JONATHAN, LEARN FROM MAHAMA!   Leave a comment

“One man’s good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him.” –Niccolo Machiavelli

Ghana’s President, John Mahama, and Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, have a few things in common. Jonathan was born on November 20, 1957, and almost exactly a year later, Mahama was born on November 29, 1958. Jonathan was Nigeria’s Vice-President for three years, from 2007 to 2010 and constitutionally replaced his boss, Umaru Yar’Adua, as President, when the latter died in May 2010. Similarly, Mahama was Ghana’s Vice President for three years, from 2009 to 2012, and assumed office as President, following the death of his predecessor, President John Atta Mills.

In addition, and more significantly, both Jonathan and Mahama won their countries’ respective presidential elections after a few months on the saddle to complete their predecessors’ terms. Jonathan won Nigeria’s 2011 presidential elections and thus earned a 4-year term to 2015 whilst Mahama won Ghana’s 2012 presidential polls and will equally serve a 4-year term to 2016.

Furthermore, Jonathan and Mahama also have a gentle and meek disposition which may, in fact, have been a decisive factor in their being picked as running mates by their now departed predecessors.

By and large, that is where the similarities between Jonathan and Mahama end. In terms of their approach to governance, which is the all-important thing, considering the stakes involved in their respective offices, Jonathan and Mahama are worlds apart!

Whereas Mahama is a no-nonsense leader who is conscious of the need to tackle, head-on, the bane of corruption in his country, Jonathan, since taking office, has aided and abetted corruption and even given flimsy excuses to justify his administration’s feeble anti-corruption efforts. A case in point was when Mahama sacked his ex-deputy minister of communications, Victoria Hammah, on November 8 simply for suggesting that she could be corrupt. In fact, the difference couldn’t be starker as, at the same time, Jonathan has been indecisive on and cowardly defensive of Stella Oduah, his aviation minister, whose recent authorisation of an extra-budgetary and exhorbitant purchase of two bulletproof cars has, unsurprisingly, drawn the ire of many Nigerians with calls for her immediate sacking!

Again, whereas Mahama, in his first budget, in 2014, after being elected president, is careful to reduce his government’s recurrent expenditure so as to allow more funds to go into programmes that would benefit the masses, Jonathan has been very reckless in his spending of state funds. In fact, in the 2012 budget, which was likewise his first as an elected president, Jonathan infamously and outrageously allocated ₦1bn to feed himself and his family, at the same time that he was asking Nigerians to make sacrifices and bear with the [partial] removal of the fuel subsidy and also spending an annual ₦9.08bn to service the 10 aircraft in the Presidential Air Fleet which instead ought to be cut down. On November 21, Ghana’s cabinet spokesman announced that, to “demonstrate leadership,” President Mahama, his Vice-President and all ministers have agreed to a voluntary 10% pay cut in their 2014 budget and that the money realised from the pay cut would be committed to a special fund to cater for community maternal and neonatal health.

It has been rightly said that there will never be a second chance to make a good first impression and, going by their attitudes to their first budgets as elected presidents, Jonathan and Mahama have demonstrated opposing priorities with the former pursuing a cowardly and profligate path and the latter, opting for a more sensible and conscientious course.

Indeed, shortly after his election in December 2012, Mahama visited Jonathan and requested him to facilitate the prompt repair of the broken West African Gas Pipeline which supplies Nigerian gas to power Ghana’s electricity even though, without the pipeline, as findings by Ghana’s Energy Ministry show, Ghana still enjoyed an uninterrupted power supply to over 72% of its population. “I discussed with President Jonathan the issue of the West Africa Gas Pipeline… I want him to use his influence to get the pipeline back into operation as soon as possible so that Ghana can continue to receive Nigerian gas to power our electricity generation,” Mahama said. It won’t be impossible to think that, as he has done on most other concerns of governance, even those involving critical sectors and issues, if Jonathan was in Mahama’s shoes, rather than take direct and pragmatic steps to remedy the broken pipeline, he would have preferred to create a committee to investigate why the pipeline wasn’t functioning and then proceeded to ignore the matter!

Of course, this is not to say that Mahama is an apotheosis of effective governance, especially after less than one year in office but, overall, going by his prompt response to sack Hammah following her ill-advised and shameful statement disclosing an intention to be corrupt as well as his leading his cabinet to consent to a voluntary 10% pay cut in their 2014 budget, one can safely say that he is clearly on a different trajectory than the corrupt, inept and mostly unproductive one undertaken by Jonathan, since 2010.

Governance is not rocket science as some Jonathan apologists want us to think, in an often unconvincing attempt to defend his profligacy and abetting of corruption. Mahama is demonstrating the kind of good leadership that Jonathan has proven incapable of matching. If Jonathan will only take a look at some of the bold moves being made by President Mahama in next door Ghana, he would learn a lot.

Posted November 30, 2013 by Raymond Eyo in Politics

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THE MAP OF AFRICA: A POINTER TO AFRICA’S GREAT FUTURE!   Leave a comment

Africa’s future is bright and promising! Given all the recent positive growth stats and facts about Africa, even as attested to by The Economist magazine, in its December 3, 2011 issue where it had “Africa Rising” on its cover, eleven years after it dubbed Africa “the hopeless continent”, it is safe to say that Africa is indeed rising! Indeed, TIME magazine, another major Western publication, also had “Africa Rising” on the cover of its November 2012 issue. In his magazine’s March 2013 editorial, African Business editor, Anver Versi, postulates that: “A new Africa needs a new philosophical underpinning.” Similarly, Amadou Ba, the chief executive of the African Media Initiative (AMI), recently said: “We need to craft a narrative about Africa that promotes a dynamic pan-Africanism… to inspire and re-energise us all… We will redefine pan-Africanism [using] a narrative that is suited for our African renaissance.” Interestingly, the map of Africa provides us with such a new underpinning and narrative as I would explain in this treatise.

In his guest column piece in New African magazine of July 2013, the founder of Brand Africa, Thebe Ikalafeng said, inter alia: “I take issue with the map of Africa as a source of inspiration and symbolism… The map of Africa does not capture the essence of Africa – its collective vision or the dreams of Africans.” Well, via a semiotic illustration, I will show that the map of Africa is indeed a source of inspiration for, and captures the essence and vision of, Africa. Ikalafeng also said: “To compete and fulfill its potential, Africa does need a unified agenda…” My illustration will equally demonstrate that the map of Africa is itself a pointer to that unified African agenda.

The map of Africa literally appears as a short gun when held horizontally from the western coast with the southern tip pointing forward. The component parts of the ‘gun’ reveal a lot about the much desired African integration/unity. Firstly, by her extreme north-eastern position on the map, Egypt serves as the place upon which the thumb finger of the hand that holds the ‘gun’ will be placed. The wealth of creative knowledge that Egypt, as the cradle of civilisation, has bequeathed to Africa cannot be overemphasised. Therefore, its present challenges notwithstanding, Egypt’s position guarantees a firm grip on the ‘gun’.

Secondly, Ghana’s leading role in Africa’s struggle against colonialism is incontestable. Ghana inspired and spearheaded the independence movement of much of sub-Saharan Africa, notably hosting an All African People’s Conference in 1958 which inspired a number of anti-colonial leaders to emerge in other parts of Africa. Also, Ghana, through its charismatic founding president, Kwame Nkrumah, was instrumental in the formation of the OAU. Thus, Ghana’s antecedents can be illustrated by its being at the point on which the middle finger holds the ‘gun’ that is the map of Africa.

 

The map of Africa tilted to appear as a short gun…

The map of Africa tilted to appear as a short gun…

 

Supporting Ghana in the above task [of holding the gun], the ring and little fingers are represented by Liberia and Sierra Leone, which symbolise Africa’s emancipation from slavery. The United States and Britain resettled freed slaves in Liberia and Sierra Leone, respectively, and Britain even used Sierra Leone as the base of its Naval Squadron that was established to chase away or arrest slavers who persisted in slave trade after its official abolition. Freedom from all forms of, including modern, slavery for Africa will therefore also bolster the grip to the ‘gun’ that will ‘shoot down’ any indignity encumbering Africa’s progress.

Naturally, after a gun is held it is loaded up and prepared for firing. To load up our African ‘gun’ we have to see Ethiopia as the inlet for cartridges. The cartridges for the loading are, literally, ‘strength’ and ‘unity’. Ethiopia demonstrated great strength by defeating Italy at the Battle of Adowa in 1896 under Emperor Menelik, thus making her the only African nation that was never colonised at any time in her history! Also, Ethiopia has been the rallying point of African unity since independence as the OAU was, and now the African Union (AU) is, headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.

After loading the ‘gun’ we proceed to affix the ‘trigger’ at a position necessary for it to function appositely. The country that offers the most preferred and geographically suitable position for that purpose is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC’s western border narrows to the Atlantic coast to provide a perfectly suitable position for the ‘trigger,’ giving it a considerable ‘gap’ from the base of its pull. As Africa’s richest resource-endowed country, the DRC indeed qualifies to play host to the ‘trigger’ because it symbolises Africa’s natural resource endowments that, when maximised, via industrialisation, will definitely improve her socio-economic lot.

With our ‘trigger’ therefore fixed, what remains is for it to be pulled so that the ‘bullet’ will be released to hit its target. Clearly, by her geographical position, Nigeria is the base of the pulling of the ‘trigger’. Nigeria has often led the way in asserting Africa’s sovereignty and dispatching troops far beyond her shores to help restore the peace in other parts of Africa. Nigeria also, arguably, boasts very entrepreneurial and creative people with continentally-recognisable and influential names/brands like Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Nollywood, Wole Soyinka, Chimamanda Adichie and the late Chinua Achebe et al to show for it. Nigeria therefore uniquely befits being the country to pull the ‘trigger’ on the empowerment of Africa!

Finally, for the ‘bullet’ to be released we need to designate its outlet. That outlet is the literal circle that is formed by crisscrossing Cape Town on South Africa’s western border with Durban on its eastern border. Cape Town derives its name from the Cape of Good Hope and ‘good hope’ is what Africans need to break away from the shackles of pessimism and use that positive energy to take Africa forward. On the other hand, it was in Durban, on July 10, 2002, that the AU officially took off. Therefore, the outlet of our ‘gun’ is designed to give the ‘bullet’ a direction of hope and unity.

From the foregoing, we see that the various countries that have strategic roles to play, in making the map of Africa to be used effectively as a gun, represent the five regions on the continent viz. Egypt (North Africa), Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria (West Africa), Ethiopia (East Africa), DR Congo (Central Africa) and South Africa (Southern Africa). The import of this is that Africa needs all its regions to work together (integration) for her great potential to be harnessed and realised.

Incidentally, the African ‘gun’ is a short gun. Short guns are used to shoot targets that are not far-off. That means it will not take long for Africa to reach its long-desired goal of prosperity and integration! GOD bless Africa!

Posted October 7, 2013 by Raymond Eyo in Africa

THE GAINS OF ENUGU’S INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT   Leave a comment

“The last known international flight out of South-Eastern Nigeria, prior to the Ethiopian Airlines flight [on August 24, 2013] was the one that took Ojukwu to Abidjan in 1970.” –Bryan Chaut ‏

On Saturday, August 24, the recently remodelled Akanu Ibiam International Airport (AIIA), Enugu, received its first ever international commercial flight (Ethiopian Airlines), also a first for South-Eastern Nigeria. That single event therefore marked a cusp for the city and region! I commend the Jonathan administration for seeing this important project through.

Last year, I visited the city of Enugu twice and, with a good intra-city road network, an efficient cab service, and a booming business clime, I left with the impression that that city was ready for its next big thing. The international airport has come alive at just the right time to comprise such a big thing.

Indeed, Enugu State, the South-East and Nigeria as a whole stand to benefit a lot from AIIA. For one, the multiplier effects of AIIA will boost business and the service industry which will result in many jobs in that city and beyond.

Also, airlines pay charges to land planes at airports and, given its region-wide market, AIIA will bring in more foreign exchange into Nigeria which will be a plus for Nigeria’s economy.

In addition, planes often refuel at international airports and this will create another significant market for fuel in that part of the country. In fact, this is one more reason why we need fully functional refineries so as to maximise the gains from our crude oil considering given that foreign demand for it is falling.

Furthermore, Enugu’s international airport will boost investment and jobs. More investors will be attracted to the South-East region in general and Enugu in particular, especially with its huge potential in coal, because of increased accessibility occasioned by AIIA whilst businesses and banks will open outlets close to or at the airport and this will create more jobs. It was an appreciation of this fact that must have prompted President Jonathan to declare: “The South East Region of Nigeria, with this international airport, can confidently say to the world ‘we are open for business!”

Again, thanks to the international airport in Enugu, and the lucrativeness of its regional appeal, various airlines will certainly operate direct flights from different locations in Africa and beyond, to the city. Eventually, this will result in lower flight costs to Enugu and thus encourage more sons and daughters of Enugu and its environs to travel home more frequently.

We must equally note that AIIA is the first major Federal Government project completed in South-Eastern Nigeria for a long time. The implication of this is that it will help to quell the feelings of marginalisation which many South-Easterners still have and thereby boost national cohesion. In a statement following the landing of the Ethiopian Airlines flight in Enugu, Joe Obi, the special adviser to the Minister of Aviation on media said: “This historic international flight, perhaps the first since after the Civil War, is both symbolic and revolutionary. It symbolizes the end of an era where an entire region was almost shut out from the rest of the world, literally speaking, to one where the same enclave is now open to a new and exciting world of endless possibilities.”

Nonetheless, what can go wrong? As is often the case in Nigeria, mismanagement and poor maintenance will turn any good project into decrepit and relics into derelicts! This must not be allowed to happen to AIIA. A National Mirror September 21, 2012 editorial lamented “Nigeria’s nagging problem of decrepit airport infrastructure” and said: “Even at the flagship Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, local carriers manage only one runway due to the woeful failure of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to fix runway lighting on the second one.” As AIIA gathers steam, stakeholders must ensure that its infrastructure remains in good condition and regularly undertake maintenance and upgrades where necessary. Ultimately, AIIA itself should be able to generate enough revenue to guarantee its sustainable upkeep.

Another problem that AIIA should have provisions to forestall from scratch is that of power cuts. Earlier this year, a couple of incidents were reported with near-tragic landings caused by power cuts at MMIA but also at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. In the case of MMIA, it was reported that the two generators serving the airport were in disrepair. Local stakeholders must not wait on the federal authorities to provide a stable source of power for AIIA. They should proactively explore alternative sources that guarantee uninterrupted power for the airport. As earlier stated, Enugu has great quantities of coal and, on August 19, President Jonathan said his administration plans to generate over 30 per cent of Nigeria’s electricity from the fossil fuel. Local stakeholders can thus leverage this plan to ensure that AIIA is powered by an alternative source like coal so as to guarantee that it doesn’t experience power cuts.

Meantime, there were reports that some landowners threatened to stop business endeavours at AIIA because they are still owed compensation by FAAN after their land was co-opted by the Federal Government in 2009 to expand the Enugu airport into its present status. This must be nipped in the bud so that AIIA can be off to a smooth, flying, start.

Long live the Akanu Ibiam International Airport! GOD bless Nigeria!

@StatisticsNG: NIGERIA’S NOVEL DEVELOPMENT STATS PLATFORM   2 comments

As Nigerian citizens strive to get more involved in the country’s governance process, forward-thinking individuals and organisations are beginning to harness social media and especially Twitter to create platforms that garner and provide the information they need to shape the country’s development discourse and articulate their aspirations. One such new platform is the @StatisticsNG initiative, which has backward and forward linkages and bearings on the @PolicyNG endeavour (which I wrote about here: https://raymondeyo.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/policyng-a-repository-for-nigerias-policy-discourse/), as its stated objective, to “chart up development statistics” to support to latter, says.

Mariéme Jamme (@mjamme), the founder and chief executive of SpotOne Global Solutions, who featured in howwemadeitinafrica.com’s recent listing of “ten African business leaders and thinkers to follow on Twitter”, says: “Data and accurate stats are key to Africa’s development.”

Also, whilst decrying the lapses of the 2006 census exercise at a media function on August 5, 2013, Festus Odimegwu, the chairman of Nigeria’s Population Commission, said: “We must make Nigeria work. We cannot do that unless we know the statistics. We cannot build infrastructure without data. We must have organised data before we can plan.”

Similarly, the prominent pan-African magazine, New African, reported in its January 2013 issue that “Dr Carlos Lopes (@ECA_Lopes), the [recently appointed] Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA, @ECA_Official) wants the [institution] to be at the forefront of providing the data and in-depth research that can lead to better decision-making and policy direction. That means providing accurate statistics, something that has been notably lacking in Africa for many years.” Dr Lopes himself was quoted in that report as saying “How can you devise policy based on unrealistic data and projections? This ‘statistical gap’ has a clear [negative] economic impact.”

In suggesting the way forward for the garnering of accurate statistics in Africa, New African again said: “Dr Lopes believes the capture of better economic statistics should be done using modern technologies.” Thankfully, as an IT-compliant platform, it is expected that @StatisticsNG would not be found wanting in this important respect.

It must be understood that the role of data and statistics in development is so crucial that it should not be left in the hands of government agencies, like the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) or the Ministry of National Planning, alone. The increasing contribution of private entities to critical aspects of governance, via Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements, for instance, cannot be gainsaid. Therefore, the @StatisticsNG initiative is a plausible one which should be encouraged and patronized especially by Nigeria’s development stakeholders.

In addition, the timing of the coming on board of @StatisticsNG couldn’t be more apposite! This is because the initiative has been born at a time when there is serious talk and increasing focus on a Nigeria beyond oil which implies paying very close attention to other hugely important sectors such as agriculture, industries, solid minerals and tourism and these are sectors that cannot be maximised without sufficient and accurate data and statistics.

Some Nigerians worry that the country’s leaders don’t do effective planning and as such, naively conclude that investing effort and resources on producing quality data and statistics may not be very useful. In fact, I had a recent tweet-chat with one John Kwaghngu (@DoshimaJohn) and he said: “Planning is alien to us. So tell me how statistics matters to such a nation.” This is wrong! Even if Nigeria’s present leaders don’t plan effectively, that doesn’t take anything away from the usefulness of such data and statistics. In fact, even if our leaders don’t fully value and/or use development data and stats, investors and potential investors use them to determine and plan their investment. Besides, stats and data are very useful for academic research purposes and they will also help to furnish future leaders with the knowledge they need to make smart and sound policy choices and decisions.

That a major institution like the World Bank’s Africa office (@WorldBankAfrica) follows its work on Twitter is an indication that @StatisticsNG is already striking the right chords and attracting important stakeholder attention.

Ultimately, @StatisticsNG will have to go beyond Twitter and social media to doing effective work on the field and putting its findings in the public domain. In the above regard, I suggest that @StatisticsNG undertakes a partnership with an institution like UNECA especially given that its Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopes, is passionate about improving data collection on the continent. Indeed, Lopes says “I would like UNECA to be the innovator in introducing mobile technology for data collection [in Africa].” @StatisticsNG will do well to leverage such a partnership to better improve its technical capacity on the field in order to boost efficiency.

As a postgraduate student of Development Studies and one with great interest and aspirations in public policy formulation and execution, who certainly understands the great value of statistics in the same, I enthusiastically welcome the bold initiative that @StatisticsNG is, and look forward to learning so much through it.

It takes wisdom and passion to create a platform like @StatisticsNG. It will take even more wisdom and greater passion to sustain it and ensure that it remains objective and credible. I wish the initiators and sponsors of the project very fruitful times ahead. Long live @StatisticsNG! GOD bless Nigeria!

Raymond is on Twitter at @Raymond_Eyo

CALABAR’S RISING INTERNATIONAL PROFILE

“Calabar is the best city I have seen for a long time in Africa. I recommend it to the whole of Africa and to the world.” –Adel Amrouche, Kenya’s national football team coach

Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, with a population of over 371,022 residents, according to the 2006 census, is increasingly becoming a prominent international city. Recent events hosted and projects earmarked or under construction are helping to raise the city’s international profile.

In June 2012, Calabar hosted the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s Commission for Africa Conference, with over 56 African tourism ministers and 25 top UNWTO officials in attendance.

In May, a high-level Chinese delegation, led by the Deputy Mayor of China’s Chang Chung city, Gui Guangli, visited Cross River and, after two days of investment exploration, announced that they would open a truck manufacturing plant, at the Calabar Free Trade Zone. Guangli explained that the manufacturing company, with eleven global outlets including in Japan, Germany and the US, will produce high-tech driven trucks in Calabar.

Similarly, on June 18, 2013, following an agreement it signed on January 31 with the federal government, General Electric, the American energy giant, performed the groundbreaking for the construction of a $1bn (₦158bn) service and manufacturing plant also at the Calabar Free Trade Zone. Sadiq Kassim, the General Manager of the Calabar Free Trade Zone disclosed that the plant would be used for the manufacturing of generator turbines, coaches for trains, aircraft engines, hospital equipment and others. On his part, Information Minister, Labaran Maku, said: “The announcement by General Electric to set up a plant here is the most important international endorsement of Nigeria as a safe haven for investment in Africa. It is the single most important investment for Nigeria since 1960. What is significant about this project when completed is that Nigeria will now acquire the technical capacity for high-level manufacturing on the continent.”

In addition, after their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in Calabar earlier in April, Kenya’s coach, Adel Amrouche, who spent three nights in Calabar was very impressed by what he saw and experienced, so much so that, in an interview, he said: “Calabar is a very good place. It is such a wonderful place to visit. I am very happy to have met the people of this city. They are friendly. Calabar is the best city I have seen for a long time in Africa and I recommend it not only to other Nigerian cities but to the whole of Africa and to the world. I was really surprised by what I saw and I love this place. I love Calabar.”

Furthermore, the maiden edition of the Calabar International Jazz Festival, which attracted guests from other parts of Nigeria, held in March, with performances by South Africa’s Jimmy Dludlu and Jonathan Butler, America’s Eric Benet, Nigerian singing sensation, Asa, among others.

Moreover, and like the Bishop of the Living Faith Church (Winners’ Chapel), Dr. David Oyedepo, had promised in October 2012, construction is ongoing for his church’s third university in Calabar, after Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State and Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Kwara State. Oyedepo said the varsity, to be known as Crown University will focus primarily on maritime studies. Consequently, it is to be expected that this will further promote Calabar as an international destination considering that its core academic program is a hugely sought after one and will attract students and researchers from around the Gulf of Guinea and beyond.

The foregoing developments and many more, are great indications that Calabar is an emerging international destination. Indeed, the state government is taking bold steps towards upping the ante of Calabar’s international attractiveness. A major undertaking in that regard was the signing of a contract on June 5, 2012 between the Cross River State Government and a construction company, BNL Engineering and Construction Limited, for the construction of a 2000-seater purpose built International Convention Centre, at the cost of ₦9.8bn. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Cross River Governor, Liyel Imoke, was upbeat that the project will boost Calabar’s economy, as it will become a preferred venue for national and sub-regional meetings, conferences, and exhibitions. “The Calabar International Convention Centre will be outstanding and will have the best conference equipment and facilities to compete in the global economy because of its advantage,” Imoke said.

It is important to note that these developments are reasserting what is actually Calabar’s special standing. Long ago, in the 16th century, Calabar was a recognized international sea port, shipping out goods like palm oil. The city also played a significant, albeit negative, role by serving as a major port for the transportation of African slaves during the slave trade. Indeed, Calabar was once the seat of the Government of the Niger Coast Protectorate, the Southern Protectorate and Oil River Protectorate thus, effectively, Nigeria’s first capital city. Furthermore, Calabar’s International Museum, its slave history park and other historical and cultural landmarks, together with its annual Carnival and other festivals that bring in thousands of tourists every year, all contribute to enhance the city’s regional and international reckoning. Again, in November last year, the Minister of Culture, Edem Duke, disclosed that Nigeria’s second National Arts Theatre will be built in Calabar.

Calabar’s growth and progress as an emerging international city is not only good for the city itself and Cross River State but it is equally a thing of pride for Nigeria, especially as it aligns with Nigeria’s status and aspirations as a leading African nation and a promising force in the global arena. Beyond that, the rise to international prominence of Calabar should also help to end the use of Abuja as a default location for important global events hosted by Nigeria. Most G8 and G20 summits, for example, are held in cities other than the political or economic capitals of the host nations. South Africa recently hosted the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, away from its political capital, Tshwane (Pretoria) and its commercial hub, Johannesburg. It will therefore be in the federal government’s interest to seize the opportunity and position Calabar as one of the alternatives for the hosting of international events in Nigeria.

Also, the Cross River State government and the Calabar South and Calabar Municipal Local Government councils must continue to ensure that Calabar remains clean, green and secure. Again, the federal and state governments should see to it that Calabar has the right transport infrastructure to match its growing international status. The main artery into Calabar, the Odukpani road, should be urgently repaired and the city’s seaport and airport expanded, in view of the increasing traffic they will be receiving. Minor repairs at the seaport and the construction of a new airport building are good but a lot more has to be done. It is unfortunate that the dredging of the Calabar Channel, to allow bigger ships to berth at the Calabar port, is yet to begin more than a year since April 2012 when the federal government announced it had concluded plans to commence the project. The FG should get serious and hand the project to a very competent contractor for prompt and efficient execution. Similarly, the TINAPA Business Resort should be given all the support it badly needs to succeed. The project, which cost the state government billions of Naira has huge potential for business, tourism and entertainment and must not be allowed to wither.

Gradually, Calabar is beginning to fully live up to its special nickname – the Canaan City. Calabar has what it takes to fulfill its glorious destiny as a major Nigerian and international city. I believe she would not disappoint!

POLICY NG – A REPOSITORY FOR NIGERIA’S POLICY DISCOURSE   3 comments

“The media must be an enlightened purveyor of policy knowledge.” –Oby Ezekwesili

Word Web, an English thesaurus dictionary defines “policy” as “A line of argument rationalizing the course of action of a government” and “A plan of action adopted by an individual or social group”. For our present purpose, if we coalesce the two perspectives above, the result will be that ‘policy’ will mean “A plan that rationalizes and determines the course of action adopted by a government in the pursuit of its objectives.”

From the foregoing, it goes without saying that government policies comprise the framework for a government’s actions and/or inactions. In a democracy, a government exists to transform the people’s aspirations into tangible results that safeguard and promote their wellbeing. For this to happen, there is utter need for the citizenry to make their voices heard on various issues of policy importance and for the executive and legislative arms of government to co-opt that into their policy making and implementation processes. The starting point is always for the citizenry to have outlets via which they can make their voices heard. Traditionally, this has been via the assorted platforms of mainstream print and broadcast media, with the accompanying difficulty to enable stakeholders access many different views and perspectives on policy issues or debates in one place at any given time.

However, the coming of social media has significantly changed that balance for good by providing platforms for citizens and denizens to be heard, wherever they may be, on important policy issues. In our case, in Nigeria, a new Twitter account, @PolicyNG, has taken that prospect one notch higher by providing what can be described as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for the collation of views on topical policy issues. This handle at once serves a four-fold purpose: it will assist the government to have a feeling of what Nigerians think with regard to major policies before their implementation, it will provide a feedback mechanism after the implementation of policies, it will constitute another rich source of data for researchers with interest on Nigerian public policy and democracy and it will enable Nigerians interact and debate with each other on various government policies and aspects of governance. Regarding the last point, it must be understood as, Meir Dagan, a former director of Israel’s intelligence agency, once said, that: “The heart and soul of democracy is the public debate.”

At a media function in her honour last year, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, the immediate past Vice-President of the World Bank’s Africa region and a passionate advocate for a public policy system that guarantees good governance, said: “It does not matter how much integrity some leaders may have, until they find the right policy skills, they are never going to make sound policies…” In fact, Ezekwesili created and uses the Twitter hashtags #PublicPolicy101 and #PP101 to regularly comment on matters of policy and governance. She says: “I love Public Policy. Every citizen must love and follow Public Policy. How else can you be an effective citizen?” Ezekwesili urged the media to up its act on credible knowledge-based reportage, considering that when they do so, they equip the masses with the tools required to better hold their governments and leaders to account and hence, improve the quality of governance and public policy delivery.

It is my earnest belief that the people behind the @PolicyNG initiative are strongly motivated by the above goal and with that, coupled with their ingenuity; there should be no shortage of the will to make the platform sustainable, credible and dynamic. I heartily commend all who contributed to bringing the platform to reality, as well as all who are involved in running it. This is yet another demonstration of Nigerians’ quest for pragmatic political participation.

I am confident that, going forward, @PolicyNG will add plenty of value to Nigeria’s policy discourse and, ultimately, to her governance. Even if the government of the day chooses to not leverage on this readily available repository of policy knowledge from its people, there is no reason to believe that, in this social-media dispensation, the next government or others after it will not do so. In the meantime, the other benefits of the @PolicyNG platform remain incontrovertible.

Long live @PolicyNG! GOD bless Nigeria!

NIGERIA TO HOST THE WORLD IN 2014   Leave a comment

“Hosting an international conference by a country or a city has many multipliers; tangible economic benefits and non-tangible benefits… For instance, convention tourism is a high value segment of the tourism and hospitality industry…” –Shyam Nagpal, MD, International Conference and Exhibition Services, New Delhi, India

Nigeria has always hosted many international conferences and symposia, especially since the return to democratic rule in 1999. A statement on the website of the Abuja International Conference Centre reads: “In the last decade and a half the Centre has played host to several international, regional and national political, social, cultural, economic and religious conferences, summits, meetings, seminars, ceremonies and programmes.” For example, later this year, Nigeria will host the 35th Conference/General Assembly of the 130-member country strong International Federation of Surveyors.

Despite the ongoing precarious security situation in certain parts of the country, and many other misgivings associated with its overall governance deficits, some international institutions and organizations have still reposed confidence in Nigeria to the point of getting her to host major international conferences in 2014.

Topping the list of the major international events Nigeria is billed to host in 2014 are the World Economic Forum on Africa, the World Conference of Engineers and, of course, Nigeria’s Port Harcourt will also serve as UNESCO’s “World Book Capital for 2014”.

But what would Nigeria benefit from hosting these conferences? To begin with, and going by the opening quote, hosting international conferences is always generally good for a country’s tourism and hospitality industry as the many delegates and participants will definitely patronize the country’s hotels and catering services throughout the course of their stay.

Secondly, when a country hosts international conferences, especially of the magnitude of the ones stated above, they go a long way to boost its economy as there will be such interaction of both public and private sector entities with the visiting delegations and individuals that will further showcase the country’s investment opportunities.

In specific terms, the three aforementioned conferences hold great promise for Nigeria’s development aspirations. For one, the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa is likely to feature a last lap assessment of progress made in the attainment of the MDGs, ahead of their expiry in 2015. As host, Nigeria will come under the spotlight and be particularly required to showcase what she may call her achievements in that regard. More importantly, Nigeria will benefit from the presence of many potential investors to sign off on deals that will further grow her economy.

In a similar vein as above, hosting the World Engineers’ Conference should help focus the attention of Nigeria’s policy makers on engineering especially as it is a vital aspect of what the country needs to get right to get its infrastructure up and running. For example, the Nigerian Society of Engineers is already banking on the preparations for the conference to urge the Federal Government to promptly begin implementing the white paper of the report of the Presidential Committee on Strategic Plans for Engineering Development and Control in Nigeria. As the NSE President, Mustapha Balarabe Shehu, put it at a 2012 lecture, “The desire of the Federal Government to provide infrastructure may not be realisable without the implementation of a pragmatic engineering policy that places emphasis on building local capacities and expertise, engineering needs analysis, and targeted training and acquisition of specific skills to meet specific needs.” Likewise, about a fortnight ago, the Governor of the State of Osun, Rauf Aregbesola, himself an engineer, said if effectively utilized, Nigeria’s engineers can contribute to the country’s much-needed advancement by facilitating the provision of “critical infrastructure,” be it for food security, electricity and water supply, housing and others.

Regarding Port Harcourt being named by UNESCO as the “World Book Capital for 2014,” a statement by the Selection Committee denotes the impact the event will have on Nigeria. The statement reads: “The city of Port Harcourt was chosen “on account of the quality of its programme, in particular its focus on youth and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates.” A similar statement by Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director-General, reads: “I extend my congratulations to the city of Port Harcourt for the quality of its proposed programme, which provides for extensive public participation and aims to develop reading for all. An explanatory note about the World Book Capital initiative by UNESCO states that “Each year, UNESCO and the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry – the International Publishers’ Association (IPA), International Booksellers’ Federation (IBF) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) – select the World Book Capital for a one-year period, effective April 23 each year. This initiative, in addition to the celebration of the World Book and Copyright Day, represents a collaborative undertaking by key stakeholders in the publishing world to promote books and literacy.” Reacting, Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, said “Port Harcourt is the first World Book Capital City in sub-Saharan Africa…” On his part, President Goodluck Jonathan said, “We welcome UNESCO’s recognition of our collective efforts to revive the reading culture…” From the foregoing, Port Harcourt’s tenure as the World Book Capital for 2014 will be a thing of national pride for Nigeria but more importantly, it is expected to play up efforts to instill passion for reading and boost literacy among Nigerians.

In all, it is hoped that Nigeria’s international standing will prod her policy makers and government officials at all levels to increasingly adopt international best practices of transparency and accountability in governing the nation for, beyond these short lived high-level events, true nation-building presupposes a day-to-day governance system that guarantees the sustainable socio-economic progress of the nation and the wellbeing of the people.

Raymond is on Twitter, @Raymond_Eyo

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