Who is afraid of political debate?

Who is afraid of political debate?

Sonala Olumhense

The presidential debate for the 2019 elections will be held on January 19, one month before the event on February 16.

The Nigeria Elections Debate Group, which convenes and hosts debates for presidential, vice-presidential and governorship elections, is a non-partisan coalition of professional, broadcast and civil society organisations groups committed to deepening democracy in the country.

The group has undertaken this task since 1999, with grudging participation by the candidates. It reaffirmed last week that its sole interest is the entrenching of a democratic culture through these debates.

The first in the current series, for vice-presidential candidates, will be held in two weeks, on December 14.

Several parties immediately indicated their readiness to participate. But not one: the ruling All Progressives Congress, which had two months ago strangely indicated it would send the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, to debate for President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the president “has nothing to debate with anyone.”

In a contribution at the time, I commented on the absurdity of Mr. Osinbajo filling in for his principal, a precedent that, down the road, is certain to yield a ministry official filling in for the vice president or even a foreign orator filling in for a governor.

Nonetheless, the APC announcement last September and the statement by the presidency last week that a “decision” is to be made about Buhari’s participation, are disturbing. They arise either from the mistaken or mischievous belief that the debate is a favour to the organisers or the electorate, or fear that Buhari may perform atrociously.

“By the time we know how the debate is being organised and the rules of the debate, then we will let Nigerians know whether we will debate or not,” said the spokesman for the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation, Festus Keyamo.

Debates for political office are simply campaign opportunities, and have become standard all over the world. Only two conditions prevent a candidate for a top office from failing to take advantage of them: arrogance or ignorance.

To spurn an opportunity—the only opportunity to be seen and heard throughout the networks of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria and mobile and social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, spilling over into WhatsApp and other video and text services—is to misunderstand and disrespect the democratic principle and the voter. Worse still it is to suggest that you rely on something other than your appeal at the ballot box to win power.

For Nigeria, three things are now possible. The first is that Buhari does not show up. That would lead to a debate in which contestants for his job will have a field day presenting and misrepresenting him to the Nigerian people and the world. It would be a grievous act of political cowardice bordering on suicide.

The second is that he contrives to throw Vice-President Osinbajo into fire. Mr. Osinbajo is an educated man and an experienced lawyer, but a debate podium in which he will be holding fort for his principal, beginning with trying to justify his very absence and having to speak in ambiguous pronouns, would not be a comfortable place to be.

In addition, an election debate is no court room, particularly when he must defend and advocate above his pay grade, including in policies and prepossessions he clearly neither understands nor shares, and on behalf of a man who is content to watch him squirm on live television while tethered to the remote control at home.

The third scenario is that Buhari does as he should, and participates. That is the path of honour and would be a major contribution to the cause of Nigeria’s journey as a democracy.

I hope Buhari sees the wisdom of getting on to that podium even—and particularly—if his party doubts him, because the principal loyalty of a president is to his country. In the eyes of history, that podium would be the safest place to be on the evening of January 19 than anywhere else, especially if he eventually loses the election.

Buhari’s campaign has expressed worry about the format and rules of the debate. The basic approach to these events is the same, which enables a committed candidate to prepare adequately. It is that within a pre-agreed time-frame, the candidates answer questions from the host or a debate panel—and sometimes the audience and even viewers or listeners—on manifestoes, worldview, character, track record and suitability for office. Within the ebb and flow of the event, the candidates take potshots at each other, with the legitimate aim of puncturing holes in opposing candidatures and boosting their own.

That general format is to be expected by every candidate, and there is nothing to dissuade anyone from participating with the intention of seizing the opportunity to promote his or her candidature.

It is to be expected that the NEDG—not the government and certainly not the presidency—will determine the structure and rules of the debate, and attempt to be fair to all candidates, with no favours being done to any. This is standard practice.

“Among others, the debates will focus on the issues that matter most to working families; restoring our economy, providing electricity, creating jobs, securing health care for every Nigerian, making and achieving excellence in every Nigerian school and ensuring safety and security for Nigerians,” NEDG chairman John Momoh said last week.

Momoh also pointed out that Nigerians would expect the leaders of all political parties to be challenged in a very public and robust way in the debates, and that is as it should be.

“Our nation is strongest when our elected leaders are transparent, accessible and accountable to its citizens, explaining their decisions and answering tough questions,” he said. “This standard of openness must start long before election day.”

He is right. But the format also favours the incumbent. For a candidate who has had four years under the bright lights of presidential power and privilege, it is a golden opportunity to ask of the electorate not so much an election but a validation: an endorsement or tenure-extension. It is an opportunity to demonstrate how the past four years have been spent fulfilling promises in the implementation of the 2015 manifesto. No other candidate on the podium will have that weapon.

For Buhari, this means he can argue he has led by example; has enforced change from the evil ways of his predecessor; has defeated Boko Haram (not technically or largely, but completely); has conquered corruption (not technically or largely or in the PDP or among his enemies, but demonstrably); that the Nigerian economy has regained vibrancy, with electricity and jobs everywhere; or that healthcare is now available and affordable and nobody has to travel to London to live or to die.

It is also an opportunity for him to inflict stab wounds on the manifestoes of his opponents and their opinions of him on the biggest stage with two wins at stake: his job, and protection of Nigeria.

I imagine that the Commander-in-Chief and former army general would see that as an easy battlefield.

Credit: The Punch

Why corruption persists in Nigeria

Why corruption persists in Nigeria

By Luke Onyekakeyah

The way corruption has assumed a larger than life posture in the psyche of Nigerians has made the monster appear overwhelming and invincible. The emphasis on corruption has made it seem to be the number one issue of governance to the neglect of the real issues.
While the fight against corruption is worthwhile in order to curtail the monster, the fundamental objective of government, which is the security and welfare of the people, should be given priority. In fighting corruption, however, it is pertinent to ask why the malaise persists and even fights back. Will this war against corruption ever end? Will it ever be won? Why is corruption an intractable monster in Nigeria?

Corruption has been portrayed in Nigeria as a huge elephant, lying firmly on the ground, while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), doggedly, scratched it expecting it to move. Since I saw the cartoon some years back, I have been asking myself whether it means that the war against corruption can never be won.

Going by that cartoon, I have the feeling that all the actions the EFCC has instituted against corruption since the anti-graft agency was established in 2003, commendable as they are, amount to merely scratching the monster on the surface. The real problem is still huge and solidly rooted in the system. That is why corruption persists and is even getting worse, despite EFCC’s unrelenting effort.

Like the fairy six blind men of Hindustan, who went and touched the elephant from six different angles, with each describing it from his own perspective, without saying exactly what the elephant is like, I tend to agree with the cartoonist that the war on corruption, so far, amounts to scratching the monster, which is why there is little or no change. Something needs to be done to put real heat from underneath the monster to make it move. It could really move if the real heat is put under it.

The elephant is the only land mammal that has no natural predator. No animal confronts the elephant. No animal can kill the elephant. The elephant doesn’t run for any animal, not even the lion. Its size is intimidating and scares every other animal in the forest. It is thick-skinned, such that scratching alone doesn’t affect it. Elephants are wise and intelligent. Aristotle, the legendary Greek philosopher and thinker, described the elephant as the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind.

The cartoonist who used the elephant to depict corruption may not have thought as much about the animal and what it stands for. If corruption in Nigeria is as huge as the elephant, then, like the elephant, you have to find out what can kill corruption. Bearing in mind that no natural predator threatens the elephant, a greater force must be involved before the elephant succumb. From experience, the only force that makes the elephant move is extraneous force engendered by nature or man.

Historically, many genera of elephants have become extinct since the last ice age some 20,000 years ago following extreme climatic condition. The advance and retreat of ice forced some species of elephants to die out while others moved to more favorable environment. The other factor is the destruction of the natural habitat of elephants by man. When the home of the elephant is destroyed for whatever reason, the elephant is compelled to move. This factor made elephants that lived in the rain forests near our villages a little over five decades ago to disappear. Apart from the aforementioned factors, nothing else could move the elephant except it dies naturally from old age.

I have taken time to highlight the nature and ecology of the elephant for the EFCC to appreciate the magnitude of corruption that has been depicted as elephant in Nigeria. Except the EFCC perceives corruption as huge and rugged as the elephant, it will continue to scratch the monster on the surface, while corruption mutates rather than die. The following reasons explain why corruption persists.

First is societal acceptance of corruption. We live in a country where thieves are made kings while good people are regarded as fools (mumu). Those who have stolen public funds are accorded high honours and awarded traditional titles and national honors. Corruption has found conducive environment in Nigeria. Hard work is not regarded as virtue. What is regarded is the culture of get rich quick. The Nigerian society appreciates and recognizes ill-gotten wealth. If you hold public office, there is high expectation from you to become rich. If, maybe, you decide to keep clean hands, your people will hate you. They will call you a fool. What matters once you’re holding public office is how much wealth you can amass.

That explains why many public officers in government can’t resist the temptation to steal. Many do it to please their immediate communities, which in turn, solidly stand behind them. If for any reason they are hunted, it is the kinsmen of the thieves that will barricade the area and prevent EFCC operatives from having access. That is why arrested, corrupt individuals, standing trial in court have strong support even inside the court. The way out is aggressive public education to change the mindset of Nigerians to make them see corruption as evil and a common enemy.

Second is a weak legal system that drags cases of corruption for too long. There would be no effective battle against corruption as long as the judicial system is unprepared for such battle. The criminal code, probably, didn’t envisage the kind of corruption we have today, hence, the system is unprepared. Granted that the EFCC Act, which is relatively new, empowers the anti-graft body to investigate and arrest suspects but the judicial system has not been re-tuned to match with the new system. That is why there are many corruption cases pending in courts without prompt adjudication. The way out is to create special courts to deal with corruption cases separately.

Third is the punishment for corruption. This is related to the weak judicial system. The punishment meted out to convicted corrupt persons is not commensurate with the gravity of the offense. A situation where somebody, who wantonly, looted billions that could have been used to bring succor to millions of Nigerians is handed a paltry jail term on conviction makes corruption attractive. Man has a natural tendency to always do the wrong thing, which only the system can checkmate. The punishment meted out to corruption convicts, so far, is not enough to deter anyone from indulging in the evil practice. Mrs. Farida Waziri, former chairman of EFCC, had suggested death penalty for convicts. It is such stringent punishment that can root out corruption in the country.

Fourth is ethnic sentiment. Nigerians give corruption ethnic coloration or interpretation. When someone is arrested for corruption, rather than join hands to condemn the evil, some Nigerians would be more interested in the ethnic origin of the suspect. It is as if the country is silently being shared. That is why appointments into high offices are ethnic issue because it is believed that whosoever is appointed has the opportunity to partake in the looting of the country on behalf of his ethnic group. The EFCC should ignore primordial sentiments and go ahead to chain whosoever is involved in corruption.

Credit: The Guardian

To Oil the Wheel of Progress…

To Oil the Wheel of Progress…

Minister of State, Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu

By Simon-Kolawole, Email: simon.kolawole@thisdaylive.com, sms: 0805 500 1961

I have a story to tell. In the 1970s, three governments set up national oil companies to engage in exploration, production and refining. Nigeria created the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Norway set up Statoil, and Malaysia established Petronas. Today, Statoil — now renamed Equinor ASA — and Petronas are among the biggest state-owned oil and gas companies in the world. Equinor ASA and Petronas declare profits in billions of dollars and are among the most valuable companies in the world. Equinor ASA operates in 36 countries while Petronas is doing business in 35 countries. They are doing well home and abroad.

Our own NNPC? Please don’t get me started. Even though many state-owned companies are doing well in many countries, the moment you insert “Nigeria” into the equation everything goes haywire. There is nothing the NNPC knows how to do well, apart from scams. To produce oil, it relies on retrogressive JVs and ridiculous PSCs. Also, NNPC cannot refine its oil because the refineries never work. (NNPC recently popped champagne to celebrate a petrol supply contract it signed with BP, a British company. We are that shameless.) NNPC cannot even import fuel — it has to do this in the form of importation contracts. NNPC outsources almost everything!

The truth is that even though Nigeria is regarded as an oil giant, we are not yet deriving up to 25% of the benefits that reside in the industry — benefits from exploration, benefits from production, benefits from refining, benefits from petrochemicals, and benefits from marketing. Our major benefit is the revenue from oil export that we share in Abuja every month before it grows wings and flies mostly into private accounts and waste bins. We pride ourselves as one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world, but in the real sense we are not the ones producing the oil. We are outsiders and scavengers in the industry. In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.

How can we take maximum advantage before fossil fuels become, as it were, fossilised? Two recent reports inspired my article today. The first is the campaign promise by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, to partially sell NNPC if he is elected president. Is that the solution? What is the solution? The second is Nigeria’s local content development policy which, after decades of rhetoric, has produced a major result in the building of the Egina vessel. But this has led to a war between Samsung Heavy Industries Nigeria Ltd, the contractor, and Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics (LADOL), the Nigerian local partner. This is no good news.

First, what can we do to turn NNPC into a world beater and derive more benefits from our oil? President Muhammadu Buhari, the APC candidate, believes in state ownership. He has not been enthusiastic about the reforms meant to free the oil sector from government control. He can argue that if Petronas (Malaysia), Petrobras (Brazil) and Aramco (Saudi Arabia) are doing well under state ownership, why not NNPC? Atiku, seen as more market-oriented, has promised to sell part of NNPC and privatise the refineries. Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, the candidate of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and a liberal economist of note, has promised full-blast reform and deregulation.

My intention today is not to evaluate the campaign promises of the candidates as they relate to the oil industry. That I will still do at some point. Rather, I am more interested in asking this question: how can we get the NNPC to be productive, innovative and profitable — even if not at the level of the national oil companies that were established around the same time in the 70s? Should we sell or restructure NNPC? What should we do with the now-in-limbo Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) which prescribes that government should sell off 40% of its interest within 10 years? Whatever the case is, something has to happen to NNPC. Life can’t continue like this.

This is a debate worth having as the 2019 elections approach. Nigeria must begin to derive maximum advantage from the industry while stock lasts and while the world is still consuming fossil fuels. Our oil sector must be recalibrated to serve the interest of Nigeria, create real jobs and stimulate the growth of its subsectors as well as the other sectors of the economy. As things are today, our oil industry serves more foreign interests than it serves us. Just take a look at the companies making the most out of the various aspects of the chain and you will see that Nigeria and Nigerians do not figure prominently. In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.

And that is my second issue today: deriving utmost benefits from the sector through local content development. The world recently celebrated when Egina vessel sailed away to the Total deepwater oilfield, OML 130, which is about 200 kilometres offshore Port Harcourt, Rivers state. The acreage has deposits in excess of 550 million barrels of oil — one of the biggest you will find on the African continent. The deep offshore location means it would need a floating production storage offloading (FPSO) vessel. This was built by Samsung Heavy Industries in “local content” partnership with LADOL, led by Dr Amy Jadesimi as MD.

The good news is that this is the biggest local content project in our history after decades and decades of planning and talking and strategising about the policy. One significant progress we have made was setting up the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in 2010, which has seen to the involvement of more Nigerian companies in the logistics and engineering of the oil industry. Same year, Total Upstream, the operator of OML 130, awarded a $3.3 billion contract to the partnership of Samsung and LADOL to build the Egina FPSO. On August 25, 2018, the vessel sailed off to the oilfield. It is expected to add up to 200,000bpd to Nigeria’s oil output.

The bad news, though, is that the “local content” partnership that made this possible has hit the rocks, and this is not what you want to hear at a time we are campaigning for technology transfer to Nigerians so that we can become big players in our own oil industry. The Samsung and LADO crisis, which has produced a series of litigations, is capable of undermining the local content policy. The flagship project should be a thing of joy, a trophy we should display with pride. It should inspire more Nigerian companies to aim higher and become world beaters. A $3.3 billion procurement, engineering, construction and commissioning contract is not a joke.

What then is the problem? Samsung is demanding $1 billion extra payment from Total Upstream as claims for contract variation. The Korean company said there was “extraordinary increase in the quantities of structure and piping materials of the FPSO” because it had to improve on the initial work done by Nigerian engineers on the vessel. Although Total has already paid $500 million extra, Samsung wants an additional $500 million if not it would proceed with its claims of $1.6 billion at the London arbitration tribunal. The controversy almost marred the sail-off of Egina and would have delayed the December 2018 target for the commencement of production from the field.

Samsung had stopped work in July and headed to the courts but lost two cases and was practically forced by Nigerian authorities to complete work on the vessel and allow it sail or face the termination of the contract and a 10-year ban from working in Nigeria. Thankfully, the vessel sailed away on August 25, but the crisis is still ashore. The benefits of the Samsung/LADOL partnership, which are supposed to be long-lasting in the Nigerian oil industry, are now under threat. The partnership, named Samsung Heavy Industries Mega Construction and Integration Free-Zone (SHI MCI FZE), was expected to upgrade LADOL’s fabrication and integration facility at the free zone.

At the heart of Samsung’s dispute with LADOL is the claim by the Koreans that they invested $300 million in the fabrication yard — allegedly hiding the fact that Total had actually paid them $214 million for that purpose as part of the $3.3 billion contract. LADOL, reportedly unaware, was forced to cut down its interest in SHI MCI FZE from 80% to 30%. It also paid Samsung $40.5 million for its interest. However, it has since come out that Total Upstream paid Samsung for it. There are now suggestions that Samsung Heavy Industries is desperately seeking the $1.6 billion bonus in order to return to profit, having been suffering heavy financial bashing in recent years.

Somehow, there must be a resolution somewhere. Samsung no longer has access to the fabrication yard — the “landlord” is LADOL’s sister company, Global Resources Management Free Zone Ltd. While Global Resources says the lease has expired, Samsung maintains that it is valid till 2024. I am seeing a serious crisis here that needs to be resolved to keep the local content development policy smelling of roses. As far as I am concerned, this is the most beneficial policy we have had in the oil sector since we hit oil in 1956. We can argue over whether or not to sell NNPC, but we cannot deny that more local companies need to play big in the oil industry. We need to sustain the progress.

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AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

BOKO SLAUGHTER

Anytime the military chiefs boast that they have “technically” conquered Boko Haram, the terrorists strike big — as we saw yet again in the devastating attacks on soldiers in Metele, Borno state, last week. Maybe they should talk less and do more. Maybe President Buhari needs to overhaul the military hierarchy if fatigue has set in. Some of them have been due for retirement ages ago! There is no doubt that we have made tremendous progress against Boko Haram in the last three years, but terrorism is a stubborn thing and we must never take our eyes off the ball. As for those politicising this tragedy, remember we are talking about human lives here. Empathy.

TRANSITION HOURS

Former President Goodluck Jonathan appeared to have scored an own goal in his recently released book, ‘My Transition Hours’. He listed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, Chief Osita Chidoka and Hon. Warpamowei Dudafa as those who recommended “sundry alternatives” to conceding the 2015 election to President Muhammadu Buhari, whereas these were actually the doves who recommended only one alternative — concession — when the hawks were trying to turn him. Jonathan did not mention even one of the hawks, but some of us know them. Jonathan withheld too many vital details and the vague account has now caused a backlash. Blunder.

IRREGULAR MIGRATION

Celebrated columnist and prolific author, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi (“chairman” to some of us), released a timely book on irregular immigration (calling a spade a spade, we would say “illegal immigration” but political correctness would not leave us alone). ‘From Frying Pan to Fire: How African migrants risk everything in their futile search for a better life in Europe’ is not the usual “political thriller” that Adeniyi has become master of, but this may be the best work he has done yet in his writing career, coming at a time frustration and desperation are increasingly driving young Africans into their death across the Mediterranean Sea in the search for Godot. Catastrophe.

AND FINALLY…

Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, governor of Osun state, on Thursday launched a 10-year development plan “to promote sustainable development through pragmatic, transparent, accountable and inclusive governance that mobilises human and material resources toward making the state a socio-economic and cultural hub of Nigeria.” Mr. Olalekan Yinusa, the commissioner for development, said the Osun Development Plan 2019-2028 was hinged on four pillars of economic development, capital development and security, infrastructure development and environmental sustainability. All this coming five days to the end of Aregbesola’s eight-year tenure as governor. Wonderful.

Credit: ThisDay

Exceptional arguments against the minimum wage

Exceptional arguments against the minimum wage
Eze Onyekpere

The tripartite negotiations on the national minimum wage involving the government, private sector employers and the labour unions have thrown up fundamental issues of governance. The disputations question the basis of the continued existence of government in Nigeria. Many posers are raised: Why should the average person continue to pledge loyalty to a government that fails to recognise their right to exist, even if on the fringes and margins of society? It is a fundamental aphorism that the state exists to protect the security and welfare of the people. Laws and policies are to be made for the common good, especially the good of the majority rather than simply catering to the interests of the minority.
First, let us recall that what is being negotiated is not the maximum wage payable to employees in Nigeria, it is the minimum wage, the morality of the depths and not the morality of the heights. It is the minimum standard below which no state or employee is allowed to derogate from. So, listening to governors and commentators who are raising the issue of federalism as the reason why the Federal Government should not be legislating on the minimum wage, you either see ignorance or deliberate mischief. The legislation on minimum wage does not state that every employee should pay the minimum; they can go higher. Yes, wages should be deregulated according to the ability of states, local governments and generally, employers to pay. But the same, rather silly argument in the circumstances, is not used when the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission is given the constitutional power to fix and has indeed fixed a uniform salary scale for all governors, legislators, judicial officers and political office holders across the states, no matter their federation account allocation and or internally generated revenue. They have all been collecting this uniform pay structure and yet, they raise this argument when it is the turn of workers to ask for a living wage!
Virtually every Nigerian governor collects security votes exceeding N200m every month and simply pockets the money and accounts to no one but his dead conscience. The security votes of the 29 states (no data exist for seven states) from 2015-2017 gave an annual average of $579,823,187 (N208.8bn). The governor hires a retinue of aides who do no work that adds value to the state but pays them jumbo salaries. They are never owed and they receive the remuneration at fixed dates in the month. The governors go on long convoys of not less than 15 vehicles and generally live very affluent lives which ideally should only be lived by multi-billionaires who sweat for money. The N13.5m running cost of senators can pay 750 Nigerians the minimum wage of N18,000 each. And this is remuneration unknown to Nigerian laws and policies. While we focus attention on the jumbo pay of legislators, the ministers and appointed aides at the federal level make a kill out of the treasury. If you ask them, they will point to the approved RAMFAC salary but they live lifestyles that cannot be paid for by the official remuneration. Can society make progress with such impunity founded on hypocrisy?
The workers are simply asking for about $80 at the rate of N365 to 1USD. The news that employers of labour, especially the state governors claim that they are not able to pay the new minimum wage is simply the product of warped and wicked minds suffering from exceptional depravity. Burkina Faso pays a minimum wage of $138; Chad- $239, Tanzania-$149; Ghana-$128; Kenya-$331; Senegal – $148; Algeria – $531 and South Africa – $517. Yet, we claim to be the giant of Africa. There is therefore no reason for workers to accept this madness, especially state level employers who are bent of dehumanising Nigerian workers.
Organised labour should utilise this opportunity to launch and mount a blistering campaign, organise rallies while politicians are organising theirs, against any state governor who claims he cannot pay the new minimum wage and ask the electorate to reject such warped minds. Such a campaign should also extend to any governor who is owing arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities. It would be suicidal for labour to allow such persons to come back as governors. How in all honesty can someone insist on leading a state when he lacks leadership qualities? Leading a people without a moral compass? Holding the led in disdain and displaying the exceptional depravity of stealing what they do not need. The time for this bunch of insensitive people is up and all men and women of goodwill should join hands to chase these crazy men out of leadership positions. Can any of these governors swear in all honesty that refusing to pay workers’ salaries is a product of lack of resources? How come there is self-evident inflation of contracts, mismanagement and stealing of available resources?
Let the governors be faithful over the little they have at their disposal and show utmost transparency and accountability. Men are caught on video stealing public resources and all they do is to use shadow groups and run to court to stop legislative investigations sanctioned by the constitution. A bishop comes to court with an affidavit showing the quantum of resources stolen by a former governor who is now a party chairman and the ex-governor says, no shaking. A former Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye, is in jail for stealing and many more will go to jail while those currently sitting as governors cannot account for the resources given to them to manage
Enter the pseudo-intellectuals who will argue that an increase in the minimum wage will lead to inflation. But inflation is not induced when someone steals billions, to every one’s knowledge. Inflation is only a product of when people’s suffering is about to be alienated. Even if prices of goods will go up, it is a product of the noise and reluctance of government and employers to do the right thing. They give traders and the common man on the street the impression that so much money is about to be made available to employees when the salary movement is from N18,000 to N30,000 – a mere increase of N12,000. Tell, me, what can N12,000 buy in the economy of today?
Dear organised labour, the ball is in your court, no one will give Nigerian workers their rights if you fail to utilise this historic opportunity of the minimum wage agitation to guarantee their rights to a livable wage. In the process, you will raise a structured discourse of Nigeria’s public expenditure management, plug the leaks and run a country on the basis of evidence and reason, rather than the current authority stealing going on in the name of governance. Our current leaders are suffering from exceptional depravity; they must not be allowed to continue. Nigerian workers have a right to determine their destiny!

Credit: The Punch

Mr. ‘Fix-It’ Tony Anenih was no patriot

Mr. ‘Fix-It’ Tony Anenih was no patriot

Chief Tony Anenih

Sonala Olumhense

Chief Anthony Anenih, one of the most influential chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party from 1999 to 2016 who was widely-known as “Mr. Fix-It,” died last week, aged 85.

A veteran of various political parties since the early 1980s, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him Minister for Works in his first term. He subsequently served twice as the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, and of the Board of the Nigeria Ports Authority.

His passing was followed by a heavy avalanche of tributes as frontline politicians praised the Edo State-born politician. Among others, President Muhammadu Buhari, former Presidents Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, and PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar called him a “patriot.”

He was a political colossus and a PDP hero and legend. But he was not a patriot by any stretch of the imagination.

But Buhari extolled him as a “frontline figure” in Nigeria’s political history.

Obasanjo called him “…a national icon and authentic role model…a patriot and a nationalist of no mean order…” Jonathan said Anenih’s name “would continue to appear in gold whenever the history of this country is being rewritten.”

As a culture, we do not speak ill of the dead. Well, we ought never to speak blatant falsehood before God either or betray the living through flagrant hypocrisy. Anenih was clearly and particularly a PDP figure. He was a cold-blooded PDP-partisan who saw Nigeria through the eyes of his party; he never saw PDP through the eyes of Nigeria.

A patriot loves, asserts and defends his or her country passionately; Anenih’s passion was the PDP, right or wrong. To pronounce him a patriot insults both the term and Nigeria.

Did Anenih advocate an overriding public vision of Nigeria; if so, when, and what was it? What was his passion concerning uplifting Nigeria? What moved him to tears and what did he do about it?

Whom did he offend publicly in affirming right over wrong, ours over mine, day over night? Did he champion the cause of clean drinking water for every Nigerian…free and fair elections, free education or healthcare? Did he advocate libraries in towns and villages or opportunities for the gifted?

Was his combat in connection with maternal and child deaths nationwide?

Through 16 years and three presidencies during which Anenih was one of the top figures, the PDP brand was of political brigandage, ethical arson and administrative incompetence. Murder, looting and injustice ran the day.

Where was Anenih? He is not on record anywhere as speaking up for Nigeria publicly, as patriots do; or as working courageously for the national cause, as patriots do.

In fact, in the one matter in which he was directly involved, he admitted receiving N126 billion—not N300 billion—in four years as Minister of Works, as though N126bn were akara change. He never identified one good road nationwide for which he was responsible.

That was at the federal level. Through the 16 PDP locust years, Anenih was also the Chris Uba—or the Jagaban, if you like—of Edo State politics.

That was why, after former Labour leader Adams Oshiomhole slipped past him through the judiciary into the Edo governorship in November 2007, he made it Job One to yank out the fangs of the Edo State godfather. And that is why Oshiomhole called the 2015 presidential election in the state “a referendum between the godfathers and the great people” of Edo, and celebrated mightily when PDP was worsted.

Oshiomhole recalled that when he assumed the governorship, “every councillor in Edo State, local government chairmen, House of Assembly members, the governor and of course you have the Presidency, (were) all PDP members. Now to imagine that from Ground Zero we came in to challenge this order and of course we must not forget that when they talk about god-fatherism in Nigeria politics, it is a small, powerful, unaccountable, un-elected group.”

“Mr. Fix-It” achieved that blanket control not by subscribing to any democratic principles, but by intimidation and blackmail. If he liked you or was doing you a favour, the job or elective office you desired was yours.

For elective offices, he didn’t campaign: he simply conveyed to the other candidate that the position was unavailable and that he ran at his peril.

That is the same language he employed when he declared in an open PDP meeting in July 2004 that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock and that President Obasanjo would determine his successor. Obasanjo did.Anenih enjoyed being “Mr. Fix It.” But ‘fixing’ and ‘fixers’ are crime—usually mafia—references to operatives who use extralegal means to control or even eliminate opponents of an opposing family or a boss, or who “clean up” after terrible crimes.

Of top Nigerians claiming Anenih was a patriot who “fixed” problems, the suggestion is that he untangled problems in the national interest, but none of them could name one such national issue or resolution, or how it made Nigeria better.

In other words, if indeed Anenih had any such gifts, it was to enhance the rampage of the PDP, which means he was a key contributor to the mess of 1999-2015.

Speaking of 2015, it also turned out that Anenih was a beneficiary of the infamous ONSA, with one of the counts against Col. Sambo Dasuki being that he transferred N260 million “…to the bank account of Tony Anenih with First Bank of Nigeria Plc…”

Speaking at a Benin City rally of the APC in December 2015, Oshiomhole scoffed: “Even at old age, (Anenih) collected N260 million.”

Anenih may have inspired the PDP as a criminal enterprise that broke all the rules of democracy, he didn’t illuminate or advance Nigeria. In Anenih’s PDP, Nigeria became the epicenter of human greed and official impunity and duplicity. In it, success was measured in what you could corner for yourself, no matter how many children were left starving to death.

That is why the country is littered with policy hoaxes and uncompleted projects and programmes, including a $16bn electricity scam. Think about it: last week, the Global Fund announced in Abuja a new grant of $660m to tackle HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria epidemic in Nigeria in the next three years.

The Global Fund had previously invested $2.6 billion dollars in the same projects, most of which disappeared into the quicksands of ramshackle governance in Abuja championed by the PDP; the new $660m is guaranteed to go the same way.

Somehow the All Propaganda Conglomerate took over and has compounded that template. But patriotism is not manufactured in graveside tributes, but by toil and tears expended in life.

As a human being, I condole the Anenih family. As a Nigerian, however, I regret I am unable to accept the fiction of his “patriotism.”

In the end, patriotism is sacrifice for a beloved nation. Perhaps, then, we should be grateful Anenih chose to die in Nigeria; our slave-masters normally prefer to die anywhere else.

(Reactions of 500 words or less, particularly from anyone who has specifics of Anenih’s “patriotism,” are welcome).

Credit: The Punch