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Saga of Magu Confirmation

Inibehe Effiong
Barrister Inibehe Effiong

On Thursday December 15, 2016 the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held an executive session during which it rejected the nomination of Mr. Ibrahim Magu as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by President Muhammadu Buhari based on an adverse ‘’security report’’ authored by the State Security Service (SSS).

Unsurprisingly, the decision of the Senate has triggered controversy on whether Mr. Magu can validly continue in his capacity as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC in the light of the disapproving decision of the Senate. This intervention seeks to offer clarification on the issue based on the enabling and relevant legal authorities.

On the mode of appointing the Chairman of the Commission, the relevant statutory provision is Section 2(3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act Cap. E17 LFN , 2004. It provides thus:

‘’The Chairman and members of the Commission other than ex-officio members shall be appointed by the President and the appointment shall be subject to the confirmation of the Senate.’’

The above provision subjects the appointment of the Chairman of the Commission by the President to the concurrence and confirmation of the Senate. We submit that the EFCC (Establishment) Act does not expressly provide for the position of an Acting Chairman of the Commission, it only provides for a substantive Chairman.

Flowing from the above, two issues necessarily arise for determination:

Where does the President derive the power to appoint an Acting Chairman of the Commission?; and
Can Magu continue to act as the Acting Chairman of the Commission despite the rejection of his nomination, having regards to Section 2(3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act quoted above?

In resolving the twin issues formulated supra (above), the provisions of Section 11 of the Interpretation Act Cap. 123, Vol. 8, LFN, 2004 are apposite. For clarity and ease of reference, the said provisions are wholly reproduced infra (below):

11. Appointment

(1) Where an enactment confers a power to appoint a person either to an office or to exercise any functions, whether for a specified period or not, the power includes−

(a) power to appoint a person by name or to appoint the holder from time to time of a particular office;

(b) power to remove or suspend him;

(c) power, exercisable in the manner and subject to the limitations and conditions (if any) applicable to the power to appoint−

(i) to reappoint or reinstate him;

(ii) to appoint a person to act in his place, either generally or in regard to specified functions, during such time as is considered expedient by the authority in whom the power of appointment in question is vested.

(2) A reference in an enactment to the holder of an office shall be construed as including a reference to a person for the time being appointed to act in his place, either as respects the functions of the office generally or the functions in regard to which he is appointed, as the case may be.

Before proceeding to examine the ramifications and effect of the elaborate provisions above, it should be borne in mind that the Interpretation Act is a special piece of legislation that gives direction on the meaning of words, expressions and interpretation of the provisions of all other laws enacted by the legislature. Where there is an interpretative lacuna or controversy in a statute regarding the meaning and application of certain words, expressions and or provisions, the Interpretation Act is usually resorted to by the courts for succor.

It is our firm contention that the President has the requisite vires (powers) to appoint an Acting Chairman of the EFCC. We reference Section 11(1)(c)(ii) of the Interpretation Act in support. The said provision has clothed the President with the authority to appoint another person to act in the place of a substantive Chairman of the EFCC. Unlike the appointment of a substantive Chairman which requires the confirmation of the Senate, the President does not need the confirmation of the Senate to appoint an Acting Chairman of the Commission.

On the second issue, we submit that the decision of the Senate to reject the nomination of Magu for the position of substantive Chairman of the EFCC has no upsetting consequence in law on his earlier appointment as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC by President Buhari on November 9, 2015.

The Interpretation Act does not specify the term of office or period for which the acting chairmanship is to subsist. Section 11(1)(c)(ii) of the Interpretation Act seems to give the appointing authority the discretion to determine how long the acting or temporary appointee is to serve. This reasoning appears inevitable given the use of the expression ‘’during such time as is considered expedient by the authority in whom the power of appointment in question is vested’’ in the cited provision.

It is an elementary principle of statutory interpretation that where the words and expressions used in a statute are clear and unambiguous, they must be given their natural and ordinary meanings unless to do so would lead to absurdity or inconsistency with the rest of the statute. See the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Okoye v. C.O.P. (2015) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1488) 276 at 320. The expression ‘’during such time as is considered expedient by the authority in whom the power of appointment in question is vested’’ is clear and unambiguous.

In the instant case, the President is the appointing authority under Section 2(3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act. He is the person vested with power under Section 11 of the Interpretation Act to appoint an Acting Chairman in lieu (in the absence of) of a substantive chairman. Accordingly, Mr. Magu will continue to act as the chairman of the EFCC if his retention is considered expedient by President Buhari. It does not lie in the mouth of the Senate to say what is expedient in the circumstance. The parameters for determining the expediency of Magu’s continued acting leadership of the EFCC belongs to President Buhari.

However, we submit that there are two identifiable limitations or exceptions to the power of the appointing authority under Section 11 of the Interpretation Act to determine the duration or tenure of a person appointed in an acting capacity based on what is considered expedient by the appointing authority. These exceptions will be shown using the present case of Ibrahim Magu.

First, we submit that Magu cannot legally serve in an acting capacity BEYOND the term permissible for a substantive chairman of the Commission. Section 3(1) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act states that ‘’the Chairman and members of the Commission other than ex-officio members shall hold office for a period of four years and may be re-appointed for a further term of four years and no more.’’ It would be absurd for anyone to suggest that a person who is appointed in an acting capacity can serve in that capacity beyond the statutorily allowable tenure for the substantive appointee. The President’s power to appoint an Acting Chairman of the EFCC under Section 11 of the Interpretation Act is derivable from and only incidental to his power to appoint a substantive Chairman under Section 2(3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act. Therefore, Magu cannot continue in his acting capacity beyond the four years term (in the first instance) allowed for a substantive Chairman.

Second, it is our humble view that Magu’s tenure as the Acting Chairman of the Commission MUST BE LESS THAN the four years period stipulated for a substantive Chairman. The gravamen of this contention is that the words ‘act’ and ‘acting’ when used in relation to a position, by their ordinary grammatical and juristic meaning presupposes a state or status of temporariness as opposed to permanency. Few dictionary definitions will suffice. The Interpretation Act does not define ‘act’ or ‘acting’. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, 6th edition, page 11 defines ‘acting’ as ‘’Doing the work of another person for a short time…’’. Law Guide, (www.thelaw.com) an online legal source, defines ‘acting’ as ‘’Temporary performance. Frequently referring to a temporary position performing and carrying out the duties of an office without actually holding the position.’’ Lastly, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online version, variously defines ‘acting’ as ‘’performing a job for a short time’’ and ‘’holding a temporary rank or position’’.

Does the law give recognition and effect to dictionary definition of words in the interpretation of statutes? The answer is in the affirmative. Reference is made to a recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Alechenu v. University of Jos (2015) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1440) 333 at 361, paras. C-D, where the appellate court, per BDLIYA, J.C.A., held inter alia: ‘’Where words used in a Statute are not defined therein, a resort to the dictionary meaning of such words is permissible…’’

The totality of the above exposition is that a person who is appointed into a position in an acting capacity cannot exhaust or complete the full term of that office or position. A person can either be appointed in an acting capacity to complete the remainder term of the substantive appointee whose office has become vacant either by reason of death, resignation, removal or for other cause OR to occupy the position temporarily pending when a substantive appointment is made. Anything other than this is legally indefensible.

The legal implications of the two exceptions espoused above are that Mr. Magu can continue in his position as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC at the pleasure of President Buhari. However, the President in deciding the expediency for the continued retention of Mr. Magu in an acting capacity must ensure that Magu’s acting tenure does not exceed, but is actually less than the four years period stipulated in Section 3(1) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act.

As a postscript, the President is at liberty to re-submit Magu’s name to the Senate for re-consideration and possible confirmation. The Senate’s decision whether to accept or reject the nomination is absolute, provided same is done in conformity with the constitutional requirement for quorum and the Standing Orders of the Senate.

The fight against corruption in Nigeria is being trivialized. President Buhari should bear in mind that if he fails in his anti-corruption campaign, he has failed in everything. It is indeed a tragic irony that the very infamous Senator Bukola Saraki-led Senate, with all its scandals and embarrassing pedigree, is lecturing President Buhari on corruption.

The fact that the alleged indicting security report which formed the fulcrum upon which the Senate acted in rejecting Magu’s nomination was authored by the SSS, an agency under the presidency, loudly evinces the apparent lack of coordination and effective leadership in the country. It is either President Buhari is not in charge of his government or he is trying to use corruption to fight corruption.

The troubling message from this unsettling scenario is that Nigeria is far from being salvaged. We can only hope that the evil forces in the corridors of power will not completely pollute and destroy our nation.

Thank you.

Inibehe Effiong is a Lagos based Legal Practitioner and Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD) and can be reached at: inibehe.effiong@gmail.com

 

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Information News

Post factual politics; the Africanization of the West

By: Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies
fadipeb@cwdom.dm

Politics in Africa has always been and still is a uniquely brutish winner takes all contact sport; It is not unique because it is a hit or be hit macabre duel, ….politics everywhere is after all cast in that sorry mould …. its uniqueness comes in its below the belt kind of hit, disregard for rules or facts or principles ; just one huge and unbecoming contest not over power of ideas, but ideas of power. And where rules exist, they are so tenuous they are impalpable and the impalpabilities render them uniquely vulnerable to flagrant flouting; lawlessness intrinsic to African political culture remains the greatest bane to continental progress.

Hardly is the term “post factual ” politics more the case in any part of the world than in Africa ; Hardly that is, ….until now … when like a horse , Trump rode post factual politics big league to the White House : starting by playing his opponents like a fiddle, then ending beating them like a drum; Trumpery shot his ‘inventor’ ( Trump) into the political stratosphere as rocket fuel does the astronaut.

The trump phenomenon is the earliest sign yet of an africanization of the western electoral process; ….a process in which African political leaders have become well honed at hawking untruths in ornate wraps competing amongst themselves which untruths sell best and in what electoral constituency. Poor hungry african voter like his poor angry rust belt or brexit equivalent too beleaguered ( and ignorant) to be bothered about fact checking, laps up the sweet nothings from these political aspirants, poverty or group identity exploited to the hilt, electoral victory the only bargain.

African intelligentsia and friends had always hoped the continent’s practice of politics will shed its toga of a bruising and mendacious sabre rattling in favor of a westernizing model with its relatively sanitized fact based open contests until Trump suddenly popped up on a high wire extravaganza betraying the somber reality that Africans hold no monopoly over meretricious political incursions. In one short election cycle, Trump reversed everything of a tested model deploying to stunning advantage African style political demagoguery, tribe/ race baiting, poverty/ anger tap and vapid messianic platitudes, milking the protopathic sensibilities of a people or group as a farmer would the laden udder.

That is unsettling enough!!! More unsettling even is the new inclination by some ( including many who for good reasons were then opposed to his despicable style ) to want to elevate trump to the level of a Ceasar, along with a foreseeable short step from branding his tactics the tactics . What a doom prospect.

Should the west evolve in a trumpian direction in its electioneering culture , it might not only be a race to the bottom , it may come to spell the beginning of the end of western civilization . Why would a potential aspirant intent on high office want to trek the harder road of fact based contests, constrained by need for mutual decencies and polished discourse when by merely locating himself inside a post factual bubble simulating the Trumpian foot dance of disregarding the facts exploiting either the poverty ( Africa) and or anger ( American/Brexiter ) of voters , a softer ride to victory is not only possible, trump has shown it to be probable .

In Africa the trumpian model has earned the process nothing other than unending hostilities, cycle after cycles between groups pitched one against another by reckless campaign rhetorics and post truth realities. Is that kind of Africanization of western politics in the preservatory interest of the west ? !! What is now obvious more piquantly so than before is the ubiquitous role of the poor/ marginalized in shaping electoral outcomes . This is so because the poor/disgruntled will always be the weakest link in any democracy chain and where they happen to constitute the larger electoral bloc inside the particular democracy the process can only get to be as sanitized as the poor/ disgruntled renders it.

Just as ominous is the new reality that in the west just as it always has been in Africa, electoral ideals can be hijacked from unexpected quarters, the poor/deprived too ready to look past whatever the glaring ugliness of the candidate is, the messianic promise of rescue the only bet! Tied into the trump victory is yet another frightening prospect ! Until now, people in the west had always been able to stay ahead of the rest of the world in any knowledge based contests ; the littlest American easily able to outcompete arriving giants from outside and so job security for him was always assured.

Immigrant outliers all along patiently took positions in the queue, but constantly tooling and retooling themselves to jack up individual market appeal and market value; now many are so qualified the table has turned. Immigrants, still playing inside the rules they were faced with , came from the rear to the front of the queue outcompeting the winners of yesterday in those very knowledge based contests. but only to the chagrined resentment of winners of yesterday the new losers hoping to finagle old but tested rules, toss knowledge out the ring, to be replaced by mix of nativist and color driven contests, their savior, no longer competitive knowledge/skill sets but raw trumpian emoting and trumpian braggadocio .

When a civilization that once walked its way into preeminence through dint of hard work amongst its rank and file, all other peoples outcompeted fairly and squarely , suddenly now has to rely on banal impulses of race and group identity for quotidian survival, the only foreseeable way ahead for such a civilization is ‘down’ Trumpery is a looming threat to western civilization even worse, an incremental if unintended drift towards an Africanized model many of us long to jettison.

 

 

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News

Nigeria: Speedboat or Ocean Liner?

By: Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies
fadipeb@cwdom.dm

There is hardly a country, the Nigerian grade of good, bad and ugly . And what is ugly can be really ugly. The last government was sent packing not on account of what good it had done, but what it hadn’t. Add the good it hadn’t to the bad it did and the bad it inherited and you get to see why the people voted change. Buhari was flung at it, the new captain to steer the nation in new direction. But the more I watch Nigerians and the increasing impatience with the new captain , the more I’m tempted to think many may not know the difference between a speed boat and an ocean liner. By any account, Nigeria is far from being a speed boat ;

That is a nation, a huge ocean liner! Like any ocean liner, turning it around requires maneuvers far different from turning a speed boat . Give an average captain only few minutes he will flip a speed boat in any direction. …..not so an ocean liner….. particularly one with cruisers, the Nigerian brand . Turning the liner around as much depends on the skills of the captain as on the decisions of the passengers. Our particular liner is not only about a hundred million cruisers heavy, it is several times over laden ; the additional burden of riders’ baggages. When the ship is not sinking from the morbid weight of the millions, it is about keeling over from the burden of baggages brought on board .

And is there is any one baggage free of contrabands ; The poor captain is hard at it, steadfastly pressing the gas and turning the wheels, but like the hapless sailor ” I paddle here and I paddle there yet my canoe refuses to move” . Refuses to move cos the cargoes on board this boat…. Buhari’ s boat are a complex blend; nearly as complex as each of their million owners. And when the captain advises that each throws overboard any contrabands in his/her baggage so the sail gets faster and smoother, every one merely wishes compliance is for the other person , not them.

No one wishes to part with any contraband !! Tribalism, nepotism, greed, ostentation, laziness, dishonesty, electoral malpractices , antidemocratic practices, judicial corruption , misappropriation, land graft, examination frauds religious bigotry, contract inflations, forex fraud and wastes : each and more threatening to stall the ride. With an ocean liner this heavy in contrabands, why will anyone expect what is effectively a miracle from the captain ….any captain . Subtract these items, a feat that requires only the voluntary will power of each of the million cruisers and the surge in manouvrebility gets everyone quicker to desired destination. Each rider tied unrepentantly to his contrabands is but an albatross on the captain’s neck and a drag on the voyage.

Yet each unrepentant voyager wonders why Buhari’s boat is taking so long to right itself. A long while ago when Buhari was also the captain but in different dispensation he was determined to run the liner as one would a speed boat; He sought to forcefully part cruisers with their contrabands, razor sharp decrees his sunrise chisel, extrajudicial arrests, sunset. And when he sped the boat at a velocity approaching that of light, the giddiness and sea sickness to follow got a few cruisers to rise in anger chasing him off the cockpit …..his sin?!!! running too tight a ship.

Never mind that he got few valuable miles covered in as good a time, angling the boat in the right direction too. So what do people really want or should want ? …. a Buhari to make a speed boat of the liner ( I’m almost certain his gut choice) …. faster journey, greater manouvrebility but at the little price of sea sickness, a transient illness, so self limiting it is worth the risk for the gains ahead Or ……a Buhari cruising the boat as you would a floating palace or an elephant ride each cruiser left to his conscience; no whip cracking or drill seargents; Just a set of time consuming laws and lawyering even if meanwhile the national carrier drifts and keels.

Or a third choice still! …..each of the million cruisers on board electing to become more self-righting than self righteous ! Whoever is not confused about the best choice probably also doesn’t understand the complexity of the issues on board !!

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Information News

Until Africa is respected, no black can enjoy respect

Prof. Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator

To be black, no matter how straight or nuanced the story behind the blackness, is also in the end more to be viewed as African….. for good or bad.  And though blacks dispersed around the world no longer represent a homogenous group, ….courtesy history and accidents of history and the penetrant or overriding impact of the two on geneticisation and phenotypic pluralisms, to be black ( shade or sound irrespective) is to be tied into the challenged African historiography, ….its labored mix of plusses and minuses deriving from the dreary image problem, fair and unfair, that Africanity for all of its recorded centuries has engendered. Out there in the larger world blackness equates to africanness and with it constantly comes the risk of being kicked to the sociologic kerb or pond base some, more victim than others, but none ever not a victim, one tint or another, in the fierce global dynamics between colors and racial classes.

 

So plenty and so often are the relative minuses of being viewed an African that m many blacks would rather pant away at m historical revisionism, hastily ready to excise any part of a story that seeks to cant them in the direction of an African rootedness. If success can be lumbered with a thousand fathers, failure or any appearance of it can often painfully look an orphan, no one willing to be its parent . The African trajectory till date can hardly be canvassed in colorful inks ; for reasons as much her fault as they are not, her story and her reality a somber concatenation of tasteless misadventures that give her a Cinderalla profile Cinderallas may be many things to many people but never anyone’s envy.

 

To be sure , at the individual level, there are Africans (and blacks generally) whose tenacity of purpose and the attendant exceptionalism have earned them upward mobility, gravitas and uncommon respect, the pervading tendency however has always been to calibrate any black or groups of them against the generic visual scales that the parent continent produces. Those scales have never been flattering and so no black has ever been able to fully escape the wrench, once he wanders away from base . Hyphenated blacks in their various incarnations ( black-American, black english, Caribbean-blacks or black-anything ) are regularly more profiled for the blackness than the hyphens and therefore may be no more than few dangling shades away from the plight of the unhyphenated. The plight of blacks ( hyphenated or not ) is a common one though tangible differentials ( time and space ocassioned) can be imported into the dynamics to pitch one black or group of blacks agsinst another in a craftily calculated and disingenuous attempt by those who may wish to create and exploit wedges .

 

So it is not uncommon to find blacks staking out ‘superiority’ positions between and betwixt themselves, using calibrations that are in reality ungrounded in anything but superfices. Inside campuses and work places around the world it is not uncommon to find particular black grouping viewing itself as superior to another black grouping, disingeniously unmindful of the common plight before all when all the superfices ( or even artifices) are subtracted. For as long as it seems convenient or self serving either to the ego or the moment or the grand purpose, the fratricidality looms larger and larger , playing into the hands of none but the very agents likely to benefit from any wedge .

 

Over years of traveling and mingling with various kinds of blacks and non-blacks , the sobering reality in my view has come to be that the ‘fastest’ blacks ( hyphenated or not ) will on the global stage, always be judged by the standards of the ‘slowest’ blacks. Until the slowest blacks ( however the calibration is done ) anywhere and most certainly in Africa are able to up their game, no black anywhere will ever get his or her full due of respect . The American white , more guiltily so the poorly educated and poorly travelled amongst them , sees every black as an African and his views of Africanness remains hardly improved over the years, buttressed daily by the kind of news about African affairs hitting his optics at every turn . And though his African American brethren has lived next to him for scores of hundred years now , all he still sees of him is an African undeserving of equal status or equal dividends.

 

If only Africa will rise even by her own standards so the benefits of respect can spill over into everything black including for those who now find themselves hyphenated in different lands and climes. It hurts to see how blacks are being felled like game in American cities day upon days . The police kills the black, the media smears the victim and the prosecutor tips the scale; ….over and over, the paranoia of the killer is packaged as acceptable defence inside a sour system that still views the black as a savage import from Africa. Then the post murder parades of talk and analyses, more talk and effete protests ….. then snap into silence. And then again !

 

Africa on her own part must pick up speed to reinvent herself whilst dispersed or hyphenated blacks everywhere on their own part must realize that unless Africa is respected , neither they nor the continental Africans can ever expect to live respectably when once outside of their own genetic base . Taunting each other from inside own respective cubby holes as to who is superior or inferior is being penny wise, pound foolish. Such fratricidal taunts only pull down everyone to the fatigue of all but the detractors .

Professor Basil Jide Fadipe
Medical Surgeon, Teacher, Social Commentator
Justin Fadipe Centre
Commonwealth of Dominica
West Indies
@fadipeb@cwdom.dm

 

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Information News

Stuttering Steps of Progress

Re: Roadmap for the Growth and Development of the Nigerian Mining Industry

I have a very good friend: Oluwatobi Daniel Fayemiwo.  Tobi is a man of few words; words that are usually measured to the mien and intellect of the parties to dialogue.  The credulous and the ignorant are left clutching straws, but those who will aspire to wisdom gain insight; from what is said, and much more from what is inferred.

He it was that first drew a line for me in the sand; establishing by infallible events and facts, that Nigeria is actually moving forward as a democracy.  Even if stuttering, there was a direction, and that, a good one.  This is not the place nor the time to recount all the governments past, and their contributions to our evolving democracy, suffice it to say, that even Jonathan has played a part.  But I will leave Tobi to do the talking, if/when he is encountered.

My focus here is on a document that I encountered recently, and which reinforced the veracity of my friend’s assertion, that every careful eye, perhaps every cold eye, will observe, that this giant may not be as inebriated as once thought.  The roadmap produced by the ministry of solid minerals development is a document that observers of Nigeria should find time to read.  I have no doubt that the “Miracle on the Han River” must have benefited from a number of such paper as this; progress and success are hardly every accidental or democratic.  It takes few inspired to save many indifferent.

A lot of thinking has gone into the compilation of this document. There is unbiased identification of the failings and successes of the nation, including those of previous governments; analysis of the present situation, and a clear plan towards possible ends in the immediate, short, medium and long terms.  The minister and his team have done a great job; I commend them.
The document is all of 100 pages; but it took me only a few hours to go through it all.  Please read the document here (Nigeria_Mining_Growth_Roadmap_Final.pdf).  But for those who just cannot find the time; here is a very brief summary-of-a-summary.

  • History:
    Mining used to contribute almost 5% of our nation’s GDP, but that was in the 60’s; things degenerated from the 70’s
    Today, mining contributes less than 0.4% to our GDP, but it could contribute much more, in earnings, employment, etc.
    Change of policy in the 70’s towards centralisation has not worked – now there is concerted effort to liberalise
  • Status Quo:
    Of the billions, and in some cases trillions of tonnes of resource in Nigeria, less than 1% is being actively exploited
    The socio-economic environment (infrastructure, policy, financing) is not conducive to majors, so small players dominate
    The small players lack the resources to be efficient miners, so they are not able to displace imports or add value
    Communities, migrants, and criminal foreigners operate in a largely unregulated, un-taxed, chaotic sector

  • Plan:
    Start with those things that we need at home, try to displace importers of same by improving local production
    Build capacity and competence, especially in value-add to the value chain, while empowering those closest to production
    Move out to compete on quality and cost in the global market

Each of these items are spelled out in great detail in the document, and I found it a comforting read, a reassuring read. I very strongly recommend reading the document, and criticising it.  I choose to keep my own counsel, since I know, it is much easier to tear-down the Encyclopaedia Britannica than to compile it.  Kudos to Fayemi and his team.
This is progress that we can access, criticise, observe, and monitor against defined milestones.
May God bless Nigera; amen.
Viva New Nigera!

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Information

Uproot Corruption: Control Information

A Few Outstandingly Bad Eggs

We are faced with monumental levels of corruption in Nigeria today.  In the armed-forces, the civil service, the judiciary, legislature, and even the private sector, corrupt practises are rife.  People that are remunerated to defend the interests of institutions and organisations turn around to undermine, and in some cases, destroy the very offices that granted them leverage and a livelihood.  In the Badeh case, one is amazed, and galled, at just how easily one person could corrupt and fleece the air force, and by extension Nigeria, of so much, and for so long! But he is just one among many others like Dasuki et al.

 

Reducing Corrupt Practises in Government by Controlling Information

Some years ago, my family and I were driving past Hyde Park Corner in London.  Suddenly we spotted three outriders and a Jaguar approaching. As the small entourage sped past, we spotted the Prince of Wales (Charles Windsor) in the back seat of the Jaguar – and he waved at us!  We did not know they were due to pass by, neither did we notice their approach. But his security detail would have seen us, long before we saw the prince, and they would have made preparations for most outcomes of any encounter. Much more valuable than the limited armoury on the Jaguar and the small weapons of the outriders and escorts, was the information about the route and likely risks.  This informational vantage-point afforded the prince and his entourage the confidence to travel with a lightweight security detail.  Without it, they would need a battery.

Break Corruption Chain

 

The Nigerian, the World

Now, one would be remiss to imagine that there is something egregious about the Nigerian psyche. Allow me to illustrate.  Sometime last year, residents of St Albans discovered a caveat in parking laws. They quickly took advantage of it, causing chaos in the city centre. The point here is that Nigerians are not any worse off than humans in other parts of the world.  The residents of this city, like other human beings, spotting a lacuna in law, enforcement, or justice, elevate personal interest over the public weal.  These folk acted, as Nigerians, or other humans would when authority is absent.  The focus here though is not on law, enforcement, or justice.  Rather it is the means whereby signals and constraints can be visibly availed to personal interest, and thereby to prevent and preempt a conflict with the greater good, and the law.

Let us take a look at information and how it is abused at the lowest levels of society.  Special focus is given to the public service, where much of the corrupt practises in Nigeria today is engineered.  In almost every institution of government, the citizen accesses services provided by an authority, physically and by submitting and/or receiving documents.  However, having initiated the dialogue by handing in said documents, both the citizen and the authority become disconnected from an intermediary, and often frustrating, process.  The citizen has to plead or pay corrupt officers to glean so much as an update on the current status of the process.  The authority, whether by omission or commission, remains unaware, and perhaps, justifiably aloof, to the process and the pending documents.  In the time that plays out, the citizen is frustrated and fleeced, and the perception of the authority suffers damage.

Document Management

This does not have to be so!  Technology that can be deployed to short-circuit this routine hijacking of information by scurrilous middlemen.  In this case, something as simple as a document management system (DMS).  This allows for the electronic management of all documents passing through an institution or organisation.  Where properly implemented, this would free citizens from having to be physically present to interact with an authority.  The system provides continued visibility for citizens and the authority, after the document(s) have been submitted to the process.

One immediate side-effect should be increased activity.  Since a lot of time is saved from each transaction, there is opportunity to invest those savings in other transactions with government or an organisation. An astute government could also proviso access on availability of tax identification for validation. The auditing function within the institution could thereafter leverage historical records.  The performance of systems, as well as those responsible for delivering services can be analysed to gauge the perception, accessibility.

Beyond technology though, is motivation and goal.  It would be credulous to read this and immediately jump out to hire a technology firm to advise and implement.  Equally unwise would be to buy some DMS software and do-it-yourself.  If those advising and/or implementing the solution have divergent motivations, or their objectives do not match those of the leadership, even a noble initiative such as this will fail. That would be a tragedy.  Leadership that desires to see better service delivery, must entrust the introduction of enabling technology to partners that share same motivation.

Caveat

Having chosen like-minded partners who, for whatever reasons, share the vision of the institution or organisation, there will still be work to do, during and after the implementation.  Technology by itself is not enough, it must be evolved, and audited from time to time to ensure that it is still functional and satisfactory. Medieval castles of were not sufficient to keep out invaders or keep prisoners in.  Likewise, information management systems will be subject to assault from those that have lost revenue due to its introduction, or those that stand to gain from its demise.  That should never be a disincentive though.

If institutions such as the CIA, KGB, Mossad, and organisations such as Microsoft, Google, EBay, Apple, etc are still standing today despite the attacks that they face daily, any institution or organisation should have hope.  Attackers usually measure the assault to fit the calibre of the target.  As long as those with the vision invest a little more time, effort and resource than those seeking to undermine the system, all should be well.

To ensure that the new technology is accommodated, changes may be required to legislation, rules, or code of conduct.  The case of card readers and the 2015 general elections is a lesson to all.  When we dare to fight corruption, the corrupt fight back. Beyond fighting corruption though these changes offer other benefits.  The flip-side of this brass coin is pure gold.  Information may be power but information can also be very valuable!  But that is a story for another day.  We should take control of the information that drives our public services to reduce corrupt practises, improve our services, and perhaps generate some revenue along the way.

 

Yes We Can

The problems of our present conundrum are not intractable, we however need imagination, resilience and more belief in our own selves to solve our own problems.  Together we can.
May God bless Nigeria; amen.
Viva New Nigeria!

Oyewole, Olanrewaju J (Mr.)
Secretary General
Nigeria Abroad
No 66
London SE18 3PD
+44 [0] 793 920 3120
Twitter: @NewNigerian
Email: postmaster@nigeriaabroad.org

Mr Oyewole is a social and political commentator, blogger. He is a technology consultant with significant experience in the UK security sector. He has participated in key IT initiatives for the UK police and army.

Categories
Information News

HRH Sanusi III Marriage to Princess

Emir Lamido Sanusi III of Kano
HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi III

I am sure NC members all have their views and have kept quiet out of (appropriate) deference to our right to make our individual choice.

Obviously, I do not need to explain anything to anyone in a purely personal matter but a few points are worthy of note:

1. The lady in question is 18 and therefore legally of age to marry under all laws and certainly under Muslim law.

2. She is proceeding for her undergraduate education in the UK in January. She had an A in computer science in her O levels and plans to get a degree in computer science.

3. each and everyone of my wives is a university graduate and some have worked and then stopped and in each case the choice was purely theirs.

4. It is a tradition in Kano that emirs and princes in choosing wives consider issues beyond the individual. The family is in every sense a social unit. My predecessor was married to princesses from Ilorin, Katsina and Somoto.

5. The relationship between the late Lamido of Adamawa Aliyu Musdafa the father of the current Lamido is well known. Lamido Aliyu was the first Emir turbaned after Emir Sanusi I and they remained close until Sanusi’s death.

6. My own relationship with the current Lamido dates back to 1981 when he was Ciroma and commissioner for works. By the way the Lamido and I are not illiterates we know what we are doing and he does have a PhD in Engineering.

7. My own mother was married in Adamawa and
lived there for more than two decades and I have eight younger brothers and sisters from there.

8. it is therefore natural that if I choose to marry from another kingdom Adamawa would be the first choice for me and I am extremely happy to strengthen these long historical bonds.

9. The young lady in question gave her free consent and even after the contract the wedding will not happen for a few years. By then she may be 21. If she freely consents to this I do not know on what moral grounds anyone has a grouse. She is an adult, she gave her consent, her education is not being in anyway interrupted.

10. The real issue is that people do not accept cultural difference. And you can see it in the approach to these issues. I am supposed to be urbane and western educated. Yes but i am not European. I am a northern Nigerian Fulani Muslim brought up in a setting exactly like the one my children are being brought up in.

If you read this and it improves your understanding of this issue that is fine. If it does not just remember it isnot your life, it is not your daughter and you are not my wife therefore it is not your business.

I obviously cannot stoop to the level of responding publicly to these kinds of articles. I have always been an advocate of girls marrying after maturing. I personally like the minimum age of 18 even though i understand those who say 16 is fine and indeed this is the law in most so called @advanced@ countries. Is this something that I expect a European or western trained or feminist mind to appreciate or endorse? Not at all. But has any american been bothered about my views on men marrying men or women marrying women which frankly I find primitive and bestial? No and my views do not matter. These are cultural issues.

Even in Nigeria I have heard all this stuff as in Pius article about “north” and northerners. Again it is a failure to respect difference. There are parts if this country where parents expect their daughters to live with their boyfriends for years and actually get pregnant before they marry. It has become culture. We do not have that in the north and if your daughter gets pregnant before marriage she brings nothing but shame to the name. But we do not issue condemnations. We agree that this is how they choose to live. And i can give many other examples.

When people use the term libido they do themselves injustice. First of all it shows how they view women and marriage. Women are nothing but the object of sexual desire. Marriage is nothing but sexual gratification. Well I am sorry but in my tradition it is not. Beauty and attraction rank third after religion and lineage in the choice of a wife. They see an 18 year old young lady. I see a princess of noble birth whose mother is also a princess, and who has been brought up in a good Muslim home. This is the kind of woman that is prepared for hiving birth to princes and bringing them up for the role expected of them in society.

Marriage is both social and political. Expanding the links of Kano which have already been established by my predecessors through
intermarriage with Katsina, sokoto, Ilorin, Katagum, Ningi, Bauchi etc to Adamawa is an important and significant step and this is obvious to anyone with a sense of how royal families work and Ibn Khaldun’s sociological concept of Asabiyyah. When the emir of Kano marries it has to be something beyond what he personally desires to what is appropriate for that position and the expectations of the people he represents. You don’t just pick up any girl on the street. And by the way for those who shout libido sex is cheap and available everywhere in all shapes and sizes and all colours if that is what they want. And all ages too. Marriage is a very different proposition. The mother of your children has to be something other than, or at least much more than a mere object of sexual fantasy. But if you do not know that you need to buy yourself a brain.

I have daughters. And they know they can only marry from certain backgrounds. I always prefer family. When my daughter wanted to marry Mouftah baba Ahmed’s son and she asked me, knowing my views on family, i told her Mouftah is family. And this is not about me and Mouftah or me an Hakeem or Nafiu. No. It goes back to Baba Ahmed and Emirs Sanusi and Bayero. And the same rule applies to my sons. And it applied to me as well.

It is I am sure very strange that I should even bother to comment on this. But it would be hypocritical for me to just keep quiet so long as these things are being posted and commented upon explicitly or in a snide manner.
There was no secrecy in the marriage Fatiha. The date was fixed and it was to be done in the central mosque after Friday prayers. The day before we had a tragedy in Saudi Arabia and decided the Fatiha must be very low key as a mark of respect for the dead. All traditional rulers in Adamawa were there, as were governors and commissioners, members of my own emirate council and Adamawa people. There is nothing here to hide or be apologetic about.

The emirs of Adamawa have shown love to my parents and grandparents and it is a sign of my appreciation of their love that i marry their daughter. This is the highest statement of friendship and loyalty on both sides.

Again if you understand this this is fine. If you do not buy yourself a brain, A la Pius.

In any event this is my one and final and only comment on this. And I am making it out of respect.

Categories
Information Manifesto News

Fourth Republic, Indigenes and Far-Right Politics

“Everyone is a foreigner somewhere”.

The controversial comments of the traditional ruler of Eko, Oba Rilwan Akiolu has generated a lot of discussion among Nigerians; at home and in the Diaspora; online and offline.
The Oba made the comments while meeting with Ndigbo representatives at his palace and threatened his guests with an encounter with the lagoon should they fail to heed his demand to support the APC candidate – Akinwumi Ambode. Those that understand the nature of rulership in Yorubaland will attest to the fact that an Oba hardly ever speaks contrary to the will of his council. The council itself is often a good reflection of the feelings and aspirations of the people at large. So, while it may have been politically expedient to discountenance the Oba’s statement at the point of a closely contested election, politicians will do well to take note. It comes as no surprise that, post-election, the governor-elect has prioritised a quick visit to the palace. Time cannot be lost in securing relationships as important as this.

However, we need to examine Oba Akiolu’s comments against the hope of a New Nigeria and the rights of indigenes in that new dispensation. For starters, what rights do communities have in a new Nigeria? Our laws do not distinguish between the person whose ancestry belongs in a place, and the chap who arrived yesterday as an employee or businessman. If for example, a small conservative village of 200 is overrun by an influx of city dwellers, whose values should prevail? Those of the villagers or their guests? Few question the economic value that non-indegines add to any population. Settlers tend to work harder, invest more, and provide services at a lower cost than indigenes. However, there is a social cost. So, there must be a melding of values and cultural accommodation on both sides, so that the economic benefits are not outweighed by the social costs.

The synthesis of a New Nigeria must take cognisance of these issues and begin now to articulate a model that drives synergy from diversity without stoking ethnic tensions. Such balance cannot be a simple case of majority, or right of law; because moral right is more powerful than legality and the use of force. Furthermore, the controversy in Lagos today may bear resonance in other communities across the nation and the country needs a solution that can be applied in every context.

One approach is to ask if there are inalienable privileges that should accrue to indigenes of a place. One could also examine if certain minimal responsibilities should be expected of settlers. The 1999 constitution makes no differentiation between indigenes and settlers, and while the intention is good, it is an omission that has led to many unresolved issues all over the country. The most critical and widespread being the conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and agrarian communities in their migratory path. In the middle belt there are problems between Hausa settlers and the native peoples, just as there are lines of tension between some southern business people and their hosts in the north central.

Our constitution may be silent on this issue, but African ethics and morality is not. A guest, as opposed to an invader, is expected to be deferential to their hosts. Over time, a guest who remains in a place, evolves to become a settler. This evolution must involve some socialisation/indoctrination of the guest with express aim of integration into the community. It is a two-way street though. The guest must desire it, and the hosts must be willing to provide the support or means. Both parties will change in the process. The hosts will have gained some empathy for their guest and built allowance for the guest’s values into their world view. The guest will need to do same, perhaps more so.

Moving on from the 2015 elections and the evidence of a polarisation of Nigerians, one must be careful not to take the results as a true reflection of the will of the people. The country is not as divided as the polls may suggest; but there are unresolved issues around tribe and religion. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the metropolis where large numbers of Nigerians from varying tribes and religions congregate. Given an urban population accounting for over 30% of the total, balancing the rights and responsibilities of indigenes and settlers is vital. It may be useful to start by stating what is not a solution.

The leadership must not attempt to legislate accommodation, or to use the force of law and the instruments of coercion to impose the rights of one side over the other. Enforcing hospitality only widens the divide between hosts and settlers, accentuating differences, and entrenching hostility to those seen as “coming here to cause trouble”. Where there are significant numbers involved, this can be easily exploited by the politically savvy for electoral gain. History suggests that it is much easier to address extant issues that fuel alienation than to contain ethnophobia once it has blossomed. It is not possible to legislate against the emergence of far-right politics.

In the post Jonathan/PDP era, things are likely to get difficult before they get better. The perfidy of the past decades will take some time to recover. As the immediate resource pool shrinks though, the circle of identity of many will contract. There will be the temptation for politics and power gamers to exploit this myopia of consciousness for personal gain. Care must be taken to ensure that we find balance in our relationships, especially in our metropolises to ensure that the diversity which is our strength does not become a weakness.

Before beginning to proffer solutions, it is worthwhile to play some possible scenario to set the scene.
(1) Abians discover large deposits of oil in their State. With prudent use of the additional revenue, the State really transforms the economy and wellbeing of its citizens. Within a few years, Abians no longer do menial or blue-collar jobs. Spotting the gap in supply, many Hausas migrate to Abia and begin to fill the jobs and to provide services that indigenes would not deign to touch. Such is the abundance of opportunity and the number of migrants that within a decade the new comers now constitute a majority. What will happen if a block vote by the settlers demands Sharia law as a condition to support candidates for governor?

(2) A radical governor revolutionises rulership in Sokoto State by making education mandatory till secondary level, and also financing it. The transformation in lives results in a huge explosion in demand for services. Over a few years, powerful interests from Yoruba land respond by moving offices and employees in large numbers. These families relocate and settle all over the state. On account of their economic significance and dispersal across the State, the settlers insist that a form of Yoruba customary law should operate side-by-side with Sharia. How are the indigenes likely to respond?

In each case there are legitimate demands, but are they appropriate? Would the first guests have been welcomed if they made such a request on arrival? Now, it is easy for the elite to dismiss these issues and obfuscate reality with sophisticated arguments and logic. However, they are often far removed, economically and socially from the trouble spots. The privileged do not have to compete with non-indigenes for survival opportunities. Neither do they live in localities where residents are directly impacted by the dress-code, social conduct, and religious practise of their neighbours. So to them, the problem is selfishness, in-hospitality, intolerance, or some other hidden agenda.

We should learn from the Europeans and the problems they have had with integration of migrants. The issues are real and cannot be wished away. What we see in some parts of Europe is a failure of the political elite to balance the economic benefits of migration with the social costs.
The United Kingdom: England and the Eastern Europeans
Federal Republic of Germany: The Turks in Germaney
The French Republic: French identity and North Africans

Some of these “foreigners” were already resident in their adopted communities before Nigeria became independent! Leadership failure, though, has opened up an opportunity for far-right nationalist politicians to gain political relevance. These fringe parties offer themselves as vents for the concerns of threatened groups. In return, they gain bloc votes that put them in the limelight and the corridors of power. From there, they project a fulsome agenda on an unsuspecting but hitherto apathetic majority.

Here are some recommendations for change:

Engagement.
As a nation, we need to maintain engagement between the elite, middle classes, and the lowest levels of society/economy at all times. Avenues must be created for the articulation of the feelings and concerns of the poor and the disadvantaged. This should be a regular exercise, so that dissatisfaction does not accumulate, or find vent in violence. The poor are less mobile, geographically, so issues need attention in-situ and on time. Townhall meetings with local government chairmen, State/federal officials, legislators, and governors should be part of the calendar for every locality.

Opportunity.
Where there is more than enough, few bother with the identity of the person next in line. However, when the dearth arrives, suddenly, colour, religion, ethnicity and other consideration suddenly gain relevance. It is vital that programmes are targeted to conflict areas to provide opportunities that will engage as many idle hands as possible. This needs to be a deliberate action. The target needs to be persons between the ages of 15-35, as they are more likely to be involved in violent disputing.

Education.
The CIA has identified that (ignorance + poverty = violence). This should be revised as; ((ignorance + poverty) * political-action = violence). There is usually a spark that ignites a fissile situation: the activist, terrorist, or other. In all cases, it is sufficient to eliminate ignorance, and the threat is largely eliminated. Boko Haram and other terrorists thrive on the uneducated. As a nation, we must cut off this supply line, as a matter of urgency and national security. Education should be a combination of formal instruction and targeted information (propaganda).

Orientation.
The introduction of the unity schools and the NYSC by the Gowon government is laudable. However, it is time to review these initiatives in the light of our present circumstances. The unity schools are too few to have an appreciable impact, but their ethos can be extended to many other schools. Such schools should be supported by goal-linked funding. Similarly, the NYSC should no longer be a source of subsidised labour for the private sector or the public service. Neither should it be limited to graduates of polytechnics and universities. Instead, service should be diverted to key national need areas, and all Nigerians who have attained the age of 16 and have ceased schooling should be involved. NYSC should be divided into an initial 6-months military training for all. This should be followed by either of 6-month military, 12-month police/DSS, or 15-month community service.

Separation.
There are some cases where the overlap will forever be contentious. There is no point forcing irreconcilables into union. In cases like Modakeke-Ife and other tribal rivalries, or the never ending conflict between nomadic herdsmen and agrarian communities, the government must help facilitate physical separation. For warring communities within the same geographical space, boundaries need to be established and enforced, in dialogue with affected parties and State authorities. For nomadic herdsmen, clearly mapped out grazing paths must be established by the federal government, across the country. This should be backed by law, just like the demarcation of games reserves. Herdsmen must be given preferential access along the migratory path, and affected landowners and communities should be compensated for their loss.

Kaizen.
A hundred pages will not suffice to identify the problems, much less to proffer all the solutions in advance. Instead there should be a programme of continuous risk assessment and mitigation planning. Ongoing work should be commenced on the constitution to recognise the ethnic composition of Nigeria and our embedded nationalities. Provisions need to be introduced to recognise and validate these ethnic, cultural, and religious identities. No group should feel lost, marginalised or insignificant in a New Nigeria. The executive, and legislative arms of government should be organised for empathy to these considerations. The judiciary should strengthen and extend customary law at the State level, so that all groups have some representation and expression in the laws of the land. For all other considerations, our commitment to continuous examination and change will help our peaceful coexistence and prosperity.

We are entering a new phase in our nation’s history and being joined at the hip, we need to ensure that it works well for us all. We have lived in the shadow of north-south divide, and ethnic and religious tension for too long. It is time we ceased reaction and take the initiative to make Nigeria better for one and all. The argument here is that there is room for all of us in this New Nigeria. All we need to do is rearrange the chairs!

Categories
Information News

Yale Award to Okonjo-Iweala – I Object

Recently, our honourable coordinating minister of the economy was awarded an honorary doctorate by an Ivy league institution. The award has proved to be controversial, especially for some Nigerian observers. Here is what I have to say. Yale University has a right to honour whoever they deem deserving. However, in doing so, they should refrain from dragging third parties in on the side of a misrepresentation of reality.

If the honourable minister had been credited for achievements at the World Bank, or for work done under OBJ to exit the Paris club debt, I would have held my peace. Those are facts and they are verifiable. However, Yale overreached themselves by including the following in their statement:

“As Nigeria’s coordinating minister of economic development and minister of finance, you have tackled corruption, created a vision and path to long-term economic stability, and worked to build a culture of transparency … you have transformed the economic landscape of your nation.”

This to me is akin to Abacha’s children publishing an article on Sahara Reporters​ in which they tried to portray their late father as some great benefactor of the nation. We all lived through his times, and most of us publicly and loudly disagreed with the family and the publication.

In the same light; we have all lived through the GEJ tenure in which Okonjo-Iweala has held office. I for one cannot say that I agree with this commendation. Indeed I feel insulted, that while I am alive, Yale claims that:
        corruption has been tackled in Nigeria
        the country has a vision to long-term economic stability
        we have built a culture of transparency
        our economic landscape has been transformed

Compare these to the reports, year-on-year from:
        The World Bank
        Transparency International

Do these Yale folk take us for fools? Imagine a situation in the US where an official in one of the States leaves office with record debts, a backlog of unpaid entitlements, and broad criticism about rule of law violations and transparency issues. Would Yale deign to honour such a person? What of if this person was a federal official? Even less likely! Yale would defer the accolade, or decide against it, because of the recent record. Even though such a person might have, in the past, done things worthy of commendation.

So why do they deem it appropriate to confer this honour, at this time, and using this citation? Perhaps the Nigeria lobby in the US is still in its infancy, and they know it. Or could it be that the community takes no interest in such issues. For all the patriotism of Jews, I believe quite a few would come out to protest an award that commends Bibi for “advancing the understanding and accommodation of Palestinians in Israel and a new Palestine”. Which is not to say that Netanyahu is not worthy of commendations for other things.

In my humble opinion therefore, this award is untimely, and the citation is wrong. Yale should reconsider it, and even if they choose not to rescind it, the offending statements should be redacted and an apology offered for the misrepresentation and offence it has caused.

Categories
Information Manifesto News

Buhari at Chatham House Feb 2015

Buhari’s Speech at Chatham House – February 26 2015

Prospects for Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Nigeria’s Transition

Permit me to start by thanking Chatham House for the invitation to talk about this important topic at this crucial time. When speaking about Nigeria overseas, I normally prefer to be my country’s public relations and marketing officer, extolling her virtues and hoping to attract investments and tourists. But as we all know, Nigeria is now battling with many challenges, and if I refer to them, I do so only to impress on our friends in the United Kingdom that we are quite aware of our shortcomings and are doing our best to address them.

The 2015 general election in Nigeria is generating a lot of interests within and outside the country. This is understandable. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, is at a defining moment, a moment that has great implications beyond the democratic project and beyond the borders of my dear country.

So let me say upfront that the global interest in Nigeria’s landmark election is not misplaced at all and indeed should be commended; for this is an election that has serious import for the world. I urge the international community to continue to focus on Nigeria at this very critical moment. Given increasing global linkages, it is in our collective interests that the postponed elections should hold on the rescheduled dates; that they should be free and fair; that their outcomes should be respected by all parties; and that any form of extension, under whichever guise, is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, democracy became the dominant and most preferred system of government across the globe. That global transition has been aptly captured as the triumph of democracy and the ‘most pre-eminent political idea of our time.’ On a personal note, the phased end of the USSR was a turning point for me. It convinced me that change can be brought about without firing a single shot.

As you all know, I had been a military head of state in Nigeria for twenty months. We intervened because we were unhappy with the state of affairs in our country. We wanted to arrest the drift. Driven by patriotism, influenced by the prevalence and popularity of such drastic measures all over Africa and elsewhere, we fought our way to power. But the global triumph of democracy has shown that another and a preferable path to change is possible. It is an important lesson I have carried with me since, and a lesson that is not lost on the African continent.

In the last two decades, democracy has grown strong roots in Africa. Elections, once so rare, are now so commonplace. As at the time I was a military head of state between 1983 and 1985, only four African countries held regular multi-party elections. But the number of electoral democracies in Africa, according to Freedom House, jumped to 10 in 1992/1993 then to 18 in 1994/1995 and to 24 in 2005/2006. According to the New York Times, 42 of the 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa conducted multi-party elections between 1990 and 2002.

The newspaper also reported that between 2000 and 2002, ruling parties in four African countries (Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana and Mali) peacefully handed over power to victorious opposition parties. In addition, the proportion of African countries categorized as not free by Freedom House declined from 59% in 1983 to 35% in 2003. Without doubt, Africa has been part of the current global wave of democratisation.

But the growth of democracy on the continent has been uneven. According to Freedom House, the number of electoral democracies in Africa slipped from 24 in 2007/2008 to 19 in 2011/2012; while the percentage of countries categorised as ‘not free’ assuming for the sake of argument that we accept their definition of “free” increased from 35% in 2003 to 41% in 2013. Also, there have been some reversals at different times in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania and Togo. We can choose to look at the glass of democracy in Africa as either half full or half empty.

While you can’t have representative democracy without elections, it is equally important to look at the quality of the elections and to remember that mere elections do not democracy make. It is globally agreed that democracy is not an event, but a journey. And that the destination of that journey is democratic consolidation – that state where democracy has become so rooted and so routine and widely accepted by all actors.

With this important destination in mind, it is clear that though many African countries now hold regular elections, very few of them have consolidated the practice of democracy. It is important to also state at this point that just as with elections, a consolidated democracy cannot be an end by itself. I will argue that it is not enough to hold a series of elections or even to peacefully alternate power among parties.

It is much more important that the promise of democracy goes beyond just allowing people to freely choose their leaders. It is much more important that democracy should deliver on the promise of choice, of freedoms, of security of lives and property, of transparency and accountability, of rule of law, of good governance and of shared prosperity. It is very important that the promise embedded in the concept of democracy, the promise of a better life for the generality of the people, is not delivered in the breach.

Now, let me quickly turn to Nigeria. As you all know, Nigeria’s fourth republic is in its 16th year and this general election will be the fifth in a row. This is a major sign of progress for us, given that our first republic lasted five years and three months, the second republic ended after four years and two months and the third republic was a still-birth. However, longevity is not the only reason why everyone is so interested in this election.

The major difference this time around is that for the very first time since transition to civil rule in 1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is facing its stiffest opposition so far from our party the All Progressives Congress (APC). We once had about 50 political parties, but with no real competition. Now Nigeria is transitioning from a dominant party system to a competitive electoral polity, which is a major marker on the road to democratic consolidation. As you know, peaceful alternation of power through competitive elections have happened in Ghana, Senegal, Malawi and Mauritius in recent times. The prospects of democratic consolidation in Africa will be further brightened when that eventually happens in Nigeria.

But there are other reasons why Nigerians and the whole world are intensely focussed on this year’s elections, chief of which is that the elections are holding in the shadow of huge security, economic and social uncertainties in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy. On insecurity, there is a genuine cause for worry, both within and outside Nigeria. Apart from the civil war era, at no other time in our history has Nigeria been this insecure.

Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our nationals, displacing millions internally and externally, and at a time holding on to portions of our territory the size of Belgium. What has been consistently lacking is the required leadership in our battle against insurgency. I, as a retired general and a former head of state, have always known about our soldiers: they are capable, well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty in the service of our country.

You all can bear witness to the gallant role of our military in Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur and in many other peacekeeping operations in several parts of the world. But in the matter of this insurgency, our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to tackle this problem. The government has also failed in any effort towards a multi-dimensional response to this problem leading to a situation in which we have now become dependent on our neighbours to come to our rescue.

Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunitions to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester, and I, Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.

On the economy, the fall in prices of oil has brought our economic and social stress into full relief. After the rebasing exercise in April 2014, Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Our GDP is now valued at $510 billion and our economy rated 26th in the world. Also on the bright side, inflation has been kept at single digit for a while and our economy has grown at an average of 7% for about a decade.

But it is more of paper growth, a growth that, on account of mismanagement, profligacy and corruption, has not translated to human development or shared prosperity. A development economist once said three questions should be asked about a country’s development: one, what is happening to poverty? Two, what is happening to unemployment? And three, what is happening to inequality?

The answers to these questions in Nigeria show that the current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery.

Even by official figures, 33.1% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. That’s at almost 60 million, almost the population of the United Kingdom. There is also the unemployment crisis simmering beneath the surface, ready to explode at the slightest stress, with officially 23.9% of our adult population and almost 60% of our youth unemployed. We also have one of the highest rates of inequalities in the world.

With all these, it is not surprising that our performance on most governance and development indicators (like Mo Ibrahim Index on African Governance and UNDP’s Human Development Index.) are unflattering. With fall in the prices of oil, which accounts for more than 70% of government revenues, and lack of savings from more than a decade of oil boom, the poor will be disproportionately impacted.

In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption. And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example.

On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.

But I must emphasise that any war waged on corruption should not be misconstrued as settling old scores or a witch-hunt. I’m running for President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity.

In reforming the economy, we will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly.

As a progressive party, we must reform our political economy to unleash the pent-up ingenuity and productivity of the Nigerian people thus freeing them from the curse of poverty. We will run a private sector-led economy but maintain an active role for government through strong regulatory oversight and deliberate interventions and incentives to diversify the base of our economy, strengthen productive sectors, improve the productive capacities of our people and create jobs for our teeming youths.

In short, we will run a functional economy driven by a worldview that sees growth not as an end by itself, but as a tool to create a society that works for all, rich and poor alike. On March 28, Nigeria has a decision to make. To vote for the continuity of failure or to elect progressive change. I believe the people will choose wisely.

In sum, I think that given its strategic importance, Nigeria can trigger a wave of democratic consolidation in Africa. But as a starting point we need to get this critical election right by ensuring that they go ahead, and depriving those who want to scuttle it the benefit of derailing our fledgling democracy. That way, we will all see democracy and democratic consolidation as tools for solving pressing problems in a sustainable way, not as ends in themselves.

Permit me to close this discussion on a personal note. I have heard and read references to me as a former dictator in many respected British newspapers including the well regarded Economist. Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others. I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch.

I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.

You may ask: why is he doing this? This is a question I ask myself all the time too. And here is my humble answer: because the work of making Nigeria great is not yet done, because I still believe that change is possible, this time through the ballot, and most importantly, because I still have the capacity and the passion to dream and work for a Nigeria that will be respected again in the comity of nations and that all Nigerians will be proud of.

I thank you for listening.