Monday, June 29, 2009

Let's Organise and Not Agonise!

I was discussing with a family friend over the weekend about Nigeria. The man, in his early fifties, is a Consultant Radiologist and a product of University of Ibadan. During the course of our discussion, he began to relive his experience at the University of Ibadan. He told me about how they were being served cereal and oats for breakfast, and chicken for lunch at the school dining hall. He described how he was able to buy a brand new car with his bursary award. Although, he wasn’t from a rich family, he talked about how he was able to buy designer clothing at Copperfield. In fact, his wife confirmed that it was the food that was been served at the University, that made her decide to pursue a university degree. After the conversation, I asked myself, why is it that all good things in Nigeria are always referred to in the past? Also, what has this nation offered children of my generation?

The discussion made me appreciate why the generation of Prof. Wole Soyinka are so bitter about the current state of Nigeria. I guess for my generation, we were born at the time, when the country was in steady decline. We only hear stories that Nigeria used to be good.
For me, I had always experienced interrupted power supply since I was born. Prior to my departure from the country, the last time we had pipeborne water in my house was 1991. So I have always seen boreholes as the norm. It was in my generation, that strike action by university lecturers commenced. It was in my generation that incessant fuel scarcity started. Nigeria produced university graduates in my generation whose qualification was not worth more than the paper that it was written on. My generation grew up in an era when “tokunbo” vehicles became the best thing after slice bread. As result of the systemic collapse of the nation, we became disillusioned. Every university student was always aspiring to leave the country after their graduation. Some even abandoned their university education to seek greener pastures overseas.

Having gone through all these, can my generation afford to sit and do nothing? My answer is NO! From my observation, it is clear that the struggle is in our hands, because there is no one that will fight this battle for us. The liberation of the soul of Nigeria lies in our hands. We need to rise up and save this country from the shackles of kleptomaniacs. It is for a fact that we make up the highest percentage of the Nigeria’s population. It is for a fact, that we are the largest population of age group in diaspora.

If we fail we to act then generation unborn will be doomed! The implications of our do nothing action will be severe. If we do nothing, we run a risk of having children who may never know that power can be generated from other source other than house generators. We run a risk of having children, who will think boreholes are the only source of water supply. We run a risk of having children, who will think queuing at petrol stations all night is part of everyday life. We run a risk of having children who will feel school closure as a result of university strikes is part of school holidays.

Despite all the challenges we have been put through, I still believe that my generation is very blessed. We are lucky to have grown up in the information age. The internet has now made the world to be at our finger tips. We are more technology savvy than our fathers. We have the level of exposure better than any generation before us. So, what is stopping us?

As a generation let’s begin to “organise and not agonise”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Presidential Race: My 5-Point Agenda

Friends and Comrades,

After serious consideration and extensive consultation with my political supporters, I have decided to throw my hat into the ring for 2011 Presidential elections. You will agree with me that the race for Aso Rock has begun to gather momentum, and therefore, it is only right that I launch my Presidential bid.

We are a nation at a crossroad. Our leaders have continued to fail us. Our nation’s infrastructure is in state of comatose. As a result of this continuous decay, every previous government have been made to look better by the ineptitude of its successor. My aim is to salvage our great nation from the shackles that has held us down since independence.

Moving forward, I hereby outline my 5-point Agenda, which focuses on Energy, Infrastructure, Niger Delta, Economy and Anti-corruption.

All attention will be focussed on resuscitating the nation’s ailing power sector. Fellow Nigerians, I can promise you that epileptic power supply will be a thing of the past.

Since we are now so much dependent on generators, I intend to meet with Chinese manufacturers within my first 100 days in office. I will encourage production of “disposable generators”. My aim is to make power supply affordable to every Nigerian. Nigerians should be able to own 3-4 generators has they do with mobile phones. These generators will be cheap and affordable for all households. In recognition of the impact of climate change, these generators will be made of recyclable materials.

I will also make sure that the manufacturing industries are established in Nigeria to facilitate knowledge transfer and skills development. This will be through government grants and tax breaks for interested companies.

The government has demonstrated its ineptitude in building and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure. I will therefore actively seek private sector participation in nation building. All federal-owned highways and railways will be sold to the private sector, who will be allowed to charge as much toll as they wish in order to keep the transport system functioning. The private-sector will be allowed to plan and develop new roads and railways, in return for their investment. Government-owned Corporation and Authorities such as Nigerian Railway Corporation, Inland Waterways Authority will be sold off to the private sector.

The nation’s refineries will be sold to Messrs Femi Otedola and Aliko Dangote. NITEL will be sold to Otunba Mike Adenuga. All the nation’s airports will be sold to Bi-Courtney.

Niger Delta
Desperate situation they say “requires desperate measures”. The militancy in the Delta region must stop! However, it clear that military action is not the answer. In dealing with the Niger Delta crisis, I will initiate a Resource Re-distribution Plan. The RRP will include proposals to allocate oil blocks to Niger Delta militants. Foreign oil companies engaged in business in the area will also be forced to enter into agreement with local militants for provision of security.

I will continue to strengthen our nation’s economy through creation of more Oligarchs. Government-owned Corporation and infrastructure will be sold to businessmen who have distinguished themselves in the area of business entrepreneurship. The wealth of the nation will be concentrated in the hands of these few individuals, some of whom are currently biggest importers of rice, cement, diesel etc. This will guarantee long term economic security. These Oligarchs will also be consulted in major banking and finance reforms. They will responsible for nominating the Governor of Central Bank.

I’m ardent believer in the anti-corruption struggle. I will continue to respect the principle of “rule of law” as promoted by the Yar’Adua government. It is also believe the former Governors have a critical role to play in fighting corruption. The Yoruba adage says "only a thief can unravel the mystery of theft"

In tackling corruption I propose the following. Firstly I will absolve the Office of the President from the appointment of Chairman of EFCC and ICPC. Secondly, within 100 days in office, I will forward a Bill to the Parliament seeking to recognise the Governors’ Forum in the Nation’s constitution. Following that, the Governor’s Forum will be tasked with responsibility of selection and appointment of the Chairman of EFCC and ICPC.

In addition, I propose to amend the EFCC and ICPC Acts, so that only former State Governors are allowed to head the nation’s anti-corruption agencies.

Comrades, I believe this represents a blue-print for moving our nation forward.

Nigeria! Great Nation!! Good People!!!

Concerned Nigerian (June 2009)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gov. Isa Yuguda and Political Prostitution

As we know, Governor Isa Yuguda, who is also the son-in-law of President Yar’Adua, was elected as Governor of Bauchi on the platform of the ANPP in May 2007. However, on 14 April 2009 in a brief ceremony, the state Governor announced his defection to the PDP. Following his clash with All Nigeria’s People Party(ANPP) leadership over appointments into President Yar’Adua’s so-called ‘Government of National Unity, his defection did not come as a surprise to many political commentators. His celebrated marriage President Yar'adua's daughter in January this year only just confirmed the inevitable. Since Gov. Yuguda’s defection, there has been speculations about the future of his Deputy; Alhaji Garba Gadi. But in defiance to the decision of his boss, the Deputy Governor decided to stay put in ANPP.

This issue is now becoming a moving beast in Bauchi State. And according to the Thisday newspaper, the PDP led government has now reached a decision to impeach the Deputy Governor for not “defecting” from the ANPP to the PDP with his master. In fact, it was alleged that any member of Bauchi House of Assembly that signs the impeachment notice is expected to receive a sum of N10 million!

Whether the plot to impeach the Deputy Governor succeeds or not is a matter of time. The conundrum currently being faced by the Governor and lawmakers is that there is no impeachable offence been committed by the Deputy Governor. These sorts of issues only reiterate the obvious that our democracy is a sham..

When did refusal to practise ‘political prostitution’ become an impeachable offence? Whilst I’m not a supporter of the PDP or ANPP, I’m fully in support of Alhaji Gadi’s refusal to defect to the PDP. Section 188 of 1999 Constitution is very clear on the grounds, on which a Deputy Governor can be impeached. According to Section 188 (2)(b) a deputy Governor may only be removed from office if, “the holder of such office is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified”. In desperate move to remove the Deputy Governor, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the Governor and lawmakers conjure up something trivial. It is already been alleged that an investigation has been launched by Gov. Yuguda’s “inner caucus” into all financial approvals given by the Deputy Governor since May 2007. This is of course aimed at finding a “smoking gun”, which can be used an excuse to impeach the Deputy Governor.

Secondly, we need to ask ourselves, how can a serving Governor defect to an opposition party whilst keeping his seat? It is not the first time that elected politicians will ‘jump ship’. If I could remember, sometime ago, a member of the Senate from Lagos State also decamped to the PDP from Action for Democracy (AD) It is also important to note that Gov. Yuguda is not the first serving Governor to defect to the opposition party. The current Governor of Zamfara State also decamped from ANPP. I can only compare this attitude to daylight ‘electoral fraud’. It is bad enough that we have an electoral process that is awash with violence, intimidation, forgery etc. But how can you describe a situation, where elected politicians switch platforms. The people of Bauchi State did not vote for the PDP. And if Gov. Yuguda his confident about his popularity, he can choose to do what his honourable, resign and seek re-election under the banner of PDP.

This is what happens in a society where politicians do not have any democratic value. Our political system is awash with ‘professional’ politicians, who are devoid of modern political ideologies. These professionals will do anything to perpetuate themselves in power. What does Gov. Yuguda actually stand for? What are his political ideologies? Is he on the left or on the right? Do his principles align with that of PDP? The fact that he is the President’s son-in-law does not mean they have to share the same political ideology.

The current trend of defection by elected politicians must stop! These politicians cannot expect to eat their cake and have it. Any elected politicians that defects to another political party should be made to stand down and seek re-election. The loophole within our electoral system that allows this to happen must be plugged.

And we really need to ask ourselves, is this, what is called democracy? How can the will of a few bigots continue to be enforced on the majority? We need to rid our system of charlatans and political jobbers. They seem to have mastered the art of deception, greed and fraud. But as I always say, the clock is ticking………….

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Railways Concession and N114 billion Investment

After spending two precious years of ‘studying and planning’ the Federal Government announced that the long awaited concessioning of the national railways will happen next year. Unfortunately, due to President Yar’Adua’s track record of non-performance, Nigerians are now apathetic towards such announcements. And why wouldn’t they be? This is the same President who told us that he will declare an ‘emergency’ in the power sector within his first 100 days in office. However, 750 days on, he his still talking about his deluded vision and agenda – which ironically has also been criticised by the nation’s number banker Lamido Sanusi.

The need for the rehabilitation of the national railways cannot be overemphasised. You will struggle to find a nation with similar population as Nigeria that does not have a functioning railway system. There is however a growing consensus within and outside the government, that the National Railways Corporation - which owns the monopoly on rail development and operation - is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. Hence, if we want a functional rail system, the need for private sector participation is inevitable.

The challenge however being faced by the government will be role of the NRC in the railways sector post- concessioning. As I noted in my piece on the proposed Railways Act Bill, the inherent conflict of interest in the role of NRC as service provider and regulator remains unresolved. For me, it is important that these two roles do not lie within a single agency. The reasons for this are well articulated in my piece titled ‘Railways Act Bill 2008’.

But from the announcement made by the Transport Minister recently, it seems under the proposed changes to the institutional arrangement, NRC will remain a service provider. Whether this continues under the current management or a private investor company, will depend on how success of the proposed privatisation. However, one thing that struck me in the government announcement, was the approval of N114 billion ($76.250 million) for the purchase of 25 C25 EMPD diesel-powered locomotives for the moribund NRC in ‘preparation’ for its concessioning in June 2010.

The question is, why invest N114 billion of taxpayers’ money in company that will be put on sale next year? What happens if the government cannot recover this investment in the proposed sale? How much is NRC actually worth? There is saying that, “an item is only worth what the buyer is willing to pay”. The government should have undertaken a due diligence to ascertain the worth of NRC before investing anymore funds in the corporation.

The NRC has been transformed from been a strategic national asset to a national liability – thanks to corruption! Available records of a five year financial summary of the NRC reveal that in 1999, the Federal Government allocated as much as N900 million to the NRC and N1billion in 2000. That figure increased to N2billion in 2001, but in the following year, that allocated fell short to the tune of a billion naira only to be increased again to N3billion in 2003. Therefore, in less than five years, the NRC had received close to five billion naira, without commensurate income generated from that huge investment.

To this end, investing N114 billion into what can be described as a ‘depreciating’ asset is waste of taxpayers’ money. The NRC should be privatised ‘as is’. The privatisation could either be a total ‘sell-off’ to the private sector, or a concession over a period of time. It is up to the private to assess the financial benefits the NRC offers and tailor their business plan to suit. The government N114 billion might just be government money gone into the drain.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Governors Forum and Harvard University Brouhaha!

Hopefully, the recent email from Prof. Robert Rotberg will put the Harvard University brouhaha to bed. From an email published on the Saharareporters website, the much publicised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was “only between Prof Rotberg’s Program and the Governors Forum”. It was NOT a formal agreement between Harvard University and the Governors Forum. And according to Prof Rotberg “the MoU was meant to be the first step in the exploration of a possible training program and as a means of signifying the intent on both sides to work together to craft such a program”.

Opinion seems to be somewhat divided on whether it is right for the State Governors to sign an agreement (MOU or whatever you call it!) with a foreign University for a training program in leadership, good governance, education policy and economic development. Some social commentators argued that, it is a given that most of our Governors are pretty useless and have no clue. And if Harvard University is the place they can be taught, then we should let them go! To them, the Governors will at least be exposed to first class educational facilities, good roads, and potable water supply.

I beg to differ with such arguments. We do not need leaders that want to learn on the job. Our infrastructure is in a state of comatose, educational system is dysfunctional, no pipe borne water, no good roads, no transportation system, university graduates are riding okada, our hospitals have virtually turned into morgues, young children are hawking on the streets, the homeless are sleeping under the bridge, and someone is telling me he needs to visit Harvard before he can solve these problems! It is even preposterous for any state administrator to conceive such idea.

No wonder Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun state thinks giving away taxis to his cronies and political jobbers is a ‘mass transit’ program. It shouldn’t also have been a surprise when the South-South Governors Forum talked about floating an airline, as economic development strategy! When the airline industry is consolidating all over the world because of the global economic crisis, some stupid state administrators still feel it is a wise investment. Sometimes you can help but ask yourself, can these people think at all?

For me, I will continue to blame the system that has allowed these self-serving incorrigible human beings to assume position of authority. These traditional politicians or call them ‘professional’ politicians have offered us absolutely nothing! They aspire for political position without any vision, no manifesto, and without basic understanding of what governance means. Tell me, do you need a Harvard University Professor to help comprehend the problem with this nation? How can someone ask his employer to pay for classes on how to perform his primary role, when you are not an apprentice or trainee?

The position of a state governor is not for trainee or apprentice. We need leaders who can hit the ground running. The challenges facing this nation are great, but the actions required are crystal clear.

Unfortunately, these kleptomaniacs have perfected a succession plan that will allow them to recycle themselves in power. And when they pass away, the mantle is passed to their children, some of whom have been trained with ‘stolen money’ at some of the world’s best educational institutions.

Let them continue to promote policies that perpetuate mediocrity in power. Let them continue to use rhetoric and meaningless agendas to manipulate the masses. The odds might seem strong in their favour, but the clock is ticking.

Slowly, but surely………………

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Letter to EFCC Chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri

Dear Mrs Waziri,

Firstly, I will like to wish you happy first year anniversary, as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Madam, as you are aware, ‘corruption’ has been the bane of human and infrastructure development in Nigeria. I need not to educate you on how much of the nation’s wealth has been stolen and stashed overseas by many of our leaders since independence.

You will also agree with me that you were appointed as anti-corruption Czar at a very important time in the nation’s history. It was at a time, the nation lost one of its finest and passionate law enforcement officers in strange, but not unusual circumstances. This is in the person of Nuhu Ribadu. Whilst he had his flaws, your predecessor Nuhu Ribadu demonstrated that it was possible to fight the ‘beast’ called corruption. Up until 24 months ago, “the fear of Nuhu Ribadu was the beginning of wisdom”.

Although your apologists may say that you’ve only been in office for 12 months, but I think it is important that we start asking the right questions. As they say, “the signs of a good weekend should be obvious on Friday”. Firstly, should you have accepted the EFCC job? And secondly, what has been your achievement so far?

For me, your 12 months in office has been marred with nothing but sleaze. Your appointment in itself was controversial. The fact that you were appointed under controversial circumstances was enough to demonstrate that you were brought in to do your masters’ bidding. And so far, you have done perfectly well in protecting the interest of your lords and masters.

In a country with endemic corruption such as Nigeria, the position of EFCC Chairman is for people with unblemished moral integrity and financial accountability. However, it is on record that prior your appointment; you were retained as a consultant by many of the former Governors to help fight their corruption charges. This represents serious conflict of interest, and for this reason you should have been the last person to be appointed as the EFCC Chairman.

Madam - in the last 12 months - in concert with the Attorney-General you have successfully subverted the anti-corruption campaign. Under your leadership, the EFCC has now become an appendage of the Justice Ministry. You have colluded with Attorney-General to undo what Nuhu Ribadu achieved in five years, in less than 12 months! Only God knows what will happen by time you complete your tenure in four years time.

I also noted your recent comments, that 2010 will be hard for corrupt politicians. Madam, if I may ask, is there anything you will do differently in 2010? Because your track record at the EFCC is telling. Since your assumption of office, you have been unable to successful prosecute any of the former governors. All you do is to look for excuses and lay blames on the judiciary. If Nuhu Ribadu was able o secure court judgment against the likes of Tafa Balogun and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, then what is your problem? Instead of getting on with your job, you keep asking for special courts to try corrupt individuals. For your information, Nuhu Ribadu did not ask for a ‘special court’ to prosecute corrupt individuals. For me, I can’t seem to understand the need for these special courts.

Madam, let the truth be told, you have failed in your role as the EFCC Chairman. You have failed to build on the foundation laid by your predecessor. Your ineptitude has only encouraged our leaders to continue to steal with impunity. Instead of concentrating on the task at hand, you look for every opportunity to launch scathing remarks against your predecessor. It is the likes of you and the Attorney-General that will continue to make Nuhu Ribadu a hero.

Madam, for how long will you and Attorney-General continue to destroy our nation? We have now become a ‘rogue’ state, thanks to your subversion of anti-corruption principles. We are now been perceived as a nation of time wasters when it comes to corruption, thanks to your ‘rule of law’ syndrome. Foreign countries will not even share intelligence with your agency due to lack of trust. You collude with Attorney-General to embark on wild goose-chase that is devoid of any sense of purpose. You even had the moral authority to criticise an organisation such as Human Rights Watch. Now that you have spent one year in office, can you point out any non-governmental organisation local or international that has commended you for job well done. The answer is NONE!

And by the way, whilst reading the transcripts of your one year anniversary media briefing, I noted that the name of the Ex-Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori was ‘conspicuously’ missing from the list of former Governors under investigation. Can we assume that it was an oversight? Or can we simply take it as an indirect confirmation that James Ibori is no longer under EFCC investigation?

Madam, please consider these issues very seriously. I want to believe that there is still ample time for you to redeem your image.

Kind regards

Concerned Nigerian

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gov. Fashola, DPA and Alpha-Beta Consultants

During the mid-term anniversary of Gov. Raji Fashola, Democratic Peoples’ Alliance (DPA) Director of Publicity, Felix Oboagwina, noted that the Lagos state government has been harbouring waste in the system for paying no less than N36 billion to the Alpha-Beta Consultancy Limited from the internally-generated revenue of over N240 billion.

The need for Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) has been increasingly important for state governments following recent decline in price of crude oil - which impacted significantly on revenue allocation. Prior to the global financial crisis, most State executives were fond of going to sleep for 29 days only to turn up in Abuja at the end of the month to collect their share of nation’s oil proceeds.

With regards to Lagos, Col. Buba Marwa, increased the state IGR to over N600 million from the N100 million he inherited. And by the end of the tenure of Bola Tinubu, IGR was over N10 billion. And now under the governorship of Babatunde Fashola, IGR in Lagos State is over N200 billion. The revenue collection was contracted out to private consultants Alpha-Beta under Tinubu and Fashola administration.

Whilst it is important to give credit to Ex-Governor Bola Tinubu and Gov. Raji Fashola for their innovation and efforts in increasing the state IGR, it is also important that the issues raised by DPA are not swept under the carpet. Alpha-Beta Consulting Ltd is paid 15% of the state IGR, and DPA wants the government to review its terms of engagement with consultancy firm.

I will note that engagement of consultants in the area of revenue collection did not start with Gov. Raji Fashola or his predecessor. Col. Buba Marwa contracted revenue collection to Olusola Adekanola and Co. during his administration. However, whether this practice is ‘legal’ is a matter for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

However, the issue in this matter borders on probity and accountability. If I’m a Lagos state taxpayer, I will want to know more about the "process" undertaken to engage a consultant that is paid N3 billion monthly. The questions Gov. Fashola should be asked are, why was Alpha-Beta selected as the preferred consultant? Did the government invite consultancy bids for the contract? How many consultancy companies submitted bids for the contract? Considering that Alpha-Beta has no known track record of revenue collection, what were the criteria used in selecting Alpha-Beta?

There are also rumours in certain quarters that Alpha-Beta is owned by Ex-Governor Bola Tinubu. Whilst Gov. Fashola has neither confirmed nor denied these rumours, I will note that the rumours remain unsubstantiated. If principle of ‘due process’ was adhered to, then does it really matter who owns the company?

Ex-Governor Bola Tinubu is a citizen like everyone else, and he has the right to sit on the board of private companies or engage in private business. And as far as I’m aware, there is no law in the Nigeria that precludes former political office holders from lobbying for government contracts. In fact this is a common practice in the western world because private companies believe politicians have the right contacts within the government. The issue for the government is to make sure that any percieved 'conflict of interest' is adequately addressed. So if indeed Alpha-Beta is owned by Ex-Governor Bola Tinubu, Gov.Fashola needs to let the public know that there wasn't any ‘conflict of interest’ in way and manner the contract was handled.

Considering Gov. Fashola’s good work in Lagos, and the clear evidence of phenomenal increase in IGR since his assumption of office, some will argue that Gov. Fashola does not owe anyone any explanation on the Alpha-Beta contract. My question to such people is, how are we sure that the Alpha-Beta contract provides ‘value-for-money’ to the taxpayers? Because ultimately, it’s taxpayers’ money that is been used to pay for their services. The fact that an administrator is performing well does not mean that he should not be held accountable for his actions. Alpha-Beta charges 15% of the state IGR, what makes us think that another company couldn’t have provided same service at a lower cost – say 10%? I want to agree with DPA that N36 billion is a colossal amount of money to pay an individual firm over a two-year period. And if such amount of money is channelled into any sector, it is inevitable that impact will be felt.

Whilst the payment to Alpha-Beta might be seen as a ‘waste’ by the opposition, Gov. Fashola’s response to the questions raised above might just help quell the rumours and provide a justification for such expenditure in the state budget, especially in the current economic climate.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leadership Failure - Gordon Brown & Umar Yar'Adua

As part of my daily travel routine, I turned on my mobile phone to listen to the podcast of BBC ‘Breakfast’ programme.

The topic of discussion was on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The radio host, Nicky Campbell asked members of the public if the Prime Minister has ‘lost the plot’. But as I listened to barrage of public criticisms of Mr Brown's personality and leadership, I began to put the current leadership failure in Nigeria into perspective.

Similar to President Yar’Adua, Gordon Brown assumed office in June 2007. Yar’Adua was hand picked and rigged into government by his predecessor; however Gordon Brown became Prime Minister following the resignation of Tony Blair. But in the eyes of the average British and Nigerian public, both leaders do not really have a mandate to rule - albeit the parliamentary system allows the party with the majority to form a government. While one is ruling on the mandate of his predecessor, the other is ruling with a ‘stolen’ mandate. It was therefore not surprising to hear radio callers demanding that an election be called as soon as possible in the United Kingdom, as a test of Mr Brown’s popularity. In Nigeria, opposition parties have also been making similar demands for the past two years but to no avail. The Supreme Court also failed to restore voters’ confidence in an electoral process that was described as the most fraudulent in the nation’s history - all in the name of political expediency!

Gordon Brown has been criticised by the British media for his lackadaisical attitude and failure to provide leadership on key issues. One of such issues was the MP expenses row and issue of Gurkhas equal right of residence. And like his Nigerian counterpart, his popularity is now at all time low that he his now portrayed as a political equivalent to Susan Boyle!

Nigerians face the same problems with President Yar’Adua. His government is bereft of good leadership and clear vision. We sometimes wonder if we do at all have a leader. President Yar’Adua at best can be described as aloof. In fact there are rumours that he his not actually in charge of the country’s leadership. His government has failed to take key decisions on major economic policies, except reversals! Two years into government, there is still no clear economic strategy (oh sorry there is vision 2020!). His seven-point agenda is nothing but a waste of time. Whilst the British see their Prime Minister as a ‘Susan Boyle’, we have several names for ours, such as ba ko mi’ President, ‘President do-nothing’, ‘Baba go slow’, ‘Yara’slow’ and so on.

But as the dynamics of British politics continues to gather pace, what I find most intriguing, is that a state-owned media could encourage such an ‘open discussion’ on the future of sitting Prime Minister. I therefore asked myself if our democratic system can ever mature to this level in my lifetime. For example, the NTA or FRCN conducting similar type of open debate on President Yar’Adua. Can you imagine NTA/FRCN asking the public if President Yar’Adua should resign due to the failure of his government?

We have also seen resignations of top cabinet ministers in protest against Gordon Brown leadership style. But I don’t think any politician has ever resigned in protest against government action or inaction in Nigeria. Even when their position is seriously undermined, they hold on power in desperation.

As a Nigerian, I hope that our democratic system mature to a point when opposing views will be welcome without been seen as ‘plot to destabilise’ the government. I look forward to the day when issues such as the President’s health situation can be laid bare for discussion and not seen as ‘threat to national security’.

As General Colin Powell said "We cannot have a democracy that does not have opposing point of view; the people must be allowed to organise political organisations that argue, that shout and fight with each other. If that was not encouraged, then you are on your way out of democracy. It is a clash of ideas, clash of views that our founding father believed was essential to democracy”.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

PDP - What Manner of Political Party?

On the day when everyone was feeling the excruciating pain of the last ten years of democratic rule, the nation’s ruling party Peoples Democratic Party was having a field day. Their party leaders enjoyed lavish celebration of ‘demons of craze’, across the nation. The party also seized the opportunity to display its mediocre, self-serving and propagandist ideologies.

The Deputy National Chairman PDP Dr Bello Haliru Mohammed accused the United States government and its embassy in Nigeria of conspiracy and plotting with opposition groups to destabilise the country. He particularly noted that part of the plot is for the US Embassy to organise a meeting between the pro-democracy groups in Nigeria and President Barack Obama in Ghana, where the groups would seek to persuade the US President that the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua is “illegitimate”. But shortly after, the National Public Secretary of the party Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali released a media statement dissociating the party from the statement, which it said was, at best, the personal opinion of the Deputy National Chairman.

What manner of political party is this PDP? It is clear that the party has lost the plot. Their leaders are now beginning to feel the heat. Despite the rebuttal from the National Publicity Secretary I do not believe that the comments of Dr Mohammed were his ‘personal opinion’. The allegations levelled against the US government are quite serious and I want to believe it is the collective opinion of leaders of the political party. The statement reflects the thinking of a political party that is gradually losing its grip on power and in awe of the opposition. From all indications, it seems the only way they can continue to subvert the opposition is to engage a cheap blackmail and propaganda. But you know what, their time is ticking and it is ticking very fast!

I find it very ridiculous that a political party that describes itself as the biggest political party in Africa can denigrate itself to the point of blackmailing the US President and US government. We need to ask PDP leaders few questions. Firstly, is it not the prerogative of the US President to meet with whoever he chooses? Secondly, is it now a criminal offence to meet with a foreign leader outside Nigeria? Thirdly, do we now need to seek permission to hold political meetings outside Nigeria? Fourthly, is President Obama so jobless that all he thinks about is political situation in Nigeria? Maybe someone needs to remind the PDP that we do not live in Communist China or North Korea.

We also need to ask the PDP leaders what they actually mean by plot to ‘destabilise’ the country. For me, you can only destabilise a country that is ‘stable. The ruling elite must be under illusion to think that Nigeria is stable. They must be suffering from mental delusion to think this way. Is a nation that is plunged into darkness for almost 365 years is stable? Is a nation that is faced with incessant fuel scarcity stable? Is a nation where commuters spend twelve hours in traffic queue stable? Is a nation with 60% unemployment stable? Is a nation where 80% have no access to potable water supply stable? Is a nation where 70% live on less than $1 a day stable? Is a nation where state agencies are used to rig electoral process stable? Is a nation where innocent civilians are intimidated with military soldiers stable? Is a nation where state agencies are used to subvert democratic principles stable? Is a nation where political office holders are allowed to loot the treasury without any fear of prosecution stable? Is a nation where innocent civilians are killed under the guise of fighting militant groups stable? Is a nation where innocent civilians are being kidnapped stable? Is a nation where oil installations are constantly blown up militant groups stable?

And by the way, I heard President Yar’Adua saying that “we must be ready to be democrats in thought, in word and indeed”. What a big joke! He might be democratic in thoughts and words, but he has failed to demonstrate any democratic principles in his actions. The Ekiti saga is a strong indictment of his failure.

Over the last ten years, PDP has continued to systematically propagate a doctrine that only reflects the views of their selfish and corrupt political leaders.