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S. Okey Mbonu, is Executive Director of Nigerian-American Leadership Council (NALC), Washington, DC. Mbonu obtained his legal training in Washington, and previously served as Commissioner in Maryland, US. He appears regularly as a subject-matter expert on “Nigerian-American relations, and Nigerian governance issues”, on various US and International media. Mbonu has been cited in multiple media reports, including: MSNBC, NBC, VOA, Afripol, Euroasia Review, Guardian International, and others, in the US, Europe, Asia, the America’s and Africa. This is the first of a series on the 2015 Nigerian national elections.
One obvious truth about our country today is that it is successfully grappling with those challenges of nation building that are inevitable for any country that wishes to attain real greatness. I make this statement against the background of the many thoughts that were going through my mind as I sat in the auditorium of the Federal Ministry of Finance and listened to the Coordinating Minister of the Economy (CME), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, present details of next year’s budget. The first is that this government is not just resolved to place Nigeria and Nigerians on a firm footing for the 21st century, but is putting that resolution into implementable policy actions with measurable impact on the economy and the people. One clear proof of that is the well thought out, evidence-based budget that was being presented to us on that day. The CME’s submissions ties inflows to the realistically projected expenditure profile for the budget year. The benchmarks shown were scientific and the analysis of the relevant economic variables revealed profound economic pragmatism.
The second thought on my mind was the realisation that the budget perspective is holistic, tying the expected inflows from new revenue sources to genuine projections and not speculation. What I saw was a sober response to current challenges. It is a budget that can work for us if we all gird our loins to work together as a people. I make this later point because the Nigerians must begin to respond to issues and crisis like the rest of the world. This is the 21st century. Its problems are legion, manifesting as political instability, economic downturn and sundry challenges facing many nations. Russia, Mexico, Egypt, Libya, and many other countries have more than their fair share of these challenges in various forms and they are grappling with the issues as a people. Nigeria was not granted any immunity, so we should expect problems with significant impact on every nation within the last five years to affect us.
For instance, the Russian Rubbles has lost over 40% of its value. About 11% of that 40% was lost on Tuesday last week alone. But the Russians are not blaming Putin, or calling its government names. They are rather holding together and struggling to come out of it stronger. Over 25,000 have been reported missing in Mexico the last 18 months or so, including 42 students killed and buried by gangsters. But the Mexicans are not blaming their government, or running their nation down in the media. Some 145 students were recently murdered in Pakistan by Talibans, but without the Pakistanis blaming their Prime Minister, or accusing their government of insensitivity. That is why Nigerians should give themselves a rap on the shoulder and say: “Hey, no one out there is coming to solve our problems for us, if we don’t solve them
Global oil prices have lost about 40% of its value since June. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and all oil producing countries are devising survival strategies, so Nigerians must stay together and support our president at a time like this; especially when he is working round the clock with his economic team to get things right. The nation is not even so badly hit today because we eventually listened the CME’s sustained call for savings at all levels. I recall having attended many meetings as then governor of Anambra, during which she reminded everyone that the price of oil could fall at any time and that we needed to boost national savings, presenting establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) as another way of achieving targeted saving and long term investment. But the voice of the majority initially drowned her repeated pleas about saving for the rainy day. The louder chorus was “Let’s spend now! The rainy day is already here! In fact is already flooding!” Meanwhile, it was only drizzling at the time! Fortunately, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority was set up after a long and has financed the Abuja-Kaduna rail, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge, among other projects.
The 2015 budget is also pegged on increasing Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and diversifying the economy. It ties the expected increase in IGR to projected inputs into the economy, which would reflate local economies and increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The FIRS is to increase IGR but not necessarily by increasing the taxes. It is blocking leakages and institutional weaknesses in tax administration and increasing the collection rates. Besides the official target of N1.98 trillion, the FIRS was given an additional target of N75 billion, which it overshot and declared N143 billion extra as at last month. This shows that the new collection target of additional $3 billion dollars in three years for FIRS announced by the CME is realisable, as its Integrated Tax Administration System (ITAS, which targets a re-engineering and automating of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) core tax administration processes, will yield a seamless, integrated solution that incorporates international best practices for revenue administration with clear monitoring and evaluation systems.
We must all recall that President Barrack Obama’s first concern after being sworn in was the need for alternative sources of energy, to reduce dependence on imported petroleum products. Today the shale revolution has raised domestic production and the US no longer buys our oil. International oil firms like the Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Total and Chevron, are using portfolio rotation of assets to diverting more resources into shale oil production. That is why President Jonathan’s persistent call for diversification of the national economy and the effort of the Economic Management Team must be supported; especially as it has been discovered that Nigeria’s oil reserves might finish sooner than was projected. The 2015 budget is a realistic response to the foregoing and more.
Other wide ranging measures have been taken by the President’s Economic Management team, led by the CME, to diversify the economy and create jobs, include the creation of Mortgage Refinancing Institution; to make long term funds available and Increase liquidity by funding primary mortgage institutions. The boom in the Housing sector will create more jobs, as it is estimated that every house built will create 6 direct jobs and 4 indirect jobs. The impact of this in a country like Nigerian, with its over 17,000,000 housing deficit, will be phenomenal.
The YOUWIN programme award winners each receives between N1 million and N10 million, in addition to further training through business bootcamps, as well as mentoring through enrolment in a voluntary mentoring programme. Today, many of the 2400 businesses under YouWin 1 and 2 are doing very well, with some receiving national and international awards. About 22,000 jobs have been created by the 2,400 winners from the first two editions of YOUWIN. This translates to about 9 jobs winner. Examples of special award winners include, Binta Shuaibu of Vintage Collete by Binta in Kano, who won the MTN 2012 Designer of the year award, Dr. Saeed Juma of the Smile Shop (a dental clinic) who won the Futures Award Africa prize in Business in 2013, Achenyo Idachaba of Mitimeth in Ibadan who won the 2014 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award as the Laureate for sub-Sahara Africa, and Archibong Eniang of ENELEC GS in Akwa Ibom State, who won the Presidential Standing Committee on Invention and Innovation award by the Hon. Minister of Communication Technology in 2014. By the end of YouWin 4, about 5,400 young entrepreneurs would have benefitted directly from the program.
Still along the lines of economic revival and diversification, the Federal Government is determined to do with the Insurance Sector what it did with the Banking and Pension sectors, thus increasing its assets base from its current N300 billion to N1trillion within the next three years. It will go up to N5 trillion within the next decade. As the sector grows, it will open up vast employment opportunity for our people, both directly and indirectly.
The SURE-P programme continues to support Social Safety Net programmes, like Save One Million Lives, which has saved over 631,250 lives by giving renewed priority to health interventions, nutrition, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, malaria control and routine immunization. The Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) has hired and deployed 13,339 graduates so far and the Community Services, Women and Youth Employment (CSWYE) has created nearly 120,000 jobs; with a minimum of 3,000 in each state and the FCT.
Today we have the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), which will increase access to finance for the micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) and the agriculture sector.Financial inclusion through improving access to finance will drive economic growth. The African Development Bank (AfDB) will also be investing equity. At the initial stage the Federal Government will raise funds and make same available to DBN for on-lending to the Nigerian MSMEs and agriculture businesses. The DBN should be able to gain a credit rating similar to that of the government within 3 years of its operation; in addition to being able to independently raise funds from local and international sources.
The point being made here is that our challenges are as real as the government’s tackling of them. We must hold together as people and also thank God for the determination of Mr President and his Economic Management Team, to set the economy on a strong macro-economic footing.
•Mr. Peter Obi is the former Governor of Anambra State.
The recovery of the global economy remains fragile and uncertain due to the prevalence of significant downside risks and the emergence of new political risks. We are beginning to see: weaker-than-expected growth in advanced economies (except USA) and emerging markets like China and Brazil; excess oil supply due to the rise of new regional producers, increased exploitation of shale oil and gas particularly by the U.S, and weakening oil demand in major economies including in Asia and Europe. These developments, which have partly contributed to the significant decline in oil prices (to around $78 per barrel) in recent weeks, have unfavourable implications for the Nigerian economy.
However, let me clearly state that this event – the recent drop in oil price, did not come to us as a surprise. We had anticipated this (even before the 2008 global financial crisis), and that is why the economic management team has consistently argued for a reasonably lower benchmark oil price to enable us build up our fiscal buffers. You may recall that we had put in place the ECA in 2004, which was very useful during the 2008 financial crisis when oil price fell as low as $38 per barrel from $147 per barrel. We didn’t need to run to the IMF or the World Bank as some other countries did because the ECA had savings of up to $22 billion! By August 2011, this amount has been depleted to about $4 billion.
We built it up to $9 billion by December 2012. Some of it was then legitimately used to offset revenue shortfalls arising from quantity shocks and to narrow the fiscal deficit, but against our advice, significant portions were also used to augment monthly allocations as states argued that rainy days were already at hand (and in fact was already pouring). So the money needed to be used right away. I think most Nigerians were also witnesses to the annual budget struggle with the Legislature to keep the benchmark price for the budget lower and more realistic.
Let me point out that contrary to some analysts’ insinuations, we in the Finance team have been very clear to the country on the implications of falling oil prices, and quantity shocks resulting from oil theft and pipeline vandalism. We were very quick in 2012 to point out the possibility of falling oil prices and quantities as well as quantifying the magnitude of the losses at around $12 billion annually.
In addition, we have a short to medium term strategy typically used to deal with this kind of situation. We have extensive consultations with global analysts including the IMF, Citi Group and Goldman Sachs, and done our research and I strongly believe that we have enough in our arsenal to weather these storms.
Prices could fall to $70 a barrel, $65 or even $60. Prices could also rebound to $75 - $85 a barrel. What we did was to work within a range of $60 - $85 thought possible by analysts, put a package of measures around an estimate at the midpoint of that range, that is $73, and then build additional measures for scenarios at $70, $65 and $60 a barrel.
On the revenue side, a lot of work was already underway prior to the fall in price to improve non-oil revenue generation. This was sequel to our rebasing exercise which demonstrated a large $510 billion GDP with a diverse non-oil base. The efforts of the FIRS supported by McKinsey & Co. focus on strengthening tax administration and thereby plugging leakages and loopholes. For example, only 25% of our SMEs are registered taxpayers. Remedying that will broaden the tax base. Our auditors complete 3-5 audits a year compared to 50 a year in Angola. Speeding up audits will help improve tax collections and anomalies.
We are introducing surcharges on certain luxury goods in the country, not only to raise additional revenue but also to ensure that the better-off in our society contribute a little bit more to easing the pain resulting from the current economic headwinds. In summary, our aim on the revenue side is to raise an additional N480 billion ($3 billion) over the 2014 base in the next three years.
Let me now turn to the expenditure side. For the immediate 2015 budget, we shall cut certain recurrent spending such as purchase of administrative equipment, overseas travels and trainings, etc. This is the low hanging fruit. We shall also complete the work on IPPIS which has already covered half the agencies and weeded out 60,000 ghost workers saving N160 billion. Completing this work could save another N160 billion. In the medium term, the current pressures provide a unique opportunity for the country to reduce duplication of agencies, commissions and committees within the administration and to restructure and reduce recurrent expenditure, reform public administration and make serious efficiency gains.
Inevitably, there will also be some cuts in capital expenditure in the 2015 Budget, but this is being done in a way that is pro-poor and pro-average Nigerian. Focus will be on priority sectors of infrastructure, Health, Education and Security, as well as growth stimulating and job creating sectors like Agriculture, Housing and Creative industries. Even in infrastructure, there will be focus on certain priority national projects such as Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the second Niger Bridge, Oweto Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna Rail, Maiduguri-Enugu Rail, Zungeru, Kashimbila and Mambila Hydro etc.
Expenditures related to the average Nigerian will be the focus. In fact, let me say here that we are building a social safety net for the poor and vulnerable in our society with support from the World Bank and DFID. This is a direct outcome of Mr. President’s social policy drive. For example, using NIMC as a base, a Conditional Cash Transfer system will be developed and targeted at women and their households of up to five children. This will encourage them to send children to school especially girls and get themselves maternal and infant health care. This approach would complement what we have been doing with the SURE-P and MDGs.
Our fiscal measures will also now be accompanied by appropriate monetary policy measures as we have always stressed. As announced yesterday by the monetary policy authorities, the MPR and CRR on private sector deposits have been hiked to 13% and 20% from 12% and 15% respectively, while the RDAS mid-rate has moved to N168/$ from N155/$, and the band around it widened to +/-5%.
With these moves, the CBN has shown commitment to complementing the measures outlined by the fiscal authorities to deal with the current challenges and uncertainties facing the country, so the economy can be stabilised. The official devaluation of the naira and greater flexibility in its management also supports and provides some measure of flexibility to the fiscal authorities and the macro fiscal measures to stabilise the economy.
Macroeconomic stability is a crucial element of the performance of our capital market. It provides the bedrock that allows markets to operate. So let me now spend a little bit of time to talk about how our capital markets have fared with the current price shocks, and what the government is doing to restore market confidence. First, we have seen declines in a number of indicators within the capital market including the NSE All Share Index (ASI), Equity Market Capitalisation and Foreign Portfolio Investments (FPIs). This is really not unusual as there is some sort of close correlation between oil prices and capital markets. The NSE All Share Index slid by about 18%, from 41,135.75 points at the beginning of October to 33,875 points as at November 24. This is similar to the 18% decline in the NSE equity market capitalisation from N13.6 trillion as at the start of October to N11.2 trillion as at November 24, during which period oil prices fell by about 19%.
Foreign Portfolio Investment has also seen a reversal as it decreased by 32% in a month, September 2014 to October 2014! Of the N153 billion decrease, over 65% was attributed to FPI outflows. But as you have seen, we have now taken strong measures to stabilise the economy and the market has responded positively, finishing up in positive territory yesterday. Also, looking at our bond yields, the yields for our international and domestic bonds have also gone up by a few hundred basis points. Our five-year 2018 eurobond is up by 233 basis points in November, reflecting that investors still have confidence in our management of the economy.
Let me at this point re-emphasise government’s commitment to supporting the capital markets given the prominent role the market plays as the bedrock of investment in the country. Thus, in addition to the fiscal and monetary measures, which I have already discussed, government gazetted and implemented the VAT exemptions for stock market transactions and we are working on the stamp duty waiver. We are also working on deepening our stock market through strong encouragement of listing our big companies like those in the telecommunications, oil and gas sectors, and consumer goods sector.
Now, all these macroeconomic and capital market measures will need to be complemented by continued structural reforms for the economy to grow and move away from overdependence on oil, focusing more on the non-oil sector. We must render our economy more competitive.
For this to happen, we will need to continue the adjustments and reforms we have started in power, ports, rail, oil and gas sectors, and in our regulatory regimes. We must build the right institutions to galvanise the reforms in these areas. In particular, we must also strengthen our regulation and our competition laws in order to keep the country competitive. We now have some very reputable regulatory bodies like NERC but we need more in other sectors, such as Ports and Harbours bill, Road bill, etc. We also want to create a more conducive environment for business as a way of improving business opportunities and creating more jobs for our people.
In this regard, we must also look at the cost of doing business ranking and improve. Interestingly, Nigeria has gone up 5 ranks from 2014(175/187) to 2015 (170/189). Of course, in no way is 170 something to celebrate but it demonstrates that we can improve. A lot of the new gains have come from increasing access to credit where we are have gone up 30 percentage points in the past year. The MITI and the EMT are working hard on improving the entire Doing Business indicators. There is now a Competitiveness Council chaired by Mr. Vice-President and a 100-day work programme to further move us up the rankings. I know we can and will do better. We have really no choice in the present adverse global environment.
• Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance
“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story; the protagonist is transformed. He’s a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another”. (Donald Miller) – The author of ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life’.
Without sounding too philosophical, change is only change when it involves character transformation in individuals. We have experienced all manner of changes in this part of the world but it looks like our ‘character change’ tilted only to the negative end. And when character is lost everything automatically is lost. Transformation actually involves a complete change from somebody / something to / into something else better. We really experienced transformation but we did not become better people; we only became less human living an illusion. Probably, it may be ‘transformational grammar’!
Looking at the innumerable number of transformational grammar and songs in the land someone spoke up. Abimbola Adelakun said, “Nigeria, measured by nostrum of the Federal Government, is a primitive stratified nation of pretenders in power, pretenders out of power and, the insignificant others. The Federal Government, myopic for aeons, perpetuates the anomaly by deeming pretenders worthy of red carpets, security and protocols whilst the nation’s others – all who have never been in power; whose homes and addresses are a shame to humanity, and, whose stories never make the headlines – as insignificant and disposable.” So we transformed from caring for ‘the people’ to caring for ‘a privileged few pretenders in and out of power’.
Indeed, we witnessed transformation; we moved from people being afraid to commit crime for fear of imprisonment to people committing crimes and walking free without the law having its way. We metamorphosed from ‘judiciary being the last hope of the common man, to ‘justice for the highest bidders’. The paradigm shift is such that we actually need to approach Wikipedia and other updaters of words for the meaning of words like statesmen, heroes / heroines, leaders, achievers, and the likes as our value / reward system is below the zero line.
Peter Singer said, “If you go back in time you’ll find tribes that were essentially only concerned with their own tribal members. If you were a member of another tribe, you could be killed with impunity”. Nigerians are dying every day but their death can only elicit attention or stir up genuine reaction except they have relations in the corridors of power. No wonder Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon said our system of government changed but our people are still living believing in a democracy while we are practically in a ‘cabalocracy’ – government of the cabal, by the cabal and for the cabal. His comment only corroborated the earlier quote from Peter Singer clearly depicting that the pretenders on the red carpets would not mind total annihilation of the ‘insignificant and disposable’ just to make sure the potbellied hawks are satisfied.
Before the advent of the transformation toga, we looked forward to fixing of basic amenities and infrastructure whenever we talked about governance and peoples’ welfare. We have ‘ported’ in the spirit of transformation; governance is now all about ‘stomach’ infrastructure and very soon we will welcome a new ministry – Ministry of Stomach Infrastructure. As soon as the new ministry comes on stream probably all our socio-economic problems would be completely solved and we will find ourselves among the twenty largest and powerful economies in the world and ultimately the real giant of Africa with protruded stomachs!
We are in the era of denials: see nothing and say nothing. The people who died in the struggle for the emancipation of the people and enthronement of democracy are surely crying and regretting in their graves. They surely did not labour just to have civil rule instead of democracy. Even the very enemies of the struggle are gallivanting in the corridors of power to the utter dismay of the people who were either exiled, jailed or killed in their bid to resist and reject tyranny and injustice in the land. Most of them who are still alive and around in the polity (the activists and members of the pro-democracy groups) are now labelled detractors and enemies of the state by the same people who never wanted democracy. Many have been silenced but there are still a dogged few who believe that evil will continue when good people keep quiet, while others prefer living as if nothing is going wrong; stoic.
The people who were in the struggle for the emancipation of the neglected and impoverished Niger Deltans have suddenly abandoned the cause and have ‘transformed’ to billionaires. The amnesty programme may have stopped the incessant kidnappings and breaking of oil pipelines to an extent, yet Nigeria still loses more than 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day to oil thieves, the presence of the Navy and Joint Task Force notwithstanding. Excuses in different fora by the Minister of Petroleum Resources and the coordinating Minister of the Economy &
Minister of Finance regarding the sophistication, organization and connection of the oil thieves can only mean outsourcing of responsibility or ignorance of responsibility. With the creation of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, have the issues raised by the ‘agitators’, ‘freedom fighters’ and environmental activists been resolved? The real issues are no longer discussed as some if not all the actors have joined the transformational train and abandoned the cause for the billions.
The anti-graft agency – EFCC was set up to check corruption even though it was an outsourcing of the responsibility of our Police. Many alleged it was a political tool in the hands of the former president – Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to check his political enemies. But many did not ask the right question then – Did the agency arrest or prosecute anyone for doing nothing? The once dreaded agency has been transformed to a toothless bulldog – powerful only in name. Without holding brief for the agency, the Attorney General of the Federation doing the biddings of the ‘ogas-at-the-top’ contributed in no small measure in making sure that the agency never succeeded in concluding any case in court because of vested interests. Charges are withdrawn once you come under the “Big Umbrella”.
In 2012 alone the defence budget for capital expenditure was N34.36 Billion with a whooping N5.71 Billion earmarked for the acquisition of equipment by the Army. If the words credited to the American Ambassador to Nigeria is anything to go by, obsolete equipment were purchased and the fight against insurgency jeopardised. If the funds earmarked back then were utilised probably the issues of going to South Africa and seizure of funds may not arise. What we keep getting is transformational grammar – “we are looking into the records, in fact a committee has been set up”.
It has been probe, probe and probe without probity. Teams of ‘transformational Committees’ are in place and are really doing good jobs at unraveling many cases of corruption and ‘very soon’ they will come up with their reports. If you have forgotten about the report on the Fuel Subsidy thieves, SURE-P will soon release the report. If you want the report on the allegation of bribery between Hon. Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola, do not worry too much it will be out. Madam Stella Oduah has sorted the bulletproof cars issue and she’s free? Transformational grammar states that stealing is not corruption so the Minister of Petroleum Resources can afford to fly more private and chartered jets. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was drunk when he alleged that some money was missing or probably was not at home with transformational economics even though he was Governor of the CBN?
Many have argued that the pilot of the transformational train is the best thing that has happened to the nation. If under his watch lecturers (his former colleagues) were ‘allowed’ to go on avoidable strikes and left students at home for many months, it shows how much he has transformed the education sector. Under his watch, judges are beaten and he does not come out to condemn such action, then he must be a party to it. Under his watch, stealing is not corruption. Any rating we get for corruption now is not just for corruption; it is for corruption with impunity. Many ‘criminals’ are on their way to take cover under the ‘Big Umbrella’ as there is a standing order to canonise many as saints in a bid to have the numbers.
We have indeed experienced ‘transformation’ but it only brought a deterioration of our values. Simply put, transformation to impunity! Everything rises and falls on leadership! If you say that you do not eat pork meat but you’re using your teeth to share it for kids --- you have eaten pork and your body language shows you’re not a saint!
Alinnor Arinze A. writes from Abuja, Nigeria
Nigerians have been talking since the former governor of Anambra State decamped from APGA to the ruling national party PDP. Obi’s defecting to PDP was anticipated, for Obi has not hidden his inner workings and interactions with the members of PDP. While Obi was the governor of Anambra, his close relationship with President Jonathan, the PDP leader was there for everybody to see. President Jonathan visited Anambra State numerous times and Obi always receives him as a friend, compatriot and a leader.
But since he made it official and finally jumped the boat to PDP, the reactions have been mixed. While some see it as a rightful progression, others especially dire-heart APGA loyalist sees it as a betrayal to the memory of his political godfather Dim Ikemba Ojukwu. Obi received the reactions especially the negative ones in his usual trade mark – calm, cool and collected without saying anything in return. In addition many Nigerians and Ndi-Igbo living abroad were also speaking out on Obi’s deflection.
Sir Okafor Jude Eze, President of US-Nigeria Bi-National Policy Council Atlanta, USA and a rising star in Republican Party commented on Obi’s political career. Eze has been an active observer of political trends in Nigeria, he said: “The defection of former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, to PDP, is a step in the right direction - it will create an ambient political atmosphere for the Igbo in the party given the recalcitrant defection of Governor Rochas Okorocha from APGA to APC which is on avalanche mission to use Igbo in decapitating the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan second term pursuit. I think Governor Obi’s decampment is something the Igbo should embrace and not chastise - for the mere fact that APC is not frank with the Igbo despite Governor Rochas affluent brigandage with realpolitik.”
But Bianca Ojukwu, the wife of late Ojukwu, who was the leader of the party until his death, made a statement that hinges on Obi turning his back on the late leader. Then Obi knew it was time to speak up and defend his most precious attribute and material - his integrity and honor.
From Netherland, Bianca, the Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain did not left any stone unturned in handing his disappointment to Obi’s deflection. Her words: “I received the news with shock and disappointment because up till the last moment; Obi kept reassuring me that this would never happen; that it would be over his dead body; that the day he leaves APGA would be the day he quits politics; and most importantly, that he would keep the promise he made to Ojukwu. I had no reason to doubt him” and these were words she uttered as she spoke to Daily Sun.
Bianca reminded everybody about his trust on Obi and she said, “I had become used to unsubstantiated rumours, regarding his defection to the PDP. Even just before the last TAN South East rally in Awka, I spoke with him because I had heard that he would decamp at that event. I had reason to be concerned because he had tendered his resignation letter, as BoT chairman of APGA only the night before the rally, which came as a great surprise to us all. I asked him whether he had any plan to defect to PDP and he told me that his position remained the same; and reiterated the statement that APGA was in his blood. He kept his word then and so, I had no reason to believe that he would lie on this occasion. I felt that he had enough integrity to keep his promise to Ojukwu because there was no compelling reason for him not to do so.”
She further stressed, “Everything he is, today, he owes to Ojukwu and APGA. APGA catapulted him literally from obscurity to national prominence. He served two consecutive terms, as governor of Anambra State, a first in the history of the state. This, he achieved under APGA. His decampment is shocking to our party members. He never gave them any indication that he was about to jump ship. Close as I was to him, he did not even have the simple courtesy to inform me of this decision but continued to deceive me up until his defection.”
Bianca reiterated that, “The spirit of Ojukwu lives not only among the people of Anambra State but also Ndigbo as a whole. That spirit will continue to sustain and propel APGA. The party will flourish with or without Peter Obi. I believe that in spite of whatever he may become in the future, posterity will not be kind in its judgment of his latest action because not only has he squandered his patrimony, he has firmly appended his seal on a new brand of microwave politics in Nigeria.”
Emeka Chiakwelu, Principal Policy Strategist at Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL), maintained that party’s defection by Obi is a mark of political growth and adjustment of ideology. Chiakwelu speaking from Houston, Texas reaffirmed Obi’s constitutional right to associate with any political entity without losing his core standing in his constituency. Chiakwelu said, “Obi has committed himself in rebuilding his Igbo constituency and infrastructure in the emerging political reality in Nigeria. And I think Obi will do more for Ndi-Igbo in PDP than APGA in Nigeria at this point in time.”
Cynicism is the product of intellectual lethargy, especially when history and situational ethics have inveterate the prevailing supposition. As Nigeria celebrate her 54 birthday, the conventional dictum is to be cynical and pessimistic because of the numerous obstacles and challenges confronting Nigeria.
“It is better”, as Chinese says, “to light a candle than curse the darkness”. But in reality and evaluation of the progress of the country, I can say for sure that Nigeria is gradually but steadily emerging from the darkness of yesterdays. Let us reason together, hear me out before you start calling names and gravitating to the conventional sarcasm.
The leadership of President Jonathan may not be 100% perfect, but if Nigerians can be frank with each other the country for the first time in the recent memory is lighting a candle of progress. I am by no means implying that Nigeria has succeeded. Things are not yet perfect, but even Stevie Wonder can attest that Nigeria is in right direction. Yes, Nigeria still has a lot of works to be done.
For the first time, Nigeria is in upward swing and Nigeria has formulated an industrial policy that will ultimately lunch the country into a modern industrial society. The Nigerian economy is progressively becoming diversified. The oil and Gas sector of the economy is no more eclipsing agricultural sector as it used to do in the past. Nigeria has experienced massive direct investments that were streaming into the economy from around the world.
But lack of infrastructures especially shortage of electric power supply and inadequacy in protection of life and property can derail economic development and deter the successful implementation of the industrial policy.
There is a stabilized macroeconomics and well regulated monetary policy. Thanks to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and the rest of the economic and financial team; the days of lackluster and scrawny management of the economy is dead and gone.
Nigeria still has myriads pressing problems especially the issue of Boko Haram and its destructive force. Boko Haram has spelled a difficult and problematic matter to be contained and annihilated. But all hope are not lost, the presidency has recently renewed a sense of urgency and purpose in confronting the towering problem. Nigerians must rally together to win the war against terrorism as she did to Ebola disease.
The war against Ebola was comprehensive, decisive and sustainable, that can be extended to terrorism and Boko Haram:
The methodology and approach the government utilized and applied to tackle the pernicious and precarious Ebola was quite encouraging. The three tier-governments mobilized the entire country with credible plan to wage a deliberate war and defeat Ebola. I wish the government can apply a similar tactics in confronting Boko Haram, social ills and unemployment.
Let’s delve into the massive unemployment: It is making life unbearable for country’s workforce especially the country’s youths. Many of the college graduates and able body citizens are without jobs. This is a dangerous trend, if it is allow to percolate endlessly and be rooted in the society, the detrimental effect will summon an incredible doom to the society. The Scio-cultural welfare and the stability of the society will be threatened when millions of young and active youths are without jobs and lack source of livelihood. This is a timing bomb that must be attended immediately with strategic and efficient planning and implementation.
Well, it is not chic to say anything good about Nigerian leaders, but a bulging pregnancy cannot be covered forever. Few Nigerian leaders are trying, rising to the occasion and sustaining social contract. President Jonathan is giving a new affirmative and progressive face to the presidency; Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State is rising to the status of a statesman, and Governor Fashola is always energetic and creative. And we cannot forget the able Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State whom has contributed immensely in tackling kidnapping and criminality in the state. Governor Obiano is working zealously to restore the environmental integrity of Anambra landscape.
All things being equal, Nigerians cannot afford to write off their country because there is only one Nigeria and our children have no other place to call home. Running to abroad and siphoning the country’s resources abroad are signs of immaturity, ignorance and self-hate. Let every Nigerian work together for a brighter future for our children and posterity. Happy birthday Nigeria!!!
The United States is preparing to launch a "major" border security program to help Nigeria and its neighbors combat the increasing number and scope of attacks by Islamic extremists, a senior U.S. official for Africa said Thursday.
Nigerian insurgents have begun attacking villages in neighboring Cameroon and have been seizing land in northeast Nigeria where they proclaimed an Islamic caliphate.
Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a meeting of U.S. and Nigerian officials in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, that "Despite our collective efforts, the situation on the ground is worsening.
"The frequency and scope of Boko Haram's terror attacks have grown more acute and constitute a serious threat to this country's overall security," she said. "This is a sober reality check for all of us. We are past time for denial and pride."
The government denied that Boko Haram this week overran Bama, the second largest city in Borno state, but Thomas-Greenfield said, "We are very troubled by the apparent capture of Bama and the prospects for an attack on and in Maiduguri."
Bama, a city of about 200,000 people is just 75 kilometers (45 miles) from Maiduguri, the Borno state capital that is the headquarters of the military campaign against Boko Haram.
A senior Borno state security officer said a bombing raid Wednesday destroyed a Boko Haram camp outside Bama. The officer said two Air Force jets spotted the insurgents, who apparently were gathering for a meeting. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to journalists.
The officer and a member of the Nigerian Vigilante Group of civilians fighting Boko Haram both said some of the thousands of Bama residents who fled were returning home. There was no way to independently verify the confusing and conflicting information about Bama.
A Westerner working on the Cameroon side of the border said more than 100 Nigerian soldiers fled Bama and crossed into Cameroon on Tuesday. Last week, nearly 500 Nigerian soldiers fled into Cameroon from another border town that was under attack.
The United States has flown unarmed drones to spy in parts of northeast Nigeria in a joint effort to try to save more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the extremists in April.
"The Chibok schoolgirls and others remain hostages, enduring horrible and tragic suffering," Thomas-Greenfield said.
She added that Cameroon's military is increasingly forced to fight Boko Haram within Cameroon, and that the insurgents flee back into Nigeria without fear.
The U.N. refugee agency said insurgents had begun attacking villages in northern Cameroon last week, and spokeswoman Helene Caux said Thursday that Cameroonian authorities say some 5,000 Cameroonians have fled the assaults. UNHCR says 645,000 Nigerians are displaced inside their country by the insurgency while tens of thousands have fled into Cameroon and Niger.
Nigeria's home-grown insurgency grew out of a cult that preached against endemic corruption. Now Boko Haram — the name means Western education is sinful — has declared an Islamic caliphate in seized land in the extreme east of Borno state and says it wants to create an Islamic state in all of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of about 170 million people divided almost equally between Muslims and Christians.
Nigeria's Foreign Minister Aminu Wali on Wednesday told a regional security meeting of foreign ministers that Nigeria's government remains puzzled about funding and arms supply of Boko Haram.
"Who are the sponsors of Boko Haram terrorist campaigns? Who are those funding the insurgency? Where are the sources of the sophisticated arms and ammunition being used by the terrorists? Who are those seeking to re-define the territory of Nigeria and Africa in the 21st century?" he asked.
The Nigeria Football Federation says it has offered Stephen Keshi a new contract to stay on as coach of the national team and expects him to sign it in the next few days.
The NFF made the announcement on Tuesday without disclosing any terms relating to the contract.
In a brief comment on the contract, the NFF said its executive committee expects the new contract to be finalized by the two parties "in a matter of days."
Keshi led Nigeria to the African Cup title in 2013 and the second round of this year's World Cup in Brazil. However, his relationship with the NFF has been strained. He quit the day after Nigeria won the African Cup in South Africa last year but was convinced to rescind his resignation.
Nigeria’s education system is run by the state and since the Universal Education Act (UBA) of 2004 was introduced it has been compulsory for children to attend primary school between the ages of six and 11. Despite this legislation, some 4.7 million children are not being sent to school; 40% of this age group. The percentage who are absent in the northern region of the country is even worse, while the number of girls attending primary school in all areas of the country is worryingly low, the ratio of girls to boys being 1 to 2. In the north, where religious issues add to the problem, the ratio is as high as 1 to 3.
Over the past decade progress towards the target of 100% literacy has been stymied by the massive increase in population. Today no less than 40% of residents are aged 15 or less, which has inevitably put a massive strain on infrastructure and public services, not to mention the education system. There is no magic bullet that will overcome these issues in the short-term so the government needs to make several difficult decisions, some of which will inevitably take years to come to fruition. It will be interesting to see whether the country’s legislators are prepared to act now to ensure strong economic growth is maintained in the long-term.
One of the country’s key assets is its vibrant youthful population. If this potential is to be harnessed the amount invested in the education system must be significantly increased as a matter of urgency. Youngsters, whether just starting primary school or newly graduated, are the future of the country. Individuals in this age group are known to be impatient for change, curious, hardworking and ambitious; precisely the traits that have enabled Nigeria to overtake South Africa as the largest economy in Africa and ensure it achieves its next target of becoming a G-20 power by 2050.
A report published by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) in 2013 said: “Nigeria could be the fastest growing country in our sample due to its youthful and growing working population, but this does rely on using its oil wealth to develop a broader-based economy with better infrastructure and institutions as regards rule of law and political governance and hence support long term productivity growth – the potential is there, but it remains to be realized in practice.”
It is clear that the onus for improving education standards lies largely with the government, but private institutions, financed largely by philanthropic business leaders, also have an important role to play; for example, the African Leadership Academy. The ALA identifies and nurtures talented students who it believes will go on to become future leaders. By funding their development it aims to prevent them having to look overseas for educational and employment opportunities. To learn more about the organization follow Tunde Folawiyo news on the ALA.
Internationally, it is widely recognized that there are two key issues with the potential to derail Nigeria’s future ambitions to become the next member of the BRICS group. It has an outdated and largely derelict infrastructure and an inadequate education system. The country’s single biggest asset, apart from oil, is seen as being its youthful population.
The Nigerian Government has hired DC PR firm Levick as it attempts to counter criticism of its response to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls.
The Hill has reported that the $1.2m contract calls for Levick to "change the the international and local media narrative surrounding Nigeria’s efforts to find and safely return the girls abducted by the terrorist organization Boko Haram."
The assignment comes after the Holmes Report revealed that Nigerian ministers had met with approximately five PR firms in London in May.
The development follows the mass abduction of schoolgirls in April by the Boko Haram militant group in Chibok. Activists from the #BringBackOurGirls group have ramped up pressure on the government, amid international uproar over the girls' disappearance.
Levick's work will be part of a global effort to "mobilize international support in fighting Boko Haram as part of the greater war on terror.”
The firm is partnering with human rights attorney Jared Genser on the assignment. Genser is expected to support efforts to foster real change and advance human rights in Nigeria.
It is thought that Africa's top oil producer is concerned that domestic unrest sparked by the kidnappings may prove politically costly with elections looming.
Boko Haram's reign of terror in northeast Nigeria has included countless civilian atrocities since 2009, as part of the group's attempt to establish a mediaeval Islamic caliphate.
Nigeria's next election takes place in early 2015. Opposition party APC hired political consultancy AKPD — best known for its work with Barack Obama — earlier this year to support its campaign.
Source: The Holmes Report