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Monday, 12 September 2016

CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME CAMPAIGN : IMPERATIVES FOR SUCCESS

 Last Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari( PMB)launched the new National Orientation campaign called: Change Begins with me. That same day, INEC was ' compelled ' to postpone the Edo gubernatorial election. In his address at the launch, PMB said " We must resist the temptation to fall on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our Country for so long" I believe that postponing election for partisan reasons is one of those things that PMB was preaching about. Interfering with the independence of INEC,CBN and such other regulatory agencies is part of our 'poisoned' past.

I am one of those who have called for a national reorientation and the broadening and deepening of the fight against corruption. I had fully agreed with former UK Prime Minister David Cameron that Nigeria was fantastically corrupt and opined that merely focusing on the alleged corrupt election funding of the former ruling party was only scratching the surface. So I must congratulate PMB for launching this campaign. I am making this contribution because I wish that the campaign succeeds. And if it must succeed, then the government must first be aware of the following:

. PREACHING ALONE WILL NOT DO
If preaching or sermonizing alone could change Most Nigerians and make them imbibe "the long cherished and time-honoured, time tested values of honesty, integrity, Hardwork,punctuality,good neigbourliness,abhorrence of corruption and patriotism" we will not need PMB at all. Nigeria has one of the greatest number of Churches, mosques and other religious houses in the whole world. Our Pastors and Imams preach and sermonize every Sunday or Friday,including at mid-week prayers and crusade grounds, yet we can not see any difference in the moral tones of many Nigerians between 1983 & 2015. So,we need to do more than preaching or sermonizing. We must remove that 'thing' in our system that makes many people abandon the fear of God when they leave the worship centres.

. MEDIA CAMPAIGNS ALONE WILL NOT CUT MUCH ICE. 
Certainly the Minister Of Information has contractors primed to print flyers, posters and sundry documents to promote the campaign. Our airwaves will soon be filled with all kinds of messages on the 'change begins with me ' theme. Before long, government owned media like Radio Nigeria and the NTA will be carrying loads of slogans and advertorials in an effort to create awareness. If fliers, documents and radio jingles alone could be successful in stopping Many Nigerians from " dishonesty ,indolence, unbridled corruption and wide-spread impunity", we will not need to spend our limited budget on such activities. All the Bibles, Quarans, Television & Radio evangelism, and religious literature preach the same message. Then all the investment made in fliers ,Radio & TV Jingles by the National Orientation Agency( NOA) from the days of Prof Jerry Gana through the years of Prof Dora Akunyili to this day will have made some meaningful impact. There must be something fundamentally wrong with our system that undermines these efforts.

. ROAD SHOWS ALONE WILL NOT MAKE IT HAPPEN
Soon the Ministry of information and its parastatals like the NOA will embark on series of road shows, with music, drumming and dancing, perhaps with comedians and Nollywood artists to promote the campaign, similar with our newly learnt social mobilization tactics of Town Hall meetings. Nigerians will enjoy the music and drama, they may even struggle to get copies of  the fliers, brochures or mementos but the impact will be minimal if at all.

. PATRIOTISM CANNOT BE LEGISLATED OR ENFORCED
To make Nigerians love their country and wish to die for it,can not be forced and achieved by propaganda. If they are cheated and discriminated against by their own country, they probably will prefer to be cheated and discriminated against because of their  skin colour in other countries . If their Country loves and cares for them, they will love their Country back.
I say these, because we have tried all these from the days of MAMSER to these days and many people believe that Nigeria's moral tone is worsening. Have we really undertaken a proper study to find out why, before starting out with this new campaign?. May be or may be not, but I will proffer the following imperatives.

1. UTMOST SINCERITY
Because of the failed past attempts and the deep-seated skepticism of the Nigerian populace, the Leadership must be very very sincere in handling this very critical project. Such statement as" in other words,before you ask' where is the change they promised us', you must first ask how far have I changed my ways" may be interpreted in different ways. For some people, it will sound as if PMB  was now passing the buck for the change he promised to Nigerians, that they must change before expecting to see the change he promised!

2. LEADERSHIP FROM THE POLITICAL CLASS
Nigerians look up to their political leaders to lead the change. If they refuse to change,then we may have great difficulty achieving any change in the populace. When the political leaders act in ways that show them up as essentially seeking their own and their group's selfish interests, when the political class terrorize and push out poor Nigerians from the roads with their motorized and militarized convoys or when the roads and airports are closed for hours just because the President wants to visit his farm, rather than inspire change, make ordinary Nigerians bitter. When ordinary Nigerians are loosing their jobs and businesses and having difficulty feeding properly, to see political leaders keep theirs and continue to swim in affluence and pageantry will not inspire change!

3. GOVERNMENT AND ITS AGENCIES MUST JOIN THE QUEUE 
Literally speaking, government officials, including the police, the military and regulatory officials must join the queue. They can not inspire change when they beat queues, drive against the traffic, disobey court rulings, involve in extra-judicial executions and perpetrate impunity.  The government must be hard on itself and agencies to lead a successful "cultural" or behavioural  change.

4. MOTIVATE CHANGE BY ADOPTING CARROT & STICK
In Management sciences we speak of motivating change,encouraging good Behaviour  and discouraging bad Behaviour. What incentives are we putting in place to make people see the benefit for change and what deterrence do we have to make people regret bad Behavior? Without these, the change we desire may not be sustainable. At the minimum we must be even-handed in enforcing existing laws and regulations. How do we make the interest of the ordinary Nigerians to align with the interest of the Nation? That will be the game changer. Normal people do not destroy what they own nor work against their own interest.

5. RUN A SYSTEM WHERE JUSTICE , EQUITY & FAIR-PLAY REIGN SUPREME
Many Nigerians who are unruly,indisciplined,discourteous and dishonest at home become law abiding and well behaved when they travel or live abroad. Why? They operate in systems that are well ordered,where one rule applies to all( big & small, poor & rich); where you get what is due you without crying and groveling and where you get knocked back on line if you misstep.Secondly, we must enthrone a system that is fair to all sections of the Country. When a President or Governor or even business leader chooses to discriminate against a section of his constituency, or goes on to appoint predominantly people from his own area to high offices, he can not be inspiring patriotism amongst those who feel discriminated against, cheated or ignored.

In conclusion, I am for the 'change begins with me campaign'. But since the fish begins to rot from the head, then it follows that if the head can be kept fresh, then the other parts of the body will remain fresh. So the repair must start from the head. That is the true challenge and my prayer is that God will grant wisdom and humility to our leaders-Public & Private, Military & Civilian to know that the change must start with us and then descend downwards and not the other way round. It is after we have seen this change amply demonstrated by our leaders that we can then begin the preaching, roadshows and media campaign. Otherwise, the campaign may go the way of operation feed the Nation, the green revolution, Better life for the rural women, Health for all, War against Indiscipline, Great Nation-Good People and such failed National programs.

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Monday, 5 September 2016

WAY OUT OF RECESSION: COURT INVESTMENT AS IF OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT.


Last week, the cat was let out of the bag, the woman who had been hiding her pregnancy was delivered of a baby in a market square, leaving nothing to imagination. From a technical recession we emerged into a real, true and official recession. From a -0.36% contraction of GDP in Q1, we landed to a -2.06% contraction in Q2. Thank God for democratic governance and more for the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, and the professionalism of the NBS management,may be, the figures will have been dressed up, which was the fear of some people as it seemed to have taken the National Bureau for statistics( NBS), much longer time than usual to release the Q2 report. It was the 'jazzing' up of economic data that has led to the impeachment of the Brazilian President last week .

Last week, before the official confirmation of the recession, I had advised on this column that we needed a single minded focus on Agriculture and Manufacturing as a means of working ourselves out of the recession. My slant was essentially from the National economic policy perspective . But the other critical and related issue is investment. We need to attract investment and drive it into critical sectors of our economy. The expected intensive public sector spending as espoused in the 2016 Budget must be feverishly complemented by Private sector investment, both domestic and foreign. 

Investment inflow into the Country has been declining since 2013 but assumed alarming proportions in the last two years. Nigeria recorded a total decline of $11.68 Billion in investment inflows in the last three years. From an inflow of $21.32 billion in 2013, capital importation declined to $20.72 billion in 2014, then nose-dived to $9.64 billion in 2015. Nigeria which was the highest recipient of Foreign Direct investment( FDI) in Africa went from a high of $2.27 Billion in 2014 to $1.44 billion in 2015 while Portfolio investment which reached a high of $17.37 billion in 2013 was only $6.01 billion in 2015. 

 If those figures are worrying, what is happening in 2016 has become distressing. In Q2, capital importation dropped from $710 million(Q1) to $647million representing an 8.95% decline. Thus total half year investment inflow comes to a paltry $1.36 billion. If we should extrapolate it to full year 2016 at current rate of accretion, then we could end with $2.72 billion which will be a colossal 72% decline over 2015. Against Q1, FDI declined by 23.9% and has reached a 37% decline year on year. Portfolio investment declined 9.49% in Q2 but has reached a frightening 88.76 % decline year on year.

I have gone through this detailed analysis to draw our attention to a frightening trend. Of course, the main cause of this disturbing trend is the very significant fall of the price of crude petroleum in the global oil market which has drastically reduced National income. In addition it has precipitated a scarcity of foreign exchange. But this can not in all honesty explain the whole problem. Our recent policy choices and speed of action have also contributed. Certainly this is not the first time, Nigeria is passing through this turbulent patch in its life of mono cultural economic dependancy, but we have never come this low in about 27 years.

Usually, we have tried to cushion the drop in revenue with investment inflow- Foreign direct, portfolio, home remittances and others including loans and Bonds. The price of crude oil is not expected to improve very significantly in the short run, though some stabilization is projected for next year. This is why I think we should court investment as if our lives depend on it. And it might well be! Because investments create enterprises and projects which in turn create jobs and create wealth. The question is how?

MAKE OUR ENVIRONMENT MOST INVESTMENT-FRIENDLY
With or without oil revenue, we can make Nigeria an investment friendly country- a preferred investment destination. This I believe is in our hands and is doable if we are minded to do so, if we are truly convinced and accept that we can bridge the impact of the revenue fall by attracting investment. The various foreign trips of our President, Ministers and Governors seem to suggest our desires. But we must match intentions with actions.

 Enthrone Law and order 
Let us make law and order to reign supreme. Government and its agencies must obey the law and all court pronouncements. Due process must become our first nature and every law in our statute must be rigorously enforced with out fear or favour. Regulatory agencies must follow the law and be facilitative to business and not clogs. Our judiciary must urgently reform to win investor confidence. The sanctity of contracts must be assured. My heart was palpitating when I read an open letter to the President by a Chinese investor who is experiencing hell with the Ogun State government bothering on the unilateral repudiation of contract by the government. This is anathema to attracting investments.

. Create well-thought through and stable Policy environment .

We must have a stable, business promotive policy environment. No dilly daling, no prevarications, no policy flip flop.The impact of every policy on business must be evaluated before policy announcement. Implementation must be on a level playing ground. Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships to be given impetus.

. Secure Lives and Property
The security of lives and property is a sine qua non for the attraction of any sort of investment. We must reinvent our police. We must take arms away from non-state actors and ensure that all security breaches are quickly punished. Our Nation must show in words and actions that we value human lives and that it is the governments primary responsibility. If Nigerian Nationals are killed everyday and foreigners are regularly kidnapped for ransom, we can not seriously be courting investments.

. Sustain the War against Corruption
Nigeria must intensify the good fight against all forms of corruption- political, electoral, financial, administrative, security and regulatory in a holistic manner. The world must continue to see and feel our revulsion to all forms of corrupt practices at all levels of the society-public & private, governmental and non-governmental.Witch hunting or political vendetta will undermine the war.

. Maintain Macroeconomic stability
Sensible policies must be taken both by fiscal and monetary authorities to return the nation to a state of macroeconomic stability. Exchange rate, interest rate and inflation rate can all be moderated by sensible and co-ordinated policies. Investment flows preferentially to macroeconomic stable environments that actually seek, welcome and reward investors. Let us welcome more Mark Zuckerbergs please!

. Create irresistible Incentives
To compensate for our current infrastructural deficit, our poor score in the global ease of doing business index etc, we need to introduce mouth-watering and irresistible incentives- tax holidays,lower corporate tax, lower cost of transferring & registering property, elimination of double & multiple taxation, sustenance of the export expansion grant( EEG),establishment of many industrial estates, parks and Free trade zones, tax-deductible energy costs,etc

Urgent action is mandated. It won't be easy but we must give it our all.To spend and invest our way out of this recession is a task that must be done!


Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR