Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reflection

I want to thank Nigeria Village Square for making it possible for me to make my voice heard outside of this Blog following the publication of three of my articles in the past four weeks. I gave life to the call for "True Federalism and Decentralization of the National Government", making them the most talked about issues at the on-going National Conference. It all started with the "The Search for True Federalism: Balancing Feudal Interest With Southern Greed and Opportunism", and "Federalism, Presidential Succession, and Marginalization" written at the beginning of this Blog about two years ago. 

On this Blog, you will find very thought provoking articles that made great changes in the political system of great nations. Among them, are "Obama: Citizen United, Invincible Resistance and the Hacking of American Democracy",  "Managing the Crisis in the Middle-East", "Immunity: The Scope and Extent of Section 308 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria", "Game Change: The Uncertainty of Sovereign National Conference (SNC) and A Case for Progressive Option ", just to name a few.

I did not take into writing because I love to write. It wasn't about passion either. I did, because I have ideas that I wanted to share - ideas that are innate and not so common. I did, because I know I am smarter than the people managing our government, our public affairs and public institutions. Indeed I write because I am a total package - a one of a kind God creation, with rare insight and foresight on most issues. I see what others don't see, and 100% of the time, I have been vindicated. It is about ideas and the ability to articulate them without leaving in the minds of the readers any doubt about where I stand and what I stand for. It is not about semantics. It is about the message. After all, English is not my first language.

Take for instance, the nation-wide protest that took place on January 2013, popularly referred to as Occupy Nigeria, over the proposed removal of petroleum subsidy by the President. I was the only voice outside the government who supported the removal. Not that I like high cost of fuel products or because I was doing some PR work for the Government. I did, because the subsidy wasn't reflecting in lower prices at the gas pump. My argument then was that it is very likely that some Nigerians are scheming or scamming the fuel regime; otherwise, Nigerians would have been enjoying affordable petrol and kerosene in the market. I suggested that government should take over the importation and that the accruing profits should be reinvested into the system instead of subsidizing the process for fraudulent petroleum marketers. Few months later, the Farouk Lawan report came out, with details of how some politically connected Nigerians cooked up figures and documents to scam the subsidy regime of needed funds - being paid for products they didn't supply. And you know the story.

At the international scene, when in May and June 2012, some highly visible Democrats in and out of government and in the media were breathing down on President Obama's campaign, warning them not mention Wall Street and Bain Capital in the campaign for reelection, I disagreed with them vehemently, arguing on this Blog and on my Facebook Timeline that the campaign should disregard the advice and do the exact opposite. My position was that given the fact that his opponent is campaigning on his Wall Street experience and his ability to create jobs, then his exploits on Wall Street and at Bain Capital are automatically on issue, and of course should be made the main issue in the campaign. Thank God, the campaign team did not equivocate about my position. It was adopted that same day at a campaign rally by the President. And the rest is now history.

God created the World, and then he created Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Then he created President Bill Clinton, and give me life. Everything about Nigeria and how to make it a great country as God divined it to be are available on this Blog - written exclusively by me and me only, without any outside editorial support. Yes, I am tested. My ideas work. The 2015 Presidential race is still very open; therefore, any thing can happen. I thank everyone of you for coming this far with me and for being a part of my public service manifesto. It is has been a wonder twenty-eight months of intense brain work. So long everyone.

Mr. Alex Aidaghese
alexaidaghese@gmail.com
Abuja, Nigeria
April 22, 2014

The "Cluelessness" of the Progressives

I said on this Blog more than a year ago that the fact that Nigerians are seemingly dissatisfied with PDP does not automatically translate to acceptance of APC or any of the other political parties as the better alternative for Aso Rock. Each has to make its own case.

Is APC making a case for acceptance or for a better alternative since registration? No. They ran after the Femi Fani-Kayodes and the uncontrollable rebels within the PDP. Where is Femi Fani-Kayode today? He might not have completely relocated to PDP, but he is certainly not with APC. What about notable figures like Babangida Aliyu, and Lamido? They are back to PDP unconditionally.

Most vocal progressive commentators in the social media saw it coming, and they wrote copiously about the urgency of APC leadership to embark on speech making tour round the country - propagating a refined progressive narrative that will sync with the desires and aspirations within the heart and soul of every Nigerian. But Tinubu and Buhari didn't see it that way. And disappointingly, not even El'Rufai or Tom Ikimi or Lai Mohammed upon their many years in politics saw the need to embark on grass-root campaign and propaganda.

By the way, has El'Rufai or Lai Mohammed or Tom Ikimi made any major political speech since the registration of APC? It is not enough to hold a mini convention, inviting party followers and non-followers to present papers - papers and contents that you do not exercise control over. Governor Fashola's speech at the Abuja conference is more appropriate for a neutral audience. It's all about progressive narrative, which presently, is missing. Who was at the Guide of Editors recently? Senator Jubrin Aminu. That would have been an appropriate forum for a real progressive, but non-partisan fellow to make a case for a new direction in our political system. 

Few days ago, I published an article on this Blog following the massacre at Nyanya Bus Stop, in it; I made a call for a Mandela and a Martin Luther King Jr. in the Nigerian polity to advance peace and tolerance. Today, check out the commercial that is running on NTA.

Several times, I have seen my statements on this Blog repackaged to suit the philosophy and goal of the President's speech writers. It is a new world. In 2012, I wrote a piece on the Blog, titled “Where are the President Men”, in the piece I argued that Dr. Ruben Abati, standing alone and with his Press Releases cannot withstand the onslaught of the media – both print and social – on President Jonathan and his Presidency. Immediately that piece came out, they went for Dr. Doyin Okupe. Now they have Reno Omokri, Gulak, Maku, and Olisa Metuh engaging on aggressive PR campaign, taking APC and its leadership apart with enthusiastic abandon. Yes, Mr. President and his boys are winning, when it comes to taking advantage of the free materials available in social medial.

For instance, El'Rufai has a publicist who specializes in writing rejoinders whenever he is being maligned in the media. That is not good enough. There is another guy doing the same for Buhari. It is about ideas; not flawless English as these guys are fond of. So, it is incumbent on them to arrange for avenues for their clients or associates of their clients to present papers.

Another example: Mr El'Rufai did not state categorically that he is in support of Muslim-Muslim ticket. Saying there is nothing wrong with Muslim-Muslim ticket - an idea that this writer endorses - is not equivalent to holding the view or propagating the need for a Muslim-Muslim ticket for APC. I am disappointed that since the Muslim-Muslim ticket story took the air waves, inflamed by a two part series by Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, no one within the Progressive cycle saw the need to challenge Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and put a lie to his unwarranted counseling and labeling.

In the beginning, APC could boast of more followers and sympathizers than any other political parties in Nigeria in the social media. The resentment towards PDP was real. Way back in 2012, I initiated the call for a hand shake across the Niger and Benue between southern progressives and northern mavericks and intellectuals. Thank God it happened, and the party was registered. However, what we have today is a coalition political party made up of political leaders who are not progressives in their actions and utterances. The emerging southern progressives and northern mavericks and intellectuals are visibly absent within the new coalition.

Once, a social media commentator questioned the sanity or fruitfulness of APC romance with PDP rebels. Few days later, in a long rebuttal, a writer who claimed to be an insider of APC argued that APC needs these established rebels from PDP because of their overwhelming supporters. He also argued that you don't build a new political party by relying or focusing exclusively on new members who do not have followers. He was wrong. PDP rebels are nothing, but rebels. They are not progressive, and you do not need them to build a supposedly progressive grass-root political party. Today, APC has less new followers and sympathizers than when it was newly registered. A situation where most commentators now criticize PDP and President Jonathan, without actually supporting APC is very troubling. In the absence of a better alternative, the incumbent is sure of victory.

Here is the deal: If APC cannot get their act together soon, and overcome the tag of a Muslim or Islamic political party that the indefatigable Professor Femi Fani-Kayode clandestinely attached on them, come 2015, Nigerians will rally round a sitting President and overwhelmingly vote him back into office. At that time all of you bloggers, commentators, pundits, glorified advisers and wordsmiths propagating shoelessness and cluelessness and stolen Presidency and legitimacy factor would realize that you are the naïve and clueless bunch, after all.

Exactly two years ago, I devoted about two thousands words to craft an endorsement for Mallam El'Rufai as President for 2015. I pulled that endorsement about a year ago, when I realized that Mr. El'Rufai himself is not ready for prime time. That was how my romance with the Progressives came to an abrupt end.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jonathan's Legitimacy

Boko Haram demands are not new to us. For a start, Nigeria is a secular state; therefore, any form of extorted or forceful religious indoctrination of the unaffiliated is treasonable - an act of war against the sovereign. And it should be treated as such. Two, President Jonathan was duly elected, and as the Vice President, he has every right to step into the vacated office that came up following the death of President Musa Yar’Adua. His legitimacy is unequivocally unquestioned.

The truth is that the zoning formula adopted by the PDP during the primaries, ceased to be of any legal or logical relevance once President Yar’Adua and Vice President Good Luck Jonathan ran, won, and sworn in as President and Vice President respectively. So, on the death of either the President or Vice President; it is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that defines succession process, not the zoning law or formula that was adopted by PDP during the primaries. President Jonathan's right to worship or serve his God the way he chooses is a protected right. Three, demanding that the President must convert to Islam and that Sharia Law should supersede any other law in the land are rickety and ridiculous at best.

Four, President Jonathan yielded to the demands of the northern elders and made Sambo Dasuki, a distinguished retired Military Officer, and infect, one of their own, his Security Adviser. Then he agreed to dialogue with leadership of the sect. In addition, and contrary to all expectations, he dangled offer of amnesty before the sect and their sponsors. Yet, nothing could avail them to disarm. And in the process, millions of Naira was squandered romanticizing with bogus groups masquerading as Boko Haram or its affiliates.

Five, there is no similarity between Boko Haram insurgency and militant activities in the Niger Delta as some maverick/intellectuals want the world to believe. With respect to the militants’ activities in the Niger Delta, late President Musa Yar’Adua and his emissaries were able to meet with ascertainable names and identifiable personalities to negotiate agreements that were mutually beneficial to all parties involved.

So, as we move towards a new era in the war against Boko Haram, Boko Haram sympathizers should stop the comparison. One is fighting a just and legitimate battle following years of neglect and desecration of their environment by careless multi-national oil companies and by Federal Institutions dominated by Nigerians who do not know what it takes to survive on contaminated water and polluted air. The other is waging a war of attrition, diabolical and unfathomable, hiding under the cover of darkness, killing and maiming defenseless Nigerians mercilessly.

And six, 2015 is around the corner; lets the voters make their voice heard. It is high time credible candidates – if there are any out there - stand head and shoulder high and step into the scene for a run against President Jonathan in 2015. Until he is defeated at a popular election, he is our President, imbued with all the respect and perquisites deserving of that office. Anything to the contrary is a call for anarchy.

They are stupendously rich and stupendously corrupt. They would rather gang up on him than enter the Presidential race on their list of accomplishments. Now, it is all about credibility. And as Jesus Christ would say, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."


Monday, April 14, 2014

The Nyanya Massacre, and the Search for Real Heroes

The massacre at Nyanya Bus-Stop is a declaration of war on the sovereign nation of Nigeria. Boko Haram and their sponsors and their financiers are enemy combatants; therefore, they should be treated as such.

The Pikin wey say 'im Mama no go sleep, 'im too no go sleep. It is high time the President and his security team resort to the nuclear option - adopt the Obama principle at full blast. Take the fight straight to the bedrooms of known and perceived enemies as well as to the bedrooms and places of business of known and perceived sponsors and financiers of the sect. That’s not negotiable. They are individually and collectively enemy combatants.

The mangled cadavers at Nyanya Bust Stop were once those of dear fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. Until Boko Haram, their sponsors and financiers surrender and disarmed; they deserve no less decapitation than what we saw at Nyanya Bus Stop and all over Middle-Belt and North East in recent times.

Few years ago, Nigerians at home and abroad were branded by the international media as the happiest people on earth. Not anymore. In recent times, peace has eluded us at a level unprecedented in the history of our creation as a nation-state. Kidnapping for ransom is now one of the most lucrative professions in the South-East and in the South-South regions of Nigeria. In the South-West, cultism and marketing of human parts, grotesque and repulsive as that may sound, are now the order of the day. In the Middle Belt and in the southern part of Kaduna, counting cadavers has become a daily routine. In and around Borno State, it is completely a different story: A war of attrition at its ugliest form.

The once metropolitan Maiduguri is now in total ruin - a once vibrant and welcoming city, reputed as the epic center of the famous Kanem-Bornu Empire is now in total ruin and deserted. That Empire, that vast geographical landscape is now at war with itself - at war with civilization, at war with tolerance, at war with peaceful co-existence, and at war with everything that their worthy son, Idris Alooma, labored relentlessly, through war, commerce and diplomacy, to build to international standard.

Indeed Mohammed Yusuf, the leader or founder of the sect died mysteriously while in the Police custody. And I wholeheartedly empathize with the sect for his death. Unresolved as the circumstances surrounding his death are, what is not in doubt is the fact that two wrongs don’t make a right. That being said, there is no justification, legal or ethical, moral, conventional or customary; to explain or justify the wanton brutality and gruesome death visited on innocent commuters at Nyaya Bus Stop.

Of Heroes and Redemption:

As the security situation deteriorates, we should not allow partisan political expediency to cloud our sense of judgment, pretending that all is well. All is not well. Nigerian is at war with unknown enemies. We must stand together and fight together.

Nigeria deserves better and the Muslim faith deserves better. It is time we seek redemption and embrace tolerance and forgiveness or step up and fight a just war. It is time real people with genuine intent for peace stand up, talk peace, and be counted.

President Nelson Mandela was locked out of civilization for the better part of his adult life by the Apartheid Government in South Africa, but when he came out, rather than agitate for retribution for members of the apartheid government, he asked for truth and reconciliation.

Every politics, the saying goes, is local. Nigeria fought a bloody civil, and at the end, there was no victor and there was no vanquished. There was the unreasonable treasonable felony trial, and at the end, Nigeria was still standing.

Nigeria needs great men and women right now - serious thinkers and real leaders like Sadat, Martin Luther King Jr., Mandela, and Begin - to seek consensus and restore peace to troubled spots.

Sadly, the struggle and the accompanying narrative are not in any shape or form about freedom or consistent with political or economic emancipation movement championed by Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. It is something different.

It is not what Mahatma Gandhi lived and died for. It is not what Mother Teresa preached. And it is not what President Nelson Mandela suffered for and went to jail for. It is something else – something fundamentally and radically different in scope, style, and goal. That is our dilemma

That being said, any extorted religious indoctrination of the unaffiliated should be treated the way it is - an act of war against the Sovereign. For Nigeria to live up to its promise of one nation one destiny, it must be willing to mobilize every resources at its disposal to defend threatened rights. Our desire and our love for the good life, intellectual and educational pursuit, freedom of worship, and the pursuit of happiness shall not be compromised.

Never, never; we will never compromise on those things that we hold dear to our heart. We will never bargain away our fundamental rights to associate and worship the way we want, or bargain away our inherent rights to educate our kids in any part of Nigeria that we chose, and the way we want. Not now, not any time. We will never surrender in our search for equal rights and justice – an egalitarian society where religion is but a part and not the defining factor. Let’s get to work, guys. We deserve better.

Postscript:

At the scene of the bomb blast, the President was reported as saying:  “I am also commending security services for their prompt action. Though we lost quite a number of people, we condole with our countrymen and women. We will continue to work very hard." Punch, April 15, 2014. Mr. President, with due respect, on what basis did you commend the security services? About 89 Nigerian died undeserving death. About 200 hospitalized, and vehicles and merchandise worth millions of Naira burnt to ashes. And you are commending the security services for their prompt action! Prompt action about what? For infiltrating the leadership of the bombers, and consequently, averting the bombing and the accompanied bloodshed? Or was Mr. President simply commending them for arriving at the scene of the accident on time to ferry the victims to hospital?

To say I am flabbergasted is saying the least. This picture is analogous to President George Bush coming to the scene of hurricane Karina and commending Mr. Brown, his FEMA Director, for doing a hell of a job, when helpless African Americans and their New Orleans homes were complete submerged in water. Mr. President, Nigerians deserve better from you and your security team.  I am not passing judgment, but your statement is unacceptable, judging from the position of a reasonable man. It is unfortunate, and it's all part of the pervading culture of low expectations.

Granted, I have no background in military training or security training, but as a reasonable and well-informed observer, I respectfully suggest that it is high time the President review his security team. Dasuki has no reason and cannot afford to be complacent with our national security. Right now his reputation or his good name is not just at stake; it is irredeemably dented. Yes, I know Nigeria is at war with unknown enemies. Yes, I know the spirit of patriotism demands of us to rally round our President and members of our Armed Forces in time like this. In the same vein, the spirit of patriotism also demands we speak truth to power, not just in the face of tyranny, but also in the face of complacency. I beg to move.

Happy Easter to everyone.

Alex Aidaghese
alexaidaghese@gmail.com
Benin City, Nigeria.

April 14, 2014.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Vice-Presidential Succession, State of Origin, and Federal Character: Overcoming Some Fundamental Flaws in the 1999 Constitution:

INTRODUCTION

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has in it some sections with fundamental flaws requiring forensic review and amendment. Chief among them is Section 146 (3), which vests in the President the power of appointment of the Vice President in the event of vacancy in that office, but subject to the approval of the graft prone National Assembly. In my humble judgment, I strongly believe and hold that it is more reasonable, and in fact, will in no small measure, strengthen transparency and consistency in the body politic, if the next in line to occupy the vacated office of the Vice President or Deputy Governor as the case may be, is clearly defined and ascertainable in the constitution.  The next troubling section is Section 14 (3) covering Federal Character, designed to promote unity and loyalty of the subjects to the nation-state. To all intent and purposes, Federal Character was actually designed to ensure equitable distribution of power between the three dominant tribes and the minority tribes. Sadly, Section 14 (3), as consistently and selfishly interpreted and applied over the years, engenders in one region or three dominants tribes a sense of misplaced arrogance and entitlement - a protected right so to speak. Consequently, exacerbating mistrust within the citizenry and disinterestedness in national pride, unity, and values. Next, is Section 15(2) covering state of origin. The section, as written, promotes social integration and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and places of origin. For a fact, Nigerians are not so much aware of the existence of this section in our constitution, because its exact opposite suffices in every facet of our national engagement. No Nigeria today is a citizen of his or her place of residence; the state of his or her village is where he or she belongs, contrary to the intent and purposes of Section 15 (2). Similarly, children born in a particular state to parents who are not native born of that same state are considered non-natives like their parents for purposes of University admission, government employment, and enlistment into the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Nigerian Police Force. Section 15 (2) was designed to promote social integration, not disintegration.

I will address each section in detail and in sequence from a public policy perspective, and as always, proffer solutions as appropriate.

(1) VACANCY IN THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT:

Section 146 (3) provides:
Where the office of Vice-President becomes vacant:-
(a) By reason of death or resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal in accordance with section 143 or 144 of this Constitution;
(b) By his assumption of the office of President in accordance with subsection (1) of this section; or
(c) For any other reason, the President shall nominate and, with the approval of each House of the National Assembly, appoint a new Vice-President.

I became aware of the existence of Section 146 (3) (C) of the constitution following the death of President Yar’Adua, when the newly installed President eventually selected Governor Sambo of Kaduna State as his Vice President. I was not amused about the selection process. I honestly thought that the President acted illegally, believing that David Mark, the Senate President, is next in line to step into the vacated office of the Vice President, until my brief consultation with my constitution taught me that the new President acted within his constitutional limitations.

Nigeria has come of age, if not; Nigeria ought by now to come of age. Our constitution should be unambiguously definitive of the person next in line to occupy the office of the Vice President in the event of vacancy pursuant to Section 146 (3) (a) and (b) of the 1999 constitution. In that case, filling the position should not be by appointment or arbitrary selection by the President, but by succession process, succinctly articulated in the constitution and the designated individual known to every Nigerian. The same standard should apply with respect to selection of the Deputy Governor in the event of vacancy.

The Unreasonableness of the Legislative Intent of Section 143:

The fact that an action is legal doesn't make it objectively right or reasonable. The political merit or the underlying intent of Section 146(3) is to safeguard and perpetuate the tribal or regional origin of the occupant of the office of the Vice President to the extent that in the event of any vacancy therein, the President, in filling the vacancy, would not go beyond the tribe or region of the previous occupant.  That was the goal for reserving that power of appointment in the Presidency, knowing full well that the President will not go beyond the tribe of the former Vice President in the event of vacancy in the office, or go beyond the tribe of the President, assuming the President died, impeached or stepped down, thus creating vacancy in the office of the Vice President. Similar problem also exist at the state level with respect to filling vacant position in the office of the Deputy Governor.

The section was influenced by ethnic and geographical factors dominating Nigerian political system. Sadly, the drafters or the Military Government then did not take into account the maturity of Nigerian people and our willingness to embrace changes.  Whereas Section 15(4) of the 1999 Constitution emphasizes national interests over sectional interests, Sectional 146 (3) tends to promote regional allegiance. Section 15(4) provides: “The State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various people of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.”

Our constitution must be definitive regarding succession process by giving effect to our national interests, rather than imposing on us the interests of a political party in selecting a Vice President in the event of vacancy.

Adding to that, knowing the person next in line, not only eliminate abuse of process; it makes governing more transparent, and the succession process smooth and free of grafts and drama. To that effect, either the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representative be constitutionally recognized as the next in line to assume the position of the Vice President in the event of vacancy. And at the state level, it should either be the Majority Leader or the Speaker of the House.

In addition, that selection right vested in the Presidency by Section 146(3) (c) is subject to abuse, because the President has an unfettered discretion in the exercise of that power. Even though we profess a federal system of government, here, the constitution is bequeathing the Presidency with absolute power. And as John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton and most students of Government would say: "power corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Nigeria is not a dictatorship or a one party state. Granted the constitution was written and promulgated under a Military administration, we should realize that ours is multi-ethnic, with numerous political parties. Once   the President and the Vice President are elected they become Nigerian President and Vice President respectively. In other words, once they are sworn, they are no longer candidates for election, subject to the zoning rules and regulations of their political party. So, if for instance vacancy surfaces; lets the constitution determines the next in line. There shouldn’t be any recourse to the zoning law or the selection process that was adopted by the political party of the President and Vice President during its primaries.

In conclusion, the legislative intent of Section 146 (3) did not take into account that Nigeria is a very robust and a very dynamic society. Because the section was written to serve ethnic and a narrow interest at the expense of unity and national integration, it must be rejected by discerning minds. Empowering the President to make that selection, and reserving in the patently corrupt National Assembly the power of final approval of the selected candidate is a license to seek undeserved favor. We should look beyond ethnic considerations in our appointment process and leadership selection.

(2) STATE OF ORIGIN CONCEPT:

Section 15 (1), (2), (3), and (4) provides:
(1) The motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress.
(2) Accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.
(3) For the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the State to:
(a) Provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation.
(b) Secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation.

Today, and as it has always been, Section 15(3) (b) is not given effect consistent with the legislative intent of the drafters. In Nigeria, a child born and nurtured in Lagos State, or River State, or Sokoto State whose parent migrated from Either Imo, Ogun or Edo State is not considered native of River, Lagos, or Sokoto State as the case may be. For instance, why must a child who has never spent more than a weekend at Esan, or Abeokuta, or Owerri where his parents originally came from, be made to write Edo, Imo, or Ogun State as his State of origin during competitive exams? By doing so, that child is going to be assessed using the same benchmark as students born and schooled at Esan, Abeokuta, and Owerri who sat for the same exams and happened to be products of the higher educational standard available in those cities.

Unless the argument for introduction of state of origin in our admission application is a generic/biological factor, which to all intent and purposes, was not. If a particular state is educationally disadvantaged, for instance, Lagos Sate, invariably, every student or candidate from the state - no matter the state of origin of his or her parents - is a product of the quality of education available in Lagos State. Therefore, such student or candidate or job applicant should be assessed by the standard reserved for Lagos State, and not by the standard applicable in the state of origin of his or her parents, for instance Edo, Imo, or Ogun.

Adding to that, Section 15 (3) (b) provides automatic citizenship cover or protection to every Nigerian anywhere in the country irrespective of his or her original place of birth. In reality, that is not the case in Nigeria of today. Prospective employees or job applicants whether in the private sector or in government, are made to enter, not their state of residence, but the state of origin of their parents. Why should a child who is applying to the Nigeria Police Force be made to get a letter from the Traditional Ruler and the Local Government Council of his or her parents? The appropriate requirements should be proof of residence and verification of address in that particular state of residence and not proof of state of origin of the child’s parent.

(3) FEDERAL CHARACTER:

Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution provides:
“The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

No doubt, Federal Character and Quota System have outlived their usefulness. In light of the growing demand for disintegration and the near collapse of most of our federal institutions, no citizen or groups of citizens should be made to suffer legislative deprivations on account of place of birth or state of origin.

For the purpose of record, the legislative intent or the constitutional purpose of Federal Character was to protect minority groups from the dominance of the three major ethnic groups. But as it is today, Federal Character has been selfishly interpreted to perpetuate the dominance of one of the major ethnic groups over the rest of us. It was never designed or intended to protect the interests of Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani and Ndigbo at the expense of other tribes or regions.

Adding to that, granted that the educational gap between Western Region, Eastern Region, and Northern Region in the early 1950 to mid-60 and now, supports the ‘reverse racism’ approach in its interpretation by successive governments at the center, but to the extent that it is seen as absolutely safe to celebrate constitutional deprivations and mediocrity, it becomes abnormal and a violation of our social conscience. Therefore, it should be rejected.

That we should promote merit in our hiring process and in enlistment into the Police Force and into the Federal Armed Forces and into Unity Schools and admission into higher institutions of learning is a long overdue demand. Therefore, every Nigerian applying for a job or sitting for competitive exams, no matter his or her state of origin and place of residence should be judged, without regards to his or her race, state of origin, or geographical location. A situation where it was reasonably permissible for a University to reject a candidate because the candidate was 5 points short of the required points set for the few spots reserved for that candidate’s state of origin, even when the candidate’s score was 15 points higher than the cut-off points that was applied in admitting candidates from all other states in the federation, should be a thing of the past. In Nigeria, Federal Character, Affirmative Action, Quota System, Catchment Areas, and Geographical Spread are more divisive than unifying.

In addition, there is no tribe or region in Nigeria known to have suffered any social or economic deprivation inflicted by an act of nation-state, which would justify or support the argument that Federal Character and Quota Systems principles are necessary in Nigeria to right previous wrong. There is no doubt, the educational gap between south and north is pervasive and poses serious risk to our national integration. However, the disparity still exist due to choices made by the affected groups and political leaders in the affected region, and not because of political or socioeconomic deprivations rooted in racism suffered by Northerners or on the basis of skin color as it was the case in the United States of America regarding slavery.

(I do not want to be misunderstood here; I am not against the good people of Northern Region of Nigeria or resentful of their interest or their belief system. The educational crisis in the Northern Region is political and ideological based. It is not financial or funding related. The political leaders there are only interested in educating only the willing ten conversant and receptive of the importance of western education. So, I feel no scruple expressing my reservations over the celebration and glorification of Sharia Law at the expense of popular education).

Finally, because Federal Character did not serve the intended purpose, and because it has outlived its usefulness in the form in which it has been interpreted by political leaders and administrators, its continuation will exacerbate the harms it has already created and ultimately, jeopardize our collective quest for unity, peace, and progress. In view of the foregoing facts, Federal Character should be expunged from our constitution by the delegates.

CONCLUSION:

The legislative intent of vesting power of appointment and approval of the new Vice President on the President and the National Assembly respectively did not take into account the dynamic nature of the Nigeria state and the willingness of our people to embrace changes. Adding to that, given the blatant abuse and subversion of the letter and intent of the principle of Federal Character and the state of origin concept; there is a valid case for review and amendment where appropriate by the delegates at the National Conference in order to eradicate celebration of mediocrity at the expense of excellence and credibility. The state of origin concept as practice in Nigeria today, is antithetical of the legislative intent and the overall purposes of Section 15 (3) (b). Every child should be able to answer the name of the state of his or her birth as state of origin and not the state of origin of his or her parents. A Nigerian living and working anywhere in Nigeria should be able to claim citizenship of that state, without condition, because that is what the constitution says.  We don't have to wait for another SOVEREIGN National Conference to be convened before amending constitutional provisions that catalyze divisiveness. The leadership of the confab should remain creative and elastic in its interpretation of the President's inaugural address to the delegates, with a viewing to addressing and amending the troubling sections of the 1999 Constitution. Every Nigerian is inherently and naturally gifted and smart. Therefore, our government should abstain from applying the constitution to divide us along ethnic and religious boundaries. Creating in one tribe or tribes a false sense of invulnerability and entitlement is counterproductive - has never worked, will never work, and will continue to create fear, hatred and resentment of one another as well as disillusionment in everything federal.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hurrah: Obiageli (Oby) Ezekwesili and Nuhu Ribadu won APC Presidential Primary Election.

Few minutes ago, I saw myself presiding over APC Presidential Primary Election contest in Nigeria, and  Madam Obiageli Ezekwesili, an Accountant and Ivy League trained Public Administrator, and a tested Presidential Adviser, who ran with retired Police Office, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, a Barrister of the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and a Founding Father of the Nigeria Economic and Financial Crime Commission, as her Vice-Presidential pick, won the contest to secure APC ticket for the 2015 Presidential election. As I was dropping the gavel to declare Oby and Nuhu the winner, I saw Femi Fani-Kayode, Buhari, Fashola, Tinubu, and Tom Ikimi emerging from the crowd in a celebratory mood - distributing broomsticks to their teaming supporters and popping champagne. Then, FFK came over to me, hugged me, tapped me on the shoulder and congratulated me for doing a wonderful job conducting a free, fair, and credible Presidential Primary Election for the 'real progressives.' Hearing that, I breathed a sigh of relief. I did not expect that Mr. Femi-Fani Kayode, going by his writings of late, will readily accept or be enthusiastic about an Ibo/Hausa ticket for APC. This time, he did, without any protest. What a transformation! What a detribalized progressive Mr. Femi-Fani Kayode has become. God is truly great. Suddenly, I saw everybody starring at the big screen TV hanging on the wall in the conference room. It was Mallam El'Rufai and Governor Amaechi of River State in a heated debate with Dr. Okupe and Alhaji Ali Gulak of the PDP - live on national TV. Then I heard my phone rang. As I was struggling to grab it, I opened my eyes. I was only dreaming. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Nigerian Petroleum Industry Bill (The PIB): Overcoming the Gerrymandering at the National Assembly.

Introduction:

As of today, the Nigerian Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is languishing in obscurity somewhere inside of the National Assembly, unattended to by our honorable law makers at the instigation of Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, the Chairman of the Northern Governors Association, and Mr. Anthony Sani, the Spokesperson for the Arewa Conservative Forum. The two gentlemen, in collaboration with some faceless powerful lobby/interest groups want the Bill dead as written, because of a certain clause within it, known as the Host Community Fund (the PHC Fund). The PHC Fund is, among other things, meant to insure against unforeseen catastrophic occurrences associated with oil and gas exploration/exploitation in the local communities, with a view to ensuring cordial investment climate, sustainable development, as well as uninterrupted revenue stream for stakeholders. In the beginning, it was the multi-nation oil companies, most often referred to as International Oil Companies (IOC) that posed the most stultifying heat regarding the passage of the Bill. However, after many years of negotiations, dilutions, and modifications, they reluctantly conceded; thus, paving way for the Bill to proceed to the National Assembly. And while the Minster of Petroleum and her team were busy flying across the globe from London to Houston and to New York back and forth, marketing the yet to be passed Bill to the "big boys" in the petroleum industry, back home, Nigerian law makers, contrary to all expectations, willingly surrendered themselves as potent tools at the disposal of adversaries of the PIB. That highly respected political leader from the northern geopolitical zone, should now pride themselves as "PIB Killer" at the point of breakthrough is heartbroken and very difficult to digest. My purpose in this essay is not to critic PIB or to lampoon its antagonists, but to address the convoluted arguments, the anti-federalism narrative and the superficial talking points being bandied around to kill PIB by the two gentlemen mentioned above.

A Recap:

When the PIB was first brought before the National Assembly and the Nigerian Governors Forum, Governor Aliyu stated unequivocally that they (the Northern Governors) would have to, first, set up an advisory or expert committee to advise them with respect to the retention or exclusion of the Host Community Fund in the PIB. And until they seek and obtain the counsel of these experts or advisory committee, they will not be able to make any pronouncement on the Bill or instruct northern legislators on how to vote or proceed with respect to its passage.

From all indications, the lingering stalemate and the age-old anti-federalism talking points - collectively and individually marshaled by Governor Aliyu, Mr. Anthony Sani, and Governor Yero of Kaduna State to frustrate passage of the Bill, as you will see later in this essay - are seemingly the handiwork of the advisory/expert committee. So far, the Northern Governors Forum, under the able leadership of the irrepressible Dr. Babangida Aliyu, has succeeded in subduing their legislators and bamboozling them into believing that  the entire PIB is written to “skew” more funds to Niger Delta at the expense of the northern region. But what they have succeeded in concealing from their gullible law makers or deliberately ignored to address is the source of the fund or its objectives. 

As you read, the PIB is dying slowly, and disappointingly, no Southern Legislator or Governor - not even Governor Amaechi of River State, a close confidant of Speaker Aminu Tambuwal - could come up with a bold statement in the National Assembly or at a public forum to persuade or challenge their Northern colleagues to view the Bill in its entirety instead of dwelling on a single clause for their decision. In similar vein, I am yet to see or read from any of the opportunists masquerading as political leaders and their glorified consultants and advisers in the southern region, audacious enough or conscientious enough to challenge Mr. Anthony Sani and put a lie to his perverted indignation and undo the gerrymandering.

Abuja, today, is abuzz with preparation for the 2015 big event – the Presidential election. So, it is not necessarily business as usual; it is a season of intrigue, scheming, and schmoozing. Those who are in position to talk are not talking. Everyone wants to be a friend of the north or be seen as a friend of the north as if there is a monolithic north or as is if the antagonists of the PIB are true representatives of the north. And everyone is making friends and scheming on how to appropriate power come 2015. Meanwhile, the goose that laid the golden eggs is on a life support.

Without crude oil, the madness and the shenanigans of the moment at Abuja would be an afterthought.

The earlier this industry is regulated, the better it is for the government, the governed, and the stakeholders. It’s all about conducive investment climate, steady income, and sustainable peace in the region. That is the fundamental goal of a PIB.

At this juncture, I want to state categorically that a PIB, without a provision for PHC Fund, or something similar, is not sustainable - it is blatantly inconsistent with the current trends in Petroleum legislation elsewhere in the developing world. As a compromise, I would rather we eliminate the Ministry of Niger Delta and merge it with Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC), than to have a new Petroleum regime, without provisions for Host Community Fund. I beg to move.

The remaining part of this essay is divided into six sections. (1) The contentious or the PHD Fund sections of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), (2) The inherent right of a nation-state to legislate over natural resources, (3) Indisputable facts, (4) Factual Analysis, (5) Moving Forward and Compromises, and (6) Conclusion.

Section 116, Section 117, and section 118 of the Petroleum Industry Bill covering the Host Community Fund (the PHC Fund):

116. Establishment of the Petroleum Host Community Fund
There is established a fund to be known as the Petroleum Host Communities Fund (in this Act referred to as ‘the PHC Fund’).
117. Purpose of the PHC Fund
The PHC Fund shall be utilized for the development of the economic and social infrastructure of the communities within the petroleum producing area.
118. Beneficial entitlements to the communities
(1) Every upstream petroleum producing company shall remit on a monthly basis ten percent of its net profit as follows -.
(a) for profit derived from upstream petroleum operations in onshore areas and in the offshore and shallow water areas, all of such remittance shall be made directly into the PHC Fund; and
(b) For profit derived from upstream petroleum operations in deep-water areas, all of the remittance directly in to the Fund for the benefit of the petroleum producing littoral States.
(2) For the purpose of this section ‘net profit’ means the adjusted profit less royalty, allowable deductions and allowances, less Nigerian Hydrocarbon Tax less Companies Income Tax.
 (5) Where an act of vandalism, sabotage or other civil unrest occurs that causes damage to any petroleum facilities within a host community, the cost of repair of such facility shall be paid from PHC Fund entitlement unless it is established that no member of the community is responsible.

The Right to Legislate Over Natural Resources:

A sovereign nation is endowed with inalienable rights – rights that are inviolate and sacrosanct. With these rights, comes statehood. A fundamental component of that statehood is the inherent rights over natural resources and the ability to make laws to regulate their exploitation and use. In a nutshell, the rights over natural resources are not only inherent, but are dully protected by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1803 (XVII) of December 14, 1962 - “Permanent Sovereignty Over Natural Resources.” This section provides for freedom to negotiate and freedom to enter into investment agreements with local and international investors, while providing safe harbor for the expression of fundamental human rights, and the pursuit of happiness by the civil society – the host communities. Nigeria is not an exception.

God gave us the Niger Delta and its communities with all its natural resources for our use and enjoyment. And it is mandatory on the part of the Nigerian Government to explore and exploit the natural riches for the use and enjoyment of present generations, and at the same time, making reservations for the needs and use of the unborn generations who would have no other land, except the Niger Delta, to call their own. It is called sustainable development of natural resources. That is the goal and essence of a modern Host Community Fund.

The approach these days, given the protracted relationship between host communities and host governments on the one hand, and between the host communities and IOCs on the other, is to develop a package or framework for meeting the expectations of the host communities. It is all about the local communities and social license. That is the first step to ensuring uninterrupted flow of revenue to investors as well as steady influx of taxes and royalties to the host nation.

The arithmetic of the PHC Fund as presently structured in the PIB is free of ambiguity. Its fundamental goal is to provide insurance against unforeseen catastrophic occurrences associated with oil and gas explorations.

In addition, it provides remedying effect for the social and economic deprivations that the indigenes contend with daily. The PIB is a beautiful law; we should not hold the entire Petroleum Industry in hostage because of a single provision. We can do better. A new energy regime, without any provision for meeting the expectations of the local communities is unsustainable.

In the words of Professor Luke Danielson, a notable scholar in the crusade for sustainable development of human and mineral resources in mineral resources-rich regions of the world: “Truly successful projects must be successful for investors, local communities, and host national economies. Increasingly, it appears that there is little opportunity for success in one of these dimensions without success in all of them. A project that has terrible results for investors is not going to benefit anyone else very much. A project that burdens the government of a poor country with all kinds of costs of social dislocation and environmental problems while providing little or no revenue to deal with them is likely to have a long list of other problems. The idea that the company is going to be highly successful at meeting its own expectations without meeting the expectations of other key players is increasingly difficult to accept.”

In other words, success is defined in the context of the scale an investment benefits investors, local communities and the economy of the host nation – it must be all-embracing for enduring peace.

What is required therefore, is a fundamental framework (a Host Community Fund, if you want to call it that, but I would have rather we label it “Land and Water Reclamation Fund), developed with a view to ensuring availability of funds for future generations as well as in the event of unforeseen catastrophic occurrences in the host communities. That fundamental framework must be explicitly embedded in the emerging PIB regime. It is a deal breaker.

As of today, that emerging trend seems to be at variance with the philosophy of the major adversaries of the PIB. So far, Governor Babangida Aliyu and Mr. Anthony Sani have succeeded in their toxic arguments concocted by their expert/advisory committee to imperil the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). These two gentlemen in concert with Governor Yero of Kaduna State and other influential interest groups operating behind the scene would rather the PIB died in its entirety, than see the retention of the Host Community Fund or any section of the Bill benefiting the oil producing areas.

At this juncture, I want to state categorically that a PIB, without a provision for a PHC Fund, or something similar, is inconsistent with the current trends in Petroleum legislation. I would rather we don’t have an energy bill, than to have one, without a provision for insuring against unforeseen development in and around the oil producing communities.

Indeed, President Goodluck Jonathan’s election as President of Nigeria is important symbolically, but Niger Delta cannot overcome 50 years of abuse of federal character and 50 years of unbridled corporate irresponsibility and 50 years of environmental degradations and 50 years of indiscriminate destruction of their aquatic resources by multi-national oil companies and the Nigerian Federal Government.

Yes, they survived 50 years of neglect and deprivations. That is a fact.

They were fisher-men, they were into rubber and they were into timber. They were industrious, self-secured and self-sufficient. They were loyal landlords, until the uninvited quests confiscated their land, took away the riches of their earth, and imperiled their means of survival.

And yes, they produced and drank ogogoro, but there was no drunkard and no insane delusional or hopeless mind rummaging the swampy landscape scavenging for a piece of the black gold simmering from crevices along the pipelines.

IOCs and the Federal Government of Nigeria took their humility for granted and left them economically pulverized.

There was no burning, and there was no looting. There was no kidnapping of white men and not so white men for ransom. And there was no lamentation of force majeure by Shell, or BP, or by Chevron.

These companies cleaned up their mess in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere in the developed and developing World; they must be made to clean up their mess in the Niger Delta. If it is the Host Company Fund that is the best we can do for now, it is a good start.
That is not too much of a demand.

The demand for the integration of human rights and human development within the framework of every investment agreements relating to natural resources is not just an in intellectual exercise. It is real and achievable, if diligently pursued.

The earlier our Federal Government and foreign investors embrace and acknowledge the interests and concerns of indigenous people and inculcate those concerns into their final investment agreements, the closer we are to peace and sustainable development in the mineral producing communities in the Niger Delta. Nothing enriches shareholders value more than sustainable income and peaceful investment climate.

It is our firm belief that any State Governor who has interest in life, liberty, freedom, and fundamental human rights of others, especially people living in and around oil rigs and gas pipelines; any State Governor with genuinely concern for living things, creatures, and the environment in and around gas flaring locations; any State Governor who appreciate peaceful investment climate and cordial business relationship with local communities, should not prevaricate on those issues that matter most to the petroleum producing communities. The late President Musa Yar’Adua set a good example worthy of replication.  

Indisputable Facts:

The talking points being bandied about to kill the PIB by Governor Babangiada Aliyu of Niger State, Governor Yero of Kaduna State, and Mr. Anthony Sani of Arewa Conservative Forum are consistent with the line of arguments they contrived to kill free education proposal many years ago - it will lead to widening the existing educational gap between North and South. In the words of Mr. Anthony Sani, “I think those clamouring for such fund must be reminded that we cannot claim one country and live as if we are on different continents. The concept of nationhood presupposes bringing of people together to enable them to live up their synergy for common good. And that is why reduction of gaps in development and income is not only good politics but good economics as well.” - Sunday Punch of July 28, 2013.

Once again, in the world of Mr. Anthony Sani, it’s all about the “reduction of gaps in development and income.” Unfortunately, the large scale ecological devastation and the attendant adverse economic hardship that the people of the Niger Delta have endured for years and will continue to endure are irrelevant. Killing the PIB, as Anthony Sani is crusading, is another way of saying: unforeseen environmental catastrophes, as we have witnessed in the Niger Delta over the years, are figments of one’s imagination. In other words, the Bonga oil spillage did not happen.

With all due respect, Mr. Anthony Sani’s reduction of gaps in income and development argument, illogical as it is, is inconsistent with true federalism and it reinforces the view gaining ground in the global energy cycle that, indeed, oil is a curse to developing countries, especially the Nigerian Niger Delta.

Also, you will see similar language in this report by This Day Newspaper of August 06, 2013: “Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, and his Kaduna State counterpart, Alhaji Ramalan Yero, had opposed the provision of 10 per cent host community fund in the PIB positing that it may negatively impact their fiscal position by skewing yet more resources to the oil-producing states."

I want to repeat; that was the same argument northern intellectuals put up successfully in the 70s to kill the introduction of free education by the federal government - it will skew more funds to the south, in light of the fact that northern parents are not favorably disposed to western value system. That was the argument. In hindsight, they were wrong then, and they are wrong today. Boko Haram insurgency and the Almajiris population explosion remind everyone that it was a wrong argument and a faulty premise to defeat free education at all levels.

So far, they have succeeded in stewing up the debate to strengthen their perverted logic.

It is irrelevant that the funding (the 10 percent) of the Host Community Fund is from Oil Companies.

It is irrelevant that financing the Host Community Fund does not in any shape or form constitute a drain on the Federation Account.

It is irrelevant that financing the Host Community Fund does not by any stretch of the imagination alter one bit the mandatory monthly allocations from the Federation Account to any of the local government councils or states of the major antagonists of the PIB. As long as the funding benefits the oil producing states, in the opinion of Governor Aliyu and Mr. Anthony Sani, it is a bad law.

While the PIB languishes unattended in the hands of our law makers at the prompting of the Northern Governors, gas flaring is continuing unabated in the Niger Delta, with all its associated environmental imparts and socio-economic problems.

And yes, as the Bill languishes unattended in the National Assembly, those who are in regulatory position to take action in the energy sector are watching helplessly. Worst still, is the fact that the entire Nigeria Oil and Gas industry is being held hostage because of a single clause, and at the instance of bunch of political careerists.

Factual Analysis:

First and foremost, financing the PHC Fund is independent of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I want to emphasize that point. Also, the Fund does not by any stretch of the imagination cut into the funds accruing to the various states and local councils from the Federation Account. I also want to emphasize the fact that funding is from the net profit made by oil companies – local and international. That is it. But Mr. Anthony Sani is not buying any of those indisputable facts. He is vehemently and unambiguously demanding “reduction of gaps in development and income …” not minding the social and economic dislocations associated with oil spillage as well as the prolonged ecological ills characteristics of gas flaring.

With respect to the Host Community Fund, what the Governors are not telling their supporters is the source or sources of the “skewed” fund. And to say that funding may negatively impact their fiscal position is as illogical as saying gas flaring is a common occurrence in Niger or Kaduna State - which is a known fallacy.

In addition, making more funds available to oil producing communities is not enough to assuage the communities for years of unbridled corporate irresponsibility perpetuated by IOCs and our federal institutions.

Making fund available to oil producing communities from outside federal sources to insure against unforeseen environmental occurrences prevalent in oil rich regions does not constitute a cut into the revenue accruing to Niger State or Kaduna State from the Federation Account. Common guys, get the facts right.

Another argument put forward by Mr. Anthony Sani is that the oil producing states are not spending their allocations wisely. In his words, they are using the funds “to build their state capitals and airports.” Even if that’s the case; it is legitimate. It’s all about sustainable development – developing infrastructures are component part, and in fact, the core foundation of an expanding economy.

At this juncture, I want to remind Governor Babangida Aliyu, Governor Yero, and Mr. Anthony Sani that every state in a federal system has every right to develop at its own pace and to spend its funds as to the dictate of the realities on the ground in his or her own state.

At this juncture, I want to remind Governor Babangida Aliyu, Governor Yero, and Mr. Anthony Sani that every state in a true federal system has every right to develop at its own pace and to spend its funds as to the dictate of the realities on the ground in his or her state.

No one, I repeat, no one has questioned the resourcefulness of the Kano State Government in its yearly ritual in the name of group marriage for runaway lovers, who, history has told us, are incapable of sustaining the marriage forced on them. If that is the best the State Government could do to alleviate poverty and social unrest in Kano State; it is a worthy undertaking, in light of the realities on the ground – realities unknown, for instance, to the Governors in the oil producing states who, in the instant case, are allegedly building airports and state capitals.

On a similar note, that principle of true federalism is consistent with funding of State Police and the implementation of Sharia Law in most part of the northern region by the State Governors. That is the true essence of true federalism – the ability of each federating state to develop at its own space – channeling its resources to areas that best suit the needs of its people.

With respect to deep-water exploration/exploitation, there should be a dividing line where the littoral states and the federal government should exercise joint ownership and where the Federal Government should exercise absolute control – that is without sharing with the Littoral States. Exercising joint control or ownership over proceeds from defined boundary in the deep-water by the littoral states and the central government is not uncommon.

I would like to remind Mr. Sani, who, no doubt, is the major antagonist of the littoral states funding, that in the event of spillage, as was the case in the US Gulf of Mexico few years ago, it is the Littoral States that suffer the most hardship, ecologically and economically speaking. Tourism along the gulf coast of and the entire sea food industry of the Littoral States went under following the massive spillage.

Back at home, our Fulani brethren who are involved in Cattle rearing and animal husbandry are reputed for traversing thousands of hostile and treacherous terrain sourcing for greener pasture.  It is the same story with those involved in sea food industry in the oil producing communities. Traversing the deep water for bounteous harvest is the name if the game. Yes, Littoral States should not be excluded from benefiting from proceeds of the exploratory activities going on in the deep-water around them. They are naturally placed to suffer economically in the event of oil spillage and related disasters. We should not wait for such disaster to erupt before sourcing for funds.

Moving Forward:

For a start, most oil producing countries do not have a Ministry of Niger Delta and Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC), catering to the same region. But most of them do have a fund, set up to address unexpected ‘catastrophic occurrences’, spillage, decommissioning exercises, and something for the community to fall back on when the oil companies vacate the land. That’s where Host Community Fund comes in. In most jurisdictions, it is not a fund for immediate use, but for the future and for the younger and unborn generations coming into the oil producing communities or communities that were once endowed with oil and gas.

As I said in the opening statement in this section, NDDC is best suited to represent the interests of the Federal Government in meeting the demands and the expectations of the host communities that are not adequately addressed by state government. Adding the Ministry of Niger Delta to the field was to assuage the region for the massive deprivations they suffered under past administrations. It was a massive effort designed to overcome the endless pains, anger, and resentment of the Federal Government. It was a massive measure to remedy massive failure of the Federal Government in the region, but in the process, it creates overlaps. The need to coordinate efforts of all the government agencies on the ground, with a view to ensuring accountability cannot be overemphasized.

On that ground, I respectfully hold that NDDC as presently structured is capable of representing the interests and the economic objectives of the Federal Government in the Niger Delta. In that case, the Ministry of Niger Delta should be eliminated, and systematically merged with NDDC. Truth is that there would not have been any need for a Ministry of Niger Delta, if past administrations understood the true essence of sustainable development and accountability. We can eliminate the Ministry of the Niger Delta, but retention of the PHC Fund in the PIB is sacrosanct.

The arguments propounded by Governor Aliyu and Mr. Anthony Sani to frustrate passage of PIB are not new to us – they are enticing, but inherently superficial. They do not serve any useful benefit to anyone or any region on the long run. The war against free education at all levels in the seventies and the accompanied explosion of amajiris population in the northern region bear witness to that conclusion.

Conclusion:

The PIB is a beautiful law, and I do recommend it for everyone to read. There is more to it than just Host Community Fund. Let’s join hands to rescue it from the stranglehold of Governor Aliyu and Anthony Sani. We cannot afford to do less. President Jonathan and Governor Amaechi of River State, for the moment, should set aside their political differences and collaborate to ensure the passage of PIB as soon as possible.
At this juncture, it is worth emphasizing that the PIB war is no longer a battle for the NNPC or Ministry of Petroleum or the Department of Energy to fight. This is a deliberately contrived political impasse that is counterproductive and blatantly inconsistent with the true essence of federalism. Therefore, it requires vibrant and coordinated political muscles and multi-dimensional counter-attacks for the Bill to sail through the hearing process in the National Assembly.

Oil is our major income earner; until we effectively manage peace in that part of the country and with genuine intent, no State Governor is safe and no Local Government Chairman is safe. Let’s strive to move beyond regional considerations and demagoguery in our legislative process. Late President Yar’Adua was very much aware of the repercussions of gerrymandering, which informed his pragmatic approach and a willingness to do what no one has ever tried in the region – negotiate and consent. And it works. Let’s pass the PIB in to law now and dedicate it to his memory. If that is the best we can do for him at this point in time, it is a welcome development. 

Mr. Alex Aidaghese
Houston, TX


April 4, 2014 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Of Distorted Federalism, Structural Problems, and Leadership Crisis in Nigeria: A Case for Decentralization of the National Government.

“Leadership is half the battle but followership must also prove its mettle. Each regional grouping should, by its policies, declare an uncompromising developmental autonomy – I repeat, Autonomy - leaving the centre only with its competence provenance – foreign policy, national security and inter-state affairs - including peace subversive Peace Advocacy – but minus its propensity for inflicting heart seizure on productive human concourse.” Professor Wole Soyinka:   "Mission The Future" - A Speech Delivered at the 2nd South-South Economic Summit in Asaba.

“Fourthly, as a medium term, structural measure, we must work to restore our federalism to the broad outlines embedded in the 1963 republican constitution, devolving more powers and responsibilities to the states and making the federal government less of a busy body. This would require that states like Bauchi whose annual internally-generated revenue is N7 billion should not run a government costing N58 billion because of monthly hand-outs from Abuja. Each state should learn to live within its means and seek to actively develop its comparative endowments. State governors will then be compelled to use their resources better and not point fingers at the federal government.” “Between Terrorism and Corruption.” By Mallam El’Rufai, Sahara Reporters, May 10, 2012.

Preamble: 

There is this saying that every society gets a leader that it deserves. Profound as that saying may be; in Nigeria, that is not the case. For the past thirty five years, or thereabouts, only two Nigerians, in and out of the Military - Obasanjo and IBB - have been the dominant forces in our leadership selection. Until we eliminate the structural problem or institutional deformity that makes it possible for IBB and Obasanjo  to successfully commandeered our electoral process, we will not be able to overcome our leadership crises, especially at the national level. Without any doubt, that structural deformity creates fertile ground for nurturing the bunch of discredited scoundrels and opportunists now masquerading as political leaders and statesmen throughout the Nigerian landscape. Until we develop permanent solutions to overcome it, we will not be able to conduct credible election and elect leaders we can trust. It has nothing to do with INEC (the Electoral Commission). It has everything to do with selection of candidates during the Primaries - a process dominated by an all powerful President. Therefore, the main challenge before every delegate at the ongoing National Conference is how to dismantle and eliminate every fragment of that distortion - the unitary model and the oligarchy that it creates. That's the only way the spirit of one nation one destiny - a true federal system of equal rights and justice - can evolve as it ought to be. So, this essay is about unraveling that structural deformity - its genesis and trajectory - how it impacted our electoral process and leadership selection over the years, and finally, how to overcome it.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with federalism or federal system of government. Ours became an aberration, because the concept was abused, distorted, and manipulated by every administration at the national level since independence, thus creating in our body politic a lingering climate of political disillusionment throughout the land. In spite of every thing, I am passionately and unequivocally opposed to disintegration of Nigeria. Nevertheless, I will not in observance of political correctness, shy away from articulating how a very small, but very influential group in and out of the military, in collaboration with ethnic chauvinists in the likes of Dr. Junaid Mohammed, Professor Ango Abdullahi, and Mr Anthony Sani contrived and perpetrated that distortion/deformity in pursuit of unproductive, selfish, sectional, and feudal ideological objectives.

We must start with decentralization of the over-bloated federal government - relieving it of some responsibilities and transferring them to the federating units or regions. First, they have to put an end to the unproductive marriage or entanglement between State Governors and Local Government Councils, with a view to enabling Local Government Councils with ascertainable rights and responsibilities. Then, apportion the responsibilities presently on the Exclusive List between the Federating States or Regions and the National Government, thereby creating an authentic three levels of government with defined responsibilities and limitations. (By now, we all know those areas that the Federal Government should abstain from or yield ground or act as equal partner with the Federating Regions or States). 

Therefore, for this National Conference to be meaningful, any man-made obstacle, which in the opinion of the delegates, is capable of impeding their chances of developing a document that would eliminate the anomalies associated with our distorted federal system, should be confronted decisively and dismantled permanently, no matter who is orchestrating the obstacle. So, on the question of what constitutes majority vote, the delegates should use their own discretion - it requires reasonable judgement. Deferring  to the Presidency on the three-quarter requirement instead of two-third is a continuation of the distortion of our federal system by an over-bloated Aso Rock. The three-quarter vote is unconscionable, and must be voted down by the delegates, if they hope of saving this country. This time, Nigerians will not accept "our hands are tied." We need performance, action, and result. Not excuses. I beg to move. 

A Historical Perspective of A Distorted Federalism:

The perversion of our Federal system began from the time of Sadauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of Northern Region, whose expansionist zeal, geographically speaking, was blatantly inconsistent with the concept of Federalism. He settled in Kaduna, rather than joining forces with his peers in Lagos to form a Government and be saddled with responsibilities of building a new nation. He elected to stay back in Kaduna, confident that doing so would provide him enormous opportunities to assimilate the Middle-Belt Region and fortify his (NPC) hold on the entire Northern Region, and at the same time, consolidate his political and religious conquest of the Southern Protectorate, unhindered.

He resisted every attempt to create another region (Middle Belt) out of the then Northern Region, fully conscious of the aftermath: Doing so would diminish his command and control of the greater part of the ‘geographical expression’ called Nigeria. Nevertheless, he championed the creation of Midwestern Region, calculated to erode the territorial spread of Action Group, with the ultimate goal of diluting Pa Awo's influence and visibility at the national stage. And it happened, judging by the outcome of the election that took place following the creation of Midwestern Region.

As events unfold, especially after the civil war, that clandestine maneuvering of our federal system by the Northern Premier, took a reverse turn. When his "Boys" in the Military became the dominant forces in our Armed Forces and heading the government at the national level, they dismantled the untouchable Northern region into pieces in the form of new states and new local government councils for obvious reason: To channel more federal funds into every nook and cranny of the region.  Except for the short period of Aguiyi Ironsi's unitary gamble, Nigeria, since independence, has been at the mercy of northern intellectuals and Military Officers on the issue of the system of government that we embrace as a nation-sate.

Why is that distortion an issue today? The unintended outcomes, as devastating as they have been, outweighed the main objective. It changes the dynamics of our federal system of government and all its attributes; supplanting them with a unitary model – a model that is resistance of competition at the lower levels, and a model that creates in the occupant of Aso Rock, horrendous power that is blatantly inconsistent with democratic principles.

Indeed the structural decay is real. There is too much power and control in the command of a sitting President of Nigeria. So, tracing the genesis and trajectory of that anomaly is not immoral. Now is the time for the conference delegates to dilute that humongous power at the national level (the unitary model) and spread more of it to state and local government councils in the true spirit of a federal system. That is the view of most Nigerians from north to south and from east to west.  If that's all the delegates can do at the conference; it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Defining the Structural Problem in Relation to our Leadership Crisis:

I was never a fan of or an advocate for a sovereign national conference; believing as always, that leadership, to a great extent, determines the attitude of the governed towards grafts, bribery and corruption. And that if we have selfless or credible leaders from north to south and from east to west, all the calls for true federalism, confederacy, or total disintegration as robust as they are presently, would ebb significantly. In other words, if we vote credible candidates into political office, we are on our way to the promise land. I was wrong. The Primaries and the process of selecting candidates at the party level are dominated by one man - the Governor or the President, as the case ma be. It’s all about the incumbent, and who he wants to contest at the general election. In the words of President Obasanjo, ‘I do not know who is going to replace me, but I sure know who won’t’. And it happened.

In hindsight, given the nature of our electoral history, I firmly believe and hold that we will not be able to elect selfless visionary leaders capable of bringing into fruition our dreams of a great and egalitarian society, because of the dictatorship of a very privileged few, supported by the bourgeois class they created via the spoils of office. And that brings us to the thesis of this short essay: Decentralization, without Disintegration: Unraveling and overcoming the oligarchic trends in our body politic, without jeopardizing our age-old social and cultural integration.

For a start, you cannot separate the leadership crisis from the manipulation of our federal system and from the resultant structural problems. They are one and the same. The manipulation or distortion of our federal system gave birth to the structural problems, and the structural problems, in turn, create fertile ground for nurturing the opportunists we are having at the national level as well as in most of the states and local government councils - leading to a culture of low expectations.  Apology to Professor Ndibe. Undoing that is a task before the delegates. Because maintaining the status quo is the shortest distance to anarchy, disintegration, or a revolution.

Ours is the only country where an Awo, Gambari, Aguda, Kontagora, Idiagbon, Eme Awa, Aboyade, Adedeji, Alele Williams, Yusuf Maitama Sule, Faleye, Kalu Idika Kalu, Donald Duke, and Ayagi cannot become President. For instance, for an Idiagbon Military coup to be legitimate, a Buhari had to be brought in from retirement to satisfy the interest of the so-called Sokoto-Kano Caliphate. Were it not for that historic blonder, there would not have been an IBB aborted experimentation with democracy or an Abacha fiasco or an Obasanjo dictatorship or the dying Musa Ya'Adua. It is that simple! It is the structural deformity that defines the state of our federalism, and by extension, the quality of our leadership.

And it is that anomaly - the resultant unitary model, the humongous power at the command of a very powerful President - that defines the level of the relationship (disconnect) between Abuja and the governed - you and I. It is that anomaly that defines the mismanagement of our institutions - Sporting Facilities, the Police Force, Communications, Power Generation, Educational decay, and stultification of our growth index. It is all about Abuja. I want to repeat; ours is not a unitary system, constitutionally speaking. It is a Federal system. It is now the responsibility of the delegates to make good that distortion.

Undoing the Anomaly:

If Nigeria is one country, or, if Nigeria is to remain one country, I strongly suggest that the brouhaha about "it is my turn or the turn of my region to produce the next President" should become a thing of the past. You cannot continue to glorify "State of Origin", "Zoning Formula", “Federal Character”, and “Quota System” concepts, and at the same time, find joy in propagating the national creed of one nation one destiny.

My position is neither a demand for disintegration nor an endorsement of the call for disintegration. Disintegration, to say the least, is unrealistic. That is a fact. It is too extreme and too dangerous to execute, given the tenacity of the economic relationship between the different regions and the social integration that existed between the various ethnic groups and tribes for centuries.

On the other hand, if disintegration is not negotiable, then removal of "Federal Character", "Quota System", and "State of Origin" concepts from our constitution and body politic should be non-negotiable.  In that case, every Nigerian should be safe anywhere he or she is (state of residence) in Nigeria, as well as being able to claim that state as his state of origin.

At this juncture, I would like to point out that at this very moment there are in existence, some elements of a confederacy system of government in operation in present day Northern region of Nigeria. Given that as true, one would then ask: why the resistance to call for a true federalism or resource control? Why the 'no go areas'? Why the brouhaha about federating units and federal system? How about the unilateral promulgation and imposition of Sharia Law in most part of the Northern region? Did Sharia Law receive the approval of the sitting President or the votes of the National Assembly? No. It is the same with the introduction of Native Police.

Truth is that the call for true federalism and semi-autonomous status that most progressives are demanding are already in operation in the Northern part of Nigeria, except of course, in the area of revenue generation where there is still 100% reliance on Federal Government - thanks to the monthly free oil money from the federal government. In other words, if elements of semi-autonomy are presently in full swing in most Northern States of the country, it is legitimate on the part of the delegates at the conference to vote and endorse semi-autonomous status  for the various states. And the same should apply to resource control.

Therefore, I challenge every concerned delegate at the conference to be firm of purpose and seize on this great opportunity to impress it upon every participating delegate, no matter the geographical, religious, or political background, that the present unitary model is not sustainable. Our federal model was distorted by the same people, some of whom are now holding forth at  Arewa Consultative Forum, crying marginalization. At this point in time, every Nigerian wants a true federal system, where each component unit or region is imbued with attributes of a semi-autonomous entity, defined as federating unit or region - a constituent of a whole – of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It's all about decentralization of the national government. 

I would like to end this piece by quoting, once again, from the great work of Professor Wole Soyinka in the concluding paragraph of the same essay referenced at the opening section of this piece. ”Nigeria has proved too large and inefficient for the centralized identification and management of such human skills and material resources, the centre having become self-aggrandizing, bloated, parasitic and alienated. Now is the time to put into practice that ancient saying: Small is beautiful. We must return to the earlier days of creative rivalry that pronounces that vanishing past an interrupted project of promise, creativity and productivity. Then, it may be possible for your generation to say contentedly, even while the harvest is still distant but the soil is cleanly prepared, the seeds implanted and germinating: Mission? Accomplished!”

Mr. Alex Aidaghese
03/25/2014