This is part II of The Tide Roundtable encounter with AC leader Prince Tonye Princewill first published last Monday. Read on.
You sought for an opportunity to effect change in a system you perceived as bad. That, according to you manifested in the emergence of Gov Amaechi. Morally that imposes on your party the AC to help check possible excesses of the ruling party. As an opposition is the AC providing enough checks on the activities of the ruling PDP?
Well it is on-going, you may say, working in progress. I think if you look at it objectively you will see that AC has been vocal on issues of common interest even if we have some level of interest in what is going on. Our views are expressed regularly. Yes, of course, would have liked to have been in the system itself but since that didn’t work, we are where we are. The media has been a fantastic voice and so we are making progress. There are certain things we will like to have seen done differently, at least we have a voice.
One of the biggest checks and balances is the ability to speak. And I believe that the media are a fantastic voice. We have always at any opportunity thanked the media because if not for the media giving us that opportunity to express how we think, it could be impossible for anybody to know our feelings. So, that is one way we’ve been able to put checks and balances on existing system. The other way of course is that we are engaged at the source. I mean the source of decision making.
I am a member of the Economic Advisory Council, most of the state policies are discussed and debated on. Sometimes policies are even formulated in that forum. There are other opposition party members, there are also, a couple of them who are not PDP members, or even politicians. They have the opportunity of saying, you might think this, Mr Governor, but we think that. And that has really provided some measure of restraint on what the governor does. For the first time in about eight years of first PDP government, AC now has some councilors at the Wards and at state level we have commissioners, at Board level we have appointees and I believe the trend is going to continue. It wasn’t there before now. There was nothing like that.
There was no opposition person anywhere. It was just one system. So we’ve been able to create some avenues for alternative views. I think that allows for checks and balances and expect the figures that will continue to increase. In fact, at a recent meeting we had with the governor, we agreed to increase the number of opposition people in various positions across the state. That process is underway and very soon, we will see that reflecting, so I think that when you add all that together you’ll agree that work is in progress.
You resigned from a federal government committee job on the Niger Delta question, why so? And secondly, has the amnesty to militants changed your view?
The amnesty was a retreat or what I see as the break. You’ll recall when federal troops invaded those Niger Delta communities in Delta communities, about 3 o’clock in the morning I said that I can’t continue to work while somebody continues to kill my people.
How can I be involved in nation-building when a part of that nation that I belong is being bombarded heavy-handedly. However, I was relieved and happy that amnesty was eventually pronounced. But before that, some people in the system must have been thinking we are not human beings so we got to a point where I said o.k. This is step one. If you read our statement, you’ll find end to hostilities at the statement, we said that, in the days and the weeks to come, based on the reaction of the federal government’s action we will decide our own next step. So we were happy when they pulled back from that attitude and we saw the amnesty but we discovered that attitude as ineffective because it was good, yes but it was almost as if people were not thinking about the amnesty programme. It seems that it was a rushed job. How would you go and start building centres for people to be turned out when quite clearly that is not the method that has been applied, people have been collecting arms, usually going to people’s camp and collecting the arms from them. Check the budget you see that huge amount of money was put aside for these disarmament centres. It is no longer as if people don’t know what to do with money or they do not even know what they are doing. I regret resigning; of course not because first of all the action required an action that was best suited for the time. And should I go back and work with them, the answer is no because even though they talked about amnesty, what we described as half-baked, there is no international community involvement, that means, there is lack of confidence, immediately before you start.
For those of us who are members of the Presidential Technical Committee, on Niger Delta, amnesty was part of the process. That process having been followed, guns were always supposed to redeem not just the individuals but communities, if Ateke returns three thousand guns or if Ateke returns six thousand guns, there is no difference. So there is nothing that encourages more guns to be taken out of the system because if I am a militant you come back I will give them ten guns. If you have amnesty meanwhile you could have 150, 200, 2,000 guns to starsh away somewhere but you are now a beneficiary of the amnesty programme, the best strategy was that the individual guns should redeem communities so if Ateke comes with three thousand guns, those three thousand guns should be entitled to three thousand people for instance to jobs, three thousand people for instance to education, three thousand people will benefit from three thousand guns, they don’t all have to be militants. They can be just youths because if one gun redeems one person, ten guns should redeem ten people and Ateke might say well, in all my spirit of redemption, I remember, some families were victims of this crisis, please I beg see the man’s name, make him pickin go school so he has used his gun to redeem some other person. That was the only way the root redemption, is through the gun.
Now all these will have been avoided if they had consulted if they had just literally consulted. But of course, this is the same issues I keep saying when you are powerful, you don’t feel you need to talk to anybody. You are used to issuing decrees, you are used to just giving orders, you are used to just taking decision and the ability to build consensus is not something that we think we have to do because to be truthful and building consensus take time.
But what it is, it saves you time later. The event of people of the amnesty committee looks like if you asked them some of them would say, look, we don’t know what we are doing; they are the committee that presupposed to driving the amnesty, they don’t know what they are doing.
If you have consulted with the militants, consulted with the community, consulted with the Oil Companies, consulted with the state government, a lot of the state governors were not consulted, so what kind of a system are we operating, so, I described the amnesty as half-baked, it wasn’t that I was saying that I did not appreciate it. I appreciate it but I expect more of the government, I expect more of the leadership in a country like Nigeria where we have so many resourceful people, the results we produced do not reflect on all the country.
Just follow up, still on the amnesty thing. By first week of October, the amnesty will last, yet there are so many militants that have not surrendered, what will be the next option?
There are variety of options that could come. One is that after the fourth of October, the Federal Government can decide, can step down on people and start to catch people carrying guns. The other is that the amnesty could be extended. The third one is that instead of all out military option, they could be very selected targeted seizures. The position of the matter is that all these scams be avoided, it can be avoided because if you look at all the militant leaders none of them have said that the idea of amnesty is normal. Even MEND has said well, amnesty o.k. but what exactly are you doing after amnesty. Even the governors saying what are you doing for post amnesty, I don’t know whether you guys in the media have heard but I haven’t heard what post amnesty just they probably don’t even know what to do in post amnesty. Post amnesty what they should do is to issue a white paper on the Technical Committee Report and implement it.
That is what post amnesty should be, is just to issue a white paper in this report what are you going to implement; then implement it. And if they go some length to addressing the issue then people will be happy but may be there is a genuine interest in extracting the oil and not putting anything back in which case it will not work; is not about any individual power or individual might, is just justice and ultimately it has to be done and it will be done but I think they are the ones who are under pressure now. I don’t think anybody out there in the creek or anywhere else is worrying too much as what will happen post October 4.
We want to know if attempts have been made to meet with them?
Several attempts have been made. Yes, but I always answer truthfully so I will tell you yes, but like I said I am not comfortable; I can’t be led by somebody I don’t respect and so if we are in a meeting of PDP people, I will start abusing them and they will probably drag me out of the hall. So it will be impossible for me to be led by people I don’t respect. As the chairman of the organised opposition, we were going to see Amaechi but we were taking a plan from him, they said ha, how you go talk like that, I said no, if you people are not going down that part, you tell me now so we stay here, I am leading that kind of delegation. We go there we talked we spoke our minds, when we finished, we feel dignified, but if he gives you Fifty Thousand Naira is not going to change your life so I want dignity because of the hunger level in society.
People become dependent on government; I left the shores of this country with thirty pounds and landed in London in 1991. I landed London with thirty pounds and I built what I have built that brought me back in 2002, 2003 to come and do business in Nigeria, from a position of strength, not a position of weakness. In UK there is no safety net, if you die you die, here you can run to a brother and sister, uncles and things like that there is nobody to run to, in UK so you have to survive and you have to do well. But how did I pay my ticket to London, my father did not want me to go, infact he refused me to go, I hustled just here, opposite Traditional Rulers Council where I was working, selling photocopy machines, and selling computer sets, eventually I managed to make enough money, I was okay. My father said where are you going? From that hustling I paid my ticket, I plaid my way down to London, and I have come back now, I find it so easy because if you put me in a room, I will find the opportunity, that’s the way I worked any other people are sleeping I am awake I am working.
I give a typical example for instance, I arrived International Airport about 2002, and I was watching what was going on, the trolleys were very bad, they were scrapping the ground, after watching carefully and watching carefully I now was able to get some people to put together an idea and through some people I got to the Minister of Aviation and said why don’t we charge for trolleys you go around the world people pay for trolleys. Why don’t we charge for trolleys? The woman was thinking a lot, I said don’t worry, if we charge we will pay you every month One Million Naira.
All those touts at the airport, we will take them, brush them up and they will be dressing neatly, we called the business Sky Blue. Now that business services, is in the new terminal in Lagos. I don’t need to rely on government and that’s why I can speak freely about Amaechi because tomorrow if Amaechi says Tonye Princewilll should not come to Government House, it won’t change my life, but for Christ sake, let us have our voice, let us be free to speak our mind. But if we look at opposition and during party, the difference is just which side of the fence you are.
If I wanted to be in PDP, they will give me a heroes welcome but I would be muffled, I will be part of a system which do not really focus on improving our own system. Is not helping us. Amaechi is trying.
PDP, some of you must be card carrying members of the PDP, not interested in helping the people. That is not; is simple as that. Amaechi sometimes scratches himself on how he can make his policies people friendly?
How does this things affect the common man in the streets. A lot of the policies are not getting to the people. All these roads, they are doing here yes as of August 2008, we have spent about N140 billion on roads. O.k. how is it helping the common people? O.k. Schools they are building plenty schools, how is it helping the common people.
Health centres, of course health centers where are doctors, how is it helping the common people. Microfinance is not working so how are we helping the common people, if you look carefully, you see that the man is trying but his problem is that by the time you rolled the contracts out they will just grab it, it never left these people. So the problem is the common people and is difficult for a governor at his level to supervise that grassroots empowerment so my brother, then they said they want to rule for 60 years, I can assure you that if they carry on the way they are going, there won’t be a Nigeria.
America said that by 2015, Nigeria would disintegrate what did they see before they made that statement what security report did they assess. They predicted the break up of USSR, they predicted the break up of Yugoslavia, they have now predicted the beakup of Nigeria.
If they continue the way they are continuing, there will not be a country to run in 60 years.
Nigeria is in danger of not qualifying for the 2010 world cup, the first to be hosted in Africa, where have things gone wrong?
The time when they scored that second goal, it was as if somebody shot me, I was standing after and I fell down on the carpet in the floor. What sports does for you is that it gives you a false sense, you think that every thing is OK, if my team Manchester United wins today, I will be happy for the whole of the day, I will be happy meanwhile may be I still have problem, I still have issues to address but I forget those issues for that moment in the euphoria of the victory.
And Nigeria has so much going wrong, may be this euphoric, let me call it schizophrenia that would have invaded the country because we are going to the world cup I think it would remove us from the serious issues that we need to focus on that we have problem, of course across the country but also in sports, the problem of leadership. We had a good chance of turning around the very bad situation, Amaechi was helpful in making sure that the team had everything but I think that there are most of the things that even gone wrong that was why a taskforce was even required in the first place.
I think most of the things that went wrong, are all traceable to this same issue of leadership why would people like myself watch football in Europe is because when I watched football in Europe, I don’t know who is going to win, the chances that the likelihood of victory are up in the air, there is not the likelihood that corruption is compromised there is not the likelihood that, fans of a loosing team will descend on fans of the winning team to the extent where people’s lives would be lost, so the leadership of those places have been able to put a system which is sustainable which is appealing and is unfortunate that we have not been able to do likewise here.
Even though people like GLO have come in with money and so and so forth, but the regulatory authority and the leadership of this authorities have been found wanting so what Nigeria should be doing now is not rebranding we just need to fix. The basic issue you don’t rebrand something that is spoilt you fix it and I think Nigeria requires fixing and not rebranding.
To be contd
Human Capital Development …Panacea For Poverty Reduction In Nigeria
Experts have over time emphasised the relationship between Human Capital Development (HCD), poverty reduction and good standard of living. They view human capital development in the light of increasing the number of persons who have skills, education and experience that are required for the economic growth and development of a nation. They also view it as a people -focused plan of action aimed at providing knowledge, skills and productivity for the development of a nation. The World Bank in its publication, “The-Human-Capital-Project-in-Sub-Saharan-Africa-Stories-of-Progress”, states that “Human capital, which is the sum of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, and experience, accounts for the largest share of countries’ wealth globally. “It allows everyone to reach their full potential and is increasingly becoming recognised as a primary driver of a nation’s economic growth.”
The World Bank in analysing how countries have fared with regard to HCD, stated that based on a new index, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa saw major reductions in under-five mortality between 1990 and 2015. It however, stated that “the number of children who die under the age of five mostly from avoidable causes such as complications related to respiratory infections, diarrhea, or malaria, is still high at about 2.9 million every year. “Countries such as Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Nigeria have child mortality rate above 100 deaths per 1,000 live births, one of the highest in the world.” Also, according to the World Bank, Nigeria ranked 152 in the 2018 Human Capital Index (HCI). In furtherance of Nigeria’s poor rating, the World Bank 2020 HCI indicates that, “a child born in Nigeria just before the pandemic will be 36 per cent as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health.
“This is lower than the average for the Sub-Saharan African region (40 per cent) and Lower Middle Income countries (48 per cent).
Nigeria’s poor rating is corroborated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), global data on out-of-school children, which indicated in 2022 that Nigeria has about 20 million out-of-school children. In the same vein, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said a new global maternal mortality report showed that 82,000 women in Nigeria die from pregnancy and childbirth-related cases annually. Part of the fallout of the Nigeria’s poor Human Capital Index unfortunately is the current surge in human capital export popularly called “Japa”, which has led to huge manpower gap in various sectors of the Nigerian economy. This capital export, which has seen doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals leaving the shores of the country in droves, has also led to shortage of skilled manpower. This development has further affected critical sectors of the economy that are key to measuring the level of human capital development like the health and education sectors.
To find lasting solution to the problem of poor HCI, the World Development Report (WDR) 2019 stated that “investing in human capital must be a priority for governments in order for workers to build the skills in demand in the labour market. It further stated that, “governments need to enhance social protection and extend it to all people in society irrespective of the terms on which they work.” To fund these investments in human capital and social protection, the report offers some suggestions as to how governments can mobilise additional revenues by increasing tax base. In view of this reality and as part of efforts to change the narrative, the National Economic Council in March 2018, inaugurated the Human Capital Development (HCD) Programme in Nigeria. The programme is designed in recognition of the critical role human capital development plays in addressing poverty and ensuring sustainable economic growth. It is also aimed at increasing investments in the Nigerian people, thereby improving Nigeria’s human capital development indices.
The immediate past Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, at a Peer Review meeting recently held for HCD State Focal Persons under the programme, said, Nigeria must accord attention to HCD to drive the desired economic growth. He emphasised that human capital development plays a critical role in addressing poverty and ensuring participatory and sustainable economic growth. The former vice president urged the focal persons not to relent in sensitising state governments to ensure the impacts of the programme were felt at the grassroots. “We have since inception made tremendous strides in the implementation of the programme at the national and sub national levels. “Notable achievements included the inauguration of the national HCD strategy, constitution of state HCD councils and technical working groups. “Others are the development of national HCD communication strategy and the organisation of regional HCD conferences as well as strategic partnerships and alliances being forged across several stakeholders’ groups,’’ he said. Osinbajo expressed optimism that the successes achieved so far would provide the needed confidence in implementing the third phase of the programme successfully.
“As we begin the third phase of the programme implementation, the objectives of this programme will be met and the 2030 HCD target will be achieved in all, across the three thematic areas (level of education, standard of living and health of humans).“This phase is crucial to national success as it would be taking HCD to the grassroots where change is most needed and advocacy critical in where the programme is adopted,’’ he said. Osinbajo said that the third phase includes the inauguration of the community-based demonstration of the HCD programme in its simplest form. He said that successes recorded could be replicated across various communities in each local government area across Nigeria. Also speaking, the Coordinator, Core Working Group, HCD in Nigeria, Ms. Yosola Akinbi, said that critical areas of the implementation and management of the programme must happen at the grassroots. While noting that HCD was the software of any development, Akinbi said “we must build a country where the skills will be retained.”
In the same vein, some of the focal persons during their state presentations, said that the core of the HCD drive was the empowerment of youths to have the capacity and skills needed in creating or seeking employment. A participant from Akwa Ibom, Mr. Isaac Uduak, narrated how Akwa Ibom State Government under the former governor, Emmanuel Udom, took labour force participation seriously through its industrialisation policy that leveraged a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to revolutionise industries in Africa. “The average Nigerian will agree that policy formulation has never been a problem, implementation is usually the challenge. “The administration of Governor Emmanuel Udom understood this and went beyond mere policy implementation to ensuring the effective execution of its industrialisation policies in creating wealth for its people,’’ Uduak said.
The Nasarawa State Focal Person, Mrs. Habiba Suleiman, said that the programme in the state was concentrating on youth development. According to her, the Nasarawa State Government through the HCD Office with OXFAM in Nigeria as funding partners had trained youths in courses such as Team Building, Work Ethics and Business Model Canvas. “Others are Problem Solving, Presentation Skills, Telephone Etiquette, Customer Service among others,’’ she said.
In the account of the Adamawa State delegate, Mr. Amos Nuhu, the state under the programme built the capacity of 1, 000 health workers while improving the utilisation of child health and nutrition. “In addition, we have 10 skills acquisition centres and we are providing technical knowledge to improve efficiency for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in shoes and bags making. “More so, the state has its priorities in education through training and retraining of teachers as well as operating free education at the basic level,’’ Nuhu said.
Meanwhile, working in line with the vision to develop human capital in the country, the immediate past governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, had also pledged the state’s commitment to developing the human capital crucial in the growth of industries. He said, “we will work with the entire Nigeria to ensure that we develop the human capital which is needed for the growth of industries. Analysts have opined that the new leadership of the states and the nation should give prior attention to the issue of Human Capital Development, take the works of their predecessors in this regard to higher level and initiate some projects and programmes, where they are lacking, so that more Nigerians will be equipped to contribute to the development of their states and the country at large.
They said that leaders across the three tiers of government should play down on amassing public funds for themselves and generations yet unborn and rather use these monies to rebuild the various sectors of the nation’s economy so that Nigeria will be a better place to live in.
By: Calista Ezeaku
That Drowning Dino Melaye’s Outburst Against Wike
Spewing from the cesspit of imaginary invincibility and bubbling with the arrogance of ignorance and like a nattering nitwit, in his usual juvenile fulminations, verbal diarrhea and audacious mendacity, the silver-tongued Dino Melaye who has been hovering around the skylines of political failures threw a java with such intensity as to make a gravy silence impossible. He was casting aspersions in a most vile and vituperative language and in such depraved light to a man who has been adjudged as a metaphor for promises made and kept, a performance personified, a manifesto copied, a social contract executed and in the legal profession, a life bencher.
Amongst his counterparts “Mr. Project” and further embellished as “Mr. Quality Project”. In the Northern political hemisphere “Sarki Yarki” a sobriquet for political warlord. The man at the center of Dino’s tantrums is Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state.
Dino granted an interview with the ambassadors of the fourth realm estate in his bid to play to the gallery but ended up reaffirming the invigorating words of Dr. Burns that “it is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubts”. In that verbal show of shame, he admitted that Governor Wike supported him in hard currency and otherwise in 2019 in his fruitless political journey to captain the ship of Lugard House because Governor Wike saw capacity and competence in him, but today he has withdrawn his support to show Wike’s unstable character. Wrong Dino! Even the Bible said that Satan was perfect in all things until iniquity was found in him – Ezekiel 28:15. Yes! Dino failed to tell the world that Governor Wike later discovered that he was a native cymbal loud in noise but empty in content which translated him to be a very bad political investment.
Who in his right senses will reinvest in an unprofitable venture? He listed out Governor Wike’s failed political investments in Sandi Olu of Cross River, Albert in Akwa Ibom but mischievously and surreptitiously omitted Dino Melaye of Kogi state. What an incomplete trinity! What a despicable irony of intellectual hypocrisy. Little wonder with his nine acclaimed degrees, a former member of the House of Representatives, a two-time senator and a former aid to the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, the good people of Kogi state saw the word “meretricious” in Dino, meaning: seemingly attractive but without value, and they did not hesitate to throw his vaulting ambition to the trash bin in 2019. Instead of Dino to go back to the drawing board, have a sober reflection and reinvent himself and reintegrate himself to the society, he is busy with a matchet clearing shrubs and bushes for his political Golgotha. That was where Governor Wike was drawing his allusions from when he posited that it is not about presenting a candidate but a candidate that can win election.
It is on record that Dino Melaye is reputed for his hollow mindedness in dishing out noxious vituperations, venomous invectives and narrow parochial attack on elders and champions in giant strides and track records in Nigerian political firmament to foist his voice on unwilling audience. He did that to former President Goodluck Jonathan, to the (president elect) Bola Ahmed Tinubu and now to Governor Wike. Many Nigerians are wondering the efficacious potency of Peter Orubebe’s serum on Dino by his toutish, disgusting display of dishonor at the Abuja collation center in his failed attempt to disrupt the 2023 general election process. Today, Goodluck Jonathan is much celebrated as an ambassador of peace. Political events have shown that a Tinubu in the wheelbarrow is more competent than Dino’s preferred presidential candidate. Governor Wike’s preferred successor has emerged as the Governor-elect of Rivers state. Ayu has been shown the way out. Tambuwal has summersaulted from the highest rung of respect. Sanwo Olu made it in Lagos state. The unsuccessful G-5 Governors have realized that they were the architect of their own fate. They lit the candle and allowed it to burn with the unfortunate end. In political investment like other business investments, you win some and loose some.
Again, Dino Melaye threatened to open his can of worms and maggots on Governor Wike and by extension would make a skit, sing and release album on him. He forgot he was addressing a character and personality that is not too docile to dare. Governor Wike is not perturbed because he has gained freedom from fear tailored by the likes of Dino because Wike is ever ready to face him in any style of the macabre dance that may arise from such conspiracy of cheap blackmail. Worse still, in Dino’s unscrupulous attempt to throw dust on intellectuality, he ended up loading a full cartridge riffle and started shooting himself on the leg by accusing Governor Wike of stealing Rivers state money. Is the intellectually mobile fine boy Dino telling the world that he was actually cladded to look boisterous and attractive to gain acceptability and credibility from Kogi state people with Rivers state stolen money? Is Dino guilty of receiving stolen money? It then follows that if events are properly evaluated, the psychotic disorderliness, mental fatigue and problem upstairs was a direct result obtained from Dino’s personal medical physician.
The self-obfuscating Dino prided himself of being more qualified to be a Governor than Governor Wike. He further asserted that “the territory which Governor Wike is trying to practice is his own primary constituency”. One wonders the logic in such utterance. Has Dino Melaye ever tasted Executive power? Governor Wike is brandished with an unquestionable and robust political pedigree and personality spanning from a two-term Local Government Chairman, Chief of Staff to former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Minister for state Education, Supervisory Minister of State and by May 29th 2023 he would’ve concluded his two-term tenure as Governor of Rivers state. If the linguistic summersault is anything to go by, who is laboring to practice in the other’s primary constituency? A sheer case of “if you want to talk, don’t drink. And if you drink, don’t talk”.
As a party chieftain in PDP, Governor Wike has been as consistent and constant as the Nothern star, yet political prostitutes like Dino Melaye had the temerity to use such foul language as zero-integrity character on Governor Wike. As someone grounded in Yoruba language, Dino Melaye chose to identify himself with a pariah status and a tag identification of treacherous people (gbegboron) when he said “my primary business is other people’s businesses”. This invariably includes knowing the type of clothes people wear, knowing the time the speaker of the House of Representatives arrives, knowing who was smiling, frowning, when a bill was mentioned in the Senate, who called him and how many times. This is the height of pettiness. See him at his lowest ebb, shame!
Let us burst Dino Melaye’s bubble as to whether Governor Wike is preparing to leave the Brick House come May 29th 2023. Governor Wike is the only Governor in Rivers state who has chosen to leave the government house two years before the expiration of his tenure and has been receiving all manner of political candidates cutting across political divides in his own residence. And he is not intellectually impotent as not to know his last day in office, he also reiterated these facts in his address at the dinner party held in his honor for receiving the Award for Infrastructural delivery by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Cynics may cheer and congratulate Dino for his pyrrhic victory at the just concluded PDP primaries in Kogi state but one is tempted to add that there are some victories that are worse than defeat. Dino by his earlier vituperation have succeeded in turning the incumbent Governor against himself, the president elect who he has been derogating in a most uncharitable manner during PDP campaign rallies and now to the political juggernauts in PDP. All political amoury is now let loose against Dino Melaye. If one is given the option to choose between laughing first and to laugh last, one would rather opt to laugh last.
By: Nkem Oputa
May 29: Where Next Nigeria?
Now, Nigeria is without form and void. Darkness covers the face of the deep and the unquiet Spirit is hovering over the land. Africa’s most populous country is at a fresh dangerous crossroads. At the beginning when darkness covered the earth, God said: ‘’Let there be Light,’’ and there was light. Now, Nigeria needs a leader who will command light to outshine the country’s darkness and exorcise the unquiet spirit. Once a country returns to factory-reset mode or Hobbes’s state of nature: Optimism, Peace and Hope disappear, none of our important human needs is reliably realizable in such a milieu.
Indeed, the perfect storm is already gathering, killer herdsmen have since cut short their vacation, they visited an IDP camp in Benue state and massacred over 128 internally displaced people mostly pregnant women and children recently, before zooming off to Sokoto, they had a stopover in Kaduna where reckless kidnapping and killings took place. The DSS came out publicly to declare that the State of the Union is fragile as some VIPs are scheming for something strange to the constitution, threatening that the price of holding the May 29th change of baton event amounts to the death of democracy! Those calling for an interim government seem to be suffering from amnesia, I believe. How productive and stable was Nigeria in 1993 under Chief Ernest Shonekan as Head of ING? Even though protest is part of democracy but due to our peculiarities, unbridled protests at this perilous time can snowball into an uncontrollable disaster. Political protests in a nation-state can bring about a positive change or in some cases, revolution: France, Russia, and Sri Lanka as case studies. However, in a fragile heterogeneous society like Nigeria, political protests often lead to civil war: Ivory Coast, Syria, Rwanda and Fiji as case studies. The youths are fragmented along the nation’s fault lines, which is why the elites must be circumspect in their utterances. Somalia began like this before it became a failed state bereft of a central authority. The court remains the last hope of all aggrieved politicians.
No doubt, Nigerians are hurting for various reasons, how long can we run away from discussing the Nigeria Question? To achieve a peaceful, prosperous and stable Nigeria (PPSN), we need to balance the national equation by either allowing: (a) credible, free and fair elections, or (b) equitable sharing of power among the nationalities, regions and religions in an unadulterated federation, (America model) or (C) considerable autonomy for each nationality in a loose confederation, (Switzerland spec) or (d) self-determination through a referendum for nationalities that desire to exit the union (Czechoslovakia option). Therefore, PPSN= A or B. But where A & B are unavailable or impossible, C or D may become inevitable.
Nigeria faces four possibilities today: Breakout, Breakeven, Bronze or Breakdown. Differently put, Nigeria can become a Gold Medallist (i.e. become Great) or a Silver Medallist (i.e. Good) or Bronze Medallist (3rd world) or Grounded (failed State, CKD- Completely Knocked Down) depending on the choices we make today. To achieve a breakout requires abundant decentralization with a new people’s constitution that contains a referendum clause. This will put an end to the do-or-die struggle for power at the Centre, reduce corruption and wastage, and enthrone accountability and healthy competition among the federating regions. There is no heterogeneous society anywhere or at any time in history that is governed centrally the way Nigeria is, that escaped circular crises, retrogression and eventual disintegration. The lifespan of severely mismanaged countries is about 70 years! The early bird civilization, Europe, fought themselves to a standstill for 100 years before they embraced restructuring, which begot relative peace and unprecedented prosperity. China, South Korea, Singapore, Norway, UAE etc. are new gold medalists.
The second possibility is breakeven (Silver medal). Through a comprehensive reconstruction of the economy’s architecture, running a lean government (e.g. sales of all government assets starting with NNPC, etc. This will reduce corruption by 80% as governance would depend solely on an effective taxation regime. Square pegs would go inside square holes when the government exits the business. Businesses in Scandinavian countries pay up to 50% tax on net profit which enables them to build an egalitarian society with the lowest crime rate in the world. Thailand, India, Turkey etc. are silver medalists.
To win the bronze medal, Nigeria needs to strengthen her institutions, deepen the rule of law, modernize her infrastructure and build harmonious bridges across various nationalities and boost productivity, tame corruption. Rwanda, Bulgaria, and Indonesia are some examples bronze medalists.
The fourth possibility is CKDN – Completely Knocked Down Nigeria, i.e. Breakdown/ Grounded, enmeshed in unwinnable, forever war. Failed states like Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Venezuela (with the world’s highest oil reserves of over 300 billion barrels) Somalia, Afghanistan etc. behaved like an ostrich for too long, ignoring the signals, sound and odour of disintegration. America’s CIA had strongly warned Nigeria in 2015 about CKDN! The incoming administration should, instead of continuing to administer “pain-killer drugs”, go for a “pain-remover surgical operation”! Nigeria’s vital organs (liver, kidney, eyes, lung and heart) are all too weak and failing, pumping Nigeria with more ‘’Panadol’’ or ‘Panadol Extra’ will ultimately lead to stroke. Nigeria should be wheeled immediately to the emergency theatre for a ‘’pain-remover surgical operation’’.
*Lessons from Breakout Nations*!
All breakout nations got four variables right simultaneously: workable structure, sound strategy, competent leadership, and ethically ‘’born-again’’ population. Nigeria’s emphasis has been largely on strategy: visions 2000, 2010, and 2020, the 7-point agenda of YarAdua, the Transformation agenda of Jonathan and the 63-point agenda of the Buhari administration- ignoring the other three variables. The result has been repeated failures and frustrations. There is also the Leadership illusion, i.e. that all Nigeria needs to become a gold medallist is just one ‘Messiah’. No. For any country to win a gold medal, those four variables must be present.
Nigeria cannot be great without a Cultural Revolution, i.e. national rebirth coupled with structural reforms. Everyone seems unhappy about Nigeria’s stunted growth, pointing accusing fingers. The university dons who practice sex for marks, the media empire who built their wealth on blackmail and cash-for-awards, the spare parts importers who import substandard spare parts from China that cause road accidents and deaths, the Pharmacists that import fake drugs from India leading to an outbreak of diabetes and kidney failures, the businessmen who became rich on fraudulent fuel subsidy and kick back on tax weavers, the Pastors and Imams who use offerings and tithes and gifts meant for the general wellbeing of their members and the society to buy private jets and marry 4 wives, the Yahoo Yahoo! Youths, the corrupt civil servants who pocket 80% of the contract sum as kick-backs, the artisans and market women who abuse customers trust, the disabled people on the road who help criminals hide their guns and the terrorists among us are all complaining about the sorry situation Nigeria without first removing the log in their own eyes. Before their respective cultural revolutions, life was short, brutish and nasty in both China and South Korea. We urgently need to have a conversation on national rebirth as a people.
*10 +1 Commandments for the President-elect*
1 Thou shall not remove the remaining fuel subsidy until you have substantially removed the youth’s pains.
2 There is an urgent need to embark on the following 7Rs: reconciliation, recalibration, rebirth, re-education, re-industrialization, re-construction and rebranding.
Remember that Czar Nicholas 11 (1868- 1918) crowned in 1894 was the last Russian emperor. He was stubborn and underestimated the hunger and anger of the Russians after WW1, he ignored the signals and sounds of the hopelessness of Russians by refusing to carry out necessary and quick economic reforms that would bring abundance and hope to his people. Thus Nicholas 11 was forced to abdicate on March 15th, 1817, through popular uprising and on July 17th, 1918, Emperor Nicholas and his entire family and their closest associates were gruesomely murdered, and their remains soaked with acid and burnt, thus ending the 300-year-old Romanov’s dynasty rule.
3 Thou shall not fill your Cabinet with recycled, corrupt political jobbers.
Allow those ‘’flying CVs’’ to remain in the air forever. Those who can make Nigeria a peak performer and Gold medalist are already too busy to be flying their CVs around. Getting them would only be through headhunting and serious persuasion. Those corrupt, recycled characters lobbying to serve have little or nothing to offer since Nigeria became the world’s poverty capital under their watch, they don’t deserve a second chance.
4 Thou shall prioritize meritocracy. Nothing is wrong in advertising certain critical cabinet positions such as Ministers of Finance, Education, ICT, Solid Minerals and Petroleum
5 Thou shall not appoint yourself as Petroleum Minister. Presidents OBJ and PMB did it, they both failed.
Of all the OPEC countries, Nigeria is the only one that does oil business at a loss. Nigeria has the lowest per capita income and weakest national currency among the major oil exporting countries. Prosperity is a rule among OPEC countries except Nigeria. In 45 years, Nigeria recorded profits only in two years but it was *rat profits* For instance, Saudi Arabia posted a whopping profit of $161 billion in 2022.Norway (average sales of 1.2mbd) has in her Sovereign Wealth a gargantuan sum of $1.3Trillion, and in 2020 during C-19 when Nigerians were severely hurting and hungry, Norway realised the sum of $180billion profit from her oil investments dividends in technology companies. Here is a simple example of national insanity: Nigeria’s total profits from her sales of oil in 45 years were N287 billion in 2020 and N674 billion in 2021 i.e. N961 billion or $1.2billion (@N750:$1) gross. The total money in the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) is about N1.02 Trillion (i.e. $1.2 billion vs Norway’s $1.3 trillion, less than 1% of Norway’s Sovereign wealth.
The advertisement for the position of Petroleum Minister should read: *Nigeria needs a person who can bring the cost of sales and profit per barrel of crude oil exploration and processing to be at par or close to that of Norway, Saudi Arabia or UAE, plus or minus 20% environmental exigencies* What is wrong with headhunting Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy (Terje Aasland) as the next Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum, under a management contract of 90:10 profit sharing in favour of Nigeria? He made about $90 billion selling 1.2mbd for Norway in 2022. After all, we have people from the Niger Republic holding sensitive public offices in Nigeria. Conversely, we have had Nigerians as Ministers of Economy in Togo and Justice in the Gambia. And Nigerians are holding sensitive cabinet positions in America and the UK.
6 Thou shall create two new Ministries: Ministry of Future to be headed by a Nigeria prodigy, likely under 30 years of age. Two, the Ministry of Renewable Energy. The future would be dominated by Space innovations and Artificial Intelligence (Ai). The bus is already moving, our youths cannot afford to be bus conductors, they should be in the front seat of the 4.0 revolution. Furthermore, the market value of the renewable energy business is forecast to be more than $ 2 trillion by 2030, whereas oil has less than 40 years before it becomes satchet water.
7 Thou shall abolish the office of *Aso Rock CABAL* because it is unconstitutional and anti people.The ‘’cabal’’ engineered the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election according to IBB. GEJ’s Cabal made him clueless. PMB’s Cabal held him, hostage, in the Villa according to PMB’s wife, Aisha Buhari. Allowing your closest political and business associates, the Vice President or your wife or son or daughter to form a new cabal is like signing an irrevocable MoU with failure, because the ‘’Cabal’’ is not on record for positive contributions.
8 Foreign Policy: thou shall not drag Nigeria into the China-America-Russia supremacy battle. There is a window of commercial opportunity worth $250 billion in the energy sector that has opened up in Europe as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war which the incoming administration can harvest. The geopolitics sands are shifting but smart nations like Israel are playing it safe: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is smartly cutting deals with Russia’ Putin, China Xi and America’s Biden simultaneously without dropping any of the 3 balls for the overall benefits of his people.
9 Thou shall not waste the Globalization crisis: There is a gradual sunset on globalization: Japan is relocating most of its factories from China to Japan. America is building a new semiconductor factory in Arizona, as I write, to reduce its vulnerability in Asia which controls 70% of the global semiconductor output, Germany is looking inward for its energy needs etc. Today, Regionalization and nationalism are coming back as valedictory services are being held for Globalisation, even in her home country, America. Nigeria should optimize the AfCFTA opportunities, as most of what Nigeria needs to succeed can be found inside her ‘’Sokoto’’, why travel to Sokoto?10 Global hunger crisis is real: thou shall prioritize food security from day one: an empty sack cannot stand. Globally, 10% of the population has little or nothing to eat and 70% of them are in Africa. About 133 million Nigerians are living below the poverty line. However, there is zero chance of solving the food crisis in Nigeria without first addressing the security challenges posed by the Fulani herdsmen. The Vice President’s (Shettima) first task should be to head the ANTI-TERRORISM TASK FORCE (ATTF) that will end terrorism in Nigeria within your first 100 days in office.
10+1: Thou shall not complain: likely, you would soon lose two vital things: sleep and smiles! As you peruse Aso Rock’s ‘’top secret’’ books, which would most likely be like a horror movie with stomach-churning violence. Every country has ‘’classified information’’ meant for the C-in-C eyes only. My intellectual guess is that the horror movie would contain scary graphic details of Nigeria’s deplorable basket of trouble, e.g. the high debt profile, NNPC woes and possible bankruptcy of Nigeria within months, not years, the implication of a 40% youth unemployment rate, list of untouchable VIPS behind oil bunkering and political terrorism. The reason behind the dubious CBN complicated naira exchange rates and those profiteering from it, details of irrevocable agreements to service with China and the West. There will also be pressure from the World Bank and America on the removal of the remaining fuel subsidy, caustic antagonism from different quarters for different reasons and how to fulfil the election IoUs which you gave to different power blocks, etc., etc.
Poverty and pains have no equilibrium, therefore, the situation can even get worse with the possibility of a cascading crisis within the first 100 days, as it happened in 1999 when OBJ took over and in 2011 with GEJ. Nonetheless, be strong, courageous, and audacious. Thou shall not complain, for thou waited, toiled and prayed for 30 years, now is your hour, seize the moment.
To fix Nigeria is like cooking stones for dinner, the water and the fire dry up quickly, yet the stones remain uncooked and squeezing water out of the stone becomes impracticable! The statistics is scary but true: 30% of the past ‘’Nigeria’s chef’’ expired suddenly or got violently killed on duty, another 30% were forcefully and unceremoniously disgraced out of the kitchen while the reaming 40% are still baffled (some incapacitated) till today asking ‘’what went wrong, how and why did I fail’’. It is like a zero-sum game for Nigeria’s chef. Worse still, the outgoing administration has used the last political ‘’LIFELINE’’. The youths are tired of the Aso-Rock sermon of *dinner-not-ready, they want DINNER NOW*!
In all this, there is hope, transforming a complex country is not rocket science, it is doable. In recent world history, three outstanding leaders found themselves in similar situations and seized the moment, and against all odds, squeezed the water out of stones. However, the three didn’t loot the treasury and didn’t allow their associates to loot. Indeed, they killed their kleptomaniac associates. They practiced meritocracy. My favourite books in my library are Ben Gurion, the man who created Israel, The Story of Singapore by Lee Kuan Yew and Deng Xiaoping and The Transformation of China. Unarguably, Gurion, LKY and Deng were nothing short of miracle workers. Can we replicate what happened in China, Singapore and Israel in Nigeria? Yes.
*Pathway to Silver or Bronze Medals*
Smart nations are run the way Apple or Google run their businesses. There are five questions which smart transformative CEOs ask when trying to make an Elephant dance. Nigeria needs to ask those five questions as well. One, what is left on the table that Nigeria can grab quickly and use as a stepping stone, or make better- X+1?
Two, what is coming next on the horizon that we can enjoy the “first-mover advantage”? Three, what capability as a nation do we have?
Four, what capabilities do we need?
Five, how do we get there from here? All smart nations (South Korea, India, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Israel, UAE, Sweden, Norway, Germany etc. without exception built their respective successes on those five pillars.
Indian elites took a bet on software as a business (the first India Institute of Technology- IIT, was established in 1951, in Kharagpur). Today, Indians in the diaspora remit over $100 billion yearly back home and most of the global technology companies are run by Indians. Taiwan bet on chip making and established the world’s first semiconductor foundry, TSMC in 1987. Today, no Taiwan, no civilization! South Korea’s economy runs on five legs: electronics, telecommunications, automobile manufacturing, shipbuilding and steel. Today, Samsung Electronics alone contributes about 17% to the GDP of South Korea, realizing $246 billion in 2022, i.e. more than five times Nigeria’s yearly oil revenue. China zeroed in on building competence in the Global Supply Chain. Within 30 years, China went from zero to hero. Of the 100 countries I have studied in the last 10 years, the Thailand model fascinated me greatly. Thailand with about 70,000 villages, set up what is called ‘’ONE TOMBON, ONE PRODUCT’’, with a beautiful slogan- ‘Local Wisdom, Goes Global’. Each village (Tombon) has a product (based on their cultural and environmental competitive advantage) that they focus on and each village builds an ecosystem for backward and forward integration around it. Nigeria can start with the 774 local government councils: *One Council, One Product*- *OCOP*. For instance, the Benin people are the world’s best of all time in Bronze making, we need to build a Bronze making industry ecosystem there in, for export. This can fetch over $1billon yearly income.
*Questions & Answers for Nigeria*
1 What is left?
Answer: There are four major revolutions on going as I write: Electric Vehicles Revolution, (EVR), Space innovations, 4.0 skills, and Global Food crisis affecting 800 million hungry people worldwide. Those four problems constitute the new opportunities.
2 What’s next?
Answer: Space commercialization, Defence innovations, Artificial intelligence solutions, Medical breakthrough in incurable diseases, Climate change solutions, currencies innovations.
3 What capabilities does Nigeria have: robust population of 220million with 52% youths, 40% arable land, a huge diaspora population, Dangote, and about 270 types of mineral and natural resources (only Chinese know the exact numbers, locations, and quantities and quality- I am not exaggerating!), Atlantic Ocean, Sambisa Forest, Lagos, AfCFTA, abundant sun and favorable climate, Diverse nationalities, untapped Africa market, etc.
4 What capabilities do we need?
Answer: rebirth, recalibration, elite consensus, re-industrialization, youth employment, infrastructural modernization, technology solutions to combat desert encroachment in the North and purposeful leadership, etc.
5 How do we get there from here?
Answer: Electrical vehicles are the future, by 2030, Europe will stop the production of vehicles using gasoline. By 2032, 75% of American vehicles will be EVs. Interestingly,Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world that has all the eight mineral resources required to build a complete ecosystem for EV manufacturing: Cobalt in Kano, Lithium, Nickel, Cooper, Graphite, Zinc, Manganese and Rare Earths. They are all available in Kaduna, Nasarawa, Kogi, Plateau, Benue, Borno, Adamawa, Kebbi, Cross Rivers Katsina and Ekiti.
There will be an unusual quantum leap in EVs businesses.
Nigeria should build a new ‘’renewable energy hub’’ that will employ over a million youths within the next two years through private initiatives. The leading global battery supplier, CATL which controls 34% of the world’s EV batteries should be invited to site its factory in Nigeria for the European market fulfilment. Nigeria is closer to Europe than China. And instead of the crude ways Chinese employ currently to steal some of there mineral resources that is the source of unending communal crisis in some part of Nigeria, let us sit down with the Chinese to stop the *Monkey Business* and let us do a clean and proper win- win EVs related businesses, going forward.
The global electric car market was valued at $229b in 2021 and is projected to reach $700 billion in 2030 growing at 17.30% yearly.
Another one million youths can be absorbed and become gainfully employed through innovative and customized JAPA INITIATIVES plus the New Business Process Outsourcing package (NBPO), using the instrumentality of 4.0 industrial revolutions solutions and skills. From NBPO, Nigeria can begin to earn up to $ 50 billion in inflows from June 2024 I.e. *delicious food is ready within 12 months* The Philippines is number two globally in BPO, and India is number one. Nigeria can be number three: *the youths are ready when the government is ready* There is no better sector to invest in the $800 million World Bank grant than NBPO (RoI is massive and fast, with no competition). Concomitantly, Nigeria would need to create two new banks: Nigeria Start-Ups Bank (NSB) and Nigeria Diaspora Bank (NDB). The existing banking solutions are not enough to harvest the emerging massive opportunities in the ongoing professional demographics shifts.
To fix another one million unemployed youths, the 800 million hungry population worldwide need food, food, and food. Using the latest precision agricultural technology, Nigeria’s Middle Belt can feed half of the world’s hungry people profitably, when and if the heads men killings stop.
We also need to get Dangote Refinery up and running since yesterday to conserve 70% of our dollars spent on fuel importation.
Even if the federal government has to take additional 20% equity (but transparently valued this time around), the risk is worth taking. The Dangote ecosystem would take about 500,000 Nigerians out of poverty including market women selling table water and nuts to the staff of the refinery. Dangote must work and walk, NOW!
All said Nigeria can fix 5 million youths in quality, high-paying jobs within the next 24 months, generate a fresh $50 billion revenue inflow from innovative programs aiming at assisting the naira gain a full erection and reflate the economy. Before the C-19 pandemic, one company in Taiwan had about 0ne million employees (5% of the population) on its payroll. Just one company! In 2022, Walmart had about 2.3 million employees and realized a revenue of $ 600 billion. Nigeria’s environment should be made fertile for mega businesses to germinate and thrive, where the likes of Foxconn and Walmart would be replicated here
Africa has been anxiously waiting for the Elephant (Nigeria) in the room to arise and dance, likewise the entire black race. Nigeria cannot afford to continue to move in circles like the Barber’s chair. Nations perish for lack of three things: knowledge, vision and political will. Everything is possible, including winning a GOLD, Silver, Bronz or CKD medals, depending on the choices we make today!
Going forward, let us reason, talk and choose wisely, for all we have is this tiny but fantastically blessed 923,768 sq. km piece of land in the Cosmos filled with milk and honey, sugar, chess and butter plus! Paradoxically, Nigerians scarcely cherish their own country. While globally, Nigerians are viewed pitiably, secretly, however, our land is the envy of all- no competition. None. Honest!
By: Tim Akano
Akano writes from Abuja.
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