CONTINUED FROM YESTERDAY
Without doubt, the primary ideology in the 21st century is nationalism and self-determination (Sachs, 2005: 359). Only a truly decentralized system of government, with considerable degree of autonomy necessary to assuage the thirst for independence, without threatening the unity of each country, will suffice. This is where resistance to calls for restructuring in Nigeria, for instance, is not only shortsighted, but dangerous as it contains within it the seed of possible disintegration of the country. This has been the case in many countries around the world, some with fault lines less prominent, and less invoked than in Nigeria. There is, therefore, nothing unique about Nigeria, and in history that support the bland claim that the country is indivisible. Exactly 22 years ago, I noted that ultimately Nigeria had one of three choices to make: restructure the polity for greater equity and inclusiveness, go to Czechoslovakia, or tumble into the precipice of Yugoslavia (Mimiko, 1995: 129-142).
On the economic plane, African states must move away from the statist economic orientation that has not served the continent well. There is the need for a modicum of liberalism, which would leverage on the enterprising spirit abundant on the continent, and the vitality attendant upon the reality of its largely youthful population. Progressive reduction in public sector involvement in the economy has the added advantage of reducing the room for rent seeking consequent upon the deployment of state enterprises as political patronage. Concomitantly, the African state must be retooled to make it capable of undertaking the positive regulatory role necessary for setting the parameters of private sector engagement; and correcting market failures. The advocacy here is for a capitalist developmental state, in which the state would be strong enough to take investment decisions in the context of private ownership of the means of production.
Africa’s economy must be diversified and structured to be able to take advantage of opportunities available for international trade, first within the continent, and ultimately, globally. This is the promise of globalization, a phenomenon computed to have reduced the population of the extreme poor in India by 200 million, and in China by 300 million since 1990 (Sachs, 2005: 355). The creation of free trade zones will be a step in the right direction. Ethiopia would seem to be on the right track in this regard, considering that it is developing three additional export processing zones (EPZ) simultaneously, in partnership with Chinese interests.
The scope of Chinese involvement in Africa has broadened since the flag off of the Forum on China and Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000. While these interventions are noteworthy, it is important that African countries engage China strategically, and in a manner that underscores the mutuality of benefits.
Not a bed of thorns
It is correct to aver that bad as things are, Africa is not solely a bed of thorns. It is, therefore, apposite to acknowledge evidence of good leadership and imaginative attempts at addressing the development crisis on the continent. To be cited in this regard are countries, which are identified not exactly because therein you have your quintessential leadership on display, but because in relative terms, what these leadership types represent, in different degrees, and their accomplishment in economic performance terms, have proven to be much better than the general orientation on display on the continent. For one, it is only among this group of countries that you find Mauritius and Seychelles, the only two in Africa that met the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets; and Rwanda, and Madagascar that were on the verge of doing so by the end of the delivery date. So also are the steady hands on the affairs of Cote d’lvoire, Alassane Quattarra; Benin’s former President Thomas Boni Yayi; the newer face, the unusual revolutionary in Tanzania – John Magufuli; and of course before then, the outstanding personality, Nelson Mandela, that by his distinguished conduct lifted the profile of black people the world over.
Botswana also deserves to be held up as a shinning example of focused and responsible leadership in Africa, with a thriving multiparty democracy. Its small economy has the unique feature of being one of the fastest growing in the world. Ghana too is on the right path, having met some of the critical cannons of democratic consolidation, the two turnover rule.
The list is not exhaustive, but underscores the fact that with a little more support, a good number of African countries seem to hold a brighter outlook for the continent in leadership, stability, and development.
•Mimiko is a Professor of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
Fractionalizing the power supply industry
From the times of NEPA, meter has been an apple of discord in Nigeria. The Federal Government connived and the monolith became a law unto itself. Against the previous practice, it decided that customers should be paying for meters. Unhappily, most customers paid for several years, but many paid NEPA back claiming ownership and doing what they liked with meters. Revenue insecurity had begun and NEPA was in tatters.
Many years later, NEPA decided that customers should pay monthly charge for meter maintenance. However, it did no such maintenance. Many Nigerians were scandalized and they said so in newspaper articles. I challenged NEPA and the FGN in an article of eponymous title in my weekly column, Public Utilities Watch, in the Vanguard on March 11, 2003.
Electric power supply authorities have turned their backs on illegalities in the management of electric power in Nigeria for so long, they have, themselves, begun to create situations as defiant and disruptive of norms, as illegalities often are.
Let us look at the @NERCNG tweets – “The payment of metering service charge by the customer to the MAP shall cease upon full amortization of the meter asset over its technical life.” It talks of payment of a metering service charge. That is new. NERC had previously warned DISCOs not to charge for meters. And that was right because meter cost has always been part of monthly electricity rates that customers paid. For many years, that had amortized the meter cost over the service life of the instrument.
Clearly, Meter Assets Providers (MAPs) are, by the second @NERCNG tweet – “Where a customer elects to pay in full up-front for a meter under MAP, he/she shall be exempted from the payment of metering service charge” – to charge for meters throughout the service life of the instruments as well, although as meter service charge to the customer. That means that the MAPs have to prepare own bills, and customers have to pay to two, instead of one server. I argue that that will create a higher cost situation that will make rate hike inevitable.
The most challenging aspect of MAP, though, is that it is not specified in terms of sustainable infrastructure and technology, as well as finance. It will take Nigeria back to the mid-1960s. Then, meter touts swarmed the ECN with notes from some members of the Board of Management. But the corporation was up to the challenge. It had sent an engineer and three meter technologists to Uher in Vienna, Austria, for a three-month course in meter manufacture and testing. Through thorough testing and inspection, it was able to do away with the worst credit meters ever imported to this shore. How will Nigeria handle a similar situation today?
Nigerians usually do well at hawking anything. However, goods bought are sustainable only when backed by expert after-sales service. Sustainable infrastructure and technology would guarantee that for Nigeria. Without it, DISCOs would be better if they share meter maintenance technology directly with the meter manufacturers.
I warn that meter assets go far beyond the meter itself. Executive capacity, maintenance workshops and test laboratories are mandatory. It includes the ability to provide and test current and voltage transformers as accessories to industrial forms of metering, which must be tested along with those accessories. Remember that meters are the DISCO’s only true vehicles to legitimate revenue; and DISCOs are safer and better using their own meters!
Nigeria’s meter challenge evolved over more than 40 years. In a dynamic industry and situation, it is ludicrous to throw a fire brigade solution at it. Indications are that the country has more unmetered, than metered customers. Added to that, will be several new customers as well as old ones with obsolete meters to be replaced from time to time. And all of that against a backdrop of lean financial resource, desperate distribution networks to put right, and a deficit of technology as well as of executive capacity.
Clearly, this is an issue to last 10 to 12 years of organised effort. There should be annual budgets for meters and technical training, to increase meter availability and increase executive capacity. Done that way, Nigeria does not need to create a new class of licensees, such as MAP.
Besides, MAP, a clumsy attempt at solving an extant problem that is not clearly understood, creates more problems and solves none. Together with approved customers, they fractionalize the industry, and increase the per capita cost of the common facilities left to a reduced population, and a poorer load factor. And inevitably, rates must increase to barely sustain the industry. That is unhealthy for Nigeria’s electric power supply.
•Engr. Uwaifo writes in from Lagos
Jonathan had no hand in Aregbesola’s failed govt
My attention has been drawn to a news item in which Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, was quoted to have blamed his underperformance in office on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
In the story published in some newspapers on Sunday, Aregbesola was said to have blamed his failure as a governor merely on the fact that his administration coincided with that of the PDP government at the centre, between the year 2010 and 2015, which according to him “was the most traumatised era in the history of Nigeria.”
I see this as the governor’s attempt to rewrite history by disingenuously seeking an accomplice for his dreadful failure in office. This should be prevented from entering public records, as he wished.
Ordinarily, it is considered a courageous act in governance to admit utter failure, as the governor attempted doing. Unfortunately, in this instance, Governor Aregbesola’s confession bordered on treachery, since he was neither sincere nor commonsensical. Rather than be the hero he sought to be, Aregbesola ended up as an anti-hero whose admittance of failure became mired in cowardice and deception, once he ventured lamely to seek an accomplice or a fall guy in the past PDP administration. His attempt to pass the buck failed woefully, as the public has seen it for what it is: a spineless act of dishonesty and contrived rectitude wearing a mask of false alibi and specious altruism.
In the first place, Aregbesola’s premise was wrong. Didn’t he realise that as semi-autonomous sub-national entities that control own revenues, states cannot reasonably yoke their fortunes with that of the Federal Government? Aregbesola should ask himself why his performance is far below the standards set by his counterparts in such states as Gombe, Ekiti, Ebonyi and Enugu. Like Aregbesola’s Osun, they are neither oil-producing nor high revenue earning states.
It would have been more honourable, and perhaps worthy of exculpation, if the governor had been man enough to take absolute responsibility for his monumental failure, without the futile effort to clutch at straws.
That Aregbesola failed as a governor is a fact known to not only the good people of Osun State but indeed all Nigerians. That he is also the architect of his disappointing performance is also incontrovertible.
An elected governor who waited for over two years before appointing commissioners or aides courted nothing but failure. Rather than apply discretion in policy choices, Aregbesola choose to lavish the state’s resources on grandiose white elephant projects that at best served as avenue for personal aggrandizement, to the detriment of workers’ welfare and the good of the people.
One of such extravagant projects was the Opon Imo, an e-learning ‘tablet of knowledge’ meant to ‘solve all’ secondary education needs of the state, which sadly became one of the biggest scams in the history of the state, with many close to him allegedly complicit in a contract scandal worth billions of Naira. It is instructive that while he was fiddling with his tacky Opon Imo project, the state which used to lead others in learning slipped into 29th position out of 36 on the scale of educational performance in Nigeria.
Another was the ill-advised school uniform policy which generated the kind of crisis that almost crippled the education system in the state. If Aregbesola had not been clueless and bereft of productive ideas, he would have taken a cue from the governors of other states with a similar mix in the religions of their population. Those hard working governors knew better than waste state time and resources in enforcing a controversial dressing code for schoolkids.
Nobody was then surprised when Aregbesola failed to pay the salaries of all civil servants and public sector workers for upwards of 12 months, a development that sparked unprecedented labour protests, and strident calls for his resignation. His failure in this regard was so glaring, that the predicament of Osun workers continues to elicit empathy and concern from across the country. Their situation was so desperate that philanthropists from outside the state were sending donations to the workers. One of such was from Ben Murray-Bruce, the Senator representing Bayelsa East Senatorial District, who offered, out of pity, to donate his N506,600 wardrobe allowance to Osun workers.
To be fair to him, Aregbesola once confessed that the state of affairs in Osun was beyond him, especially when it became obvious that he had practically brought the state on its knees.
It is instructive that various stakeholders, prominent individuals and organizations, have continued to call for his resignation, since 2015. One of such bodies, the Civil Societies Coalition for the Emancipation of Osun state (CSCEOS), had last year advised the state governor, to resign from office with immediate effect following his incompetence and the poor performance of students of the state public schools arising from his bad policies. The group said: “We, however, seized this opportunity to advise Mr. Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola to honourably tender his resignation from office as governor of Osun State because the present administration has become a disaster to the good people of Osun State in all human endeavours which has seriously retarded the educational sector of the state.
“This development has shown the world that Aregbesola lacks capability to run the state again and he should be relieved of his position in order to help the state to record the undiluted development and growth in all ramifications across the length and breadth of the state.”
It is this sordid state of affairs that pushed Justice Olamide Folahanmi Oloyede then of the Osun State Judiciary to take unusual step, by moving against the governor. Apparently unable to bear the governor’s missteps and unending blunder any longer, Justice Oloyede had in 2015 petitioned the State House of Assembly over what she termed Aregbesola’s financial recklessness.
It is therefore worrying that a man with this kind of odious public record would seek to compare himself with the administration of Goodluck Jonathan famed for its feat in reinvigorating education, reviving agriculture, strengthening democracy, and growing the economy to become not only Africa’s biggest, but the number one destination for foreign direct investment on the continent.
It is shocking that leaders like Aregbesola are allowed to blow their trumpet as probable messiahs in this dispensation. Little wonder then that the administration in which he is a key player, inherited a robust economy that was rated as one of the world’s best performing in 2015, but within a year brought it to a state where it now serves as a reference point for poor performance.
•Eze is Media Adviser to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President Federal Republic of Nigeria (2010-2015)
Tell Garba Sheu…
Marxists are right when they posit that the society is in a state of constant flux; matter, of which human being is a part, is in a state of constant and ceaseless motion.
Thesis and anti-thesis interact or clash in a never-ending movement to produce new thesis and anti-thesis until the contradictions in capitalist societies like ours are resolved through the application of the Marxian ideology that resolves such conflicts in favour of the working class people.
To put it in another form, the only thing that is constant in life is change. Scriptures say there is nothing new under the sky; what is had been and will soon fade away; what was will become new again. In our daily life, we are subject to the indestructibility of change; we change tastes, fashion, and positions as we proceed through life.
We age gradually but in a ceaseless fashion until, finally, we change mortality for immortality, as the apostle Paul puts it. In 2015 Nigerians yearned for change. They were tired with PDP/Goodluck Jonathan and wanted a change. They reckoned that Jonathan was too slow, drab, and ineffectual. Put differently, they said he was not “presidential” enough or at all.
There were many issues they felt he did not effectively handle; was not trying hard to resolve or was not willing to resolve. One of such was the rabid and rampant corruption in his government. Nigerians cried for heads to roll but Jonathan offered none until it became too little, too late.
Another sore thumb was the insecurity of lives and property and the Boko Haram insurgency. The Islamists took territory after territory as government troops fled before them.
The height was the abduction of the Chibok girls. Nigerians’ standard of living dropped sharply and government had no answer to the social malaise of worsening unemployment, rising crime rate, and collapsed infrastructure all over the place. It was therefore not difficult for Nigerians to agree with the then opposition party’s characterization of the Jonathan administration as “incompetent and clueless”.
Come election D-Day and tried as Jonathan/ PDP did, they were rejected at the polls. In truth, that election was not fool-proof as it was blatantly rigged for the APC/Muhammadu Buhari in some parts of the country, especially in Kano.
Nigerians generally turned a blind spot to the shenanigans of that election because they were tired of Jonathan.
The international community, too, leaned on Jonathan to accept the results of that fraudulent election, which he could have contested. So, wise and patriotic Jonathan vacated office and the “messiah” Buhari and APC took over. Nigerians had high hopes in Buhari/APC. During the campaigns, they promised to end the Boko Haram insurgency within three months.
They said they would also end corruption as well as revamp the economy so much so that one Naira will equate one US dollar.
Nigerians were elated but three years hence, Buhari/ APC have not delivered on any of their campaign promises. In fact, matters have become worse on all fronts, prompting Nigerians to now say that things don’t get better here, they only get worse. And you cannot blame them for becoming this pessimistic. With the faith and confidence reposed in Buhari, the thinking now is that if Buhari fails to get the job done, then, no one else will.
And, sadly, Buhari has not only failed to get the job done, he has made matters worse for the people. The Yoruba have a saying, to wit, if I run to a god to help ameliorate my parlous condition, if it fails to do so, it should at least not make my condition worse.
Nigerians deified Buhari, taking him like a god, but not only has he failed to deliver, he has made the people’s situation worse. Before he became president, he boasted and promised heaven and earth but after the people made him president, the first thing he began to do was to deny many of his promises and speeches. Even the ones he admitted making, he has failed to deliver.
His case became like that of a man made the king of hawks but who could not snatch chicks from the mother hen. Propaganda rather that real deliverables have become the hallmark of APC/Buhari administration. The PDP/Jonathan administration has, interestingly, also become its benchmark. Nigerians are alarmed that Buhari can perform so miserably.
Since Buhari/APC prefers to use PDP/Jonathan as benchmark, they can be told that the former president had a firmer grip over his government and party than Buhari. Right from day one, Buhari threw away the control of his own party; the consequence is there for everyone to see today. Cabals control the Buhari government more than they did Jonathan’s.
To make matters worse, the Buhari presidency is divided and always quibbling and quarrelling. We have never had a government so disorganised and so irresponsible. Buhari has not been able to instil discipline and order in his own government.
His orders are even flouted, as the Inspector-General of Police made it known to all of us, and as the ex-Secretary of the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, asked sarcastically, “Who is the Presidency?” Buhari’s reputation as a no-nonsense leader is gone with the winds. Corruption thrives under Buhari just like it did under Jonathan.
Many aides of Buhari are as corrupt as Jonathan’s. Like Jonathan/PDP, Buhari/APC have also treated the corruption of their inner circle members as “family affairs”. Cries that Buhari turn over for prosecution those around him accused of corruption have gone unheeded; even those caught in the brazen act have been shielded from prosecution by Buhari. Unfortunately, this is one area in which the President and spin doctor Garba Sheu think they have performed admirably, but the verdict, home and abroad, is that they have not.
In returning Nigeria’s stolen money, the international community now imposes more stringent conditions on Buhari/APC than they did Jonathan/PDP because they have seen that under Buhari/ APC, despite all the anti-corruption noise and propaganda, recovered loots are being re-looted with reckless abandon.
The economy under Buhari is in shambles and in a worse state than under Jonathan/PDP. More jobs have been lost; lesser jobs have been created; more industries have closed down, the Naira’s value has been cut by more than half; fuel prices have doubled; more subsidies on fuel are being paid under the counter; the country’s debt overhang has more than tripled; and the state of our infrastructure has not improved in any significant way. Buhari/APC cannot point at signature projects they have executed all over the country.
To make matters worse, Buhari has hopelessly divided the country with his inflammatory and divisive statements that favour his region and religion above others. He has also done similarly with his appointments and policies.
He has not behaved as the president of the entire country, but as the president of one region and one religion. His tacit support for the murderous herdsmen that have turned Nigeria into a killing field will forever remain the greatest blemish in this regard. Even Boko Haram he is yet to defeat.
The evidence is the Dapchi abduction and the continued incarceration of Leah Sharibu and others. Someone should therefore tell Garba Shehu that these and many other reasons are why Nigerians are clamouring for another change. They want to change the change because Buhari and APC have not performed.
They have been a let-down. In addition, they are becoming increasingly intolerant and destructive of our renascent democracy – and Nigerians are not ready to go back to the era of totalitarianism and military jackboot.
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