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Monday, 26 January 2015

ONGOING ELECTIONEERING CAMPAIGNS: MATTERS ARISING

The 2015 Electioneering campaigns are in full bloom. There is excitement in the air but there is also palpable apprehension. The campaign machines are rolling across the Nations, to and fro, leaving behind plenty of dust, a lot of shouts, plenty of sense and a lot of nonsense. The Nigerian physical space is filled with Banners and posters and the air waves are reverberating with plenty of music, dance and drama. In all of this, a lot of people are doing brisk business and money is changing hands with great velocity. I must say that I am really enjoying the general festive atmosphere, as serious work has been suspended till after February 28th.

Taking a critical look at how the campaigns are going, some matters have arisen and somethings do not add up . Indeed some are of grave concern, because no matter what Party or what candidate we support, Nigeria belongs to all of us, and every Nigerian is an equal stakeholder. It is therefore important that Nothing is done or said that will imperil the Nation. It is also critical that every speech or action of the Candidates and Party Leaders must be scrutinized by the electorate. Nigerians must avoid getting too emotional or too fanatical to abandon decency or basic ethos of what is good and what is bad. We must not sacrifice basic truths on the altar of political expediency. Some of the developments and activities that do not add up and that can not stand objective and righteous scrutiny include the following:

.Governor Ayo Fayose's Distasteful Advert

To be sincere, in all my life, I have never seen a more distasteful advert than the one Governor Ayo Fayose put on the Sun Newspaper some days ago. I am yet to come to terms with why he put such demeaning advert on the front page of a National Newspaper. How can he reduce the campaign to the issue of State burials and suggesting who will die before another. How can that be a valid campaign issue? Many 30 -year old people have died while many 80-year old people are alive and healthy. I do not know how many votes that morbid advert will win.

I am also wondering how that advert passed the scrutiny of the Sun Newspaper leadership. That advert greatly lowered the esteem of that Newspaper. Is there no advert Policy? Is there no limit we can go for the sake of money?. It is good that the President Goodluck's campaign team dissociated the campaign organization and the President from the advert but I was disappointed with the Campaign Media officer who said Governor Fayose had his right to say what he liked or advertise what ever seemed right to him. What is worse, Ayo Fayose himself, said he had no apology to offer. Perhaps I can offer an apology on behalf of all decent Nigerians to General Muhammad Buhari. While I agree that there is freedom of speech or belief but that must not stop us from saying that what is bad is bad. That advert is bad and we must insist that no body in the name of free speech should assault our sense of decency as Nigerians and Africans who respect and revere old age.

. General Muhammad Buhari's West African Certificate Brouhaha

I am terribly troubled by the ongoing debate concerning General Buhari's educational qualification. He said he passed the West African School Certificate Examination and was required to produce his certificate. He did not produce one but rather referred INEC to the Army. INEC as it had done in the last three election cycles( 2003, 2007 & 2011) apparently did not go to the Army to get a copy of the certificate. They just believed him! Perhaps out of respect for him as past Military Head of State. I wish that INEC had complied with the Constitution in 2003 and that will have prevented this current National embarrassment. Why did they not insist that the General should go and get his certificate like the other candidates? Why did they not go to WAEC, which is the Examinations body? Will they not have the record of all who passed their exams? When the PDP campaign team insisted and kept pushing, they forced the Army to come out and say that they do not have the General's WASCE certificate( no original, no photocopy, no certified true copy). What they have is only a claim by General Buhari( in the form he filled ) and a recommendation from the Principal of the Secondary School that he would pass the Exam. Something does not add up here! Many questions now arise. Did he really take the exams? Did he actually pass the exams?Was the Certificate stolen? Has a hidden lie come to the fore? Too many questions. Even the late effort of the Secondary School to provide evidence is being challenged. And all this really challenges the foundation of the 'Integrity' platform on which General Muhammad Buhari's campaign is anchored. How I wish this unfortunate situation did not arise, because it takes me back to 1999 when we faced similar embarrassing educational scandals involving another Buhari who was made Speaker of the House of Representatives and others who claimed they were graduates of University of Toronto and University of Chicago! What will happen to the promise of a revolutionary anti-corruption campaign being promised? Let us get the West African Examinations Council( WASC) come to the rescue and tell us the truth, hoping that INEC will not allow us pass through this again. They must investigate all educational claims, that is an integral part of their work.

.Condemnable Violent Activities

We have read of reports of some misguided Violent and barbaric activities of some political thugs, apparently motivated by desperate politicians . We heard of the bombing of APC secretariat some where in Rivers State and the ambush of some supporters who were going to the APC rally. This is condemnable. This kind of attitude can not improve the chances of anybody winning elections. Instead it may even attract sympathy for the victim Party or candidate. We have also read of the burning of PDP vehicles in Plateau State and the recent stoning of the President's campaign convoy in Katsina and in Bauchi. These are despicable actions which must not be allowed to repeat. They are foreboding signs of what lies ahead. I strongly insist that our Security forces must search out and punish the perpetrators of these and other misdemeanors. The Police should not just bark but must ensure that they bite. They need to send the right signals that they will not allow the type of Post-election violence that consumed so many innocent Nigerians and their property in 2011. When these miscreants and their sponsors get away with the above reported crimes, they will be emboldened to do worse. That was how Boko haram grew wings. A stitch in time saves nine. Nigerians can no longer accept stories, they expect the State to protect them.

. Dumb Campaign messages

Many People are wondering how many People will vote, based on what the Candidates are saying and promising at the campaign rallies or even on their posters and bill boards. We are largely being regaled with the different colored pictures of the candidates and then with plenty of Music, dancing and drama and huge doses of ' yabis'.

The rest is empty slogans: PDP.....Power! ; APC....Change! sai Buhari, sai Nigeria!

What power? Electric power or ikam power? Power to do what?. Change for what?, Change for worse or change for better? Half a dozen is the same as Six! Let us have real debates where we can interrogate all the bogus claims. Candidates should be made to show us evidence of their ability to deliver their promises. Otherwise, we may just be feeding on hype and getting entertained but the story will be different afterwards and we begin to complain and sigh. But from all indications, that does not seem an attractive proposal to many of the candidates. But that is the only way we can test their seriousness , even if not their sincerity. We must insist on this, now that the power is in our hands.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Monday, 19 January 2015

NIGERIA: COUP PLOTTERS, MILITANTS, TERRORISTS & DEMOCRATS

Among Christians, there is always this discussion about which is the greatest sin. Many will argue that all sins are equal because they carry equal consequence. The Bible says that the 'Soul that sinneth, it shall die'. But one group of Christians still insist that some sins are worse than others. To buttress their stand, they quote where Jesus said that all sins could be forgiven, except that, committed against the Holy Spirit or what some call blasphemy. So in their opinion, the greatest sin is that against the Holy Spirit, because it cannot be forgiven. Too bad then for all the false Prophets who lie in the name of the Holy Spirit. Some commentators have suggested that one father Mbaka who operates from Enugu belongs to this group. Me, I do not know...oo, only God knows those who are His and those who worship Him in Truth and in Spirit! This same group asserts that even when one commits sins that can be forgiven; they still face repercussions that follow every sinful act. To buttress their point, they tell the Story of what happened to King David after he committed Adultery with Bathsheba, then engineered the murder of her husband, Uriah. His very serious sins were forgiven, but the Child born from the Adulterous relationship died despite all the prayers and pleadings of David to God. Additionally, the kingdom got divided through the rebellion of His son Absalom and David's wives were sexually assaulted in the public glare. These were all the consequences of David's sins as predicted by Prophet Nathan. So those who toy with Sin and go to confession every Saturday must be careful. God will forgive them their sins if there is genuine repentance and they may go to Heaven, but while on the Earth, there may be other unpalatable consequences. To be forewarned is to forearmed.

Now I had asked, who can tell me the greatest crime against a Country? Is it armed robbery or kidnapping or murder? Some of my respondents said No to any of the above. They argue that most of those crimes listed above are largely against individuals or groups of them, and as it stands today, all those caught in the above crimes are either in Police Cells, in the courtrooms, in the Prisons or in hell. Instead they listed the forceful and illegal

(unconstitutional) removal of elected Governments from office, otherwise called Coup Plotting, taking up arms against the Nation or waging a war against the Country and its Citizens as done by Militants and Terrorists. They argue, that not only are the above, crimes, they are heinous as they aim at disrupting the orderly development of Society and could lead to anarchy and Chaos, in addition to the wasting of Human lives. They speak of impunity, where a few want to force their will on the Nation.

In Nigeria's recent history, we saw the Niger Delta Militants who created so much havoc, kidnapped and killed many People( Nigerians and foreigners), disrupted the smooth operations of the oil industry and attacked oil installations and other National infrastructure. Infact, they did not care if Nigeria ceased to exist! Perhaps, they believed they were fighting a just cause but their method was criminal and an affront against the Nation. Ordinarily, such activities should be visited with the heaviest consequences as prescribed by the Law. Pleading hunger can never be a justification for armed robbery! They should be in Police cells, Court rooms or in Prisons. But President Umaru Yardua granted them amnesty. In which case their sins were forgiven by the State whom they sinned against. But is that the end of the story? Are there no other consequences for taking the law into their hands? Now, what would happen if Asari Dokubo or Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo or Ateke Tom or boy loaf, one of the forgiven Militant leaders aspires to govern Nigeria as President in a democratic setting? How many of us will be willing to have a forgiven militant be the democratic President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? How many of us can trust his democratic credentials?

Today, Nigeria is confronted with Terrorists insurgency. For over six years now, the Boko haram has held this Nation hostage, killing and maiming our armed forces and mostly innocent Civilians. They are bombing everywhere they can reach; Churches, Mosques, UN Building, Market places, Motor Parks and using every means possible to destroy the Nation. They have tried to kill President Goodluck Jonathan and Gen Muhammadu Buhari, the Emir of Kano amongst many high Profile targets and have disrupted governance in many States especially In Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi and Gombe. They indoctrinate ten year old girls, strap them with explosives and send them to die in the market places along with innocent Nigerians. They kidnap young school girls and send them to forced marriages or to early grave. If they had their way, they would destroy the entire Country in their desire to Islamize Nigeria or whatever is their objective. Now some Nigerians have been suggesting amnesty for the insurgents. Suppose they accept and the government agrees and then Shekau opts to become the President of a democratic Nigeria. How many of us will be comfortable to have Shekau become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? How many of us can trust his democratic credentials?

The Story of Nigeria is replete with coups and counter coups. Many commentators argue that Nigeria's underdevelopment today and the myriads of problems the Country has been grabbling with have their foundation in the military incursion into Nigeria's political leadership through coups and counter coups . Nigeria was one of the most promising African Countries at Independence in 1960 with a vast growing Economy based on Agriculture and Industry until the Military struck on January 15, 1966 and disorganized a fairly stable Federation. The counter coup of July 1966, led to the Pogrom, the premeditated killing of Ndigbo, soldiers and Civilians across the Nation but particularly in the North of Nigeria. A hitherto peaceful Country became divided on ethnic lines culminating in the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1979). From 1979 the country began to gather its pieces again. With the restoration of Democratic Governance, efforts were being made to heal the wounds of the war and forge a new Nation. This effort was truncated again by another Coup in December 1983 and Nigeria went through a series of convulsions that left us prostrate and from which we have been trying to recover from, ever since.

So what is the consequence of overthrowing our freely elected government by force? The list of key Coup plotters in Nigeria includes Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, General TY Danjuma, General Murtala Mohammed, Colonel Dimka, General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida, Major Gideon Okar, and General Sanni Abacha. Most of these lead coup plotters are long dead. General Babangida tried a couple of times to become the President of a democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria but failed. General Buhari has tried three times to become the President of a democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria and failed three times. He is making a fourth attempt. Are these failures part of the consequences of being a coup plotter? Could it be a subtle message to others who may be tempted to try a crime against the State, that there is always a consequence, even if the State has forgiven you? May be or maybe not.

Or could it be that we do not trust their democratic credentials? Being Men of impunity who tried to impose their will on the Nation by force and ruled by decrees, we fear that they may not subordinate themselves to the debates, the negotiations, the compromises, the due processes and the 'Slowness' of democratic governance. General Olusegun Obasanjo showed us some signs. On February 14th, we hope to hear the final verdict.



Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR



Monday, 12 January 2015

REFORMING THE PRACTICE OF POLITICS IN NIGERIA

I had always felt that there was something wrong with the way politics was practiced in Nigeria.

First, I had thought that Political Parties were formed by groups of individuals who shared common ideologies that were distinguishable. In which case the ideology of one party was different from that of another party at least in some significant aspects. In the United States for example, the ideology of the Republican Party is distinguishable from that of the Democratic Party. One Party supports Big Governments while the other espouses small government, one party promotes the greater control by government of businesses, the other promotes divestment of government from businesses and prefers that the factors of Production are left in the hands of the Private Sector. Or the difference between the Labour and conservative Parties in the Uk, where one party promotes full employment and full availability of social services to all citizens while the other insists on allowing market forces determine the allocation of resources, promoting capitalism.

Except perhaps for some distinguishable differences between the ideologies of the National Council of Nigeria and the Camerons(NCNC )and the Action Group(AG )in the first Republic( 1960-1966) which were also noticeable in the National Party of Nigeria(NPN )and the Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN) ideologies in the second Republic(1979-1983),not much emphasis has been placed on ideologies since then. In the First and Second Republics referred to above, it was clear that the AG or the UPN espoused socialism where the government was going to use state resources to provide cross-cutting social services while the NCNC or NPN would allow a greater participation of private initiative and resources in providing social services, thus espousing a pro capitalist ideology. But since the third Republic until now, Nigerian Political Parties have been operating without distinguishable ideologies. Though Babangida's factory made Parties, The Social Democratic Party( SDP),and the National Republican Convention( NRC) pretended to espouse different ideologies on paper, on the ground they were the same. Or worse. How could known arch conservative like Chief Anthony Anenih be the Chairman of SDP which was touted as Progressive, with arch capitalist Chief K.O. Abiola as the Party's Presidential Flag bearer. That was a misnomer and made nonsense of any ideological relevance. Of course the "five leprous fingers" or Parties of the Abacha Political transition had their manifestos written by one man ( Chief Bola Ige), and so there could have been no meaningful ideological differences. Ditto with all the Political Parties of the current 4th Republic.There were no significant ideological differences between most of the over 100 parties registered by the Independent Electoral Commission( INEC). Indeed when some of the opposition parties were merging to form the All Progressives Congress( APC), we had hoped for a major ideological shift. But the moment, We realized that half of the critical members of the new party were disgruntled members of the ruling People's Democratic Party( PDP), all such hopes expired. And so until we have Parties with distinguishable ideologies, making choices at election time becomes difficult. For now it is like being asked to choose between Monkeys and Babbons, which is uglier.

Secondly and perhaps deriving from the above, the culture of 'carpet crossing' or migration from one party to the other is so pervasive and truly demeaning. A man who campaigned on and was voted into office on the platform of one party, will just wake up on the wrong side one morning and announce that he has changed his party. And from that moment he becomes a member of the new 'great' party( every party in Nigeria is a great party),without a care of how those who elected him on the platform of the other party feel about this sudden change of party. Sometimes, his supporters are rail-roaded into the new Party willy-nilly . For some, to decamp from one party to another does not as much involve the rigour of divorce rites in some traditions where you are required to announce to your spouse, ' I divorce you', three times before you can walk away. In addition to many things that are wrong with this 'political prostitution',what upsets me most, is that the electorate is taken for granted and his constitutionally guaranteed freedom of choice is supplanted by these acts of political whoredom. If I voted for a candidate on the platform of Party A and then he wins and without shame decamps to Party B, and remains as Governor or Senator, he has abridged my rights of choice. May be some day soon, we shall a decampee President ! I have often argued that the right thing to do, is for such a politician to resign his position, decamp to his new found 'lover'party and then stand a fresh election on that platform. Anything else is injurious to the electorate. We therefore must find a way to reform this aspect of our political practice. Campaigns are on full steam right now and People are investing their fate on specific parties perhaps because of Party manifestos. What a travesty it would be if the winners take the 'liberty' to decamp to other parties after elections. This is not the way Politics is practiced in other climes. It is absolutely primitive.

Thirdly and perhaps the major motivation for this intervention is that Nigerian Politics is played without any morality or ethics. Politicians make promises at election campaigns and they deny them flatly thereafter without batting an eye lid. They conspire to rig elections in their areas of comparative strength and then turn around to accuse the other party for rigging elections in their areas of comparative weakness. They agree with you on an issue this hour and then the next hour, they take the opposite action. They loose elections at the pooling booths and they try to compromise the judges to overturn the verdict in the courtrooms. And I have always wondered why?. But I stopped wondering this week after reading the statements credited to Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State. He was quoted, telling some party men 'that those who can not lie should leave Politics alone". He admonished those who are honest to go become Pastors and Imams, as there was no place for honest Men and Women in politics! Wow! Can this be true? This was the most shocking and damning thing, I have heard all my life. I have waited for other Politicians to refute these assertions which were on the front Pages of National Newspapers and I have not read or heard any contrary characterization of Nigeria's Politics and its practitioners. Those I discussed with agreed with Governor Aliyu. They said it was the bitter truth! Another friend told me another story of how the late Strong man of Ibadan Politics asked another political aspirant who came to him for endorsement, if he could bear false witness against the innocent, or if he could kill in cold blood and when the guy answered in the negative, he dismissed him on the ground that he was not yet ready to be a politician. Haba!

These stories made me really sad. And I asked myself what kind of profession or vocation insists that only liers and dishonest men are qualified to be admitted as practitioners. Is it then surprising that we have a corrupt country? If liers and dishonest men govern us, then what should we expect? . I really hope that the younger Nigerians especially those aspiring to enter into politics did not read that story because it is very disturbing and distressing. My real hope is that either Governor Aliyu was misquoted or that he really did not mean what he said. Or even if he meant it, then it does not apply to all politicians and that there is space for honest men and women to succeed in Nigeria's Politics.

What ever may be the true situation, it may be wise to take the story on its face value and be careful with Nigerian Politicians. Many are jumping from one state capital to another, from one Local Government area to another, making promises. We had better not allowed ourselves to be sucked in by the hyperboles they are selling. My advice is that we must check the record of those making promises. No one can rightly project what a man can do in the future, but we can be guided by what he did in the past . Any one who promises to build a Skyscraper for you when he comes to power, let him show you the high rise he has built in the past. Any one who promises to make our economy to be the best in the World in 12 months must show us what he did in the economy in the past when he had an opportunity. Any one who promises to create millions of Jobs if we vote for him,let him show us how many people he had employed in the past. When Politicians promise us food for all, they should show us the size of their farms or how they have promoted agriculture in the past or what effort they have made to provide food for those currently under their ruler ship or leadership. People can not give what they do not have! People who have set fires burning in the Nation, should not hoodwink us to vote for them so that they can go and put off the fires they instigated. No, it is amoral to benefit from the crisis one engineered. With this revelation from Governor Aliyu, every sensible Nigerian should insist on scrutinizing the past records of our leaders or aspiring leaders. The chances are that human beings seldom change when they are above 21 except those who have had an encounter with God. So the only way to minimize taking too much risk is to look at what a man has done in the past and bet that he may improve on those records. But there can never be a guarantee even when you are dealing with honest men, because of the uncertainties of the future and the changes in the socioeconomic environment. What more when we are dealing with Nigerian Politicians. Look Guys, we must reform the practice of Politics in Nigeria. And only truth speaking, God-fearing and honest Men and Women can do this. So Lord, please give us honest Men and Women who will lead Nigeria at all levels of Political Governance as we go to the pools in a few weeks!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Sunday, 4 January 2015

MY WISHES FOR NIGERIA IN 2015

We must really thank God that we survived 2014, both as individuals and as a Nation. The Out gone year was a busy one for the Nation. There was so much to cry about and some opportunity to rejoice. In my view, three critical issues characterized the Year: the continued onslaught by the Boko-haram Insurgents and the overall feeling of insecurity engendered in the Nation, the escalation of Political activities as Nigeria prepares to go to the Pools early in 2015,and the significant drop in the price of Nigeria's main export, crude Petroleum with its destabilization of the Nation's Economy. The Federal Government announced a new austerity regime as the year closed, signposting a tough year ahead. During the Christmas and New Year celebrations, we all received and sent goodwill messages to our friends, acquaintances and Family and some to our enemies as well. In addition, many of us have made our wish lists or New Year resolutions. I am using this opportunity to make my wish list for our beloved Country in 2015.


1. A Nation where every citizen can feel safe & secured


I wish to see the bloodletting and insecurity in parts of Nigeria cease in 2015. The primary responsibility of government is to protect the lives and property of its citizens. No individual, group or sect should be allowed to kill Nigerians indiscriminately as we saw in the last years and get away with it, appearing in videos, threatening to kill more. The Federal, State and Local Governments must do EVERYTHING Possible to see this does not happen this year. To me there is nothing more important than this. The momentum we noticed in the closing weeks of last year that led to the recovery of occupied territories must be aggressively intensified to completely rout the insurgents. And to achieve this, the State must receive the maximum cooperation and support of all citizens. We will never have enough Police or Military to stand on every inch of Nigeria's territory. Therefore we must transform ourselves to civilian security men and women, just as the 'civilian JTF' is doing admirably in parts of the North East. To stand aloof or worse still, to encourage criminal elements and then turn around to blame the Government or make government look weak, is counterproductive. What can be more important to any rational human being than life. What is the worth of the lives of all the Nigerians that have been killed in the last 4 years? Only a living man can pursue any objective- Social, business, Financial, Professional, vocational, Political or even religious. Those who want to convert Nigeria to any particular Religion must first be alive to proselyte or preach their faith or doctrines. Then the Nigerians they want to convert must be alive to be converted. Dead men or dead women or dead children can not practice any religion. Or am I mistaken?


2. Free, fair and orderly elections


To be fair, our electoral processes have been on the upswing after the debacle of 2007. 2011 elections were judged to be the best in recent times. It was a major promise by President Goodluck Jonathan and he largely delivered on it. Since then, except for a few snags here or there, the other elections in the last four years have been adjudged fair to good. The glitches in the Anambra Elections though did not invalidate the Elections, was a significant setback to INEC's competences. Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun elections went well and in these five States, opposition parties won in Four of them at the pooling booths ,not in the courtrooms. Those who have any sense of objectivity must acknowledge the independence of INEC and the visible and measurable improvement on the integrity of our elections.


Having said this, it must be pointed out that the stakes in the 2015 elections seem higher than ever. Since 1998, we now have two major Parties with National appeal and spread. The dominance of PDP in the last 16 years will come under serious challenge this year. Naturally, PDP will do its utmost to retain its dominance and the challenger APC, will deploy every 'arsenal' it can procure to wrestle power from the reigning champion. In this scenario, desperation and self-help may emerge and could tempt both parties to tamper with the electoral process.


My wish is therefore that they will resist this temptation, both at the federal and the States. I appeal to the President and the incumbent State Governors to allow INEC total independence and work to protect the integrity of the electoral process. I am pleased that Mr President has reiterated his promise in this wise and I wish to appeal to him to keep his eyes on all political and administrative functionaries in the electoral chain. As is usual with Many Nigerian politicians, some who already know that they will lose the elections, have gotten their petitions written of how they were 'rigged out' and their thugs prepared to protest (non-violently and violently). If the elections are made to be free, fair and ordered, these losers will cause minimum damage. But if true winners are denied anywhere, then that could be cataclysmic.






I wish that INEC would deliver a Perfect ( or near-perfect) election. There should be NO stories and excuses. They have had many years to prepare for 2015. They have had many opportunities to hone their processes and strategies and they have heard and read all the predictions about Nigeria and 2015. May God grant them grace to deliver a professionally conducted elections where electoral materials will arrive all pooling booths early, where elections will start at the appointed time and close at the appointed time, where no one will be allowed to sabotage the process or steal ballot boxes, where all registered voters will find their names on the voter register and where results will not be switched. Let Jega stand up and improve on his 2011 record and avoid by all means a repeat of the recent disappointing and poor show in distributing of Permanent Voter cards(PVC)especially in Lagos State. Should we say more?


3. An economically Buoyant 2015


Yes, the prognosis are dire; oil prices may still drop lower, National income will be constrained forcing us to spend over 80% on Recurrent expenditure at the Federal level, leaving little for capital expenditure, tax rates will spike and new levies introduced to shore up Government revenue, austerity measures will be introduced, all portending tightening of belt and increased economic hardship, I still wish that Nigeria would have an economically Buoyant 2015. I believe it is possible at individual, corporate, community, state and national levels. At National, state and community levels, what we need most is to aggressively diversify our income source, re-prioritize our expenditure, and KILL corruption. At individual or corporate levels, we need to enthrone multiple streams of income, focus on needs and necessities and avoid waste. With God's wisdom, we can have a Buoyant year, the presenting challenges notwithstanding .


4. An ordered, law-abiding Nation


Truly, my greatest wish for Nigeria is to have an ordered and law-abiding Nation. A Nation where people know the laws and obey them. A Nation where those who choose to break the laws are brought to book speedily and shown that is not profitable to be an outlaw. A nation, where the law applies equally and our leaders and law makers obey the rules and laws which they make. I wish Nigeria to be a Nation where due process is applied in dealing with every issue, a Nation where impunity has no place, a nation where no single man will be the accuser, the judge and the enforcer. A Nation that will be respected by other Nations because we enforce our laws diligently and impartially. God please give an ordered Nation in 2015. Happy New Year Nigerians.






Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR




Friday, 2 January 2015

THE SIGNS ARE OMINOUS: NIGERiANS PREPARE FOR A ROUGH RIDE!

Those who know me or who read my writings will agree that I am very optimistic about this Country. I believe in the resilience of the country and its ability to withstand centrifugal forces trying to tear the country apart and abort its destiny of leading Africa and the black race.But I must say that I am worried with recent developments in the Polity. The signs are omnious and troubling.

First, the onslaught of the terrorists is not abating. The terrorists are bombing and killing themselves and many innocent Nigerians. They are also capturing and occupying territories in the North East Nigeria, precipitating the highest level of internal displacement of Nigerians since the civil war. Many Nigerians are truly troubled with the apparent difficulty our Security forces are having in halting and dismantling this vicious rebellion. To put it mildly, Nigerians feel despondent and helpless and are wondering what next we need do to resolve this seemingly intractable national challenge. It was suggested, we should seek International help and I believe we have had American advisers for a while, some of whom survived a recent Helicopter crash landing in Yola. For me and for many, all that we can do now is to pray harder for our Security forces and for the suffering Nigerians. God, please save us!

Second, all of a sudden, the price of crude Petroleum has been dropping and hell seems to have been let loose. There is an economic fever spreading all over the Nation. Indeed there is some panic in the air. I am afraid that this panic is causing serious injuries to the economy. The Federal Government has announced some austerity measures and the MDAs are in state of ambivalence. Some State Governments are almost declaring 'force majeure' and declining or are unable to meet their commitments. Unpaid salaries and unpaid contractors bills are beginning to pile up.The Stock market is in a down ward trend as equities loose value and there is some divestment and capital repatriation.The Naira exchange rate is under pressure and a devaluation is being predicted. The stable macroeconomy we have had over the last few years seem to be under threat. This calls for the best of our economic management skills and an effort made to calm the pervading panic.

Third, we hear of the political rumblings in EKITI State. The APC Legislators in the State have determined that Governor Ayo Fayose will govern alone, with no commissioners and no aides. Just as was done when the EKITI Eleven wanted to employ the judiciary to stop the swearing in of Fayose as Governor, after what was a convincing win; which led to the mishandling of a Judge in the State, the PDP has used its minority members in the house, to approve the Governors request and to impeach the Speaker, Dr Adewale Omirin. Hon Oladele Olugbemi of PDP has been installed by the Minority and Governor Fayose has recognized this travesty.

I have been worried about EKITI since Ayo Fayose came from the 'dead' to beat sitting Governor, John Kayode FAYEMI. The loss was unexpected and has been seen as a big slap on the face of APC leaders especially that of the Asiwaju. And it seems to me that what APC could not get from the ballot box, they are determined to get by other means. Now with their majority in the house, they have determined to lock down Ayo Fayose's government. They will not approve his list of commissioners and advisers and may never approve his budget proposals or other bills. That seems to have encouraged or "forced" Fayose to take the laws into his hands. The Parliamentary rascality we saw in Edo recently where the Minority PDP members tried to take over the Edo house seems to be repeating in EKITI , perhaps with more dangerous dimensions. This situation must be halted. My counsel is that Ayo Fayose must show exemplary leadership by finding ways to reach out to and accommodate the APC legislators. The strong arm tactics he seems to be adopting in what is truly a great challenge to him, may only yield temporary results that are not sustainable . He can not govern the State that way and succeed.

On the other hand, all well meaning Nigerians must appeal to APC and its leadership to learn to respect the wishes of the majority of the people of EKITI, no matter how 'stupid ' they think the people are in choosing Fayose instead of governor FAYEMI. They should allow Fayose to run the government for the good of the people of EKITI State. If they blatantly refuse to cooperate with him, the only party that will suffer, are the good and'foolish' people of the state. If governance is about the people, then,all the obstacles on Fayose's road to good governance must be dismantled by the APC and its legislators . I recommend that they should spend their time and energy more on strategizing for 2018. Four years run quickly and they could return to the staple . But if they continue to prevent Fayose from governing, they may actually be hurting themselves as Fayose could win the people's Sympathy.

Then when we thought that we had seen the height of political rascality, our sensibilities were badly assaulted by the specter of parliamentary brigandage we watched at the National Assembly a few days ago. Right in our eyes, we saw ' honourable' members of the house scaling fences, somersaulting and pushing down gates. Then we saw them and a motley of others running helter and skelter as the Police threw tear gas at the 'Invading' crowd. Then we saw the Senate President being hassled as he entered the Chambers of the Representatives, perhaps to calm the nerves of the Members who had literarily fought their way into the chambers. The Representatives were highly agitated and tempers were roof high and palpable. There was shoving and finger pointing. Indeed, some fisticuffs were exchanged and some 'honorables' took off their shirts ready for Fight. It was like a free-for-all brawl. I was shocked by the unfolding drama. I could not believe my eyes. I was downcast and I cried for my Country. What was all these about?

The Police in their 'wisdom' decided to lock out the Members of the National Assembly for security reasons. They said that they had intelligence report that hoodlums were about to invade the National Assembly. All well and good. How I wish they used more of this 'intelligence' expertise to stop Boko Haram bombers from destroying the North East. Now if the Police had this information and they were shutting the gates in good faith, why did they not find a way to send information to the members of the National Assembly alerting them of this plan of hoodlums and advising them to stay away until the threat is cleared. Why not ask each member to identify himself or herself, so we can separate the wheat from the chaff.How much will that have caused them and the Nation ? Can that cost be compared with the disruption of the polity that we saw on Thursday(20th. November) and the ripple effects that would last many months, leading to a further destabilization of our Nation.

If the police was wrong in taking this precipitous action of locking the gates against the members of the National Assembly without due notice, the action of some members of the house who climbed the gates to force entry was also reprehensible . Two wrongs can never make a right. If those representatives were honorable and law abiding as we expected them to be, then they could not have resorted to self help that made them look like miscreants and militants. And some of these are parents! What could they possibly be teaching young Nigerians? What message could they be passing to those on the fringes of society, those who are angry with Nigeria, those who are looking for opportunities to express their anger against the country( the 'dishonorable' members inclusive). If a privileged class( over indulged some would say) as members of the National Assembly can descend so low and promote deviance and violence, what do they expect most of the other 'angry' Nigerians to do. Is it any wonder that this Nation is gradually becoming a violent Nation? If Gold can rust, what will iron do?

In my recent commentary on Tambuwal, I had indicated that I was going to watch how far this 'cunny' man would go with his cunning. Something tells me that all the brouhaha and 'roforofo'that we just witnessed and may yet witness a lot more are all about him. May be he does not care much about Nigeria, just as the Boko Haram insurgents and their sponsors do not care. What is important to him and his ilk is to take political power, employing every trick available. If he cares for this Country's survival and peace, if he believe's that nobody's political or economic ambition is greater than the survival and peace of this Nation, then he should save this country from this avoidable cataclysm. If he is noble, then he should do the honorable thing; resign his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, because he has moved from a majority party to a minority party in the house, and allow peace to reign. He can not eat his cake and still have it. The democratic right he has to switch from one party to another without blinking an eye lid, is the same right the majority party in the house has to elect the Speaker. He must stop being a dog in the manger. That way he will show his love for this Nation, regain his nobility, receive the gratitude of most of the Ordinary People of Nigeria who are not politicians and who just want to have a peaceful Nation to work, live and die. These Ordinary Nigerians are the ones making sacrifices and bearing the brunt. They pay the taxes that maintain the politicians in office.

Many predictions have been made about the challenges facing Nigeria as we head to the 2015 Elections. In as much as many of us do not believe in those projections and 'prophecies', I think it is wise for our political leaders not to write off those projections with a wave of the hand. My leadership training tells me to hope for the best but to be prepared for the worst. In which case, I would be careful and sensitive. I would refrain from doing anything that will make the worst to become a reality. In addition, I will resist any temptations to play into the hands or circumstances that may promote the worst . What am I saying? Our Political leaders starting from the President to the Ward councillor must not light any fire that could burn the Nation or any part of it. They must also not stoke any destructive fire, no matter who lights the fire. My counsel is that it is the leadership's responsibility to calm every situation. Yes, leaders can be provoked, insulted or humiliated, but they must not allow themselves to be drawn into baits. I am convinced that there are people in this Country today( Boko Haram et al), who do not care a hoot about what happens to this Nation. I believe the Tambuwal's matter is a Bobby- trap. Let us be wise to jump and pass. Let us use constitutional means and legal methods to resolve it and other such matters. Resort to self help will only imperil our Nation. I believe that everything decent and right must be done to protect our democracy, peace and orderly development of our Nation. No sacrifice will be too much.A word is enough for the wise.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

HOW & HOW NOT TO SURVIVE THESE AUSTERE TIMES

Last week I admonished Nigerians to prepare for a rough ride ahead, given the Security,Political and Economic challenges confronting our Nation, one climbing on the back of the other. As I had predicted, some salvos were fired during the week by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The naira was devalued, though I hear that my brother, Dr Nnanna, Deputy governor designate of the CBN, says it is not a devaluation. May be we can call it a steep depreciation of the Naira. Today the dollar is exchanging for more than 180 naira in the Parallel market. The interest rate was adjusted upwards,prompting immediate review of the pricing of most bank loans and creating new nightmares for the industrial sector including the SMEs. With depreciation of the dollar in an import dependent nation and with rise in interest rates, it will not be long, before inflation will begin to inch up. The consumer at the end of the day will bear the full brunt of these austerity measures.

I had planned to do a follow up article on 'how to survive these austere times', as a modest effort to suggest to my readers, some steps they may need to take both in their personal and business conducts to overcome the current and developing economic challenge. But I was compelled to adjust the topic a little bit, when I realized that we may be taking some actions( consciously or unconsciously) that may worsen our ability to ride the storm. I was jolted into this reality when I heard that at its last meeting, the Federal Executive Council ( FEC) approved the purchase of Cooking stoves worth 9.7 billion Naira. What kind of stoves? At this austere time ? I was really troubled to reconcile my self with how these stoves will help with tightening our belts which the Federal Government has advised the Nation to do.What fuel will these stoves use?Firewood, coal or kerosene? Who will procure the fuel for the rural women, who often spend many productive hours searching for kerosene. Or will the second phase of the contract be for the fuel supplies? I once heard that we wanted to move Nigerians from kerosene to gas for domestic cooking. How does this stove and 'wonder bags' business promote gas utilization ? Please I need some education!

To be sincere, I would have no problem with anything done for or in the name of our rural women were we not recently regaled with admonishments by senior government officials of the need to reduce expenditure in the face of dwindling income from crude oil. To send home this message, the CBN has decided to ' punish' importers with high exchange rate and industrialists with high interest rates. That tended to put me in the mood to think that we are going to be extraordinarily careful and selective in spending our National income henceforth. But these cooking stoves and 'wonder bags' have left me totally confused and wondering. What kind of austerity measures are we promoting? Are we truly serious?

And then the 60.9 billion naira contract award to KARKATAR for the provision of Engineering infrastructure for Kyami District, Zone C, Abuja. I knew it! When I began to hear and see on prime time advertising on Television of this hitherto unknown company, with claims of being entirely Nigerian and having built a bridge over two 'islands' in Abuja, I smelt a rat and suspected that something was cooking. I am happy that an indigenous Nigerian company has won a contract, the type that was only won by foreign companies in the past. My only worry is , must we be giving new contracts of that nature now? In austere times, should we not concentrate on completing ongoing contracts and paying off the huge debts owed Contractors. The last time I checked, Nigerian contractors are owed almost 1 trillion naira. My own sense of austerity dictates that I should be careful in entering into new debt obligations when I am uncertain of my source of income. May be my sense is exaggerated!

But that will be my first advice to Nigerians that they should limit new commitments, except they can guarantee source of repayment. Not only are incomes sources likely to diminish, interest rates are going higher. So I would do my utmost to limit my commitments only to guaranteed income and minimize building up new debt obligations.

Second, I will do my best to carry or keep minimum cash around. I will also not leave much money in my current accounts. The minimum is that every kobo that I will not need in the next four weeks should be either in a savings account or deposit account. This will help me hedge against inflation and ensure that I make my money work for me at this time, even if passively.

Third, I will not make long term commitments in foreign exchange. I will be very careful if I have to borrow in US dollars or any other international currency. If I must borrow, then I must begin to plan repayment as soon as possible. If I sell in naira then I must convert into dollars soon after to hedge against further deterioration or devaluation. With the current devaluation, many who borrowed in dollars or who must pay their suppliers in dollars must be 'sweating' profusely. Some businesses could easily be wiped out!

Fourth, I will advise prioritizing of expenditure. I will recommend that everyone learns to work with a budget. Make a budget and do your best to match expenditure with certain income. This is not the time to spend anyhow, trusting that 'God will provide'. He expects us to be wise and not to be foolish. I will for now focus on meeting basic needs. I will ignore anything that looks like I can do without it. My major focus should be on how my money will work for me, creating more money and improving my ability to have money to spend in the future. Nigeria's main income earner- crude oil is under threat and no body, not even the CBN Governor knows how low the price will go. As I was writing this, I was watching on Television, the pain on the face of Governor Suswan as he tried to explain his inability to pay the salaries of the Benue civil servants for a couple of months now. He allowed the wage bill to rise when he was getting excess crude money and 'argumentation' but now, no more 'show' and he has decided to reduce salaries and the workers are resisting. Guys, this problem is more serious than many of us have been led to believe! And it has long been brewing!

Fifth, this is the time to seek multiple streams of income. Tell me how the Benue State civil servants are surviving if they do not have multiple streams of income? They must be yam farmers or have other forms of investment through which they are getting some food to eat while they continue to tango with their governor. Every able bodied man or woman, especially those in employment should seek something to do after office hours and at weekends for supplementary income . The anticipated rise in prices of goods precipitated by higher exchange rate of the dollar and the higher cost of borrowing, will lead to drop in sales in the short to medium time frames and this may also create cash flow problems for some businesses. Default in meeting obligations, including salaries may increase in the private sector as well. So all wise salary earners must hedge against this possibility.

Sixth, we may also need to review our investment portfolio at this time. In uncertain times like we are in or about to get into, we need advice on what kind of investments we should get into. As much as possible, we have to avoid speculative investments. It is better to invest in low yield,low risk and more guaranteed investment options. You may consider asset acquisitions at this time, especially immovable assets like land and building for those who have some cash. Landed properties are better stores of wealth at uncertain and potentially volatile periods as we are entering into. Also, this may be a good time to return to the stock market as many who divest from the currency and money market because of volatility may head to the stock market, thereby boosting the stock market and leading to share price appreciation. Secondly, the adjustments undertaken by the CBN promote some level of increased confidence by foreign portfolio investors who see opportunity for higher returns in the Nigerian stock market.

Seventh, this may be time for many to take positions in the export trade. Ideally, the devaluation of local currency makes domestic products cheaper and more attractive in the export market. Agricultural products and even manufactured products can now better compete in the international markets.

Eight, I advise a more aggressive approach to business. Given the anticipated overall drop in demand and re prioritizing of expenditure by consumers of all sizes, competition for market space will intensify. Those who win will be those who take a better advantage of the market opportunities by adopting more aggressive marketing strategies including offering bargains to the consumer.

Nineth, there is wisdom in minimizing risks this season. Every investment decision and business transaction must be fully evaluated to measure risks and deliberate efforts taken to hedge against risks. One major way will be to ensure binding agreements and contracts. Another way, may be to share risks. So we may consider strategic alliances, which in addition to helping us build competitive strength, can help us leverage the market and then share risks.

Tenth and last, this is the time to trust God more than ever. I know that God loves Nigeria but in times of uncertainties and increased volatility in the Polity and in the Economy we need to seek His Help more than ever. One thing is certain, this season too will come to pass.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

Chairman, African Centre for Business Development, Strategy & Innovation( ACBDSI)

HOW MANY MORE NIGERIANS MUST BE KILLED BEFORE WE DECLARE A STATE OF EMERGENCY OVER NIGERIA ?

Nigerians truly amaze me. Many of us are in denial that this Country is facing what may turn out to be the biggest civil war ever. I am terribly amazed that some ' well meaning legislators" think that there is no need to continue with the state of emergency in the three frontline states in the war. So what do they want? A relaxation of the emergency rules of security and other governance and human rights abridgements and a return to normal state of things in those States? It was very appalling for me to watch these 'patriotic' legislators argue with passion that the emergency status must be halted and reversed. And then with a snicker in their faces, they referred the President to a section of the constitution, which he could rely on "if he so wished" to fight the insurgents. Indeed, it led me to conclude that there is really little understanding of the deep challenge that this country is facing. In the first place, the emergency status was reluctantly approved and because the war had not ended after 18 months, we should abandon the status and return to business as usual! What a tragedy! It is akin to saying that because a patient who has been on the machine for months, has not fully recovered , we should yank him off the life machine and allow him 'freedom' to move about and go wherever he wants!

In the first place, I am sorry to say that the type of Emergency rule we have in the three frontline states is a misnomer, a child's play if you ask me. What kind of emergency rule do we have, and all the political structures remain in place and everybody and everything remains as normal except for checkpoints or the need to run when the insurgents advance. And yet we expect such "childish" emergency status to yield ' magical' result in a few months. I am not holding brief or making any excuses for the military. They are only part of us. We have the military we deserve, just as we have the leadership we deserve. Period. Otherwise how can an army in war find time and resources to gather its senior army officers at the Le meridian hotel in Uyo for the Chief of Army conference, to listen to some political speeches and then savour the 'hospitality' of the Akwa Ibom people in the evenings. War strategies are not discussed in the front of Television cameras. No,we are not yet at war !

Nevertheless, I am pleased with General Gowon's speech read by General Marwa. Unlike the Commander-in-chief who in his characteristic 'gentle' manner expressed satisfaction with the performance of the army, General Gowon told the army some hard truths. Gowon prosecuted a civil war with much less number of soldiers and with much smaller equipment and Armour. So he has experience as a true General who became one in the battlefield. My simple and perhaps 'foolish' question is, can we recall him, not as head of State but as Military commander to use his experience to prosecute this new war? After all, I am told that all retired soldiers are on the reserve list. Now that we have 'broken ' our military partnership with America, perhaps General Gowon can link us up with his wartime partners in Russia and elsewhere . To me, this matter is serious and we must do what can be done to stop this daily massacre of innocent Nigerians.

Brigadier- General Mohammed Buba Marwa must have been sent by Gowon to the army conference to make a point. I do not know if Marwa fought in the Nigeria- Biafra civil war, but he proved a very courageous officer when he was Military Governor of Lagos State. When Lagos was threatened by some 'bombers and terrorists', Marwa came out boldly and drew a line on the sand and dared the 'terrorists' to cross the line. The siege ended. That's the stuff of Generals we need to fight this new war. Not the type that would announce publicly that the insurgency would end last April and in December, the insurgency is escalating. And nothing happens to him . He does not resign, retains his command and indeed is rewarded with National honours. This week, the Minister of Interior and the Police Chief were fired by President Kenyatta because the alshabab terrorists killed some Kenyans and indeed seem to be getting the upper hand in their onslaught against Kenya.

I believe that our commander-in-chief, must be rebuking the military in Private and expressing his disgust and frustration at the Security meetings. But because he is a civilian commander-in-chief, who is by nature genteel, considerate, and democratic, he seems to excise a lot of restraint and patience. That is why I totally disagree with Professor WOLE Soyinka that President Jonathan is Nebuchadnezzar. No way at all. There is no semblance at all except in the creative imagination of the literary giant. What's the evidence? That he allowed the Police to try to block the gate to the National Assembly or that he recognized a faction of the Governors' forum of 16 members as against that with 19 members?. No,those are not sufficient travesties at all to associate our meek president with an arrogant and Pagan warrior like the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar. By the way, it was refreshing to hear the erudite ( traditional worshipper ?) Professor quote the Bible. I accept that our President has his weaknesses- real and perceived,and also that as the President and commander-in-chief, the buck stops on his table. But Why was the National Assembly, especially the House of Assembly able to sit on that fateful day? Was it because they overcame the Police with force? Why were those 'honourable' members who scaled the gate as 'bandits' and who had their 'finest day' according to the Professor, not pushed back or shot at?. What will have happened if any of these happened?. What name should we have called the President then? If 'Nebuchadnezzar' was the President of Nigeria, cunny man Tambuwal will never have succeeded in his 'coup' against his party to become Speaker, not to talk of remaining in the position till date. Even Obasanjo and many of our democratic poster men- Asiwaju, Turaki, uncommon transformer, Comrade and CRA will never have allowed it, not to talk of Nebuchadnezzar . That is the bitter truth. If 'Nebuchadnezzar' was president of Nigeria, all those men who promised to make the Country ungovernable would be in jail at the minimum by now. You could not try that with APC Presidential hopeful- General Muhammad Buhari ! If 'Nebuchadnezzar ' was President, he could never declare a state of Emergency in three states and leave the Governors and all the political structures in place. Even the current 'National model' and ' oracle of Politics and governance' President Olusegun Obasanjo sought by all and sundry would not have allowed this. For sure, when Professor Wole Soyinka was the head of the Pyrates confraternity, he would not have crossed his hands and watched his officers gang up to overthrow him or cast his support for any rebellious group so that the World would call him 'saint wole'. To the best of my knowledge, no leader anywhere in the World will support a group who is bent on working against his ambition or resisting his authority.Some Governors were leading a rebellion against the President and his ambition and interest and we wanted him to be quiet or support them to achieve their aim. Only Jesus could do that!

I do not want to sound alarmist, but I plead with our leaders- Political, Traditional, Military and Spiritual to take this Boko Haram onslaught more seriously than we seem to be taking it. My sense of warfare, tells me that who ever is leading or funding this war is determined. He seems to have a mission and looks to me to be in this for the long haul. Just as we are about to halt their bombing, they begin to advance and take territories, and we begin to halt their advance and recover territories, they escalate bombing. How were they able to drive into the centre of Damaturu, capital of Yobe State, reaching the Government house,before they were repelled? If they could achieve that, I would not underrate their ability to hit another State capital, the same way. So let us come out of our apparent complacency especially those of us who think we leave far from the war front. May be we should declare a state of Emergency over the whole country so that we all can behave like a people at war. In my mind, it is better to be over prepared than to be underprepared. This shedding of blood of ordinary Nigerians must be stopped. By all means!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

NIGERIA'S GENRE OF DEMOCRACY: A VERY COSTLY PROPOSITION

Can anybody tell me why the two dominant parties in Nigeria, PDP and APC decided to hold their conventions on the same dates( 10-11 Dec) in Nigeria's Political and commercial capitals, Abuja and Lagos respectively. Was it a coincidence or a deliberate plan? Is it part of the struggle for power and supremacy? They literarily shut down the two cities, effectively paralyzing meaningful economic activities. They caused so much agony for any one who had business to do in those cities. Many Roads were blocked and the rest were congested with vehicles.

Though no official work free days were declared, there was little work in the Public sector most of the week especially during the Conventions. Many Civil servants could not get to work as they were blocked especially and those who managed to force their way found that they could not be productive. Most of the Public servants, from Ministers to the permanent secretaries and to all the advisers and assistants; all the political appointees of the President,the Governors and local government Chairmen were all away from their offices most of the week. If you had appointments or business to do with Governments all over the Country, you were on your own. It did not matter and no one seemed to care. Does any body know or is any institution of government conscious of how much the Nation lost in the week to party conventions and that which had been lost to the Primaries and congresses in the states earlier on.And this is happening at a time, when income from oil is dwindling and therefore we should be working overtime to diversify our income sources to help close the gap.

If it is only productive losses in the Public sector and loss of business opportunities in the Private sector that we are talking about, that should really cause us much concern, but when we add the direct costs incurred in all these political democratic processes at the expense of the Tax payers, then the matter assumes alarming dimensions. Most, if not all the political office holders, from the President to the Councillors and all their political appointees and aids were sponsored to the various conventions at public expense. The cost of their transportation, Accomodation and out of station allowances were paid by the different governments. These guys are on their 'private ' businesses, so to say and yet they receive out of station allowances or per diem!

Most of these Public servants are automatic delegates to the congresses and conventions and so benefit from the largesse of the contestants and candidates who try to over reach each other by ' lobbying, convincing, convicting' and when necessary out rightly bribing the delegates. When people tell you it is expensive to win elections in Nigeria, they are speaking essentially about the cost of 'convincing' delegates to vote for you at congresses and primaries, payment to the party and its officials( on top and below the line) and to the electoral umpires to cooperate with them when the need arises. Direct expense appropriated to the general electorate is usually insignificant, limited mostly to some entertainment on Television, bags of rice, salt and stock fish and in some cases some small change distributed at the pooling booths. So one would expect that these public officer delegates will bear their own expenses after all the largesse from the different contestants. But no way. They take from the mother and also from the daughter!

In this Country, we declare Public holidays to go and enlist on the voters register, declare work free days to go and verify if our names are on the register, give work free days to go and obtain temporary voting cards and yet another work free days to go and get the permanent PVC voting cards. And yet some people, after all the lost man- hours may never get the PVC cards and some who get, may find their names missing on the list on Election Day! What a pitiful analogue Country! Are we saying there are no simpler ways of doing all these without disrupting economic activities, even in this information technology age. Can't we 'transform' these processes and save money, time and reduce the unnecessary suffering of Nigerians.

Then can we begin to calculate the economic losses that will happen next February, during the elections. Governance and Government business will virtually cease throughout the Federation as most of the Public servants will relocate temporarily to their constituencies. Even the supposedly apolitical top civil servants and heads of Agencies and Parastatals will be required to go and ' deliver' their constituences or wards or LGAs or States as the case may be. Otherwise 'odawogu'. All these people will receive their full pay plus allowances when they are on these partisan assignments. I think, this is very unfair to the electorate and tax payers. This whole arrangement is skewed against the common people of Nigeria who sweat and cringe everyday to eck out a living with little or no support from the governments. They have no gratuity, no pensions, no safety net and have to earn daily wages.

Thereafter, when the elections are won and lost, the incumbents will do the legal battles in the courts with public funds. Then, they will appoint hordes of people into necessary and 'unnecessary' positions, including the PA to the PA and SA to the SA. All in the name of democracy! Guys, we did not invent democracy, can't we go and learn how other countries especially those we aspire to be in the same league with,conduct this democracy business. They do not all hold conventions on the same day and they stagger elections! It does not have to be this costly to the Economy and to the tax payer. If we have people who worry about our Economic growth, more so now that oil revenue is threatened, they should persuade our Political leaders to rethink these redundant political processes and adopt modern processes and create an environment where economic activities will proceed uninterrupted, while we do our politicking. Is this at all doable?

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

NIGERIA'S GENRE OF DEMOCRACY: A VERY COSTLY PROPOSITION

Can anybody tell me why the two dominant parties in Nigeria, PDP and APC decided to hold their conventions on the same dates( 10-11 Dec) in Nigeria's Political and commercial capitals, Abuja and Lagos respectively. Was it a coincidence or a deliberate plan? Is it part of the struggle for power and supremacy? They literarily shut down the two cities, effectively paralyzing meaningful economic activities. They caused so much agony for any one who had business to do in those cities. Many Roads were blocked and the rest were congested with vehicles.

Though no official work free days were declared, there was little work in the Public sector most of the week especially during the Conventions. Many Civil servants could not get to work as they were blocked and those who managed to force their way found that they could not be productive. Most of the Public servants, from Ministers to the permanent secretaries and to all the advisers and assistants; all the political appointees of the President,the Governors and local government Chairmen were all away from their offices most of the week. If you had appointments or business to do with Governments all over the Country, you were on your own. It did not matter and no one seemed to care. Does any body know or is any institution of government conscious of how much the Nation lost in the week to party conventions and that which had been lost to the Primaries and congresses in the states earlier on.And this is happening at a time, when income from oil is dwindling and therefore we should be working overtime to diversify our income sources to help close the gap.

If it is only productive losses in the Public sector and loss of business opportunities in the Private sector that we are talking about, that should really cause us much concern, but when we add the direct costs incurred in all these political democratic processes at the expense of the Tax payers, then the matter assumes alarming dimensions. Most, if not all the political office holders, from the Presidency to the Councillors and all their political appointees and aids were sponsored to the various conventions at public expense. The cost of their transportation, Accomodation and out of station allowances were paid by the different governments. These guys were on their 'private ' businesses, so to say and yet they may have received out of station allowances or per diem!

Most of these Public servants are automatic delegates to the congresses and conventions and so benefit from the largesse of the contestants and candidates who try to over reach each other by ' lobbying, convincing, convicting' and when necessary out rightly bribing the delegates. When people tell you it is expensive to win elections in Nigeria, they are speaking essentially about the cost of 'convincing' delegates to vote for you at congresses and primaries, payment to the party and its officials( on top and below the line) and to the electoral umpires to cooperate with them when the need arises. Direct expense appropriated to the general electorate is usually insignificant, limited mostly to some entertainment on Television, bags of rice, salt and stock fish and in some cases some small change distributed at the pooling booths. So one would expect that these public officer delegates will bear their own expenses, after all the largesse from the different contestants. But no way. They take from the mother and also from the daughter!

In this Country, we declare Public holidays to go and enlist on the voters register, declare work free days to go and verify if our names are on the register, give work free days to go and obtain temporary voting cards and yet another work free days to go and get the permanent voters cards(PVC). And yet some people, after all the lost man- hours may never get the PVC and some who get, may find their names missing on the list on Election Day! What a pitiful analogue Country! Are we saying there are no simpler ways of doing all these without disrupting economic activities, even in this information technology age. Can't we 'transform' these processes and save money, time and reduce the unnecessary suffering of Nigerians.

Then can we begin to calculate the economic losses that will happen next February, during the elections. Governance and Government business will virtually cease throughout the Federation as most of the Public servants will relocate temporarily to their constituencies. Even the supposedly apolitical top civil servants and heads of Agencies and Parastatals will be required to go and ' deliver' their constituences or wards or LGAs or States as the case may be. Otherwise 'odawogu'. All these people will receive their full pay plus allowances when they are on these partisan assignments. I think, this is very unfair to the electorate and tax payers. This whole arrangement is skewed against the common people of Nigeria who sweat and cringe everyday to eke out a living with little or no support from the governments. They have no gratuity, no pensions, no safety net; they do not receive 'kick back'or 'kick forward' and have to earn daily wages.

Thereafter, when the elections are won and lost, most of the incumbents will do the legal battles in the courts with public funds. Then, they will appoint hordes of people into necessary and 'unnecessary' positions, including the PA to the PA and SA to the SA. All in the name of democracy! Guys, we did not invent democracy, can't we go and learn how other countries especially those we aspire to be in the same league with,conduct this democracy business. They do not all hold conventions on the same day and they stagger elections! It does not have to be this costly to the Economy and to the tax payer. If we have people who worry about our Economic growth, more so now that oil revenue is threatened, they should persuade our Political leaders to rethink these redundant political processes and adopt modern processes and create an environment where economic activities will proceed uninterrupted, while we do our politicking. Is this at all doable?

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

BUDGET 2015: IF I WERE YOU, I WOULD REALLY ENJOY THIS CHRISTMAS !

In this column over the last few weeks I had counseled my readers that they should brace up for a rough ride ahead of us. Now the nature of the rough ride is becoming clearer by the day. When I wrote last on this, oil was selling about 78 dollars to the barrel. But as I write this it is selling about 58 dollars to the barrel. The Government had reduced its benchmark for the 2015 budget from 78 dollars to 73 dollars and then to 65 dollars and was forced to stop chasing the receding tide at that point.

During the week, the Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister of the Economy (CME), presented the 2015 budget estimates to the National Assembly and subsequently to the Nigerian Public. Despite the spirited effort of the Minister to look cheerful and project a positive outlook, the whole excercise was sobering . She must be wondering why all this is happening under her watch. After promising the Nation that she was working to take the capital budget back to about 40% of the total Budget, and after we thought that the 28% budgeted for 2014, was the lowest we could ever descend, I could imagine the pain in her heart( because I did not make the promise but I felt so much pain) as she looked us on the face and told us that 2015 capital budget was only going to be 14% while recurrent expenditure will gulp 86% of the budget. This is a record. In my years of watching and participating in the economy, I had never seen the capital budget come this low, not even through all the cycles of oil burst we have experienced as a Nation: late 70s, mid 80s, late 90s, and in 2008-2009. How did we get here?

The CME has advised Nigerians to begin to see Nigeria as a non oil producing Nation. Good advice but rather belated in my view. How I wish,some body had given us this advice at least ten years ago and we accepted it, when perhaps we would have had ample time to prepare for this time. For several years, many oil producing Nations began to prepare for such a time as this and so will not be in panic as we are today or take measures as we are now taking today that actually may distort our development trajectory. Norway for example, saves or invests all of its oil earnings and only appropriates the interest or dividend for National expenditure. But Nigerian Governors and Opposition Politicians will not allow even the Excess crude account to stay. From a capital expenditure Budget of over 1trillion Naira in 2014, we are now forced to take a precipitate 48% decline over 2014 to 627 million Naira for 2015. Iam terribly worried that the modest success we have achieved in Infrastructure development in the last four years - Roads, Rail, Power and water supply, may some how be slowed down or stagnated. With all that is being done, many Nigerians still cry about infrastructural deficit, I then wonder how they will feel with this kind of paltry capital budget. I will have been more comfortable, if the situation was reversed, that is that our recurrent expenditure declined from 72% to say 65% while the capital budget moved to 35%. I can appreciate the challenges, Government would face if this option were to be accepted, especially in an election year, because, it would have involved either reducing the number of Public servants( including the civil servants) or reducing their benefits. I know that the Labour unions would join Boko Haram to make the Country further ungovernable, that is if they would not even prevent the elections from holding.

And so, since it is not not politically expedient to touch the largesse of our public oficials( political and civil), we have to take it out on others. First is on our capital projects. Many of our contractors will have to demobilize and send their workers into the unemployment market. Unpaid certificates and invoices will pile up and loan defaults will increase. With this situation, do I need to reiterate my advice that we should as much as possible defer awarding new contracts, focus on completing existing projects and paying down debts. That will be more helpful to the economy in my view than awarding more contracts that will not be adequately funded. My hope therefore is to hear less of new contract awards after the weekly Federal Executive Council ( FEC) meetings. I will be pleased rather to hear of the percentage reduction in the outstanding debt to Contractors or indeed our overal debt burden. This will give at least a psychological lift to many, because, even the CME admitted that our debt obligation is increasing even under her watch. I trust that she knows what to do to halt this growing disturbing trend and I will encourage her to take bold actions. It will be double tragedy to have declining National income levels and then growing debt levels which may be difficult for us to pay as at when due. We had been there before!

The next level of burden bearers will be the rich or wealthy. I have no problem with Private Jet owners paying more tax, or those who import new cars paying additional levies or even those who fly business class paying new taxes. Nigeria has become a major consumer of Champagnes and wines from all over the World. Additional tax will touch many Nigerians. So from the 2nd Quarter or so, these items will cost more. Well I believe that this is enough warning for those of us who drink wines or champagne. This Christmas and new year festivities may be our last opportunity to drink cheap wines. The hint on increasing VAT on other tradeable items will have more far reaching implication on the economy. My caution will be that before we increase rates on taxes, we should do more on enforcing compliance. I believe that the current campaign by the Federal Inland Revenue Service( FIRS) to enforce compliance is in the right direction. Yes, some mistakes will be made and some missteps will happen, but we must push on to get more people voluntarily comply with our tax legislation. I believe that up to 50% of Nigerians and Businesses in Nigeria either do not pay taxes at all or they may not pay adequate taxes. My advice is that we should not use the same tactics in dealing with both. Those who pay taxes at all, and who may have underpaid or delayed in payment should not have their businesses shut down arbitrarily because of the impact on other aspects of the economy but those who dodge or evade tax should receive maximum penalty.

How ever we look at the 2015 Budget proposals, the road ahead will be tough but I believe that if we are sincere and consistent with the implementation of the measures outlined by government , we may scale through. For example, it is nearly three years since Oronsanye's report on rationalizing MDAs, and not much has really happened after the white paper. The CME was still talking of planning to send the bills to the National Assembly. I believe we have heard this before. We talk of reducing foreign travels and foreign training, we also have heard of that in the past. This penchant of Government to announce things they plan to do even when they have not given sufficient thought to it, leaves sour taste in the mouth and creates credibility gaps. All these measures reeled out should be implemented faithfully and with despatch. It will be insulting our intelligence if these same measures are rehearsed again next year, when things may have gotten worse. I know that Government has a notoriety for poor policy implementation but we must avoid that this time. The Nation is in dire stress, and prompt actions must be taken expeditiously.

Nigerians, rich and poor have been requested to make sacrifices to help the Country overcome its presenting economic challenges, on top of the persisting security challenges. Knowing Nigerians, they would be willing to do so, but. The ' but' is that the Government must ensure it walks the talk. All the excesses of our Public Servants ( in the three arms of Govt- Legislature, Judiciary and Executive, and three tiers of governance- Local, State and Federal) must be drastically cut down immediately to sign post a seriousness. For example, we should outlaw convoys that accompany important and not so important government officials when they are going to the airport or just attending a social event. There is so much waste in Government which can be saved to help reduce deficit and the pressure to borrow. I hope this battle will not be left to the CME alone . I request the President to lead this battle to involve all aspects of National governance, so that we can begin to see results by the end of Q1,2015, the electioneering campaigns not withstanding.

For the rest of us, as we brace up to pay more taxes and face the imminent inflation( notwithstanding the official story of declining inflation), I recommend that we take out time to really enjoy this Christmas when many items are still relatively more affordable. If this oil wahala continues and government is forced to take more adjustment and austerity measures, we may be forced to go without a lot more in the months ahead. So if I were you, I would rather get the best that is possible this Christmas and March into 2015 with faith and hope. Merry Christmas, Nigerians. Please let it be merry for Jesus sake!

THIS CHRISTMAS I TRAVELLED BY ROAD AND BY TRAIN: CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?


Like most of my kinsmen, the wise men from the East, we have to go home every Christmas. Though for some, especially my Anambra brothers, that has not been the case in the last few years. For them, the fear of Kidnappers has become the end of wisdom. Kidnappers reigned unchallenged for many years. It was not originally a home grown idea. The 'boys ' from Niger Delta invented it in Nigeria but it became big time business in the South East Nigeria. At one point, you could get a victim released by sending a recharge card and in one occasion, the guys returned change as I saw one policeman do recently. Kudos to the Governors of the South East for confronting the kidnappers and getting them to surrender! Infact when you leave Lagos up till Ijebu Ode, you will hardly see police Check points on the road, from Ijebu Ode to Ore, you will see one or two. From Ore to Benin you will see three or four. From Benin to Onitsha, you will see five or six. But From Onitsha to Aba or from Aba to Ikot Ekpene you will see about a dozen and there after, you will see one police checkpoint every two hundred yards. Infact as you are being searched or interrogated by one set of policemen and you look ahead, you will see the next set of policemen waiting to repeat the excise. My wife and I felt sorry for one rickety car loaded with Plantain and we wondered how much the driver 'coughed' out at those several check points and what impact that would make on the final cost of the plantain to the consumer and also the kind of margin, the trader would make in that kind of transaction. Talk of the cost of doing business in Nigeria and fall in inflation!

Believe me, this story is not about Policemen and checkpoints because as a matter of fact, we felt safe driving on the roads with the generous presence of Policemen and except some where near Ahoada on the East-West Road, where my taxi driver told me there was an early morning armed robbery, there were no incidents or stories of crime on the road from Lagos to Benin to Agbor to Ogwashiuku to Kwale on day 1 and from Kwale to Ughelli to Patani- kaima - Yenagoa- Ahoada to Portharcourt and then from IMO River train Station to Aba , Umuahia and to Arochukwu on day 2. As a matter of fact, since the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970, I have travelled to my home town every Christmas. My attempt to stay back in Lagos in 1983 because my wife was expecting our third child failed. My wife had to set me free by asking me to just go to the village so that my body and Spirit could be in the same place. Ever since, she has continuously requested and prayed that I should decide to spend one Christmas outside my home town and I had continued to promise her that I would oblige her one year. Now I make a promise publicly that I will do so before 2050, if Jesus tarrys.

Now to the main story. We left Lagos at 12noon on Monday 22nd.December. As you would suspect, we had planned to leave much earlier, actually at 9am. But when you have to travel with the family, it is usually difficult to keep to scheduled time. I had to plead severally with my wife that we needed to leave early for several reasons. We anticipated that the traffic would be quite heavy out of Lagos and on the road to the East, three days to Christmas; we heard that the roads were bad and we did not want to travel at night, with its security implications. Yet we struggled to get out and indeed returned to the house twice to pick up one forgotten item or another. As we prayed when we got to old Toll gate on the Lagos-Shagamu Expressway, I hoped I would not regret this renewed decision to travel home at Christmas by road after about a 10-year break. The last time we travelled home by road was In December 2003. The experience on the road that year was so horrible and dangerous, that I decided to stop, despite my personal liking for driving and traveling in the large Nigerian Landmass with variegated vegetation and contour. I always enjoyed the cool harmattan breeze of December/January and the beautiful scenery.

The first 'shock' we received that Monday was that we passed the Redeemed Church Camp without the 'usual' traffic snarl and we sang a song of Praise. Further down, we ran into a traffic jam occasioned by the narrowing of the road caused by the Road Reconstruction work being undertaken by Julius Berger and we sighed. My wife admonished us to sing another song of Praise. We reluctantly agreed and just as we were entering into the second song, the traffic eased and we sped off, enthralled by the wide expanse of road in front of us( the completed portion of the road expansion), that we almost missed our turn off point into the Shagamu-Ore-Benin highway. The second 'shock' was that we did not know when we passed the IjebuOde intersection. We just drove on and saw a mighty overhead bridge or fly over. We had passed when my driver announced that the Governor of Ogun State had built the flyover, thereby " abolishing" the regular accidents on that intersection. I said, how nice that we have some Governors who think and who care, not those who will allow their people to suffer and blame the Federal Government.

The Journey from Ijebu Ode to around Ajebandele was the usual hop, step and jump, but I was prepared for that, because that's the usual. But a few Kilometers to Ore, we were ushered into a fully paved, fully marked, well demarcated dual carriage way that took us into Ore .We briefly stopped to refresh and then resumed the journey on this " mecadamised thorough fare"( apologies to the author of 'Veronica my daughter' and Hon Obasagbon) . As we drove, we passed Okada without recognizing it and all of a sudden, we were in Benin. I looked at my watch. We had been traveling for only three and half hours. I could not believe it. The last time, I did Lagos to Benin in three hours was in 1992.

From Benin, we connected the Benin-Agbor-Onitsha Expressway, through the Bye Pass( enduring legacy of Chief Anenih as Minister of Works) and we were amazed to see how the Bye-pass linked also the Benin-Warri Federal Highway and we said, yes Nigeria is really building Road infrastructure that can compare with the best in the World. The Journey from there to Agbor and to Ogwashiuku was like driving on the new Lekki expressway( without the Ajah bottleneck). The other 'shock'( I have lost count) was that we arrived Kwale in Delta State at 5.30pm. Only Five and half hours to travel from Lagos to Kwale? With all the stops?That was record. I said in my heart, thank you Mr President, there is evidence that our Highways are being transformed!

The next day I ran into fresh wonders. I had been sufficiently shocked the previous day, that I became resistant to shocks. We drove from Kwale, through Ozoro( work in progress by Delta Governor) and unto Ughelli and saw the wonder that is now the East West Road. We drove from Ughelli to Patani on a well paved dual carriage Express way and saw the wonder of the second new long span bridge across the Patani River and continued on a pleasant ride to Kaima and indeed to the Yenagoa junction. But the whole fun was almost ruined at Mbiama where due to the ongoing work, the refusal of the Mbiama traders to relocate to a new market and especially the indiscipline of the road users, we came to a traffic jam that kept us for over two hours. At some point, I had to disembark from my car, left my driver and family,trekked about two kilometers past the Mbiama bridge to hire a taxi to take me to Portharcourt.

You will be wandering why I had to take a taxi. I wanted to see another 'wonder'happen in Nigeria in these times. The Vice President of the Fedreral Republic of Nigeria was to flag off the resumption of train services from Portharcourt to Enugu. And I wanted to be among the first to enjoy this . And so no devil or traffic hold up, would stop me. I just made it. The Vice President arrived at the Main Railway Station( Terminus) on Station Road in Town, Portharcourt few minutes after I got in. He did the ceremonial flag off and I thought that was it. But when I struggled into the air conditioned brand new coaches driven by new Diesel Lovomotive Train Engine, I was pleasantly surprised to see Arc. Namadi Sambo seated with Chief Theodore Orji ( Abia Governor), Governor(ex) Peter Obi, the Chairman and MD of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Gen Martin Luther Agwai( Sure-p Chairman) and several other dignitaries enjoying plates of Rice and pounded yam, I quietly joined them and enjoyed the train ride to IMO River train Station in Abia state where I disembarked to continue my journey on the road.

To be sincere, were it not for the yet un repaired Arochukwu- Ohafia federal Road, I would have recommended that both the Ministers of Transport and Works should be given Honours by the Eze Aro of Arochukwu Kingdom for the great work they have done on the Rail lines and the Roads. But then what should I recommend to be given to Gen Agwai and his Sure-p Commitee for providing the additional funding and supervision that have speeded up the delivery of the Roads and the resuscitation of the moribund Railway lines. Ok, what honours should I recommend for Mr President who in the first place, employed both the Ministers and the Sure-p committee members? While I await your advice, kindly join me in raising cheers for the great works that have been done on our highways and Railways!!!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR