ON FORGIVENESS

Work on my Obituary has been going badly. It is not the only thing I am struggling with these days. My drafts have come up as poorly and challenged as the struggle to bring harmony to Nigeria, so the promise of Africa’s most populous nation may be retrieved from the file marked ‘’paradise deferred’’ You may be worried that I am working on my obituary. But I do not see anything more compelling than that. Maybe my motivation for not being afraid to think of my death is higher than that for many of my friends because I have had the good fortune, very few people have, of reading their obituary. After an automobile mishap near Asaba, in July 1991, rumors of my passing resulted in some obituaries being reported. The more interesting ones were the ones that reacted to people who led the announcement of my death. Of those, I particularly remember the piece by then Fr Mathew Hassan Kukah and Vanguard columnist Doyin Okogie. They were the most fun to read. Like with Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, some of those who announced that death, including one who gave Doyin Okogie graphic description of my mangled corpse, have long passed away.

One gain from that is more frequent engagement with issues of my mortality and of possibilities of immortality. As they say where I come from, when a person remembers death, the footsteps are more gentle. With that benefit in mind I took those two favorite words from scripture to heart- fear not. I try never to be afraid, not from strength, but by faith which is why my auto biological reflection in the book To serve is to Live has a chapter titled the courageous coward. Having been on a train bombed by terrorists in London that faithful July 7th, escaped a near crash air and an assassination attempt by agents of state terror in 1996 I am, understandably, a little more relaxed about the subject of one’s death. (more…)

APC AND THE MYTH OF SAMENESS

Cliché’s have a way of reinforcing stereotypes and shielding either the truth or an understanding of trends that result in more than the narrow visions of the point. There is perhaps no better example of this than the frequently repeated view that there is no difference between the major parties. It is cliché that needs discerning exploration.

It may be true that no clear set of ideas defined engagement of political parties in the wake of the hurried departure of the military, in 1999  but lessons from history suggest that the kind of groaning and travails that currently mark the system have had a way of giving birth to something new and more desirable. It is this history that leads me to being more cautious in judgment. It is in fact my expectation that not only are the more carefully observed signs pointing to an APC that will be ideologically left of centre, and very peoples oriented, a kind of people sensitive and responsive enterprise economy that is justice focused, but also that even the PDP will come out of this process, less prone to impunity, even if conservative, and may become more disciplined. Why do I think so.

On this matter I like often to point to the history of how the Republican and Democratic Parties in the United States have evolved in relation to African Americans.

Many young people who presume the Democrats have always been the more liberal of the Parties with higher sensitivity to the minority groups are shocked to learn that the Republican party was once the Party opposed to dehumanizing slavery, and that Abraham Lincoln who fought to end it, as state policy, and who put the people at the centre of the purpose of government was a Republican. In the nature of how political party traditions emerge, as I indicated at the keynote I gave at the Leadership newspapers annual lectures two years ago, referring liberally to Reberto Michels and his 1911 study of political parties, trends of how parties thrive, abound, and of Michels Iron law of oligarchy, informs of anything, it is the important place of the political parties structure in evolution. This is why I think a close look at the political history of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, General Mohammadu Buhari, Chief Bisi Akande and some workroom people in APC do a better job of revealing where APC may be going than the excitable pundit on television points to or that the journalist seeking sensation is likely to see.

Let us take Tinubu. I can speak with fair amount of authority to some of his strengths that I see leaving an imprimatur on the APC the pundits miss. This is because I spent a fair amount of time being part of or facilitating retreats of the-would be cabinet from when he was Governor-elect until some time into his first term. The first of the strengths is captured in his passion for competence and his comfort level with having the best around him. A US Ambassador to Nigeria once said to me that he wished the Federal cabinet were half as good as the Lagos State Cabinet.

That disposition and the courage of the lion in taking on daunting obstacles is a flavor I see clearly affecting the course of the APC.

With General Buhari, his austere and ascetic ways with a clear following by the people at the bottom of the pyramid who are looking for people of integrity with a monomaniacal focus on the needs of the downtrodden mark him out and show the imprint his preference will leave on how the party is shaped after all the building of critical mass settles. Then there is Chief Bisi Akande.

As I have indicated before, when The Concerned Professionals wanted a speaker for an event many years ago and decided it wanted someone who had been in government and had shown uncommon touch, for the common Good while living integrity, it settled for Chief Bisi Akande.

Mesh this with the intellectual wing of APC which includes elements from the Restoration Group that emanated from the Concerned Professionals and people like Nasir El-Rufai who has unusual capacity for faithful execution and the kinds of conversations quietly going on with the principals mentioned here that I have been involved with and you see that the APC will crystallize into a peoples Party that is left of centre with programs of free education, decentralization of authority and large scale small business support for massive job-creation based on value-chains derived from the factor endowment of local development areas. At a discussion I participated in on instructions of Chief Akande, to shape party policy, one professor summed up the nature of the vision of the party that emerged as “Ijoba mekunu” or party Umu obenye, in the spirit of the Talakawa focused thrust of Aminu Kano. To see the in cross carpets as coming to party in the Party, and think there is no ideology in Nigerian politics or that there is no, difference between PDP and APC is to miss the point of parties in evolution and watch a test of analytic power on the part of commentators.

The Parties are clearly in evolution and the future of Nigeria depends on the expectation that power can swing back and forth between parties. Nigeria is richer for the fact that the alternative is not now only much bigger than those who were previously in opposition, to but it is developing an ideological bent.

There are, in one orientation, or tendency in APC, people like myself who are more interested in principles, systems, values and institutions that shape human progress. Our path to the APC began with escalating roles in social enterprise and civil society, to trying set the agenda for the political arena in 2007. On that track I was matched in the top traunch of the Presidential debates with candidates Umaru Yar’adua and Muhammadu Buhari.

Mallam Yar’adua was either unwilling or unable to come, so I debated General Buhari on that fateful nationally televised debate. As permanent video records indicate my last words at the end of the debates as we shook hands was; This country can be fixed, General; we can work together to change this country for our children. We must fix Nigeria. In that spirit I ended up in his Hotel Suite for dinner that night.

From that moment forward the main role I have played has been to try to pull together a formidable opposition and help build a value platform on which it could rest. After the terribly rigged elections that brought Yar’adua to office I worked with General Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and others to show how flawed those elections were. In 2010 and 2011 I worked, first with the late chief Anthony Enahoro and Chief Olu Falae in pursuit of the same goal. When Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu invited me to accompany him on a similar mission a year ago I confessed that I was near exhaustion on that track but will work with him where necessary. He succeeded where we had failed and I have praised that accomplishment and been working, as promised to help with future content and structure. I have no doubt that this is not perfection on day one but it is a strong head start in what may be one of the biggest left of centre people centred political movements in the world since Fabian socialism gripped the soul of Europe after World War II and catapulted the Labour party into prominence in the United Kingdom. This is both an article of faith and statement of hope on the one hand as it is a rigorous reading of trends on the other.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is Founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

BEYOND SIZE: APC AND THE NEW NIGERIA - Pat Utomi

The high fives acknowledge the new size of APC as the New PDP merges with it. Some already calculate that the merger makes the APC the larger party in Nigeria and as such the largest party in Africa. As a member of the APC I am naturally thrilled that size is making the playing field more level, but I am conscious that it is about much more than size. It is about how you govern well and provide the people a better option. What does that mean for the evolution of the APC?

One of the things I am familiar with, as an APC insider, is the strenuous efforts being made to take the Party beyond a machine for votes into a disciplined, ideas-driven ideological platform for offering a different track, a new way to the people of Nigeria. I see this in efforts to develop a new party plank, new manifesto and the conversations about how to ensure that all learn to be loyal, not to individuals, as is the tradition in more recent Nigerian politics, but to a body of ideas and a way of relating to the people.

What thrills me the most of the ongoing internal dynamics is that of the three different working groups I am associated with inside the party is growing consensus, in each that the ideals of Social Democratic ethos be the anchor. A peoples oriented direction in which the clearly identified best interest of the common man is the essence of public policy and the direction of governance seems to be crystallizing so subtly but surely. As that general disposition of leadership conversation has been pleasing, I have continued to challenge compatriots for a personal commitment reflection and affirmation of a new way from the Party’s leadership elite, beyond talk. The pleasant surprise is that thrust is being well received. Also heartwarming is the intellectual back room of the party, a matter on which I have been critical of recent political parties which have seemed anti- intellectual, compared to parties elsewhere, and the parties of 1960s Nigeria. (more…)

ANAMBRA: AVERTING LOOMING TRAGEDY FOR A PEOPLE - Pat Utomi

It was a notoriously crowded field. Yet as they gathered at a Town Hall meeting, only two gubernatorial candidates were on the raised platform. They were Chris Ngige and Ifeanyi Ubah. By way of irony I had reduced the field that made it through the party rigmaroles to these same two candidates. Where did the rest of the field go? The answer is obvious and goes to the heart of why the Anambra elections can uplift or damage the future, not only of Anambra people but the Igbo Nation as a whole.

When I narrowed the field in facebook comments not long ago I got the usual mix of reactions, from those who agreed, to those who were genuinely upset at dismissing what the APGA leadership supposedly anointed for Ndigbo had done, to paid hands steeped in abuse on behalf of the APGA leadership. It was to be expected. I reiterate here that I consider myself a true friend of APGA leadership and as individuals they know how I relate to them in full appreciation of their persons. But for some reason they seem to have become victims of Groupthink inadvertently set to damage the future of the Igbo Nation, in the path of their choice.

I have met with some of the APGA leadership and spoken several times on telephone and private brotherly meeting with the Anambra State Governor Peter Obi on evolving thinking about succession. I have also never quarreled with the idea of justice in turning to Anambra north, often left out, for gubernatorial candidate. I can see a few people from Anambra North who can lead the challenge of continuity and renewal. But I certainly do not see it in the direction they have turned to.

The Anambra elections are particularly important for several reasons. First Nigerians confuse public office with leadership and so look to incumbent governors for leadership of the region. Secondly the South East is not particularly lucky with current offering, ill health, age, and other challenges reduce the effectiveness of the current college of Governors. Should Anambra be governed by an aloof, disconnected person, with a limited sense for how the Igbo nation should be engaged, the tragedy will be of greater magnitude than the afflictions before the Chris Ngige restoration.

My concerns go back to issues I have raised for more than twenty years which are now coming home to roost regarding care and strategy for the South East as my predicted Bontustanization of Nigeria is beginning to show its ugly face. I raised it repeatedly as a trustee and member of Aka Ikenga. On Chris Ngige’s watch as President of Aka Ikenga, when I served as chairman of the Economic and Finance Committee of that Think Tank I was mandated to develop what I called the Niger Basin Project, a strategic plan for building a collaborating South East and South South zones into a region of economic prosperity.

In fashioning infrastructure linkages between production clusters based on factor endowments and new technology across the two zones the idea was to create a new Rhine valley in the Niger Basin. Lethargy in facing what is more important, including considering of the plan document at the WIC of 1998 in London has come to haunt all as the desolation of the homestead has bred the crimes of today. The vicious cycle is entrapment of for the people as keeping away from the home stead breeds more crime and more people keep away or need armies to visit home.

This clearly is the worst time for politics as usual as has been played by the APGA leadership which has relied on support from Abuja and playing the game of support from clergy as those who have disagreed with me on facebook, see as their assurance.

I know the Bishops of Anambra, both Catholic and Anglican. Three of them share a common surname. They are wise men and the Holy Spirit is still alive and at work in them. To use the wool of continuity to blindfold them on a greater good is not to give credit to the spirit of wisdom.
Given the way things continue to be done in Nigeria, anything is possible, as outcome but men of their word must stand up to be counted and so it is imperative that my voice be loud and clear, given the importance of this moment for which history will judge us all. Given how the APGA leadership has conducted things the field is narrowed to Ngige and Ubah, and Ngige is the man that fits the bill for the moment.

Of course I have a partisan preference being of the same political party, the APC, as Dr Chris Ngige, but the bottomline is a picture much bigger. Like all people, he may not be perfect. Even if I  criticized his not moving more quickly on the agenda I outlined at Aka Ikenga, when he became Governor, but there is no  doubt in my mind that he is the person of the moment in Anambra.

In the affairs of a people there comes a time when grown men must stand to be counted. It is on the heads of elders that the coconut is broken. I have become one and will do harm to posterity should I not address a truth so naked. As I addressed Igbo elite, recently, Chief Simon Okeke smiled and whispered, the young have grown. I imagine he was thinking precarious 27 years old he first met standing beside the then vice – President Dr Alex Ekwueme. Many years have passed and several of the incumbent Governors of the South East call me big brother. I must not be like elders of the recent past who would not speak truth to power. I went for my conscience, history and God to judge me knowing that I was true to myself, even if I may be wrong.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist is professor of Entrepreneurship and founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

THE HUNTER-CONQUEROR MINDSET

There is much excitement about a tidy sum of N225 Million spent by a Ministry of Aviation parastatal to buy treated cars for use of the Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah. My problem with the discussion is that most of the commentators are missing a deeper, more fundamental issue. That issue, in my opinion, is key to both why Nigeria’s democracy is progressively losing its legitimacy and the reason impunity reigns, fracturing consensus for progress. This troubling phenomenon is a mindset issue associated with power and authority in Nigeria, and I call it the hunter – conqueror mindset.

To discuss the bullet – proof car scandal and think of it just in terms of corruption, or vanity, or misapplication of resources from the commonwealth of all is to have limited scope of engagement on a phenomenon that afflict many who seek public life in Nigeria. The reason many public servants and politicians in Nigeria cannot understand what the noise is about on the issue is that for many of them the state or the commonwealth is a spoil of war.

To many of today’s political appointees and elected politicians, victory at the polls, earned or rigged, is conquest of the Nigerian people and the commonwealth is the booty of conquest to be deployed to the benefit of the victor as he sees fit. For many it is like the fable of Barkin Zuwo: Government money was found in Government house; what is wrong with that? For those many who strain and strife and arrive the corridors of power, their turn to chop has arrived and all those who suggest they are not at liberty to do as they please with public money, the lives of others and the future of all, are either disgruntled losers in the opposition, rabble – rousing activists or just plain jealous people. This condition is aided by the dearth of citizenship.

The failure of citizenship in Nigeria has meant that vertical accountability is seldom a tool of the governance process, thus allowing public officers get away with things that will be totally unacceptable in normal societies, ensuring impunity writ large as the signature of popular culture in Nigeria.

Given also that Nigeria is the ultimate country of the big man and the elite cause institutions to be weak, erecting the strong man to solve problems, the mindset of power is fundamentally that of “Who are you to question my judgment” especially in the use of something I have acquired in conquest: This mindset not only considers request to be accountable, an insult, it actually treats the welfare of power as a higher public good than the well-being of citizens. This is why I was not surprised to read on twitter recently the report credited to Reuters that a few of Africa’s politicians or a few of its rich businessmen own enough to free Africa from the shackles of crushing poverty.

If you go from the conqueror part of the mindset to the hunter side you learn a few things. As different from the farmer who plants and waters until a great harvest in due season the hunter kills his game ad gets his instant gratification. The truth, if it be told, is that our political elite have a hunter – conqueror mentality which makes it difficult for them to understand that there is something wrong with spending so much of the money of a people so poor they are struggling to eke out a living in a manner that questions the discretion of power. The “audacity of plebeians” as I call the contemptuous view of the people’s right to complain and hold power accountable is really what the trouble is in Nigeria.

This view widely held by the entrepreneurs of power, those who chose power for money or ego, reasons other than sacrificial giving of themselves for the common Good is the reason the kind of conversation on the Aviation cars are mere irritations to the kind of people who dominate Abuja and other power centres. They never ask why American top government officials fly economy when British Airways thrives mainly because Nigerian public officials fill up their First class cabins.

Until we can purge ourselves of this hunter – conqueror mindset, Nigeria will remain all dressed up with nowhere to go.

An important point to note here is that given what we hear about the Aviation Minister’s personal fortune she can afford to buy a dozen of those cars without her bank manager noticing the movement. So why make a parastatal that cannot equip well to do its job spend a huge part of its budget to burnish her vanity. Simple. It is part of the Hunter-Conqueror mindset. Those who conquer the people, the mindset suggests, should be entitled to living off the proceeds of conquest. It simply reassures that the world runs at their pleasure while they are in power.

Do you notice that you hardly see Governors and ministers on commercial flights these days? For some it is a relief they do not have to put up with the nuisance of security and protocol people trying to impress the boss at boarding as they inconvenience others. But it is the new chic for power to fly around in PJs (private jets) and on charter aircraft. All this at taxpayer expense. Lyndon Baines Johnson, who as President of the US wondered how a person can be good Transport Secretary without taking the train to work every day will be turning in his grave if he saw Nigeria today. This is because he would not understand the Hunter-Conqueror mindset.

Go to the General Aviation terminal in Abuja, the PJ Parking lot and you will see how the emergence of two societies that will eventually destroy us is crystalizing. The trouble is not just that there are a few super rich and to many poor. The real trouble is that the money they fault has not come from genius that created jobs but from privatizing the commonwealth. So it is easy there to have a Hunter-Conqueror mindset, different from the way Warren Buffet thinks.

The challenge to progress in Nigeria is significantly how to destroy this Hunter-Conqueror thinking that has given us public servants disconnected from society and reality.

Pat Utomi, Professor of Political Economy and Entrepreneurship, is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

THE HUNTER-CONQUEROR MINDSET

There is much excitement about a tidy sum of N225 Million spent by a Ministry of Aviation parastatal to buy treated cars for use of the Minister, Mrs. Stella Oduah. My problem with the discussion is that most of the commentators are missing a deeper, more fundamental issue.

That issue, in my opinion, is key to both why Nigeria’s democracy is progressively losing its legitimacy and the reason impunity reigns, fracturing consensus for progress. This troubling phenomenon is a mindset issue associated with power and authority in Nigeria, and I call it the hunter – conqueror mindset.

To discuss the bullet – proof car scandal and think of it just in terms of corruption, or vanity, or misapplication of resources from the commonwealth of all is to have limited scope of engagement on a phenomenon that afflict many who seek public life in Nigeria. The reason many public servants and politicians in Nigeria cannot understand what the noise is about on the issue is that for many of them the state on the commonwealth is a spoil of war.

To many of today’s political appointees and elected politicians, victory at the polls, earned or rigged, is conquest of the Nigerian people and the commonwealth is the booty of conquest to be deployed to the benefit of the victor as he sees fit. For many it is like the fable of Barkin Zuwo: Government money was found in Government house; what is wrong with that? For those many who strain and strife and arrive the corridors of power, their turn to chop has arrived and all those who suggest they are not at liberty to do as they please with public money, the lives of others and the future of all, are either disgruntled losers in the opposition, rabble – rousing activists or just plain jealous people. This condition is aided by the dearth of citizenship. (more…)

A FAMILIAR ROAD (Pt. 2) - Pat Utomi

The paradox of the state and the crushed citizen is told well by a true encounter experienced by a former Chief executive of a discount house who happens to be a pastor. On the road to Asaba, from Lagos, with his wife, policemen stopped them to check for ‘particulars’. The couple stayed cool in the back as the driver shuffled documents to and from the policeman who is expecting the ‘oga at the back’ to act. Exasperated, the law officer calls to the oga, who says very assuredly, that all documents on the car are available and in the car.

The policeman’s retort came fast, “there is no such car that we cannot find one thing out of place”. He quickly latched on something and the oga to burnish his credentials for not giving a bribe throws in the fact that he is a pastor. To that the policeman quickly responds “If you are a pastor, then you must know about Matthew 5: 25. Segun Olusanya, the oga at the back, quickly pulled up his nearby Bible and saw the injunction to quickly settle with the adversary lest you be bundled into the jailer’s hand.

As the police sought to take the couple to their station inside the bush in one village, the pastor, a dear friend, who called me to relate his experience shortly on return to Lagos, said he had to at this point in the extortion racket had to say to himself: “Segun apply wisdom”.

This true encounter in many ways summarize the everyday experience of the Nigerian citizen with power. To avoid being crushed or at least bruised, the citizen scampers for cover in his comfort zone and inadvertently increases power’s disposition to impunity.

The story of constitution making and jurisprudence in the United States is good documentation on the struggle to balance the state’s power so the weaker citizen is not denied his rights and freedom. Our failure to do this well in Nigeria has had profound consequences for economic life and social harmony. To try to make sense of restiveness in the Niger Delta, the Area boy phenomenon or even Boko Haram without this is to shortchange thinking. (more…)

REQUIEM FOR SHAME

REQUIEM FOR SHAME.

Pat Utomi.

And shame died. On July 9th 2013 they put shame to shame and gave impunity new meaning on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the dramatic abduction of then Anambra Governor Chris Ngige by hooligans in association with the police officers and the acquiescent nudge of approval of the Obasanjo’s presidency. That took Nigeria to pre-coup Wild West battles in the western region. The Rivers House of Assembly which degenerated to a Hobbesian State of nature, when the PDP crises went further south seemed set to win the shame Olympics. Blood was shed, Mayhem was on display and even the Chief Security Officer of the state, the Governor, was believed to have been threatened as order for him be shot rang out from those opposed to him . How did we sink so low and why is our democracy being sabotaged by those who have profited so much from its abuse, the politicians, and what are the consequences of the grooving loss of legitimacy by Nigeria’s fledgling democracy? The answers may not be blowing in the wind.

Perfecting the ugly comes with practice. See what practice they may have had. Obasanjo’s era removal of Bayelsa Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and the siege on Chris Ngige matched so closely, in terms of outrage and damage to the rule of law by the Yaradua gang abuse of the constitution in “presiding” over the country in the name of vegetative Umaru Yaradua, and now by the PDP’s insult on the Nigerian people in trying to subvert the outcome of elections at the Governors Forum. We have steadily declined from ego-tripping military men assaulting the dignity of of road users, to the impunity of willful damage of public property with no consequences as with the Anambra scorched earth destruction of all what was valuable in government structures, and then coup of the Yaradua mafia that held Goodluck Jonathan in the No man’s land as the man who could act but could not be called acting president, so that others could govern over him, in the name of a man in the land of the living dead to this present state. (more…)

WHEN SELF IS THE ENEMY - Pat Utomi

WHEN SELF IS THE ENEMY -    Pat Utomi

There is a sense in which in which love of self turns out to be undiluted hatred of self. The trouble here is that the self-lover does not realize they have become Masochist. Think of this. There is consensus

us that the dominant element of popular culture in Nigeria today is the love of money; often pursued with a passion that disrespects all rules, yet poverty has continued to increase with most Nigerians, and the few who escape its scourge, suffer the great discomfort of loss of privacy from those who constitute their security, and from among whom will come those who may plan their kidnapping tomorrow.

In a world of paradoxes, the paradox of the damage to self in the relentless, selfish, and self-serving pursuit of narrow self-interest appears to me as the most fascinating phenomenon of the Nigerian Condition, a strange narcissism which consumes self-due to ignorance or short sightedness. Even more interesting and ironical is our determination not to learn from experience elsewhere. You see the penny wise and pound foolish elements of our popular culture in the dichotomies between laissez – faire and buccaneering we are engaged in today and those who see collectivist traditions as the solution, what parts of Europe is suffering from. (more…)

NATION BUILDING: HOW WE MISSED THE PLOT - Pat Utomi

It took me by surprise. Not that it has not been said often but I did not think the much regarded man beside me would say that. Well, since it is the refrain that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable it was unusual for someone so highly placed to say the British should have seen so clearly how different we are as peoples, North and South of Nigeria.

Even though it is clear that convenience of getting revenues from the South that was more viable, to reduce the burden on the British for administering the territory was motive for amalgamation, it seems to me too limiting to blame every trouble with Nigeria on Lugard’s search for cross – subsidization of territory administration.

My quick reaction is that the modern nation – state is not about natural similarities of peoples, the often heard anger at Britain for the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 and against Otto Von Bismarck for the partitioning of Africa, notwithstanding.

I respond, without prejudice to the fact that nation states emerging in Europe after the peace of Westphalia in 1648 and trends in the discussion of Sovereignty suggest uniformity of culture is of increasing value. Yes, with exceptions, most of Europe’s emerging nation states are people who have shared much for a long time. Yes the views of Sovereignty which stressed non – interference, enabled dominant groups to forcibly hold dissenting minorities for a long time but more recent trends recognize the right of self-determination as flowing from declarations on human rights, has been in ascendancy. (more…)