Opinion
Opinions expressed on any matter by writers here do not represent the official stand of Ekekeee on such matters.

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Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello

When Alhaji Yahaya Bello took oath of office on 27th January 2016 as 4th executive governor of Kogi State, many people concluded hastily that the state may have finally fallen into the hands of a new breed spurred to ‘change’ its destiny towards ‘new direction’

Bello, 41, the first Ebira man in modern Kogi State to attain such political height came to power amidst political uncertainty that greeted the demise of the then APC gubernatorial candidate in the November 2015 election, Prince Abubakar Audu, while election results were still being collated.

Bello became Abuja’s preferred ‘heir apparent’ to APC/Audu’s votes. Faleke, late Audu’s running mate, lost out in a powerful game to succeed his then principal.

During his inauguration, Bello expressed the urgency of his vision: NEW DIRECTION, and how his humble background would shape his style of governance to meet the needs of ordinary Kogi people. During the speech, he broke down in tears, an act that earned him the title of a cry-cry governor.

Who knew?

Did you know a man who became governor by providence will turn his back on his people and waste the golden opportunity to create a we-can-do-it image for young Nigerians alike and the Ebira ethnic minority he represents?

The people of the state and sympathetic Nigerians are already ticking the below average performance box against his name. This is so because Bello hasn’t been able to live up to expectations. Governance under him has been lackluster and uninspiring, to say the least.

The state of infrastructure in Kogi is in bad and dilapidated shape and even the roundabouts built by late Abubabkar Audu, his fellow party leader and whose votes he inherited, were demolished upon his assumption office, citing unsubstantiated reasons like where Igala (dominant) ethnic group buried charms. That is illogical.

Since Yahaya Bello grabbed the mantle of leadership in the state, nothing has changed. It is hard for him to pay workers’ salaries. However, in a bid to secure the calmness of the judiciary and the lawmakers, it was alleged that he bought exotic cars for them in what has been described as a ‘welfare package’.

Governance is even much more than paying workers’ earnings. That’s basic. Building a world class society and advancing citizens’ desires in a competitive global community through provision of infrastructures is the tap root of good governance. 

The majority Igala ethnic group who held sway for 16 years failed. Bello shouldn’t go down with them on that road, and it shouldn’t be reason for him not to perform.

Even though it took president Buhari almost one year to nominate/submit a replacement for barrister James Ocholi who died in a car accident last year along the infamous Kaduna – Abuja road, it is perceived, and rightly so, that Bello doesn’t really care about Kogi representation at the federal level.

Education has completely collapsed in the state. Most tertiary institutions are either on strike or on temporary break due to none payment of teachers’ salaries and other sundry issues.

Healthcare is in comatose. Last year when the governor clandestinely jetted out of the country to seek medical solution for his eyes, it became clear that our health system has failed.

I understand these things are not peculiar to Kogi state, but other state governors are making frantic efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of their people and residents in their domain. Fixing healthcare system isn’t rocket science. But the arrogance of those at the helm of affairs in Kogi state does not even allow for citizens’ engagement and contributions. That is why the governor, despite the challenging time, will go ahead to employ over 50 personal aides thereby contradicting the very reason for the never-ending staff verification exercise: lean workforce.

In the light of all these, governor Bello is expected to create a positive sociopolitical environment to enable him quickly as a matter of urgency unite, first, members of his political party in the state, then extend the same gesture to other ethnic groups who feel marginalised and angry in the ‘new direction’ of things.

While it will be disrespectful to suggest to the governor to take administrative tutorial at Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON), one had expected that given his working experience at the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation & Fiscal Commission  (RMAFC) where he rose to the rank of a Chief Accountant, Bello should have been schooled in administrative procedures. Governance shouldn’t, and can never be confined to the spontaneity and the dictates of his Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja.

I enjoin the people of the State to continue to keep faith and remain calm in the face of governmental provocations and abandonment; they should look beyond the moment and ensure that leaders who truly and sincerely care for them are elected in future elections.

Moreso, Governor Bello may be reminded that he embodies the image of young Nigerians and all Ebira on his shoulder and he should never let them down. They waited for this opportunity and now that providence has offered it through him, he should look beyond personal aggrandizement and make efforts to ink his name indelibly in the book of time.

Shehu Audu @IGONO

Indigene of Kogi State

 

 

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Chude Jideonwo

I got a lot of panicked responses after my last piece; the panic focused on one small nugget of information buried within it: the fact that, as things stand today, former president Goodluck Jonathan is the strongest candidate that the People’s Democratic Party can present in 2019.

 

So I decided to run slight interference, and do a follow up.

 

What I apparently have taken for granted – not just as a result of insight into Nigeria’s political space cleaned from years of first, activism, then consulting; but also as a result of any number of PESTLE analyses that I have been involved in over the past 10 months – was a surprise to many.

 

It stood out especially for some respondents because my assessment of Jonathan’s presidency has been consistently, unshakably – and remains to this moment – harsh: he was, in my opinion, an ineffectual leader; one whose feckless cost the country greatly in corruption and insecurity at the minimum.

 

But personal desires are one thing, and honest political calculation is another. If anything, the latter is needed if the former will be fulfilled in any meaningful, practical way.

 

So let’s take some time to talk about how people get elected in a country like ours.

 

Actually, no, that’s a matter for another day’s piece. What this actually will do is try to explain the three broad categories that lead people to emerge as candidates in the primaries of the major Nigerian political parties, at least the gubernatorial and presidential elections.

 

There are three basic requirements:

  1. Name recall
  2. Access to finance
  3. Establishment consensus

 

Name recall

I call this the test of ‘If we should your name in the market place, will people know who it is’?

 

It’s amazing how many sophisticated, intelligent people searching for complicated answers to simple questions often overlook this crucial factor in the way candidates are selected.

 

And it’s not just about countries like ours with primitive electoral environments. The singular reason Donald Trump was a viable candidate for the American president elections without previously holding any political office, or belonging to any political structure, was simply because Americans knew his name.

 

And the reason Sarkozy, the former French president, returned as party leader and then made another run for the presidency last year, despite what was a les than glorious first term, both locally and internationally, is because he possesses an electoral asset that it is immensely difficult for new players to quickly gather: the voting public knows his name.

 

This is why America’s politics can seem like a dynasty: political operatives impatient with experiments routinely look for tried-and-tested surnames like Bush or Clinton or Obama (if Michelle runs, which – for everything we know about American politics – is a distinct possibility) is because everyone knows their name.

 

And that applies even more significantly in a largely illiterate country like ours, where citizens do not have access to the body of information that is usually necessary for making informed choices. They typically have to employ shorthand to make decisions i.e. Does this person lay claim to Awo’s legacy? Does this person have an Igbo mother? And usually the most important question can be this – Do we know who this person is?

 

This is the fundamental driver behind the massive, and unshakeable electoral margins that President Muhammadu Buhari continued to rack in the North of Nigeria. They knew his name, they ‘knew’ what that name stood for; they were familiar with it. It was easier for them to vote for it.

 

It is the same reason Odimegwu Ojukwu continued to rack up wins for the All Progressives Grand Alliance through election cycles, despite having no realistic chance of winning anything beyond a gubernatorial election – you could call his name in any part of the South-East, at any day at any time, in any market; and they knew exactly who you were talking about.

 

It is the reason the PDP confidently presented the now-quickly-forgotten Hilda Williams as gubernatorial candidate for Lagos after her husband died. We knew the name Williams. It was easy to connect with.

 

No strategist worth his salt plays with the power of name recall.

 

Access to finance

If you think this only applies to startups and businesses looking to expand, you haven’t been paying enough attention to the politics of your country, at least over the past 17 years.

 

Access to finance is distinct of course from personal wealth. You can, like Olusegun Obasanjo, emerge from prison dirt-poor and yet find the critical mass of people and institutions ready to pool the resources you need for you to win electoral contests.

 

But, whether it is you money or it is other people’s money, there is no chance in heaven or hell that you are able to win elections in any part of this country without significant financial resources.

 

Now, while naivety or self-deception can lead people into viewing this as essentially negative, there is nothing at all wrong – ab initio – in the idea that it takes money to win an election.

 

By the very nature of democracy, it is inevitable that it will be expensive. And this can be said without even referring to the $1.2 billion Hillary Clinton spent last year or the $1.12 billion Barack Obama spent in 2012.

 

You just need to be a reasonable person looking at the reasonable steps that any reasonable person would have to take in winning a typical election.

 

To be governor in Lagos state for instance, you need a few things in order to communicate your personality and your ideas to the 1,678,754 who voted in the last elections.

 

You need to print banners, and you need to print fliers. You need to print posters, and you need to print your manifesto. And in doing this, you are thinking about reaching the about 2 million people, or at least the 1milloon half of it that you will need to thumbprint for you in order for you to win the election. And that is just basic printing cost. Without talking about the ‘excitement tools’ e.g. t-shirts, face-caps, and other livery.

 

We have not factored in the planning and hosting of the events you will have to do, repeatedly, across the Local Government Areas where people will vote. A typical event has sound, canopies, decoration, food and drinks, and others. Multiply this by the number of local governments and by the number of the times you need to make the visit to consolidate gains.

 

On and on and on – campaign buses, campaign offices, campaign staff, road shows, and all of this minus the modern imperative for TV and radio adverts, as well as online exposures. This is without the personnel costs that attend to running any mid-size enterprise.

 

There is a reason politics is called the art of ‘selling’ yourself and your ideas.

 

So if there are people that think financial resources in elections only come down to buying party forms, bribing whoever they think is usually bribed and distributing rice to random voters, they are talking about incidental costs rather than actual cost of sale.

 

Without the financial resources, or the ability to get those who have those resources to part with said resources, you are a non-starter.

 

Establishment consensus

To be honest, I have sat in any number of establishment meetings; by this I mean, meetings by the ‘movers’ and ‘shakers’ of Nigerian politics, from across the two major parties and some of the fringes, and here is the truth of discovery – there is not a lot of sophistication that goes on in those spaces.

 

That is one of the shocking revelations I have had from seven years of engagement from multiple angles in this space.

 

Most of the decisions come from gut, and perception – perception mostly coloured by location, experiences, interests and relationships. In essence, many of these decisions are narrow and parochial. They are not well thought out, and don’t exist based on verifiable facts.

 

That, of course, is why our country is the way it is. Think about it: if the minds that have been manipulating our affairs for 50 years have been engaged in the art of sophistication and depth, is this the kind of country that would result from that process?

 

Unfortunately, whether these are the brightest or not, they are the ones who determine our political affairs, and they are the ones who largely make decisions as to candidates, candidacies and political reflexes.

 

Many times their decisions come down to – ‘it is the turn of this part of the country’, ‘this is the guy that won’t upset the apple cart’, ‘a woman cannot win in that part of the country’, or ‘we just don’t like that guy’. That’s the kind of thinking that leads to political decisions in this country.

 

I remember being shocked at the beginning of my professional life about 15 years ago years ago, to be seated (they ignored me because I was 17 and they knew I was harmless) in a discussion, from whence one of the ‘powers that be’ in a South-Western state simply decided he wanted a woman to run for one of the offices under his influence. And that’s she was elevated for life into a force to reckon with.

 

That’s the consensus that gave us Goodluck Jonathan as president, ultimately, in 2010. Those principalities in the PDP decided that Peter Odili could not be Vice President to Umaru Yar’Adua and Donald Duke could not be Vice President, and any number of people couldn’t be – not for reasons of capacity, competence or character, but simply because they were too ambitious. The least ambitious person was selected, and the least ambitious person, by default, became the president of this country for 5 years and ended it by losing large swaths of Nigerian territory to terrorists and 276 girls from Chibok.

 

So how will Jonathan again become a potential presidential candidate in 2019? Well, because these powers that be will come together and finalise a year before those elections that he is the best bet to unify that party, without alienating any of those groups.

 

They will conclude that having him as candidate will help complete the second term that the South-South is ‘entitled’ to and he will have the experience to run the office and run the country simply by the fact of having been there before.

 

They will look around and they will most likely find nobody else who can fill that position. Nobody else whose name you can shout on the main-road of Onitsha market and random people will know his or her name. Nobody who is so ‘formidable’ that he or she will immediately attract cross-regional resources to wage an electoral war, and nobody else whom the powers that can be can establish an unsophisticated consensus around.

 

The calculation will fall on: Who can face Buhari in 2019 and neutralize his huge advantages in the North?

 

And that is how; if Buhari decides to run for president again in 2019, the old fault lines will re-emerge, and we will probably end up with Buhari versus Jonathan again for the presidency of the federal republic of Nigeria.

 

When that happens, we will have no choice but to play the hand that we are dealt.

 

Unless something gives now. Unless someone else builds the momentum to cross at least two of these three imperatives. Unless someone else has the kind of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Marine Le Pen (yes), Olusegun Mimiko, Peter Obi-guts to stare the dragon in the face, and to decide that this thing is not further mathematics, and this kind of history can, should, and must be made.

 

There is no such person on the scene as we speak.

 

And, as you and I know, two years before the next general elections as we are today, time is already running out.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

 

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Chude Jideonwo

In the world these days, it is impossible to have a nuanced discussion about too many things. The lure of 140 characters disincentives the complexity that ideas sometimes demand, and until we evolve to that point where we can condense complicated thoughts into this inevitable format, we have to struggle a bit.

 

One of those struggles is via something that business theorist, Jim Collins calls the ‘tyranny of the OR’.

 

The tyranny of the OR represents much of the world’s popular thinking that one cannot hold two thoughts that are essentially different at the same time without them being opposing. It is “a restrictive approach to decision-making that dictates a solitary choice between one of two seemingly contradictory strategies or outcomes — facilitating the necessary exclusion of the other.”

 

Once you are for A, you must of certainty be against B.

 

But F. Scott Fitzgelad tells us “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Collins calls this “the genius of the ‘and’”

 

So let’s try this ‘and’ for size with regard to Nigeria: 1. Olusegun Obasanjo was an impressive president with a bold vision and sterling successes and 2. Olusegun Obasanjo was a flawed man whose weaknesses significantly slanted the judgement of history on his time in office.

 

I am one of the harshest critics on a personal level of Obasanjo, and that is because anyone who pays attention to the man who has led the country thrice knows that he has greatness in his veins, after all said and done. He has always demonstrated the capacity to do more, and to be more.

 

Unfortunately, at the end of his second term in democratic office, a collusion of an ill encouraged third term bid and the fault lines of a succession planning that could only be charitably considered the results of an uncharacteristic naivety managed to botch the legacy of what could have been a glorious remembrance.

 

Now when you speak about Obasanjo to everyday Nigerians, or at least as far as can be tracked on social media, what you hear is the Odi Massacre, the Third Term ‘debacle’, the foisting of a sick Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on a hapless nation, and allegations of corruption so deep and so vast that surely he must be worried as to how many people casually conclude that Ota Farms, Bells University and anything else associated with him come from the proceeds of unrepentant corruption.

 

But is this really the full picture of the man’s presidency, or is that the single story that he has somehow allowed to calcify?

 

It is important here to note that when Obasanjo was in office, much of what I felt towards him was anger. He was too vindictive, too self-righteous, and too given to small-mindedness in the ways that he attacked friends, foes, and allies. But in all of that visceral personal reaction to him, I didn’t lose sight of the one thing he was above all else: he was effective.

 

As he turns 80 this month, and the nation pays attention to its most significant leader alive, it is important that his legacy be interrogated with calm and deliberation.

 

It is easy to forget now, but upon resumption in office, Obasanjo became the architect of the economy and polity that we have now, and he did an impressive job of laying the foundations of the modern Nigeria that found its place in the comity of nations.

 

Obasanjo built institutions.

 

The Debt Management Office, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the National Food and Drug Administration and Control, the Nigerian Universities Commission, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the National Orientation Agency, the News Agency of Nigeria, the National Bureau of Statistics, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission … all of this and a roll call of many more got life under his administration as he took the careful steps of rejuvenating their purpose, securing effective leadership and giving them the political will to remake society.

 

In addition to this was the careful curation of effective leaders all across his administration – he literally went across the world identifying and appointing Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Mansur Muktar amongst others, and discovering local stars including Nuhu Ribadu, Dora Akunyili, Nasir el-Rufai who significantly re-ordered the affairs of the nation and earned the adoration of a grateful public.

 

Obasanjo built, or re-built, institutions, and this is easily his most important legacy. Today, we see many of those institutions from NAFDAC to the NDLEA retaining the vestiges of systemic rejuvenation that his government engendered when Nigeria began its journey into normalcy – despite the onslaught of redundancy occasioned by his two consecutive successors.

 

Ironically, it was also Obasanjo that created the systemic weapons to fight corruption that significantly made it difficult for public officials to boldly launder money, and put paid to the institutional acceptance of drug lords, and the attendant destruction of the Nigeria brand.

 

We forget that, because of him, it became attractive for diaspora Nigerians to return home with their investments, and he methodically rebuilt Nigeria’s relationships with the rest of the world, and with it our international reputation.

 

Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product recorded its highest growth at 14.6 percent under him in 2006, he – with a stroke of genius – supervised the team that dislodged our national debt, and Foreign Direct Investment finally began a crucial uptick, not just because we had returned to democracy, but also because he deliberately and passionately, reopened our markets to the world.

 

We can say all of this; we can admit all of this, while still saying he messed up the results of those gains by his succession manipulations, and while still reasonably accusing him of questionable enrichment and the expansion of the People’s Democratic Party behemoth.

 

We can say all of this while making the clear point that, as the man who stood while Shehu Shagari twelve-two-thirded his way into the Nigerian presidency and as a card carrying member of Nigeria’s mediocre leadership establishment, he bears as much responsibility as any for the collective sorry state of our nation. But we can say that while also admitted that he was an impressive political engineer.

 

We can say all of that while admitting that, of all the people who have been president of Nigeria since I was born in 1985, Obasanjo is head and shoulders above the rest of them. None even comes close, including today’s menu.

 

Why is it important to state this? Because if we do not acknowledge our successes, we stand the risk of losing both the gains and, more crucially, the lessons.

 

Properly situating the context of Obasanjo’s leadership decisions and the outcome of his long-term strategic thinking aids us in locating the governing philosophies that drove his victories, the fault lines that generated his failures, and in navigating the pathways to a sustainable future.

 

I believe strongly that Nigeria and Nigerians have nothing positive to learn from the forgettable presidency of Yar’Adua and very little from the embarrassing presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. But we have abundantly plenty to learn from the meticulous nation building of Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

An evidence-based discussion of that crucial juncture in history will lead to a complete, textured picture not only of an iconic leader, but also of the true possibilities of leadership in a complex nation.

 

It is understandable that a large swatch of the Nigerian populace is enraged at the man. It is reasonable that a huge part of elite consensus converges on the paucity of his truth-telling capacity, the extent of his vindictiveness, and the unanswered questions on his apparent vast wealth.

 

But nation building, as far as modern societies go, is hardly an exercise in finding saints and killing sinners. It is a pragmatic process of isolating models, amplifying victories, and accelerating pathways.

 

We still have Obasanjo with us, at least for another half-decade. He needs to evince the humility to provoke this conversation, and we need to find the restraint to engage for our own good.

 

We have so few models of democratic success for us to be choosy about the ones we have no choice but to interrogate.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

 

 

 

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Chude Jideonwo

You could feel the sense of panic when some of the enablers and voters (of which I am one, having personally and professionally supported him) of President Muhammadu Buhari heard that the president was returning to Nigeria last week. The question – uncomfortable, perhaps unseemly – hung in the air: why was he returning oh?

 

The joke in the city these days, the one you no doubt have heard if you have friends and family, is that the president should take all the time he needs to have the rest he requires, so that the vice president can continue to do the work and earn the respect he inspires.

 

Unsaid is the real calculation: Buhari retains credibility with the populace, the respect (due more to aesthetic than performance) of the local elite, the goodwill of the international elite and the political capital that comes from the sheer number of voters from the North. To this extent, it is useful for him to retain that political capital as cover for his deputy Yemi Osinbajo to continue the good work that we have seen since the latter became Acting President.

 

So his voters, now happy to beat their chest about Osinbajo, are suddenly worried that the president’s return would lead the country back to a narrative of mediocrity, and leave them vulnerable again to charges that they bear responsibility for the state of the nation.

 

It is understandable, of course. President Buhari’s performance has been, to put it kindly, so sub-par that it is incredibly difficult for any thinking person to say that she is “proud” of this presidency.

 

Why is this even more disappointing? There were many of the president’s supporters who were realistic enough not to hold out any hopes of magic – he after all was a vestige of a not-golden era of Nigerian leadership, at least by participation. But they expected that at the very least he would keep the ship steady, validating the transfer of power from one party to another as we continued the journey towards a more perfect union.

 

Instead, he has unnecessarily squandered considerable local goodwill and, even worse, rolled back some of the (economic) progress made under his unimpressive predecessor.

 

It is inexcusable that (using 2016 numbers) Gross Domestic Product has dropped to -0.4 from 2.35% when he took office, inflation grown to 13.9% from 8.7%, crude oil output dropped from 2.05 million barrels per day to 1.4 million, and external reserves declined from $29.1 billion to $27.6 billion.

 

There is the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee revenue, which has come down from N409 billion to N299 billion, market capitalization dropping from N11.42 trillion to N8.7, and unemployment numbers climbing from 24.1% to 29.2%.

 

Indeed you can call any local economic growth index and it is the same story: Business Confidence, Industrial Capacity Utilisation, Industrial Sector Growth, Aviation Passenger Traffic, Ease of Doing Business, Agricultural Sector Growth, Real Estate Vacancies, even bank bad loans!

 

Fitch Ratings this year revised the outlook on Nigeria from stable, putting it at ‘B+’, noting that growth at 1.5% is well below the 2011-15 annual growth average of 4.8%, and predicted “limited economic recovery” in 2017.

 

Then there is of course the abcradabra with the foreign exchange rate, the ultimate symbol of the government’s witlessness re global markets and steadily its equivalent of the oil subsidy scam.

 

In addition to that are the abominable communication failures in underscoring major security gains, improvements in road infrastructure and a coherent anti-corruption narrative. Even the mismanagement of his illness storytelling has been a master-class in ineffectiveness.

 

There is very little that one can point to with pride.

 

So, to reclaim their narrative and justify their decision, some of these supporters have insisted that Osinbajo’s performance is testament to their smart decision to vote for the All Progressives Congress, and to trust in the combined political machineries of Buhari, Bola Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi and Atiku Abubakar.

 

That is a credible argument. You don’t just vote a man or woman after all; you vote a system of people and promises, built, in this case, on the structure of a viable political party. It is one ticket and one presidency, and obviously I share the sense of relief as to the government finally redeeming the huge promises that it made to the Nigerian people.

 

But it is important that we do not miss the real point Nigerians made with their votes in 2015.

 

Whether Osinbajo is doing well or not, whether Buhari eventually goes down in history for supervising an excellent presidency or not (and we still have over two years to go), that is beside the real point – and that point is that Nigerians made the right choice in 2015.

 

Let that point be repeated: Nigerians made the right choice in 2015.

 

You see, it is possible to hold two different thoughts in your head in the same breath, and on this decision, these are the two thoughts: 1. President Buhari has disappointed many of his supporters. 2. But voting him – and what he represented – was still the right thing to do in 2015.

 

It is easy to cop-out under Osinbajo’s goodwill and claim that this was the genius of the decision all along, but the intellectually honest point is a more nuanced one.

 

That point is that, irrespective of what the good we see today, no matter how the decision we made in 2015 had turned out in the short term, the majority of Nigerian voters had no choice but to make the decision they made between Goodluck Jonathan representing the People’s Democratic Party at the federal level and Muhammadu Buhari representing the APC.

 

Now here is the deal, and revisionist history cannot invalidate this point: Buhari was elected crucially and principally as a rejection of Jonathan. He was received and celebrated as the best and most viable option to unseat a decrepit ruling party and a feckless leadership, and our best chance to make a statement that power belongs to the people, especially the power to punish failure.

 

The choice for many citizens was clear: one between the certainty of failure and the possibility of success (which also came with the possibility of failure). One between a man who had led for five years and failed conclusively on the big issues of corruption and security, and the other who had led for one year and whose verdict was, by the fact of truncation, inconclusive.

 

The choice was between rewarding ineptitude and having to live with that choice for another four years, or choosing different and holding out for hope (and, please, the less said about third party options that had neither the depth of ideas nor political capacity to win even one local council, the better). Buhari represented that hope, and his victory was the best chance to at unseating the hegemony that represented the exact opposite of hope.

 

His victory reset the balance of power on the side of the people, and put fear into the hearts of elected leaders everywhere in our nation.

 

The Nigerian citizenry instinctively knows this, despite how unhappy it is at the moment. As a poll at the end of last year by the Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN) showed, yes, Nigerians believe Jonathan handled the economy much better than Buhari, but they insist he is deeply responsible for this ultimate state of affairs.

 

“While 60% of Nigerians held the Buhari government partially or completely responsible for the recession, 74% believe that the Jonathan government is to blame,” the report said. “While nearly similar numbers (28% for PMB vs 25% for GEJ) believed both governments were partially to blame, more respondents (49% for GEJ vs 32% for PMB) believed that the Jonathan government was completely to blame for the recession. Those who argue that the profligacy of the Jonathan government led directly to Nigeria’s budgetary and economic crisis will take these results as vindication that Nigerians agree with their point of view.”

 

Common sense is as common sense does. Actions have consequences, sowing leads to reaping, nation building is a continuum and we, as a people, know the points at which the rain began to beat us.

 

So in justifying their decision to vote for Buhari in 2015, Nigerians who made that difficult – or for some, excited – choice, have no need to turn to Osinbajo as a crutch.

 

Yes, we should be thankful that the ticket that won the election is finally justifying the mandate it was given. It is possible as some people say that this is because democracy is not a sprint and it would take any government a bit of time to find its footing. It is possible that it is finally the dominance of the efficient Tinubu machinery doing the magic; it might be that the president’s light-touch, command-and-control approach to governance has finally been justified, or it might just be a coincidence of fate, luck and a little opportunity.

 

Whatever it is that brought us here, we should be thankful, but we must not forget the larger idea: As a nation we did the right thing in 2015.

 

We made a long-term decision to re-order the balance of power, create an equilibrium between the opposing forces holding our nation’s fate in their immediate palms, and made clear the barest minimum beyond which we will not allow our leaders to go, else they are punished.

 

In the long term, and if we consolidate on those gains in 2019, we will be fine.

 

We will be just fine.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

 

 

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The event of Sunday February 26, 2017 has altered the political firmament in Anambra North Senatorial zone. Feathers were ruffled but the outcome of the event will continue to resonate and form a topic for discourse as we approach the election month.

Anambra North People’s Assembly (ANPA), an apex socio cultural group for the people of Anambra North Senatorial district, just last week announced its unalloyed unflinching support to Gov Willie Obiano, endorsing him for a 2nd term in office and adopting him as the sole candidate from the zone.

The question that begs for answer from the perspective of a layman reads, ‘Is Obiano deserving of such support?’ And what a better way to answer that critical question other than to take an unbiased look at the changes which have taken place in Anambra State since March 17, 2014 when he assumed leadership.

Adopting the motion moved by Chief Michael Areh from Onitsha to endorse Obiano as their sole candidate and seconded by Hon Pharm Obinna Emenaka from Anambra West, ANPA declared that, ‘Since the Anambra North geopolitical zone has done well through the serving governor Chief Dr Willie Obiano. In order for a viable negotiations to take place between the zone and other zones. It will be beneficial that the zone adopts and supports one candidate in the person of Chief Willie Obiano.’

But before a peek into the intimidating achievements of His Excellency, it is pertinent we focus a little bit on the credibility of the endorsement and its significance. Anambra North Senatorial Zone which is made up 7 Local Government Areas with about 49 towns realized that ‘Anambra North should retain power for another four years so as to complete the maximum eight years in office which would see the circle of equity be completed as other senatorial zones have enjoyed lengthier periods in the past. Thus, it was a general conviction of the people that Anambra North has to win the coming 2017 gubernatorial elections.’

Thus, ANPA led by Chief Emmanuel Achike from Ogbaru set up an ad-hoc committee with former Minister of Health, Dr Tim Menakaya as Chairman to aggregate rational views from viable sons and daughters of the zone who are capable of running for governor and who deserves the support of the people. The idea of multiple candidates from the senatorial district was frowned at by the majority who believed that such situation would cause dissipation of energy and resources within the zone, thus making the chances of Anambra North retaining power slimmer.

Then exhaustive consultations followed with visitation to all major stakeholders before the very significant endorsement done in the presence of who is who from the zone, local government representatives, both state and federal houses members, captains of industries and other opinion moulders.

But why the choice of Obiano? The election drum has started beating louder and louder. Some surprising names but not so surprising, from the Zone have shown interest as far as Anambra Government House is concerned.

The intimidating achievements of His Excellency, Chief willie obiano in less than three years across the 3 senatorial zones is enough to earn him a second term. Obiano has through his people oriented policies and programs raised the tempo of both human and infrastructural development of the state amidst the economic downturn being witnessed in the country.

Here is a governor that foresaw the impending storm and made adequate preparation for the rainy day and while most states are grappling with the harsh reality, Governor Obiano is busy building bridges, putting up landmark infrastructure and increasing workers salaries.

With a well defined vision, Obiano asserted that his mission was to make Anambra State a socially stable, business-friendly environment that would attract both indigenes and foreigners to seek wealth-creating opportunities. And today, in less than three years he has achieved more in that regard.

If Anambra North People’s Assembly (ANPA) could realize this and throw in their support, I wonder why the likes of Oseloka Obaze, Tony Nwoye, Chike Obidigbo and other contenders, all from the same zone, wont tow the same line.

Gov Willie Obiano has demonstrated a strong ambition for greatness. He has shown that given time and resources, he can turn Anambra State into Nigeria’s new postcard for excellence! The records are there for all to see.

Here is a governor who has rid the state of crime and to harness the opportunity this has created, he established the Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA). The Agency with the mandate to attract investments and fast-track the process of investing in Anambra State. To date, ANSIPPA has attracted investments valued at way above $4billion to Anambra State, which cut across Agriculture, Trade & Commerce, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Housing, Electricity Generation, Waste Management, Health and Oil and Gas sectors.

Here is a governor who has created at the last count over 52,500 and 200,000 direct and indirect jobs respectively in the aforementioned areas. Training youths in diverse skills and crafts, with great plans for the unemployed in Anambra State.

Here is a governor who turned the landscape of Awka Territory, giving it the alluring beauty it deserves with the construction of 3 modern fly-overs and lighting up the streets.

With all these indices and pointers, the likes of Oseloka Obaze, Tony Nwoye, Chike Obidigbo and other wannabes from that senatorial district are joining the fray at the wrong time. You don’t change a working leadership. You can’t change a winning team. Obiano is setting a standard they should all emulate. The people of Anambra North have decided and I think no individual should be bigger than the community or society he/she represents.

If truly the interest of the zone is what comes first, then these contestants from the zone should do what is honourable and support Governor Obiano as he continue his good work in Anambra State.

I am Emmanuel Anigbogu writing from Ekwulobia in Aguata local government area.

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Chude Jideonwo

Then there is the long-term advantage – and this is the more important one for the future of our nation: what roles can business thinking and the entrepreneurial spirit play in reshaping the Nigerian society?

 

To answer, you may first ask the more fundamental questions: what is the role of business, and how can business deploy its unique capacities to transform Nigeria in a way that civil society and public office has yet failed to do up until now?

 

The tragedy of capitalism has been that, business, a beautiful thing that – like other organs of society – is supposed to contribute to the building of the nation, has been narrowed to a vehicle solely for profit.

 

This is an aberration. Profit is the engine of business, but this engine has purpose: the purpose is to surrender to the discipline of the market, so that that it is forced to innovate, to iterate, to adapt; to respond to the world as it is, and make it into what it can be.

 

Nigeria’s problem, caused by its poor leadership is, at the base of it, a collapse of order, of the systems and the architecture that provides sustained value. It is a complete failure of systems thinking.

 

This is where entrepreneurs thrive. In the absence of systems, they create them. Where people look and see darkness, they see opportunity. From the stones of failure, they map out value. They bring order to chaos, and replace waste with profit.

 

Others see red tape, and the entrepreneur sees a virgin market; they see pioneer status, and they see first mover advantages.

 

Unfortunately, in response to this abundance of opportunity our country’s challenges throw up, what have a new breed of businessmen and women been focused on?

 

More e-commerce companies. As if we live in a different reality from the rest of our nation.

 

Is Nigeria’s problem the lack of yet another online mall, or is it a collapse of basic infrastructure, the social fabric and the demonstrable power of good governance?

 

Why are we so dedicated to solving the problems we do not have, when the problems that we have demand urgent solutions? Why are we dead-set on replicating solutions designed for other climes with different sets of challenges, when we have enough of our own?

 

It is to this voice that entrepreneurs must turn their gifts.

 

So the question is: how can we apply the fundamentals of business strategy, and the underlying demands of creating a national competitive advantage to regenerating our country?

 

The challenge is stark. We need investors and creators in health care, human resources, agriculture, technology, manufacturing, in entertainment and across sectors who can get right to the task of building solutions that will actually make governance work, and work for the people.

 

We have tried to work around governance as entrepreneurs – and all it has done is enriched our pockets while leaving us in an unsafe country with decrepit hospitals.

 

We have successful businesses all around us now, but what has their narrow focus on making profits done for us as a people – how has the massive shareholder value they have created helped move Nigeria to where it can be? Desperate times call for innovation.

 

This is where companies like StateCraft are proud to step in – its key product line being people-power; and, when this product line works at optimum, electoral victory.

 

Thankfully, it is not alone. Andela is solving the problem of our national human resource gap, BudgIT is solving the problem of corruption via access to government data, and my favourite company LifeBank is tackling head on the urgent life-and-death issue of providing blood for the many who need it in emergency situations.

 

Some of the companies above have not yet, like us, found a business model that drives their economic engine (i.e. who will pay for this product/service continuously), but it is a shame that many of them remain afloat today not by the urgency of Nigerian investment, but by the charity of foreign visionaries like the Zuckerberg-Chan Foundation, and the Omidyar Network.

 

Nigeria has a blood bank problem. Unlike South Africa that meets its donor needs on a volunteer basis, we only survive based on paying people for blood, and yet we are functioning at below 10 percent capacity, according to Temie Giwa, who founded LifeBank.

 

To solve this problem, she has decided to run a business, to ensure sustainability. That business functions as an enterprise marketplace for hospitals and blood banks, helping clients source for the best blood and blood products that patients need and delivering the product to patients on time, via an inventory of all the blood available in the country at any time.

 

She needs the financial runway to keep thinking until she arrives at a business model. But where are the helpers? Where are the investors?

 

Giwa’s business is literally – literally – saving lives. But she cannot scale yet because local investors are still stuck in an old, warped paradigm where saving lives is something separate from the demands of successful business.

 

This has to end. Old models must be overturned, old paradigms discarded, and traditional boundaries pushed forward – those lines that separate corporate social responsibility from the core of a business or that isolate advocacy from the core idea of what business should stand for.

 

Those are false lines, they are lines drawn by the selfish and the insular who have inverted the beauty of capitalism and distorted the pure idea of corporate value.

 

Business, like any other organ cannot, and in a new world should no longer, be separated from the public good.

 

Business, like other pillars of society – clergy, civil society – can and should stand in the gap where government has failed, driving social good, and expanding social value. The imperative is not to focus on profits as end for itself, but for profits to be incentive for innovation and creating the future.

 

It is possible.

 

Now, of course I understand the reluctance that business people traditionally have had for getting involved in the morass of Nigerian governance and its gaps.

 

Of course, you will face criticism, sometimes rabid, for problems you did not create and for solutions you are providing with purity of intention. Indeed, there is the great risk to be misunderstood in a deeply corrupt system, where profit is viewed as a dirty word, and self-interest is hardly enlightened.

 

And there will be those, caught in a cognitive dissonance, themselves disconnected from the imperatives of intervention, who will tell you that because you are in business, you have no business with building your nation.

 

But that is nonsense.

 

It is nonsense because whether activist or entrepreneur, painter or pastor, you are first and foremost a citizen – and it is immoral to focus only on protecting your business and winning contracts, feigning disinterest and blindness in nation desperate with need.

 

I was excited to convince one of the leading lights of the new entrepreneurial movement in Nigeria last year upon speaking at the Oxford Africa Business Conference.

 

“The first time I had the opportunity to speak to Chude of RED at length was at the Oxford Africa Business conference in May. It was a very pleasant conversation. At least, so I thought,” wrote the founder of iROKO TV, Jason Njoku, wrote after that talk. “Literally 20 mins later, he called me and mine cowards in front of 100+ people. That’s hyperbole. He didn’t call me personally a coward per se.

 

“He railed against all those men (and women) of means in Lagos who live in their gilded cages. Flaunting their prosperity, who speed past the problems of the masses. In a country where someone’s monthly salary is the same as an expensive meal on the Island. That those of means had a moral responsibility to do something about it.”

 

So yes, it is nonsense for anyone to tell you to mind your business. It is your moral responsibility to mind your country, too.

 

It is also nonsense because you have a unique talent, gift and proposition – the entrepreneurial, outcome-focused thinking that is crucial for a country of many problems.

 

And, most importantly, it is nonsense because the nation badly, desperately needs you.

 

At times of luxury, we can all afford the luxury of being part time citizens. But in a country so damaged, we surely cannot afford the luxury of disconnect, and we cannot rely on tradition and convention.

 

We need activist judges, activist academics, activist celebrities, activist lawyers, activist media, activist government officials (see former United States Attorney General, Sally Yates standing up to Trump or former Nigerian minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili being called ‘NADECO’ in the Obasanjo government), and we need activist businessmen and women.

 

At times like these, when governments have proven themselves incapable of doing the jobs they have been asked to do, it is time for a different type of thinking from other organs of functioning society.

 

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg unleashed what I call his magnum opus on how he sees the world and the role of business in that world.

 

Facebook, according to him, is not just a technology tool to upload photos and publish videos. It is an instrument to remake society.

 

Facebook, as Vox.com put it in a review of Zuckerberg’s essay, is poised to be a platform on which to build a global civil society, crating a service that encourages communities and cooperation and political participation on a translational scale.

 

In short, Facebook is not just in business to make money, even though money is crucially important. Facebook is, cliché or not, in the business of changing the world; providing alternatives that address the limitations of governments and civil society.

 

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present,” Abraham Lincoln sagely reminds us. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, act anew.”

 

This is the kind of challenge that a new world poses to the inventiveness and innovation of businessmen and women.

 

And, for Nigeria and much of Africa, it is a desperately urgent call.

 

We can choose to answer it.

 

Or we can wait until this whole thing comes crashing down, on all of us, destroying the illusions of safety that we have, and the broken-down society that we have chosen to ignore.

 

I wonder what will happen to all those shareholder profits if that day and time comes.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance consulting firm, StateCraft Inc (www.statecraftinc.com). Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

 

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Acting President Yemi Osinbajo

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is struggling not to be seen to outshine his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, whose sluggish approach to governance has rallied critics against him and frustrated supporters in his nearly two years of exercising presidential powers.

 

Buhari is currently in the United Kingdom attending to an undisclosed ailment, although his handlers insist the president is hale and hearty, only receiving a much-needed rest. But the president made an abrupt departure to the UK on January 19, even though a letter he transmitted to the National Assembly to that effect indicated he was going to commence a 10-day leave on January 23. He left before the date he indicated he would leave. The speed of his departure raised concerns about his health.

 

However, in the same letter, the president handed over to his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo, a wonky professor of law who served as Attorney General in Lagos state for eight years. After the ten days the president had sought, he again wrote to the legislature, this time seeking an indefinite extension of his stay abroad.

 

Within the period the president has been away, Osinbajo carried on with the basic tasks of governance, tasks which have earned him accolades home and abroad. First, Osinbajo recognized the right of people to freely assemble for protests and acknowledged that on February 6th when Nigerians protested in different cities against the hardship brought upon them by the country’s current economic recession. He told protesters that the government heard them ‘loud and clear’.

 

Under Buhari’s watch, the Nigerian Military, described recently by Transparency International as ‘Human Rights Abusers’ killed scores of peaceful protesters seeking an Independent State of Biafra in the South East. Many public affairs commentators are of the view that if Buhari was around at the time of the February 6th protests, there might have been incidents of brutality from security agencies.

 

Osinbajo also sent the name of Justice Walter Onnoghen to the National Assembly for confirmation. Onnoghen was sworn in as acting CJN on November 10, 2016, by Buhari, even though the National Judicial Council (NJC) had long forwarded his name to the president as the next in line to replace then outgoing CJN Justice Mahmud Mohammed. The NJC recommendation was in line with tradition that the most senior justice of the Supreme Court at the time of the retirement of a sitting CJN takes over. The president did not forward Onnoghen’s name to the legislature. No reason was given for the action.

 

As his three months acting period was going to elapse, many citizens began to agitate about the delay in converting the judge to a substantive CJN. The presidency quickly packaged a line of defence, claiming security agencies were carrying out a background check on Onnoghen. But many understood the background check could have also been carried out soon after the NJC recommendation, while Justice Mohammed was still the CJN.

 

But that sluggishness is in tune with Buhari’s known modus operandi in governance. It took him nearly six months to assemble a cabinet after inauguration, even though he had two months between when he won the presidential election and when he took oath of office.

 

Currently, only three out of Nigeria’s 36 states have resident electoral commissioners (RECs) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yet Nigeria has just about two years to another general elections. Those vacant posts need to be filled with presidential appointments. That has not been done., and no reason has been given for leaving the posts vacant.

 

Exactly a year ago, Minister of State for Labour, James Ocholi died in a ghastly accident on his way from Kaduna to Abuja. The president is yet to nominate a replacement for him. In Nigeria’s constitution, each state should produce a Federal Minister. Failure to replace Ocholi means Kogi state doesn’t have its fair share of representation at the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

 

The Vice President also undertook tours to the Niger-Delta states where he interacted with the people, speaking frankly to them about government’s desire to develop their communities and make life easier for them.  The visit to the region was in search of lasting peace to the perennial crisis of insurgency that has stalled development in that part. Some leaders of the region said after the VP’s well received visit, that such visitation was all the people of the region yearned for, just to be involved in their own affairs.

 

Prior to his medical vacation, President Buhari had remained holed up in Aso Villa, visiting only about five states in nearly two years. Part of the states he visited were Edo, for campaign and Ondo, also for campaign. APC, the president’s party, contested for the governorship seats in the two states. He however did visit 35 countries since his inauguration.

 

On the economic front, Vice President Osinbajo presided over the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting wherein it was agreed that $250 million be injected into the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was advised to adjust its forex policy. Subsequently, the apex bank came up with an action plan, and also released $371 million into the inter-bank market. Less than 48 hours after, the naira, which was exchanging for about N510 to a dollar crashed to between N400 and N450.

 

Since the appreciation of the Naira, Osinbajo’s stock has risen before Nigerians, and many of Buhari’s critics have publicly joked that the president remains abroad permanently since it seems his Vice is doing better.

 

But the Office of the Vice President which, initially, was out to promote the VP’s competence seems to have recoiled as it is increasingly appearing like more Nigerians prefer Osinbajo’s style of leadership. This became quite pronounced in a press statement sent out by Osinbajo’s Media Aide on Monday.

 

Unlike before when the headline would name the Vice President’s action, Laolu Akande’s Press Release headline shouted, “BUHARI PRESIDENCY ACTIVATES $20B OGIDIGBEN GAS INDUSTRIAL PROJECT”. In place of “Buhari Presidency”, FG (Federal Government) could have been apt for the headline. But observers read what the news release was designed to achieve: remind citizens that the presidency was still Buhari’s.

 

The statement went lengths to inform readers how President Buhari instructed the VP to embark on the Niger-Delta tours. It reads in part; “Before he went on vacation, President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated the Vice President to embark on visits to oil-producing communities to demonstrate the resolve of this administration to the pursuit of a new vision for the Niger Delta.”

 

Yet critics have wondered why the President could not personally embark on the tour in nearly two years which he’s been on the saddle, if he considered the visitation important.

 

The Presidency has since struggled to spin the narrative that Buhari and Osinbajo are on a joint ticket. Special Adviser to President Buhari on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, said what Nigerians are seeing under Osinbajo’s temporary leadership reflects the maturity of government policies implemented earlier. He blasted those he called ‘mischief makers’ for promoting divisive tendencies in the government. Ojudu said; “The same people who said we never had economic team, no policy, nothing are the ones saying this. “It is now that the policies we are implementing are maturing and they are seeing the result. It is not a question of one person being better than the other person.

 

“There is nothing that has been done since the Vice-President started acting that is not something that started far back in the past. A good example is the Niger Delta initiative.

“The President called the Vice-President and said ‘I am giving you the mandate, go into the Niger Delta and meet with everyone who is a stakeholder, all the communities, talk to the militants and make sure you solve this problem for the benefits of Nigerians.’

 

“We are losing 1.2 million barrels of oil per day, all the gas pipelines powering the turbines are being blown up. And the President has said unless and until we resolve this problem we will not get out of recession. The VP took up the mandate and went to the Niger Delta, it is the initiative of Mr. President not that of the Vice-President.

 

“These are mischief makers, those who do not wish this country well, who are always promoting crisis, who will not allow the people to benefit from this democracy. They are the ones promoting this kind of divisive tendencies” the presidential aide said

 

But analysts say service delivery is idiosyncratic and dependent on the individual involved. In Osinbajo, the nation is witnessing a leader who identifies with everyone, including states politically opposed to his party, whereas in Buhari, the nation saw a leader who insisted on only addressing issues affecting constituencies he considers politically friendly.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chude Jideonwo

A few days ago, I received this message in my email from a highly respected colleague with the Punch, which inspired this article:

 

“Thank you for staying true to the cause. I have seen too many people transform into villains in recent years; but you have been steadfast and I couldn’t be more proud.

 

“I remember being in your office in 2012 when you returned from a meeting with the NLC concerning the Occupy Nigeria protest at a time many thought you would do anything to protect the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

 

“This year, I saw you standing in the sun on February 6, once again risking more than people know, to draw attention to Nigeria’s heartbreaking situation. All I saw was a man who has chosen to put his country first.”

 

Beyond the obvious warming of my heart, this message did something much more important: it led me into thinking about why I have been able to do the things that I have done above.

 

Why have I, a typically fear-filled follower-type person, been able to conquer the fear and my default mode to undertake the risks, as the writer seems to think, to “put my country first”?

 

The answer I discovered shocked me as it much as it may shock you: I realized it is because I am, first and foremost, an entrepreneur.

 

This is weird because, on the face of it, business is not the thing you think about when it comes to nation building.

 

You think about activists, you think about public officials, maybe you even think about journalists. But not ever do you find yourself thinking ‘I could change government in my country’ by being a businessman.

 

How did all of this come about?

 

In 2009, I think, we had hosted four editions of our popular brand The Future Awards Africa (TFAA), when – at a review meeting in Terra Kulture, Lagos – the filmmaker, Chris Ihidero corrected an error.

 

TFAA – a brand focused on nation building – was founded on the passionate assumption, we repeated regularly, that young people could change Nigeria “in spite of the government.” This, Ihidero sadly informed me, was a historical fallacy. No modern nation that he knew had been remade or transformed in spite of its government. Government, he said, had to change first.

 

This fundamentally altered the way that I saw my self and my role in nation building. It was a shift in paradigm that practically changed the course of my life.

 

In 2010, I had the first opportunity to test out this new understanding. Soon after Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as keynote speaker at TFAA that year, had revealed that the youth were the majority of the nation’s population and challenged them to get actively involved, our president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua went missing.

 

It was a time as any for the youth to take advantage of those numbers.

 

Many people know the history now: I sent an email to friends, we hosted the EnoughisEnough (EiE) rallies in Abuja and Lagos, trended globally on Twitter, were on front-pages of national dailies and across international media, and more importantly, before our ultimatum expired, our demand was met and Goodluck Jonathan was declared acting president of Nigeria.

 

What many don’t know is exactly what happened after.

 

The co-founders of EiE came together – the emergency executive committee we had gathered – after the Lagos protests, and discussed how would EiE transmute. It had been established primarily as a conduit for protests, but now that it had become successful, it couldn’t possibly disband. Young people were looking to it for eldership, and it couldn’t disappoint.

 

Now, up until this moment I had thought of EiE it as a media brand, since that the core of our experience at RED. With its scant resources, we had approached it as a pop-culture brand – co-creating a mainstream product that captured the popular imagination.

 

But it had evolved into something else from there. It had gained a life of its own.

 

“Chude,” my friend, Segun Demuren asked at the meet. “Would you lead it?”

 

“No,” I said, after pretending to mull the thought. “My hands are too full at the moment. But I have been looking at ‘Yemi (Adamolekun, who had joined us at the Lagos protests) and I believe she has the exact mission mindset and temperament to make this work.”

 

Adamolekun, who was then supporting the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy was shocked. “Me? Temperament? I will chase all the funders away. I am not a patient person.”

 

But I had paid close attention to her in the days since we had met, from the afternoon we had ridden in the same car after the Lagos protests. There was something about her. From pure instinct, it had become abundantly clear that if this mission was to survive, she was just the exact person it needed to make it happen.

 

Pretended to mull, I had said earlier, because I already anticipated that as convener, that request would be made, and I had already thought seriously about it. I had agonized over the decision, because in EiE I saw the beginnings of something truly powerful and deeply useful for Nigeria (evident through this February’s #IStandWithNigeria protests). I really wanted to lead it. I almost said yes.

 

Painfully though, I realized it had to be no.

 

I couldn’t do it. Because my calling was different. My calling in this phase of my life, as far as the world’s present labels go, is business.

 

For EiE to succeed, even if it began as a media brand, I could see that its purest, deepest expression (and the only way that it could sustain its coalition, which was its strongest brand asset) was for it to evolve as a not-for-profit civil society organization.

 

And that was not a fit for my personal mission, and for my talents.

 

Indeed, this has always been the prevailing arc of my career. My passion from my teens has always been nation building. As I grew older, I realized that my immediate desire was to do this through enterprise. It is the reason we refused to launch TFAA as a not-for-profit  – so that, as we told the media at our first press conference, it could generate the income to be sustainable and to be independent, for the 20-year goal that we had set for ourselves.

 

EiE was not the vehicle for that, and so I let go of that assignment to someone who has now done it even better than any of us could have imagined.

 

In letting go of it, my co-founder, our management board and I now set ourselves to the task – how would we achieve this passion within the ambits of our talents?

 

We had no models to look to. But that is in fact the idea and beauty of business: to create where a thing previously didn’t existing. We realized we had ample space to build out that value proposition… a, as it were, blue ocean.

 

Of course, the one reason I could say no to the glistening opportunity to lead this historic organisation (also the one reason I have been able to say no to two offers to join separate administrations) in the first is because I had a clear personal mission for the first phase of my life.

 

That mission is our business; with a potential so vast, and opportunity so endless that it would be frankly stupid to ignore the benefits of what venture capitalist Peter Thiel calls “delayed value” for temporal gratification.

 

At about this time, I was also blessed to become a disciple of Jim Collins. His seminal book ‘Good to Great’ made it clear the thinking that an entrepreneur should apply to such a land of vast opportunity – three circles: What sets fire to your passion? What can you do better than anybody else? What drives your economic engine i.e. what will people pay for?

 

Energised by this formidable framework, we set ourselves to the task of building a viable business proposition that could solve the problems that lit our passions – nation building.

 

That is how we came to build the beautiful company now called StateCraft Inc.

 

The seeds for the company were sown in the elections of 2011, and it grew into full operations in 2015 – a governance consulting company that we, in its first phase, have now deployed as a sharply effective (media) tool to hack into establishments, overturn incumbencies and return power to the hands of the people.

 

The victories of StateCraft Inc and its utility to nations are, as favour would have it, now immediately clear: with historic anti-establishment presidential wins in Nigeria in 2015 and in Ghana in 2016.

 

These are wins that, in spite of the short-term challenges that these nations may face after change, have set them on the part to people-driven transformational growth by re-balancing the axis of power in favour of the every day voter, and citizen.

 

We couldn’t be prouder.

 

The success of the company proves the theory of the case for business – as a mechanism that forces you to think, in that long term way that truly builds institutions, creates systems and transforms paradigms.

 

It also re-established the true purpose of business in the world, and its potential to remake society.

 

There are two crucial roles in this light: one in the short term and the other in the long term.

 

In the short term, there is the market-driven financial independence to look nonsense in the face and say no.

 

The creation of financial value creates independence that facilitates action. You don’t rely on grants, you don’t rely on patronage, you rely, primarily, on the market; and that feeds your confidence.

 

You can see this in America today, as Apple, Uber, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and others have come together to say no in capital terms to the anti-immigrant posture and rolling back of transgender rights from the towers of Donald Trump.

 

Business gives you the guts and gumption to do this.

 

Is it possible in Nigeria? Of course it is. I should know. I have lived it.

 

In 2011, one of our companies worked for the Goodluck Jonathan presidential campaign, and another landed an exclusive cover interview with the incoming president.

 

In 2012, my co-founder and I put that relationship at risk, when the fuel subsidy protests launched in January and we chose the side of an angry public against the reasonable pull of our business interests.

 

This was more dangerous than the public knew.

 

At the time, not only did we have expanded relationships with key members of the government, but another of our clients was a central player on the side of that government in the fuel subsidy removal.

 

Before the protests began, I sent a text to a key person who was my contact on the account. The crux of the message: “I don’t think we can continue working as we will be joining the protests.”

 

His reaction was irritation: “Why are you preaching to me?”

 

My strong personal – even emotional – commitment to that client made it even more difficult to tamper with the relationship. But by the time the dust of #OccupyNigeria had cleared, we had inevitably left the account.

 

It also put paid to an offer to enable us extend our business operations to Abuja fully. But we told ourselves that if our long-term strategy was valid, and our proposition strong, then we could let go of temporary detours.

 

Only business could allow me do that.

 

In 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan hosted TFAA in the presidential villa.

 

It was deeply gracious of him and a gift to our mission – he was a man whose heart was large, and his people truly believed in what we were doing. It underlined the leadership of the awards by the institutional seal of the Nigerian presidency, and officially launched our African expansion. I remain grateful for that goodwill.

 

But in April 2014, three months after that, the Chibok girls were kidnapped under his watch. For me, his reaction to that failure became the final straw for a government that had made too many mistakes. My values compelled me to speak out against it.

 

So I was soon on the streets again. I was writing and speaking to local and international media against it. I made my stand clear.

 

Only business could allow me take that risk.

 

In 2015, StateCraft Inc worked massively and publicly for the elections of Muhammadu Buhari. This time around, he was not just a client who fit the values of our business; he was also my personal choice.

 

I was silent, in fact, for the entirety of my professional duties, deliberately, because I needed full concentration. But a day to the polls, I made the decision to speak out, just in case I could also convince anyone by the power of my personal voice. I wanted, deliberately, to put my voice on the line.

 

But in February this year, two years after that decision, I decided that the government needed a wake up call. And I was back on the streets, demanding better, holding the government accountable, supporting EiE behind the scenes to make the #IStandWithNigeria protests come alive.

 

I could only do that because I run a business.

 

Because I understand that, whatever the temporary backlash and loss of potential revenue that comes, we are blessed with the systems thinking in my organization, beyond my person in processes and people, to generate wealth in the long term.

 

Of course, over the years, there has been backlash to these decisions.

 

In 2014, after our #BringBackOurGirls stand, we lost all our work for any federal government organ. I watched with some amusement, and empathy, as friends on that side of town were too afraid even to even attend my book launch.

 

But, as always, we accepted these with equanimity; didn’t even think, until now, to speak of it publicly. This was the reasonable consequence for the actions we had chosen to take and the way we had chosen to run our business with heart; to always stand, as we say, on the right side of history.

 

We have always had faith in the concept of “delayed revenue” – in the durability of the market. That faith is not even at all in today’s revenues, which are tiny by the standards of the future we see, it is a faith in the long-term value that a truly solid business proposition can guarantee. Today is never tomorrow.

 

And in this same way, I know that there are very many businessmen in Nigeria can stand to lose a few millions. They can, if they tried. They just haven’t started to think like that yet. We have to encourage them.

 

Business gives you the independence to walk away; the independence of thought, and the independence of position to say no, or to say yes to what truly matters. It gives you the freedom to take risk and made decisions that may not make sense in the interim, but serve a long-term strategic purpose.

 

That is the short-term advantage.

 

Then there is the long-term advantage, which we will address in the concluding part of this piece.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance consulting firm, StateCraft Inc (www.statecraftinc.com). Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

 

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Chude Jideonwo

There is something curious that you might have noticed. Something as strange as it is weird. And it should worry you.

 

We don’t appear to know who ‘spoilt’ Nigeria.

 

‘Spoilt’ of course is the colloquial shorthand for all that ails our nation – corruption, poor leadership, stillbirth policy, diving quality of life, and gaping income inequality.

 

We complain about these things everyday. We moan and point fingers, bitter over the legacy handed to generations that are yet unable to bear them. We are frustrated because the smattering of best efforts don’t appear to lead us anywhere. The foundation is destroyed.

 

So we know that Nigeria is ‘spoilt’.

 

But who exactly ‘spoilt’ the country?

 

It turns out; no one ever takes responsibility for the state of our nation.

 

Let’s start from the beginning.

 

The quartet of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo and Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, not alone, who altogether led the team that secured Nigeria’s political independence and ensuring economic decline already escaped responsibility for our state of affairs.

 

These days it is impolitic to state certain ‘imperfections’ about these legends, as it were. That in 1943, the Saduana of Sokoto was accused by his cousin Alhaji Abubakar Saddique of misappropriating tax revenue as District Head of Gussau. That Dr. Azikiwe was accused of corruption in 1962 and a panel was set up by the chief whip of his party to investigate the misapplication of 2 million pounds under his watch as premier, a cloud under which he never emerged.

 

And of course, famously, that the great Obafemi Awolowo was, also in 1962, accused of diverting the funds of the Western Region’s government to his political party, conduct apparently confirmed by the Justice George Coker panel of inquiry.

“Before independence, there have been cases of official misuse of resources for personal enrichment (Storey, 1953),” notes a paper by University of Lagos professor of history, Michael Ogbeidi. “Over the years, Nigeria has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the citizens. The First Republic under the leadership of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister, and Nnamdi Azikwe, the President, was marked by widespread corruption. Government officials looted public funds with impunity. Federal Representative and Ministers flaunted their wealth with reckless abandon. In fact, it appeared there were no men of good character in the political leadership of the First Republic. Politically, the thinking of the First Republic Nigerian leadership class was based on politics for material gain; making money and living well.”

He is talking about Nigeria’s “founding fathers”.

 

Instead of being held responsible for the parts that they have played, that they must have played, (since 1 plus 1 is equal to two) just after independence, in laying the foundations of a squandered promise, in addition to the Civil War that their actions precipitated, they are dealt with as benevolent fathers that bestowed the beauty of this nation unto us – a legacy one must assume the country is proud of since it celebrates them so urgently.

 

And Yakubu Gowon? The one who took after them? This is the president from under whom Nigeria’s oil boon began, where many historians can track the beginnings of our institutional waste and who oversaw a civil war the country has yet to recover from. He does not take responsibility for the state of the nation.

 

Shehu Shagari was 5-time minister from independence in 1960 – 1970 before he became president in 1979. His government was defined by corruption, and it is to him that we owe the pleasure of the Ajaokuta Steel Black Hole which he spent hundreds of millions in dollars on – with the raw material of rumoured kickbacks.

 

His programme to encourage mechanical machines in farming was hijacked by friends of the government who were retired military officers, and by the time oil prices began to fall in 1981, , the center could no longer hold.

“It was claimed that over $16 billion in oil revenues were lost between 1979 and 1983 during the reign of President Shehu Shagari. It became quite common, for federal buildings to mysteriously go up in flames, most especially just before the onset of ordered audits of government accounts, making it impossible to discover written evidence of embezzlement and fraud. No politician symbolised the graft and avarice under Shagari’s government more than his combative Transport Minister, Alhaji Umaru Dikko, who was alleged to have mismanaged about N4 billion of public fund meant for the importation of rice.”

Failure heavy enough that when General Muhammadu Buhari took over in a coup on December 31, 1983, the nation breathed a sigh of relief. Shagari was released from detention for personal corruption in 1986, and banned from politics for life.

 

Has he ever taken responsibility for anything, yet?

 

Then, of course, there was the legendary Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, under whose government Nigeria’s made leaps and bounds in corruption, ruining our reputation in narcotics trade and advanced economic fraud and whose government oversaw the disappearance of the $12.4b (or less, but certainly billions of dollars, based on the thorough Pius Okigbo Commission Report) from what we now call the Gulf War Windfall of 1991.

“If anything, corruption reached an alarming rate and became institutionalized during Babangida’s regime,” Ogbeidi reports. “Leaders found guilty by tribunals under the Murtala Mohammed and Mohammadu Buhari regimes found their way back to public life and recovered their seized properties.

“According to Maduagwu: Not only did the regime encourage corruption by pardoning corrupt officials convicted by his predecessors and returning their seized properties, the regime officially sanctioned corruption in the country and made it difficult to apply the only potent measures, long prison terms and seizure of ill-gotten wealth, for fighting corruption in Nigeria in the future.”

Asked, in 2015, how he built his mansion in Minna, Babangida told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (so that the irony can be complete), that it was generous, benevolent people who will remain unnamed that built it, of course.

 

“I know what my friends spent. No, my friends contributed,” he said, because we are all fools and reason is dead. “They were friends before we came into government and friends while I was in government. I started building it in 1991, took two to three years so that by the time I finished, I would have a house to sleep in.”

 

More than once you must have heard Babangida bemoan the state of the nation, complain about the collapse of morals and enjoin Nigerians to work hard and believe in the country,

 

We have really suffered.

 

“If what I read in the newspapers is currently what is happening then I think we were angels (in my government),” he said, without falling off his chair and hitting his head on the floor from shame. “My government was able to identify corruption-prone areas and checked them. If you remember in this country, there were things they call essential commodities. These are also sources of corruption. You go and buy ‘omo’ or food or whatever it is and we got government to take its hands off such activities. Let people use their own brains, hands and labour, nobody has to do it for them. I am proud to say that was much more effective. I give you an example; in a year I was making less than $7billion in oil revenue. In the same period, there are governments that are making $200billion to $300billion.”

 

Not even a dollar of responsibility taken, despite holding leadership of this country for the longest, his irresponsibility costing us the results of a free and fair election and plunging us into half a decade of pure Abacha-rian madness.

 

Babangida too does not know who spoilt Nigeria.

 

Olusegun Obasanjo, who oversaw the democratic transition that led Nigeria into Shagari, apart from playing his own questionable part in the carnage against the citizens of Biafra, and whose grand gestures as temporary president in the 70s did not translate into positivity for nation, would also say he is not part of those that spoilt Nigeria.

 

Then he returned to leadership and (though I consider him the most impressive Nigerian leader in my lifetime) left the country at the end, deliberately, in chaos – first by the damaging desire for an unconstitutional third term in office and then by arrogantly inflicting on all of us a sick man who transferred his illness to the nation’s soul and rolled back the small inches of progress we had made.

 

He too, who has led Nigeria twice – for almost a decade in total – would claim that he bears no responsibility for the state of our nation.

 

Not to speak of Muhammadu Buhari. He could previously claim, and indeed that claim held currency for 20 years, that he (much like the canonized Murtala Mohammed) spent too little time in office to be assessed responsible.

 

But on his second coming, we have had two years to interrogate his capacity and his legacy, two years during which we have seen fortunes decline, and citizens lose hope, without the cushion of leadership that inspires.

Even as he sits in the office and holds the ultimate responsibility for the state of affairs as I write, even he is not taking responsibility.

 

Buhari (whose candidacy I vigorously supported as, vastly, the better of our two options in 2015) points to everyone but himself. He points to all of those who held the office before him, he points to the government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, he points to the opposition that won’t give him breathing space, he points to civil servants working hard to sabotage him, and he points to that most significant of Nigerian bad guys: ‘the system’.

 

It is not just our ex-presidents that have this affliction.

 

You see your friends whose fathers and mothers led this country at the highest levels, even those whose names have been demonstrably involved in corruption or at least negligence, and even they complain about the state of Nigeria.

 

They insist on presenting themselves as decent, reasonable people who had no part, magically, in the Nigeria that we have today.

 

Ask them who we should blame, and they point at others: ‘them’, ‘they’.

 

Who are these ‘they’?

 

The faceless ‘they’ who always stand against change. You’ve heard every government speak about them, this unnamed powerful, omnipresent people who frustrate every good intention of the government but are never held accountable; these indeterminate group of people who sit like gremlins in Aso Rock and take over the brains and hearts of those who lead. Every president has pointed to them as the problem with the country.

 

Those indeterminate ‘they’ are so resolute that they were even there fighting against Diezani Alison-Madueke, despite her consolidation of oil administration power, the distribution of the wealth across questionable characters, and the ostentatious display that allegedly powered the obscene spend of the 2015 elections.

 

But despite all of the circumstantial dodginess, even our former oil minister says she was also victim of this indeterminate set of people who keep spoiling Nigeria – people who she, like those many innocents before her, did not name, did not shame, and did not hold accountable.

 

Of course, there is Jonathan, whose presidency accelerated an atmosphere of permissiveness and corruption, ceded large swaths of Nigeria to terrorists and lost 276 girls under his watch for which he yet has shown no remorse, at all. The less about him to be honest, the better for us all.

 

Ask the good doctor for who spoilt Nigeria – and he and his triumphal supporters who insist on crying over the spilt milk of a man who deserved to be voted out, will take no ounce of responsibility. No hoots give. If you don’t like it, they appear to say to us, go and die.

 

The truth is that Nigeria has been an unfortunate  (‘oloriburuku’ as the Yoruba excellently would put it) country.

 

We have been a desperately unfortunate country for so many years, the unfortunateness springing from our classless, clueless successive set of leaders.

 

And lest the point is lost in subtlety and euphemism: they are the people that spoilt Nigeria.

 

The question really is simple: if our succession of leaders were so sterling, so high achieving, and so distinguished – then how exactly did our country collapse?

 

The so-called founding fathers, the super permanent secretaries, every single person who has been president of this country, a vast majority of ministers and commissioners, governors and local government chairmen, and the dirty pack of colluding traditional rulers. Heads of parastatals, and members of boards, business leaders who have benefited from ungodly monopolies and the oppression of an unprotected competition, those who helped politicians funnel and launder illegal monies that they then deployed to set up banks, insurance companies and a hodge-podge of now ‘respectable businesses’, defense chiefs who allowed our arsenal to be depleted and outdated, putting all our lives at risk, each and every one of the inspector generals of police as far as we cannot find anyone whose legacy stands apart or possesses a highlight, who ruined the country if not them?

 

It’s time for us to have the clarity of intent and purpose to say to them, especially now – you did this; you caused this, take some responsibility for heaven’s sake.

 

On the first of January this year, I was invited alongside a respected academic and a former defense chief to the Nigerian Television Authority to speak about ‘Making Nigeria Great Again’.

 

This tragedy – of our unfortunateness – was again on display.

 

Every word this military chief (one of our points men in the fight against Boko Haram) uttered was grounded in vapidity. His responses to questions were devoid of reflection, strategy, or philosophy. He simply didn’t have anything useful to say.

 

And I panicked: This is the man who has been making decisions for our country? This is the man we trusted to keep us safe? This is the mind that informed the president?

 

“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership,” Chinua Achebe already informed us.  “There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

 

Think about it: if all the leaders of our journalism from the past were credible and competent, then who holds responsibility for the decay in our journalism? Who ruined the Nigerian Television Authority and made it a carcass of the greatness we are told that it once had? If all the people who ran businesses in Nigeria in the past were heroes and visionaries with the capacity for transformative ideas, then, please, sorry, where are their businesses? If all the leaders in our health sector had been such healthy, sterling examples of wisdom and brilliance, then please who is responsible for the state of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital or that of the University College Hospital?

 

These guys have a lot of experience, but as political economist, Pat Utomi has said, it is bad experience. It is the experience that comes from simply existing and being rather than from achieving, excelling and improving.

 

They are the ones who mouth the inanity about Nigeria’s “strength in diversity” and that its “unity is non-negotiable” as if all of us have not been living in this same country since 1960 and seeing that if there is one thing that we have always had, it is certainly not strength.

 

The people who have led us have not been the best of us. Veterans only of bureaucracy and form, their experience is useless, their relevance is overstated, and their capacity is, at best, questionable.

 

To be sure, we have seen evidence of brilliance in Nigeria. We have witnessed citizens build the creative industries into a system to be admired. We have seen young people recreate the music industry and push its significance across a global market. We have seen technology innovators recreate an entire system from scratch.

 

We have seen brilliance in politics too; Anambra’s Peter Obi and Lagos’s Babatunde Fashola being two contemporary examples, as well as the sterling system of succession that Lagos has modelled.

 

Unfortunately – as will be the same if my generation doesn’t significantly reboot Nigeria and set it on the path to truly transformative growth (and we still have an abundance of time to make this right) – it will be fine for the next generation to look at them; to look at us, and to say that for the most part, we were failures, and we bear responsibility for the state of our p nation.

 

It will be fine for them to look back at the long past of Nigeria’s desolate history and for them to curse the darkness, thoroughly.

 

Yes I know that come 2019, because of the terrible fault lines of democracy, we may yet be so unfortunate that one of these will yet be the only option for president of Nigeria – because, where are the alternatives on the scene today? And it will sadly fall to us, agan, to perform a civic duty and support the least of the bad options.

 

But at least let us be clear that we are drinking gutter water, and not coconut juice.

 

What is the reason it is so important to correctly locate the provenance of Nigeria’s problems?

 

  1. a) So that the responsible party approaches its duties to make amends with sobriety and perspective.
  2. b) So that a new generation leaders understands the urgent need to unlearn from the past and to be discriminatory on the conventions and traditions it chooses to perpetuate.

 

“Permanent secretaries, diplomats, vice chancellors have been here over the past two days telling us about how government can work for the people,” I said in a speech February 2016 at the Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy, to an audience of these ex-leaders. “We have spent the past days hearing these leaders tell us what to do, when they had ample opportunity to show us what to do – an did not do so.

 

“One wonders as a generation if we have a lot to learn from these people, or if indeed we have so much to un-learn.

 

“Do you guys really have anything to teach us?  Who were the permanent secretaries who stole billions in the 70s, the soldiers who ruined Nigerian in the 90s, the ministers who stole us blind after 2000? Are they the same ones still talking to us today? If things were so great in those days, then how did Nigeria get to this sorry stage where corruption was once only a cankerworm, but now has gone viral?

 

“There are too many billionaires whom we don’t know how they made their billions and too many politicians who used to win with landslides that disappeared when card readers emerged.

 

“We must be honest in noting where you people have failed and where you presented insurmountable obstacles for our generation: gerontocracy that didn’t exist in 1956, a collapsed education system, institutions that were interrupted and then declined, a lack of authentic moral fibre and no workable models of businesses that succeed or governance that works for the people.”

 

Of course these vestiges of the past can still be part of building the future – that, after all, is a model we have seen work in many places across the world. But, first, they have to repent.

 

Based on what we have seen over the past 16 years, and what we are looking at today, first they must have the humility to take responsibility for the part that they have played in bringing us to this sorry state – and then to commit to making amends.

 

Either that or, as my people used to say in Ijeshatedo where I grew up: abeg make them comot, make we for see road pass.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

 

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Chude Jideonwo

Last month, the Oyo governor, Abiola Ajimobi shocked the nation.

Footage of the governor speaking to students of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) who had been grounded at home (for eight months from 13 June, 2016 due to a shutdown announced by the Rector), showed a white-hot rage: “If this how you want to talk to me,” he blasted the students for their effrontery in protesting the closure of their school. “Then do your worst. Eight months. Eight months? Is that something we have not seen before?”

 

Even now retelling the statements, I am shaken.

 

Let’s stop there and unpack the statement and its many ugly layers: you will find arrogance, you will find insensitivity, and you will find a distinct lack of compassion (if we wanted to get right to the point, we would call it wickedness).

 

Let’s ask a common sense question: How does a public servant defend a failure of duty based on how he or she is spoken to?

 

And then let us recall what exactly the issue is here.

 

LAUTECH is owned by the Oyo and Osun state governments. The two state governments are to each give the schools N295 million as subventions monthly. Oyo owes the institution N2.3 billion and Osun owes N5.3 billion. With this dereliction of responsibility, naturally, teachers in the school have been owed for 13 months. So five months ago, workers went on strike, and the school was shut down.

 

I know our country has degenerated so badly that the unacceptable has found its place into mainstream tolerance. But it is important to understand this: having students of a university sit at home for eight months is certainly, to put it mildly, not normal.

 

It should never be acceptable for students to have disruptions to their academic schedule. It sends to them, a clear message – that their country does not care about them. It fundamentally alters any pretentions to structure and order, and the reality of governance.

 

It costs the nation significantly because we spend more per student in multiple ways when sessions are interrupted – depreciation costs, inflationary consequences, loss of manpower hours as employees are paid for periods of low value (and still have to retire at age limit), double costs with each resumption, cost of maintaining the school at gap periods (including electricity and water bills). Remember that none of these costs are value-driven because they are incurred when the primary reason for the institution’s existence is absent.

 

Then there is the unbearable cost to the students, and then to the guardians of the students – all of the above doing their part to sustain a vicious cycle of national waste.

 

It bears repeating, however, that its most important damage is that it else sends a message to young people finding their way in the world that this is a fundamentally messed up country, where hard work isn’t rewarded, patriotism isn’t logical and the system eats its young alive.

 

It is important to restate this, even if tertiary school shutdowns have become a tradition since the Academic Staff Union of Universities organized its first national strike in 1988 and military dictators, who ruled Nigeria for a better part of the 80s and 90s, decided that wanton school closures are the solution to student dissent.

 

It is important to restate this for the sake of my own sanity even if I have been a victim of the most ridiculous shutdowns as a student of the University of Lagos in 2005.

 

Because things have now deteriorated so badly, that an elected governor can stand at a podium – after eight months of institutional silence as these students have begged and pleaded for audience – unafraid of consequence, to tell them, essentially, to go to hell.

 

This is not normal.

 

In response, rather than apologise, or pretend to contrition, his team decided that a more effective strategy was to share its own edits of the exchange, claiming that the governor ‘apologised’ to the students.

 

First, in the apology video, he did no such thing. “I am not angry,” was the best he said, and from a place of entitled smugness.

 

The fact that this public servant even thought the full video of his patronizing statements would make any part of the exchange acceptable is proof further than the events in themselves that the man’s style of governance is also… not normal.

 

“Students need to learn to engage,” he lectured them after failing them for 13 months. Makes one wonder, isn’t it the job of the leader who is also servant to first engage, to explain, to establish a frame of understanding, and to empathise?

 

How do you expect calm and restraint from young people whose progress has been cut short for eight months? Is it possible that this man would be restrained and orderly if his children were stuck so?

 

It bears asking if there is an understanding of the basic nature of service.

 

Because beyond the evident failure of governance that his action shows, there is an absence in understanding the massive failure in the value chain. He doesn’t know that he has failed, and so he doesn’t know that he should be ashamed, be sorry about it, and be apologetic.

 

That should shock us. Not because we didn’t know how these guys have always viewed the rest of us; not because we didn’t know the primitiveness that undergirds the thinking of our leadership set, but because, now, they have killed shame.

 

There is that.

 

But perhaps we should ask ourselves – how did the governor come about this misguided confidence?

 

He explained it in the video: constituted authority.

 

According to him, the fact that he is “constituted authority” means the students should have kept shut, listened to him, and accepted his justifications uncritically.

 

He fully expected that his sheer presence of his superfluous ‘agbada’ was such a gift to the students that they should have been stunned into ecstatic silence.

 

And so “His Excellency” was shocked – shocked – that the young, educated people of his state, who were agitated after eight months of abandonment, could still find their voice.

 

Now, that, right there, is where we should get frightened.

 

That an elected leader – and there are many like him – still believe, even in a flourishing, adversarial two-party democracy, that they are constituted authority against which questions are disrespect, and questioners risk punishment.

 

Right there, stands the root of our particular brand of problem.

 

The respect, and, yes, the fear that leaders should have for citizens is mostly absent in the version of a social contract that Nigeria has.

 

Unfortunately, the fault for this anomaly doesn’t come only from those who lead.

 

Today, we have citizens who have ceded their right to be treated with respect. You only need to pay attention to conversation online to see a citizenry that has not only ceded that right, but actively denigrates those who would exercise theirs. People who believe that political affiliation means blind loyalty. Those who believe that relationships with government mean silence whatever happens. Those who believe that those who make high demands of government are being ‘troublesome’ or ‘unreasonable;.

 

But if citizens want respect from their leaders, they have to demand it – and they have to demand it without reservation.

 

The defense of “constituted authority” is jabber. There should be no respect for leaders who have defaulted in duty.

 

There should particularly be no regard for Nigeria’s distinguished set of consistently, and aggressively, failing leaders.

 

Many of our leaders lack empathy. The steady erosion of incentives for demonstrable empathy and consequences for its lack has ultimately led to this death, of common sense. And so they have become, in essence, abnormal.

 

In that case, it becomes imperative to turn up the heat.

 

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

 

Governments should be worried about how the public receives their decisions and interprets their actions. Government activity would thence be made only against the background of what citizens thinks, what the voters’ reaction will be, of the consequences of each step.

 

Even if it leads to pandering – that is only a small price to pay for the bigger gain that comes.

 

But it has to matter that the decision of those we have chosen to lead us must reflect our desires, our wishes, our imperatives and our preferences – and that their reactions must reflect an understanding of who truly calls the shots.

 

That is how a functioning democracy works. Unfortunately, Nigeria is a long way from this balance of power.

 

These guys in public office, and their band that lose perceptive when they get a job in government, don’t get it.

They don’t get it, at all.

Our urgent, continuous task is to make sure that they do.

PS: Upon going to press with this piece, it is important to remember that while LAUTECH has technically re-opened, students have yet to continue academic activity because lecturers have not yet resumed. So, indeed, the value chain remains broken.

 

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance communication firm, StateCraft Inc. Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.