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

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Chude Jideonwo

Two years ago to this day, you brought me to tears.

 

You were in our nation’s capital, being inaugurated as the first Nigerian in our nation’s history to win the presidency from an opposition party. I was far away, in Lagos; but I had a cherished privilege: to be the one to publish the very first tweet on your account as President of the Federal of Nigeria.

 

And as my colleague, Oluwatobi Soyombo watched, I threw my head back on the chair, and I began to weep.

 

I couldn’t help myself. This moment was too big, was too strong; was too much.

 

They were tears of joy. But they were also tears of relief, personal and collective. Personal relief from the fear of the consequences of my decision – after having readied myself for four years of repercussion for supporting so publicly a man who was hardly likely to win; collective relief that we would not be facing four more years of the triumphal leadership of the corrupt and the reprobate; relief that we had just dodged a bullet.

 

Barely six months before I had never met you, never stayed in the same space you, didn’t even believe in you. The one thing I knew was that, for this young man, it was anybody but Goodluck Jonathan. But then you filled me with such hope, because you appeared to finally carry on your shoulders the burdens of an exhausted, furious generation.

 

I was as furious as anyone. Actually, I was more furious than most. Furious enough to burn bridges, risk backlash, annoy friends and family; to cross the divide to vote and work passionately for a man I had voted for reluctantly, even bitterly, only four years before.

 

It was like a miracle. I never believed this was going to happen. I never believed an opposition leader could win an election in our country; I never believed that citizens could make this change happen in my lifetime.

 

It was so hard to believe that I continued to argue with my team, right up to time that the incumbent president conceded. Our data already projected your win, but I refused to be seduced, memories of Karl Rove making a fool of himself on Fox News over a quixotic Mitt Romney win in 2012 haunting me. “Push all the votes from the South-East and the South-South to Jonathan’s column,” I said to my colleague Joachim MacEbong. “Assume Buhari gets zero votes there. What we have now is too deceptive. An opposition candidate can’t win with such a margin.”

 

I couldn’t believe it, until it happened. Some days, even now, I wake up and I almost still can’t believe it.

 

From 2010, when I became active in civic spaces, this had been the dream: to have a citizen-led movement that could put the fear of God into the political establishment.

 

I had spent days on the streets, in protest, at risk to life and business. I had sat in countless meetings and strategy sessions. I had spent millions of my own money invested in this vision. I had spent time in private and group prayer, shouting in pain, sobbing in frustration, crying out for all of this to not be for nothing, for some intervention, for some sign from God that our country would be better, even in our lifetimes. I didn’t believe it could be this dramatic, I didn’t believe it could come to pass.

 

But it did. And when it did, it was enough to overturn my theology of God’s agenda for politics. Because it certainly felt like an answer to our prayers. It certainly felt like divine intervention. It absolutely felt like the heavens had heard Nigeria’s heart cry.  It had to be. This was a miracle. You were a miracle. You were a change, desperately sought. A change, desperately won.

 

But it wasn’t really about you, Mr. President. This was never about you.

 

You were a symbol of our aspiration, you were an expression of a democratic ideal: that the citizen is the most powerful force in any democracy. You were a symbol that we mattered, that our voices mattered. That if we organized, we could defeat powerful forces. That if we came together, nothing was truly beyond our grasp, no possibility beyond the reach of a determined population. That we, truly, are the ones that we have been waiting for.

 

For me, after 10 years of nation building aspirations and five years of activist engagement, you presented the unique opportunity for to all come together. For the networks, and the platforms and the reputation and the skills and the creativity that I had to come to a head, to join the effort to make change happen. And there were many Nigerians who took that risk also, because we saw a ray of sunlight.

 

We thought this was worth the risk. This had to be worth the risk.

 

The many people who worked incredibly hard to get you into office, but then stayed aside and asked for no benefit in return thought it was worth that risk. It was the reason I said no to an offer to join this administration in its first two years, same as many that I know. We couldn’t dare corrupt this one sacrifice – this gift – with the appearance of self-interest.

 

But it’s not just about those who can afford to keep their distance. It’s

more about the many whom your inchoate policies hurt the most –

the people you told us you were running for.

 

Remember that woman who wrapped up her entire savings and donated to your campaign? Do you remember her, sir?

 

What would you say to her, if you saw her today?

 

I write this today because I don’t know what happens next.

 

I don’t know if you are well, or how well you are. You haven’t treated us, your citizens, your voters, with the respect of telling us what ails you, how it ails you and how it affects your ability to do your job. Instead you treat us with the scorn and contempt that Aso Rock seems to breed – the contempt of silence.

 

Look at the nation you left behind, as you duck for cover in the United Kingdom: Healthcare so shabby even you can’t rely on it for your own well being. Schools still exactly in the state at which you met them 24 months ago. An economy in shambles. An anti-corruption fight running around in circles. A nation fragmented, with the one time since the 1960s where Biafra has become a dominant narrative – courtesy of tone-deaf ethnic-coloured politics. Businesses attacked by a combination of violent tax authorities and ham-fisted fiscal policies, which seem to punish citizens for the failings of past governments and inadequacies of this one. Indeed, the anecdotal stories of businesses folded up, investments dried up jobs lost and dreams shattered have become the defining testimony of your leadership.

 

You have taken the hopes and the dreams and the faith that we invested in you, and you have shattered them into many tiny pieces.

 

Is this fair? Is this right? Is this why you ran? Is this what those four attempts were about? Is this the plan you had? Is this the vision you shared? Is this what this was all about – just being president?

 

It is easy for us to hide under the shadow of your acting president, Yemi Osinbajo, who makes it easy to prove citizens right, that we made the proper choice to vote for change and to upset the old system in 2015. It is convenient to turn to him as justification for our wisdom.

 

But the truth is that, for me, it isn’t. You are the man with the mandate. You are the man with the ultimate responsibility.

 

To be honest, there is no regret in voting for you. Even if everything failed, even if your acting president had been a failure, there would be no regret in voting for you.

 

We had a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. As it turns out, we chose the deep blue sea.

 

If that time came again, I would make no other choice, even with everything I know now. With everything I have, and everything I believe and everything I hold dear, I am passionate about the fact that, despite the disappointment you have presented to us, voting what you represented for president was a crucial step in re-making Nigeria, in the long term.

 

I just wish you had made it easier, with your performance, with visionary leadership, with actions and decisions, to justify that choice. I wish we could point to the short term as well as the long term as the vindication of that choice. I wish you had risen up to the occasion, Mr. President.

 

Yes, you care for Nigeria. I know that. Or at least I think I do. But that doesn’t matter. It’s neither here nor there. Love is not just something you say, love is something you do. And there is no evidence, today, of your love.

 

We didn’t vote for you to try your best; we didn’t vote for you to complain to no end, no. We voted for you to make change happen.

 

And no matter what your remaining rabid supporters, either blinded still by anger at Dr. Jonathan, blinded by the comfort of denial or blinded by proximity to power, say, this is the truth: we are disappointed in you. This is not the change we voted for.

 

Of course, there is still a year to make it happen before the politicking fully kicks in, but not today.

 

Instead, disappointment, shame, sadness – that has become your legacy.

 

And it breaks my heart sir.

 

It breaks so many hearts, home and abroad. Those who believed passionately in you. Those who didn’t believe but decided to give you a chance. Those who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for you but still celebrated the possibility of change. Those who rolled the dice and hoped for the best.

 

Your performance, your failings, the ineptitude, it has severely broken their hearts. It has severely broken my heart.

 

I sincerely hope, in your quiet moments of truth, that it breaks your heart too.

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Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha

Healthcare is paramount to improving productivity of the workforce. The more healthy people are, the more they are enabled to participate in economic activities. It is believed, thus, that Rochas Okorocha would prioritize health policy reform within his economic agenda. 6 years after being Governor of Imo state, what is Imo state’s healthcare coverage policy? As someone with a penchant for naming all state programs and reforms after himself, one is compelled to hear now of a robust healthcare system in Imo state: ImoCare? RocheCare? NneomaCare? Or FreedaCare?

 

Imo state’s healthcare system is not different from other parts of Nigeria. Many issues over the years explain the lack of quality and efficiency of the health sector in Nigeria. Most are plagued by inadequate funding/financing models, weak governance and enforcement, poor service quality and inadequate infrastructure.

 

In other cases, household poverty and insufficient risk pooling contribute to this pool of healthcare system inefficiencies. Others include a highly inefficient and declining workforce owing to brain drain and disparate wages among the workforce or even poor quality of health staff.

 

In public or general hospitals, long queues, preferential treatments and high-handedness of the few qualified medical personnel are daily experiences of Nigerians. To compound these, it has taken years to pass a national health policy that has not found proper implementation.

 

Given these factors, Okorocha’s campaign promises for robust health programs in Imo state were a welcome development. “Free Health For all” “New Hospitals” projects were declared to fanfare and pomp.

 

Promised basic health services include the treatment of aged citizens at no cost, and the improvement of medicated services in the state. In most states, these promises does not address the underlying problems of healthcare system in Nigeria, stated above.

 

In Imo state, Okorocha promised the upgrading of facilities and the considerable improvement in basic medical services rendered by the general hospitals. Imo state, however, like so most states in Nigeria, has no specific health policy, besides the generic offers noticeable among all APC states.

 

In all Local governments surveyed, the feedback from respondents posed the same verdict: that healthcare services in the General Hospitals have declined, with lack of sophistication of equipment, and expensive out-patient services for citizens. Respondents also declared that “no noticeable improvement in the employment of quality workforce or rapid standardization of general hospitals” Some of these were confirmed on visits to the Local governments.

 

Many pregnant and feeding mothers complained bitterly of the quality of service and also of expenses incurred during pre-natal check-up and diagnosis. In many cases, these necessitated the decision to patronize private sector hospitals, leading to an increase in out-of-pocket expenditure. This is worse when the lack of consistency in salaries of public servants (who make up the bulge of employment) in Imo state is added to the mix.

 

Rochas Okorocha, like many other governors in Nigeria, has no specific policy objective for initiating “health programs” in Imo State. Many General Hospitals visited are in dire shape years after Rochas’ election. Most users complain of little or no difference between services offered and no difference in pricing for health services.

 

For the gullible public, this strategy of “movement without motion” never fails. Roads that lead nowehere, white elephant and phantom programs that serve no specific economic purpose. It worked, and still works, in Imo state.

 

Okorocha’s crave for political visibility is not lost on the astute. His construction ventures in Imo must be portrayed as “doing something”; construct buildings around the state, even if they cannot be completed or if they are not viable. In 2014, Okorocha’s establishment of new hospitals are not informed by any data but the brash urge to throw money at problems.

 

Njaba General Hospital

 

Without any information on revenue, or how new hospital projects will be funded, Okorocha announced the construction of new hospitals across all the local governments; whereas existing general hospitals have no access to basic clean water, consistent energy, and an acute shortage of medical personnel.

 

Rochas Okorocha started the construction of these new “world class” hospitals in 2014. Many respondents saw it as a calculated move towards the 2015 election towards winning electoral votes within the state. These hospitals were promised to begin functional services by 2015 January and were constructed across the 27 local governments in the state. Till date, none of the visited hospitals have been completed since 2014 when their constructions started.

 

The decisions underlying these new hospitals are impractical, wasteful, and are not based on sound policy qualities (e.g. technical efficiency, equitable distribution of health welfare or allocative efficiency). With high poverty, inconsistent wages, and an over-burdened public health system, many Imo citizen are paying for their healthcare in private hospitals at a high cost.

 

Isiama General Hospital

 

This is the summarized feedback from our visit around the state (all of them are not completed, unequipped, and abandoned):

–          General Hospital Aboh Mbaise (Serving 3 LGAs)

–          Njaba LGA (No Equipment, No Gate, Not Opened, Rusty,  Bushes all over)

–          Orlu LGA (No Equipment, No Gate, Not Opened, Rusty,  Bushes all over)

–          Nkewrre LGA (No Equipment, No Gate, Not Opened, Rusty,  Bushes all over)

–          A “joint” Hospital in Nwagele LGA being run by the Catholic Church, serving about 3 LGAs

–          A “joint” Hospital in Isiala Mbano LGA being run by the Catholic Church, serving about 2 LGAs

–          Ahiazu LGA (No Equipment, No Gate, Not Opened, Rusty,  Bushes all over)

–          Ikeduru LGA (No Equipment, Bushes all over and locked up)

–          Mbaitoli LGA  has NO General Hospital

–          In Ahiazu LGA, The main General Hospital was demolished for a “Timber Market” while the new hospital remains abandoned with rusty walls and bushy environment.

 

Like other states, the main financial model for healthcare coverage in Imo state is on out-of-pocket fees. The loss in social welfare owing to the construction of these new but incomplete and unequipped facilities have huge implications. If completed, perhaps a community-based healthcare insurance partly funded by the state and supplemented by citizens would have been a beautiful model worthy of emulation. This will increase access, affordability (equity) and improve quality (efficiency)

 

 

 

 

 

Okigwe General Hospital

Ahiazu General hospital (demolished for Timber Market)

 

Orlu General Hospital

 

Okwelle General Hospital

 

Naturally, Okorocha, like many other state governors, are in that crucial position to lead sustainable development projects that enrich future generation and not rob them. In fact, the solid performance of many state governors would naturally reinforce the need to implement decentralization as promised in the constitution. Not so!

 

As someone who does not believe in social or political accountability, Okorocha’s health policy in Imo state has been, at best, vague. Given limited resources, what is the policy criteria (efficiency or equity) for setting up 27 new general hospitals? Who is designing them? Who is building them? Who is funding them? Who will operate them? Would upgrading the available ones be a more reasonable option? Is there enough data available to justify the construction of new hospitals? Are the services going to be subsidized? How will it be sustained? What is the financing model?

 

Okorocha’s policies does not state how efficient or sustainable the citing of 27 new general hospitals are. What are these hospitals intended for: primary healthcare or specialist centres? Who is the primary care provider: Government or Private sector? How will they be sustained? Even when completed, what is the model of running these 27 new hospitals? Are they built for private-sector operations while the state at as regulator?

 

Like most of his policy programs, the underlying guidelines for Okorocha’s policy programs are not to correct inefficiencies, redistribute wealth, provide jobs for the people, or advance welfare, or equitable benefit distribution. In a nation where medical tourism account for about USD $1billion, Okorocha’s hospitals and health reforms, and healthcare policy would have been a shining example of how to design and implement healthcare reform in Nigeria.

 

By indulging in repeated half-baked and poor quality construction around the state, Okorocha’s administration is robbing the state in terms of quality of work, resources and effort. This is because most of these buildings have been constructed without transparency, nor were the projects carried out by due bidding or due process. Worse still, with limited state resources, these projects are not completed.

 

Mr Okorocha has wasted state taxpayers fund having spent hundreds of millions constructing his “giant” but empty health centres across the state with none duly completed (except the Airforce centre along Owerri North). In short, Mr Okorocha’s health policies have been half hearted, and mostly have been detrimental to hundreds of thousands of Imo citizens.

 

A perfectly designed healthcare system with a carefully crafted (equitable or efficient) policy would have shown and signalled the seriousness of one Nigerian governor with the heart and will to implement healthcare reform in Nigeria. At best, it would have projected Okorocha as a forthright forward thinking beacon of hope in Nigeria, especially given his ridiculous presidential ambition. An incapacitated but honest president is much better than a brazenly corrupt and incompetent Okorocha.

 

Bamikole Adeleye is currently in Imo State on his Eastern Nigeria Governance Tour.

 

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Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha

Recently, I took a trip to Imo State on a performance assessment tour of the government of Rochas Okorocha. The idea was to see for myself how far activities, or lack of them, of the Okorocha administration, have affected residents of the state.

I began from a small community in Obowo Local Government where, under an apu tree, a pregnant woman in her late twenties sat watching sturdy young men play table tennis. About ten feet from the tennis table parked a few motorbikes whose owners simply sat or stood by, chatting away the afternoon boredom. Behind the woman, under a mud house plastered with cement, two other young men sat on a bench, a draughtboard on their laps, moving pieces of the game up and about the board. One of them, dark and bespectacled, is a fresh graduate of Imo State University preparing to go for the mandatory National Youth Service in June or July.

He refused to give his name for safety reasons, but agreed to talk to me candidly. His tuition in 2011, before governor Rochas Okorocha’s ‘Free Education’ at all levels of education got implemented, was N53,750. Then free education happened, and he was informed tuition had more than doubled to N120,000.

The next session, he was issued a crossed-cheque of N100,000 from the state government, as part of his tuition. He had to beckon on his parents for the remaining N20,000 which made up the fee. He paid the N20,000 – described by students of Imo-owned-tertiary institutions as ‘ancillary fee’ – every of the remaining three sessions he spent in the school before graduation.  Now that he’s done with studies, he has paid N20,000 for the collection of his statement of result, N5000 for what the school termed ‘verification fee’ and another N5000 termed ‘accreditation levy’. He told me that before the era of the current administration, nobody paid a kobo to collect statement of result. He also said he didn’t understand what the other levies meant, but suspected the state government just conspired with the University authorities to impose such levies on students to offset the cost of the so-called free education.

Students of Imo State University who are not indigenous to the state pay the N120,000 in full without any subsidy from any quarters. I was told the N120,000 has recently been upwardly reviewed to N150,000 for certain courses, while departments like Medicine and Law pay tuition ranging from N170,000 to N190,000.

The story was corroborated by dozens of students of the tertiary institution, including others from Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), who I talked to. Although students of FUTO are not part of the beneficiaries of the free education, some of them do have fair knowledge, for reason of proximity, of what goes on in IMSU.

In the State-owned Polytechnic in Umuagwo, indigenes pay ‘ancillary fee’ of N25,000, while non-indigenes pay the over N60,000 for new intakes and less for old ones. Many of the indigenes I spoke to in campus stated that they are on subsidized education, not ‘free’ education.

In the State-owned university, I noticed there were new, big buildings. But they were all TETFUND projects, funded by Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), formerly ETF. The buildings were massive, but scattered in a pattern that suggests the University compound lacked a plan.

A senior student in one of the Biological Sciences told me that lecturers ask students for money and/or sex for grades. I asked if she thinks the authorities are doing anything about it, to which she replied in the negative, insisting that students are victimized if they ever complain.

A male student and his girlfriend resting inside a garden at the centre of the school sounded like lecturers asking money and/or sex for grades was normal. He simply told me it’s what happens everywhere.

FREE HEALTHCARE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN AND NURSING MOTHERS?

The pregnant woman I saw in Obowo told me she doesn’t go to state-owned hospitals or health centres. I asked why. She said there were considerable delays in attending to people, who throng the place in large numbers under the illusion of free healthcare for pregnant women and nursing mothers as always announced in state-owned radio and TV stations. She said people end up spending more in government-owned hospitals than they spend in private hospitals. She said the government-owned hospitals build bills into various exercises that end up amounting to something higher than can even be called medical bill.

The woman spoke in fluent English and dismissed the claim by the state government that healthcare in Imo State was free for certain individuals.

‘Why haven’t you people complained to the state government?’, I asked her.

She acted surprised, and told me everybody knew the state government should not be taken seriously.

‘They just go on radio to say pregnant women don’t pay anything in government hospitals. But we know they are lying’.

I confirmed her claim from a few other pregnant women and nursing mothers in different parts of the State, including Okwelle, in Onuimo Local Government Area and Umuchima, in Okigwe Local Government. A nursing mother in Okwelle told me she was not delivered in government hospital because it was just about the same cost as using a privately owned one. She said the private hospitals were better because the personnel in them treated patients more respectfully.

Among those I spoke with in Okigwe was a trader who pointed at his wife sitting just beside him doing some paper work. He said she gave birth to their last child in the state-owned General Hospital where they were asked to pay for all manner of things, except ‘bill on child delivery’. The sum of all they paid exceeded by far what would ordinarily have been termed bill on child delivery.

I asked his wife to confirm the story, and she smiled, insisting that whatever we heard about free healthcare for pregnant women in Imo State was just ‘a lie’.

To be continued…

Gideon Attah lives in Enugu

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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.