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Monday, 23 November 2015

GLOBAL TERRORISM: LIVING THROUGH THE THIRD WORLD WAR


 Last year , I wrote an article titled "Alqueda, ISIS, Alshabab  & Boko Haram: Different manifestations of the devil set loose" in which I opined that the extreme Islamic Fundamentalism that we were witnessing in many parts of the World was nothing but the end time manifestations of the devil as predicted in the Holy Bible . But last week after the Paris multiple terrorist attacks that took more than 129 lives ( now risen to over 180), the Pope brought home to me the reality when he declared that was happening was akin to a Third World War . This categorization resonated with me so much and I presume with many other people. The French President called it a war against France but in reality  it is much more than that. It is a global war.
   Looking back now, we can see that the war started on the 11th of September, 2001 in the United States of America with Alqueda leading the war. In that first shot, over 2000 citizens of many Nations were killed. Before now, the group was preparing for the the war in Afghanistan and the Neighbouring Pakistan. After a major success in the USA, the battle front moved to the UK with the bombing of the London Underground transportation system. Then it moved to North America ( Egypt &Tanzania) and down East and Central Africa( Somalia & Kenya) with Alshabab  leading and soon Bokoharam came on board covering the West African flank( Nigeria, Chad, Niger & Cameroun). When George Bush and Barak Obama thought they had contained Alqueda , a more virulent division named Islamic State or ISIS joined in the offensive and became more brutal than all the earlier divisions put together. Their primary focus was in the Middle East where they took plenty of Iraqi and Syrian territory, introducing the savagery of beheading Foreign captives. Thereafter they moved to Europe with a lot of focus on France. After the Paris attack of November 13 this year, they have sent warning to the USA that they were on their way to US cities. Just as the People of the world were trying to absorb the pains of the Paris attack, the Alqueda  in the Maghreb hit a hotel in Bamako, Mali killing 21 people from Different Countries- French, Israeli,Lebanese, American amongst the dead.
Meanwhile in Nigeria and the Cameroons, Boko haram remains active sending innocent people to early graves on a daily basis in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Gombe, Yola and Kano, sometimes coming close to Abuja. Several attempts have been made by them to move to the South of Nigeria, but have been largely unsuccessful for now except for an incident in Owerri Imo State last year.
  This war has spread to all the continents- North America, Europe, Africa, Oceania, Middle East and Asia. The only continent that seems to be currently unaffected is South America. Thus in terms of territorial involvement, this third World war has affected more regions than both the first and second World wars which were concentrated essentially in Europe. It has consumed Nationals from almost all countries in the World. The battle is fought in all fronts and in all spheres. There are no fixed theaters ,there are no boundaries or battle lines, and no rules of engagement. In this war all is fair, no regard to Geneva convention or any convention at all. Air planes are bombed in situ or brought down by missiles . The war is fought in stadia, motor parks, in Churches, in Mosques, Hotels ,in Holiday resorts, along the highways and in cinema halls and night clubs. The weaponry is diverse and includes butchers knives, matchets, Bombs, IEDs, rockets, Ak-47 and extends to chemical weapons as we saw in Syria, and as is being threatened in Europe now. The combatants are of all ages and all sexes, including minors and teenage girls. The battle dresses are of all types including civilian mufti, army camouflage and Islamic hijab. No where is off limit and there are no rear positions. There are no prisoners of war except those used as pawns to extort funds. This Third World War is unconventional largely and asymmetric in conduct and creates extreme difficulty to confront.
 Unlike the first and second World wars that pitched many of the Nations against each other in the Triple Entente ( Britain, France and Russia) and the Triple Alliance( Germany,Italy, Austria and Hungary), this Third World War seems to unite most Nations, including arch rivals and arch enemies. After the recent Paris attack, and after ISIS claimed responsibility for bringing down the Russian Metrojet plane on flight from Egypt to Russia killing about 224 people on board the plane, it was nice to see US President, the Russian President, the French President and the German chancellor discuss with the Turkish President in Ankra on how to deal with a common enemy- Global terrorism. The challenge is that while there is apparent unity among the leaders of the world to fight terrorism, the enemy is not easy to identify. The guy sitting next to you at the mosque or riding the same train to whom you just said hi , may turn out the next minute to be the enemy. A fellow National who lives in the same neighbourhood may just turn out to be the leader of the next attack against the Neighbours .
 The reality is that we are in severe perilous times. The challenge is how to live through this third world war which started 14 years ago and which seems to be intensifying with increasing mortalities and morbidities. The first step is for us to come to accept the grim reality that we are at war. A global war that has no boundaries. Waiting to be hit or attacked before coming to this realization is dangerous. This reality helps us to contemplate preemptive and proactive measures. All Nations, States and Peoples must engage in debates and studies of the patterns of this war and design protocols to preempt or prevent attacks. Secondly, we must rev up our emergency preparedness. Many countries of Africa( Nigeria inclusive) are poorly equipped to handle emergencies. This should be a major preoccupation of States and Nations. Much lives can be saved, if victims of terrorist acts can be quickly evacuated for medical emergency management. Thirdly, at the individual level, a heightened level of surveillance and environmental monitoring is called for. To win this kind of war in which we are all potential enemies, then we are must all become combatants. To leave the battle to only the security agencies will not work. Every citizen must be trained or must train himself in the art of intelligence gathering and covert action. Most of the terrorist plots are made within the communities, even if they will be carried out in other locations. If we are sensitive and keep our eyes open, we can notice some of the moves and help to nip them in the bud. I strongly recommend that the governments should pay a lot more attention to citizen recruitment in the execution of this war against Global terrorism. Focusing only on arming the Security forces may limit insurgency but may never stop terrorist acts targeted at soft targets.
 It is important that this War is brought to an end at the earliest opportunity. The economic cost to the World is becoming humongous. Air travel has become a major risk. The inconvenience experienced by air travellers is getting more excruciating by the day. Tourism is gradually being killed all over the World after what happened in Tunisia, Kenya and Egypt. Resources for National and  Global economic development are being diverted to fighting this war. Indeed Global Economic growth is severely threatened and the progress in human civilization is either being slowed down or even being reversed with the conduct of such psychopaths like Jihadi John who cut off human heads in full television glare, acts which we thought ended 2000 years ago. Finally, is there any political solution to this war? I am not sure there is because, when ISIS says they want to create a global caliphate where everybody would be under Islamic law or when Boko Haram says they do not want anybody to go to school, what kind of political solution is possible? But then, if we can find the authentic leaders of these groups, discussing with them may not be completely out of place. In all of this, we must all go back to the creator of the World and ask for His Help in dealing with this very unusual challenge. Let us pray.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 
  

Monday, 16 November 2015

QUICK WINS FOR THE NEW MINISTERS



  1.   After nearly six months of being sworn in as President, Muhammadu Buhari in turn swore in 36 ministers last week. Thus ending his reign as a kind of sole administrator and setting a record as the President that took the longest time to swear in his ministers in the history of our 55year old Nation and perhaps competing for the top position globally. From all indications, it was clear that the President took all this time because he did not seem to fully appreciate the value these ministers will bring into his governance, or as was speculated, he was searching for " human Angels" to populate his cabinet. When he released a partial list at the last minute of the end of September in order not to fail his own chosen time limit, and then the second list early in October, Nigerians did not see any 'Angel'on the list. Except for a few exceptions, all the ministerial nominees were regular human beings, some previously recycled- past governors, past ministers, past senators ,past party chairmen & party officials and past loyalists.

   Well last week, the wait ended and our President could not delay any further, especially as the Senate, against initial expectations did not give any such opportunity for further delay. Even after the speedy confirmation by the Senate, Nigerians had another week to speculate the portfolios of the new ministers. When PMB was personally reading out the portfolios of the ministers, like a headmaster who was assigning classes to his teachers, he said he was putting the round pegs into round holes. The jury is still out as to how well he has achieved the fit. There is preponderance of opinion that suggests that a few pegs are square. But it is now futile to engage in this argument, because as it is said, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. We need to watch these ministers( square or round pegs) to perform in the next couple of months to determine the veracity of their fit into the portfolios they have been assigned .
  But there is no gain saying that Nigerians and the World are expecting much from these ministers and indeed from the Federal  Executive Council, now properly constituted. There is indeed so much to  be done. For example, the completion of the preparation of Budget 2016 will be a major and urgent assignment. But in the midst of all these, they will need to achieve quick wins to help restore the flagging morale of Nigerians who have waited for these 'long'Six months to see the promised change in their lives.
 President & Minister of Petroleum
As President, he will need to change the rhetoric and begin to raise hopes. He may not know it, the efforts he has made to dampen the expectations of Nigerians from him, including his speed of taking actions and the demonizing of the past regime, have tended to cast a gloom on the Nation. With the 'Nigeria is broke and all money stolen by the previous administration campaign', some feeling of hopelessness and despondency seems to have set in.  This is the time to begin to speak in positive tones to reignite morale. This will not cost us any money and will not tantamount to not telling the truth. A great leadership challenge is to keep the morale of followers high, despite the challenges.
 As Petroleum Minister, his first task should be to immediately stop this 'on and off' cycle of Petroleum products availability. It is costing this Nation a lot and dampens the morale of Citizens to be queuing up for days and nights to buy Refined Petroleum products. It is dehumanizing. And Nigerians were hoping that PMB would end this embarrassment .There are many ways to solve this perennial problem. But my advice is that the easiest and fastest way is to fully deregulate the downstream Petroleum Sector. Last week we bought one litre of PMS at 250 Naira from hawkers opposite the Refinery in PH, and that was after, my driver spent a whole day at the filling station on Olu Obasanjo Rd in PH without luck.When will this pain end?  Benefits that will accrue from this decision are many and will include attraction of new investments and job creation. That is in addition to full and regular product supply and the savings of subsidy removal.
  MINISTER OF FINANCE
 The first assignment of the Minister is to address the global investment community and assure them that Nigeria is open for business and that we plan to remain in the global Economic system. Right now the International Investment community is a bit confused about Nigeria's economic direction. With the apparent uncertainty in our Exchange rate management practices and issues related to other fiscal policies which have been exacerbated by the apparent highhandedness of our Regulatory agencies- FRCN, NCC and NAFDAC, the investment community is confused and I think the critical and urgent assignment of our new Minister is to calm the international investment community and that will have impact on our macroeconomic stability, investor confidence and credit rating.
 MINISTER OF INDUSTRY, TRADE & INVESTMENT
 My recommendation is for the Minister to have intense engagement with the Private Sector organizations to try and agree what needs to be done to reignite activities. Issues related to foreign exchange restrictions, the Common External tariff( CET) and how to moderate the apparent feeling of regulatory over kill must receive quick and urgent action of our Minister. He has to work with the Minister of Finance on these fundamental issues, to help release bottled investment energies.Vast improvement of the operating environment is called for.
  MINISTER OF POWER, WORKS & HOUSING 
 We are now in the dry season and the holiday season is close by. Immediate and urgent action is required to re mobilize the contractors to site. Work must resume on or intensify on the Lokoja-Abaji- Abuja Highway, the Lagos -Ibadan Express, the Ore -Shagamu, Highway, the Kano - Damaturu - Maiduguri and the Onitsha-Enugu- Portharcourt highways. So much progress had been made on these highways before the change of government, but momentum has been lost in the last six months, complicated by the heavy rains. Additionally, FERMA should be directed to make all federal roads motorable this Christmas season. Nigerians need to feel that they have a working government.
MINISTER OF TRANSPORTATION 
The frenzied effort to get the railways back to work by the Outgone regime should be completed right away. The last time I checked, things were cold. The new standard gauge Abuja- Kaduna Rail line should be  commissioned this year so that Nigerians can take advantage of the huge investment and effort made by the Government on this huge project. The Rehabilitation of the Portharcourt - Kafanchan - Bauchi-Gombe- Maiduguri should be speedily completed. The suspended works on our airports which have become eyesore should  be resumed immediately. These should help stimulate economic activities.
MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE 
  We do not change a winning team. So much effort had been made to change the face of Agriculture in Nigeria. My advice is that the new Minister should quickly ramp up the programs and projects that are ongoing to make Agriculture big business. We must not change course at this time. More effort must be made to improve access to inputs and finance.
 MINISTERS OF EDUCATION AND HEALTH
The critical issue right now is to ensure that our teachers, lecturers  and health care personnel are well treated, so that they do not continue to disrupt services. This must be a primary under staking of these ministers because over the years we have had cyclical strikes and disruption of services in these sectors. So let them take preemptive actions to ensure that the governments are keeping to all the agreements so that we do not give any excuses for another round of strikes by ASUU, NASU, NMA & NARD. If they can achieve this, then that would be a major change and create the enablement for implementing new policies to improve quality of service.
MINISTER OF INFORMATION 
  This minister who did a good job as the spokesperson of the APC, must quickly shed his partisan toga and remember that he is now the minister of all Nigerians. He must help the President to change the rhetoric and begin a healing and reconciliation of all Nigerians. I know it may not be easy but he must try. The elections are Long over and we must change the communication mode and begin to build consensus and speak as one a Nation. Not a Nation divided between APC and PDP!
  OTHER MINISTERS 
 Because of Space, it may not be feasible to offer advisory to all the Ministers in this write up. One, some of the Ministers, like those of Science & Technology and Solid Minerals may not have any quick wins because much of their work will require time to mature, while others like Justice, Foreign Affairs and Labour provide sometimes invisible services which may not be readily seen or appreciated. They will require a follow up advisory. But what is critical and urgent is that all Nigerians must be given a sense of a government that has taken responsibility to better their lives. The waiting has been long and the buck passing must end now that we have ministers on seat.
 Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Monday, 9 November 2015

PRESIDENT BUHARI AND THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH

  Where I grew up in Portharcourt, there was a woman fondly called "Madam Ho-Ha". She was not one to hold back on any information and she expressed her mind freely. She would call a spade by its name, not an instrument for digging because as we all know, several instruments can be used to dig a hole, including one aptly called digger, which of course is completely different from a spade. "Madam Ho-Ha" suffered no fools and did not understand the concept of diplomatic speaking or double speak. Many people liked her for her forthrightness, because she would say what many knew but were afraid to say. She was fearless and those who really did not like her, were those she freely commented on their follies or escapades in the community, some of which were done in the cover of the night, when they thought no one was watching. Of course some of those who did not like her, included those who liked her before, when she commented on or castigated other people, but started to dislike her, when she commented on their own antisocial Behaviour. 
  And we used to wonder how she got her information, which unlike madam "Amebo" of the Village Headmaster were not mere gossips. She spoke the bitter truth and there was not much anybody who felt really offended could do to "Madam Ho-Ha" because she had a kind of "immunity" in the community. Some people thought that she had a kind of mental challenge, while others felt she was only using that as a pretence  to acquire the 'immunity'to tell anybody what she felt without risking legal or other actions. She could always plead insanity if any one felt they could sue for libel or defamation of character.  People admired, feared and hated her in differing degrees. Looking back now, I believe the society will always need people who would speak their minds without considering if it was politically correct or not minding 'whose ox was goored'  as is commonly said.
  In Nigeria's recent history, we have not had a President or Head of State who seemed to speak his mind so freely as our current President Muhammadu Buhari ( PMB). He certainly must be causing a lot of headache for his handlers and spin doctors who would prefer that he was more circumspect and restrained in his speech. He does not speak often, but when he does, he says his mind and declares his conviction. Even during the elections, the man spoke his mind, even if what he said would 'offend' the prospective voters, he was supposed to be wooing. To minimize that, I noticed that some effort was made to get him read speeches. But it was clear that was not his natural inclination. Reading speeches caged him and if you watched his demeanor each time he read prepared speeches, you would notice some kind of labour and boredom. But ask the man a question and he will light up and shoot from the hip, revealing his beautiful calves and dimple. One thing I am sure is that this President will have several "quotable quotes" that will adorn our literature in the future. I will not be surprised that one smart Nigerian entrepreneur will jump on this my hint or idea and before the end of this week produce the first volume of "PMB's quotable quotes".May be I can take a patent on that title to restrain idea snatchers.
  Talking seriously, is it a bad thing that PMB insists on exercising his freedom of speech to the fullest as guaranteed by the constitution?Last week, as he is won't to doing, PMB sent a message to us and to the World from India that " Nigeria is broke". Some People have continued to criticize this announcement. They accused him of de-marketing Nigeria.Is it that what he said was not true or that even if it was true, our President should not be the one to say it? What is the meaning of being broke? When a man can not pay his bill, not because he does not want but because he has to borrow to pay, is that not 'brokage'? Today in Nigeria, paying workers salary areas is advertised as both political and economic breakthrough involving political wizardry and economic abadacabra. Public domestic debt is climbing by the day, perhaps prompting the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) to come to the rescue of the federal government . If only MTN could just play the' fall guy' and coughed out One trillion naira for 'helping' some kidnappers make contact with their victims ' families to demand ransom, perhaps we could pay down some of the domestic debts and get the contractors back to project sites, especially now that the rains have largely ceased. The matter is so bad that the President is hard put to find cash to pay the 36 ministers that the 1999 constitution has forced on him making him  to adopt Senator David Mark's 'doctrine of necessity 'to make some of them Ministers without portfolio and perhaps some as Ministers plenipotentiary or ministers-at-large so that they can be paid half salaries or sitting allowances. It is clear from the President's reasoning, that there is no how, those without portfolios and who may just be required to attend FEC meetings once a week to warm the chairs and fulfill all constitutional righteousness, would expect to be paid full ministers' salaries. Only a 'broke' or 'broken' country would consider resorting to this ingenious way of circumventing the constitution.
  But to be true, this discussion is not about the fate of Ministers who have been classified as noise makers and some of whom can only be tolerated because of the constitutional requirement. Someday we shall see how all this plays out on the  psychology of the class of 2015 ministers, though I had opined in a previous article that they would come to this job bearing plenty of burdens. My focus here is to interrogate those who think that PMB's freedom of speech should be curtailed or circumscribed. He himself has stoutly challenged this attempt by insisting that what he is doing is to tell Nigerians and the World the bitter truth about our situation, just as 'madam Ho-Ha' in my earlier story would  do and in contrast to what the past government did. Therefore in defending his right to speak his mind any time and any where, he is also challenging Nigerians to also speak the truth without fear or favour, I hope. When on May 29th he said that he belonged to nobody but belonged to every body, did he speak the truth? When he announced from the United  States that he would treat his constituents differently, depending on how they voted for him, did he speak the truth? When he said from France or so that Nigerians Called him 'Baba go slow', did he speak the truth?
   I know that the Rotary International subjects matters to the the 4-way Test. Is it the Truth?, Is it fair to all concerned?, Will it build goodwill and better friendships?, Will it be beneficial to all concerned?. I recommend we subject all the truth speaking to this four way test always. I say so, because I know that in no distant time, PMB's 'honey moon' will expire and then some People, especially journalists may stretch this truth telling business to a point that may remind us of Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor. Why ? Because Truth is a two-way traffic where the sender today, may be the receiver tomorrow.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

CBN INTERVENTION FUND: DISMANTLING ROAD BLOCKS FOR SMES

As at February this year, only 40.3 Billion naira out of the 220Billion Naira intervention funds of the Micro,Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund( MSMED) launched by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 has been disbursed. What is worse is that only 814 million had been released to the commercial banks to fund only 21 Projects, while 2 billion Naira had been released to Microfinance Banks( MFBs) and 100 million to Finance institutions. According to CBN, they were hoping that by the end of this year, they would have released up to half of the fund. But evidence on the ground shows that not much has improved since February when the above information was released. And before the MSMED there was the Real Sector Fund of about 500 billion Naira, more than half of which is still not disbursed and from which very few SMEs have benefitted.
STATUS OF THE ECONOMY
  The year started rather slowly because of the pending elections which eventually were concluded in April. Then we entered into the transition period as we waited for the new government to take over. Meanwhile, the precipitous decline in the price of crude petroleum persisted with National income declining by almost half . By the time the new government assumed office end of May, many States were in crisis as they could not pay workers salaries and emoluments .
  Many Nigerians who had expected President Muhammadu Buhari( PMB) to hit the ground running, were utterly disappointed. Five months into the new administration, the Nation is yet to have a working Federal cabinet. Following the oil price shock from about $115 per barrel in June 2014 to about  $50 dollars in June 2015, the Foreign reserves began to decline rapidly. In an effort to halt this decline, the CBN devalued the Naira twice, the second by about 20%. When that did not seem to be an effective remedy, the CBN crossed the line from Monetary Policy management to Fiscal regime by imposing what is to all intents and purposes a ban on the importation of 41 products which included food, food products, metallic products equipment and accessories. In addition to restricting these products from access to foreign exchange, CBN introduced other restrictive foreign exchange policies which effectively narrowed the market for SMEs.
   With policy prevarication or rather policy uncertainty of the Buhari admnistration and the adhoc restrictive policies undertaken by the CBN, in the face of severe national income shortages, the economy has been on the decline. For two consecutive quarters, the growth of the economy showed worrisome slowing down. At end of Q2, GDP growth had declined to 2.34% as against 6.45% at the same period last year. Truly worrisome was that the Manufacturing GDP went into negative ( - 3.45%) and Minning also declined steeply. All over the economy the signs of a distressed economy is evident, high unsold inventory due to sluggish consumer off take ,job losses, high inflation, high interest rates and overall increased misery index. It therefore becomes extremely important that the economy requires a strong stimulus for it to return to growth. And the quickest opportunity to achieve this is to make the already approved MSMED funds readily and easily accessible to business organizations.
HOW TO DEBOTTLE THE BOTTLE NECKS
To dismantle, the Road blocks on the way of SMEs to the intervention fund, will involve the following actions
1. The CBN will have to simplify the process and make it simple for all desirous SMEs to understand and follow. To help achieve this objective, then the CBN must come out of their offices and go to where the SMEs are to interact with them directly. Research indicates that there is very poor understanding of how to access the funds and the commercial banks are not doing enough to create the required awareness.
2. The requirement for collaterals must be made easy for borrowers. As suggested by the CBN themselves, the required collateral should cover maximum of 50% of the value of the loan. In addition, there should be flexibility as to the kind of items that will constitute the collateral. Indeed it should be specific to each borrower. It could be landed property, machinery, furniture, goodwill or discounted sales. What should be of optimum importance is the viability of the business and the assurance of the management integrity. In this wise the CBN may opt to have an oversight over the cash flow management to assure repayment.
3. Related to this, the CBN will need to partner with the borrowing SMEs and offer managerial assistance. This they may do directly or through third parties to prepare and assist SMEs produce bankable Business plans in the first place and then support the building of management competence. The model that the Bank of
Industry has adopted is in line with this suggestion to some degree.
4. The need for repayment moratorium especially for start ups must be considered by the CBN, so that the business is not cash strained. Repayment of capital must be from cash flow that will allow the business continue to meet other obligations, especially that to procure inputs and to effectively market the finished product or service
5. If it were possible, commercial banks should be excused from intervening in this fund, because of their well known penchant to short change SMEs: too high premiums over CBN rate, spurious fees and charges and short term focus and orientation. If they must of necessity intermediate, then they must acquire the capacity and attitude to support SMEs.They must find a way to realize that these intervention funds are not their own and do not belong to their depositors, as that is always their excuse for high charges and short term focus. As a matter of fact, it has become so important for commercial banks and MFBs to develop and man SME departments or desks with men and women who have the proper orientation to support SMEs. Currently this capacity is scarce in many of our banking institutions.
6. Additionally, it may be suggested that the CBN through the commercial banks can deal with SME member groups like MAN, NASME, NASSI,NACC and other sectoral groups like Shoe makers, furniture makers, paint manufacturers or service provider groups. In which case the CBN can treat these groups as cooperatives, charging them with providing guarantees for their members. This will reduce the road block of collaterals and through peer pressure improve repayment.
7. Overal, we must get the government to establish an equivalent of the Small Business Administration(SBA)agency as we have in the USA. This advocate government agency will be the answer for advocating better relationship with MSMEs and funding agencies like the CBN. They will have the critical manpower that truly understand  the challenges of MSMEs and can better negotiate on their behalf with CBN and other agencies, dismantling many of the road blocks. The Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria( SMEDAN) as currently structured, manned and funded is a mockery.
WISDOM FOR SUCCESSFUL UTILIZATION OF THE  FUND
 We can not conclude this discussion without reflecting on the internal challenges within the SME sector that so often make it hold the short end of the stick. Often lenders see the SME sector as being very risky. Yes it is true, but the risks can be better managed if we learn to keep our houses in order and adopt the best global business management principles. This will de-risk many of our businesses and make them more attractive for funding. Some of the wisdom nuggets I suggest are as follows
. Ensure Proper Project conception and viability
. Always do a proper business plan and stick to it
. Establish leak proof financial recording systems
. Work within a budget framework and measure achievement.
. Separate Business from self
. Employ competent managers
. Define jobs properly
. Train,Equip and motivate your staff
. Implement controls and minimize surprises
. Have a marketing orientation in your business
. Focus on the customer and work around him
. Deliver consistent quality and value
. Benchmark competition
. Enthrone corporate governance, separating it from corporate management.
. Develop good corporate image
. Adopt Good Business Ethics
It has become imperative that the Federal Government must do something urgently to stimulate the economy and prevent us from sliding  into recession as is being predicted by several analysts and organizations including the CBN. While the States are receiving bail out, the SME sector can be easily bailed out if the CBN can adopt a more liberal attitude to disbursing the 220 billion Naira Micro, Small ,and medium Enterprises Development Fund( MSMED). The bottlenecks and road blacks can be removed by simplifying the processes for accessing the funds by SMES as enumerated above. However, none of these will happen except we intensify our level of advocacy. Through MAN and other private sector organizations like the NESG,NECA, NASME and NASSI, we must be resolute in pushing the barriers. We must remain visible and audible. If the Private Sector ever needed to stand together, this is the time for it to engage this government, more so now that the long awaited ministers are finally coming on board, to adopt the right economic policies and do the right things. They must improve on what the last Government did for SMEs and indeed for the economy. That is the minimum expectation.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa 

THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE RESURGENCE OF THE BIAFRA MOVEMENT

  In the year 2001 or 2003, I can not quite remember exactly, I was on the road traveling between Umuahia and Aba in Abia State when we were forced to make way for a convoy of vehicles, mainly buses carrying young men, many literarily standing on the doors and roofs of the vehicles. I was wondering who these 'crazy' people were who pushed us out of the road as they blazed their siren and horns. I was startled when I saw in each of the vehicles, fluffing in the wind, flags bearing the Biafran coat of arms- the rising sun. I shook my head and told myself that these men were crazy. What the hell did they mean by flying the flags of the defunct Biafra brazenly in the face of all of us. When I enquired who these people were, my driver told me that they were the MASSOB-the Biafra boys. I shook my head again, and told my self that these guys did not know what they were doing. If they knew what we suffered in trying to actualize Biafra between 1996-1970, they would not be searching for trouble in broad day light. I finally concluded that it could be a rush of midday madness that would soon cool off as the dusk arrived. To be truthful, I even thought this was the handiwork of a desperate politician who had decided to ride to power on the blood of innocent job seekers.
  Subsequently, rather than fizzle out, I began to hear of the activities of this movement for the Actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra( MASSOB) more frequently. They observed the Biafra day in May of each year and often got markets across the country to close for the observance. Every once in a while, I would hear they had clashes with the Police and some people arrested and charged to court. Often I read that the leader of the movement, chief Ralph Uwazurike was arrested, held in detention, then he would be released. They carried on with their sundry activities and passive resistance through out the years Olusegun Obasanjo was President, they continued through the regime of Umaru Yardua and to my utmost wonder they remained active through out the reign of Goodluck Jonathan. To butt, a group known as the indigenous Peoples of Biafra emerged and took the Federal Government of Nigeria to Court making sundry demands including reparations for the losses they suffered during the Nigeria-Biafra war. I was amazed and alarmed that this matter was getting thicker by the day. Sometime last year, I read that MASSOB threatened to seize a radio station in Enugu. Towards the end of Jonathan's administration, I began to hear of Radio Biafra and one Mr Nnamdi Kanu who was the director and regular voice on the radio and who seemed to be unhappy with everybody and constantly criticized and abused many Nigerian leaders, including prominent Igbo leaders, especially those who opposed the radio or who said anything unpleasant or who disagreed with his modus operandi.
  But since the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, the encounter between MASSOB and the promoters of the Biafra radio on one hand and the security forces on the other hand has increased, resulting in several fatalities. Beyond the police, the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Army have joined in the effort to quell the agitation or suppress the movement. Recently I heard that the Radio has been knocked out of service and the director arrested. But I was shocked to my bone marrow when a few days ago, I saw on Prime Television a mammoth crowd of young People protesting and demonstsating  in Portharcourt against the arrest of Mr Kanu. I was amazed that the radio Biafra man and his project has such a large following and support in PortHarcourt in Rivers State. I then began to imagine what will be their support base in Onitsha, Aba or Owerri. I further began to wonder what could be driving these young men to take the risk of exposing themselves to great danger in their protests, though one of the young demonstrators when interviewed said, they were being discriminated against and were being pushed to the margins.
   From my narrative above, it must be clear to those who may not be aware, that the Resurgence of the Biafra movement was not a reaction to the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari as some mischief makers have tended to present it. But its intensity seems to be growing across the regimes. And every regime seemed to have devised its method of containing the movement. But what I am not sure about is, if anybody in government has engaged these people to find out what their grudge against Nigeria is. To attempt to suppress the movement by strong arm tactics may be counterproductive and to dismiss it with a wave of the hand as I saw General Gowon do a few days ago may just be too simplistic. He may think that the Biafra issue has been settled, but from what we see and read, that may not be the true situation on the ground. With all due respect, I think General Gowon and the Nigerian Nation seem not to have learnt enough lessons from the Nigerian civil war, nor do we understand the current dynamics of passive resistance or self determination in the global setting. In 1967 after General Gowon threw away a golden non-violent chance to bring back the hurting Eastern Nigerians fully into the national fold, he declared a 'Police action' to bring down the Biafran 'rebellion'. We soon found that the matter was not a simple matter like a riot that the Police could quell with tear gas and water canisters. The Nigerian Army, Navy and  Airforce had to solicit the support of Britain, USA and Russia to bring the war to an end, aided by blockades and starvation.  With the current military and warfare technology, it would cost us much more money and blood to bring down a similar 'rebellion'. And when we throw in the emerging and growing unconventional war tactics successfully employed by the Niger Delta Militants and currently in use by the Boko Haram insurgents, it will be clear that another Biafra war or such similar war can not end clean as the one that ended on January 15, 1970.
   At the 2005 Political reform conference, the South South delegates walked out when they could not get an increase of the deviation formula, I was in a committee that was put together to reconcile their position with that of the North that firmly opposed any increase. At the meeting with our Northern compatriots, I made a passionate appeal that we should move the derivation from 13% to  at least 15%. When i saw that there was no willingness to make any concessions, I added in desperation, that it was better we made some concession to the Niger Delta than to face a situation, where they could block total access to the oil and gas in their region. To my utter consternation an elder of the Nation and past Minister of  Transport in the 2nd Republic, looked me straight in the face and retorted, " we shall send the military after them". Unfortunately what I had  predicted happened and the Niger Delta Militancy became real which threatened the prospecting and marketing of our crude oil. Also as the late Minister projected, we sent the military after them! What happened? Were it not for the wisdom of Umaru Yardua, who used the Amnesty programme to bring peace, I do not know where we will be today in the Niger delta. With the amnesty and the establishment of the Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs coupled with the Niger Delta Development Commision( NDDC), the region is certainly getting more than the 13% derivation, perhaps even more than the 15% I had
suggested to avert all the trouble and losses that followed.
 Today, after all the mayhem which Boko Haram has visited on this Nation, we are looking for their authentic leaders to negotiate with them. I do not know how much the Jonathan administration spent on the '419' peace accord which they reached with alleged Boko haram leaders in order to ' bring back our girls'. If we had had the opportunity to avert the national calamity we have faced and continue to face from  Bokoharam by finding out what their grouse was and working to reach a compromise, would it not have been cheaper for our Nation. Also I am told that the group was originally largely benign until their leader, one Yusuf was killed extra judiciously and that transformed the group virulent and malignant. Let it be known that I am not a spokesperson for any of the groups currently agitating for Biafra, but my patriotic zeal compels me to draw attention, that rather than vilify them or repress them or kill them extra judiciously, we should find out what their grouse is and set in motion some mechanism to negotiate with them and assuage them. First is, that unlike the Niger Delta Militants, they are neither armed nor militarized and unlike Boko Haram, they are not terrorists and neither they do prepare IEDs nor produce suicide bombers. They have known leaders with whom we can enter into genuine discussions and negotiations. 
   This proposition of mine will apply to any other group,be they Arewa or Odua that has genuine grouse against this Nation. As I have said and written severally in recent times, this Country is at best a work in progress when it comes to National Unity and until God blesses us with  leaders who have the wisdom and determination to work for a truly united Nation, we will by acts of omission or commission continue to discriminate against some sections of the Country, sometimes so terribly that they may either opt to find succor somewhere else or insist on destroying the house. We must nip in the board anything that has the potential to disturb our social cohesion or economic development. History teaches that the best way to deal with any political situation, dispute or even conflict is through free speech, dialogue, compromise and concession, no matter how long it takes. Any other method only ends up in postponing the evil day. I just pray that we can be wise to adopt the better option in dealing with this mass resurgence of the Biafra Movement. May be a full review and implementation of the report of the 2014 National conference would be helpful.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

SHOCKING THE ECONOMY BACK TO LIFE

  That the Nigerian Economy is in dire straits is pretty obvious to all. What may be in dispute is who or what caused the malaise. A section of the Nigerian People blames the last government. For them, the last government did nothing but ruin the economy. Another section blames the incumbent government. They accuse the President of having no idea on how to run the economy and that his inexcusable delay in constituting his cabinet has dragged our economy down.But irrespective of which side of this largely uninformed debate any one may belong, the signs of a struggling economy are evident. Blaming anybody or passing buck will not help.We have a national economic challenge which we must confront speedily.
 National income has dropped by half or so, Gross domestic product(GDP) has declined to 2.34%, the lowest in nearly 10 years, and analysts( including the CBN Governor) predict a recession in 2016, inflation is almost at 10%, the Naira continues to decline against the dollar at the parallel market reaching 225 Naira against the US dollar last week even in the face of strenuous effort by the CBN to hold up the value Unemployment has worsened exceeding 7%, interest rates have remained high in spite of a recent mild reduction in Cash Reserve Ratio( CRR) and with rising inflation,the misery index has worsened. Manufacturing has already gone into negative growth and there is much rumbling in that sector. Even the informal sector is in difficulty as the CBN has effectively shut most out of the forex market. The Nigerian stock market is in decline and foreign direct investment ( FDI) flow has slowed down. Externally, our Foreign Reserves though slowly recovering, are unimpressive and the International rating agents have marked us down. Standard & Poor's have moved our sovereign rating from BB- to B- and JP Morgan has delisted our Bonds from their Government index. 
  Many of our State governments are still owing workers' salaries despite the well advertised bail out or relief packages from the Federal Government and Pensioners are in great distress in some states. Many contractors have pulled out of sites because of unpaid bills and domestic debt is piling up and there are indications that the ratio of capital to recurrent expenditure which reached an all time low of 18: 82 in the 2015 Budget may worsen in 2016. In summary the economy is in real difficulty. There is no attempt here to exaggerate or cause panic, but to draw attention to the need for urgent remedial actions to be taken.
  Last week, the 21st Nigerian Economic Summit( NES) was held in Abuja and participants were confronted with this gory picture, but at the end, it was agreed that the situation was reversible and redeemable. But only if we were willing to make tough choices! To borrow from the Nika Gulari, former Prime Minister of Georgia, our economy needs to be put through shocks to come back to life- Competitiveness Shock, Confidence Shock, Mindset shock and Simplification Shock.
 COMPETITIVENESS SHOCK
Our Governments need to benchmark other economies and take immediate steps to make us competitive and thereby attractive for investment. We need a Quantum Leap in Business Climate. Smart regulations, de bottling of all bottlenecks, vast reduction in bureaucracy and plenty of incentives to attract private sector investment in infrastructure( Economic & Social) and strong enforcement of law and order, including sanctity of contracts are key to climbing the rungs of the ease of doing business ladder. We need to shock our economy with attractive and irresistible investment incentives to excite a new wave of both local and foreign investment. Investments create jobs. Jobs create wealth. And wealth drives away poverty.
CONFIDENCE SHOCK
We need to vastly ramp up confidence in our institutions through a Quantum leap in Citizen services. Our Public sector institutions must be fully oriented to provide courteous and satisfactory services to the citizens. Citizens will need to feel that Government and its institutions are established for their good, protection and well being, rather than the current pervasive feeling that the institutions are there to repress them and make life difficult. This confidence shock which will be helped by an unprecedented display of transparency and accountability at all levels and tiers of government will help in internal revenue generation and public asset protection amongst many other benefits. It will also result in fewer laws and regulations, not more! 
 MIND SET SHOCK
This shock will be realized by a Quantum leap in cost effective management of Public Finances. Subsidies have to be fully removed to enthrone efficient allocation and utilization of public finances. Targeted assistance to the poor and deprived can be determined and implemented as part of social services. The one budget principle that captures all public sector income and expenditure must be enthroned. The current TSA policy and the zero-based budgeting represent movement in this direction. The shock will elicit efficient deployment of public finance to achieve higher value for the citizens. The entitlement mindset and it is 'our turn' mentality must be abolished.. 
SIMPLIFICATION SHOCK
This is to be realized through a Quantum leap in the structural reform of Public Administration. We need to redesign our processes for service delivery, streamline regulations, change mind sets and create motivational formulas. Every MDA must be subjected to performance based bonuses depending on agreed Key Performance indicators( KPIs). All passengers must disembark and all dead weights must be dropped on the Dead Sea. Businesses should be registered in one day and multiple taxes can be paid to one agency of government. If an application for license or permit is not replied in 14 days, then the silence will be regarded as consent!
  In summary, what we need are the BEST REFORMS. These are Radical, Deep and Fast reforms that will arrest current decline, instigate rapid growth and stabilize the economy. That is the tough choice we must make, and that right early.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

TOUGH ECONOMIC CHOICES: CONTROL VS LIBERALIZATION, REGULATION VS DEREGULATION

  Once upon a time, an Afro Beat musician named Fela Anikulapo Kuti wanted to travel with his band Egypt 90 to a foreign country to perform his trade. He was arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport for trying to smuggle some foreign currency out of the Country. Then the Country Nigeria was under  military rule and the exportation of foreign currency was under severe control. Much much later when Military rule ended, things began to change in Nigeria and gradually the importation and exportation of foreign currencies was liberalized. People were allowed to take out and bring in any amount of dollars they wanted, provided they declared the amount. 
   Soon after, Nigerians were allowed to open domiciliary accounts in the country in foreign currencies and they we were also allowed to use their dollars and pounds any how they liked as far as they were doing legitimate business. They could pay for imports and other sundry bills. It became really easy to bring in and take out foreign currencies in Nigeria just as it happens in many countries in the World. Indeed the Nigerian economy became liberalized in conformity with global economic trends.Lately, things began to change again. All of a sudden, you were no longer allowed to pay foreign currency into your domiciliary account. Then you can not even send out money from your domiciliary account to buy anything or pay your children's school fees. And limits to how much you can take out and bring in have returned. And there are fears that soon, domiciliary accounts may be outlawed and depositors compelled to covert to local currency. Such fears severely damage the economy and force some economic agents to take preemptive or defensive actions which may hurt them and the economy. Small time importers , especially those in the informal sector are now in severe difficulty. So they now try to smuggle foreign currencies especially the US Dollars out of the Country on their way to China. Some are even concealing their money in very funny places, including swallowing then in wraps. Now the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) is busy arresting foreign currency smugglers in place of illicit drug smugglers and many are on their way to jail like Fela . Thus we are creeping back to the era of yore!  What a reversal! 
    From the look of things, our economy seems to be heading back to the era of controls and regulation. Certainly not without reason. Our National income has declined sharply due to the drastic fall in the price of crude oil in the international market since June last year. With this and with our unbridled penchant for importation of all 'importables', demand for the dollar and other foreign currencies remained high, even in the face of reduced supply, leading to the devaluation of the naira. To stem this devaluation, the CBN reintroduced controls and new regulations. Have we achieved anything? Yes, the rate of depreciation of the dollar has been slowed and demand has been forced down. Have we lost anything?Plenty. Nigerians are now being criminalized for taking their legitimate foreign currencies out of the country. The International market is hesitant to do business with us. Credible importers are having problems establishing letters of credit. Some investors- Portfolio and Foreign direct are refusing to deal with Nigeria. International Agencies are marking us down and reclassifying our bond, credit rating and global competitiveness. Are we better on the balance?Doubtful. 
   In periods of danger and crisis, it is natural to seize control, centralize authority and stifle initiatives. The signs are there all over that in dealing with the crisis caused by the decline in our National dollar income from oil, we are tending towards control and regulation. The treasury single account( TSA), the CBN bans on importation and new foreign exchange regulations, the current and contemplated changes in the management of NNPC and oil trade transactions are all headed in one direction .Is the best way to go?. Certainly opinion will be divided and every way or option we choose has its challenges. But modern economic history teaches that the sustainable economic growth can not be achieved by taking measures that tend to freeze initiatives and deactivate private initiatives. 
  Some level of control and regulation is inescapable even in a deregulated environment and no one will recommend a regimen where freedom can be turned into license. The need to fight corruption in our economy is imperative. The desire to increase local manufacturing is very good and should receive the support of all patriots.  But it is dangerous for the government to try to reintroduce controls and regulations that will get them taking back controls of the levers of the economy. Refusal to deregulate the down stream petroleum sector or to refuse to privatize the very old refineries can not be in our strategic national interest, neither can it help with the ANTICORRUPTION fight. It will not serve our long term economic interest if we take measures that worsen our attractiveness to foreign investment. I believe that it is investments that create jobs and cause wealth creation. So we should Focus on measures that will get more people investing in our economy and diversifying away from oil. Suppressing flow of foreign currencies has the potential to suppress the flow of investment and introducing adhoc foreign exchange controls is the fastest way to undermine confidence in the attractiveness of any country to investment flows. Investors desire certainty that they can move their money in and out of any jurisdiction with ease.  With the current situation in our Nation, that ease has been abridged and as long as this situation persists, the prognosis for our economic growth will remain unimpressive.
   As the economic ministers resume in the next few weeks, they must get PMB to make the tough choices. And in my humble opinion, we should choose liberalization over Control and deregulation in place of regulation. We must never return to Egypt!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

NIGERIA @ 55: KEY MATTERS OUTSTANDING

 Last week, Nigeria commemorated 55 years of freedom from colonial rule. As has become our routine in the last five years or so, the celebrations were low key. I believe the last boisterous celebration was in 2010 which ended tragically as a result of bomb blasts at Eagle square. Since then, the government retreated to the safety of the Aso villa for the commemoration of the independence anniversaries. To be true, I was shocked that this year's event was done 'indoors'. Given the well advertised victory over Boko Haram in the last four months, the military and fearless personality of PMB and in line with the change mantra, I had hoped we would resume at Eagle square this year. Certain realities change slowly!
  All these are indications that things are not well with Nigeria. And my question is how long will we remain 'caged' even when celebrating freedom. Indeed, it was the fear of Orkah and his MEND that drove us from the Eagle square, but it is now the fear of Shekau and his BOKO HARAM that has kept us 'imprisoned' in the villa. Who know's whose fear will keep us out of Eagle Square in the years ahead. How pathetic! 
  For me there are three key issues confronting this Nation which we must address to return this Country into a Nation and stop the roller coaster trajectory where we spend up to a quarter of our annual budget defending ourselves against ourselves. If half of the money we had spent in the last ten years were deployed to improve infrastructure or promote Agriculture, the impact would have been monumental. Somebody should please add up the figures and see what price we are paying for running a disunited Country. There are many issues confronting Nigeria, but if we can pay serious attention to these three, may be we can liberate ourselves from our selves.
 1. UNITE NIGERIA 
That this Country is not united must be clear to all who like to hear the truth- convenient or bitter. The signs are all over for everyone to see. The militant posture of the Arewa Consultat√≠ve   forum( ACF), the Odua Peoples' Congress(OPC), the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta( MEND), and the passive resistance of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra( MASSOB) and the Lower Niger Congress( LNC) ,are only just a few of the manifestations of a dismembered and disunited Country. When each of these organizations speaks about Nigeria, you wonder which foreign and enemy country they are speaking about. They are all angry about Nigeria, anger that is only slightly soothed when their people hold political power at the centre. MEND calmed a little bit when GEJ was in power, though the amnesty programme was a major calming factor. When the programme runs off this December, there is bound to be a flare up. ACF has calmed its bellicose rhetorics against Nigeria and has assumed the leading role of attacking other contrary expressions. 
 The point must be made that these expressions and manifestations predated PMB's arrival at Aso Villa. But as the current President, he must see this as an important task. As a military man, he must resist the temptation to think that these manifestations of disunity will be sorted out by repressive acts or adhoc negotiation with disgruntled elements. After the most recent bomb blasts in Kuje and Nyanya last weekend, it must be clear to PMB that the advertised obituary of Bokoharam may have been either hasty or exaggerated. 
  I have been relentless in emphasizing that this is an urgent task that must be undertaken. Chapter twelve of my recent book-The PORTHARCOURT VOLUNTEER which had been reproduced in this column dwelt on this imperative task. Those who have not read it may do well to do so . The summation of my treatise, which is in no way novel is that the State and its paraphernalia must take a conscious  decision to build an all- inclusive Nation, where every Nigerian will feel a sense of belonging. Right now many feel as outsiders, strangers,passer byes or outright enemies. Every segment of the Nigerian Society, every ethnic group, every tribe, every class,every professional group, every party, young and old, able and disabled must be made to feel that they have equal stake in the Nigerian Enterprise. All discriminatory policies, overt or covert must be systemically dismantled. Governments at all levels, must take a holistic review of all laws and practices and ensure that there is no discriminatory policy or practice anywhere. I know that what I am asking may sound utopia and will be difficult to attain as it is in the nature of man to take advantage for himself. But if we must unite this country of disparate nationalities and halt these regular cataclysmic and spasmodic eruptions that keep us taking two steps forward and three steps backwards, then we must make a determination to pursue the unity of Nigeria.  This is why the recommendations of the last National conference can not be ignored.
2. KEEP EVERY NIGERIAN WORKING AND PRODUCTIVE 
  It is true that we can not have sustainable peace in Nigeria with the current high level of unemployment, underemployment and poverty. Therefore job creation must be at the centre of all of our economic policies. We need to strengthen the new policy that promotes entrepreneurial training for all students from Secondary school to Universities. When People leave school they must be encouraged to consider entrepreneurial pursuits. Those already in business must be deliberately encouraged and supported to grow. We must copy the Small Business Administration( SBA) act of the United States of America and revolutionize enterprise promotion. We need to double support to Agriculture and vocational education. We need to get all Nigerians doing productive work, not necessarily seeking employment.
 Therefore the focus of our economic management effort must shift from just talking about the size of our Foreign reserves or exchange rate mechanisms to the size of our productive manpower and Gross domestic product. We need to expand and open the opportunity space to accommodate many young Nigerians . Our economic policies must therefore be directed squarely and forcefully at expanding the economy, not shrinking or contracting the economic and market space as we seem to be doing now- perhaps inadvertently. I have always felt that it does not make sense for a man to have a fat bank account while his children are dying of hunger or suffering from kwashiorkor. What is the savings for then? Perhaps for lavish burial ceremonies!
  If most Nigerians are gainfully employed with the active support of the governments at  local, state and federal levels, crime rate will drop and the quality of life of many Nigerians will increase and the feel good quotient will rise for the Nation.
3. ENFORCE THE RULE OF LAW
Nigeria has a reputation for being a Nation where laws are broken at will with minimum consequences. The World holds us in disdain, for this singular characterization and this affects everything else. We need to reform our Police, our Security system, our Regulatory agencies and our judicial system. If you ask me, we do not need too many new laws. What we need is a determination to ensure that any one who breaks any law, small or big, must be brought to book without fear or favour and certainly without any political coloration.This is a task we must pursue with zeal and determination. All the fight to take corruption out of our public space must be anchored on the effective and dis passionate enforcement of the rule of law.
  If any one is happy with the way Nigeria is, then please accept my apology, except that I will like for us to celebrate our next independence anniversary, the way other free Nations do theirs. We can not be celebrating Freedom in fear of ourselves. Let us liberate ourselves with Justice, Equity and fair play, in thought, word and deed. That is the primary challenge of today.
 Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

THE CONCEPT OF MINISTERS AS ONLY NOISE MAKERS

 That President Muhammadu Buhari( PMB) would prefer to run his administration without ministers is no longer in doubt. When on assumption of office, he failed to name his ministers at the time many other Presidents would normally do so, many of us thought that it had to do with the apparent division in his party, exemplified by the imbroglio in the National Assembly. Later on, people concluded that it was because he was searching for 'human angels' to appoint as ministers. Some even said, it was because of disagreements on the list between him and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. All sorts of reasons were being adduced to explain what has become a major abnormality in democratic governance . 
  But speaking from France a few weeks ago, all the doubts disappeared. PMB does not find much use for ministers. According to him, all that Ministers do is to make noise. They do little or no work, as actually the civil servants do all the work. To prove it, he has run the country for 4 clear months and going to the 5th and the Heaven has not fallen. According to many commentators, he has done very well fighting corruption, fighting Boko Haram, kidnappers and armed robbers and fighting the economy. He does not need noise making ministers in these battles. To drive home his disgust for ministers, he complained that the month of September was running too fast for his liking and comfort. He would really have loved that the month was slowed down or that it was extended.
  Unfortunately, neither has been approved by God and so whether PMB likes it or not, September will end this week. I therefore presume that by the time you are reading this piece, he may have sent the long awaited list to the National Assembly. Court appearances at the code of Conduct Tribunal permitting, the senate may spend the better part of October reviewing and approving the list. At the best therefore, PMB's ministers will be resuming in November, clear 6 months after the government was inaugurated.
  With the anticipated release of the list we will now know who these 'human angels' are. Certainly the media will be awash with comments on the ministerial nominees. Those whose candidates were nominated will applaud while those not so lucky will kick. Me, I trust that the President knows what he wants and will not care what anybody feels. But I feel a concern for these ministers. I am concerned that they will be coming to office bearing very serious burdens. The first burden is that they are being presented as incorruptible. And they will be viewed with this perspective by many ordinary Nigerians. The burden for them is how to remain incorruptible in a highly corrupt environment. Every move they make, every contract they award, will be scrutinized in search of any taint of corruption. But Those who nominated them and those rooting for them will be the first to lay the bait. How they will look these people in their faces and tell them to go to hell will be a big burden.
 The second burden is that many ordinary Nigerians will expect these ministers to perform miracles that will change their lives in a very short time. But given the external shocks buffeting the economy, the ministers will actually be miracle workers to effect any meaningful improvement in the lives of Nigerians in the short term. In the medium term perhaps. The third and perhaps the greatest burden these ministers will face is that of the expectation of their principal. Since PMB does not expect them to contribute much to his governance except to make noise and perhaps pander to political interests, how much room will he give them to perform?.To whom much is given much is expected and to whom much is not given, not much is expected.
  Related to this, is the fact that PMB by his utterances and relationships has made the Permanent Secretaries feel that they hold the ace. He has made them to become accountable to him. The Perm secs now know fully well that PMB  would rather work with them than with the ministers. They now know that PMB is more or less being compelled by the constitution to appoint ministers and those he has just nominated he has done to fulfill all righteousness. For long, the Permsecs have contested with ministers for supremacy in the MDAs. Now the contestation has been settled, the Perm secs are it, the ministers are mere decorations. So I forsee, so many battles ahead. Many Perm secs and heads of parastatals will owe their allegiance to the President and will either scorn or just tolerate the 'imposed' ministers. 
  
The list of ministers will certainly contain the names of some notable persons, who have excelled in other endeavors and it will be great burden for them to be cast in the mould of becoming only noise makers, just because they have become ministers. Because they have to accept the offer, more for altruistic reasons, ignoring the categorization as noisemakers, my counsel to them is to prove that they have much to contribute to the good governance of this Nation. They should by their productivity, first convince PMB that he needed them to get his government to function and deliver on his several promises. Secondly they need to disappoint those who are waiting in the wings to remind them what PMB said, that they were good for nothing but for noise making, by not not necessarily keeping quiet when they should be talking but by exceeding the expectations of the doubting thomases. One thing, they must do is to hit the ground running. Time is running out!
   Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR