I can't stand newspaper editorials. Being unsigned, I find them deceiving and usually don't even bother reading them. Is the article the opinion of all the senior editors in agreement? Is this the opinion of the editor-in-chief pushing his/her views under the umbrella of the whole editorial staff? Is this just the opinion of two or three editors? Or the opinion pushed by the publisher/owner of the paper, with nothing to do with the individual editorial staffers? It's almost impossible to know the power structure/politics going on among any given editorial staff. I find it hard to believe all members of an editorial board would all agree on the controversial issues looked at in most editorials. Conclusion: If you're going to write an opinion piece, especially one that uses words like "we think", the authors should sign their individual names instead of hiding behind the "powerful" banner of the entire newspaper.
The foregoing sentiment recently expressed in his blog by Moonlight Graham is a common view held by people who remain critical of the idea of newspaper editorial: the unsigned commentary which reflects the opinion of the members of the editorial board and represents a newspaper’s position on contemporary issues either on the local scene or in the international arena. In an age when news as well as rumours travel very fast, critical thinking that is devoid of emotion is very much in short supply today. Our job therefore is to sit back and reflect on contending issues with a view to offering practical guides for their resolutions by way of editorial opinions. Today, we have decided to go out of convention by making our editorial board members to be accountable for their views by presenting 20 ‘editorials’¬--all signed! Recently reconstituted to bring in accomplished professionals in the field of journalism, tested bureaucrats, former public office holders who distinguished themselves while in office and respected lawyers with bias for human rights, THISDAY editorial Board comprises 21 men and women who meet every week and bring their wide-ranging areas of expertise to bear in taking definitive positions on critical issues of the day. And each position taken represents the voice of the newspaper as well as that of its publisher and the editors. It is a delegated power with a responsibility to elevate public discourse within the society and one we have exercised very judiciously.
As we, however, mark the 51st independence of our country today, we have decided not to present to readers the collective position of THISDAY Editorial Board they have been accustomed to reading everyday in the newspaper’s editorial but rather the individual passion behind the reasoned positions. So what we offer readers today are the diversity of voices and ideas that disappear in the anonymity of editorial opinions published on the pages of THISDAY, Sunday to Friday!
In this edition, Peter Ishaka reminds us not only of the significance of clean water but also the politics of it in our country while tireless activist Maryam Uwais passionately argues that we should spare a thought for the vulnerable of our society. Abba Kyari, respected former banker who has no apology for his leftist bent, believes and argues forcefully that an economic reform that is not people-centred is doomed to failure while politician and public policy analyst, Akin Osuntokun looks at the current security situation in the country against the background of geo-political permutations that preceded the last presidential election.
Okey Ikechukwu, himself a veteran journalist and former University lecturer beams his searchlight on the media but Waziri Adio looks at the second coming of Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the economic reform agenda she brings on the table for the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Nasir el-Rufai goes down the memory lane to the various attempts to reform our public service and the task that is still left undone; archetypal multi-media icon, Eddie Iroh writes on the small things that matter while respected human rights lawyer, Femi Falana recounts his recent experience in the city of Jos. Ace broadcaster, Eugenia Abu wants to set up her own security company and I have already sent in my application.
There are fewer people more qualified to tackle the issue of the plights of women as brilliantly captured by Uju Hassan Baba while the reported commercialisation of justice in Nigeria as attested to by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president last week worries politician and business man, Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, who has a healthy distrust for the establishment as well Sonnie Ekwowusi, who shares a similar disposition. Ekanem Etim-Offiong examines the Tony Blair concept of Joined-Up-Government which she argues President Jonathan embraces while Niger Delta activist, Tony Uranta takes on the ‘homeboy-president’ whose unique name also interests Nduka Nwosu just as Emmanuel Onyejena looks at Nigeria’s foreign relations. The choices before President Jonathan are what interests Chidi Amuta but for this reporter, a visit to the United States Military Academy, West Point, early this year offers interesting lessons worth sharing. Of course, the package is not complete without the inimitable strokes of the evergreen Bisi Ogunbadejo whose cartoons brighten THISDAY backpage everyday.
Michael Gartner who in 1997 won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing and wrote the book, ‘Outrage, Passion and Uncommon Sense’ once argued that passion comes from strong opinions yet according to him, too many people are rather ambivalent on critical issues and therefore find it difficult to take a public stand. “You’ve got to believe in something. There are a lot of things I believe in and strongly. And you’ve got to care about what you’re writing or,” he reportedly told an interviewer in laughter, “it reads like an editorial.”
Well, what we offer you today are not editorials. They are the passionate views of the THISDAY editorial board members. We hope you enjoy them.
With more than 20 years in reportorial and management journalism, Amuta has held senior editorial positions as foundation Member, Editorial Board, The Guardian; Chairman, Editorial Board and Editorial Adviser, The Daily Times Group and, until 1999, Chief Executive, The Post Express. Amuta holds a First Class Honours degree and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), where he taught Literature and Communications Strategies for ten years before moving to the University of Port Harcourt.
BY chidi amuta
Most of the 100 days assessments of the Jonathan presidency have tended to be not so positive. The sense of despair is as palpable as the pessimism is widespread. The air of negativity is not helped by the inauspicious incursion of bombs and other violent expressions of group and individual disquiet into our public consciousness by Boko Haram and other violent clusters. But contrary to the dominant temper of the elite, we have reasonable cause to believe that the future of Nigeria is bright and full of positive possibilities.
I thought that the 100-day interim judgments should have been about pointing the administration in the direction of these positive possibilities. They should have been about signposting the roads not travelled rather than lamenting the plight of those lost in this maze. That has not quite happened.
Before we allow pessimism to overshadow the avenues of possibility that ought to be the entitlement of any new administration, let us recover from an imported amnesia. The trap of the 100-day despair is one that the administration did not deliberately set. But it fell into it all the same. In order to appear politically correct and internationally suave, we have gotten into this American 100 day frenzy. So, the Jonathan administration set up its own frenzy of motion when really there was no movement. It went into parading non-events as earth shaking victories, promoting goals as success milestones and rehashing intentions as achievements. Good money was obviously thrown at this charade as has become typically Nigerian when government is celebrating nothing as something.
Between when the ministers were cleared and sworn in and the 100 days tape was a rather short time. The president had to get used to the sheer physical size of his large office as a real president instead of the emergency ‘doctrine of necessity’ arrangements he had before the elections. He had to learn how to walk like a president, how to face his opposite numbers and how to chase off the horde of hustlers and lobbyists that literally besieged his abode and dogged all his steps. Even when the man tried to escape to Obudu to catch some breadth after the grind of electioneering, the locusts escorted him there. It would be interesting to find out if Mr. Jonathan has found time to regain some sanity in Obudu or ever after.
The parade of inanities about the ministerial list was a different matter altogether. When finally the lists were submitted, the Senate carried out a largely non-confirmation exercise. May be the President should have attached portfolios to his lists. That would have made sense so that the ministerial nominees would be engaged and screened on their specific areas of intended assignment. That, sadly, did not happen. Therefore, so many huge camels went through the wide eyes of the Senate needle.
It may have taken even some time for the ministers, most of whom have not run a corner shop before, to settle down, study their briefs, understand their portfolios and generally come to grips with the way government works let alone deliver any tangible results. I do not know of any school where they go and learn how to be a Nigerian minister. The best schools of public policy may equip you with the best theories on public expectation management but they do not teach you how to navigate around thievish civil servants, how to dodge a vicious press, how to respond to an army of emergency contractors and how to deal with politicians of all hues. So, it may have been quite some learning period for both Mr. Jonathan and his key appointees. It is not over yet!
In the United States from where this 100-day Presidential interim assessment template emanated, the president is likely to have undergone considerable tutelage. He has probably studied the history of the nation and the very institution and decided which of America’s former presidents he wants to model after. The institutions for the discharge of presidential functions are fairly stable. The likelihood that most of his cabinet nominees may have been drawn from among seasoned policy makers, legislators, private sector chieftains and tested academics would be higher than normal. They do not get there and start learning the ropes. Nor is the cabinet populated by inconsequential political chieftains surrogates and untested hands who successfully hawked their resumes to the highest levels of the corridors of power.
Also, an American president can fall back on institutions that work, a congress that is not just learning the distinction between a motion and a bill. The Senators he has to confront and work with are likely to be as authoritative on Iraq and Afghanistan as they are on hurricane Katrina and he national health bill. They in turn are supported by a battery of informed assistants, legislative aides and research libraries both private and congressional.
But here, we are dealing with, in many respects, both an apprentice president and an apprentice National Assembly waiting on a commercialized judiciary to usher them onto their respective roles. Each of them has a business plan in his pocket and so every piece of legislation that comes their way is literally a merchandise. For the president, political survival and basic executive effectiveness is reduced to a casino option: deal or no deal?
And yet we insist on assessing a presidency that has hardly gathered traction simply because the Americans judge their presidents preliminarily in the first 100 days! This writer has always insisted that we should not make a separate set of rules for Nigerian public officials by lowering the standards. But I realise that the job of president of Nigeria in its present problematic format is too peculiar and daunting for anyone to make sense of the ruin in just a 100 days. There are realities that we cannot leapfrog.
I have since learnt that democracy is like a religion. It has its rituals. And rituals take time to observe. Delay in the choice of ministers, for instance, and the whole gamut of processes and rituals that took place before they were actually sworn in are all part of the type of democracy that we have chosen. Religion without ritual is not likely to deliver salvation! And we must bear the consequences of our choice of political faith. I suspect that too much time spent under unreflective military juntas has created in the Nigerian psyche a certain microwave pattern of expectation of results in the public sphere. But governance in a democratic setting is not exactly as straightforward as cookery.
That is just as far as we can go with generous concessions. While no one would justifiably fault Jonathan for not righting all the wrongs in our national life overnight, it is also true that he may have lost the real meaning of the first 100 days. That was time required to lay out the plans on nearly every affliction that this land is suffering from. We wanted to see the road map on nearly every thing that is important to us.
Jonathan was elected at a time when the nation is reeling under a concoction of dysfunctions. We expected him to have spent the first 100 days telling us in clear terms how our kids will start passing their exams, how our public hospitals and clinics will resume healing people instead of assisting deaths. We want to know when and how the president will dismantle the oligarchs that are fleecing the nation through fuel subsidy, when and how our police will start fighting crime instead of aiding and abetting criminality, how and when our universities will rank among the best in Africa at least. We were anxious to hear from the president how he will create those jobs he has been talking about in real terms. There are more. For a president that holds a Ph.D and has had the longest tutelage in national history in the presidential mansion, these are not too much to expect.
It is the eloquent silences on these issues and more that have added up to create the whirlpool of despair and the ocean of disillusionment in which the nation is being drowned gradually. I believe that no other President in our recent national history has been as lucky as Goodluck. He was Vice President to Mr. Yar’dua. He became Acting President when Yar’dua’s precise state could not be determined. When Yar’dua eventually expired, the man became President, an unexpired tenure that lasted over a year. Taken together, it could be said that Jonathan is one president that has had the longest tutelage in actual presidential duties in our history so far. That alone heightens the expectations and elevates the bar of public anxiety on the perception that he has not yet stepped up to the plate of his job description.
To that extent, it is natural to expect that he should have done most of his homework in this period of extensive tutelage. He should not be groping for policy options up to this point. That is the critical trepidation that his relative inactivity and fuzzy direction in these first 100 days has set off. People are afraid that the president is too deliberate, too ‘absent’ in his presence that people find it difficult to find his signature on practically anything. His self-effacing nature is not too great for the job description of President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
What I find rather curious is this President’s sense of priority. In his role as president, there are, to my mind, two options and one imperative. The two options are between bread and butter issues and matters of super structure i.e. Constitution and forms of government. So far, the president has placed more emphasis on the latter to the detriment of the former. And because social and economic conditions are worsening, no one is impressed by the president’s good intentions and exertions in the area of constitution amendment. It is not that his initiatives are not laudable. It is just that too many people are hungry, cannot find jobs, are angry and are losing confidence in the efficacy of government as a mediator in their entrapment in the vice grip of the fangs of adversity in an increasingly dangerous country.
Incidentally, the primary compelling imperative right now is the preservation of the unity and integrity of the federation and the effective and urgent mediation of the existential enemies that confront most people. It would be tragic if the president allows this twin imperative to slip through his fingers under pressure from greedy legislators. The question glaring us in the face and the president in particular is whether the survival of the nation is best guaranteed by a spanking new constitution or the immediate amelioration of the existential emergencies on the ground.
In seeking to retrace his lost steps and get back to grips with this overriding imperative, the president must quickly find a strong voice and confident feet to tell us exactly what he means when all that can be said in his favour is that he ‘means well’.
A 1980 Bachelor of Arts Degree holder in Sociology from the University of Warwick, England, Kyari also holds a BA and MA in Law from the University of Cambridge, England and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1983. He was Executive Director, United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA Plc) and later, the managing director & chief executive of the bank. Between 1988 and 1990, he was Editor with the New Africa Holdings Limited, Kaduna, (publishers of Democrat Newspapers).
Whose Economic Agenda Please?
BY Abba kyari
Since independence, Nigeria’s economic policy under various governments was seldom subjected to critical public discussion, an important ingredient of good public policy. This is hardly surprising. Post-independence democracy was short-lived. Most of our recent past was under military regimes, which lay no claim to popular mandate.
Yet even our experience in the last 12 years of civil (not necessarily democratic) rule is no better as we seem to be missing the very essence of democracy. What we refer to as dividends of democracy, is about building hospitals without doctors, nurses, equipment, technicians and drugs or constructing buildings and calling them universities without laboratories, libraries, quality teachers and more important, student intake with the adequate preparation.
Yet at the heart and centre of democracy is the opportunity it provides for us to discuss publicly and openly, government policy, especially the economic policy direction of the country, which determines the question of social justice – the ultimate objective of all decent societies. Social justice cannot be achieved by concentrating our minds on rotating power, but only by eliminating poverty/and reducing inequality. If we do not act to correct the enormous variations in wealth and opportunities within regions and between regions with such severe inequality, we may be heading for crisis of governance. The democracy we are now celebrating will not endure in a poverty stricken and unjust society. We may be the most religious people, but as one of our greatest reformers, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio said: “a kingdom can endure with unbelief, but it cannot endure with injustice”.
The pertinent question is: do we now have a policy from the stand point of the totality of our national economic and social objectives that we are all conscious of and in broad general agreement with, adequately stated and widely accepted as the foundation of the future of our society? The simple unequivocal answer will seem to be No. No doubt, some will differ, because there has been so much hype about the role of a distinct ‘economic management team’ operating outside of and above the conventional machinery of government, implementing their reforms. This to some extent is true, more so when the reform agenda is anchored on the dictates of the Washington Consensus: privatization, liberalization, de-regulation and minimising the role of the state.
For a democracy, our reforms of the last 12 years and their implementation might as well have been dictated by the politburo of a communist party! It is formulated and executed through top-down imposition by a group styling itself as a technocracy not constrained by politics because the team is only answerable to the president and not the people. But in a democracy, policies that determine the future well-being – the social and political stability of our society – should be in the realm of politics and be subjected to full public discussion. The issue of public discussion and social participation is central to the making of good policy, within a democratic framework. Societies and situations differ and the answers will be different in different countries, but luckily for us, there is accumulated evidence of over a quarter of a century of various reforms strategies, conceived and implemented all over the world and from which we can learn some useful and practical lessons. These reforms have been implemented in the developed economies, developing economies and the transition economies – those of the former communist system of Eastern Europe.
One aspect of the reforms is privatization. Hereto, the institutions fall into different categories: ordinary businesses; public utilities and social services. Privatizing NICON – an ordinary business is fundamentally different from privatizing an essential social service like the National Hospital. The models of development also differ. There is the American Model, the Swedish Model, the East Asian Model and the European Social Model.
Lack of public discussions and consideration of the consequences of the different options and strategies, has led us to be foisted with the Washington consensus, the reform policy favoured by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United States Treasury. Its all-purpose solution is down-size government, deregulate, liberalize and privatize in a rapid, big bang, big push fashion, focusing GDP growth and not equity – unfettered freedom for the market and all our problems will be solved.
The Washington consensus, is, in certain respects the younger cousin of the World Bank/IMF cure for all economies in the 70s and 80s – devaluation, removal of subsidy, free trade whether the country was developed, less developed or downright poor – last in the chain and the queue.
These were the Structural Adjustment years. That SAP was a disaster is not in doubt. We now also know why it was such a disaster. It was never a detailed study by the World Bank. Professor William Easterly, a veteran of World Bank for 30 years has revealed that SAP was the brainchild of the then World Bank President, Robert McNamara who sketched out the idea on a flight - to occupy his mind - from the US to Belgrade for the Annual World Bank/IMF meeting in 1979. The IMF signed off on it. We too signed off. The result to us was not a devalued currency but a debauched one.
But as noted by Michael Klein and Bita Hadjimichael, both World Bank Economists, attempts to adopt a market economy approach have not always been successful. After a detailed study, they concluded that (1) privatization has often been abused by powerful groups and those with political connections. Russia provides a dramatic case of privatization run amok. The Russian experience is fully documented in a book by a former research economist at the World Bank, Cynthia Freedland, titled Sale of the Century, where she noted: “Russia’s new capitalists had grown dizzyingly rich in a remarkably short time, but it had done so without lifting the rest of the country…..Its fortunes were not based on new technologies, more efficient services or more productive factories. Instead, they were built by capturing…..the country’s oilfields, nickle mines……And once they had secured their loot, they whisked it away to safer havens abroad”.
Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) spared itself the agony of rigging auctions in favour of Transcorp. It was simply designated as a preferred bidder to pick and choose what institution to acquire at what level of investment and determine its schedule of payment. Transcorp’s key words are instructive: ideas, opportunities and wealth. Notinvention, innovation, production or service. Its ideas are how to connect to political power for it to have the opportunity of acquiring the country’s wealth for its shareholders. Milton Friedman, the dean of the unfettered free market orthodoxy, whose Chicago school provided the intellectual foundation for the policies of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations and for the murderous regime of General Pinochet in Chile, once had three words of advice: (1) Privatize (2) Privatize (3) Privatize. But recently he was humble enough to admit that he was wrong and said: “It turns out that the rule of law is probably more basic than privatization”.
The challenge facing us in Nigeria is to decide where to strike a balance between public good and private interests; between the visible hand of the government and regulators and the ‘invisible’ hand of the market! It is worth noting that even Adam Smith, the father of the Western style market economy, did not envisage an unfettered freedom for the market. He had conceived of control in the financial markets. This must have informed Mr. Amartya Sen’s statement that because ‘market signals can be misleading and the consequences of the free market may have much waste of capital resulting from private pursuit of misguided, myopic enterprises or private waste of social resources”. Adam Smith was also concerned about the gap between the rich and poor.
It also bears pointing out, as observed by Joseph Stiglitz, that: ‘the conventional wisdom that the United States development was the result of unfettered capitalism was wrong. Even today the United States government plays a central role in finance…..the United States was partly successful because of the role that its government played in promoting development, regulating markets and providing social services”.
The other orthodoxy which has been discredited is that government is the obstacle to development. But as noted by the repentant neo-conservative, the American academic Francis Fukuyama:- ‘state building as opposed to limiting or cutting back the state, should be at the top of the agenda”.
It is therefore abundantly clear that the unfettered policies of the Washington Consensus were never conceived by Adam Smith nor practised by the United States government in its early state of development or even now. Where the Washington Consensus was pursued to the letter, as in the former communist countries, particularly Russia and Latin America, especially Argentina, it wrought social misery of monumental proportions on those societies. The social and political chaos in Argentina was such that the country had five Presidents in the space of the last 10 days of 2001.
In view of this, our major task will now be to order our priorities. At first instance, we have to rebuild the institutions of state: a professional and independent judiciary; a professional and incorruptible police force and well trained professional civil service. Even a market economy requires an effective state for its operations to flourish. An effective state will then clearly stipulate the appropriate legal and regulatory regimes with a strong but equitable tax regime.
It is only then that can we meaningfully embark on any reforms that will be of use to the country. Such reforms should be appropriately sequenced with the objective of combining the pursuit of sustainable growth and human development strategy by devoting massive resources to education and health care in order to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. In short we should put people at the centre of the reforms. Development should be about transforming lives of people, not just transforming economies or sterile government statistics. Growth should be about people and their lives and not statistical G.D.P. growth figures. We should move from policies of trickle-down economics to a strategy based on a comprehensive development with equity. Today, we are not just faced with poverty, but extreme poverty, which requires special attention and conscious effort to tackle, by pursuing pro-poor polices to turn our rural residents into economy/boosting consumers by massive investments in agriculture and provision of subsidy where necessary as part of an over-all pro-poor intervention to achieve a balanced development programme.
The emphasis on the poor cannot be overstated, particularly if we go beyond the world Bank’s narrow definition of poverty, to mean low income. Poverty is beyond that. It is, as defined by Amartya Sen, ‘about too many people having little access to health care, basic literacy, to sanitary arrangements or to clean water and spending their lives fighting morbidity, often succumbing to premature mortality.’ Sadly, today this is the lot of the majority of our brethren. It should be obvious to us that this dreadful poverty and appalling deprivation cannot co-exist with the unprecedented private opulence of the few. It is both morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable.
As at now, due to want and deprivation, the ballot paper has been rendered irrelevant as an instrument of facilitating the democratic process. It is a mere commodity of exchange value – a loaf of bread or a hundred Naira note buys a vote – money politics devoid of ideas and selfless service. What is the way forward? We must de-colonize our minds; re-build the institutions of state with competent, professional personnel imbued with the ethos of public duty, capable of independent judgement to face our enormous social and economic challenges. The reforms needed to face these challenges will not be about statistical GDP growth without equity. They have to lead to a rising standard of living for majority of citizens and must foster greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness and dedication to democracy.
With a first degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University and MPA from Harvard University where he was also for one year a Fellow of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Adio has varied work experience, ranging from the media to international development. He is lead consultant at Think Tank Consultant, Abuja
Needed: A Comprehensive Reform Package
BY WAZIRI ADIO
The return of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in an enhanced capacity as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy has forced many skeptics to start taking this government more seriously. You may disagree with the neo-liberal underpinnings of her interventions, but you can’t successfully accuse Madam NOI of being clueless or feckless. At least with her, you can be sure that the economy will be rescued from auto-drive, and that economic reform will be high on the agenda again.
So much is expected of her that in popular imagination she has been cast in the mould of Moses. However, the Super Minister, in her usually earthy and understated way, has had the good sense to quickly confess that she is not a magician. And to be sure, there is no pre-determined, magical outcome here. Her second coming may further burnish her earned reputation as a tested reformer, or may savagely unravel the mystique. Time will tell. However, beyond her own authoritative expertise, a lot more will depend on the interest, the will, and the protection offered to her and others by the authorizing environment.
In the meantime, we have good reasons to start talking about the not so small business of reforms again, based on the presence of a sprinkling of reformers in this government and the loud fact that President Goodluck Jonathan campaigned and ostensibly got elected on a Transformation Agenda. A good place to start will be a review of the much-celebrated reform programme under President Olusegun Obasanjo. This was the redeeming patch for the former president and the singular item that earned our returnee minister, and Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and others their stripes.
A lot was achieved on the economic front, from macro-economic stability, through extractive sector transparency, due process, healthy savings and external reserve, to debt relief, and the anti-graft war. But there were major design flaws, chief of which was a narrow definition of the problem that ailed, and still ails, our country. The organizing logic of the Obasanjo reform was that once you fixed the economy, every other thing would fall in place. So while so much was initiated and achieved on the economic front, very little was done on the political front—and that very little was evidently superficial and self-serving. Today, we are all witnesses not only to the danger of mono-cropping in policy reform but also to the veto power exercised by politics. As they say, politics trumps all else.
The second major flaw was the failure of the reformers to build a political and popular constituency for reform. There was an implicit assumption that the reform would sell itself and all that was necessary was the political protection from President Obasanjo, who had no scruples stream-rolling anyone on his path. But presidents come and go; and reforms by nature are contentious and political. The elite Economic Management Team was not expansive enough to even include the official propagandist, the Minister of Information, a clear indication that public communication was not a priority. And what could approximate for the reform communication strategy was a lame and sporadic, self-righteous railing against vested interests, as if you could have an economic/political terrain without vested interests and as if you could just uproot vested interests through mere demonization. Well, the vested interests showed they owned the game. They waited it out, and regrouped even before Obasanjo left the scene. The few gains of that era were effortlessly rolled back without as much as a fight from any quarters mainly because the reformers failed to build the needed constituency of support.
To his credit, President Jonathan has restored the captain of the Obasanjo reform team and appointed a few other technocrats. With luck, Obasanjo’s kind of feat might be achieved. However, my wager is that the effects will still be superficial and a few years later, you will still be back at the foot of the hill, like Sisyphus, to restart the process of moving the boulder up again. This is because there is little to suggest that critical lessons have been learnt from the not-so-distant past which is the obvious reference point for this administration.
There is still an evident narrow focus on the economy. This will not cut it. To successfully reform and transform Nigeria, we need a more expansive definition of the problem with our country and we need to dispense with the fiction that we can only do one thing at a time. Our problem goes beyond the economy, and in fact most of the economic problems have political and cultural underpinnings. What we need then is a robust and holistic reform package implemented faithfully and effectively, managed with political sagacity, and communicated clearly and creatively.
For instance, you cannot successfully fight corruption (which many frame as an economic problem) without tackling its political and social roots. Changing the economic incentive system, prosecuting a few people and ensuring a semblance of transparency through procurement reform and publication of revenues to different tiers of government would not be enough in a political and social system that is predatory, patrimonial, unrepresentative, non-participatory, and unaccountable.
You will merely be scratching the surface until you are able to implement political and social reforms that bridge the disconnect between state and society, that eliminates what Professor Peter Ekeh memorably called the bifurcation of morality in our society, and that restores real power and ownership to the people. Similarly, you can neither grow our economy sustainably nor deepen our democratic practice reasonably without instituting a robust programme to implant the values that underpin prosperity and democratization. From seemingly little things such as our respect for time, our eagerness to shunt queues, our work ethic, our sense of entitlement, our tolerance of difference, our win-by-all-means mentality, and our attitude to public property—our society reeks of dysfunctional behaviours that clearly undermine economic growth, social cohesion and democratic consolidation and put us in the category classified by some scholars as progress-resistant cultures.
The inconvenient truth is that we cannot successfully reform Nigeria without reforming Nigerians; likewise, we cannot successfully transform Nigeria without transforming Nigerians. We need a creative and comprehensive mind reform programme, one that goes beyond lame preachments, vacuous slogans, and needless propaganda for government. We need a thorough-going programme on attitude change that is steeped in psychological, sociological, anthropological and communication research; that is deep enough to probe into the values, attitudes, beliefs and cultural narratives that undergird the dysfunctional behaviours standing between us and progress; and that is imaginative enough to use existing cultural symbols and tools to tackle what is evidently a cultural problem.
With the return of Madam NOI and the inauguration of the economic team, there is something to suggest that the Transformation Agenda is more than a mere campaign slogan. It is a good starting point. But it is not enough, if the real goal is to transform Nigeria. Economic reform should be complemented with political and values reforms and conscious efforts should be made to create political and popular supports for the reform programme. Doing otherwise or pursuing reform in a self-serving way is counter-productive and a waste of time and resources. It is worse than doing nothing.
UJU HASSAN BABA was called to the Bar in 1981, she served initially as a prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice of Kaduna State, until she was appointed the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Anambra State. In 1999 she became the Director General of the Nigerian Legal Aid Council, a platform she used to introduce several significant reforms and innovations in Nigeria's foremost provider of pro bono legal services.
Nigerian Women as Endangered Species
BY UJU HASSAN BABA
From the banker who was allegedly killed by her violent husband to the widow who is forced not only to forfeit the property of her late husband but also to endure some barbaric rituals, it has become increasingly frustrating to find that within the framework of our fledging democracy, laws, development policies, plans, the rights and protection of women in difficult circumstances remain a mirage.
Yet now more than ever, our government, at all levels, must recognize and acknowledge the need for the protection of women who are victims of domestic violence. Indeed all forms of violence against women, physical and mental, whether at domestic or societal level, including those arising from customs, traditions or accepted practices, should begin to attract severe sanctions if we must deal with what is fast becoming a serious societal problem. The dearth of comprehensive measures to address violence against women in the family and in the society actually exacerbates the situation. Sadly, there is yet no national legal framework for the resolution of marital conflict arising out of domestic violence.
The problem of domestic violence results from the failure of the legal system to treat as a crime, the battery and rape of women by husbands or lovers while selective tolerance for domestic violence stems from cultural norms that encourage men to abuse their wives or partners. The federal government's National Policy on Women signed in July 2000, was formulated among other reasons, as an "expression of government commitment to the development of all sectors of the population and to the institutionalization of processes to pilot the Nigerian society towards social equality, justice and a more improved quality of life" and also to "ensure that the principles and provisions as contained in the Nigerian constitution are effectively enforced".
The relevant constitutional provision is section 34 of the 1999 Constitution which deals with the right to dignity yet how these expressions have marked a shift in the approach to violence against women is still being awaited. Furthermore, the National Policy also embraced the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This is lip service at best, as Nigeria is yet to domesticate CEDAW in accordance with the provisions of section 12 of the 1999 Constitution, an expression of commitment that would inevitably pave the foundation for a systematic legal framework that will be more responsive and gender sensitive to women's need, especially in cases of domestic violence and personal assault.
It is important that we understand that domestic violence transcends the confines of the home. The friends and neighbours who ignore the plea for help or excuse the violence, the doctor who mends the bones and cleans the cuts and bruises and the policemen and judicial officers who refuse to intervene in a "private family matter", will be held responsible for failing to uphold and protect women's right to security, life and dignity of person.
The Media should also strive to apply professional guidelines and other self regulatory mechanism to remove gender stereotypes and promote balanced portrayals of women facing difficult circumstances.
The Bashorun of Oke Imesi who holds a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of Lagos is a respected media practitioner who had served on the editorial board of The Guardian before becoming Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He is the immediate past Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Where Do We Go From Here?
BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN
The immediate backdrop to this commentary is a news item on the international cable news channels to the effect that a bus carrying children had been ambushed and blown apart somewhere in Pakistan. This was quickly followed by the report that the Taliban had taken credit and responsibility for the attack. And I was outraged-to the extent of thinking out loud that I will volunteer to go and fight any such group that deliberately perpetrated this heinous crime.
These are Pakistani (not even American, Indian or any hated foe) children for God’s sake! And what was their crime? They are from a pro government tribe in Pakistan, says the Taliban. Not long ago, a similar attack was launched against the United Nations building in Nigeria by the Boko Haram. The rationale? The UN supports America and Nigeria in their antagonism towards Islam. Never mind the implausibility of this accusation-most certainly as it concerns Nigeria. Now this allegation was being levelled at the precise moment that the Palestinian government was vigorously seeking to become a member of the global body. So far as we can discern, the root casus belli of international Islamic solidarity (both moderates and extremists) is the angst over the interminably unresolved Palestinian-Israeli dispute. And here, in Nigeria, is an ostensibly Islamic army attacking the same organization in whose expansive bosom the Palestinians are seeking shelter and cohabitation.
In counterpoise to the Boko Haram notoriety is the low intensity genocidal crisis festering in Jos and environs. What we have learnt of this notorious duo goes as follows; The Boko Haram previously existed as a mostly inconsequential extremist sect hobnobbing in the Maiduguri-Bauchi axis and were given to infantile bouts of impotent rage and fits of tantrum.
Former Governor Alli Modu Sheriff subsequently raised its profile by clandestinely recruiting it for the impious role of political musclemen. Down the road, the relationship went sour and in the thick of a particularly vicious and escalating political violence, the Governor dumped the recruits and ratted on them to the police. Boko Haram leader, Mallam Mohammed Yusuf and a sizable proportion of his army were soon captured and were set to tell and reveal all that had been transacted in covert political maneuvers. And then Yusuf was silenced by police bullets-impunity style-dead men don’t talk. And all hell had since been let loose.
The Jos metropolis is the political, economic and social hub of what many Nigerians-especially those of us from the southern half of Nigeria- were made to know and accept as the Christian middle belt. The mostly pleasant cool weather matches its socially relaxed and accommodating mien and made it a destination of choice for Europeans seeking to recreate temperate weather and culture in Nigeria. In view of the dire electric power straits Nigeria is presently steeped, it is apt to recall the unique and localized power grid that made Jos the exception to the culture of power crisis in Nigeria. From electric power let us now move to political power. In the geo political distribution of power in Nigeria, the Christian middle belt identity strikes an independent chord and connotes a subtraction from the notion of the defunct Northern region as a hegemonic political monolith. Increasing emphasis on this identity, it seems, provoked two contradictory reactions.
The Christian\indigene alliance seeks to press home on this advantage by appropriating Jos as its exclusive political fiefdom. The creation of the Jos North local government (correspondent to the concentration of a Fulani Moslem population) by the General Ibrahim Babangida military government might have been differently motivated; it however had the countervailing effect of challenging or correcting this notion. For those of us who did not know better, the existence of a Northern Moslem enclave in the centre of Jos was news. The logic seems to work out thus: If the Christian middle belt wishes to highlight and assert an independent identity then the Northern Moslem enclave at the heart of Jos will take heed and follow suit. The gain of one is the loss of the other. On the basis of this negative mutually exclusive definition of interest continues to revolve the spasmodic Rwanda style violence besieging Plateau state. The good thing is that its potential for Nigeria-wide spiral has remained dormant.
The premature death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in office in 2010 posed a serious political dilemma for Nigeria. The geo ethnic political engineering that brought him to power was rendered ineffectual in restoring the status quo ante of retaining the Presidency in the North for eight years. There was no argument as regards the constitutionally prescribed accession of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to the office of the President. The contention arose over the absurdity of requesting Jonathan to preclude himself from contesting for the President in the 2011 elections in order to retrieve the Presidency for the North. No less contentious was the burden of responding to the legitimate position of Yar’Adua’s geo-ethnic constituency in seeking a compensatory restoration of a political lifespan of eight years cut short by five years. Lack of common ground between the conflicting positions resulted in the recourse to the arbitration of power politics. The supremacist struggle was twofold. First was the intra party (PDP) primaries and next were the general elections where the competition effectively reduced into a contest between President Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. On both counts, Jonathan effectively prevailed and in a fairly credible manner. The detraction from the elections was the banner of the ‘North’ versus Jonathan that was raised and waved in the intra party primaries and the Presidential election proper.
In all elections there are winners and losers and no matter how fairly they were won and lost, it is human for losers to suffer the loss in varying degrees of deprivation. In the last Nigerian elections, the loss was made uniquely Northern, first by the death of Yar’Adua; second by the brazen enactment of Northern particularism in the gang up of President Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, General Aliyu Gusau and Governor Bukola Saraki to contest the PDP Presidential primaries; and third by the Northern electoral based strategy of General Mohammadu Buhari in squaring up against Jonathan.
There was the element of blind fury and rage in the eruption of widespread violence across the North that attended the elections-substantially unrelated to the credibility status of the elections-but inevitably related to the fire of Northern animus stoked by the camp of the afore mentioned protagonists. There is however a limit to the extenuation we can seek or locate in the sense of collective political injuries. If the North feels short changed, there is also a valid sense in which the emergence of President Jonathan himself represents a redress of the incontestable injury suffered by the Niger Delta collective in its mainstay role of oil bearing economic guarantor of the Nigerian federation and on account of which it had suffered unconscionable despoliation.
This is reinforced by the embarrassing fact of its being the only region yet to (as of 2010) produce a Nigerian President or Prime Minister in and out of uniform. This double or triple jeopardy probably ranks the Niger Delta highest in the dubious hierarchy of injured and marginalized regions of Nigeria. As a marginalized member of the PDP (believe it) from the South West, I was not happy when the North West snatched the sumptuous position of the Speaker of the house of representatives from us but I was prepared to make the sacrifice if it will assuage the hurting Northern half of the PDP in particular and the entire disaffected generality of the North (in taking this position am not sure I speak for the South West if sentiments at the last zonal meeting was any indication).
Am not now ashamed to admit that I was wide off the mark in my naïve assumption that an internationally adjudged credible election will substantially calm Nigeria’s political turbulence and set us on a route away from Boko Haram and the incendiary Jos Plateau. In my limited knowledge I did not reckon that the interpretation of a fairly credible election could become so wildly and violently problematic. Or maybe I got so carried away by what Nigeria potentially can reap with this enormous political capital for the good of all Nigerians especially the impoverished majority. What would have been my reaction if a seer had told me that less than five months after this landmark event, the United Nations building in Abuja would be bombed by a Nigerian terror cell?
The escalation of Boko haram and the Jos crises is again asking questions of the durability of the Nigerian union and those who are fond of talking of the generic ordinary Nigerian who has no problem with the Nigerian union had better check with face book and twitter. The truth is an overwhelming sense of exasperation with the notion of Nigeria. But while we are at it, I think that Vice President Namadi Sambo, who validly lay claim to the political leadership of the North, had better begin to earn that honor. In the same position and in a similar situation, his predecessor (two administrations away) effectively asserted himself and as a result the worst of the Sharia crisis did not materialize. By its own definition, Boko haram is primarily an irredentist Northern moslem phenomenon and it has to be apprehended as such. It is wrong and it is not necessary to insinuate complicity of the Northern political establishment but its passivity towards the crisis is deafeningly loud.
The admonition by the deceased interlocutor that no Nigerian public figure of consequence had reached out to them prior to President Olusegun Obasanjo’s visit could not have escaped attention. Governor Jonah Jang has been seething with rage and fuming in righteous indignation for a long time. I sympathize with him but he needs a clear and cool head that only a measure of respite and detachment can provide. No doubt a middle belt\Berom nationalist, he cuts a figure laboring under extreme pain and distress whenever he vouches to be a fatherly arbitrator to all the indigenes, semi indigenes, settlers and residents of Jos. If the recent concession of the security of Jos to the chief of defence staff amounts to a compulsory six months’ vacation for Mr. Jang, those of us who remember Jos with nostalgia can live with that.
Inevitably and in response to this pregnant political situation, a group of respected Nigerians had recurrently gathered to make the characteristic proposal for the convocation of a constitutional conference (by whatever name called). The proposal is trite but where is the option if we cannot minimally agree on what constitute a reasonably free and fair election let alone accepting it as a basis for the renewal of the much beleaguered Nigerian federation. Indeed where is the option when we have managed to recreate defeat from the tentative victory of the last elections and rendered Nigeria prone to homemade and international terror. Where we should enlist the support and assistance of the UN and the international community with the certification of a positive political momentum, we have emphatically chosen to alienate them with the most unambiguous signal of political regression of this millennium. Alas we have recoiled from the intimations of a political rebirth to restate our commitment to a death wish.
NASIR AHMED EL-RUFAI
He holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Ahmadu Bello University where he bagged a first class degree in Quantity Surveying. He has an LL.B Degree from the University of London, External Programmes and an MPA from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. el-Rufai was Senior Policy Adviser to General Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998-99); BPE Director-General (1999-2003); FCT Minister and Chairman of the Public Service Reform Team (2005-2007)