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Monday, 19 December 2016

OYEGUN'S DOCTRINE: IF THEY PUSH YOU,PUSH THEM AND IF THEY SLAP YOU,SLAP THEM BACK

There is an Igbo proverb that says: "Onye nnaya duru ohi, na eji ukwu agbawa uzo",translated to mean that a son whom the father sends to go and steal, uses his legs to break down the door. He goes in full confidence, without a care trusting that if anybody challenges him, his father will be handy to extricate him. This is exactly what played out in Rivers State at the recent  second rerun of legislative elections. The first rerun ended in-conclusive because of alleged violence inspired by desperate politicians who insisted that they must win Rivers State.
   Largely because of fear of violence or so as they claimed, INEC delayed the second rerun and perhaps was considering leaving it completely till 2019 until the Senate issued an ultimatum forcing them to announce a date for the second re-run. In the view of some political grandmasters of Rivers State, they would feel better and much more relevant, if Rivers State had no representatives in the National Assembly than having another party win the seats. But somehow, they were compelled to come down from their high horses by the ultimatum of the Legislators.
  And then the sambre beating started. Accusations and counter accusations filled the airwaves. The embattled and combative Governor Wike raised serious alarms and several red flags of how the APC had planned to undermine the elections. INEC was under fire and the security forces, especially the Police were alleged to be mustering to work in favour of the APC. Of course the APC leader in Rivers State, former Governor Amaechi fired back and accused Wike of stock-piling arms to rig the elections. The atmosphere was hot and you did not know whom to believe as it is usual for politicians to accuse each other, with or without any iota of substance. So we began to pray that none of these will come to be.
 Suddenly and unexpectedly, the 77- year old Chairman of APC, Chief Odigie Oyegun declared his doctrine: "If they push you, push them, if they slap you, slap them back, the whole Federal might is here"I was shocked beyond measure. Encouraged by this violence-inspiring doctrine by a former state Governor and elder statesman, Amaechi declared that "this is an election for our lives". For their lives? That was like saying it was a do or die election. I cringed in my bones. Then the governor of Kano State, Mohammed Ganduje who was leading the campaigns drove the doctrine home, shorn of all pretences: "If they shoot you, shoot them back" and since Amaechi had earlier indicated what his army friend told him, that if you hear the sound of a bullet, then it means that the bullet is not for you, then every one should go into the fight without fear!
 A serving state governor directing civilian supporters of a Democratic Party to fire back if fired at. Now may I ask, with which weapon ? and who would provide the weapon? Have weapons been stockpiled or were they part of the federal might? I was completely dumb-founded that senior Party and Government officials were preaching war and hate and urging citizens to embark on violence! What a real shame! Just because they must win the elections?
  Even if it was true that the opposition Party PDP and its combative Governor Nyesom Wike had made plans to push, slap and shoot the APC supporters, it could never justify this Brazen invitation to chaos and violence by otherwise respectable political leaders. What then was the point in the IG sending thousands of police men to Rivers State? Why then did the military move hundreds of their combat ready soldiers, some from operation 'crocodile smile' and some from 'operation Python dance' to Rivers State? Was it just to smile and dance? If their supporters were already armed to defend themselves or to fight back, we did not need those security agents except they were there to replenish supply. 
  It is my considered opinion that these men should rather have advised their supporters to be vigilant and to report any malfeasance to the horde of security officers that came as part of the Federal might. Asking the supporters to take the laws into their hands and practice " teet for tart" showed a loss of confidence in the ability of the Security forces to maintain peace and deal with law breakers. If the party of the government in power and who amassed the legion in Rivers had no confidence in the capacity and ability of the forces to perform, then how would anybody expect the same security forces to enjoy the confidence of the opposition, an opposition that raised so much alert and alarm concerning the partiality of the Security agencies, especially the Police.
  The Rivers legislative elections re-run happened against all odds and as primed, the worst happened. Blood flowed. Governor Wike last week personally led a protest march of PDP supporters against the Police after calling for a thorough review of the conduct of the elections and insisting that the Police was used to compromise the elections, including killing their supporters. Thereafter, the APC also undertook a protest march around the streets of PortHarcourt in support of the Police, saying that the Police did very well. What a shame as the police now seems to be again caught up in Rivers State Politics, just as it was in the days of officer Mbu! 
 Actually nothing has changed. The prospects are that future elections will be more violent as many Politicians buy into Chief Odigie Oyegun's doctrine. If Gold will rust, what will iron do?As it stands, only God can help us!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

OPPOSITION PARTIES LEAD WEST AFRICA'S NEW POLITICAL EVOLUTION
 It was the President of Sierraleone who said a few years ago that" if Nigeria sneezes, the rest of West Africa catches cold". That statement only confirmed what has long been known that it is Nigeria that is keeping West Africa down. Any day Nigeria decides to rise, West Africa will automatically rise with it. Indeed it is Nigeria that is delaying the rise of Africa itself. South Africa, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria determine the fate of Africa. South Africa is doing ok, Kenya is doing great, Egypt is flagging and Nigeria is gasping. While this may be disputed by some, everyone agrees that the fate of West Africa is in Nigeria's hand- for good and for bad.
  So during the 2015 elections an opposition party-an alliance between Tinubu's ACN and Buhari's CPC glued together by the new PDP swept the Nigerian elections to cruise to victory, beating an incumbent President and displacing a ruling party, it was clear that a revolution was on the offing. And then the unthinkable happened. The incumbent President- Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan conceded defeat without a whimper. He did not challenge the result in Court and actually persuaded his party not to either. There was then initiated the smoothest transition in Nigeria's political history. Though some uncharitable Nigerians thought nothing spectacular about this phenomenal development, others more discerning knew that Nigeria had made enviable history and had set a precedent that was most likely to be repeated elsewhere in Africa. An entrenched African party, in power for 16 years, allowed an electoral system to work without interference in its favour and even when there was speculation that the electoral umpire was sympathetic to the opposition, the ruling party still accepted the result without any form of disputation and gave up power meekly. 
  Just as it is easy to copy bad behaviour, it also easy to emulate good Behaviour. When the Majors over threw the Nigerian Civilian government in January 1966, Ghana followed suit in February and subsequently the  military took over power in several West African And other African Countries such as Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo, the Gambia, Guinea, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Egypt and the Congo. Because Nigeria returned to democracy, many of these countries also returned to democracy, including following Nigeria's example where former military rulers transmuted into Civilian rulers, and where Ruling parties 
Perpetuate themselves in power. PDP once boasted it would rule for 60 years!
  About two weeks ago, the World woke up to be greeted with the wonderful news that the opposition party has won the election in The Gambia. Mr Adama Barrow, a real estate baron had defeated General, Alhaji, and Dr Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh the maverick military turned civilian has ruled Gambia for 22 years with strong hands and was gunning for the 5th term as President before Mr Barrow led the opposition to win the election. The greatest miracle was that the strongman of Gambia was quick in conceding defeat. A pity that he was subsequently afflicted with 'buyer’s remorse' which made him recant his earlier conceding of defeat. He now wants the election repeated. Though the margin of defeat which was originally 45.5% vs 36.7% later narrowed to 43.3% in favour of Barrow, it is evident that Jammeh's defeat was decisive. It is my hope that with pressure from Global Political leaders, Nigeria inclusive Jammeh will back down or be persuaded to go to court rather than ask for outright cancellation of the election results. 
   Following in Tow with the emerging political evolution in West Africa, news came over the weekend that the veteran politician Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has defeated the incumbent President of Ghana- John Dramani Mahama and his National Democratic Congress(NDC) with a decent margin of 53.8% vs 44.4%, and also winning a majority of parliamentary seats. Traditionally, Ghana and Nigeria seem to have their fate tied. Nana Akufo- Addo is in his 70's as Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari. Akufo-Addo became President at his 3rd consecutive attempt,whilst Buhari became President at his 4th consecutive attempt. In line with the example that Dr Goodluck Jonathan set, Dr John Mahama conceded defeat before the final results were announced by the electoral umpire. Just as Dr Jonathan succeeded Umaru Musa Yardua who died in office, so did Dr Mahama succeed Professor Evans Atta- Mills who also died in office and Just as Jonathan failed to make what some called his 'third term' having stood for election either as Vice President or President for the third time, so has happened to Mahama . Some call it tying of fate between Nigeria and Ghana and some say we are Siamese twins.
  Whatever may be the case, it is exciting and shows a good level of political maturity that opposition parties can win elections in West African Countries. This will help to redeem the political image of Africans and will also dampen political desperation and delinquency. It is so nice to think that in Africa, we can remove a non- performing Party after four or eight years. This will help to put pressure on political leaders to do their best to retain the confidence of the electorate conscious of the fact that power now belongs to the citizens and no longer to the barrel of gun or to political god-fathers with their corrupt electoral umpires who write results that negate the wish of the People. 
 Now that Nigeria has shown a good example which is being emulated by other countries especially the West African Countries, my prayer is that we do not regress. The stories we have read concerning what transpired in the recent State elections in Nigeria, where votes were being sold and bought in the open are not cheering. I believe that the Challenge the opposition parties which have won elections have is to ensure that they further improve and sanitize the electoral system so that the matter of spending billions of Naira in post-elections judicial contests with its corrupting tendencies will be eliminated. That is the way to strengthen this new evolution of Political plurality and maturity, ensuring the sanctity of citizen votes.
 Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR 



Wednesday, 7 December 2016

CONFRONTING NIGERIA'S CRITICAL ECONOMIC CHALLENGE



  Very often, we say that the way to solve our economic problem is to diversify our economy. But the truth is that Nigeria's economy is fairly diversified right now. Current GDP figures give credence. As at half year for example, non-oil was contributing about 90% of our GDP, leaving the 'almighty Oil & Gas' with only a paltry 10%. 
  The key contributors to our GDP were Agriculture( 19.7%), Trade-wholesale & Retail ( 21.55%), Manufacturing(9.93%)-close to oil & Gas;Construction( 3.99%),Real Estate( 6.46%); other services including Telecommunications and financial services( 4.08%)
  Today, the structure of our economy gives an impression of a sophisticated economy where Services contribute more to the Economy than Industry  (  50%vs 21%)
  The tragedy of our economy today is that oil & Gas which contributes only 10% to GDP is the one we depend upon for about 90% of our Foreign exchange. Which is to say that the non- oil sector which contributes nearly 90% of GDP contributes less than 10% of our foreign exchange inflow. Therefore our critical economic challenge is how to make Agriculture, Manufacturing, Refining, Solid Minerals,Trade,
Construction, Real Estate , financial services ,Entertainment, etc begin to yield foreign exchange. In other words how do we internationalize our productive activities. Foreign exchange inflow from crude oil and Gas amounted to $394.7 Billion between 2011-2015 while Total inflow from non-oil was a paltry $28.39 Billion for the same time frame.
 In my view therefore, given that scarcity of foreign exchange is the most critical challenge that we have, our policy focus should be primarily on how to bridge the supply gap and over time bring overal reduction in demand. I believe that where to start is to review our traditional sources of foreign exchange and evaluate which can be enhanced in the short, medium and long terms. Between 2011-2016, the ten biggest foreign exchange earners for the country were: Crude oil & Gas( $394.7bn), Workers Remittances( $103.12bn), Portfolio investment( $ 43.98bn), Foreign Direct investment( $ 30.95bn), Non-oil( $ 28.39bn), other investments ( $ 13.28bn), Current transfer- General Government( $ 9.28bn), Investment income ( $ 4. 35bn), Transport freight( $ 3.28bn), Transport others( $ 3.07bn ). Other two significant contributors were Government Services( $ 2.80bn) and Travel services( $ 2.68bn )
  The critical work by our government is to take each source and find ways to motivate increased inflow from such source. As I have repeatedly counseled we need to take a hard look and work with industry experts to see how each sector can be stimulated to increase inflow of foreign exchange to cushion the decline from oil and gas. It must again be re-emphasized that central to all this is the creation of an investment friendly environment. And much of that can be achieved with some sensible policies. Some of the recent pronouncements of the Minister of Investment, Industry and Trade seem directed in this direction. I believe for example, that the resuscitation of the Export Expansion Grant( EEG) will spur increased foreign exchange earning in the non oil sector. Being the major component of our GDP, focusing on getting the real sector - Agric Export, Export- led manufacturing and Solid minerals export should help to truly diversify our foreign exchange sources and help us confront Nigeria's economic challenge.
   On the reverse side, we need a medium to long term strategic plan to reduce the foreign exchange out flows by focusing on domestic development of alternative sources and capacities. In the same time frame that we looked at above( 2011-2015), the major beneficiaries of the foreign exchange earned mainly from oil were: Financial services( $78.35bn), Oil sector( $ 46.42bn), Industrial sector( $41.63bn), Food Products($ 24.22bn), Manufactured products( $22.86bn), Transport sector( $8.02bn), Business services( $7.89bn), Transport services( $5.74bn), other services( $5.63bn), Minerals( $2.89bn). Other sectors that consume significant volumes of our foreign exchange include, Communication services( $2.74bn), Agric sector( $1.68bn), Education sector( $1.58bn), and  Environmental services( $1. 33bn)
 What will be most expedient is again to involve the experts and stakeholders in each of these sectors and do a painstaking review of a deletion, replacement and forbearance strategy that will progressively allow the Nation source as much of these foreign exchange-guzzlers from within or from less forex-demanding sources. It is indeed gratifying that some effort seems to be directed in this direction. The increased focus on increasing local production of Rice for example will help reduce food imports. Same can be done in other sectors in a systematic and phased strategy that is agreed by stakeholders. I recently  heard that the CBN is considering assisting local investors to produce some of the 41 items it banned from accessing forex from the foreign exchange market. While this sounds good, but it looks like putting the cart before the horse. An agreed deletion or replacement program would allow manufacturers a smooth transition and would have avoided the un salutary shock the ban gave and continues to give to Nigerian manufacturers.
  Nigeria needs to improve productivity and increase investment into the economy-Public but  especially Private investment. But in doing this, a well honed strategy laden with incentives that will expand Foreign exchange inflows through many sources, with a medium to long term view of reducing imports in a systematic and well phased manner becomes imperative and must receive prime attention from our economic managers
 Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR