Exit Ribadu? (By Prof. Wole Soyinka)

I can only hope that Benazir Bhutto’s followers will forgive me for saying this, but the news of Nuhu Ribadu’s removal from the anti-corruption Nigerian organisaton known as the EFCC will have, in all likelihood, a far more devastating impact on the psyche of the Nigerian nation than the deadly event that now threatens to further destabilize the tortured nation known as Pakistan, through the assassination of her democratic front runner, Benazir Bhutto. Let me pause here to express my sincere condolences to the people of Pakistan.

What is at stake for us in Nigeria is not much different however: the restoration and consolidation of democracy, not in any sentimental or rhetorical sense, but as a lived reality that restores dignity to the people of any nation and guarantees their day to day security. The precarious socio-political condition into which the Pakistani people have been thrown echoes, in both parallel and divergent directions, the blow dealt to the Nigerian nation by the ‘assassination’ of the head of an organization that commenced the process of restoring dignity to a people whose nation has become a byword for the most breath-taking scam in high-places, for endemic corruption, a contempt for accountability and transparency and the abuse of national resources in the pursuit of personal and party power consolidation.

At every opportunity, we have stressed the obvious but ignored fact that the liberalization of political space is contingent upon the moral cleansing of such space. Thus the need to identify and contain – including by punitive means – individuals and organisations that operate on the open nexus easily summed up as : power derives from corruption which in turn fuels and guarantees power. The battle against corruption therefore goes beyond the walling out of illegal economic advantages. Corruption is the very bedrock of political illegitimacy. The tree of democracy cannot thrive on the compost of corruption.

This obvious attempt at crippling one of the two anti-corruption crusade agencies of the nation, unarguably aggressive and result oriented on an unprecedented scale, must therefore be read as an assault on the very bastion of democracy. Again, I refer to my earlier indications: that the riddle of most of the political murders in the nation will be solved when the anti-corruption project has attained its ultimate goal of unearthing the hidden. Let me refer yet again to the notorious case where a presiding judge on a politically motivated murder case threatened early to withdraw from the case. Soon after, he withdrew from the case altogether – the pressure, he openly announced, coming from the most unexpected quarters, had made his task impossible. That judge noted down details of monetary inducements that were offered to make him grant bail to a high-profile suspect. The upward spiral of that political suspect since his ‘acquittal’ says much about the umbilical cord that trails from material to political corruption.

The ruling party of Nigeria, the PDP has proved yet again that there is no reformist agenda possible within its ranks. The presidential incumbent bears the primary and ultimate responsibility for this grotesque reversal of the nation’s frustrated push towards possible redemption, but it is the ruling party itself, the PDP, that continues to suffocate the nation in its folds of corruption, negating every attempt to rid her of this incubus, since that party has exhibited itself, again and again, as the very quagmire of corruption, nurtured on corruption, sustained by corruption and dependent on corruption for its very survival.

Let all sophistry be abandoned – the removal of Nuhu Ribadu is not about the removal of one individual. We are talking about signals, portents for future conduct, about the erosion of credibility, abandonment of principle, all of which of course transcends any individual. The timing, when viewed with the recent call to re-open the case-files of unsolved political murders, will be regarded as a coincidence only by starry-eyed innocents from space – good luck to them. Those of us who have the slightest knowledge of behind-the-scenes manipulations since the trail of detection moved ever closer to the very apex of governance under the past regime, know that the nation was being brought closer and closer to the dismantling of one of the most sinister and corrupt governance machines that this nation has ever confronted – including even the incontinent reign of Sanni Abacha.

Ribadu’s removal is therefore not an individual predicament. The situation here does not permit of the familiar cliche of any one individual being less than an institution or agency – no, that is not the issue! The issue is that an effective agency has been tampered with, unnecessarily, but with transparent motivations that constitute an assault on the corporate integrity of the nation. The trust of the nation has been abused – that is the issue. Instead of reinforcing the autonomy of an organization that is clearly dedicated to probity and political integrity, notice has been sent to all four corners of the nation, and to the international community that, at the slightest threat to the hegemony of corrupt rule, the credibility of even the most laudable institutions will be eroded.

Is this the last word? Is Nuhu Ribadu yet another sacrificial lamb on the altar of success and promise of more and more success? If so, the nation has indeed been brought to an abysmal low. Confusion has been deliberately and liberally sown. The reign of vanishing files, denied directives and ambiguous legal advices has begun where dubious Attorney-Generals fill the vacuum created by high level movements of personnel in multiple directions where those in the most sensitive and knowledgeable places vanish into the bureaucratic maze, with hardly a trace of the rewards of their long dedicated industry. Technical extensions of cut-and-dried prosecutions will now lengthen into eternity and of course – oblivion.

What a dismal, contemptuous New Year gift to the nation! Again, I lament with the democratic people of Pakistan but, even in the midst of your grief, spare a moment of pity for that land of eternal missed opportunities and blighted hopes, that clay-footed giant sibling on a continent to your West, known as – Nigeria.

Wole Soyinka

Season’s Greetings… from PIN

The year began with a decision
   And continued with hope
Help was evident with our work
   Because you believe in our dreams

PIN, driven by a passion for change
   You, our partners, fuel this passion
Not only because you support us
   But because you believe in us!

From all of us at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria,
   This holiday season…
We wish you pleasant moments
   Now, and even in the new year.

Season’s Greetings…

… from all of us at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria.

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7 Wierd Things About Me

Tagged by Ore.

1. I am shy one-on-one. Okay, I get raised eyebrows whenever I mention this, considering the fact that I obviously love group meetings and huge crowds. But when next you notice that I keep looking away at my laptop or almost-always-open phone, just note that I’m not lost in the gadget, I’m probably hiding a shy face.

2. I cry easily. Hotel Rwanda, Coach Carter, Remember the Titans, Pursuit of Happyness… they all made me cry! A soft movie, an inspiring story, a good song, a surprise gift on a TV show… trust my tear duct to open up. I’m not sure if it comes from the fact that I learnt how not to cry when being beaten (ask my seniors in FGC Idoani:)) but I have so much tears that all I need is some form of inspiration — some underdog who wins a competition or a pleasant surprise (even in a movie that is obviously following a written script).

3. Speaking of inspiration, much of my celebrated articles and award-winning projects were written in a particularly wierd location 😉 I’m not sure of which word to use but will small room paint the picture for you? How in the world do you type in such a place? Well, it works for me… and it dates back to when I was in secondary school. I read my lines for Chume in Professor Wole Soyinka’s Jero Plays in the same kind of room — but in a location 4 hours away from this present one.

4. My best hours of the day are obvious — late hours. But my best moments are shaped by two key things — number of people around me and how orderly my environment is. I often surprise myself at how creative I become when I’m alone at home over a period of time and I’m able to set things in order before getting to work. That doesn’t mean I don’t like being at work with my colleagues, but trust me when I say the preferred option is when the number of people in the same room with me is exactly 0.

5. I don’t like football. I just don’t understand the game, after trying so hard (can’t forget asking friends to teach me in my final year in High School). But a few years ago while speaking at a seminar in Ilorin (Kwara State, Nigeria), a lady walked up to me and said she forgave my earlier blunder (I had said something about ManU — sounded like Manyu to me — playing against Manchester United) and that I should please support Arsenal. I liked Arsenal.com, was inspired by Thierry Henry’s story and I now have an Arsenal logo on my phone even though I’m yet to be convinced of the pleasure in watching 22 adults run around a football field, chasing a small leather ball!

6. I probably drink garri more than anyone alive. I joined the Garri Appreciation Society on FaceBook as soon as I learnt about it, and I’ve once posted an update to say that “‘Gbenga Sesan is enjoying the G2SO4 treatment!” Bring me some cold water, and some crunchy groundnut and I can skip every other meal for the day. 3am. 11am. 4pm. 11pm. I’ve tried it all… but I don’t eat food made out of garri (a.k.a. eba.)

7. Okay, here’s one that many people will not believe. I’ve never bought a computer/laptop! Not at anytime in my life. I’ve had 2 desktops and 4 laptops between 2002 and now, but they’ve all been donated. First to lead tha pack was a friend who saw my website and we kept talking. I helped him with some reasearch in Nigeria and he showed up at Sheraton one day, with a laptop for me. Like my travels, I hope I don’t have to spend personal money on gadgets. Hint: Any smart PC company should talk to me before it’s too late 😉

As was done to me, I do unto others. I’m tagging Deolu Akinyemi, Deolu Ashaye, Titi Obisesan, Franziska Seel, Kafui Prebbie, Funmi Iyanda and Andy Carvin.

Here are the rules:
1) Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog
2) Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs
4) Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

What is Real? What is Virtual?

My FaceBook profile page

It was a tough task to know exactly how many friends we had. The difference between real life and virtual was clear. Event invitations were delivered in the post. Signatures used to be some funny-looking scratch that we could do over and over again. The words video and download had nothing to do with each other. Knowing exactly how your friend feels (especially if she’s a lady) was a tough task. Newcomers to any community needed at least a few weeks to make many friends. You could never poke someone who was beyond arms’ length. You didn’t have to sign in before brushing your teeth. Your last words every night were spoken to real people, not typed — with a smiley. If anyone wrote on a wall, it was graffiti. Actually, people didn’t have walls, buildings did — and there was nothing like “I disvirgined your wall”. Okay, that was then — back in the days. With the advent of online social networking, most of the things we used to know started sounding like lies — if they are not laughed off!

All thanks to FaceBook, I know that — as at 1926 GMT on December 19, 2007 — I have exactly 392 friends! Ask yourself: what is real these days, and are they very different from what is virtual? Virtual used to be a dictionary word that had to do with imaginary — and dictionaries were consulted by going through the pages of huge books, not at Dictionary.com. Not anymore. These days, I hold more virtual meetings than face to face meetings — and I get a bit worried when someone calls to ask for a physical meeting with me! Have you met the guy called Writer in Second Life? Well, he’s me and I’m him. Tell me, which one is your signature (the one that readily comes to mind): the one you scribble when you write a cheque or that fancy way you describe yourself after every eMail message? And please don’t tell my FaceBook friends that I deleted all the recent pokes because I was scared that my ribs would cave in if I allowed the pokes to continue.

Today, I read about a man who was accused of impersonating himself! Not just your next door teenage neighbour but a 42-year-old member of Parliament from the United Kingdom. I’m not sure I will tell the story well if I don’t quote directly from ZDNet (a website whose news was brought to me — not by the vendor, but — by my Google Desktop News gadget):

A British Parliament member had his Facebook account suspended this week after the social-networking site decided he wasn’t real. Steve Webb, of the Liberal Democrats, tried to log on Monday but received a message saying his account had been disabled following complaints he didn’t exist…. “I sent them an e-mail asking what the problem was and got a response a day later saying they had concluded that my profile was a fake, that I wasn’t really Steve Webb,” Webb told Reuters. “I was essentially accused of impersonating a member of Parliament.” Within a few hours friends set up a Facebook group called “Steve Webb is real!” which attracted more than 200 members, and he and others contacted people who worked at the site. A few hours later he received an apology and his profile was reactivated…. Still, the time spent in the Internet’s no man’s land left Webb questioning his existence. “You realize the power these organizations really have,” he said. “If they’d been really determined, they could have deactivated me completely and then you kind of don’t know where you stand. “It’s actually hard for a genuine person to prove they exist.” Webb, who has been on Facebook for nearly a year, has around 2,500 friends…

Concerned about the amount of information increasingly available about individuals on the web, I toyed with the idea of cutting down on my web presence a few days ago but I was quickly reminded of the good side of being visible online. It was through a young person from another continent who wished to discuss career issues with me, and was telling me about how excited (s)he was to meet me. Pause! We have never met, and (s)he probably needs at least two flights to get to Lagos — but (s)he met me, online. (S)he was boasting about how much (s)he knew about me, and how my personal story inspires… Then, (s)he freaked me out when (s)he spoke about my family as if (s)he’d been to Akure. All thanks to my website — or should that be no thanks? Let’s face it, the gulf between virtual and real has disappeared. I am even more drawn to the phrase, virtual reality. Which is taken more seriously — your eMail or your physical presence? I know a man who walked into a meeting where everyone was discussing how brilliant he was — only that they knew him by his eMail address. After his presentation, the audience saw (some of them, for the first time) the connection between his name, eMail and face on the last slide of his presentation.

“I didn’t know you were me@gbengasesan.com,” said the note. I wished I could argue with her that I wasn’t just an eMail address but… anyway, what is real and what is virtual? If real is so close to virtual, then can we safely say that those who will stay ahead in the days to come are those who understand, and are able to manage, the powers that virtual (at least through the Internet) brings to reality?

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The Nigerian Economy: 2007 in Review and Outlook 2008

The Nigerian Economy: 2007 in Review and Outlook 2008
by Akerele, Taiwo Oziametu [Director, Center for Values In Leadership]

In recent times, the Sub-Saharan African economy has been growing steadily. This is unprecedented in view of the stagnancy that characterized the region in the last few decades as a result of political instability and income volatility. Economic growth in the region hovered in the region of 6% per annum while inflation is 7.5%. The IMF and World Bank argue in separate reports that the region is witnessing its strongest growth in 30 years.

This steady economic performance in the region is driven by revenues from oil (which has been on unprecedented rise in the last few years). The three major benefiting countries Nigeria, Angola, and Gabon are presently awash with oil revenues. While Angola is witnessing its fastest growth ever (17%) projected to be 20% in 2008, Nigeria is presently growing at 6% based on the 3rd quarter report of the CBN.

Against expectations and projections, the Nigerian economy is still largely dependent on revenues from oil, this is further underscored by the 2008 budget recently presented to the National Assembly, while the oil sector is expected to contribute 80% or N3.63trillion the non-oil sector which comprises of Agriculture, Manufacturing, Solid Minerals, Services and other invisibles combined will fill the 20% funding gap which comes to a paltry sum of N910billion. The implication of this is that oil revenues as it is presently will either make or mar Nigeria’s developmental dream sequel to the transient nature of oil prices. This also negates the over emphasized government commitment towards diversifying the Nigerian economy from a mono product to a multi product economy

Under the NEEDS framework launched since March 2004, the manufacturing sector was projected to contribute at least 45% to GDP effectively overtaking oil while Agriculture was envisioned to play a key role in employment generation. This was partly responsible for the launching of the Nigerian Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGS) aimed at strenghetening the capacity of the Nigerian Farmers to access credit from commercial banks under the supervision of the Central Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture, the full impact of this scheme is under debate in view of the turn of events.

Perhaps the most outstanding contribution towards the realization of the Nigerian dream came from the banking sub-sector during the year under review; the industry has suddenly become the toast of international venture capital/Investors. By the end of 2007, total foreign investments in the banking sector would have reached an all high value of US1bn ((N127bn) this is a sign of continuous growing investor’s confidence in the Nigerian economy, this is coming despite the global economic crunch which has seen the US Dollars crashing against other major global currencies. Credit to the domestic economy and private sector has grown tremendously in the last 12 months.

Aggregate credit to the private sector by Nigerian banks is growing 20.6% while the aggregate credit to the domestic economy stands at 324% per annum based on the CBN third quarter report for 2007. Though this is still neglible, it is a sign that the financial services sector is poised to galvanise the productive sector of the economy. The strength of the Nigerian banks is now been put to test with most of them expanding rapidly to other parts of West Africa and beyond while branch network across Nigeria supported by Automated Teller Machines (ATM) has neared the 5,000 mark.

Indeed, the Achilles of the Nigerian and West African economy is the state of its infrastructure. It has been estimated by key government agencies in addition to data from the IMF and the World Bank that Nigeria infrastructural gap is in need of over US$510b in continuous investments for the next 15 years to bridge. This translates to US$34bn (N4trillion) per annum This is as a result of the neglect of this key area by past government in the last 3 decades. Currently the state of road networks across key trade routes is in disarray. This is most evident in the strategic Lagos-Eastern routes. it is expected that the private public partnership (PPP) policy of the Government will come to the rescue of road infrastructure across the country. There is no gainsaying that the realization of vision 2020 by Nigeria can only become a fait accompli if the road network issues are resolved.

On Railways, the previous Government entered into partnership with a Chinese firm for the 1st and 2nd phase of the project which was estimated to gulp about $17billion. This is to be financed with a credit support from the Chinese government. However, recent policy pronouncements from the central government indicate that the policy may have ran into constitutional hitches. The inability of the government to go ahead with the execution of this project will spell serious doom for the Nigerian economy. In the same vein, the 7-power stations expected to boost the power supply situation across the country located in Alaoji, Papalanto, Olokola, Eyaen, Sapele and others is been slowed down by logistical problems, this made the German Technical partner Lahmeier to threaten a pullout from the program. This has the capacity to undermine Nigeria’s dream of attaining stable electricity in 2010. Industrial capacity utilization presently stands at less than 35% owing largely to lack of power and high cost of alternatives.

Basically, the Nigerian economy continued on its steady growth part for most part of 2007. However, politics of policy reversals threatened the expected accelerated growth for most part of the year after the transition in May. The scenario which led to the NLC strike, culminating in the pull out of Bluestar from Kaduna refineries as a result of Due Process Issues should be avoided. The fight against corruption by the ICPC and EFCC which suffered serious setback due to lack of synergy in intra-governmental relations is avoidable if the culture of transparency must be enthrone in governance.

The growth of the Nigerian economy is hinged largely on the stability or otherwise of the political leadership. The election petition tribunals are still sitting and if recent judgments are anything to go by, the economic fortunes of Nigeria in 2008 may be hanging precariously in unstable waters. However with the commitment of the Federal government to the enthronement of the principles of rule of law, due process, transparency and accountability, the confidence of investors in the Nigerian enterprise will be on the upward swing.

The passage of the fiscal responsibility signed into law by the President is expected to drive the institutionalization of disciplinary measures in budget implementation. By 2008 most states are expected to domesticate this law to guide their fiscal policies.

Nigeria’s foreign reserve now estimated to be in the range of US$49billion is expected to be judiciously utilized especially in enhancing the capacity of the nation’s ailing infrastructure and help in the growth of other industries and stabilize the exchange rate of the Naira.

The recent economic romance between China and Africa is rubbing off positively on Nigeria, with the foray of Chinese business men in all sectors of the Nigerian economy, 2008 is still a gestation period for the full impact of this romance to be felt. Volume of trade between China and Nigeria presently stands at N403b (US3.13bn). The recent visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Nigeria has further enhanced Nigeria-Indo economic ties, away from crude oil which the two countries need to power their ever growing industrial sector, India and China are expected to boost their trade with Nigeria in other sectors such as solid minerals, manufacturing, chemicals, Agriculture and cement production. The progress of work at the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) sites needs to be accelerated if the desired growth rate of the GDP put at 11% is not going to be a mirage.

The oil industry which contributes over 80% of government revenues contributes less than 40% of the GDP because of the closed nature of the sector; it is therefore incumbent for the government to ensure that the 10% growth envisaged for the non-oil sector is realized in view of the catalyst role this will play in the vision 2020 agenda.

The Niger-Delta region for most part of 2006 and 2007 remained volatile due to the activities of restive youths who are agitating for greater control of oil revenues, however with more funding been made available to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) based on the 2008 budget and additional funding for security agencies, oil exploration fields both onshore and offshore are expected to get to maximum production quota and hopefully help meet national aggregate demand for exports. However if peace initiatives fails to yield the desired result, growth projections for 2008 may be a still born.

Thank you

Akerele Taiwo is a Banker, Policy Economist and Director at the Center for Values In Leadership based in Victoria Island, Lagos.