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Friday, 24 January 2014

BETWEEN AIR MARSHAL ALEX BADEH, DR NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA AND PROF ATTAHIRU JEGA


During the week I was confused, then depressed and then elated thankfully.This changing moods of mine were caused by the three key Public officers listed above.
First was the coordinating minister for the economy and the minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala who made a brilliant presentation of the details of the 2014 budget proposals, but ended up confusing me. She tried to explain or will I say justify the fact that Recurrent expenditure will consume 74% of the National Budget( the highest ever to my knowledge), leaving a paltry 26% or so for Capital expenditure. For me,this is a touchy issue and on which I have spoken about on many occasions and in many fora.In my book- Nigeria @50: Time for the evolution of a New Nation published in 2010, I drew copious attention to this phenomenon and its debilitating effect on national development and made several suggestions on how to tame this tiger that is consuming all the new borns and leaving the land ' infantile'.At our deliberations in the Presidential advisory committee in 2010/2011, my colleagues and I in the Economy subcommittee made this subject a major issue to offer advice to President Goodluck Jonathan. He promised he would do something.
I was therefore very pleased when the President and his team began to talk about this problem.When the Oronsaye Committee was set up, I literally danced that this Government was taking good advice and then doing something about halting this unsustainable trend which I had likened to a farmer eating up his seed, and having little left for replanting next farming season. But after the report was submitted by the committee, we were told that a white paper would be written. And since then no action that has been visible to many of us was taken except the story that many of the redundant agencies that gulp our money were created by law. As if we have any lawless or unlawful agency or department! So when the CME says " In 2013, we reviewed the recommendations of the Oronsaye report. However we had difficulty in streamlining redundant Agencies because law underpins most. We are therefore looking to the National Assembly to assist us in reviewing and repealing these laws to enable us to rationalise some of these duplicating agencies" .And so in my confusion, I ask three questions: how many of those agencies not underpinned by law( or unlawful) have been rationalised?, have we sent the bills for the repealing to the National Assembly and if yes, when, considering that the committee submitted it's report over a year go; and how many new agencies( lawful and unlawful) have been created in the last three years?.
Indeed my confusion was heightened when the CME further stated " we worked hard to reduce this ratio from 74.4% in 2011 to 71.5% in 2012 and further to 67.5% in 2013 but it has risen back to 74% in 2014" and I am wondering whether she expected us to clap or applaud her or what and then I ask, is it our fault?. Are we responsible for the retrogression? What are managers of the economy expected to do?. Is it not to turn the economy to the desired direction with the desired policies and programs that will yield the desired result in a sustainable manner. Who is to be blamed, the managers or the people or both? I will be pleased to have my confusion cleared by the CME.
As I was still dealing with this confusion, INEC chairman-Prof ATTAHIRU JEGA spoke and threw me into depression. He was reported to have told Nigerians through Ambassador James Enwhistle of the United States of America," we are not promising a perfect election in 2015 but we are confident that we will do our best". What was that for? To lower expectations or to excuse planned inefficiency. Why would INEC not promise perfect elections. If the word 'perfect' exists, then why can we not aim at it. But that really is begging the question.Who asked INEC to deliver perfect elections in the first place? How can any one who witnessed the INEC mess in Anambra recently ask it to conduct a perfect election?.How can an Agency that can not deliver correct pooling materials to the pooling stations at the correct time be expected to be perfect? For every election that INEC has conducted, the same complaints of materials arriving very late to some pooling Stations and People's names missing on voters list have been repeated. How come it is impossible to sort out these logistic failures?
Prof JEGA can speak good English,but let him be told point black that this is not about good English or posturing, 2015 elections will make or mar this Nation. Many irredentist political cavaliers are firming up plans to visit mayhem on Nigeria if their wishes are not granted in 2015 and INEC had better not give them the excuse. We expect JEGA to give us FREE and FAIR Elections that will compare with the best in the World, perfect or not. And he must be careful what he says. For every statement, he makes, let him be reminded that People may interpret differently. If he must speak, then let him focus on saying things that will build confidence and not what will detract from it. The issues with our elections are well known and what is required is integrity driven creative management and early preparations and dry runs using modern technology and logistics.Nigerians have paid very heavy price for poor election conduct and management in the past and will not be prepared to pay more. If JEGA is preparing us for long stories and heartache in 2015, let him simply do the needful now and return to the classroom. 2015 elections must be Perfect,if perfection is ever attainable.
I have written so much and spoken so much about our Lamentations on every national issue, giving the impression sometimes that we are helpless. We lament on armed robbery,on kidnapping, we lament on terrorism and psyche ourselves that it a global phenomenon,we lament on oil theft and pipeline vandalism. And I have wondered aloud why we spend so much money on our security forces, if thieves can come into our waters, anchor their vessels, load our crude oil and depart, one after another and to a scale that our ability to fund our National budgets is now imperilled, and all I hear everyday is lamentation. A group of miscreants threatens national economy or National security, then,we begin to lament until they force us into a corner and then we begin to negotiate amnesty.
I thank God that all that changed for me this week. A true General came to power. I have always wondered about the quality of military officers who become Generals without fighting any wars, because when I was growing up, I was told by my father who himself was a distinguished ex serviceman, a Sergent who was part of the West African frontier force that helped win the 2nd World war for the allied forces in Burma, that Generals are made in the battle field. Air Vice Marshal Alex BADEH, the newly appointed chief of Defence staff(CDS)to my mind redeemed the image of the Nigerian military and security officers this week. He did what I had prayed and hoped that the President would do- which was give the military and security chiefs specific marching orders to rout the boko haram and take out the oil thieves within a given time or have them changed. I do not know if that was part of the reasons the President made the recent changes in the military leadership because we were not told.
Hear the words of the Generals' General, a true Marshal Alex BADEH " Iam aware of the security challenges the nation is facing and I shall do my best to guide the Armed Forces of Nigeria towards achieving the DESIRED SUCCESSES.The security situation in the North East must be brought to COMPLETE STOP before April 2014". That is it! We must stand up to evil or evil will consume us. What is anybody's best effort worth if it can not achieve the desired result? I salute Air Marshal BADEH and his new team- Major General Kenneth Minimah(Army), Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin(Navy) and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu( Airforce) for this declaration and intent. When People, for whatever reason decide to make Nigeria unsafe for its citizens, then they must be treated as aggressors and maximum force must be deployed to deal with them. Nigerians are free to express their grievances against the government or anybody using legitimate means but when they decide to kill other Nigerians and destroy property including, National Assets, then they must be stopped by all means.
For me and all those Patriots who are genuinely concerned about the peace and orderly development of Nigeria, the declaration by the new Chief of Defence Staff(CDS) must be sweet music and mood elevating. I will be unceasing in my prayers that the CDS and his team succeed in halting the carnage in the North East of Nigeria and routing the oil thieves in the Niger Delta and I am confident that they will. Let me appeal to all Nigerians especially those resident in the troubled areas to cooperate with the Security forces to accomplish their task. Those who will be offended or are planning to go to the ICC had better advised the miscreants to leave Nigerians alone to live, work and worship in peace .I am looking forward to the day other agencies of Government will stand up and confront the various problems confronting the Nation, rather than lamenting or acting as if we are inferior human beings and patently incapable of solving our problems.That day, the real transformation will have started in earnest. Those whose best efforts are not yielding the desired results must be asked to go do other things, if they are unable or unwilling to do the needful while the capable are brought in to deliver desired results. This to my mind is the fastest way to drive development. We must no longer tolerate ' the more you look, the less you see', 'plenty of talk and little action', 'high security budget every year and the people continue to die like chicken'
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

PURSUING ENTREPRENEURIAL SUCCESS IN 2014


After the Christmas and New Year festivities, many business owners have returned to base to face the uncertainties of the new year. For many, 2013 was a tough year, and most therefore will wish that 2014 will be a much better year. Entrepreneurial success any where is affected by what I call Extrinsic and Intrinsic factors. The extrinsic factors determine what we generally call the operating environment . And these factors are largely created by the governments at the three tiers of Government, with the federal government being the major contributor to determining these factors.
Usually these policies, programs and projects are captured through the annual budgets, hence most entrepreneurs wait with a lot of anxiety, the passage of the annual budgets. And when they come late as they will this year, the level of apprehension escalates. What is more, most entrepreneurs will have little or no hand in determining these policies, except, if they belong to the business membership organisations like MAN, NECA, NACCIMA, ANCCIMA,NESG, NASME,NASSI,NACC,etc. These bodies try to influence government policies through the submission of memoranda and the holding of dialogue sessions like the annual Nigerian Economic Summit(NES). The Jury is still out as to how successful these efforts have been in influencing policies. But my experience is that much has been achieved.
But the truth is that good government economic policies or good operating environment will not automatically guarantee success to every enterprise, just as it is true that poor government policies or bad operating environment will not necessarily result in poor business performance or business failure. There is something or certain actions which entrepreneurs take that significantly enhance their success, irrespective of the state of the external operating environment. When these actions are ignored or missed out, the ability of the business to succeed is diminished, more so if the the external operating environment is challenging. These intrinsic factors,to my mind determine to a larger extent the success or failure of any business endeavour. And any Business owner who wants to succeed this year, better than last year,irrespective of what awaits in the external environment, will be better advised to consider adopting the following paradigm
START WITH THE END IN MIND
You need to begin by envisioning how you want to end 2014. If the picture or experience of how 2013 ended is not good or not good enough, then you will need to create in your mind and thought what you want to see, feel or experience at the end of the year. Do not just hope you will see something good or experience something good. You must paint the picture in your minds eye, then transfer it unto a canvass or transmit into written words. If you have staff, you must let them see or experience this future you are seeing today. And then take deliberate actions to convince them and everybody around you, especially those connected to your Business that the future you have painted is feasible and achievable.Some may call this dreaming. So what is wrong with dreaming?. But this kind of dreaming happens with your eyes wide open. It is called VISIONING. Every entrepreneur who desires to succeed this year or to do better than last year, must begin with creating a Vision for his business in 2014. Where do you want to be? No wind can blow in the favour of a ship that has no destination.
DEVELOP A BUDGET
Many business owners especially the micro and small, operate every year without a written budget. At best, many operate on a mental budget written in their heads or hearts. Ask them what they plan to achieve this year and they will return blank. And those who venture to mention a figure or indicate an objective will return blank,when you ask them how they plan to achieve their target. No goals, no targets,and no plans! A critical key success factor for business success is that you have determined the strategy that will lead you to your vision. First is that you must determine your sales or income target for the year. Then determine how much you will need to spend to achieve that sales value. Then from that you can determine what will be your profit for the year. Thereafter, you can determine how much cash will be required to meet all of your expenses: raw materials or finished goods, cost of labour, cost of selling, administrative costs and tax. And how much cash will be generated from sales and determine if there is any gap and plan how that gap will be covered - through borrowing or overdraft or through new cash injection or through supplier credit. The full annual budget is then broken down into Quarters, months, weeks and days. Therefore every entrepreneur must know his daily sales expectation and weekly expectation and so forth. This way, you can control things and monitor your progress, minimising surprises.
The process of budget development is called PLANNING. No enterprise will grow big and remain big without planning. It is during planning that potential problems or difficulties can be identified and preventive or remedial actions can be taken,even before such problems occur. Doing business by trial and error and/or just hoping(including only praying),may not yield any sustainable success. Prayers are better answered when they are specific and when action backs faith.
Importantly, stick to your budget. When you have painstakingly developed a written budget,it is important that you follow the budget. Writing a budget and abandoning it and doing just what you like because it is your business, is akin to a Pilot drawing up a flight plan that will take him from Lagos to Abuja, files it with the Airspace Management Agency and then takes off and decides to ignore the plan and just fly any how. The fate of such a Pilot, his plane and passengers can be quite predictable. And there is bound to be collateral damage to other air space users. This is one reason, businesses perform poorly or even fail, sometimes dragging other businesses along.
UP GRADE YOUR SKILLS AND THOSE OF YOUR STAFF
Very often, entrepreneurs spend huge sums of money acquiring machines, offices and other working tools, but pay scant attention to upgrading the skills and expertise of the human resources that will man these equipment or run the offices. Indeed many SMEs think it is waste of resources to train their staff or themselves. Infact many can not 'afford' to 'lose' valuable business time by allowing staff to go to training. And if you attended one last year or two years ago, why waste time with another training this year!. This kind of thinking is outmoded and is a recipe for business stagnation. If makers of automobiles present new models every year with upgraded features or makers of soft ware produce regular up grades of their software, I am wondering why business owners will think upgrading their skills and those of their staff is a luxury they can not afford. Let it be known that the concept of garbage in,garbage out applies to human capital as well and that the only enterprises that will grow and flourish in these times are those termed learning organisations.
ADOPT THE MARKETING CONCEPT
Many SMEs that struggle are often the same ones that spend little on Marketing. Many Small Companies do not have a full understanding of the centrality of marketing in driving business success. This to my mind is a major reason many small companies are underperforming, sweating so much and getting little for all the effort. In 2014, I counsel all companies that wish to have outstanding success to be market-centric or market-focused. And in saying so, it is important that we understand that marketing is not synonymous with advertising and also,it not usually as expensive as many erroneously conclude.
Marketing is a paradigm in enterprise management. You can say it is a way of thinking. Companies that adopt the marketing paradigm or concept put their whole Focus on the customer. They seek to understand what the consumer wants, they supply what the customer wants or something better, they place it where the customer can most easily reach it at a price the consumer will be happy to pay and then make every effort to keep the customer informed and persuaded that they have what the customer said he wanted. That's what marketing is all about and companies that think the customer from product concept and design to product consumption and even post consumption( repeat purchase), are the ones that will have roaring success in 2014, whether the budget favours them or not.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa ofr

Friday, 10 January 2014






In the last two weeks, I have dedicated this column to focusing on the positive developments in the Nigerian Nation. I have done so because of my belief that the media and most commentators seem to focus a lot on our shortcomings and negative developments and end up inadvertently painting an unbalanced picture of our Nation and it's struggles. In deed, many first time visitors to Nigeria are shocked to see the orderliness in Lagos and the beauty of Abuja, because all they read in our media is bad news and negative portrayal of events in the Country. Besides, we needed to cheer ourselves up and count our blessings especially in line with the spirit of Christmas.Nevertheless,Nigeria is work in progress and no effort should be spared to recover lost grounds and attain our Vision 2020. We thank God that we have survived 2013 and have entered into 2014 as a united Country. In the last couple of days in this new year, I have been busy making new year resolutions and sending good wishes to my acquaintances. As a patriotic Nigerian, I am making the following wishes for Nigeria in 2014.

1. PEACEFUL ELECTIONEERING CAMPAIGNS AND FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS

It is certain that 2014 will be a politically active if not politically explosive year. The Political parties will hold their primaries for most of the elective positions from the local government councils to the office of the President of the Federal Republic. Indeed it is anticipated that most, if not all the elections will be held this year to allow sufficient time for election petitions to be concluded before swearing in the winners on the 29th of May 2015. It will be a very very busy year indeed.

Going by what has happened in 2013 and indeed the premature campaigns,some of which started in 2012, it is clear that this year will be one full year of politicking,more so that INEC's political programme towards 2015 will also be released. Therefore, it is my wish that every effort be made to manage these political activities in a manner that will neither threaten National Peace nor imperil Economic activities. Firstly, INEC must rise up and take full control of the political environment,so to say. It must not be left as a free-for-all political space where any body can do what he or she likes. INEC's political programme or agenda, backed up by the Electoral laws must be strictly followed and enforced. The room must not be created for any body to take us for a ride or disturb the orderly conduct of our national life just because they seek to lead us or is it to serve us. INEC's Chairman, must ensure that the rules and codes of conduct are well advertised and then courageously enforced. We must not wait for disruptions to occur before we begin to appeal to politicians and their political parties to behave well. Every little infringement must be immediately punished to show that we are not prepared to allow any one disturb our peace. I wish that I can make this point strongly enough, because I am afraid that if this is not done,Some Nigerian politicians are prepared to cause mayhem without caring a hoot as long as it will promote their selfish political ambitions. Critical to this point, is that INEC must really wake up and put its house in order. It seems that it has become complacent and weak. The kind of poor show it put up in Anambra state recently is the stuff that allows exploitation by Politicians to visit mayhem on the People. A repeat of this must not be tolerated. INEC Should deliver a perfect election. No excuse is tolerable. Period!

Secondly the law enforcement agents must prepare to enforce the electoral laws and other extant laws that govern political behaviour. Any infringement, no matter how trifle must be visited with the full weight of the law. Here the Police and INEC must work together to ensure, there is no breach of peace by politicians or political parties and their supporters.

Thirdly, our Political leaders must decide that the peace and orderly development of Nigeria is more important that partisan political victories. They must lead by example by obeying the rules and encouraging their members and supporters to do same. In this wise, we must commend the example shown by President Goodluck Jonathan who has consistently refused to jump the gun by declaring his interest puplicly in a second term in office,despite all the pressure from friends and foes. I wish that our Political leaders will demonstrate love for this Nation and encourage their members to play by the rule, avoiding any breaches. We know that the inflammatory and inciting statements made by some notable Politicians led to the post election violence in 2011 in parts of the North that consumed so much life and property,including those of many innocent Nigerians who were maimed and killed out of hate, incited by Notable Politicians whose seditious words were on tape. Our Law enforcement agents must never allow this to happen again. So much of innocent blood has been shed on the altar of political rascality and cult worship. NEVER AGAIN MUST THE BLOOD OF INNOCENT NIGERIANS BE SHED BY THE INCITEMENT AND CONNIVANCE OF NOTABLE POLITICIANS AND THEN SUCH PURVEYORS OF HATE AND DEATH ARE ALLOWED TO WALK FREE, PERHAPS WAITING FOR THE NEXT OPPORTUNITY...all in the name of political expediency or cowardice. Innocent Nigerians can not continue to be cannon fodder to protect or promote the partisan interest of any politician no matter how highly placed or highly projected. NO NIGERIAN POLITICIAN- dead or Alife is WORTH THE BLOOD OF ANY ORDINARY NIGERIAN!!!

2. HIGH RATE OF JOB CREATION AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION

I heartily wish that unemployment will drastically decline in Nigeria in 2014. The benefits of that will be salutary to the Country. Not only will it help to reduce poverty but it will help to improve social harmony and help reduce crime. Though not defensible, many miscreants blame unemployment as their motivation for branching off into nefarious and criminal activities.

To achieve higher levels of employment, we must intensify efforts at job creation. Here I will wish to reiterate my earlier calls that all our Economic policies, programs and projects must be centred on Job-creation. Every contract we award must be shown to create additional jobs. So when Labarun Maku and his colleague ministers regale us every Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meetings on the number and the value of contracts approved by FEC, they should make a point of indicating how many new Jobs will be created by the execution of the contracts. The State governments and possibly the local governments( when allowed by the state governors) must do the same. Paying lip service to unemployment and sometimes using it as a political ploy to embarrass others will boomerang someday. The interventionist Programs of the Federal Government through SURE-P safety net programs- Graduate Internship Scheme(GIS), YOU-WIN, Community Social, Women and Youth, Employment(CSWYE),Maternal and Child Healthcare(MCH), Ferma- Public works, Technical and Vocational training(TVET) must be complemented by the State Governments and Local Governments( if allowed by State Governors), using their 54% allocation of the Subsidy savings to create jobs for their citizens and stop playing politics with the federal government's projects.

In addition, and to create sustainability, the Governments of the federation must accelerate reforms that expand the economic space and incentivise Private Sector investments in several sectors of the economy- Power, Agric, Telecoms, oil&gas, solid minerals, manufacturing,other infrastructure and Tourism. The work started by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment must intensify and we must continue to benchmark our global competitiveness.

3. SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN INSECURITY AND OIL THEFT

If there is anything that almost all Nigerians are unhappy about, it is the level of insecurity in Nigeria. Life has become so cheap in Nigeria and innocent Nigerians are killed so often,that sometimes you think we are in a war. Perhaps we are! For most of the last three years, the economy of the North East Nigeria has been brought down by the Boko haram insurgents. Many lives and property have been lost and so much National income has been expended in an effort to contain this menace. In the south of Nigeria kidnapping continues to thrive despite ongoing efforts, forcing many Nigerians to live in 'exile'. And when we thought that militancy in the Niger Delta was over, we are confronted with an increased level of oil thefts that now threaten our ability to fund our annual budgets. My wish is that in 2014, there will be a significant reduction in insecurity and oil thefts.

When I hear the President speak on the situation, he gives me the impression, that he is satisfied with the performance of our security forces. He should know as the commander-in-chief. But the truth is that many ordinary Nigerians who daily bear the brunt of this situation mostly as 'undefended' or 'unarmed combatants' feel otherwise. We still hear that the coordination amongst the security agencies still leaves much to be desired. We still hear that so much illegal arms are brought into the country.I personally believe that our agencies can do better if Mr President shows them the 'red' of his eyes. As we say in management, it is difficult to measure effort, what counts is result.

4. ACCELERATED PASSING OF CRITICAL BILLS BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

I truly wish for Nigeria that in this new year, the National Assembly will do its best to avoid shadow boxing and face its assignment squarely. I wish that they will reduce the number of breaks and holidays they give themselves and stay in the chambers and pass the critical bills that are currently causing bottlenecks in the economy.First, I wish that they would give accelerated consideration to the 2014 Appropriation bill which they received before Christmas. I wish that they will focus on the bill and pass it into a law before the end of February. They have shown they can act expeditiously when adequately motivated. I also wish that they will look into their archives and retrieve critical bills that will have positive impact on our economy. Recently, we drew attention to some of this bills such as the PIB, the Railway bill, the Gas to power bill, the EFCC ammendment bill, the Health sector reform bill etc.

5.A SPEEDY DISPENSATION OF JUSTICE

Nigeria is notorious about the slow pace of our judicial system. Many Nigerians and our international partners are most reluctant to go through the Nigerian judicial system. From bungled investigation, fee -for-bail,interlocutary injunctions, Indeterminate adjournments, analogue and tedious long hard recording of court proceedings, to fee-for-judgement, the Nigerian judicial system is a nightmare. Until the recently ammended electoral law, an election petition can last the entire 4 years of the term of the disputed office. True, the current CJN and the NJC are making changes. But these changes are still too few and too slow to change our notoriety and image. I wish that I can wake up one day in 2014 and see a speedier, more transparent judicial system in Nigeria!

6. A RENEWED WAR AGAINT CORRUPTION

Another point on which almost all Nigerians are agreed upon is that the war on corruption seems to have grown cold. This may only be a perception but every comment seems to trend in this direction. I wish therefore that all agencies involved in this war need to rev up the game. From the Police to the EFCC to the ICPC to the COURTS, Nigerians are looking for a new wave of action- arrests, arraignment and convictions. We need to convince our selves and the international community that the war is not yet over. Or is it?. Welcome to 2014,Nigerians!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

DISRUPTION OF GLOBAL PEACE: Will 2014 be a reincarnation of 1914?






I am perturbed by the bells ringing across the World. So soon after the Christmas bells that heralded the commemoration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, war bells are ringing in increased intensity in many parts of the globe and these portend ominous signs for global peace and by logical extension for global trade and World economy.

1914 means many things to different people. The first world war started in 1914 and it was the same year, the Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated into a sovereign Nation- Nigeria. Today there are arguements as to whether the amalgamation was to bring Peace or to instigate war. I have heard some people say that the amalgamation was a mistake. I do not agree,because it is clear to me that Nigeria has achieved so much in its 100 year history as a country. Would we have done better as disparate tribal enclaves or even as separate countries- Northern and Southern Nigeria?, there is nothing that lends credence to such optimistic view.

For many years, Sudan was at war with itself and by the time it ended or was supposed to have ended, millions of Sudanese had died. So some optimists thought that what would solve the problem and bring peace and development to Sudan, was to divide Sudan into two. After many years of arguement, this option was accepted and just about a year or so ago, the newest Country in the World was born- South Sudan. The euphoria lasted less than a year and the South Sudan has become another theatre of civil war. More than 180,000 people have been displaced, 5300 in Ethiopia,25500 as refugees in Uganda and more than 1000 people already killed.So what do we do? Divide South Sudan into 2 States to accommodate the selfishness and greed of President Salva Kiir and his former co-rebel and former Vice President- Yak Marshall. This will be nothing but simplistic thinking.

Many Nigerians now seem to blame our unsatisfactory performance as a Nation on the fact that 250 ethnic or linguistic groups or 'nationalities', how ever that is defined, were wielded into one Country without their consent. And for many years, many of the so called activists or 'progressives', however this is defined have advertised the view that, Nigeria's problems would immediately vanish if we held a National conference where these 'ethnic Nationalities' would come and renegotiate their terms of relationship. I laugh. I laugh because it is not as simple as that.I reckon that even some of the original promoters of this idea are now opposing it, because they realise that it is essentially a political gimmick and may not yield much dividend. I am not opposed but I know that it may solve some problems and then create new ones. Even if you make every state in the country an independent Nation,and the same people occupying Nigeria now, are the same people distributed across the new 37 sovereign nations,not much will change. Armed robbery will still take place in Lagos Republic, kidnapping in Edo Nation and daily blood letting in Plateau Country.

I was in Biafra and shed some of my blood in the battlefield to help sustain the Republic for 30 months. The struggle for power between Ojukwu and some of the senior commanders caused Biafra so much and the fate of Biafra ultimately was hastened by this struggle. I can bet my last buck that if Biafra had succeeded, we will have more than 8 Countries today resulting from further fragmentation of the Republic of Biafra. Of course the struggle for Biafra was justified at the time, but my point is that other problems resulting from the greed of man would have created the demand for secession by other components of Biafra. If you think I am being too cynical, then note what happened when the new Anambra State was created. All those Public and Civil servants not from Enugu were ordered to leave and soon other States followed, even until recently.The same ethnic Nationality or are they? When it was mooted a short while ago that a new state would be created out of the Current South East region, did anybody keep count of the number of requests and the very unhealthy competition that ensued. No one was willing to consider the other's view or position. If Nigeria, will change the way we desire, we will have to change our selves first. And how that will happen, only God knows!

Everywhere you look in Africa, the struggle for Power, money and influence is causing mayhem. The Situation in Central African Republic( CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) is worsening and human misery is aggravating. What is the solution? Divide the Countries further into pieces, so that each hamlet can manage their own gold or diamond mines!. Up North, things are not looking any better. Egypt remains on the tetter, with the military resisting popular votes. The seeds of a long time instability has been sown in Egypt as the military has assumed the role of determining what is best for the Egyptians and It is doubtful if they can permanently subdue the Muslim Brotherhood. The 'coup' against Morsi and the current effort to criminalise and imprison him leaves a lot of bitter taste in my mouth.Libya is essentially a failed State right now,with different Militias competing for turf and with little prospect for the return of order any time soon.

In the Middle East, prospects for peace remain dim despite the intensive diplomatic efforts of the reigning 'pacificist' Nation, USA, who recently avoided turning the Syrian Civil war into a global war that will have involved Russia and China and who has doused the inevitability of striking Iran .The Syrian war is intensifying especially in the North- Aleppo particularly, nevertheless the peace moves are unlikely to yield much, because neither the apparently weakened opposition nor the beleaguered Assad is prepared to shift ground. Assad has shown without any iota of doubt that he is prepared to liquidate Syria and its people than step down from power and give another Syrian an opportunity to rule and in my opinion, the opposition is equally desperate and will not mind using every scheme to win the war. When Assad is pushed out as he eventually would, the real struggle for power will begin and you will see the true colours of the strange bed fellows who claim to be fighting for a common cause now. Such is the greed of man! With the increasing terrorist activities in Lebanon and the open support of Hezbollah for Assad, it will not be long before the sectarian battered Nation returns to war. Israelis and Palestenians distrust each other so much that there may still be many more wars before any agreement for the inevitable two state option becomes reality. Indeed the Middle East has never been so unstable with so much effort focused on maintaing peace or ensuring a balance of terror.

Further North into Asia, the situation in the new year has become very disturbing and has a very high incindiary potential. The instability seems to have been instigated by a struggle over Rocky Islands- a piece of useless territory,in my view, between China and Japan. Indeed the belligerence temperature has risen sharply in the early days of this month following two 'offensive' actions by the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. The first is the plan by Mr Abe to work for the ammendment of the Japanese Constitution to allow the Country improve its military capacity and perhaps remove the restraint on its power to wage wars. Since the end of the second World war, Japan took a decision to become pacifist, removing its powers to wage war against any nation. They can only fight in self defence when attacked,they can not initiate wars or become aggressors. I believe, this decision was what helped Japan become a world economic power. Rather than invest on Military Reseach and the cold war arms-race, Japan focused its efforts on manufacturing and ended up becoming the World's Manufacturing hub and a global leader in R&D. That of course was before China came on the scene and over the last decade and half began to supplant Japan as the global factory and completed the cycle by displacing Japan as the World's second biggest economy two years ago. Perhaps, because of this rivalry and competition from China or perhaps because of a feeling that many ASEAN Countries particularly China and South Korea were beginning to unduely exploit this pacificist stance, Prime minister Abe wants to make the country stronger militarily. But this is rattling its Neighbours especially China and the rhetoric from both Countries is unsettling.

The second action by Abe was his highly criticised decision to visit the ...shrine in Japan. This visit has been seen by China and South Korea as an announcement by Japan to resume military aggression in the region. What is worse, many Nations including the USA cautioned against that visit to the Shrine where some of the world war Japanese criminals were buried, but Shinzo Abe ignored all the counsel and went ahead with the visit. China looks set to apply some reprisal to Japan for these offences and that has raised the temperature in the region and by extension in the whole World.

Japan was a major aggressor in the First World War in 1914 and many are beginning to wonder if 2014 will be a reincarnation of 1914. I hope not. Let us pray.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR