Archive for March 2012

JONATHAN’S GOVERNMENT BY ‘COMMITTEEOCRACY’   15 comments

The machinery of government is supposed to be designed to expeditiously deliver on the formulation and implementation of government policies, programs and projects. Sadly, in the case of Nigeria, this has been the rare exception rather than the rule. However, in a feigned effort to be perceived as making pragmatic effort to fast-track its deliverable obligations, Nigeria’s federal government – especially under Umaru Yar’Adua, and more prominently under Goodluck Jonathan, has resorted to creating committees on virtually every Dick, Tom and Harry issue of national concern.

Ordinarily, committees should add further depth to the government’s performance since a committee is special group delegated to consider some pressing matter. Not in Nigeria’s case, though! By all intents and purposes, most committees under President Jonathan have just not been necessary and where necessary, they have not been effective enough. What’s more? Where they have been even minimally effective, their modest and sometimes honest recommendations have often been ignored.

It must be this sad scenario that prompted prominent satirist, Stanley Azuakola to write that, “The presidential spokesman has explained government’s decision to set up committees for every issue under the sun. He said: “Firstly, it is for pride and innovation sake. Just as ancient Greeks brought about democracy, who says modern Nigeria can’t invent committeocracy – the government of the committees, by the committees and for the committees.”

The number of committees Jonathan has created is simply overwhelming. No reasonable government devolves so much of its direct responsibilities to any group of people whether they are qualified or not. At best, it amounts to the absence of diligence on that government’s part.

Most of the committees the Jonathan administration has created have simply not made sense. Consider the following two examples of the Committee to Review the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Report on Environmental Degradation in Ogoni and the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force.

Following the publication of that UNEP report on the destruction of the environment in Ogoni in particular and elsewhere in the Niger Delta, caused by massive oil spills, Jonathan created a committee to “advise the government on how to respond to [it].” The committee was yet to meet as at February 2012, six months after the report was published, and its membership did not include any representative of Ogoniland – the immediate affected community. Even so, what really is the usefulness of such a committee? UNEP released a comprehensive report with clear recommendations needing urgent, decisive implementation. There absolutely was no point creating a committee on the report.

Another crazy committee which Jonathan created and gave it an impossible task is the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force – created on February 28, 2012 and charged to probe and clean up the entire oil industry – in sixty working days! Headed by Nuhu Ribadu, the committee/task-force has essentially been created to perform the duties of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to whom it is intriguingly directly accountable. While inaugurating the task force, Alison-Madueke said several attempts to reform the oil industry had failed because of vested interests. How could she then expect a sixty-day attempt by anyone to succeed at that? Indeed, in a similar fashion, the federal government created another taskforce and assigned it to revive Nigeria’s refineries in sixty days! An obsession with very likely failure, you would say! My friend, Adenike Adebayo, reacted to it this way: “They wake up in the morning and they don’t know what to do so they put committees together to perform magic.”

Such obvious lapses and blatant disregard for purposefulness in the creation of committees is what US businessman and politician, Henry Ross Perot, meant when he wisely said, “If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”

Another problem with the committees Jonathan has created is the number of the members they comprise. On August 19, 2011, for example, President Jonathan expanded the Presidential Economic Management Team (EMT) comprising government and private sector personalities. He also set up a fifteen-member Economic Implementation Team which he charged with overseeing the effective implementation of the decisions of the EMT, whatever that means, and to help ensure that the goals of the federal government are attained. Ironically, some of the selfsame members of the cabal responsible for the plundering of funds meant for the fuel subsidy like Femi Otedola are members of the EMT which has done little to alleviate the burgeoning poverty in the land. A better example Jonathan would do well to emulate is that in 1993, wherein then US President Bill Clinton formed a council of only three pragmatic economic advisers to provide sound economic advice, and it worked like magic and boosted America’s economic growth throughout his tenure.

Yet another problem with Jonathan’s committees besides the lack of substance in their creation or the number of members they have is that the government scarcely implements their recommendations. Proving this claim, on February 12, 2012, the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on the 2011 Election Violence and Civil Disturbances (formed in August 2011), Sheikh Ahmad Lemu, expressed disappointment on how the federal government rejected the committee’s spot-on recommendations, while constituting a white paper drafting committee on their report which was presented on October 10, 2011. Lemu expressed dismay that the government was reluctant to include any member of the investigation panel as a member of the white paper committee, in order to make them truly understand the basic recommendations of the report.

Courtesy of this gloomy ‘committeeocratic’ caricature of governance under Jonathan, activist and blogger, Oluwaseun Fakuade wrote that “The only thing visibly working [in Nigeria today], asides corruption, is [the] setting up of committees…” Complementing this view, another prominent blogger and activist, Japheth Omojuwa said, “One success you cannot deny [President Jonathan] is that he has created more committees than Nigeria will ever need. Committees don’t solve national problems. If they did Nigeria would be a haven today. The tragedy of a presidential single story: set up a committee for every problem.” Indeed, even Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Jonathan’s Central Bank Governor, said on March 22, 2012 that “We have all sorts of committees and panels set up right now. NEITI is supposed to do exactly what Ribadu is billed to do.”

In her captivating #PublicPolicy101 tweet series, former Education Minister and outgoing World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili, pointed out that “It will take a menu of structural changes to [Nigeria’s] political economy to tackle dysfunction.” Ezekwesili added that, “The quest for quick solutions in the face of grievous dysfunction… seldom delivers.” As we have seen above, committees are often formed to proffer quick solutions whereas a structural overhaul, for instance, that should see the 72% worth of wasteful recurrent spending interchanged with the outrageously minuscule 28% capital spending is what is truly desirable and germane for Nigeria. This is even more so when we realise that creating committees further adds to our already immense recurrent spending.

Nigeria cannot afford to continue this costly and dysfunctional government by committeeocracy! Jonathan, beware!

For further reading:
Jonathan’s government by committees: http://www.punchng.com/editorial/jonathans-government-by-committees/
Jonathan and the excessive use of committees: http://www.punchng.com/viewpoint/jonathan-and-the-excessive-use-of-committees/
A rash of committees: http://www.punchng.com/viewpoint/a-rash-of-committees/

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Posted March 20, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Aso Villa

NIGERIA NEEDS JEFF SACHS AS WORLD BANK PRESIDENT   8 comments

Following Robert Zoellick’s indication to step down as President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank), at the end of his 5-year term in June 2012, on March 2, prominent development economist, Special Advisor on MDGs to the UN Secretary-General, and Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, 58, threw his hat into the ring. I believe his candidature has plenty of merit both for Nigeria in particular, and for the world at large.

However, given the exclusivity with which Americans have occupied that crucial global development management office since the institution was created in 1945, it is relevant to hear calls to now allow a non-American, and preferably someone from the emerging economies to be given a shot. I agree with this reform-driven desire. But then, at the same time, another major reform aspect which has often been undermined is that those who have been appointed World Bank President in the past have mostly been Wall Street bankers or Washington bureaucrats and politicians with very little expertness on actual development challenges and issues.

Professor Jeff Sachs’ candidature is a paradigm shift from that coterie. He possesses the requisite professional capacity and wide-ranging international experience needed to lead the World Bank at this point in time. Besides, he is a Washington outsider and a technocratic maverick.

As a student of Development Studies and a concerned Nigerian and African, I have scrutinised and believe strongly that Prof. Sachs’ World Bank presidency will be good for Nigeria. During the recent nationwide crisis that greeted the removal of the fuel subsidy for instance, on separate occasions, he spent valuable time tweet-chatting with a few Nigerian activists and making his views known on the issue. I was privileged to be one such Nigerian. In my January 8, 2012 chat with him, he pointedly said: “I believe the [Nigerian] government didn’t prepare [the fuel subsidy removal policy] well… I support OccupyNigeria’s fight for clean and honest government.” Sachs added: “I am a fan of Nigeria’s civil society and no friend of corruption… Keep up your efforts for good governance.” You can see the full chat here: https://raymondeyo.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/my-tweet-chat-with-prof-sachs-un-sgs-special-advisor-on-the-fuel-subsidy-removal/

The venerated economics professor’s views were as straightforward as his openness and candour were remarkable. Despite his very busy schedule, Prof. Sachs devoted that much time with me to make those sterling points on issues in Nigeria. Very few Nigerians in such high positions of authority will so humble themselves and speak with the forthrightness that Sachs did.

While I am not an advocate of dependency on aid, it is important to underscore that the World Bank has gone beyond just being an instrument for it. Indeed, Prof. Sachs is himself opposed to increases in foreign aid. He prefers a judicious and systematic management of the Bank’s existing resources. Meantime, the Bank’s highly technical assistance to boosting Nigeria’s agriculture, for instance, is something to cherish particularly given how much great benefit our economy can reap from that vital sector. Also, the Bank is leading many climate-change mitigation initiatives across the globe which we will do well to be part of. To sustain and multiply these positive efforts, the World Bank needs someone with the hands-on experience like Jeffrey Sachs!

Pending much-needed broader reforms of the global governance system, I reckon that US President Barack Obama, who has the prerogative to nominate the World Bank President before an election by the Bank’s Board of Directors, had pledged during his 2008 campaign to undertake a multilateral approach to global affairs as against his predecessor’s ruthless unilateralism. In that light, whilst Obama has welcomed the emerging nations, admired their rise and supported the G20 as a major decision-making forum for global economic affairs, he should use his lone World Bank presidency nomination to further reflect that dynamic multilateralism by nominating Sachs – a man who is more a citizen of the world than otherwise.

Prof. Sachs, one of the world’s leading experts on sustainable development, has got an international reckoning and reputation unmatched by his peers whether in the West or in the emerging nations and President Obama will do both himself and the world a favour by nominating Sachs. Sachs has made Obama’s job even easier by embarking on what the BBC describes as “an unusually public campaign [for the job].” Sachs is not resting on his laurels. He is pragmatically reaching out to nations and other World Bank stakeholders – literally campaigning for them to back his bid – and they are responding positively.

The world has reached a point where we cannot allow mediocrity in the governance of institutions that have a huge bearing on, especially, the survival of many of the world’s poor. We must give leadership to those who truly have the heart and the head to make the difference. For this present World Bank presidency purpose, it is Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs who fittingly and unequivocally squares up!

NB
To further appreciate why Prof. Sachs deserves to be the next World Bank President, I invite you to read these:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-shank/jeffrey-sachs-world-bank_b_1314363.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/mar/04/jeffrey-sachs-beat-world-poverty
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Sachs

Posted March 6, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Foreign Affairs

TO BISHOP OYEDEPO: NIGERIA WILL NOT BREAK!   44 comments

I have great respect for Bishop David Oyedepo both as an outstanding Christian minister and as a man who has contributed to boosting Nigeria’s modest progress. As is well-known, Oyedepo has given Nigeria two private universities so far and remains a major moral voice in the country.

Nonetheless, I was taken aback when, in the midst of the myriad of challenges Nigeria is currently faced with, he recently said if Nigeria were to split between North and South, so be it! Oyedepo said, “If the nation will break, let it break. Marriage is not by force.”

Instructively, in a 2003 prophetic statement, Bishop Oyedepo had said Nigeria was going to be a great country by 2013 in Africa and beyond. Admittedly, he has taught that prophecies don’t fulfil themselves – that people take responsibility to fulfil prophecies. Which is why I’m worried that coming on the backdrop of numerous challenges that Nigeria is facing, it is not the most appropriate responsibility to make potentially divisive or tension-inducing statements like the one he made above. If Oyedepo really believes Nigeria is going to be great as he had prophesied, he should know better that, like Job in the Bible, challenges ought not to make him speak less of that belief. Indeed, challenges ought not to make us speak less of our faith in Nigeria’s great destiny!

Bishop Oyedepo and other Christian ministers who hold similar pseudo-divisive opinions about Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Pastor Chris Oyakhilome whose passion for Nigeria is explained by his many passionate public comments in her favour as well as his ministry’s special publications on Nigeria such as the 50th Independence Anniversary Rhapsody. Prophet T. B. Joshua is another minister whose efforts for Nigeria’s good should be emulated. His recent gesture to deliver truck loads of food aid to some Borno State communities, and his regular scholarship grants and other forms of assistance to poor and helpless Nigerians are some of the many pragmatic ways in which Christian leaders can contribute to Nigeria’s progress.

In times of challenges, the last thing leaders of conscience can do is to say things that are prevaricate or that could further spell uncertainty. This particular comment by Oyedepo doesn’t add any value to stakeholder efforts to make Nigeria better. It just shouldn’t have been said!

Bishop Oyedepo will rather efficiently spend his energies on speaking up against the astronomical and increasing rates of social injustice in Nigeria as Ahmed Sule has invited him and a select few of other leading Christian ministers to do so here: http://saharareporters.com/article/plea-seven-ministers-god-we-need-nigerian-christian-leadership-conference.

It is true that marriage is not by force but it is better, especially from a core Christian perspective to seek to mend, than to discard, a frosty marriage. Oyedepo should know this better as his wife is a great marriage counsellor and teacher in her own right.

Those calling for Nigeria’s split should learn a lesson from oil-rich South-Sudan: The predominantly Christian population of Southern Sudan has had quite some deadly conflicts less than a year after independence from their mainly Muslim brothers in the North. In late December 2011, for instance, more than 3,000 people were brutally massacred in the new country in a bloody ethnic violence over cattle ownership. This confirms that beyond the issues of discord with Northern Sudan, access to resources has been problematic in South Sudan as it can be anywhere else – including in a ‘Southern Nigerian Republic’.

Nigeria’s core problem is clearly not the diversity of her people. Rather, it is corruption that has eaten deep into the fabric of our commonality, depriving Nigerians from both the North and the South of the country the needed opportunities to lead a good life. This proofs that denied access to resources is at the base of Nigeria’s problems just like in South Sudan’s case and shouldn’t be construed to be a North-South fractious dichotomy.

In this globalisation era, countries, the world over, are embracing cultural diversity and are still cohabiting peacefully. Diversity and population strengths are a plus in this age and Nigeria cannot afford to take that lightly. It would be wrong for any Nigerian to therefore undermine our country’s multicultural character and attempt to premise its present hardships on that, with the mistaken calculation that those hardships will melt away if the country was split. Beyond cultural diversity, there are a lot more gains for a united than for a divided Nigeria: Higher economic growth potentials, a huge blend of agrarian and mining capacity, a much larger domestic market, a greater and more respected voice in the comity of nations, etc. My friend, Adenike Adebayo, says of our country’s pristine physical endowments: “[Nigeria is a] land of infinite diversity! From lowlands to grasslands to the sahel and back to lush rainforests.” Another friend, Mahmood Badaru, says, “Our cultural differences [comprise] a colourful heritage [and] should be our binding force…” We must safeguard Nigeria’s unity for posterity’s good!

Let me make a Biblical allusion to why I really fault the mostly venerated Bishop Oyedepo’s comment: The Bible teaches that the Church is the Bride of Jesus Christ. For a very long time, Jesus’ bride, the Church, has been an unfaithful partner with many inconsistencies, discordances, and malpractices but Jesus has not called for a split! Jesus continues to believe in His marriage to His bride and continues to encourage her to do the right things. The lesson here is that whilst there may presently be issues of strain between Nigeria’s North and South, imaginary or real, it does not suffice to split Nigeria in two, along those lines – with the naive excuse that marriage is not by force.

When Gaddafi pointedly called for Nigeria to be split in two in 2009 following the crisis sparked by late President Yar’Adua’s long absence, many a Nigerian cleric from both Christian and Muslim sides fervidly condemned him. Oyedepo would surely not want to be cited in Gaddafi’s class as one who made a statement suggestive of not being opposed to such a dissentious call.

Bishop Oyedepo’s ministry will certainly continue to grow – in Africa and beyond but Nigeria will always remain its base. Consequently, Oyedepo will do well to rather pray for peace in Nigeria just as Psalms 122:6 says; as well as to work for Nigeria to remain one – Psalm 122:3 paraphrased says, “[Nigeria] is built as a [country] that is compact together [united].”

Out of their sinister motives, an American agency, some years back, said Nigeria will split in 2015. In fact, in 2008, the US Army began war games, test-prospecting its response to Nigeria’s projected break-up. Out of his supposedly divinely inspired prophetic utterance, Oyedepo, in 2003, said Nigeria would be a great country from 2013 onwards. It would be telling if Oyedepo were to now lend credence to the American projection rather than to what should be a revelation from GOD to him regarding Nigeria’s coming greatness.

I have made public this well-intentioned disagreement with Bishop Oyedepo on this subject because Nigeria is bigger than all of us and, as great a man of GOD as he is, Bishop Oyedepo is also fallible. It is my prayer that Nigeria soon overcomes her present challenges and that Bishop Oyedepo makes amends for this unfortunate gaffe by continuing to be the blessing he is to our beloved country!

GOD bless Nigeria!

Posted March 4, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Celebrating Nigeria

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