servants. Thereafter, they relinquished control and returned to their duty posts. People came into the banquet hall to celebrate once again. This time, however, food and drinks were supplied only from one of the kitchens as the security guards had opened just one kitchen and left the others locked as they handed the keys over to the servants. In addition, the servants helped themselves to much of the food and drink and served only the leftovers. In no time, there was severe shortage and the people began to complain. Then those who dwelt in the new edifice, believing that their main problem was the theft of food by the dishonest servants, gave control to one among them, formerly a security officer, revered for his integrity and forthrightness. This was followed by much jubilation. However, the food shortage situation intensified and celebration was soon replaced by murmuring, grumbling and commotion, leaving the servants wondering what to do next. Fellow Nigerians, welcome to the year 2016. In the course of this address, I shall shortly unravel the parable of the mansion, which is the parable of Nigeria. But, at this juncture, let us review 2015 as we take a critical look at the state of the nation. 2015 IN REVIEW At the turn of the year 2015, in the wake of the centenary celebrations, and ahead of the general elections, the destiny of Nigeria hung in the balance. Never before, since the Civil War, has the pre-election atmosphere in our country been as tense and intense as it was between January and March 2015. As fears of post-election crises engulfed the nation, observers of the Nigerian political space, including the intelligence community , warned of the looming dangers. At the beginning of last year, precisely on January 4 and 11, in a two-part series of State of the Nation addresses that caused tremors in the Nigerian political landscape, we warned of the “Gathering Storms and Avoidable Shipwreck” and gave the nation valuable counsel on “How to Avoid Catastrophic Euroclydon”. We advised the nation to postpone the elections and allow for a transitional period of restructuring. Expectedly, our position was severely mocked and our recommendations rebuffed when some mischievously opined that we were calling for an interim government. Nevertheless, undeterred by the flood of criticism that accompanied our position and recommendations, right here on this platform, as earlier said, I placed an embargo on the elections. Then, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we embarked on a two-week fast to intercede for a nation that was hell-bent on its own course. Just before the conclusion of that season of intercession, the nation was face-to-face with some of the realities highlighted in our position. The electoral umpire made a volte-face and postponed the elections . When it became clear that the nation had chosen its course, much like Israel’s rejection of divine counsel and insistent demand for a king, we stepped into the terrain to mediate between belligerent parties and to mitigate election risks. Time will fail me to tell further details of my behind-the-scenes engagement with the stakeholders ahead of the elections and how, by a whisker, our nation narrowly escaped the jaws of disintegration. Nevertheless, you will recall that as I lifted the prophetic embargo on elections on Sunday March 22, 2015, I sent out a warning: “If anyone thinks PDP’s loss is going to be APC’s gain, he or she should think twice, for after the polls APC’s pain may be PDP’s gain” . It turned out that, whereas the PDP lost to the APC in the general elections, bringing an end to sixteen years of misgovernance, the PDP brought pain on the APC in elections into the key offices of the National Assembly - an injury the APC is still trying to recover from. Fellow Nigerians, the lesson in all of these is to never despise prophecy. THE STATE OF THE NATION: A PANORAMIC VIEW We live in what may be described as trying times for our nation. President Muhammadu Buhari raised the alarm at his inauguration on May 29, 2015 when he noted that, “with depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts the Nigerian economy is in deep trouble…” He became even more direct on the state of the economy when he declared in October 2015, at the Africa-India Summit in New Delhi, India, that the country was broke and struggling to pay salaries . That declaration was severely criticized in various quarters and especially by the PDP . However, an unbiased assessment of the economy based on major indicators paints a truly gloomy picture - from the 64% drop in year-on-year GDP annual growth rate as at July 2015, to the 2.354 trillion naira plunge in market capitalization as at December 2015 ; from the 66 billion dollar debt burden as at October 2015 , to the 12.63% decline in foreign reserves between December 2014 and November 2015 ; from the 48% crash in oil prices between December 2014 and December 2015 , to the 67% corresponding fall in crude revenue between September 2014 and July 2015 . When these alarming economic indicators, together with the massive expenditure requirements, such as the 10 trillion naira annual infrastructure spending needs , are viewed against the backdrop of the reported lootings during previous administrations , one may start to understand the concerns of the president. In addition to the economic challenges, the social indicators reveal that Nigerians generally live in less than adequate conditions with the latest Human Development Index (HDI) report, which is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income indices, placing Nigeria 153rd out of 188 countries. Apart from the raging battle with insurgency in the North East, the political landscape has been marred by increasingly hostile clamours for self-determination as seen in pro-Biafra agitations in the South-East , sectarian violence in the North Central , tension in the North-West in relation to the sectarian activities of the Shiite Islamic sect , the increasing perception by the Southern intelligentsia of sectional bias by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari , and signs of resumption of violent agitation by militants in the South-South . • The Present 36 States of our “Federation” In June 2015, barely two weeks into the current administration, we woke up to the alarming news that some states were unable to pay salaries, with at least one state owing 11 months in arrears . These states ran to the federal government which then arranged a special intervention fund for 27 states . On the heels of this development, the state governors have further disclosed the inability of their respective states to meet their minimum wage obligations . This underscores the non-viability of most of the 36 states, corroborating a 2013 report that only 4 states of the federation show signs of viability based on internal revenue generation . • Unravelling the Parable of the Great Mansion The parable of the mansion is about the journey of our nation from abundance to the current economic downturn. The mansion is the Nigerian state. The banquet hall is the Nigerian economy. At Independence, Nigeria had 3 regions, each of them a significant economic powerhouse. These are the kitchens and storerooms. The kitchens represent the productive base of the respective regions at that time while the storerooms represent their latent resources. Just as each kitchen in the mansion served its unique menu to the banquet hall, each region made its unique contribution to the Nigerian economy. The Northern Region contributed to the centre through groundnut, cotton, and hides and skin production. The Eastern Region contributed to the national economy through oil palm and rubber production, while the Western Region contributed mainly through cocoa production. The result was prosperity for Nigeria, represented by the eating, drinking and rejoicing in the banquet hall. The first set of servants who served in the mansion represents the first set of Nigerian leaders – the Nnamdi Azikiwes, the Obafemi Awolowos, the Ahmadu Bellos and the Tafawa Balewas who demonstrated selfless service. However, just as the security guards took over the house, the military took over government and killed some of our leaders through a coup. Just as the security guards pulled down the mansion, so the military dismantled the regional structure of the nation and laid our thriving Federal System in the vault of their Unitary System while largely enriching themselves through corruption. However, during the interregnum, the military took the nation through a series of geopolitical experiments until thirty-six states were created and the nation was subsequently delineated along six geopolitical zones. These are the six kitchens in the new edifice put together by the security guards. As each kitchen had its storerooms, so does each zone have its states - thirty-six altogether. The military handed power back to the politicians in 1999 just as the security guards handed the bunch of keys over to the subsequent set of hired servants. But just as only one kitchen and storehouse was open and active while the others were left shut, in like manner, the military and their successor politicians have focused on petroleum from the South-South as the main revenue source for the nation, neglecting the diverse resources spread across the six geopolitical zones. Besides, like the servants in the parable, Nigerian politicians, in the last sixteen years, enriched themselves with the nation’s oil wealth and fed crumbs to the Nigerian people, resulting in shortage and causing them to groan. However, the Nigerian people, believing that corruption is the major problem of our land, have elected one whom we believe is the embodiment of anti-corruption - President Muhammadu Buhari. Nevertheless, few months into his administration, the groaning has intensified and now there seems to be a lot of confusion as to the way forward for Nigeria. In the words of Polybius, the Greek historian: “Those who know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories”. Fellow Nigerians, the way forward is what this address is all about. But first, let us identify what I call beacons of hope – encouraging signs of progress in spite of the social, economic and political upheavals. BEACONS OF HOPE We have seen what has been generally described as the anti-corruption body language of Mr. President. This president does “give a damn” as far as public declaration of assets is concerned. And so does the vice-president. We have also seen a seeming reduction in the size of government and the courts buzzing with anti-corruption cases. With respect to specific policies and strategies, I believe the following are commendable: 1. The focus on diversification of the economy ; 2. Efforts aimed at recovering looted funds ; 3. The implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) ; 4. The retention and expansion of effective financial management tools and strategies such as Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS) introduced by the previous administration ; 5. The creation of the Efficiency Unit or E-Unit to ensure efficient use of allocations ; 6. The 223% year-on-year increase in capital expenditure ; 7. The reforms in the petroleum sector especially in relation to the structure, functions and management of the NNPC and the re-examination of the fuel subsidy conundrum; and 8. The infrastructure agenda with a phased strategy for roads, housing and power . A CRITICAL ASSESSMENT OF OUR NATIONAL TRAJECTORY Any fair assessment of this administration must be carried out in the context of promises made to Nigerians during elections. Therefore, our assessment shall be against the backdrop of the top campaign promises of Mr. President, the president’s inaugural address, and the APC manifesto. Hence, by asking salient questions as we go on, we shall examine the policies on five major issues namely: i. Economic diversification ii. Infrastructure iii. Human Capital Development iv. National Security and v. Critical Aspects of Financial Management • Economic Diversification We must examine the diversification thrust not just in terms of the over-reliance of the federal government on petroleum for export revenue but also in the failure of state and local governments to internally generate revenue. How can we effectively diversify the economy as regards mining and allied industries, for instance, without taking another look at Item 39 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution which confers powers in this regard exclusively on the federal government? This provision hampers the ability of states to generate income and create jobs through investment in solid minerals. Is it a coincidence that every state of the federation is endowed with mineral resources? Would it not be a better strategy for states to be empowered to manage these resources? The need for diversification also brings to the fore the question of viability of states in relation to the need for economies of scale. Can the states, as presently constituted, maximize their endowments even if more power were to be devolved to them? This, I believe, also explains the inability of states to optimize agriculture as it is on the Concurrent Legislative List. This introduces to the debate the need for a zonal or regional approach to national development, and in this regard we ask: is it sheer coincidence that the nation’s bio-geographical features, including the vegetation belts and rivers, roughly divide the landscape into six geographical zones? Shouldn’t these zones provide a basis for economic mapping and development? Why were the regions in the days of our Founding Fathers so economically viable to the extent of sustaining the federal government? Why can’t we begin a geo-economic path to geopolitical restructuring? Who is afraid of zonal commissions and geopolitical zones; and, if I may add, who is afraid of zonal federating units? Time has come for us to “feed our faith” in this regard and “starve our fears to death”. • Infrastructure According to the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, of about 200,000 kilometres of total road networks in the country, the federal government owns 16% or 36,000km which bear an estimated 70% of the total traffic . The state governments own 18% and the local governments control the remaining 66%. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), out of Nigeria’s total road network of 200,000km, only about 30,000km is paved . It is perhaps safe to assume that federal roads constitute the majority of paved roads. A transportation infrastructure map often reflects the socioeconomic profile. These statistics suggest at least two gruesome facts: firstly, that most states and local governments lack the needed capacity to maintain an efficient network of roads and, secondly, given the low traffic on those roads, that the federating units have been unable to facilitate the evolution of vibrant sub-national and local economies that can in turn feed into the national and global economy. The need for such local economies is in keeping with the argument that small and medium enterprises are the heart of any national economy. The inability of the federating units to comfortably fund infrastructure projects is an aberration in a federal system. Despite the massive investment in the power sector, the short-term target of 6000 megawatts has remained a mirage. As at mid-December 2015, electricity generation stood at 3,730.24 megawatts . Have we exhausted options with respect to electricity generation, transmission and distribution? Is deregulation without devolution a sustainable pathway to uninterrupted electricity supply? Must the national grid constitute a gridlock to progress? Why can’t the state governments, working as zonal blocs, come together with the federal government, to design an inter-modal transport system, as well as a hybrid power infrastructure model, along the lines of regional comparative advantage, and begin to push for the appropriate legal regimes to facilitate its implementation? Why can’t we allow for electricity generation, transmission and distribution at the zonal, state and community levels, such that domestic consumption needs are met at the sub-national levels, while the national grid becomes an electricity exporting vehicle serving the rest of West and even Central Africa, generating income for the federation that could be distributed on the derivation principle based on percentage generation? • Human Capital Development Central to human capital development is the education of our people. However, there is a regional or zonal dimension to the state of education in the country in terms of access. While 56.75% of the population in the North-East is uneducated, 54.85% of the North-West and 30.3% of the North-Central population lack access . In the southern zones, the uneducated population statistics are: 14.35% for the South-West, 14.7% for the South-East, and 9.55% for the South-South . These disparities are brought about by socio-cultural, security, economic, and, sometimes, geographical factors. In light of these statistics and causal factors, is it not common sense policy-making to have zonal regulation of education, with each zone charged with the responsibility of developing qualitative and quantitative human capital in order to maximize the peculiar potential of the respective zone, in line with a national vision that links education to industrialization? • National Security Given the circumstances, the government may have already begun to do all within its power to combat terrorism. However, considering regional, geographical and cultural peculiarities, why not allow zonal coalitions of states to design and implement regional security strategies in conjunction with the federal government? Why have we bought into the deceptive notion that the security of our nation will be hampered if we introduce policing at federal, regional, state and community levels? Consider the exploits of the Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force) in Borno State and imagine them to have been part of a regional or even a state police force in their own familiar terrain. Who can tell what a devastating impact such a formidable local force could have had on insurgents and terrorists, especially in terms of intelligence gathering, had they been a much more organised and well-coordinated security force? The earlier we remove the legal bottlenecks in the way of achieving the maximisation of our local resources in this regard, the better our chances of defeating insurgents and terrorists in record time. • Petroleum Sector At this juncture, given the resurgence of the subsidy conundrum, it has become needful to pre-empt or respond to those who might be wondering if our January 2012 protests were organized in error. Let me reiterate that the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) did not mobilize the people of this country to the Gani Fawehinmi Park at Ojota merely to protest the removal of the fuel subsidy but to challenge the corruption that defined the fuel subsidy regime. Even at that time, we recognized the unsustainability of the subsidy regime but maintained that corrupt politicians, in collusion with certain private interests, had plundered the national treasury through fictitious fuel subsidy claims and were merely hiking the fuel price to mobilize funds to cover up the negative effects of their actions on the economy. We insisted then that it was not a deregulation as was being claimed by the government but a hike in fuel price. We demanded the prosecution of those indicted in the damning report of the Farouk Lawan Committee, a phenomenon we referred to as “Kleptocracy Unlimited”, where, for instance, 999 million naira was reportedly paid 129 times, totalling 127,827 billion naira, to some companies, by the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation . Four years later, those indicted persons have not been prosecuted. Do we still need to wonder why corruption is so endemic and very pervasive in our nation today? Here is the verdict of Heaven: Ecclesiastes 8:11-13 (NKJV): 11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God. Is it not shameful that we have been subsidizing consumption and practicing the economics of laziness? As stated in Proverbs 12:27 (NKJV): The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man’s precious possession. Is it not laziness of the highest order that one of the largest producers of crude oil in the world exports crude and imports refined products at cut-throat costs? It is incomprehensible laziness that an oil producing country would decline to zero refining capacity! There is no gainsaying the fact that we have become the laughing stock of other oil producing countries in the world. It is in our collective interest to bring this aberration to an end, taking advantage of the dip in oil prices to effect a phased replacement of the subsidy regime with domestic production. Whereas the buzzword in the subsidy debate is “subsidy removal”, we are advocating “subsidy replacement”. Subsidy replacement would entail the adoption of targeted palliatives that would ensure that the benefits of intervention get to the so-called average Nigerian for whom it is designed while taking steps to restore full capacity for domestic production. This must be communicated effectively and transparently to stakeholders including the labour unions. A crucial step in transparent communication would be full investigation into the past five years of the subsidy regime and the prosecution of culprits including those indicted in past probes. Transparent communication would also entail explaining to Nigerians why the pump price of fuel has not had a direct proportional relationship with changing global crude oil prices such that the pump price is adjusted with every significant drop in oil prices. For example, it will be very interesting to know what happened with respect to the landing cost of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) between June 2014 when the price of crude was 115 dollars per barrel , and January 2015 when it fell below 50 dollars per barrel . Without a doubt, the ultimate solution to the subsidy conundrum lies in optimally functional refineries. While we appreciate the current efforts towards restructuring the downstream sector, we also need to explore innovative approaches to domestic refining; in this regard, the need for modular refineries cannot be overemphasized. In relation to the upstream sector, we maintain that now that crude is fast losing its value, is the best time to diversify, and that diversification can only succeed when accompanied with devolution of powers in a restructured federal system. Indeed, the summary of our assessment of the entire framework of governance and public policy is that, without restructuring, this administration may achieve little or no significant and sustainable success. • Critical Aspects of Financial Management First, flowing from the issue of fuel subsidy, the government must examine carefully the argument by economists that sound monetary policy, including proper management of the exchange rate regime by the CBN, would eliminate the need for subsidies. The intricate connection between monetary policy on the one hand, and the fuel subsidy debacle on the other, makes the management of the CBN a major concern. As regulator, the CBN keeps some amount of depositors’ funds on behalf of the commercial or deposit money banks thereby controlling liquidity, which is the amount of money in circulation. It does this by what is called the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), which is the percentage of depositor’s funds that every commercial bank must keep with the CBN. Over the years, the CBN, through its CRR and interest rate policies, has been increasing the amount of money in circulation, creating a situation known as excess liquidity. It then goes on to buy back this excess money in circulation by issuing treasury bills to the same banks and other investors through the Open Market Operations (OMO); a monetary policy tool used in buying or selling short term government securities (Treasury Bills) to control money supply. Simply put, the government tells the banks, “give me your excess money (which I have unwittingly or generously created for you) and I will pay you back with interest”. Roughly put, it is almost like an already heavily indebted shop owner selling goods at a discounted price, such that the buyer is able to purchase much more than he is able to transport home. Then the shop owner offers to store the excess goods in his own store and to pay the buyer heavy interest when he returns to collect the goods. The same indebted store owner then cries out, “I’m broke o! My debt burden is killing me o!” To the discerning, the CBN currently contributes negatively to the Nigerian state in more ways than one. Firstly, the CBN has become a conduit for politicians to drain the nation. Otherwise, how can a letter of barely two paragraphs addressed to the current CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, by the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), become the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) leading to cash flow of $47 million (US dollars) and several millions of euros? In decent climes, the CBN Governor cannot continue in office while the NSA is accounting for his alleged misdeeds. Secondly, another negative contribution by the CBN is the needless obscurity it has created regarding currency in circulation. It was not so in the past. For instance, S. 43 (2) of the CBN Decree (now Act) No. 24 of 1991 stipulates: without prejudice to the provision of S1 of this section, the President may direct the Auditor General of the Federation to conduct an examination of the Bank, and submit a report thereon relating to the issue, re-issue, exchange and withdrawal of currency notes and coins by the Bank and the Bank shall provide all necessary facilities for the purpose of the examination. This vital sub-section was completely removed in the current CBN Act 2007, thereby making it possible for the CBN to decide the printing of the Nigerian currency, amounts to be printed, currencies to be destroyed (of which the CBN staff can take as much of such dirty notes as they like and inject back into the system while keeping all of us in the dark) without any check and balances stipulated in S. 43 (2) of the previous CBN Act No. 24 of 1991. This major lacuna has not only aided and abetted corruption, it presently compounds the fight against corruption especially in the apex bank. We need to remind ourselves some basic truths about the CBN: i. That the apex bank is not a conglomerate of the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers and the Morgans; ii. That the CBN is not a privately-controlled banking agency; and iii. That the CBN is simply not the US Fed. The wealth of the Central Bank of Nigeria belongs to the people of Nigeria, not the Governor and staff of the CBN. Our foreign reserves could be used to drive infrastructural development with a view to building a strong local industrial base and ensuring a solid financial services sector rather than for political and unaccountable misadventures. It is important to add that, rather than mere devaluation of the naira, a strong local productive base that widens Nigeria’s foreign exchange window is the lasting solution to the lingering currency crisis, especially the shortage of the dollar relative to the naira. Finally, if we are serious about sound financial management, a more significant reduction in the size and cost of running government will be required than this present administration has been able to effect. The government re-sizing process has been hampered by structural anomalies and constitutional constraints. For instance, of what use is a bloated legislature that could potentially gulp 25% of the entire national recurrent budget? Of what use is a profligate governmental structure characterized by minuscule but treasury-draining federating units? Of what use is a constitutional provision for the appointment of thirty-six ministers even when we have no need for so many? As for the state governments, care must be taken not to provoke the rage of poorly paid civil servants by reducing the minimum wage of already impoverished workers. What they should do is devise a reasonable policy direction that will lead to a reduction in the salaries of politicians and political appointees, reduce security votes, significantly trim the size and cost of governance, and then embark on vigorous revenue mobilization strategies. THE STATUS QUO IN PERSPECTIVE Fellow Nigerians, let it be known that in spite of the rejection of our pre-election call for a transition period, Nigeria is now a nation in transition. This transition period will predictably be followed by a revolution which will, in turn, be followed by a reformation that will eventually usher in the desired transformation of our nation. A key outcome of this process will be the emergence of a true People’s Constitution that will facilitate national integration and provide a suitable governmental framework for the Nigeria of our dreams – “a truly federal state with such powers vested exclusively on the federal government as are necessary to firmly and prosperously knit together the federating units upon which residual powers shall be vested” . That promise of true federalism is contained in Article 14 of the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration, which was unanimously adopted and signed by the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, including myself, as the basis of our union. I appeal to Mr. President not to ignore the report of the 2014 National Conference! God went ahead of you to provide a navigational map with which you can begin to steer the ship of state to a safe destination. The APC may have refused to participate in the 2014 National Conference, but the report of that conference is completely in tandem with the promise of the APC Manifesto. The APC Manifesto and the report of the 2014 National Conference are a tag team in waiting, not a thesis and antithesis. Just as this government adopted the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and the Treasury Single Account (TSA) , which were conceived by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the Buhari-led government should embrace the report of the 2014 National Conference. That report may have been produced under a PDP government but it is not a PDP document. It is a Nigerian people’s document. All the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, East, West, North, and South endorsed the report without a single vote on any issue. 2016: HIGHER GROUNDS AND GREATER HEIGHTS For Nigeria, the year of higher grounds and greater heights is the year of restructuring. It is the year when we can begin to rebuild her structures towards a new political order characterized by true and viable federalism that will usher in a new economic order. As I stated in a previous address titled “Nigeria Beyond 2015”: “One of the first fruits of this new economic order will be the emergence of Regional Economic Zones. In this regard, Nigeria will experience the rise of megacities across the six geopolitical zones such that there will be six unique models of the Dubai experience”. The Dubai model will integrate communities, districts, states and geopolitical zones around efficient governance, human capital development, infrastructural development, socio-cultural development, safety and security. Each of these “Dubais” will constitute an economic hub integrating the states within each geopolitical zone such that at least six states will be integrated into a zonal hub; each of the current 36 states will, in turn, facilitate the rise of an economic hub integrating three senatorial districts; and each of the senatorial districts will, in turn, facilitate the emergence of an economic hub integrating the Local Government Areas within their delineation. Internal revenue generation and massive job creation will be the outcome so much so that the federating units, being empowered to harness the resources within their respective jurisdictions, will fund a regionally and globally influential and powerful federal government. Such structural re-arrangement, backed by good governance at all levels, will facilitate tremendous improvement in standard of living, bring our people out of poverty and facilitate the prosperity and wellbeing of Nigerians. In conclusion, I have observed that this government has been laying emphasis on 2 Ds – Deregulation and Diversification. However, the diversification policy cannot be pursued without Devolution and to devolve effectively means to restructure the geo-polity and review our forms of government. Therefore, the government needs to update to 3 Ds. We cannot afford to sweep devolution of powers under the carpet. To the government and people of Nigeria, I say: “use the keys”! The bunch of keys in the parable of the mansion represents the power of government bestowed on it by the people – the power to give the nation the needed structural, cultural, institutional and constitutional change. Rather than bemoan the depletion of our revenues or complain about how broke the nation is, all we need do is use the keys to unlock the staggering potential of our great nation, to empower the various geopolitical zones to develop at their respective paces, and to facilitate the emergence of viable federating units that can contribute meaningfully and diversely to the common goal of building a great and prosperous nation. Mr. President, Sir, please use the keys and make real the promise of change! There is no better time than now! Go, PMB, GO! For such a time as this, God and Nigerians have brought you back into power. Like an arrow in the hands of Almighty God, hit the main target. Make hay while the sun shines. Strike the iron while it is hot and trust God and posterity to judge you right for saving Nigeria from a self-imposed debilitating structural defect. Remember, only those who dare drive the world forward. Thank you for listening. God bless you, and God bless Nigeria. January 10,2016.

Saturday, 9 January 2016



How Nigeria can get out of economic crisis – IMF boss

January 07, 2016 MANAGING Director, International Monetary Fund, IMF, Christine Lagarde has asked Nigeria and Nigerians to brace up for harder times, following the massive fall in the price of oil globally, just as she said that the country since inception recorded the slowest pace of growth in the year 2015. Lagarde, who called for increase in Value Added Tax, VAT, stressed that it has become imperative for the federal government to broaden the country’s tax base against the backdrop that Nigeria has the lowest VAT rate in the African continent. According to her, “the current VAT rate is among the lowest in the world and well below the rates in other ECOWAS members—so some increase should be considered.” Although the IMF Managing Director was careful not to endorse the devaluation of naira against major international currencies, she, however, urged the federal government to adopt a flexible monetary policy that will better serve the interest of Nigerians. Speaking, yesterday, at the National Assembly complex in Abuja during a meeting with Senate President Bukola Saraki and other senators, the IMF boss who called on the federal government to reduce cost of governance, said that the contentious fuel subsidy must be removed to allow government spend on infrastructure, housing, education, health, among others. She, however, cautioned Nigeria against obtaining loans, noting that it was at the moment affecting the country and subsequent borrowing could hurt the nation’s economy in the long run. She said: “On recurrent expenditure, efforts should be made to streamline the cost of government and improve efficiency of public service delivery across the federal and sub-national governments. Transfers and tax expenditures should also be addressed. For example, continuing the move already begun by the government in the 2016 budget to eliminate resources allocated to fuel subsidies would allow more targeted spending, including on innovative social programmes for the most needy.” Fuel subsidies hard to defend She continued: “Indeed fuel subsidies are hard to defend.“Not only do they harm the planet, but they rarely help the poor. IMF research shows that more than 40 per cent of fuel price subsidies in developing countries accrue to the richest 20 per cent of households, while only 7 per cent of the benefits go to the poorest 20 per cent. “The move by the government to remove fuel subsidy is good. Those people who need the subsidy can receive cash transfer. Fuel subsidies are hard to defend. Subsidies are no longer good. But I hear that it will hurt the poor. Forty per cent of fuel subsidies in rich countries go to rich families. The people do not really need the subsidy. Look at the number of people who stay in stations trying to buy fuel. “There is a small acceleration expected in 2016. Growth in the last 10 years has slowed down in Sub-Saharan African countries. Oil prices will remain low and low for a long time. Oil producing countries must factor this in and model their economic policies towards this direction. Nigeria is facing mounting pressure. There will continue to be abundant supply of oil, but low demands. It is very unlikely that we will see any rise anytime soon. “Private sector investments will be affected. Higher interest rate will continue to rise. Sub-Saharan African countries are facing immense pressure as a result of this. I can feel the hardship and pains as a result of activities of Boko Haram. The resources spent in trying to fight insurgency are supposed to be spent on infrastructure. “Whatever happens in Nigeria will affect our neighbours because of the trading relationship. There must be a fundamental change in the way government operates. It is not about how to divide proceeds from oil wealth. It is about how to deliver to Nigerians the basic services they deserve. Hard decisions must be made. As the National Assembly considers the 2016 budget, these are the issues they consider. “Moreover, the experience here in Nigeria of administering fuel subsidies suggests that it is time for a change—think of the regular accusations of corruption, and think of the many Nigerians who spend hours in queues trying to get gas (fuel) so that they can go about their everyday business. “At the same time, we should not forget the huge challenges facing Nigeria’s state and local governments. These sub-national governments—which account for the bulk of social spending—have only limited tools to manage the impact of declining oil revenues. My message here is to manage better the smaller purse, while building capacity to increase internally generated revenue.” Nigeria and West Africa Lagarde then urged Nigeria as a country to build regional cooperation among West African countries because whatever affects Nigeria directly or indirectly affects other countries within the sub region. According to her, “This is always a moment I cherish. My first visit to Nigeria was in late 2011. At that time, Nigeria was emerging from the global economic crisis. Nigeria is the prime destination in Africa. Nigeria has gone through democratic transition which is a good thing. When investors know that transitions can happen successfully, they have more confidence. “The richness of Nigeria has to do with the population. Nigeria is a huge market and people who are prepared to put their money here look at the population. Oil prices have fallen sharply. The geopolitical tensions have increased. These things are happening at a time the country needed to lift the standard of living of Nigerians. Nigerians are known for their courage and doggedness. Nigeria cannot waste time. There is no time at all. “Government must step up revenue mobilization and reduce leakages. Every 50 kobo collected from 30 per cent of the country’s revenue goes into the servicing of local and foreign debts. The government must focus on power, transportation and housing. These three areas will create wealth. They are critically important. Efforts should be made to reduce the cost of governance. “As I am told, Nollywood currently employs over one million Nigerians. Poverty and inequality still remain high in many parts of the country. Mortality rate is still high.” Speaking on the need to strengthen institutions of government empowered to tackle corruption-related issues, Ms Lagarde revealed that over $1 trillion was given and received as bribes globally every year. She equally revealed that corruption makes up five per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The IMF boss who urged the National Assembly to come up with laws that will address corruption and block leakages in the system, said: “Corruption is touted to be five per cent of the global GDP and over $1 trillion is said to be given as bribes globally every year. Today, Nigeria is looking ahead. The future is greater than the past in Nigeria. But the sooner the government delivers, the better it will be for Nigeria and Nigerians.” Nigerian financial sector’s strong, solid, but needs to support real economy Meanwhile, speaking earlier during a meeting with officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and chief executives of financial institutions in Abuja, Lagarde emphasized the need for the financial sector to support the real sector and also contribute to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy. She said: “We had a productive meeting with representatives of the banking industry and we had the chance to discuss the stability and the sustainability of that particular sector. We also had the chance to debate together how the financial sector can better contribute to financing the economy and supporting the business and the development of growth in Nigeria. “From my perspective, it was a very productive meeting, very open; we had the chance to really exchange and consider how the system can improve further. “The financial sector of Nigeria is strong, solid and needs to continue to be so, but it also needs to lend to the real economy and to provide good terms of business.” Also, Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, stated that banks in the country promised to increase their support of the real sector and also play a major role in Nigeria’s economic development. He said: “On behalf of the people of Nigeria and the bankers, I would like to thank the IMF and Lagarde. We had very fruitful discussions and she gave support to the efforts of the CBN by also trying to encourage Nigerian banks to continue to support the real sector, support SME in Nigeria and indeed, also try as much as possible to boost lending at very concessionary pricing, just as we are doing. “And the banks themselves have given their words that they would do their best to support, notwithstanding the risk as well as some of the challenges we had witnessed in the past.” After the meeting at the CBN, Lagarde, who was accompanied by her husband, Xavier Giocanti, also visited Mother Theresa Children Home, Gwarimpa, Abuja, where she made a donation of $7,500, about N1.5 million, to the orphanage on behalf of the IMF. Speaking at the orphanage, Lagarde congratulated the management of the orphanage for their efforts at caring for the children. She said this was her second visit to Nigeria as IMF president, but nothing was as touching as whenever she visits orphanage of the likes of Mother Theresa Children Home. She said: “This is my second visit to Nigeria as head of the IMF and on every occasion I have visited, presidents, governor of the CBN and legislators, but nothing is as touching as a visit like this one. “And as you say, the future of Nigeria is bigger than its past. But the future is built investing in youth and education. And that future is built one child at a time; and that is what this orphanage demonstrates. No child is left behind and you care about those who are left by the society. And for that, I really want to thank you. President Muhammadu Buhari receiving IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde in Abuja. President Muhammadu Buhari receiving IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde in Abuja. “Nigeria is a country with oil, energy, entrepreneurship, resilience, but it should come to the reach of the youth as well. So please, keep doing what you are doing and we at the IMF, we care about the youths, poor and about those who are left at the side of the road.” Lagarde’s speech NASS Lagarde’s speech at the National Assembly which was was titled, “Nigeria—Act with Resolve, Build Resilience, and Exercise Restraint”, read in part: “I would like to thank you for the gracious introduction, and Members of Parliament and the people of Nigeria for their incredible hospitality. I have been looking forward to starting my new year here in Nigeria—and I am grateful for the special privilege to speak before this parliament. “My first visit to Africa as IMF Managing Director was in late 2011, and the first country on my itinerary was Nigeria. At that time, Nigeria was emerging from the 2008-09 commodity price collapse and the banking crisis that followed. “Since that visit, Nigeria has been acknowledged as the largest economy in Africa—with a maturing political system. We saw a peaceful general election last year in which, for the first time in Nigeria’s history, there was a democratic transition between two civilian governments. It was a strong sign of Nigeria’s commitment to democracy, to a new Nigeria. “At the same time, the external environment has changed. Oil prices have fallen sharply; global financial conditions have tightened; growth in emerging and developing economies has slowed; and geopolitical tensions have increased. All this has come at a time when Nigeria is facing an urgent need to address a massive infrastructure deficit and high levels of poverty and inequality. “So, Nigeria faces some tough choices going forward. Nigerians, however, are well known for their resilience and strong belief in their ability to improve their nation and lead others by example. I firmly believe that Nigeria will rise to the challenge and make the decisions that will propel the country to greater prosperity. As the great Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe once said: “If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.” This is exactly what you are doing right now. And let me assure you that, as you go forward, as you develop your story, the IMF will support your efforts. “Today, I would like to offer my perspective—on your story and punctuate it with three R’s: resolve, resilience, and restraint. I will first identify the global economic transitions that are affecting Nigeria and the region. I will then turn to the importance of managing the near-term vulnerabilities facing Nigeria’s economy. And, finally, share my thoughts on what might help to achieve more inclusive and sustainable growth. 1. Global economic transitions and implications for Nigeria and the region “So let me start with the big picture. For more than a decade, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa was driven by an extraordinary combination of improved policies, stronger institutions, high commodity prices, and high capital inflows. “The region has now entered a different phase, where commodity prices and capital flows are far less supportive. We are in the process of updating our forecasts, but broadly the IMF staff estimates that regional economic growth dropped from 5 per cent in 2014 to about 3.8 percent last year, with only a modest recovery expected in 2016. “There is a similar picture at the global level—modest growth last year, with only a slight acceleration expected in 2016. Emerging markets, which propelled global growth after the 2008 global financial crisis, have slowed; advanced economies are still recovering from the impact of that crisis; and financial markets remain volatile. In fact, both at the regional and global level, growth is affected by three major economic transitions. They include China’s move to a new growth model, the prospect of commodity prices remaining lower for longer, and the increasing divergence in monetary policy in major economies, especially since the recent rise in U.S. interest rates. “Understandably, policymakers in this region are concerned—because these transitions can create spillovers through trade, exchange rates, asset markets, and capital flows. “For example, spillovers are now affecting oil-exporting countries, which generate about half of this region’s GDP. These economies, including Nigeria, are facing massive pressures and challenging prospects. Over the medium term, oil prices are likely to remain much lowerthan the 2010-13 average of more than $100 a barrel. Why? Because of the huge oversupply in global oil markets. Think of the shale oil boom in the United States, and some historically large producers such as Iraq and Iran coming back to the market. Other factors include OPEC’s strategic behavior and the drop in global demand for oil, especially in emerging economies. “Already, lower oil prices have sharply reduced Nigeria’s export earnings and government revenues. Both are likely to remain at depressed levels, reducing the space for policy interventions to address Nigeria’s social and infrastructure needs. “Private sector investment will also be affected. Investor confidence about the outlook has remained weak, and financing is likely to become more difficult and more costly for everyone. With U.S. interest rates expected to continue to rise, albeit slowly, the likelihood of capital outflows will increase, and exchange rate pressures could mount as investors re-assess their appetite for risk. “More broadly, Sub-Saharan Africa is also facing spillovers from geopolitical factors, including the fight against Boko Haram. The threat of terrorism is very real and never far from our minds. Having been in Paris during the November attacks, I know firsthand the sorrow that so many Nigerians carry in their hearts. In this region, terrorism not only takes a human toll but it also makes public finances more fragile. How? By widening budget deficits. Revenues are lower, including from lower growth, and spending needs higher, including for security and for supporting those impacted by the violence. One immediate downside is higher financing needs that can crowd out other essential public spending. “This brings me to my second topic—how can policymakers manage these near-term vulnerabilities? 2. Managing near-term vulnerabilities Let me start by underscoring the progress made in recent years. Nigerians have created a large and diversified economy that has grown by about 7 per cent a year over the last decade. This has been a remarkable achievement, a testament to Nigeria’s immense potential. The outlook, however, has weakened. Growth in 2015 is estimated at about 3.2 per cent—its slowest pace since 1999—and only a modest recovery is expected in 2016. For a country with a rapidly increasing population, this means almost no real economic growth in per capita terms. On top of the slowdown, vulnerabilities have increased. The ability to manage shocks is restricted by low fiscal savings and reserves. And the weakening oil sector could stress balance sheets and put pressure on the banking system. “Reduced confidence and lower capital spending also impact the non-oil corporate sector. Unfortunately, this sector looks less resilient today than during the downturn of 2008-09. Companies that have increased their leverage and US-dollar debt in recent years may now come under pressure as they face rising interest rates and a stronger dollar. “Nigeria also has a large regional footprint, and its fortunes affect that of its neighbors, especially through trade. For example, it is estimated that a one per cent reduction in Nigeria’s growth causes a 0.3 percent reduction in Benin’s growth. So what can policymakers do? I see an immediate priority—a fundamental change in the way government operates. What do I mean by that? The new reality of low oil prices and low oil revenues means that the fiscal challenge facing government is no longer about how to divide the proceeds of Nigeria’s oil wealth, but what needs to be done so that Nigeria can deliver to its people the public services they deserve—be it in education, health or infrastructure. “This means that hard decisions will need to be taken on revenue, expenditure, debt, and investment going forward. My policy refrain is this: Act with resolve—by stepping up revenue mobilization. The first step is to broaden the tax base and reduce leakages by improving compliance and enhancing collection efficiency. At the same time, public finances can be bolstered further to meet the huge expenditure needs. For example, the current VAT rate is among the lowest in the world and well below the rates in other ECOWAS members—so some increase should be considered. Build resilience—by making careful decisions on borrowing. Nigeria’s debt is relatively low at about 12 percent of GDP. But it weighs heavily on the public purse…” Already, about 35 kobo of every naira collected by the federal government is used to service outstanding public debt. Exercise restraint—by focusing on the quality and efficiency of every naira spent. This is critically important. As more people pay taxes there will, rightly, be increasing pressure to demonstrate that those tax payments are producing improvements in public service delivery. Let me give you examples of what I mean: “On capital expenditure, the focus must be on high-impact and high value-added projects. This is why the government is focusing on power, integrated transport (roads, rail, air, and ports), and housing. These can help connect centers of activity across the country and drive growth prospects. “On recurrent expenditure, efforts should be made to streamline the cost of government and improve efficiency of public service delivery across the federal and sub-national governments. Transfers and tax expenditures should also be addressed. For example, continuing the move already begun by the government in the 2016 budget to eliminate resources allocated to fuel subsidies would allow more targeted spending, including on innovative social programs for the most needy. Indeed, fuel subsidies are hard to defend. Not only do they harm the planet, but they rarely help the poor. IMF research shows that more than 40 per cent of fuel price subsidies in developing countries accrue to the richest 20 per cent of households, while only 7 per cent of the benefits go to the poorest 20 per cent. Moreover, the experience here in Nigeria of administering fuel subsidies suggests that it is time for a change—think of the regular accusations of corruption, and think of the many Nigerians who spend hours in queues trying to get gas so that they can go about their everyday business. “At the same time, we should not forget the huge challenges facing Nigeria’s state and local governments. These sub-national governments—which account for the bulk of social spending—have only limited tools to manage the impact of declining oil revenues. My message here is to manage better the smaller purse, while building capacity to increase internally generated revenue. The IMF can help in that regard by providing technical assistance on public financial management. We did so for the Kaduna State Government. We can explore how to support states’ efforts to undertake budget reform. I see another immediate policy priority—strengthen Nigeria’s external position. The essential fact is that, given the structure of the economy, the massive fall in oil prices—which is expected to continue—has changed the medium term foundations for economic resilience. To be clear, the goal of achieving external competitiveness requires a package of policies including business-friendly monetary, flexible exchange rate and disciplined fiscal policies, as well as implementing structural reforms. Additional exchange rate flexibility—both up or down—can help soften the impact of external shocks, make output and employment less volatile, and help build external reserves. It can also help avoid the need for costly foreign exchange restrictions – which should, in any case, remain temporary. And going forward, improved competitiveness from improved exchange rate flexibility and other reforms will facilitate the needed diversification of the exports base and, ultimately, growth. This brings me to my final topic—how can policymakers achieve more inclusive and sustainable growth? 3. Achieving inclusive and sustainable growth The good news is that Nigeria is already, in many ways, a 21st-century economy. • Think of the boom in mobile communications in a country where more than 140 million cell phones are in use, nearly one for each Nigerian. • Think of the vibrant, home-grown film industry that has become the world’s second-largest by output. Nollywood employs about one million people who create films that are winning audiences across the continent and beyond. • Think of the growing number of innovative startups—from fashion to software development—that are promoting Brand Nigeria. Indeed, the growth in services to about half of Nigeria’s output is a testament to the transformation that has begun, and which needs to continue. But we all know that huge structural challenges remain, despite the many initiatives that are ongoing. Let me highlight the conditional cash transfer scheme in Kano, where poor households receive financial assistance linked to girls’ enrolment in schools. Overall, however, poverty and inequality still remain high, especially in some parts of the country. Women account for about 42 percent of the total labor force—which is comparatively low—and their literacy rates are well below that of men. Maternal mortality is relatively high because of limited access to health care. Many women and children are dying every day simply because they cannot get to medical facilities fast enough. With that in mind, what are the key policy priorities? Invest in quality infrastructure, make the banks work, and improve governance. Let me take each in turn: The first—act with resolve to significantly improve transportation networks and power delivery [i.e., generation, transmission, and distribution]. For example, Nigeria could be exporting tomato paste—a staple of Nigerian cuisine—on a large scale, but it imports about half of what it needs. This is why Nigeria needs to build more roads and better rail networks, so that more farmers can bring their crops to market. Likewise, more investment is needed in energy infrastructure in a country where too many businesses and households regard their backup generators as their main power source. The second priority—build resilience by fostering a sound banking system. This will help channel more savings into productive investments, especially in quality infrastructure. “To be sure, Nigeria’s banks are generally well-capitalized and more resilient than during the downturn of 2008-09. But they are beginning to feel the impact of the growing vulnerabilities in the corporate sector. This means rising non-performing loans, which will need to be carefully monitored and managed. The third priority—act with resolve in fighting against corruption. In his first public speech after the election, President Buhari singled out corruption as a “form of evil that is even worse than terrorism.” “Corruption not only corrodes public trust, but it also destroys confidence and diminishes the potential for strong economic growth. At the global level, it is estimated that the cost of corruption is equivalent to more than 5 percent of world GDP1, with over US$ 1 trillion paid in bribes each year2. Here in Nigeria, important initiatives to discourage graft are underway and should be applauded. Let me highlight the publication of monthly data on the finances and operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. This provides information on a key sector, building confidence in transparency, and improving accountability of oil revenues, for the benefit of all Nigerians. Much more can—and needs to be—done. Fighting corruption is a multi-year, multi-generational struggle that must be won. Conclusion “So let me conclude: today your nation has embarked on a new journey. Nigeria is looking ahead, while drawing strength from its assets—the richness and diversity of its culture, the ingenuity of its people, and the belief in a better future. Today policymakers have the opportunity to address near-term vulnerabilities and medium-term challenges—with resolve, resilience, and restraint. Today the “Giant of Africa” is walking with a spring in her step—inspiring others in the region and across the world. As the great Nigerian poet Ben Okri once said: “Our future is greater than our past”. Earlier in his remarks, Senate President, Bukola Saraki disclosed that the National Assembly was willing to partner with the global financial body to come up with policies that would benefit Nigeria and Nigerians, adding that there was the need to review the Forex policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria as that would ease restriction on foreign currency and would in the long run, encourage both local and foreign investments.

Alabukun' and it's course of history in Nigeria.

Jacob Sogboyega Odulate, the Blessed Jacob, sat at the work table in his laboratory, writing the notes which contained the formula for what would ultimately be known as his famous patented medicine, Alabukun Powder. This was in the year 1918. It was early in the evening of another hectic day at his place of work, a functional combination of office, consulting room and laboratory-cum workshop. His single minded pursuit of the goal of establishing an indigenous medical/pharmaceutical brand was legendary. He had displayed the same purposeful determination when at the age of 14, he decided to uproot himself from his ancestral town of Ikorodu and he had embarked on an exploratory journey which took him three months on foot to establish a domestic and commercial base in Abeokuta. His very modest, but cherished “headquarters” was built in the Sapon area of Abeokuta, a mere walking distance from the site of his future three-storey landmark home in Ijemo Agbadu. With the day’s work finished, he supervised the ritualistic tidying-up of the office, a task in which some of his children were willing and excited participants. Soon it would be time to join his friends for a few games at tennis at the Abeokuta Tennis Club, and then go off to his home to join his wives and children for dinner. His face, which could sometimes bear the disconcertingly combined countenance of both a firm disciplinarian and a mirthful father in equal measure, was today aglow with joy. He, a black man and member of the Yoruba ethnic group had triumphed against the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that the British colonial authorities had placed in the path of ambitious “natives”. He had penetrated the fortress of British-dominated commercial enterprise in nascent Nigeria, to become one of a very small group of Nigerian entrepreneurs in the colony. He had reasons to smile. From the modest, but gradually escalating proceeds of the sale of Alabukun Powder, Alabukun Mentholine and other locally made products – all produced by him – the Blessed Jacob was able to realize his overarching desire, which was to underwrite all the expenses associated with sending his children to the land of the erstwhile colonial rulers, Britain, to further their education. One after the other, his offspring went off to study at Durham, Newcastle, USA and London to qualify as educationists, medical doctors, lawyers and engineers. They returned to Nigeria to join the pool of highly educated and successful professionals for which Abeokuta has been particularly famed in Nigeria history. Alabukun’s offspring have prospered and have made immense contributions to Yorubaland and to Nigeria in their various professions and spheres of endeavour. The enduring success of the Alabukun brand is now interwoven into the fabric of modern Nigeria medical history. The Alabukun Powder in particular is displayed and sold in thousands of pharmacies, markets and roadside stalls all over Nigeria. In many states in Nigeria, Alabukun powder is considered to be the obligatory cure-all for almost every ailment. In neighbouring countries such as Benin Republic, Ghana and Cameroon, the eye-catching Alabukun brand is to be seen advertised everywhere. Alabukun products are sold in several towns and cities in the USA, the UK, in Europe, Brazil, Jamaica, and yes, even as far away as China. You can buy Alabukun products on-line, off-line, under-bridges and over-expressways. Just last year, 2012, the descendants and family of the Blessed Jacob marked and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the passing on of this towering man. In a manner in which he would have been proud, the celebrations were modest and without fanfare. None of the governors of the various states in South West Nigeria in which the Blessed Jacob made huge contributions was present. Both Ogun State and Lagos State were in no way officially represented at this significant anniversary. However, we owe nobody any grudge because for a particular reason the family had decided to make the anniversary a low-key affair. Happily, his children, his grandchildren, great grand-children and great-great grandchildren as well as the descendants and relations of the multitudes of his beneficiaries, patients, friends and employees, were all there to celebrate the history of this under-appreciated icon. And so, one year after this 50th anniversary, what are the physical edifices and buildings that can serve as a present and future testimony to his legacy, to his industriousness, to his trailblazing entrepreneurship? Even then a befitting memorial, indeed, a legacy, solid, towering structure such as a house has severally suffered from uncaring and insensitive official arm. First to go was the magnificent family residence in Ijemo Agbadu with its unique granite-hued frontage and castle-like grounds which for more than half a century housed living quarters for family and friends alike – DEMOLISHED! Secondly, in 2013 the building (the first two-level building in Abeokuta, Sapon) the original birthplace and home of the Alabukun brand was – DEMOLISHED!! Thirdly, the storey-building that the Blessed Jacob built on the east side of Ikorodu Road and which for decades was the most significant landmark on that road before one reached the landmark Ikorodu Roundabout was also pitifully – DEMOLISHED!!! This sad history of willful disregard and disrespect for the legacies of those who came before us and who contributed so much to the nation that we today call Nigeria is abundantly exemplified in the tragic fate of Alabukun’s properties. We, the descendants of the glorious Blessed Jacob are so grateful and proud of his life. The education that he bestowed upon us, the wonderful example he showed in his personal and business life, his immense generosity and kindness of spirit, these are what we and our own descendants will never forget. For those who find themselves in power today, and for those who were in power when all of the destructive acts described above were committed, we have only this to say: The act of destruction of the physical properties of those who did so much to make our nation great can never desecrate their names or their legacies. It is those who permit such destruction who should ask themselves this: “Is this the way to honour the past? Are we proud to announce to the world that we allowed history to be corrupted and eroded like this?” Finally, sad as we may feel about this story of demolition as chronicled above, we, the descendants, especially his children, are proud and grateful to God that our magnificent Patriarch, Papa Chief Jacob Sogboyega Odulate – ALABUKUN – The Blessed Jacob – left us a legacy that can never be forgotten in the history of Nigeria. In life and in death he stands up in the development of Nigeria. What a man! What a hero! What a legacy! For more information on the life of this great man, I refer you to the book “Reaching for the Stars” an autobiography of one of his children – Chief Folake Solanke SAN.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Nigeria in deep economic trouble - Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

For decades, Nigeria danced in close confines with economic disaster. In the past, higher oil prices allowed us to dodge the worst. We have survived but not thrived. Improvised but not planned. Spent but not invested. Laughed, drank and feasted but did not build, construct or maintain. Now, Nigeria has collided into a wall, merciless and immovable. The present downturn in oil prices may be more than just a transient slump in the business cycle. (www.punchng.com)

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

“Dasukigate: SUVs not $300,000 was collected from Jonathan”

ABUJA – Presidency, last night, stated categorically that President Mohammadu Buhari never collected any monetary compensation from the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan or any of its officials in the aftermath of the Boko Haram attack on him in Kaduna last year. The denial followed reports making the rounds that president was settled with $300,000 and 5 Sports Utility Vehicles, SUVs after the attacks. The reports however came on the heels of a high profile investigation into the activities of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) in the purchase of military hardwares. Dasuki had threatened to reveal the involvement of former Nigerian Leaders who shared in the “loot”. But in a swift reaction to the disturbing development, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina on Tuesday, in a statement refuted the claims. He however accepted that only two jeeps were given to the president. According to him, the jeeps were only two, one armored and one not amoured. Adesina added that the SUVs were statutory entitlement of president Buhari as a former Head of State. He stated that the president could not have compromised his integrity by accepting monetary compensation from a discredited regime of president Jonathan. The statement read in full: “Our attention has been drawn to reports making the rounds, especially on internet-based media, that President Muhammadu Buhari received $300,000.00 and up to five armoured SUVs from the Office of the National Security Adviser in the aftermath of the attack on his convoy in Kaduna last year. “We unequivocally deny that President Buhari received $300,000.00 or any monetary compensation whatsoever from the Jonathan Presidency or any of its officials, in the aftermath of that attack, or at any other time since then. “While it is true that one armoured SUV and one untreated SUV were sent to the President in the aftermath of the attack, the vehicles were in keeping with his entitlements as a former Head of State under the Remuneration of Former Presidents and Heads of State (And other Ancillary Matters) Decree of 1999. “Section 3, Sub Section 1 of that Decree provides that three vehicles will be provided for former heads of state and replaced every four years. “There was therefore nothing untoward, illegal or tending to corruption in former Head of State Buhari and Presidential aspirant, as he then was, receiving vehicles, to which he was statutorily entitled, from the Federal Government of Nigeria. “President Buhari had in keeping with his austere, spartan and frugal disposition shunned most of his entitlements as a former Head of State, but was prevailed upon by his supporters to accept the two vehicles for his personal safety in the aftermath of the dastardly attempt to assassinate him. “It is preposterous to think that the President will allow his acclaimed reputation of honesty and incorruptibility to be tarnished by accepting a questionable monetary compensation from a discredited regime.”

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Awo Not Guilty As Charged By Chinua Achebe: Here Is Why!-Part 1

Posted: October 18, 2012 - 14:50 By Dr. Wumi Akintide I have vowed never to comment on Chinua Achebe’s controversial best seller titled “There was a Country” until I have had a chance to read it from cover to cover. Having read the book, I now feel at liberty to do a 3 part series on it starting with this one. I do not believe anyone can do justice to all of the issues raised in that book in one or two articles. I have read some of the comments by prominent Igbo leaders supporting the central thesis of Chinua Achebe’s indictment of Obafemi Awolowo as the man who arguably crafted, engineered and implemented the genocidal policies that led to the Biafran War. Chinua Achebe has argued that Awolowo and by implication the Yoruba people as a whole should be held responsible for the more than 2 million deaths from Biafra and half that number or more from the Federal side because nobody was able to keep an accurate record of how many people died in that war on both sides. I was an Assistant Secretary (Army) in Defense Headquarters in Lagos and I know that to be the truth. All I can tell you is that there was needless loss of lives on both sides. The Abagana disaster which was the most successful ambush of the Nigerian troops by the Biafran troops who effectively deployed the “Ugbunigwe” land mines against Federal troops in that war was a case in point. The inference can be drawn from Chinua Achebe’s analysis and conclusions and those who support him that Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas were the “fons et origo” of the Biafran apocalyptic misadventure. I would beg to disagree with that observation on hindsight. If Chinua Achebe in this book has added that here was plenty of blame to go around on both sides, and if he has gone ahead to correctly analyze and itemize those blames and those responsible for them, I would have been less critical of the learned Professor in this write-up. Why? Because the learned Professor to me remains one of the greatest literary giants Nigeria has ever produced. He has been a hero of mine from my Secondary School days when I first read his “Things Fall Apart”. If I was one of the judges in the Board of Assessors for the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature, I would have picked the man before I pick my former Lecturer and fellow Yoruba juggernaut, Professor Emeritus of English Language, Wole Soyinka. I honestly consider “Things Fall Apart” as Chinua Achebe’s greatest literary gift to the Universe. The book has now been translated into more than 192 foreign languages the last time I checked. That to me is an eloquent testimony to the distinction of Chinua Achebe’s as Nigeria’s closest runners-up to William Shakespeare. I will therefore be the last person to cast aspersion on anything Chinua Achebe has ever written. It is in fact beyond my pay grade to want to do that. But that said, I am a bit disillusioned that Chinua Achebe who is not saying anything new about what many among his tribe have said about Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas would choose this particular time of all times to start lending his powerful voice to uninformed speculations about any role Awolowo and the Yorubas must have played in cajoling Biafrans to fight a war in which they lost so much. The Achebe book could not have come at a worse moment for the South at a time the Jonathan Government has now finally agreed to allow the Sovereign National Conference to go forward. The three dominant tribes in Nigeria i.e. the Hausa/Fulani Oligarchy in the North, the Igbos in the South East and the Yorubas in the Southwest and now the Ijaws in the South/South should not have to face this kind of wedge issue that could predictably weaken the solidarity of the South as we prepare for that conference to drastically restructure Nigeria for the good of the country. The Igbos and the Yorubas - two of the most progressive, educated, civilized and economically vibrant tribes in Nigeria would be doing ourselves a huge disfavor to go into that national conference with a mind set that emphasizes what divides us rather than what unites us. Chinua Achebe who I consider as one of the powerful voices to decide where Nigeria goes from here in that conference should not have allowed himself to be used as enabler to further divide the South at this time. I personally regret that the Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu, the undisputed leader of the Igbos and the Commander-in-Chief of the Biafran forces in that war did not live long enough to complete his memoirs on that war like he had promised to do. That memoir would have cleared the air once and for all. The central thesis of Chinua Achebe in that book would have been more credible to me if that conclusion had come from the Ikemba himself. I could care less about what the so-called Commander of Biafran Army, “General” Alex Madiebo had said that Chinua Achebe had understated the hostility of Obafemi Awolowo to Igbo nation. I am fully aware of how Okwealieze Nwodo and Dr. Mbadinuju have already endorsed the Chinua Achebe’s view point in the book. I am also aware that former Governor Ezeife has issued a statement which I totally agree with that we must all remember that “Awolowo did not join the war against Nigeria and neither did he start the war against Eastern Region but he eventually joined Gowon” What Governor Ezeife did not add and should have added was that Ogbuefi Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Igbos foremost leader who reportedly composed the Biafran National Anthem has also had cause to desert Biafra and to side with Gowon at the most critical phase of the war. As a matter of fact, it could be argued that the Azikiwe’s retreat or betrayal had dealt a far more fatal blow to the Biafran struggle than anything that Awolowo ever did. Ogbuefi Nnamdi Azikiwe far more than Odumegwu Ojukwu at the time was like the Ayatollah, the spiritual and ultimate leader of Iran while Ojukwu could be compared to Ahmadinejad the transient political leader of Iran. “Ayatollah” Azikiwe taking a U turn and siding with General Gowon at the time was a major blow to Biafra“ far more damaging than anything Awolowo ever did. It was only a question of time before the Ikemba clearly saw the hand writing on the wall by quickly flying to exile in the Ivory Coast thereby leaving “General” Philip Effiong to handle the surrender formalities that ended the War. Chinua Achebe did not dwell so much on that development in his book but he found it convenient to put all the blame on Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas and their ambition to subjugate and forever humiliate the Igbos using genocide as a convenient weapon. Socrates was right when he said that “what any man is saying or seeing is often a factor of where that man is sitting or standing at any given point” I will concede to Professor Chinua Achebe that he probably drew his conclusion based on where he was sitting or standing when he made his observation, But there is more to what really happened in that war than the totality of what Chinua Achebe has stated in that book. It was as if Chinua Achebe was less concerned about the sequence of events leading to the Biafran War in 1967 which included the murder of Ahmadu Bello in January 15, 1966, the assassination Aguiyi Ironsi at Ibadan 6 months later and the heroic role played by Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, a Yoruba man who laid down his own life rather than betray his Igbo Commander-in-Chief. Chinua Achebe seemed to forget that the Igbos and the Hausas dominated the Nigerian Military pre and post- Independence era because the Hausas dominated the rank and file of the Military in Nigeria while the Igbos clearly dominated the officer rank. The Yorubas at that particular time in our history did not particularly value the Military and the Nigerian Police and the Para-military establishments in Nigeria as career points for our people. Yorubas preferred joining the Civil Service or going to teach than seeking a career in the Military. When I graduated from the University of Ife in June 1966 as the first child of all Nigerian veterans of the Second World War to win the British/Canadian Legion Scholarship to do my first degree, the Military should have been the first choice for me. I could easily have been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Nigerian Defense Academy in Kaduna. I was actually made an offer and encouraged to join the Army by then Major and late General Agbazika Innih as I recall. I rejected the offer because my mother would not let me take it because I was my mother’s only child. I did not think I lost anything at the time because smart and educated Yorubas would rather take a teaching job or join the Civil Service than join the Military. I predictably ended up taking up a teaching job first at Aquinas College, Akure from June 1966 before crossing over to Igbobi College, Lagos from where I joined the Federal Public Service as an Administrative Officer in the Federal Ministry of Defense on January 3rd 1968 with late Yusuf Gobir from Kwara as my Permanent Secretary and late B. G. Popo as my Deputy Permanent Secretary. It would have been naïve and foolish of the Yorubas under Awolowo to simply join forces with the Igbos to fight or confront the Hausa/Fulani dominance of Nigeria with only a few Yorubas in the Military at the time. That was one of Awolowo’s calculations. Awolowo was among the few prominent Yoruba men bold enough to visit the East to try to persuade Ojukwu to reconsider his declaration of war against Nigeria because he clearly told Ojukwu that the West was not militarily and mentally ready to join in, if the East decided to go forward with her plan to break away. The same Awo who did not suffer fools gladly did not hesitate to convey to General Yakubu Gowon in an unmistakable language that if the East is allowed to break away then the West would have no other choice than to separate from the North. It was an honest position to take because Awolowo had always demonstrated his preference to form a coalition with the East than with the North because he was convinced it would make more sense to team up with the East and the Yorubas supported him in that decision. If Awolowo was the kind of leader Chinua Achebe was painting him to be in that book he would have preferred going with the North which was more educationally backward and disadvantaged at the time. Awolowo was by far the strongest Nigerian leader of that era who knew what he wanted and the courage to state his case very clearly. Another Yoruba leader who made it clear he totally supported the Igbos for wanting to break away because of the genocide unleashed on them in the North by the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy was Professor Wole Soyinka. The third Yoruba man who was a self-confessed confidant of Odumegwu Ojukwu and a great friend of the Igbos in general was the late Professor Samuel Adepoju Aluko who lectured for many years at the great University of Nsukka. There was also late Tai Solarin who wrote several articles opposing the killing of the Igbos in the North. These distinguished Yoruba men plus Colonel Banjo who actually gave up his life fighting under the Biafran flag and Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi who gave up his life like I said earlier, were all out rooting for the Igbos during the war. Let anyone with facts dispute the facts I am making here if they have them. How for goodness sake can Professor Achebe not remember some of the peaceful and friendly overtures the Yorubas have made to the Igbos on so many occasions in the history of Nigeria. It baffles me that the Professor would not mention anything about these larger than life overtures the Yorubas have always made to the Igbos because we view the Igbos as being more compatible with us than the Hausa/Fulani Oligarchy and majority of us still feel the same way till now. The Yorubas have demonstrated that goodwill every now and then. When Nigeria became independent in 1960, Awolowo had proposed to Azikiwe for the NCNC and the Action Group to form a coalition to run the central Government with Awolowo agreeing to let Azikiwe become Prime Minister while he himself would be happy to settle for Finance Minister. The man did the right thing but Azikiwe turned him down. Look where the NCNC/NPC coalition has led Nigeria today 52 years later. Need I say more? Azikiwe and the Igbos instead chose to go with the Northerners because they have made the calculation that the Igbos were going to be able to dominate the Hausas more than they could ever hope to dominate the Yorubas who were equally as educated as the Igbos. Come on folks. There is plenty of blame to go around, if we want to be realistic. The Igbos have made a few mistakes like the Yorubas. What the hell is Chinua Achebe talking about? Wasn’t Azikiwe going to become the first Premier of Western Nigeria while Imoke was going to be the first Premier of Eastern Nigeria? Who voted for the NCNC and Azikiwe to initially win the majority at Ibadan in 1952? Was it not the Yorubas? Can the Igbos ever point to any similar concessions for the Yorubas in their own enclave? If it exists let them say it if there is any. I am more than willing to learn. The Yorubas have been great supporters of the Igbos for as long as any of us can remember. The NCNC led by Azikiwe have always won in Ibadan, Ilesha and Akure Metropolis even in Awolowo days? Akure as I recall was among the Yoruba towns begging the Igbos to not return to the East because they were guaranteed their safety in Akure and not one of their abandoned properties in Akure were taken over after they left Akure during the war. The properties were all kept safe for them till after the war, Compare that with what happened to the Igbo’s abandoned properties in Port Harcourt and much of River’s State after the war was over! I am offended that Chinua Achebe has applied such a wide brush to use his book to chastise Awolowo and all the Yorubas as pursuing an agenda to suppress and humiliate the Igbos. That indictment is not supported by any reality check. It is sad that very few things are documented in Nigeria. There is no substitute for documented history. Those who know Awolowo very well would realize that he had political ambition to rule Nigeria but certainly not at the expense of the Igbos or any other tribe in Nigeria. Awolowo predicted long time ago that the minority Ijaws are going to rule Nigeria. The prediction has come to pass with the coronation of Jonathan. Awolowo was fighting for Democracy and development and purposeful leadership to take root in Nigeria and not a one party dictatorship where the blind will be leading the blind. If Chinua Achebe reads Awolowo’s “Path to Nigerian Freedom” the “Voice of Reason” and The Peoples’ Republic he would appreciate that Awolowo was totally above those petty ethnic jealousies and squabbles. He wanted a Nigeria we all can be proud of, with Freedom for all and Life more abundant just like he did for the old Western Region. I wish Awolowo were still alive to defend himself. I knew Obafemi Awolowo. Obafemi Awolowo was in many ways my mentor. I worked under him very closely for a year in the Federal Ministry of Finance. I was born into the Action Group, my father was one of the foundation pillars of the Action Group in the defunct Western Nigeria and in Akure the Ondo State Capital. Nigeria would never know a fighter and a braver Nigerian leader who fears nobody and will tell you his mind, come rain or shine. Awolowo was never a leader to be taken for granted or taken lightly. He drove himself far much harder than he drove others. Awolowo would look you straight in the face and tell you not what he thought you wanted to hear but what you needed to hear loud and clear. I witnessed a little bit of that when in 1974 or 1975 he addressed a Convocation at the University that now bears his name. I personally prepared the first draft of the speech he was supposed to read as Chancellor of the University. I passed on the draft of that speech for clearance thru my then Deputy Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Aminu Saleh who passed on the draft to late Abdul Azeez Attah the Permanent Secretary who made a few cosmetic changes before passing the draft to Obafemi Awolowo as Federal Commissioner for Finance and Deputy Chairman of the Federal Executive Council at the time. We were all expecting Awolowo to read our draft on the Convocation Day. Awo did not use a single word from the draft. He read the speech he himself had prepared without clearing it with Dodan Barracks or General Yakubu Gowon, his boss at the time. Awolowo was the only Federal Commissioner who could have done that without being queried by anybody. It took a lot of courage and hard work for him to do that because the speech he read was totally devoted to the 1973 or 1974 Census conducted by the Yakubu Gowon Government. Awolowo demolished the Census as dead on arrival because “it has defied all the known rules and norms of Demography in the whole world “ to use Awolowo’s exact words at the Convocation. I have never in my life seen anything like that. The late President Leopold Senghor of Senegal and Prime Minister late Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago were in the audience to be honored by the University and so was Yakubu Gowon himself. By that single stroke Obafemi Awolowo killed the Census that day. When Murtala Mohammed took over from Gowon in 1975, one of his first actions as the new Head of State was to annul the Census altogether and to order a recount. He, Murtala Mohammed, had lifted verbatim part of Awolowo’s speech in so doing. It is not for fun that the Ikemba himself, Odumegwu Ojukwu who had shown so much respect for Awolowo by describing “Awo as the best President Nigeria never had” I don’t know what Chinua Achebe is talking about. If the Ikemba has shared the views canvassed by Professor Achebe in this controversial book, he most certainly would have said so without mincing words. I have personally read a narrative of Rudolf Okonkwo’s interview with the Ikemba carried verbatim by the Sahara Reporters before the Ikemba’s death. If the Ikemba truly believed that Awolowo was to blame for all the genocidal policies against Biafra, he would have said so without any doubt. Awolowo was neither the head of the Federal Government nor the head of the Military when the genocide occurred. He was the Federal Commissioner and the Deputy Chairman to Gowon in the Federal Executive Council at the time. The policy was a joint decision of the Federal Executive Council at the time. It is totally disingenuous of Professor Achebe to now put the blame on Awolowo as if Awo was Head of Government. I totally reject that attempt. . Awolowo as Federal Commissioner for Finance had managed the finances of Nigeria at the time with distinction making sure that Nigeria did not borrow a penny to prosecute that war. He did so by persuading the Federal Executive Council to stop wasting money by creating white elephant missions abroad while the nation was engaged in a very expensive and destructive civil war. His colleague Okoi Arikpo could easily have condemned Awolowo for dabbling into the affairs of his Ministry at the time. He did not do so like because he knew Awolowo was right to champion such a cause and to master-mind and influence the implementation of that policy with clock-like precision. That was Awo for all of us during his entire public life. Nigeria was blessed to have a man of his caliber managing the nation’s finances during the civil war. By the same token Awolowo personally confided in me when I worked under him about his rational for telling General Yakubu Gowon it made no sense for his Government to continue to prolong the war and to continue to enrich the pockets of all the war commanders who did not want the war to end at all because they were substantially benefiting from it. If the war had continued beyond 3 to 5 or more years, the Biafra and Nigeria side would have lost a lot more than the 2 million Chinua Achebe wants Awolowo to be crucified for. Chinua Achebe has completely forgotten that Awolowo was an economist and a lawyer by training and profession. He realized that the Law of diminishing returns had already set in and it was his duty and responsibility as Finance Minister to stop the hemorrhage and he did by asking why it made sense to continue to actively feed the Biafran troops while they continue to have access to fresh supplies of arms and food supplies from Ivory Coast, Gabon, and one or two countries openly supporting Biafra at the time. America, right now, has unleashed very tough and harsh economic sanctions on Iran today because they don’t want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Only God can tell how many Iranians are dying today from those sanctions or how many Libyans died when NATO forces led by America cut off supplies to Libyan troops and when America started giving drones to the Libyan opposition to topple Moammar Ghadafi. When there is a war, compassion has to take a back seat. That is the plain truth that Awolowo as a leader clearly understood. Very few rational people would fault Awolowo for raising the points he has raised as the effective manager of the Nigerian finances at the time. Awolowo’s decision to persuade the Federal Government to all of a sudden change the Nigerian Currency half way thru the war so as not to allow Biafra to continue to spend the money they have looted from the Enugu branch of the Central Bank was exactly the right thing to do. The decision had forced the Biafra to go print her own money which was not internationally recognized at the time. Once Nigeria took away their financial capacity to continue the war, their Commander-in-Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu had to know it was time to end the war and he did as a rational leader. That was exactly what happened. I can understand Chinua Achebe complaining out of sympathy for his own people but for him to then take the quantum leap and start putting all the blame on Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas leaving out General Gowon and the Northerners who started the war as less blameless is a total outrage as far as I am concerned. It is even a worse outrage that General Yakubu Gowon and many of his commanders who are still alive and many of the northerners who started and justified the pogrom against the Igbos in the North would not stand up to put defend Obafemi Awolowo who is no longer in a position to defend himself. One would expect the Yoruba war commanders like Benjamin Adekunle, General Adeyinka Adebayo, General Olusegun Obasanjo, General Alani Akinrinade who are still alive to come out in defense of Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas if the northern war commanders and Yakubu Gowon are too timid to do so . I would be the first to admit that Awolowo, like every human being, is not perfect. But if you put all Nigerian leaders on a ranking scale, Awolowo without any question has proved himself to be a leader of consequence in Nigeria and a democrat without blemish. His track record in the old West has proved just that. That is why the man would continue to loom larger than life even in death. When he started the free education and free health program in the old West in 1955 many nihilists said the program would not work. When it started working, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe tried the same concept in the former Eastern region. The whole thing collapsed in less than 3 years. Many Igbo and Hausa parents relocated to the old West to take full advantage of free education for their children. Awolowo did not stop them. All he did was to find a way to sustain and consolidate the program by creating what he called Modern Schools to absorb the excess from Awolowo schools. Sad to say, Boko Haram is thriving today in much of the North and spreading like bush fire in the Harmattan because the northern leaders had failed to do for their own people what Obafemi Awolowo was able to do for the Yorubas. Awolowo had done what he had to do as a leader and I take off my hat for him. Let the chips fall where they may, Awolowo is not the villain that the learned Professor wants to make him with his new book written in flawless language as usual. I rest my case.