Saturday, February 27, 2010

Beer Parlour 1: Understanding How The Nigerian Govt Works

Ask The Minister!

The Beer Parlour has it's first customer!

One of the aims of Beer Parlour Activism is to fight ignorance and misinformation among Nigerians. A BPA should normally have more knowledge to share than the average man on the street.

Personally I have often wondered how govt in Nigeria works. Yes we know in 'theory' how it's supposed to work but how does it actually work? How do decisions get made? How can one get ideas passed across to the highest levels of the Nigerian govt to the point where we as BPAs can influence change?

These questions are perhaps best answered by someone who has [or still is] been a part of the Nigerian govt at the highest level.

Our first customer is such a person.

Know Your Customer [KYC]

The person was one of Nigeria's most high profile ministers during President Obasanjo's second term. Very widely educated with qualifications in Law and Accounting.

Our customer held two different ministerial portfolios during President Obasanjo's second term and is today widely respected both in Nigeria and in the western world.

So as to not prejudice the questions, I will not reveal the customer's name until after all questions have been submitted. Hopefully this will help keep things objective.

The Questions

The Customer has offered to answer questions from Beer Parlour Activists on the workings of the Nigerian govt based on the person's experience in govt as a minister.

We are looking for questions from BPAs based around the following

What can a Nigerian minster do and not do?

How do contracts get approved? What is the process like?

How do budgets get allocated and what's the budget setting process like?

What's a typical FEC meeting like?

The above is by no means an exhaustive list [I have clearly run out of ideas] so please feel free to widen the terms of reference.

The whole purpose of this Beer Parlour session is to better understand the workings of the Nigerian govt and why it never seems to meet the aspirations of Nigerians.

Where possible, The Customer will try to use personal examples to answer the questions.

Please keep the questions as objective as possible. No long greetings and/or prayers necessary. Let your question go straight to the point.

Please include your name and country you currently reside in. If you are sending the questions from America, please include the state as well.

The last day for submission of questions is Friday 5th March 2010. 9pm UK Time. The Customer's name will be revealed immediately after the deadline has passed.

The best questions will be picked and submitted to The Customer to be answered. The answers will then be published on Facebook in a note form.

Please send your questions to  before the deadline above, A team of 3 Barmen [editors] will choose the best questions to be forwarded to The Customer. Please do not be offended if your question does not make the final list...if we get a lot of questions we will be forced to cut out a few of them.

You are however allowed to send in more than one question.

Please not that this is not a PR exercise for the Nigerian government. The whole point is to gain an insight into how our government works because we are all shareholders in Nigeria Plc.

The honest truth is that a lot of us probably dont really understand how our government works and how decisions are made.

Please use your imagination and objectivity when sending your questions. Remember that as a BPA you are speaking on behalf of millions of Nigerians who cannot read, write, have no telephones, have no education and have no access to the internet or any means by which to speak to their representatives in government.

Hopefully some knowledge and insight will be gained from this process.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Contraband Presidency - Security Alert!!!!

The attention of Association of Nigerian Online Militants has been drawn to the smuggling of a contraband item into the country from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The package was flown into the country on a white unregistered aircraft. It arrived at presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport on early hours of Wednesday morning, at about 1.30am.

According to sources, the unregistered aircraft carrier landed at the Abuja airport in the company of the presidential jet. It is unknown at this stage if there were other passengers on board both aircrafts.

It is believed that the contraband package was smuggled into the country with the aid of “unknown” soldiers. From our preliminary investigations, these unknown soldiers are alleged to have been deployed from the Nigerian Army 22nd Battalion Brigade. The soldiers took charge of the airport, while the staff were given marching orders.

As we know, President Umaru Yar’Adua is currently comatose; it is therefore unclear on whose orders the soldiers were acting. The Acting President has also denied any knowledge of any troops deployment.

The contraband package was alleged to have been transferred from the White unregistered aircraft to a White Ford E-250 bullion van. The last sighting of this bullion van was around the Presidential Villa at Aso Rock.

It is clear from all indication that, this is a well orchestrated crime. The perpetrators of this heinous crime are likely to be highly placed influential Nigerians. The audacity with which the smuggling was carried out is unprecedented in the history of our country.

Up until now, the location and content the contraband package remains unknown. The Nigerian online militants considers smuggling as a threat to the national security. In view of this, all security agencies across the nation have been notified. The nation’s borders have also been put on high alert.

The Nigerian Online Militants are particularly interested in the location of the White bullion van and its content. If anyone has any information on its whereabouts please contact your nearest internet militant via Facebook or Twitter.

We urge members of the public to remain calm. In your own interest, please do not approach the driver of this vehicle as he may be carrying dangerous weapon.


Association of Nigerian Online Militants (ANOM)


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Senator Udo Udoma and Securities & Exchange Commission: Matters Arising

There’s an ongoing debate on whether the recent appointment of the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Senator Udo Udoma, as chairman UACN Plc is a ‘conflict of interest”

As expected, Senator Udoma dismissed the allegation of conflict of interest. He disclosed that the Senate Committee on Capital Markets was aware that he (Udoma) was serving on the boards public quoted companies during his screening by his committee for SEC chairmanship.

Prior to his previous appointment as SEC chairman and subsequent appointment as UACN Plc chairman, Senator Udoma has had personal interests in public-quoted companies. He is the vice-chairman of Linkage Assurance Plc, and Director of Unilever Plc. He has also sat on the board of UACN Plc for several years.

Interestingly, Senator Udoma sees nothing wrong with being chairman of SEC and sitting on the board of public quoted companies. From his point of view, Section 11 of the Investment and Securities Act (ISA) only requires him to declare any perceived conflict of interest. In his words
Having carefully examined the provisions of the Investment and Securities Act, it was clear to me that the appointment was not inconsistent with my existing board appointments. What Section 11 of the Act required me to do was to declare them and not participate in any decision involving any of them

To further justify his position, he noted that it’s not unusual for the chairman of the SEC to sit on the board of public quoted companies, as it was the case with his predecessor (!).

But the question now been asked is, does Senator Udo Udoma’s interest in public quoted companies conflict with his role as the SEC chairman?

Senator Udoma may have done nothing wrong, as section 11 of ISA only requires him to disclose any perceived conflict, which he did. The onus is however on the government to determine if this conflict could hinder him from performing his duty with impartiality.

By definition, a conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other. There’s no doubt that such a situation has the potential to undermine the person’s impartiality because of the possibility of a clash between the person's self-interest and professional-interest or public-interest.

As we know, the SEC is the government agency mandated to regulate and develop the Nigerian capital market. Overall, the commission is expected to protect investors, market operators and ensure that market integrity is maintained.

Regardless of Senator Udoma’s recent appointment as chairman UACN Plc, it is irresponsible of the government to have appointed him as SEC chairman, in spite of his known business interest. I consider his appointment as SEC chairman as a flagrant disregard of corporate governance principles.

The appointment is also clearly at odds with Section 13 of ISA, which stipulates that the office of the director-general, chairman, the commissioners and staff of SEC ought to be free from any relationship that would tie them to any of the company that SEC regulates. But why has it taken the Senate Committee to discover this discrepancy?

The fact that Senator Udoma’s predecessor was in the same boat doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do. If the legislature had been performing its oversight function effectively, then it wouldn’t have found itself in the current situation. The appointment is also an indictment of the legislature, and it reflects the incompetence of those who we have entrusted with the responsibility of holding the government accountable.

Our political elites disregard for the probity, accountability and transparency cannot be overemphasised. These key democratic principles seem not to exist in their dictionaries. I recall Ex-President Obasanjo been accused of having vested interest in a company that was a major beneficiary of government privatisation programme. He even had the audacity to trade in company shares while in office.

It was the same former president that chaired the meeting of the Federal Executive Council and granted a university licence to himself and his deputy. And if we think that is bad, what about the NSE Director-General who is also the Director of a public quoted company (!).

The nation’s financial regulators don’t seem to have learnt from the role played by former Cadbury Nigeria Plc CEO, Bunmi Oni. In 2006, Cadbury Nigeria Plc dismissed Bunmi Oni on allegations of false accounting/book cooking, stocks buy back, trade loading, tax default, false stock certificate and undisclosed interest in the company. The SEC also banned Mr Oni for life from corporate service and from serving as a director in any public quoted company.

Can we imagine what would have happened if Mr Oni was sitting on the board of the SEC. How will the SEC have carried out its investigation effectively without been undermined?

There’s no doubt that the best way of dealing with conflict of interest is to avoid them entirely. And one will assume that’s the intent of Section 13 of ISA. A simple disclosure of interest or non-participation in decision making process is not good enough. Senator Udoma’s involvement in public listed companies and the SEC, gives these companies an unfair advantage over other market operators. And it’s not just about non-participation in decision making, What about inside knowledge of the activities of the SEC that he could pass to his companies.

The current situation where the chairman of the apex financial market regulator is also a chairman and director of public quoted companies cannot be right. The government needs to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency, so that public confidence will not be eroded from an already fragile market.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Beyond the Grandstanding: an Open Letter to Professor Dora Akunyili - By Osita Mba

Dear Professor Akunyili

Like most Nigerians, I have followed the very public spat between your good self and your ministerial colleague, the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice and incumbent Minister for Special Duties, Mr Michael Aondoakaa, with considerable interest. As someone that called for the removal of Mr Aondoakaa as Attorney-General as far back as November 2008 because of my belief that he lacked “the requisite integrity, ability, experience and maturity required of the person holding that high and important office,” I consider whatever embarrassment you cause him in relation to his alleged libellous statement as part of his thoroughly deserved comeuppance.

However, although there is no reason to suggest that you will not pursue a libel case against him to its logical conclusion should he fail to provide the clear apology you have requested, it remains the case that our politicians are notorious for threatening and indeed instituting defamation suits with fanfare in the full glare of the public only to abandon them quietly and in private subsequently. A case in point is the five billion naira libel suit instituted in 2004 by Chief Anthony Anenih against Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. Incidentally, that suit was filed on Chief Anenih’s behalf by Mr Aondoakaa’s successor as Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mr Adetokunbo Kayode.

Moreover, the decision to make the letters written to Mr Aondoakaa by your lawyers widely available to the public and the contents of the letters themselves appear to evince an intention to prove your incorruptibility in the court of public opinion, over and above the resolution of your private dispute with Mr Aondoakaa in the court of law. For example, the letter of February 11, 2010 refers to your “integrity” that “has been unimpeachable”; reveals that you have “been inundated with telephone calls and personal enquiries from numerous people ... concerning the implication that [you] did something wrong while [you were] the Director General of NAFDAC”; and concludes that you find it “totally unacceptable that [your] peers and generality of Nigerians have begun to question [your] integrity and now consider [you] a disreputable person”, all on account of the statement credited to Mr Aondoakaa.

Given the relegation of integrity and accountability to the background in our public life, your principled stance on the matter deserves the support of all right-thinking members of the Nigerian society. However, going by various comments in the media, there appears to be a consensus among the chattering classes that neither an apology from the discredited Mr Aondoakaa nor a successful libel suit against him in our increasingly unreliable courts will be sufficient to establish your unimpeachable integrity to the satisfaction of the Nigerian public. I note that this view is to a large extent supported by the law – it is a basic principle of the law of defamation that an alleged defamatory statement is presumed to be false unless the defendant can prove its veracity. Since there is no concomitant obligation on the claimant to prove the falsity of the alleged defamatory statement, a successful libel suit, while reflecting favourably on the character of the person defamed, does not necessarily prove his or her unimpeachable integrity either in the matter at hand or generally.

Fortunately, there are other more credible means available to principled public officers in your enviable position to establish their unimpeachable integrity in the court of public opinion.

1. Publication of Assets Declaration Forms

Paragraph 11(1) of Part I of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution provides that every public officer shall (a) immediately after taking office and (b) thereafter at the end of every four years and (c) at the end of his/her her term of office, submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his/her properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his/her unmarried children under the age of eighteen years. Furthermore, section 149 of the Constitution requires a Minister of the Government of the Federation to declare his/her assets and liabilities as prescribed in the Constitution before commencing the duties of his/ her office.

Therefore, you would have submitted an Assets Declaration Form to the Code of Conduct Bureau on at least three occasions: (i) when you assumed office as the Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on April 12, 2001; (ii) on the fourth anniversary of your assumption of office as the Director General of NAFDAC in April 2005; and (iii) on December 17, 2008, when you left NAFDAC to take up your current position as Minister of Information and Communications.

Paragraph 3 of Part I of the Third Schedule to the Constitution authorises the Code of Conduct Bureau to retain custody of these assets declarations and to make them available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria on such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe. Although the National Assembly have failed to prescribe the terms and conditions for such compulsory public inspection, nothing stops any public officer that wishes to demonstrate his/her integrity from disclosing voluntarily the details of his/her Assets Declaration form. Indeed, President Umaru Yar‘Adua provided a copy of his Assets Declaration Form to the public after a few weeks in office, and after some dogged resistance the Acting (then Vice) President Jonathan followed suit shortly after.

I would respectfully suggest that, without prejudice to any libel suit against Mr Aondoakaa, the voluntary publication of your relevant Assets Declaration Forms will provide a more transparent and credible means of establishing your unimpeachable integrity during your tenure as the Director General of NAFDAC and beyond.

2. Section 44 of the ICPC Act 2000

Section 44(1)(a) and (b) of The Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000 (“the ICPC Act”) empower the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (“ICPC”), if in the course of an ongoing investigation he has reasonable grounds to believe that any offence under the Act has been committed, to require any person suspected of having committed such offence or any relative or associate of the person or any other person whom the Chairman has reasonable grounds to believe is able to assist in the investigation to furnish a statement in writing on oath or affirmation in order to:

(i) identify every property, whether movable or immovable, whether within or outside Nigeria, belonging to him/her or in his/her possession, or in which he/she has any interest, whether legal or equitable, and specifying the date on which each of the properties so identified was acquired and the manner in which it was acquired, whether by way of any dealing, bequest, devise, inheritance, or any other manner;

(ii) identify every property sent out of Nigeria by him/her during such period as may be specified in the notice;

(iii) set out the estimated value and location of each of the properties identified ... and if any of such properties cannot be located, the reason therefore;

(iv) state in respect of each of the properties identified ... whether the property is held by him/her or by any other person on his/her behalf or whether it has diminished in value since its acquisition by him/her or and whether it has been commingled with other property which cannot be separated or divided without difficulty;

(v) set out all other information relating to his/her properties, business, travel or other activities as may be specified in the notice; and

(vi) set out all his/her sources of income, including earnings and gifts or other assets for such period.

Section 44(1)(c) authorises the Chairman to require any officer of any bank or financial institution, or any person who is in any manner or to any extent responsible for the management and control of the affairs of any bank or any financial institution to furnish copies of any or all accounts, documents and records relating to any person to whom the above notice has been issued.

Furthermore, section 44(2) provides that where the Chairman has reasonable grounds to believe that any public officer who has been served with the written notice owns, possesses, controls or holds any interest in any property which is excessive, having regard to his/her present or past emoluments and all other relevant circumstances, the Chairman may by written direction require him/her to furnish a statement on oath or affirmation explaining how he/she was able to own, possess, control or hold such excess and if he/she fails to explain satisfactorily such excess, he/she shall be presumed to have used his/her office to corruptly enrich or gratify himself/herself and charged accordingly.

You will agree that a comprehensive statement on oath or affirmation provided by you to the Chairman of the ICPC under section 44 of the ICPC Act and satisfactorily verified as complete and accurate by him will provide the ultimate confirmation of unimpeachable integrity that your teeming fans will be proud to associate you with. Therefore, I have no doubt that if you prove yourself unable to disclose voluntarily your relevant Assets Declaration Forms as suggested above, appropriate steps will be taken to invoke the procedure under section 44 of the ICPC Act with a view to securing your place in history as the paragon of integrity in public life.

Yours sincerely

Osita Mba

Friday, February 12, 2010

Unnecessary "Necessity"

After weeks of dilly dallying, the Senate decided to act on the nation’s political impasse. A resolution was passed by the Upper House to recognise the Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan as the nation’s ‘Acting President’. It’s right to say that the Senate action has not been short of controversies. While some consider the action of the Senate unconstitutional, the Senate itself and some other public observers believe the action was ‘expedient’. The Senate has tried to justify its action on the basis of political expediency and “doctrine of necessity”.

So what is “doctrine of necessity”?

According to the Senate President,

"The doctrine of necessity requires that we do what is necessary when faced with a situation that was not contemplated by the Constitution….Viewed from an ordinary reading of Section 145, we came to the conclusion that the President, through his declaration transmitted on the BBC, has furnished this parliament with irrefutable proof that he is on medical vacation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and has therefore complied with the provisions of Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution. For avoidance of doubt, let me re-emphasise the import of prayer two of our resolution. The President will automatically resume office as President and Commander-in-Chief once he is well enough and returns to the country and informs us accordingly, pursuant to Section 145".
By definition, the “Doctrine of Necessity” is a common law rule, which allows judges to do justice in situations not envisaged by specific provisions of the law. It is also regarded as a legal principle that justifies a person’s action in an emergency that he or she did not create. Although it is generally agreed that the doctrine of necessity in itself is not ‘illegal’ in law, its application by the legislative assembly remains controversial.

I’m not convinced by the statement of the senate president, claiming that the current situation wasn’t contemplated by the constitution. If that’s the case, then what’s the purpose of Section 145 of the 1999 constitution? To say that Section 145 is imprecise is probably a better argument than saying, "situation wasn’t contemplated by the constitution”.

In my opinion, the action of the legislative assembly raises more questions than answers. Why did it take the Senate, 79 days to come up with a solution – albeit controversial? This is the same legislative assembly that told 140 million Nigerians just few weeks ago that its hands were tied. So have their hands suddenly been let loose? Or have they only just realised that it would be politically expedient for them to take an action?

The question also needs to be asked about why the Senate resolution was passed just before the Federal Executive Council had the opportunity to discuss the much publicised memo by the Minister for Information, Dora Akunyili.

For now, it seems everyone is happy. And as they say, “the end justifies the means”. But whilst the Senate might have successfully plugged the power vacuum in the interim, their action has not in anyway addressed the key issues around the health status of President Yar’Adua. Unfortunately, the nation is now carried away by the euphoria of power transfer to Goodluck Jonathan.

I will like to draw everyone’s attention to the loophole in the Senate resolution. The Senate noted that “President Yar’Adua will automatically resume office as President and C-in-C, once he is well enough and returns to the country and informs us accordingly, pursuant to Section 145”. So what exactly is the Senate definition of “well enough”? If they do not have a full understanding of the president’s health status, how can they determine if he is well enough to return to work? It’s like trying to determine how fast a car can travel without any test drive.

Also, let’s assume President Yar’Adua returns to Nigeria next week, who will certify his fitness? Will the Senate set up a panel to determine his fitness? We should also bear in mind that the constitution does not stipulate the minimum health requirement of the president.

For me, the Senate resolution makes mockery of the relevant provisions in the nation’s constitution. Instead of rushing to pass the controversial resolution, the Senate should have exerted pressure on the FEC to investigate the president’s health status. The memo presented by the Minister for Information should have been allowed to be debated. Failing this, the Senate can then pass the resolution. And then we can talk about ‘doctrine of necessity’.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Anambra State, Electoral Reform and 2011 Elections

Without any doubt, the Anambra state election wasn’t without its own drama. And considering INEC track record in organising credible elections – especially under the leadership of Prof. Maurice Iwu – anything different would probably have been seen as a “variance”.

Just two days prior to Election Day, the Federal High Court in Lagos ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission lacks the merit to conduct elections in the country. As we may know, there are only four commissioners sitting on the INEC board, instead of 13 as stipulated in the INEC Act. As a result, Justice Liman ruled that the board lacks the quorum required to conduct elections. As I write, what this ruling portends for the just concluded election is still unknown.

There were also reports of delays in the delivery of election materials across the state. It was reported that many polling stations remained closed for hours after the election was scheduled to have started because of non-availability of voting materials. Some people even reported ballot boxes stolen in some parts of the state.

Going by the scene of jubilation on the streets of Awka on Sunday, one can assume that the victory of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) gubernatorial candidate Peter Obi, is in line with desire and expectation of Anambrarians.

The jubilation on the streets of Awka is in total contrast to what we saw in Ado-Ekiti, following the re-run of Ekiti gubernatorial elections last April. The tragedy of the Ekiti elections is still very fresh in our memory. We can all remember the famous Madam Ayoka, who decided to call it quit in the mid-way into the election, and only to be threatened by her Abuja masters. The story of Ekiti election re-run cannot be complete without mentioning the naked women protests on the streets of Ado-Ekiti.

But as residents of Anambra celebrate, the question I asked some of my friends was, did Peter Obi win the election on genuine votes? Or was he just successful in “out rigging” his opponents?

Whilst there’s been no confirmation of rigging on the part of the Peter Obi, who is also the incumbent governor, I still believe it is a reasonable question to ask, considering our clamour and agitation for genuine electoral reform.

If anything, the public reaction to the APGA victory –or perhaps, PDP loss – further underlines the growing hatred for the PDP. The hatred now seems to have hit a crescendo that most people don’t really care how PDP is removed from power or prevented from seizing office. In the desperate attempt to kick PDP out by all force, anything and everything seems acceptable.

There seems to be a general consensus that the Anambra election was not “free and fair”. In fact, Peter Obi was very vocal in condemning the way and manner INEC has organised the election. However, I found that most Nigerians were willing to accept these anomalies as “inconsequential” only because PDP lost. I then wondered what would have been the case if the election was won by PDP, what the reaction of such people would have been to the election process aa a whole.

In “normal” circumstances there would have been calls for the head of Prof. Iwu. But following the loss of PDP last Saturday, no one seems to be interested. Most people seem to have taken the Anambra result as a victory over PDP. So does that mean Prof. Iwu has regained public confidence?

We cannot be ignorant of the menace and decadence suffered under the 10 year rule of PDP. However, the fact remains that most of the leaders of the opposition are one time or the other members of the PDP. I don’t know of any party in Nigeria that was created based on any set of ideology or principles. These parties were borne out of self-preservation and actualisation of personal agendas.

The obnoxious belief that PDP is the biggest problem facing our democracy will create more harm than good. The problem in our electoral system is more than just PDP, AC, or ANPP. What we need is a genuine electoral reform that will guarantee free and fair election, and deter electoral malpractices. It is not rocket science to have a free and fair election. We have had it before. The annulled June 12 election is a perfect example. It is therefore nonsensical for anyone to say no election can ever be perfect. Are they saying we should accept electoral fraud as part of our democracy, just as we’ve accepted that corruption comes with leadership?

When you talk about electoral reform, some assume it’s just about lining up to vote. Voting is just one part of the electoral process. Although, we hear about allegations of fraud in western democracies, but you can be sure that if anyone is caught engaging in electoral malpractices he/she is likely to end up in prison. It is only in Nigeria where machines for printing ballot papers are found in people’s house, and it is regarded as a joke!

As 2011 draws nearer, it is important that the electorate keep their eyes wide open when electing their leaders. The last thing we want is to replace one evil with another just because it presents itself in a different colour.

We need to forestall a repeat of what happened in 1999, when crooks and criminals rode on the back of the pro-democracy group-cum-political party Alliance for Democracy (AD) into public office.

And just before I go, I will like to say BIG thank you to Mr Egghead Odewale for his regular twitter and facebook updates on the Anambra election. It was citizen journalism at its best!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Dora Akunyili Memo


1. I want to start my humble submission by stating that I am a 100 per cent loyalist of President Yar’Adua. He appointed all of us because he trusts us and wants us to help him to run government effectively and efficiently. Mr. President has given all of us seated in this chamber the opportunity to serve our nation as members of this council.

I believe that in the choice of all of us, as individuals and group, Mr. President must have considered our ability to guide him aright to serve our people better, promote and protect the constitution in line with the oath of office taken before him in this chamber by each and every one of us. President Yar’Adua is very dear to me just as he is to all of you.

2. We are all aware of what has been happening in Nigeria, especially as it concerns the issue of making the Vice President an acting President. There have been debates for and against.

3. Some have argued that there is no vacuum and that it is okay for the Vice President to function as Vice President, not as Acting President pending the return and recovery of Mr. President. For the proponents of this theory, I want to remind them that Permanent Secretaries had been waiting to be sworn in for over two months now. Consequently, many ministries are without Permanent Secretaries including my ministry.

As it is today, the Vice President cannot take any document to National Assembly. In a very desperate situation like the recent Jos crisis, the Vice President deployed troops to Plateau, but many have openly said that he does not have the right because there cannot be two Commanders-in-Chief at a time.

4. Just recently, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, has opted out of the amnesty and resumed hostility. They argued that they have been kept in limbo since the President took ill and they appeared to have been abandoned since nobody could talk to them or keep the promise made to them. Our economy is once more being threatened.

5. The past Chief Justice of the Federation swore in his successor for the first time in the history of our nation. The power vacuum at that level has also compounded our ‘poor image’ at the international level because of our failure to rise to international expectations, commitments and engagements that require the presence of our President.

Many of those opportunities have existed in the past 70 days that I do not need to recount. I do not need to repeat the uncomplimentary statements made by United States, United Kingdom and EU concerning the current state of affairs in Nigeria .

6. There has been persistent agitation by the public for members of the Federal Executive Council to do something. Nigerians expect us to rise to this challenge on behalf of our President as the leader of this administration. Some eminent citizens have spoken. They include former Heads of State and others who have served our nation in various capacities.

The Senate has also taken a position of which we are all aware. The looming crisis in the system is over boiling. Our hard earned democracy is being threatened by the day.

Threat to democracy

7. What went wrong? We love our President but we should remember that he is not infallible. Before he left Nigeria he had a moral and constitutional obligation to officially inform the Senate and hand over the mantle of leadership to the Vice President pending his return and recovery. That did not happen. Yes, the mistake has been made by our Boss and our brother.

Mr. President is ill and did not choose to be sick. But while we continue to pray for his recovery, we should try to right the wrong.

8. Some have argued that he left the country in a hurry. This argument has been punctured by the fact that he signed the Appropriation Bill for National Assembly. If he could sign the Bill, why did he not sign a letter for Vice President to act on his behalf until he is well enough?

9. We have a local proverb that says that "A goat does not get strangulated by the rope used in tying it when an adult is present." We are all in a better position to know that the polity is overheated to a frightening level. Posterity will judge us harshly if we do not positively intervene to resolve this logjam.

10. I wish to call on the Federal Executive Council to act now in the best interest of our dear President and our dear Nation.

We also need to save ourselves from shame because our stand is becoming very embarrassing. He has been away for about 70 days now, even if he returns tomorrow, is it not better for him to rest and recover before taking over from the Vice President?

11. We need to do what is morally right and constitutional for the President to officially hand over to the Vice President to function as Acting President. If he does not, we can evoke whichever aspect of the constitution that should make the Vice President an Acting President.

On the other hand we can take advantage of the 14 days ultimatum by the court which will expire on Friday. When the President resumes duty as soon as he recovers, by the grace of God, he takes over his position.

12. I am not saying that President Yar’Adua should resign or condemn him for being sick. He did not choose to be sick. We will continue to pray for him, but all I am saying is, let us encourage him do the right thing so that our hard earned democracy will not be truncated. Anybody who feels otherwise is unfair to our President (who has been preaching the rule of law), and utterly unfair to our country.

13. The name of our President and all his achievements are being rubbished by this unfortunate debacle. The President and his family are also being put under undue pressure which will not help his recovery.

14. If we fail to act now, history will not forgive us. I rest my case.

Professor Dora Akunyili

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lagos State, Gov. Raji Fashola and "work-chop-cracy"

As we know, a group of individuals known as the ‘Face of Lagos’ recently, through paid newspaper advertorial, accused Gov. Babatunde Fashola of financial recklessness and impropriety. Following these allegations, the Lagos State House of Assembly (LSHA) in a swift response constituted a panel to investigate these allegations.

As I write, the motive of the investigation panel is still been queried by members of the public. Some have described it as the proverbial “hand of Esau and voice of Jacob”. Some consider the investigation as the first step in the plot to impeach the state governor. There are insinuations that the disagreement between the godson and godfather is because the former has not allowed the latter to have an unfettered access to the state vault. There have even been comments about why the LSHA has not probed the 8-year rule of the supposed godfather.

For me, I’m not interested in delving into the motive behind the panel investigation. As I’m not privy to the facts behind the disagreement of these individuals, I don’t think its right for me to add to the current speculations.

What I find baffling however, are the comments that Gov. Fashola should not be investigated because he is a “performing” governor (!). For such commentators, they would rather have the “Fashola type” alleged corruption, because he built new roads, implemented new public transport initiatives, cleared Oshodi and planted flowers.

The view of such people is that systemic looting of the state treasury can be justified, if the alleged culprit has performed beyond their expectations. Performance to them is a justification for treasury looting? Na Wah! You may want to ask, what their expectations are. Such individuals lack basic understanding of what is required of people they have elected into office. It’s like an employer who engaged a staff without a job description or key performance indicators. So it would be very easy for such an employee and his employer to develop a false sense of achievement. Anyway, that’s an aside issue.

Interestingly, it seems deepening rift between the Lagos State Governor Fashola and his estranged godfather Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has created a new type of governance model, which I will describe as “Work-chop-cracy”.

So what is “Work-chop-cracy”? This is a type of government that allows a leader, that is perceived to be performing well, to also engage in looting of the treasury – albeit at a lesser scale when compared to the “do nothing” leaders.

In the Work-chop-cratic government, the masses accept corruption as a way life. And as a friend noted recently, corruption in governance is regarded as second to the air we breathe under the model. The principle is, everyone elected into public office must “chop”, however the public officer must justify his chopping through “hard work and performance”. Hmmm….!

The acceptance of work-chop-cracy as a style of governance further highlights the delusion among the Nigeria masses. In the past, I’ve always been critical of the nation’s leadership and their role in encouraging corruption at levels of government. However, following some of the public comments on the alleged feud between Gov. Fashola and his predecessor, I’ve come to realise that we the masses are the biggest problem affecting Nigeria.

The question I asked the promoters of “work-chop-cracy” is, if the same allegations were raised against Gov. Alao-Akala or Gbenga Daniel, what would have been their response? Obviously, because these Governors have no track record of performance, they are always easy targets. We shout to high heavens when we hear of allegations of corruptions against those we consider as non-performing.

We are happy to see James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion, Orji Kalu go to jail, but we are not interested in investigating allegations of corruption levelled against Fashola because we think he his performing. Such attitude smacks of hypocrisy.

If we decide not to take the allegations of corruption against Gov. Fashola seriously, what moral standing do we have to take the allegations against Gbenga Daniel seriously? Where is it written that an administrator can mismanage taxpayers’ money simply because he has implemented people-oriented projects? Is that what we define as dividends of democracy?

So what exactly is the big deal about investigating a sitting Governor? Is it not taxpayers’ money that he is been accused of misappropriating? Or may be I’m mistaking. Instead of whipping unnecessary sentiments, why not let’s focus our attention on the panel itself. Our energy should instead be directed towards urging the LSHA to conduct the investigation in a fair and transparent manner. And if they don’t, we can start making noises.

Probity, accountability and transparency are the key tenets of democratic governance. The taxpayer has the right to demand for information on how his taxes are been spent. No matter how good a governor performs, he still needs to be held accountable. After all, it’s not that he has invested his personal wealth in the development of the state.

And don’t get me wrong. I’ve not said that Gov. Fashola is guilty of the allegations. Until proven guilty, the Governor remains innocent. However, I do not support the argument that he should not be investigated because of his performance in office. Irrespective of the motive, I consider the allegations raised by the Face of Lagos group to be very serious, hence need for ‘thorough’ investigation. These allegations cannot just be swept under the carpet.

Eko o ni ba je o.......!