Friday, 30 January 2015

Goodluck Jonathan or Muhammadu Buhari...My Take (Part 2)

2. Corruption

Goodluck Jonathan: "Ordinary, common stealing Nigerians will start shouting corruption", "If I arrest all corrupt Nigerians,who will run the government?"...these are rather hilarious quotes attributed to GEJ but which I personally cannot verify as true. However, they are in tandem with GEJ's ideology as it concerns fighting corruption.  GEJ believes that corruption is best fought,not by prosecuting and treating corrupt officials harshly but by making it difficult for them to derail.  To do this, he has touted the use of Information Technology and changes in the way the Government engages in businesses. Examples are the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme which provides direct support to farmers thereby cutting off middlemen who may steal from it and Project Aquila which is an e-loading process of petroleum products that has been introduced in order to prevent the diversion of loaded products by truck drivers. There are also changes in pension schemes and salary disbursements such that sharp practices are curtailed. According to GEJ:

“We have also modernised the system of salary disbursement through technology. This is one of the ways we are fighting corruption in the system. You do not fight it by locking people in Kirikiri and closing down their businesses..."

As an ardent fan of e-government and e-governance, I am totally in agreement with GEJ that Information Technology should be used to change how Government-to-citizens, Government-to-businesses, inter and intra government businesses are run...if properly executed and managed, this wouldn't only save costs in the long run but improve fairness, openness and accountability. However, I disagree with his lack of political will to prosecute government officials and top business men who are found wanting. Even with ICT, people will still try to circumvent the system...the Government shouldn't just reply by making the system more difficult to break through but should also make sure that such criminals are punished. Without any punitive dimension to it, the system becomes a mere game where the winner takes all and the loser only needs to keep trying until luck smiles on him. For instance, it was reported that last December, some civil servants were not paid because the Salary payment system shut down due to fraudulent attempts by some unscrupulous elements for which GEJ apologized. Whilst this is nice as the system prevented fraud, it shouldn't end there. Efforts must be made to identify and prosecute those involved.

Although the problem of corruption did not start with GEJ's administration, it has become very pervasive that it is now resident even at the Presidential Villa if one is to believe the Former President Obasanjo, who himself is not exactly a paragon of sincerity. Obasanjo recounts and I quote:

“A Chinese national once told me that he was taken to Aso Villa and was asked to pay one million US dollars to enable him to see the president. When he refused, he was permanently denied access to the president,even though Nigeria would have benefited from such access.  
Having heard many rumors in the past but now with concrete evidence from a victim, I was incensed enough to bring it to the knowledge of the president, who asked, ‘Who can that be among my staff?’ I replied, ‘You know those responsible for your programmes and visitors.’
That was the last I heard of the issue. On several occasions in the past, and based on Transparency International reports, what I have observed and heard, I have made public comments on Jonathan’s lack of political will to fight corruption. I was called names and pilloried".

I am irked by the fact that GEJ counts as part of his achievements the additional number of Prisons built yet he doesn't think corrupt officials who stole and still steal billions of Naira should be prosecuted and sent to prison...who then are the Prisons for? The hungry boy down the road whose only offense was stealing a loaf of bread? What a joke!!

With Nigeria in a dire state of deeply rooted corruption,via presidential pardon, this same GEJ had the audacity to declare Diepreye Alamieyeseigha - corrupt man extraordinaire - as free from all corrupt practices for which he had been tried, convicted and punished both locally and internationally. As it stands Alamieyeseigha is as corrupt-free as my unborn babies and can actually get involved in governmental activities which prohibits ex-convicts. Talk of Femi Otedola and the bribery issue...the man till date is usually part of GEJ's entourage; talk of Stella Oduah the former Aviation Minister who was let off the hook just by asking her to resign from thepost...she even contested but failed to win the primaries for Anambra North Senatorial Constituency under PDP. What about the case of the ‘missing’ $20Billion which has been swept under the carpet like so many other misdeeds? Are these good signs that GEJ really wants to fight corruption? Are they not rather incentives for close friends and allies to do as they please? 

Some may say that GEJ isn't the Judiciary and neither is he EFCC nor ICPC; some may argue that he has given these establishment and arm of government the leeway to carry out their activities without interference from the Presidency; but we clearly know that such leeway is only possible where the Presidency has no interest. I really don't see things changing if GEJ wins this election as it concerns corruption.

Muhammadu Buhari: Buhari's ideology as it concerns corruption fighting is plain to see: prosecute and jail anyone involved. In fact, one key selling point GMB has is his 'cleanliness' and 'disdain for corruption' which most Nigerians really believe. In my opinion however, the jury is still out on that especially taking into consideration some of his past decisions and present stance on issues. 

I am not a historian I must confess, and presently I have my time split between studies, work and the Shrine. With the elections at hand, I am aware that propaganda has been taken to a whole nother level by members and supporters of the two major political camps...so I am pretty much skeptical about what I read and hear concerning politicians these days...and I have read a lot about GMB. Perhaps some digging around will help me arrive at the truth...but that I simply do not have much time for now.

However, some facts are so glaring that it makes me wonder if Buhari is really that paragon of sincerity he claims and we believe he is.One of these facts include his opinion and insistence that Abacha never stole from Nigeria despite the amount that has been recovered and continues to be recovered over the years. It then means that if he were to become President, any effort to reclaim funds that Abacha stashed in different bank account around the world would be ditched. Ibrahim Babangida is also of this same opinion and has described Abacha as an honest man. Is this some sort of esprit de corps?Are the generals protecting their own at the expense of the glaring truth?Anyway, the same Abacha who was not only corrupt but brutal during his reign received a centenary award from GEJ albeit posthumously.

Again, Buhari has surrounded himself with people who can hardly be described as corruption-free...talk of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and all those PDP thieves who claim to be saints just because they have joined the APC. Would he use them to get into power then turn round to prosecute them for their corrupt past? My thinking is that these men must have considered this and for them to carry on supporting Buhari nothing dey happen.What about the 53 suitcases saga? His tribalistic fight against corruption which resulted in a coup that saw Alex Ekweme in jail as dethroned Vice President and Shehu Shagari under house arrest as dethroned president? And yeah, the certificategate which is lingering much longer for an honest man who only has to ask the Cambridge University to declare the said results to the shame of his adversaries...why he hasn't done so beats me.

The Verdict: These men both have ideologies that need to work together if corruption is to be tackled head-on. Changing the way Government runs its transactions and provides services to citizens will help block channels through which people steal but the best deterrent will be punishment for those who eventually succeed and are caught. But if they are to stick to their guns,who will I pick? I will Pick Buhari because GEJ...no matter who may disagree with me...is as uncharismatic and as weak as they come.  He may be reasonably clean himself but he allows his aides and members of his government to do as they wish. To me, the sole reliance on the use of ICT is just another excuse from a President who has constantly failed to'punch to his weight'. With Buhari, I cannot see corruption getting any worse than it is now...but leading a country requires much more than fighting corruption unfortunately.

To Be Continued...

The Oracle has Spoken!!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Goodluck Jonathan or Muhammadu Buhari...My Take (Part 1)

In a perfect world, political discourse will be issue-driven. Unfortunately, we are not in such a world as even the western countries still have signs of racial, gender and religious-based sentiments when it comes to political squabbles. However, these countries have significantly based their politics around prevalent issues than anything else.One sign of this is how politicians and the electorate align themselves with the political party that best reflects their views on how a given problem should be solved in the Country. You cannot find a progressive-minded politician or citizen in a right-wing political party and vice-versa. Even though a politicians may have some ideas minutely different from those widely held by the party, the core ideology remains the same, and when it does change, the politician moves to a party that more reflects his new ideology.

In Nigeria and as it concerns politics, gender, tribe,religious affiliations are the deciding factors even as early as during the party primaries. Nigerian Political parties are not an embodiment of strongly-bond politicians with similar ideologies as how best to run the country, they are rather a cartel of loosely-bond politicians with the sole aim of being in or around the corridors of power. This explains why a politician would lose primaries in DPP and then decamp to PCA in the bid to still contest; it also explains why switching parties is not common placed in the western word because ideologies are not easily changed. As a matter of fact, it would be a futile effort trying to understand the difference in ideologies as it concerns how best to run Nigeria between PDP and APC - Nigeria's most dominant parties. It is well known that APC is flooded by ex-PDP bigwigs who left because of differences concerning power other than differences in ideas on how best to move the country forward.

For the purpose of this divination, let's pretend for once that we are not the average Nigerian and that our decision on who leads us for the next 4 years will be based on real issues with the country and not on other sentiments. So what are these issues? Most Nigerians would readily pick Boko Haram, corruption, unemployment and lack of/irregular electric power. Obviously,there are still issues with transportation, healthcare delivery, education etc.but we have reached a point where these seem a luxury we can live without but are grateful for if and when we do receive them. 

As I earlier said, there exists no concrete ideologies or difference in ideologies between PDP and APC as to how these 4 major issues of terrorism, corruption, unemployment and power shall be resolved...they have only stated that their candidates will fight corruption, end Boko Haram,improve employment and power generation but how they will do these no one knows.Since political parties have provided us with no clues, perhaps, we could gather some from the two main presidential candidates: Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP and Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. Let's find out.

 Boko Haram

Goodluck Jonathan: A search on Google for speeches by Goodluck Jonathan on Boko Haram shows that all he has done and continues to do is promise an end to it with little or nothing about how he intends to do so. His speeches are mainly characterised by the rather unconvincing word 'will' not 'how' nor 'plan/strategy'or other words that show criticality. I am sure that even he is tired of giving false hope to Nigerians especially those directly affected by the menace.Little wonder that he chose to condole with France on the Charlie Hebdo shootings that claimed 12 lives while saying nothing about Baga killings which Amnesty International puts at about 2000 deaths although the Nigerian Government had since argued it was about 150...big difference huh?

Away from his speeches, how has GEJ's government actually reacted to BH? He instituted an Emergency rule...or quasi-emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states since May 1st of 2013 and these states have witnessed increased attacks till date. Soldiers were initially sent out to police areas that were prone to attacks, yet under their watch over 200 students were abducted from Chibok. To his credit, an onslaught was initiated against Boko Haram in 2014, a strategy which seemed to be working despite inadequate military hardware and low motivation in the Military camp until a supposed peace deal was struck. This deal caused the Nigerian army to cease fire and allowed the terrorists room to recover and re-strategize. They have since captured towns and Hamlets in Borno, the latest being Baga plus a key multinational military base which was abandoned by fleeing Nigerian soldiers. 

So the question here is: what is GEJ going to do differently in the next 4 years to quell Boko Haram? This is a simple yet powerful question that I doubt he has a different answer to apart from the usual "I call on the international community to...". In addition, for a President who still seeks another term and whose re-election'hinges' on his ability to tackle Boko Haram to have remained largely unsuccessful in that front even as elections draw closer, I doubt he will be successful at it during his last term ever as a Nigerian President. My argument is that if GEJ cannot manage to land heavy blows on Boko Haram especially now that he desperately needs to and the stakes are high, he probably wouldn't when it becomes politically unnecessary. 

Muhammadu Buhari: Just like Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari's speeches as it concerns Boko Haram have been laced with 'will' and not 'how';it's been about promises but not strategic plans; it's been about mere words and not critical thinking. I dare say even a Primary one pupil can discuss his desire to end the menace just like these men have done-no difference. Buhari has, however, mentioned the need for political will in this fight...that political will to take on the high and mighty in the fight against BH, a factor which I sincerely think GEJ lacks. Asides that these are mere talks, Buhari's antecedents as being tribalistic cast doubts as to if he would really take the fight to BH whom after all are his Northern brothers.

Buhari indeed has a strong-man attitude which if utilised would cause BH and their supporters in the Nigerian politics great worry; but this same attitude may come into play in some issues where it isn't needed; for example, imagine a Buhari-NLC standoff…the man go just sack all the workers wey no return to work. Buhari is best fit for countries where even members of the ruling class are constrained by the rule of law. Although Nigeria practices democracy and is supposed to be governed by the constitution, the members of the ruling class as we know do just about anything they want regardless...so a strong-man Buhari would at one point be a nuisance if not a Tyrant.

The Verdict: As it concerns winning the fight against Boko Haram, I am more confident in a Buhari presidency than in a Goodluck Jonathan's. But would this make me vote for him? The answer is no. I would rather vote Goodluck Jonathan and hope he eventually sees the fight against Boko Haram as a personal affront and a must-win than vote Buhari  and risk sacrificing some benefits of democracy on the altar of defeating Boko Haram. I do however appreciate the fact that Nigerians, especially those who are directly affected by the BH menace,  would want to see the back of Goodluck Jonathan this year just as they would care less about whatever benefits of democracy they may forfeit under Buhari as long as Boko Haram is halted. 

To Be Continued...

The Oracle has Spoken!!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Parable of the Talents: Oga Benji and OGB

This is a story of a multi-talented man from a small town called Yoribohau...his name was Oluwasola Gozie Balewa or OGB as he was fondly called. OGB was a maven...he could dance, he could sing, he was good at acting, he was good at archery, he could swim, he was a very good hunter and a farmer...name it and OGB could do it exceptionally well. As a boy, OGB used all his talents...not one was neglected. He became the toast of the town and everyone could see that OGB was a blessing to his family and community and it was generally felt that his family would be prosperous in no distant time.

As time went by, thing were getting better for OGB and his family and he continued making use of all his talents. However, at one point there was news that a certain talent could fetch OGB more money and fame faster than his other talent could…this talent was wrestling. This talent became in demand as communities far and wide paid and invested so much in wrestlers and wrestling. Prior to this, OGB had never wrestled in his life but he was soon to find out that it was something he was very good at... in fact, he became the best in his locality. Wrestling yielded OGB and his family so much that his father –Oga Benji- decided he should focus solely on it and not waste his time on other talents. OGB disagreed with his Dad and argued that it was better for him to continue using all of his talents but Oga Benji insisted he should focus solely on wrestling.

Now, the culture in Yoribohau demands that a son must abide by the wishes of his Dad no matter what and that the father has a say in the son's wealth. With this being the case, OGB had no other choice than to drop his other talents to focus solely on wrestling just as his father demanded. This seemed to have worked out well as OGB's income and prospects grew by the day. However, OGB still had a problem: the fact that Oga Benji controlled his wealth. OGB grew into his 40's and had little to show for all his sweat and income whilst Oga Benji was living lavishly...inasmuch as OGB felt cheated and wanted to revolt, he could do little or nothing about it as the culture prevented him from such. OGB also realised that he had lost touch of his other talents and has become known not for being multi-talented but for being just a wrestler.

OGB kept wrestling and making money; his father kept appropriating the income. Oga Benji would not even spare him the funds to train, re-train himself or revitalise his weakening body...and when he did it was usually few and far between. Oga Benji even started making OGB a mercenary wrestler...he would wrestle for another community and accrued funds are split between the community and his Dad. This went on for so long that even friends and well-wishers tried to intervene. They pointed out to Oga Benji that OGB was getting weak and that a continued reliance on wrestling will at one point wear him down so much that he would even be so weak to use his other talents. They told him that OGB would someday naturally age and unable to wrestle anymore and that the best thing is to re-invest some funds in re-vitalising OGB and in re-introducing his other talents which would tarry even when he fails as a wrestler. They reminded him that just as wrestling suddenly became a talent in demand, it may one day suddenly cease to be in demand. They also told him of the benefits of saving funds accrued from OGB's wrestling talent. Whilst these were good pieces of advice, Oga Benji never took them and he continued his lavish life style while OGB toiled and toiled and toiled.

In his 50's and just as well-wishers predicted, OGB's strength started dwindling but he was still able to keep wrestling and generating funds for Oga Benji. OGB's talent had become a curse unto him. He relied on titbits from his father and help from outside members of the outside community who felt pity for him...even such help would first get to his father who would then decide whether OGB receives them or not. Oga Benji was undoubtedly the sole beneficiary of the status quo. However, he was to receive a shock when he got news that OGB wouldn't be paid as much as he used to be for each wrestling match. In fact, the cut in performance price kept falling and is presently less than half of what it used to be and there are signs that it would still fall. There are now so many wrestlers that each individual wrestler seems to have lost his significance as was in the past. OGB is in trouble as he may be wretched for life unless something is done and fast...but his fate lies solely in the same Oga Benji who for over 50 years had run him down.

The question now is: although the funds may have dwindled would Oga Benji now realise the benefit of investing more in his son's wrestling training to see if he could make him more competitive and significant? Would he now realise that his son needs to go back to being multi-talented than being just a wrestler? Would he realise that things would be more difficult now because he hadn't saved in the midst of plenty when he had the chance? Would he learn from it? Or would Oga Benji remain on the path of selfishness and decide to accrue all he can now from whatever is left of OGB's wrestling talent so that he can live off those even after OGB is no more? Furthermore, would the people of Yoribohau realise that a prominent son of theirs may end up wretched because of a silly retrogressive tradition that prevents him from standing up to and challenging a father who had done nothing but steal from him all these years?

Surely, OGB’s future given the present circumstances depends on Oga Benji and or the actions taken by the people of Yoribohau...will he survive or will he not? Now could OGB be Nigeria? Could Oga Benji be the Nigerian Government? Could Yoribohau be the Nigerian people and constitution? And could OGB's wrestling talent be the Nigerian oil? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Oracle has spoken!!