A SENSIBLE WAR AGAINST POVERTY

It is February 20 as I write. The day is deserving of note for more reasons than one of my children being born on that date. Indeed it is a day close to my heart because it is the World day of Social Justice set aside by the global community for us all to reflect on matters of poverty, unemployment and the tendency of a minority to hug for their use and abuse a greater portion of the treasures of the earth. But this year it is a day of great pain for me because as we in Nigeria manage the temperature and pressure of a heated elections campaign few have highlightened this day and fewer still have a clear strategy to reduce poverty in this land of plenty.
When society truly has a burden for a challenge facing it a determined leadership elite, properly prepared, invariably articulates a vision of a way out. Sometimes that pathway to the future may be utopian, and the dream is lost, sometimes it’s based on an ideology too dogmatic or bureaucratic that the path proves unrealistic and, at other times it is romantic and ignores realities of the nature of man. The one that achieves the desired objective is often rigorous, demanding disciplined but largely sensible. Such is the case with poverty alleviation in Nigeria. Now, these times of elections should be the time for seeking a sensible path to end poverty.
The single biggest issue in Nigeria today is poverty in a world of plenty. The elections of 2015 should really be about the scourge of poverty. Here incumbents can show what they have done to alleviate the conditions highligtened, with much consequences of shame for us, in the UNDP Human Development Report, the Legatum Reports, and the Mo Ibrahim Leadership Index. As incumbents show how on their watch they tried to change those conditions, contenders would need to unveil alternative visions of how those conditions can be changed for the better.

The truth about why this is important for the political campaign process is that it helps make people sensitive to how to act aright because the goal cannot be achieved if the citizenry do not flow with policy. Elections help create the right mindset that make reaching the point of the vision more feasible. A classic example is when we announce a programme to boost tourism and encourage foreign investors and I travel the day after through a major international airport in Nigeria. It is not hard to tell the initiative will fail because the frontline contact people are in a completely different universe; many quite able to make an investor or tourist turn back right from the airport.
Compared to an experience I had going back to 1984 on my first visit to Zimbabwe. I never forget the immigration officer looking at my passport and lighting up with a huge smile, as he said welcome to Zimbabwe, I am so glad you have come to spend some of that your Nigerian Oil Money here. Even though Zimbabwe suffered major relapse, that level of consciousness is required for the progress we need.
To overcome poverty politicians need to mobilize a broad constituency to the depths of their vision. As emphasis has gone to hate messaging in 2015 we lost the chance to do something big. I recall that the theme of my own 2007 Presidential campaign was: Nigerians have no reason being poor.
On this matter of combating poverty surely the burden must come partly from the need to do the much advertised diversification of the Nigerian economy away from Oil, which is an enclave sector that creates few jobs; educating and skilling up a generation for the new ways of creating value; and strategies for enhanced competitiveness, based on the comparative advantage of the economy and value chains from factor endowments of the country.
Such a revolution is beyond pushing models and theories of economic development. Success, as with all management triumphs, is driven by passionate commitment, clear strategy and knowledgeable engagement with the value proposition. This is not to say that policy thrust is irrelevant, but as I have often pointed to, a good read of Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore story will show that as far as policy choice goes, there was hardly any policy Singapore turned to, including the much celebrated impactful forced savings, that Nigeria did not turn to. So how come the outcomes were so dramatically different? Difference was in leadership, culture and management orientation.
Having noted the importance of both the management factor and the political Will, one must still return to policy or strategy for alleviating poverty. In my contributions to the formulation of the manifesto of my political party, the preferred thrust rested on factor endowments and value chains; state interventions for social safety nets; and public works projects to stimulate economic activity and the use of clusters for production. Beyond this an over aching framework of peoples capitalism that inspires mass entrepreneurship with support of a programme that may require transforming the NYSC scheme into an Entrepreneurship Extension Service will determine the triumph over poverty.
I insist this economy can easily fund Free Primary education for every child with a free meal a day to go with it. The multipliers from such policy can easily be measured. In the flow of proof of concept an initial move that goes to plugging corruption loopholes, recovering stolen monies in the billions of dollars, will be channeled into public works programmes that will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs to the unemployed on the condition that it is a work study initiative in which they give two-thirds of their work/day to the public works programme employing them and the remaining third to acquiring new skills that will support the value chains to be developed from factor endowments.
In this regard, massive retraining of fresh graduates in the NYSC, equipping them with business development skills, to serve as Extension service agents working with artisans, mechanics, bakers and small business men and women to help put structure and growth leverages into the wheels of the ventures, is one way to go. Ultimately this should move them from the informal into the formal sector with much by way benefits to the development of the economy and job creation. But the heart of the direction of sustainable longer term growth would be in identifying endowments by geographic zones.
In that regard a critical review of information already available from work of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, the Agriculture Economy of the 1960s and other sources, will identify the top two endowments of each zone of development in the country. My work in the South South, as chairman of the geopolitical zone’s economic summit, a few years ago, would place Rubber, Oil palm and Hydrocarbons as the Key endowments around which to seek global domination of the value chain from planting, through manufacturing of rubber, oil palm and hydrocarbons based products and derivatives; their place in markets all the way to supermarkets in United States suburban malls. This will include developing entrepreneurship strengths on aspects of the value chains as well as vocational skills that can meet global needs. Why does the Philippines dominate crewing of ship around the world; How come Egypt dominates a form of oil drilling work in the world? There lie the keys to investing in skill development and education around the value chains which can include Gum Aerobic and food processing for the Northwest; and sesame seeds for the North Central etc. Industrial clusters or Parks designed as nodes for new cities should be developed for each of the regional zones of development.
To get people to own such a strategy and work towards clearly set goals without developing an entitlement mentality should be the drives of Town Hall meetings.
Pat Utomi is a Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship and founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

THINKING ALOUD BEFORE A NATION UNRAVELS – Pat Utomi

The hate speech is everywhere. They are coming from people you expect to be more responsible. The so called campaign adverts do more damage than the young people, on social media, who seem not to realize how Rwanda happened, even though one of them has generously been circulating a warning from the Sierra Leone experience authored by one Omar Bangura. Then there is Obasanjo in the broth. Quo Vadis Nigeria?
A quarter of a century ago I wrote a weekly column in this newspaper, The Vanguard. Its title was Thinking Aloud. And it appeared every Tuesday. That I find myself thinking aloud today shows, to use the title of a book by another Vanguard columnist of old, the late Pini Jason, that we are traveling A familiar Road. Sadly, this familiar road is looking like it is getting so much more dangerous we can reap more damage than the recursive economy we have erected from moving close to the brink ever so often and retreating from the edge of the cliff.
The bottom line in this effort at thinking aloud is to remind political actors of their duty to campaign and not stoke conflagaration and to remember accountability for the consequence of their conduct.
The Campaigns of 2015 have been more animated because the stakes are higher. For the first time in a long time there are equally matched Political Parties contesting the Presidency. Here tribute has to go to the Lion of Bourdillion, former Lagos State Governor. Bola Tinubu.
The building of a strong opposition has been central to my own engagement in partisan political life. After eight years of fairly intense engagement on the matter, I literally threw up my hands in frustration before Sen. Bola Tinubu. The former Lagos State Governor who had been in the process, decided it was time to get things done and he met with success. Instead of celebrating this success, the 2015 seems to have moved elections into the new moral equivalence of war. Insensitivity to what makes competitive electoral politics work for countries is now in danger of making this good thing of a two party dominant system a threat rather than opportunity for the well being of the Nigerian people. Blood is beginning not to seem to matter. But those of a certain faith know how Abel’s blood mattered.
When I spoke at the Leadership Newspapers annual lectures a few years ago on the subject of Political Opposition and Political Parties I made the point that the raising of contending perspectives on the issues in governing, with the benefit of the education of voters, was one of the great benefits of multi party democracy. Surely the people cannot learn and vote right, better, with the hauling of insults and digging up of old wounds, as they will if policies on diversification of the economy, job creation to deal with the scourge of unemployment; Corruption, which has clearly become a weapon of mass destruction, and how to better insure security of lives and property, are not more important than personal insults, religious and ethnic sentiments.
As frightening as the poisoning of the atmosphere in a way that raises spectres of violence, before, during and after the elections there is the question of how people think they can govern if there is so much bitterness between the actors. No one can govern effectively without the other, so democracies need to have a culture of moving on after elections with less sharp divisions between government and opposition, even when the useful tool of a shadow government exists. When the quarrels become personal and deeply bitter, as the kind of contention we are witnessing, has potential for, that cooperative engagement for nation building is denied society. Surely, the Nigerian people do not deserve such.
How come politicians, who have reached heights they may never have aspired to, but for opportunities that Nigeria provided, do not reflect enough on how these expressions of aggression and desperation can bring the whole house come tumbling down. How do not feel possible outcomes from such desperate games.
Casting my mind to how we managed to get to this stage I can see enough blame to parcel around. From the nature of political recruitment process, the material benefits to be made from politics, the poor education in history of politicians; a media not as alive as it should be to its social responsibility role; weak civil society and elders that have failed to be elders, all have blame as I do. The costs are already manifesting in economic decline, tense environment, escalating violence with amazing levels of loss of lives and lowered standing in the world, for Nigeria, if we read the foreign press on these elections.
How do you justify the vicious attack on the character of opponents. While both sides of the two leading parties could tone down on those kinds of personal broadsides, that amount to petrol and matchsticks in the minds of supporters, I must say that General Buhari has been the greater victim. In his media chat President Jonathan suggested he may not be in the know of hate messages flowing from people who act in his interest. He should make effort to find out. One civil servant in fact said to me that the awkwardness of desperation flowing from incumbents was because the fear of a clean audit of the system by a cleansing new government frightened many civil servants and politicians indulged in an orgy of corruption and impunity. In the old wisdom of Machiavelli, in The Prince: those who profit from an older order will do everything to prevent a new order from coming about; while those who could profit from the new order do not do enough to bring it about because man is incredulous in his nature, not wanting to try new things until they have witnessed experience of it.
I often dare to add that those who could profit from the new order are usually in the majority do not act in their interest, however, on this occasion I would point to the fact that where profit from the old order is criminal, as with the current pervasive corruption and impunity in the system, those who profit from the old order are more likely to be most desperate. The problem with such desperation is that it is enormously short sighted to let personal desperation bring a country to ruin, because in the end even if they temporally uphold the old order, the people ultimately get desperate enough from the weight of injustice that the House falls, in their uprising for justice. Like in Liberia and Somalia or Rwanda, they trade their private jets and fancy cars for refugee camps or police cells, awaiting transfer to the international criminal court, whereas only a few could have been used as example if the new order had been allowed to arrive.
But it is telling of how much rot we have all allowed the system to degenerate into that people who have the sacred trust of agents superintending the Commonwealth are so scared that a cleansing new order might come about.
This is why a premium part of my prescription is that no matter the outcome of the elections, a primary duty would have to involve a reform of the rewards of public life, recruitment into political parties and positions in public office and citizen monitoring of public management.
The rewards of power in Nigeria are quite unhealthy for good governance. We must push for a political culture that emphasizes the simple life for people in power. Beside humanizing power, which is important for democracy, as different from the current distance and disconnect of the public office holder in Nigeria, it makes having office so alluring that pursuit of it, becomes the favorite chase of scoundrels, rather than people who can give service. We need to get rid of motorcades, dramatically reduce or get rid of the presidential fleet, or government jets, prosecute public officers who avoid commercial flights, except in attenuating circumstances, and charter jet aircraft for local travel. We should also bring security votes under some oversight, and limit discretion in deployment of public resources.
Presently political parties across the board disappoint on how they recruit and select candidates. If character were a premium we will have limits to the swings in loyalty. In the main it remains about cash, not competence, commitment, credibility and a passion for service, with only occasional exceptions from the rule.
Unfortunately, as I feared, the postponement of the elections, no matter the truth of the motivation for such a shift, has only intensified this sense of desperation. The emotions boiling in people for and against one candidate or the other has converted the radio phone in show into a stream of venomous outpouring of hate talk. If they only knew it was how the chant ‘cut down the tall trees’ took hold in Rwanda and exposed man’s bestiality in the golden glow of sad sunshine. We must, as we say in Nigeria, exclaim: it is not our portion. But ejaculatory prayer is not enough. We must work and pray. And to work here begins with politicians speaking prudently; elders acting wisely, and cautioning moderation, and the media and civil society getting politicians to focus on the issues while INEC forces a pulling off of messages that smear others. Then there is Obasanjo.
May God give General Obasanjo temperance of nature and as an elder wisdom to make what point he thinks is useful, with learning from the Clintons on Bushes who seldom speak on the extant order and are therefore not subjected to rain of insults I hear pouring down in torrents on a father of the nation, from people as young as not to have been born when Abacha held him in the Nigerian Gulag.
As we act and pray, I trust that Nigeria will rise up again, like the phoenix from this low point it has fallen, because the cost is high. The Business class seats on major commercial airlines into Lagos had dropped so low a friend on a well known flight from London had only three others sharing the cabin, the stock market fell eight percent in the week following the postponement of the elections and was ranking with Ukraine as among the most challenged in the world. Desperate politicians hardly think economic costs to the people.
In many democracies in the world that I know many office holders and Leader Wannabes would rather bow out with grace than let their country suffer such for the sake of their ambition. For some reason love for country in Nigeria is still at such low stock that many who lead us would rather our stock crash than their fortunes.
We must keep hope alive but the truth is that the polity is sick, the economy is unwell and I am not feeling quite so good myself. So let the deliverance ministry go to work. We need dry bones to rise and walk.
P.S The forgoing lines were written before General Olusegun Obasanjo’s dramatic tearing up of his PDP membership card. While that is within the rights of the individual in freedom of expression I hasten to plead that elders have a duty to calm tempers and not pour kerosene on troubled waters. For some time I have been ‘harassing’ the elders I am friendly with, General Gowon, Gen TY Danjuma, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Aliyu Gusau and others that they must speak caution and peace to the land so history not treat us as some have unfortunately had to be treated as I look at the Middle East, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere, even as the world looks to an age of progress. I have done it so often that some of these elders jokingly or seriously begin to warn me as I come towards them. February 16 was a cause of great fright for me. I hope now that people who failed to understand why I once suggested the incumbent should gracefully step away to save the country these kinds of moments will understand. Add to the events of Abeokuta the frenzy of support for General Buhari in Maiduguri that was of such a pitch he could not even stay on at the rally as a change desperate people poured out their hearts. Our country is polarized we need the calming balm of statesmen.
Listening to radio call-in shows and hearing the passions for and against I begin to fear that the politicians need to read the Omar Bangura piece and begin to educate all that the key to the future is for all to be inside the house pissing out, than for some to be outside the house pissing in. Veritable words from Lyndon Baines Johnson, the former US president, which the Malaysians adopted as Mantra for their vision 2020 process.
Again I like to recall comments I made at lecture to mark the 60th birthday of Pastor Wale Adefarasin, a few years ago. Ironically the speakers were the now APC V-P nominee, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and myself. I gave examples from Liberia and Somalia of elite of Somalia and Liberia and what they, were reduced to in refugee camps and Osinbajo who served on an assignment in Somalia cited an example he witnessed. The key is for all to remember that Nigeria, and the future of our children come bigger than all our egos. So let them arm themselves with Olive branches and know that to allow a country like this become a version of Dante’s inferno, the hottest part of hell will be like deep freeze, compared to what they reap as against the path of immortality, in erecting peace but encouraged violence.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship and founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership was a Vanguard columnist in the 1980’s.

WHEN THE PEOPLE BECOME ENEMY OF THE STATE

A William Adams quote has recently gone viral. It reminds that: ‘There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people’.
The evidence of how true this is can be seen from the show of military strength the morning after the announcement of the postponement of the 2015 elections. They went on exercise demonstrations which I witnessed on the streets of Lagos as I am told was the case in many cities around the country. The troops needed in the North East to wipe out Boko Haram in Six weeks, after five years of unsuccessful effort were somehow available to intimidate some ‘to intimidate bloody civilians’, in the view of some people.
The truth was, I enjoyed watching the street exercise. From childhood one of my favorite spectacles has been watching soldier in drills. If it was possible for me to join the Army, two magic moments could have been the lure; watching Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, then a younger officer, at the 1970 Independence Day Parade, and the late Gen. Joseph Nanven Garba as a young Brigade of guards Commander were for me greater than watching a pop star. The purpose may have been to alert any potential protesters, after the postponement, that a mighty force lurks to respond, but for me, it was a nice pleasant throw back to an excitable childhood and early teens when a civil war raged and I saw soldiers both at the war front and in the rear, at Ibadan, after I resumed schooling there. This was as the soldiers were put to Rapid Result Truck Driving lessons at the Ibadan Garrison Organization which I remembered more for its nice band, than with thoughts of War.
But talk about the street spectacles the day after the postponement of the elections got me thinking about how dutiful citizens unwittingly became so called enemies of the state. Having looked up at guns pointed at me, several time in the course of my life, by agents of the state, it seemed appropriate to reflect on how the state in search of real and imagined enemies, manages to make nation building more challenging.
First time a gun was pointed at me, execution style, was in a time of war. Had the trigger been pulled it would have qualified for war crimes, but no such trial could have taken place. Those who shot many in cold blood got away with it, a year earlier. It was at Asaba in 1968. Thousands of men had been lined up already and executed as the chanted ONE NIGERIA, a few months before. On this occasion, as a bunch of 12 to 15 year olds were being separated from the women and lined up, an officer showed up, and as the drama goes, slapped the NCO who was lining us up and ordered us moved to the refugee camp, from where a friend of my father, who was the Battalion Commander, ensured that I headed to Lagos where my father was and then to school in Ibadan where we actually were rather oblivious of a civil war taking place two hundred miles away.
Next time I looked at a gun threatening me, was as leading executive of a multinational company, I had joined a group of professionals to protest the annulments of the results of the 1993 Presidential elections.
If we excused that experience as an excess of military rule, the third time could not be so excused. That one followed the removal of so called petroleum subsidy in 2012. I thought something was wrong with pretending that what petrol was all about cost subsidy. I had on several occasions challenged friends in downstream petroleum marketing that it was peculiar that in a margin-thin business that forced strategic thinking in which industry orthodoxy now recognized that to make money you take advantage of the traffic driven by the need for petrol to sell Groceries, hence Mobil’s Minimart, Total’s Bonjour, etc; that people assume that being a petrol retailer was presumed to be the installation of a money mint. I had a moral burden to make the point that what was called petrol subsidy was significantly a combination of corruption and inefficiency costs. I did not hesitate to answer the call of some young professionals to come out and demonstrate. Then the civilian government sent in troops armed to the teeth to stop a group of unarmed, as some say, Champagne drinking middle and Upper Middle Class people at occupy Falomo who just wanted their voices heard on how their country was being run, a group that at a point included some high court judges, retired and serving. For the third time in my life uniformed agents of the state pointed a gun at my face and looked quite determined to pull the trigger. The people had become the enemies of the state, in the William Adams context.
My hope and my prayer is let the people not be the enemy again. The cost of the people as the enemy for Nigeria has always been high. And this is beyond financial costs. If the nation building goal and the Common Good are kept in view it must be obvious that all being able to put hands on deck, in a cooperative way, will advance good, more quickly.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, President of the United States in the 1960’s put it in a way only a Texan could: It is better for all to be inside the house, pissing out, than outside the house pissing in. This mantra was picked up by the Malaysians as its Prime Minister back in the late 1980’s; Mahathir Mohammed chased a vision 2020. The visioning process in Malaysia was about consensus forging to get most into the house so the pissing is majority outbound. The limited skill of Nigerian politicians for pulling towards consensus seems for some reason to be poor. The quarrels became personal, rather than on issues and competing prisms through which reality is filtered.
If leadership is to show sagacity in Nigeria, job no 1 has to be diffusing the time bomb of division. So far the moment has given us the most divided Nigeria has ever been in my opinion, on ethnic, religious, ideological, regional and partisan lines. Conversation does not seem civil anymore. Examples of how Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe would go campaigning for his Party and Chief H O Davies will be doing same on the opposing side and, in the evening, one will drive to the others home, and pick them up to go and have a game of Tennis and a drink after. How did we lose that ethic? I still recall stories by Alhaji Maitama Sule about being scolded as a young MP and Minister, for not going across the Aisle to ‘greet’ more like pay homage, to the opposition leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and older person deserving of his respect as a result.
We owe it to both the promise of Nigeria and the future of our children to stop inventing enemies of the state and to provide a climate for culture of building bridges that grace the path to the Nigerian melting pot. There may be competing models of a modus Vivendi in Nigeria; from those who take federalism so far it is almost a Bhantustanisation of Nigeria, to those who want a restoration of the federalism of the 1960’s on the one hand; to those who prefer a strong centre, on the other hand; no matter the shade bridges matter. It is these bridges that should be the focus, and not making enemies of the many citizens whose main desire is to see a state they can be cheerleaders for.
Thank God INEC had the wisdom to pick Valentine’s Day for the original date of the Presidential election. Perhaps we can reflect on the true meaning of love for to lead is to love and love a people is to be willing to sacrifice self for the good of all. To make the people the enemy is not to love them.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

JUSTIFYING A LIE

And the elections were postponed. Ghosts of the predicted came alive. The usual culprits were willing tools; elements in the military, political leaders who abused the commonwealth and traditional apologists who profit from abusive public authority. What was more ridiculous than the lack of Grace of bringing a people to ridicule in the eyes of the world that will wonder how those Nigerians cannot organize something as routine as an election, was the way people went about justifying the shift in date.
I watched Sunrise Daily on Channels television the Monday after and found Lagos PDP Chairman Tunde Shelle struggling to stretch imagination in response to questions relating to the postponement. He summed up the loss of a sense of shame in Nigeria when he was asked what he would do if as Commander-in-Chief, his officials in charge of security came to him barely hours before elections and told him they could not guarantee security during elections. Shelle concentrated on lampooning, INEC, Suggesting that for love of voters and ensuring no one was denied the opportunity to vote he would move the elections for six months and even much longer, if necessary.
A number of fears I had, which I had tweeted the night before were crystallizing in concrete from Shelle’s answers. The first was that INEC, far from being Independent had been pushed into postponing elections it had indicated it was ready for. Second, it was clearly part of the goal of PDP leadership he was part of, to upset INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega enough to make him, as an honorable man, choose to throw in the towel. His resignation would be manna from heaven for them to declare Force Majeure and cancel the elections, primarily because they are far from believing in Democracy but simply see the democratic process as a useful vehicle to acquire power and use the state for their other intentions. Three, that they have enough contempt for the people that their protests against shift of date not withstanding, an election in which the signals pointed to an electorate so fed up with the extant order was targeted to be thwarted. The indications were they would vote anything but the current order so whatever would avert a looming will of the people, even if it damaged our institutions and burdened several generations with the consequence of failed electoral institutions, seemed fair game to fracture.
Four; and very importantly, six weeks is only a first go, and that the prize was high enough to either topple the democracy’ of this moment rather than lose power after 16 years of the feast of the locust, or keep power at any cost.
I have tried hard to have an open mind about what may be the justification for the aborting of the pledged election dates but find most of those offered hard to think of as logical and often as quite spurious.
They say the main issue is security. Poor Professor Jega not being a security man throws his hands up in the air. But how logical is it that threats you have not contained in more than five years can suddenly become amendable in six weeks because you need to have elections. If that is likely then those who have not dealt with it for so many years must face consequences for dereliction of duty.
There are those who also ask the question; how come previous elections took place in Niger Delta States when an insurgency was located there; and how come the political parties have been able to campaign in some of those states in question in the North East.
When held down on the security score, they turn to the challenge of PVC distribution. I am amazed these people have the kind of conscience they lacked in previous elections. If the President had asked for advice from me six months ago I could have told him how to be a hero. Avoid contesting these elections. But we know from Machiavelli that those who profit from an old order will do anything to prevent a new order from coming about. So those who parasite on the Nigerian state around him, goaded him on to the point of fouling up his place in history. Decency, because it was said privately, prevents me from mentioning something he said to me, in the presence of one other person six years ago which made me certain he would not fall into this trap. But we are back to 1993 and 1997. Back then our conscience led us to the founding of the Concerned Professionals and a long drawn struggle for democracy. I did not know it would happen again in my lifetime. But man proposes, not sure now who disposes, but this does not look like God.
It is amazing that this plausible, but not thought too incredible to play track, has become reality, throwing up amazing dilemmas. Clearly they want to abort this democracy. So, why, someone asked, should someone like me who talks about the error of 1999 and the error of how the wrong people entered the political process because many true leaders did not take the departure of the Army seriously, not celebrating an opportunity to end it. Having entered the system, at a time of high oil rent, with little accounting, and pillaged the commonwealth, they used that to erect barriers of entry in which money, and not capacity or sense of service, determined the path of politics, an objectionable system emerged, I have indeed argued. So why would I not be thankful, that no matter the motives of those who are trying to sabotage this flawed Civilian regime, an opportunity to begin again may be the result of their effort.
The question is how far back do we go each time in this recursive evolution. I have worked so hard to move Nigeria close to where Ghana reached some years ago, where confidence is established with the system as incumbents are replaced by opposition, and back, in election cycles. To always start afresh when allowing the will of the people to adjust, past errors, is possible. For all one cares, electing anyone but an incumbent, as happened when I lived in the US in 1980, anyone but Carter (ABC) can lead to something less attractive, but it allows the rejected to clean up their act and possibly return in the next round, the better leaders. For the Americans, depending on your prism the 1980 election of President Ronald Reagan resulted in the renewal of the American spirit.
But what can we learn from this thing that is repeating itself, one more time, in my lifetime. Why is the desire for power so consuming and make people lose sight of the damage they do to their country when these unsavory power grab games are played.
You wonder do these people see the Al Gores who walk away from election outcomes they could have contested, when they diminish their country after so many years in power. The incumbent vice-President with a majority of the popular vote and a questionable Florida count that affected the electoral college, walked quietly.
I believe a number of things are important to save us all this global humiliation. First we must make power so much less attractive that only people of capacity, chasing a place in history, should be attracted to the arena. This should mean stripping public office of the excesses of use public resources, the trappings of prestige, and the extent of discretion available to public office holders. It must also mean building up civil society to be strong in holding power accountable.
To make civil society a tool for institution building in reducing the motivation for desperation to hold onto power, it should have training on how to test the truth of claims by incumbents. Were such available to the despicable lies about accomplishments of incumbents during the on-going campaigns would be put through a truth-o-meter which can lead to more care in claims. Watching the campaign adverts one would think Nigeria was one Eldorado in which all were cheering for more of what we have, something quite different from what the Legatum Reports suggests is one of the most miserable places to be born on earth and in which I have been getting less than four hours of public power a day for quite a while. But the media and the civil society continue to disappoint. As I write I am receiving calls on what civil society is being compromised with in Wadata House headquarters of the PDP.
I just have trouble understanding how we seem to be able to live with this world of justifying the lie.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist, and Social Entrepreneur is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership

Unspoken Conspiracy Against Free Speech

I got a birthday present recently. It was both unique and peculiar on one hand, but on the other, was dejavu, journey down a familiar road. In its essence it showed how a mute conspiracy crushes free speech in Nigeria more ferociously than terrorists killing editors of Charlie Hebdo, yet no one says Je suis Nigerienne. What makes it even more sad is that the conspirators in the Nigerian case are not misguided anarchists like the terrorists, but do include corporate Nigeria, supposedly enlightened government officials and educated bureaucrats. Even institutions and multilaterals seem to be sucked into this conspiracy, sometimes unwittingly.

The gift came from a call from the World Bank, a leader from which a keynote address was to come at the annual meeting of the Center for Values in Leadership (CVL) the annual lecture. Hours after receipt of the presentation and conclusion of travel and hotel arrangements for the World Bank Representative an apology call came. The problem was politics. Even though the organizer was an NGO and that the lecture from 2014 was given by the Minister of Agriculture to the acclaim of thousands of viewers in halls across the country, with Google hangouts and live television coverage. Then there was nothing political to it. But a week before the 2015 lecture, staying with the same theme of leadership and poverty but, this time, with emphasis on the ultra-poor, I had written a reaction to a debate stirred by former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Chukwuma Soludo who had problems with how the economy was being managed. Even though World Bank Insiders were kind enough to say my Intervention was balanced and thoughtful, it was enough to be political that I mentioned I was a card carrying member of the APC.

My experience suggests that if I had said I was a card carrying member of the P DP there would be no consequence. The bottom line is that this CVL lecture, held on my birthday, was okay as long as it was about cheerleading the party in power. It was not the first time the annual programme was experiencing this manner of subtle gagging. Add that to my experience producing Patito’s Gang and reactions to my business and economic interests from column writing, and you see a pattern of threatening free speech.

A few years ago CVL established a partnership with the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs for the purpose of these annual lectures aimed at setting agenda for confronting a social challenge and providing Young professionals who are leader wannabes on where and how to develop a sense of service. When Professor Joy Ogwu who established the partnership moved on, the new Director-General was advised that I had become politically active and so it would be inappropriate to hold those colloquiums at the NIIA. Another D-G would reverse that a few years later but those kinds of experiences are symptomatic of an assault on a fundamental human right, and a major key to democratic society and human advance from freedom of expression.

The mortgage of free speech is best seen in the Patito’s Gang story which shows how corporate Nigeria, the powerful who profit from the extant order, and public officials who hate to account to stakeholders, detest freedom of expression. The extent of the hypocrisy and quiet conspiracy against voices not cheering of the current order first struck me early in life of Patito’s Gang in 2000.

A good friend who was Chief Executive of a bank called to express his excitement at both the production quality and content. When I saw how pleased he was with it I told him we would be looking forward to advertising support from the bank. He was honest enough and gracious enough to observe that the programme made more than fair effort to speak truth to power and that meant power could see advertisement from a company as supporting discomfiture for power. He would therefore rather that we let him know any day we would discuss sports. He was prepared to pay twice as much for such an episode. The outcome was that for more than a decade a good part of my personal income amounting to tens of millions of Naira, a year, went into producing episodes of the TV series and paying multiple networks to air the episodes. Nigeria has a peculiar TV broadcast model where content poor stations instead of paying producers for content, charge them for airing the show.
At some point, a good #450 million, mainly income from my consulting and corporate Governance role incomes had gone in there.
All the traditional reasons for advertising platforms such as reach, passion of the viewers, etc seemed not to matter. But I deliberately decided to deny myself much to keep the programme on air as it clearly advanced the common good.

To be sure that it was not set up as opposition to power, efforts were made to ensure a spectrum of opinion, for and against, were available on the show. The only requirement was uninhibited free speech that did not label or scandalize anyone but sort to hold power accountable by brining sunlight into the public choice process.

At the risk of becoming bankrupt I stopped the production of Patito’s Gang after more than 500 episodes in ten and half years. The whys were so loud that 9 months later I resumed production. This I was determined not to pay for airtime after spend so much in producing the show. If the outflows from my pocket were the only source of assault in free speech. I experienced, it would not be so bad. Many times executives of parastatals that I offered professional services as a management consultant would rather say they could not keep our services because someone on Patito’s Gang spoke critically about the government, or delay our due payments for months if not years to frustrate us. For a good quarter century I have struggled to step aside being economic hostage with business interests threatened because of commitment to free speech and refusal to be bought into silence. It cannot continue.

How does a country make progress that will reduce poverty if even the mare modest voices are found so offensive that the only voices are those of power and those determined to fight power on reasoned or unreasonable terms.
What has emerged in Nigeria is a new dangerous mercantilism in which business interests in collaboration with partners in power act to squelch thought.

To save Nigeria, it is important to strip the veil on this persistent but subtle war against free speech in Nigeria which pushes people who question the order as unjust, turn insurgency.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of entrepreneurship, founder of the Center for Values in Leadership

LESSONS LOST: CAMPAIGNS, IDEAS AND PROGRESS

An anecdotal reference in widespread use in Western Democracies is that opposition do not win elections, incumbent governments tend to lose them. There is so much evidence of this in the run up to the 2015 elections in Nigeria but what is more sad is that the country as a whole has not done enough to extract the profits that come from election campaigns, the learning on how to do things, differently, for the advance of the good of all.
May be this is because we are having, for the first time in our post military rule history, a real contest between political parties; than between a vehicle, the rent-seeking elite have opted to use to accommodate each other in the sharing among them that which is the commonwealth, and weak other groupings that are opposition political parties. To bring about this moment has been the reason I have stayed in opposition politics though personal goals could have been served by my network in the dominant party.
Lessons from the first real political parties march up since Chukwumah Kaduna Nzeegwu and his colleagues disrupted the flow of things in January 1966, would be so disorienting for many of the players on the pitch that we not only had strange role reversals, desperation beyond belief, that lowered the process from, issues on how society should travel, to the trading of personal insults, and very importantly, the failure to bring out points we should apply in making life better no matter the winner.
Let’s begin with the losses from not having a civil conversation as part of the elections campaign process. Taking to name-calling, mudslinging and irrelevances like certificates take away from the open mind to learn, but also pollutes the environment in which all the former partisans would require to work together after the elections to build a nation that belongs to all, and makes progress as desired.
One of the reasons I jumped to respond to the Soludo criticism of the policies on the economy offered by the campaign was that it highlighted a matter I had become frustrated about, the Failure to generate issues on critical areas of our national life, in the way the campaign had slipped from being a discussion of the record of the incumbents, and the alternative vision of opposition candidates. Among the issues I had in mind that could have been in focus were commodity booms, something Botswana does well, could save us, in 2015, from the mistake of 1982, from a tradition we seem to share with Venezuela. Just as we had in 1983/84, Venezuela is already having chqueues for the supermarket items as we had in the early 1980s, the so called Essential Commodities (Essenco) lines that resulted in our establishing the Nigerian National Supply Company to import things like Milk, Sugar and Salt which had disappeared from supermarket shelves.
The second part of that is unrealistically propping up the exchange rate when yesterday’s errors suggest we should allow it find its level if worse slides are not to flow after reality that we do not have enough to continue defending it. On that we find an insight into why Russia let the Rubble go into free fall when Oil Prices dropped dramatically. To prop it up, without the props of Reserves, surely would negate learning from 1982 that was rescued by SAP, with an initial massive devaluation. I also felt that we could have done well to learn from the fact Nigeria did well during the 2008 global financial crisis because of the savings we had accumulated and could have come away almost unscathed until failure to take property rights seriously resulted in the abuses of the so called stress tests and banking reforms, led to self inflicted damage. Same criticism can go to both the Soludo and Lamido Sanusi reforms.
I had hoped that serious conversation on policy choice which could throw up the Oil price decline as opportunity rather than threat that would help us establish a few factor endowments that are regionally dispersed that could be focus of a passionate drive to become globally dominant on their value chains. That, for me, is the heart of the way forward in reducing unemployment, creating wealth, and building global respectability for Nigeria.
Another great missed opportunity was using the campaigns to restore faith in the simple life, thereby saving the taxpayer a fortune in abusive use of public resources in maintaining lifestyles of public officers who become parasitic on the state. Where Presidents of countries several times more well off than Nigeria travel business class on commercial flights, as a Nigerian lawyer Boma Ozobia found Thabo Mbeki doing, the Nigerian Presidency has a significant fleet of modern jets, and is planning to buy more, and senior civil servants and ministers fill the first class cabins of foreign airlines.
Shall we not now be able to show to our potential leaders that the influence of John Locke and his thoughts on the state and property rights is one of the reasons the United States is as prosperous today as it is, compared to its old Latin American peers, because our elections failed to be issue based.
Sadly it seems that the high road on issues was given the dodge when the President Kicked off his campaign in Lagos giving signals the PDP felt badly threatened. Some speculate that it was outcome of the expectation that APC anticipated descent into fractiousness following presidential primaries, failed to materialize. Once name calling became the game the downward slide gained momentum. But I am persuaded we can change the course being navigated. What is at stake is bigger than all running for office. Nigeria and the future of the children must be top priority and if we fail to learn then we are truly learning to fail; and that is not an option.
When I think of how much that needs to be done, like educating on how to reduce the grave damage being done to the environment, and values, by the stealing of crude, I am pained the campaigns have failed to bring attention to such issues.
You can add to these issues like people having no work but politics and how such make the arena of politics do or die, or prevent those around power from speaking truth to power, lest they lose their livelihood; and the benefits of a citizen legislature, because they allow those who make laws stay in their communities and place of work, so they can draw from daily experience to legislate for good order rather than be removed from reality into an ivory tower in Abuja or state capitals.
I have to admit that even I never anticipated the campaigns of 2015 could get so sore. I thought that with nearly six years under the belt of the incumbent top gun he would be very relaxed and constantly asking himself: What can I do to get on the good side of history. My real fear was that the opposition, which I was not sure how it would shape up. I thought it could be the real source of desperation, so I was anxious about who would be the candidate of the opposition. When early in the day it seemed the front runners were the urbane, truly Nigerian Atiku Abubakar, with roots in communities across the land, and a man who had to be put under pressure to abandon his decision to give up on running General Mohammadu Buhari, I became more relaxed. I started to hope for a contest that would be rich in helping Nigerian realize the object of citizenship. Somehow something went wrong and we lost a chance in a life time to build the institution of the electoral process. But I continue to be optimistic that we may wake up to a renewal of hope on all sides about quality conversation from the different prisms we see how to construct a greater society without diminishing each other, and finding on that journey, common ground that is a better way for society while respectful of the dignity of the human person.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.

UTOMI: HOW TO SUSTAIN RELEVANCE FOR 40 YEARS AND COUNTING

In the 40 years since Professor Pat Okedinachi Utomi’s University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) days, he has remained consistently relevant, even as many have risen, fallen and disappeared. On the thrust of Nigeria’s foreign policy, he first attained national prominence as a 19 year-old student leader; and, as 21-year-old Youth Corps member, his views were an issue in matters that forced a cabinet reshuffle. As he turns 59 this Friday (February 6), few would consider a discussion of the Nigerian condition complete or serious without his input. In this interview with MARCEL MBAMALU, Prof Utomi, among other things, gives an insight into his socio-economic life and factors that really shaped his destiny.

Congrats as you turn 59 this week; what does it really take to be as consistent and relevant as you have been?

TO suggest I have the answer to that is to give me more credit than I deserve. But I think I can suggest a few influences on my choices. I agree with the JK Rowling quote in Harry Porter that we are the choices we make. I have made lots of choices — some good, some awful and some so-so. The greater personal good has generally been served by creating a compass — a set of principles that make choice easier. I have also profited from being open to learning and the very firm belief that man was created as gift one to the other; and that the greater self interest is found in the common good of all.

In holding unto these from quite early in life, I have found very critical to this pathway a gift of the spirit of contentment, and some effort at self discipline. How I wish I could be even more disciplined in pursuit of self-mastery.

On pursuing principle-centered being, or existence, I give much credit to books and people like the late Stephen R. Covey. Once I learnt to begin with the end in mind, I could build a set of principles drawn largely from faith and study. Among the anchors of these principles have been the centrality of the dignity of the human person.

My purpose, I affirm, is to be a co-creator with God; advancing creation, supporting and never detracting from the inalienable dignity of every human person. From this flows a respect for the freedom of all. This means for me the importance of social justice, universal access to opportunity in a world of merit, but which sees justice in a safety net to protect the weak and socially challenged.

Work is one way God has given us a track to elevating our dignity; the first duty of a social contract with a Leviathan in society, government, beyond security of life and property, is the provision of opportunity to work. Creative thinking about how to provide man work, especially motivating many on how best to create value and the work it generates has therefore been central to my path.

This is the very philosophical underpinning of my life’s work as a Business Angel, being in the starting of so many enterprises.

In my work as an academic and in public policy practice, I can track the effect of these principles in the choices I have struggled to make. I was one of those to argue from about 1982 that the thrust of economic policy in the emerging oil economy was leading Nigeria away from progress. I argued early for a shift away from import substitution and the Prebisch thesis and applauded ideas of the Open Economy advanced by people like the late Rudigar Dombusch at MIT.

I saw Nigeria begin to make more reasonable policy choices after people like Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu and I had been called all kinds of names. But I would also be one of the earliest to note that policy was not enough. Progress was increasingly a function of a variety of interdependent variables.

Looming remarkably large as keys, were institutions and culture. If you look at almost everything I have done in the last 20 years, you will see a passionate effort to contribute to building institutions or shaping the values of the society. In quite a few of those my personal material interest have been hurt or diminished by such choices. Had I not these sets of principles guiding me, it would have been easy to step away from such.

An example laced with much irony, in that regard, is the TV series, PATITO’S GANG. I had spent a good deal of time late in 1998, along with Ayo Teriba, Ifueko Omogui and others, in almost daily meetings with candidate Olusegun Obasanjo, developing policy and coaching the candidate. It was sometimes at great personal risk, because, as I recall clearly, two days before Christmas, my drivers had gone off and I drove myself to Otta on what was to be a quick afternoon return trip. I found myself driving back after 10pm. I justified all the trouble to the retired officer friend who had made the case that it was better to shape Gen Obasanjo’s thinking then than to analyse regrets when he goes the wrong way in office. In the end, the quality of public discussion of visions of society being laid down in 1999 was so pathetic, I thought I had a duty to create a platform that would both hold public office to account and enlighten the public on matters of public policy.

Given the nature of public disposition to commercial support of titillating public affairs programmes, Patito’s Gang would be perhaps the single biggest drain on my finances. After a decade of tens of millions of Naira, being channeled into the programme, I decided to stop. I was shocked by the number of people who stopped me to question, why. I had to ask that production resumes. Had the bigger objective of the market place of ideas not been based on principles, I could very much quickly have succumbed to short-term self interest.

People, who flip-flop in the face of opportunity of a platform like that to feather their own nest do that sometimes because they have lost so much and then say why should I not think of myself. Before they realise it, they have become so compromised that their moral value is not zero, but negative.

People in power toast them but detest them as do citizens. I am created no better than those, but because the principles were clear from get-go, the compass steady and Grace supported by the gift of contentment there, I have been fortunate to stay with the path I chose. I can point to a few friends in public life who started out really good and well-meaning but the pressure to pay school fees for children and live as people expect, forced them into compromises that diminished them. Staying with principles can also be seen in my politics.

It is this same logic that has in partisan political engagement been associated with trying to build a strong opposition when, as Chief Ojo Maduekwe once pointed out on live national television, he could have given me any ticket I wanted; he could not understand with people like himself as secretary of the PDP, I should be in opposition with little chance. I dared even suggest, above him, including several of the PDP chairmen, were friends and admirers, who could have, in his words ‘literally given me any ticket I wanted. But as I said at that Nigeria centennial panel, of the NIALS, a little uncharitably, I have to confess, how would I feel in my grave if my great grand children sat together wondering what their forefather was doing among that kind of people in PDP at that time.

But more importantly for me, the PDP was far too dominant a party at the time and my duty to a better democratic order superseded whatever personal position I could desire. Helping build a viable opposition was a higher value and more closely aligned to the principles I chose.

On the second track, I have found embracing life-long learning very helpful. This was helped by an early discovery of the benefit of befriending older deep thinkers. I was gifted straight out of Graduate school with what could be the cheapest of post-doctoral programmes in town, “friendship ‘with the late Dr. Pius Okigbo and Ajie Ukpabi Asika. Through the early and mid 1980’s I would visit several times a week each of these two extraordinary men. One, one of Nigeria’s finest Economists, the other, a fantastic political scientist, and both men were experienced beyond academia, in praxis. Every visit I would ask one question and get hours of ‘free’ lectures. With Ukpabi Asika, you travelled from Aristotle, through the philosophers of the Enlightenment, to the Nigerian Civil War, on one question. From Okigbo who was Economic Adviser to Nigeria’s first Prime Minister came boxes of anecdotes on Economic Policy choices from Raul Prebisch to the nature of debates at the National Economic Council.

These continue to animate my classes till date, but very importantly enlightened the choices I would make, faced between what is populist and what endures. The values of contentment and deep care for man in society make it easy for me to often look foolish only to be vindicated with time.

The Centre for Values in Leadership is obviously critical to your legacy. Why is this so?

As I have said several times, I came many years ago to the conclusion that part of the trouble with Nigeria is how we talk and do nothing about the platitudes we mouth. I decided that if I talked strongly enough about anything I should make a good effort to change things.

When I concluded that the denominators of human progress were values, institutions, policy choices, human capital development and leadership, I began to deploy what talent and energies I was gifted with to make some difference in each of those arena.

Clearly central to these drivers is culture. Values, indeed, shape human progress and the path to enthroning the values that advance man’s place as co-creator with God, is in the values leaders live, and witness to. Acknowledging, as Warren Bennis, that leaders are not born but can be groomed, the Centre for Values in Leadership was aimed at developing in young leaders a passion for the values that make for progress. To train people of character, competence, and commitment to know the values that drive progress and embed them in culture by their action, has been central to the CVL essence and what I like to hope will be my legacy. Not only did this become part of the core of CVL and the effort using programmes of personal example and teaching, it also became a personal mantra for change.

With institution building, my personal effort is rooted in work in civil society as institutions typically evolve from the contentions of engaged stakeholders. On human capital development I have, of course, strived to contribute with the bulk of work as an academic, in the ground-breaking work at the Lagos Business School as leading faculty after years in industry. I have also struggled to give of myself in service on the council of such universities as the AUN, Yola and the Ekiti State University. I have also worked with the University of Ibadan in setting initiatives on Entrepreneurship and encouraging students of Economics at Unilag. This is besides frequent lectures in universities across the country.

It is unusual that one has played around all of the pillars of human progress, but my role as a Business Angel and an itinerant entrepreneur and social entrepreneur has in some ways allowed me to affect both venturing and influence on policy choice process as advisor to policy makers and activist columnist and commentator on policy matters.

One of the things said to your credit is that you have stayed consistent these 40 years, something that cannot be said for many who came up with you. Does faith have a role here?

I presume so. One thing Faith does for you is that it raises the important question of ‘why am I here’. ‘That usually goes with’ where did I come from’ and ‘where am I going’. It helps you do what Stephen Covey reinforced in me then about what is value. Faith and faith-based education have helped me with fortitude and perseverance. On quite a few occasions when I am giving away my last N10,000 to someone who evidently needs it more, but who thinks I am giving a drop from my abundance, but does not know that I could have less than N2,000 in my pocket after, I recognise that my grace could make me act that way. The consequence is that management in Faith’s view helps with living integrity.

I have profited from Faith. It is also Faith and the understanding of our transcendence to a greater purpose of being that keeps us going. A purpose driven life cannot be well lived outside of a purpose beyond self, which the gift of Faith helps us aspire.

Can we be optimistic about the future in Nigeria in the light of experience these last 40 years?

Even here Faith matters. Faith leads us in hope. But beyond being a creature of hope, there are plenty of reasons to be upbeat about the future if we do that which is right. But it helps to begin with the whys and hows of how we got here.

As education and health care are so important for progress, I constantly look at where we were on those longitudes. Iconic, as a measure, remains the Ashby Commission’s view of higher education in Nigeria in 1961, as being as good as the best in the world. The Oxford educator is noted to have said it was easier to get into Harvard in 1962 than UI.

But as Prof. Akinkugbe remarked after my convocation lecture at UNAB a few years ago, he ran into Eric Ashby in the UK, just before his death and Ashby regretted that Nigeria had failed to follow the plan. Today few compare the quality of higher education in Nigeria with the best in the world. Even though some private universities are raising the bar once again the road south has been painful.

With healthcare, the fact that UCH was once ranked the second best Teaching Hospital in the Commonwealth, corroborates anecdotal reference to a remark by one of the proprietors of the Saudi Hospital where President Yaradua was being treated. He had remarked to one of the Nigerians that nearly 50 years earlier, he had a heart condition and had recommendations to the University of London Hospital and UCH, Ibadan, as among the best. Wanting to be closer to warm climate and a place with Muslims, he chose Ibadan and got healed there.

He felt shame that so many years after, the President of the country where UCH was located would come to the hospital he founded after his UCH experience.

In spite of these failings, a commitment by a leadership elite to drive up the growth drivers we have pointed out, will ride the youth bulge to yield the demographic dividend.

How much do relationships matter in the achievement of success?

Relationships matter a lot. Finding them, nurturing them and managing them make a difference. Relationships from marriage, family, colleagues are major determinants of balance that gives you the peace of mind to focus on what matters and have work/life balance. But there are times that the view of relationships in Nigeria is about being wired-in, networked, or well-connected to the powerful. I am a mixer and function with the same ease as I relate to the socio-economically challenged. Naturally, the issue and means differ, but the central point remains a duty of care, respect for their dignity as persons and in justice to our shared human heritage.

I have been lucky. I have lived to see people I have regard for those who say kind things to me and of me. Each time I meet Alhaji Maitama Sule, or hear what Chief Olu Akinkugbe, Dr Michael Omolayole and some others say generous things of me, I am thankful for God’s mercy.

I met Gen. Joseph Garba as a 19-year old when he was Foreign Minister and remained a friend till he passed away. As a graduate student at 24, I met General Gowon and still enjoy his friendship. Some figures have been more challenging. As a youth Corper, I was interested in investigative Journalism; I disconcerted the Obasanjo Government in 1977 with my writings. When he was in prison awaiting a death sentence from the Abacha regime, I went to war on his behalf. I still recall Alhaji Ahmed Joda visiting my home to urge me to journey to US and get some of my friends to pressure the Abacha regime. I did, at my cost, calling on friends in academia who had a voice in policy circles in Washington, and on then Assistant Secretary of State for International organisations, who had previously served as Ambassador to Nigeria, to get Washington to do something. I did the same with contacts in London.

In the days, years later, I spent working with Presidential candidate Obasanjo on policy, and even at the Gateway Hotel Summit of (October 1) which held two days before in 1998, when he joined a table I sat on with Olisa Agbakoba, Bilikisu Yusuf and one or two younger people from that gathering of generally much older national leaders, I never thought to say to him; ‘you know we did this for your sake.’ I thought it was duty to seek justice. He, on the other hand, said to us his biggest mistake first time around was that he did not find and build up people like us to take the mantle of leadership.

When I was persuaded to work with him on policy in the run up to the 1999 elections, it turned out to be more sacrificial than I imagined. The example I cited earlier should suffice. Still when Obasanjo proved quite uncharitable to me on account of issues of free speech like Patito’s Gang and my friendship with then Lagos State Governor, Tinubu, I was sure enough of my motivation not to get judgmental. I say this particularly because many who read my response to his latest book thought I should have described him as a shameless dishonorable man who should be given the cold treatment by all decent people.

My experience is that the more charitable you are to someone who lacks in charity, you not only rise in the discovery of who you are, but you are also (actually) throwing a life jacket to the uncharitable other. Drawing from my Obasanjo relationship; after he was elected in 1999 and began the romance with gossips related to Patito’s Gang and my political affiliation, I simply paid no attention. When, as he travelled all over the place, rather than run Nigeria, as he coveted a Noble Peace Prize, his government was perceived as rudderless by October 1999, he sent for me.

A natural disposition would be to disregard his invitation. I did think of that, I must admit. But a deeper charity made me accept. It turned out to be invitation to a dinner with his top team, including the VP, Finance Minister, SGF, Chief Economic Adviser etc. He then advertised to them how he had worked with me on economic policy. So, why were they not getting it right, he asked me. I gave my opinion, mindful that the goal may have been to get me to indict those around the dinner table. He then asked that we work with the Chief Economic Adviser to produce a policy document. I had to stay back a few days to get that done. Never heard anything about the effort until I was in London in February 2000 and the High Commissioner, Justice Bola Ajibola, invited me to dinner. He gave a government policy document that had been published. When I read it, the very first paragraph sounded like my English.

By the third sentence, I had full sentences you could find in my previous writings. That’s how I realised the government had published the policy document we worked on without even sending me a copy, not to mention acknowledging the contribution. But I chose not think of it as ingratitude. Today, everywhere I go, Gen. As education and health care are so important for progress, I constantly look at where we were on those longitudes. Iconic, as a measure, remains the Ashby Commission’s view of higher education in Nigeria in 1961, as being as good as the best in the world. The Oxford educator is noted to have said it was easier to get into Harvard in 1962 than UI.

Obasanjo is primarily seen as an ungrateful person who has harmed those who have helped him. Keeping a quiet distance seems to have served me well.

What are your personal life goals and how fulfilled do you feel relative to those finding peace and joy in family life?

The desire for the simple life; the quest to collaborate with others to move creation towards its perfection and the attainment of the two immortalities are central to my goals.

I had, in a MR. Magazine interview in 1991, made the point that the essence of being is the pursuit of immortality.

These, I suggest, can come in terms of remembrance of how you affected your world long after you are gone. Your conduct, in touching lives, and in the words of wisdom left in words printed, tend to be more what gets you what I call material immortality. Spiritual immortality is the claiming of the promise to see God face to face.

People look at you and assume you got most things right. What are your biggest mistakes?

Of course, I have failed at many things. I have probably failed more often than I have succeeded. My attitude is that failure is learning; and I try to optimise on the return on experience. I have helped start many businesses, then been disappointed by the ethical course of the partners and pulled back. Some have gone on to make fortunes without me and some have flunked because I pulled out. In private life I have also had errors of judgment, thinking of some people whose motive was just to use me as loving me beyond comprehension. You win some; you lose some. But, in all things, I give God thanks.

I have entered public life and sought elected office. I am grateful whenever I come into a group where Lagos State Emeritus Governor, Tinubu is talking and he gives my effort credit for the emergence of the APC. I thought, as institution building goes, Nigeria needed a strong opposition and feel triumphant in looking at this year’s elections. But I have disdain for getting the right thing the wrong way. For this the electoral process has not served well my intention to show example in practice of good governance.

The desperation we have seen by many candidates this year shows that the motives should be questioned. Who kills to serve others? If it is that there is the big idea that the future hangs on and someone is fighting to make sure the forces of evil are not able to stop it that is understandable. Many of the desperate candidates have nothing to offer and have already spent so much time milking the system from one appointment to the other, yet they are desperate enough to risk the nation and the future of their children with their desperation.
Pat Utomi

ON SOLUDO, BUHARI, JONATHAN AND THE ELECTIONS

ON SOLUDO, BUHARI, JONATHAN AND THE ELECTIONS

The firestorm generated by Chukwuma Soludo’s well reasoned commentary on the place of issues in the 2015 electioneering campaign has somehow become the core of the campaign. What a way to come from outside and define agenda.
Of course I do not agree with all the points marshaled by the erstwhile CBN Governor and Patito’s Gang member, but not to commend his citizen duty of engagement or indicate as reprehensible the resort to ad hominen bashing of the former Economic Adviser instead of providing Facts to counter the views he had raised. That is issues based campaign. I will myself raise logic to support and dispute some of the points in the Soludo intervention.
I do agree with Soludo that issues matter. I also think that those who turn to divisive emotion-laden typecasting of others rather than issues pertaining to the well being of the Nigerian people do a grave disservice not only to democracy but to the long term common Good of all.
The Soludo thrust of criticism sounds like an attack on the statist perspective that intervention can generate jobs and economic growth. Even as one who likes to see government out of the way, I find the approach worrying because beyond the Keynesian logic that brought the ultimate capitalist state, the US, out of the Great Depression with initiatives like the Tennessee Valley Authority in Infrastructure, there is more recent example of post 2008 global financial crisis and the stimulus packages of the Obama Administration, and now Europe turning to Quantitative Easing, not to knock the wall street / Main street tag team approach to ensuring prosperity. Soludo’s solutions sometimes sounded like Deepak Lal on the poverty of Development Economics. I think that if we see current oil price slum as an opportunity rather than a threat then we have to see a role for government in the way Lee Kuan Yew used state intervention when Singapore was prostrate in 1965, as Nigeria is today.

This leads to another point I am not in agreement with Soludo on. He talks about cost of programmes and the fact that low oil prices mean you cannot finance a big idea. In 1965 Singapore’s main revenues came from rent for the British Naval Base and the British had decided to shut all bases east of Eden. The decision of leaders of the United Malay, National Organisational (UMNO) to eject Singapore from the Federation that was thought to be the only hope left. Singapore, out of pocket, and all dressed up with nowhere to go. Then they rolled up their sleeves, got creative, transmitted the right values and found leadership that inspired and had integrity. Today the small country probably has the largest concentration of billionaires per capital on earth.
Here in Nigeria, shortly after self government, in the 1950’s, Nnamdi Azikiwe as Premier of Eastern Region was anxious to match the free education policy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Palm Produce did not fetch as much as Cocoa in the Market. The civil servants led by the new Permanent Secretary in Finance, Chief Jerome Udoji thought it could not be done because of limitations of money. Zik insisted and accused Udoji, in Parliament, of trying to sabotage his government. After 40 percent of the Eastern Nigeria budget of 1957 had gone to education and was still inadequate, the Ugoji team suggested the introduction of fees for Primary 1 and Primary 5. But leadership kicked in. A philosophy called “Ibu anyi danda” raised a formula that created a partnership between government, the communities and missionaries that enabled the East leapfrog the gap in education between the East and West.

In both cases the difference was leadership. At the centre in Abuja for some reason that may be from exposure, or whatever, does not inspire as Lee Kuan Yew, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Okpara did. Money is not everything in making dreams come through.
Among the many lessons we will learn, if we begin to operationalize the cash transfers initiative of APC, a concept that helped Inatio Da Silva pull Brazil out of ‘potential’ into a global economic powerhouse, is that we may not need as much cash as Soludo projects and that corruption and goal displacement is so high in a bloated public service that the savings will more than be adequate. Besides from Kayode Fayemi and Rauf Aregbesola we learn that with such programmes in Ekiti and Osun that the numbers projected are often exaggerated. Given our abuse of census we are likely to find much fewer people in those brackets. Check with the Bill Gates Foundation on satellite imagery studies of target population groups.

Having stated my major point of disagreement, it is useful to reflect on some other points raised by Soludo.

His broadside on austerity measures pronouncement and the road to austerity is a true, fair and proper read. No question that we walked with our eyes open into a repeat of 1982. In many of my speeches and my 2006 book WHY NATIONS Are Poor, I recall how the Iranian revolution pushed oil prices into the stratosphere of USD 40 a barrel. We went reckless with champagne and even importing sand and big men bought Rolls Royces. We managed to borrow ourselves into a dept trap. On this round we moved up private jets and buying up Dubai.

When this current boom started with India Rising and China producing I recall on several occasions calling for fiscal responsibility compact in which flows into the distributable pool, the FAC account, not go above $40 a barrel, with additional revenues up to $70 a barrel price going to a stabilization fund. This fund would be available were prices to drop below $40 to be used to ensure a constant budget funding up $40 in lean times. Beyond $70 it should flow into a future fund. I have been singing this song for several years but the technocrats say the politicians insist on sharing the whole money and say of talk about saving for a rainy day that it is pointless planning for the rain when it was already pouring torrents. My retort was what is so wrong in resigning to make a point and force public conversation to educate the people because these politicians may be greedy but they surely do not hate their children. They have only acted in ignorance. I point them to young Mahathir Mohammed in Malaysia who disagreed with the position of the then Prime Minister and spoke up. He was dropped from the government where he was a junior minister, and expelled from The United Malay National Organization (UMNO) the dominant party at that time. Out of government he wrote a book: The Malay Dilemma. That triggered soul searching that finished with the resignation of the Prime Minister. He was brought back into the Party. Not long after Dr Mahathir Ibn Mohammed became Prime Minister and the history of Malaysia changed for good.
What does it take to lead such change- Genius? No. I draw from the Ronald Reagan experience in the US. President Reagan was not a genius. Some think he probably already had Alzheimer disease when he entered the White house. But his values were clear as was his vision. He found the right people and an America, in retreat, was revitalized, opening the way for teen and twenty American young stars to create a new industry with the .com revolution. Ironically, I have said elsewhere that the Buhari movement somehow reminds me of the coming of Ronald Reagan.
Let me close with a caveat. My response is a citizen response. My prism on this is not partisan. But I am a card carrying member of the APC. The emergence of the APC is a culmination of my life’s quest as an institutionalist to see the dynamic of two balanced political parties. I was sure that without competition between parties that are equals progress would continue to elude Nigeria So I longed for and worked for the scenario we have today. But I see in the torrent of abuse on Chukwumah Soludo for speaking truth to power and worry this thing we have worked hard for, not in any pursuit of any self interest, but for the advance of the common good, could be threatened by those who fail to understand the very idea of the public squares and the triumph of the ideas rather than emotional outbursts that result in tension and violence. I have read unprintable things on line and in so many e-groups, some more offensive than Charlie Hebdo cartoons from both sides. This is poison we must curb. It is a double blow when those who follow this track are well educated. So let us leave this business of certificates and uncompleted PHDs and hateful portrayals of opponents in caricature from the cross to throw backs of earlier life of candidates that seem like Hitler’s Goebbels at work let’s examine vision of society of challenges and the record of incumbents. Lets ask people, regarding incumbents, is your life better today than it was four years ago and to the challengers how can you make these same lives much better four years from now. To win elections from intimidation, a shower of insults and trying to diminish opponents rather than engage their minds can only produce pyrrhic victory. The worst such “victory” would be to win an election and lose a nation through bitterness that makes it difficult to get people to work together to advance the shared good of the people. For people like me the public sphere is about the pursuit of the elevated immortality. This comes when you do what is right and if providence beckons, as it did for Mahathir Mohammed, lee Kuan Yew and Ronald Reagan then you live a name that time cannot find an eraser to rub off. Those who negate the opportunity for progress to blossom and the triumph of the human spirit to bring progress deserved die a thousand times while they still inhale and exhale no matter the title they get for their place is in infamy.

PROFESSIONALISM AND THE FRUIT OF CONVERGENCE

One of the great advances of communication technology in the age of modernity arrived our shores in 1959. With the founding of WNTV, in Ibadan, television arrived the continent of Africa.

As a young person going to secondary school in Ibadan at Loyola college, the lines: WNTV: – First in Africa, was a familiar refrain. The technology and its content shaped our window on the world but not often have seen the professionals who brought us the world to us, honored duly. More importantly, not so frequently have we managed to focus on their values, including work ethic and professionalism. These aspects of the make up of the leaders of the broadcasting industry have had to include the fact that change in the technology and what is considered appropriate content have come at a revolutionary pace.

Today we deal with the fusing of three once distinct streams of technology. Telecommunications,Computing and Broadcasting. The coming of ICT means that television which many young middle class Nigerians gathered around the window of more fortunate neighbor in 1962 to watch in black and white is available on a mobile phone in the go in high definition colour. From series like Bonanza and Newsreels we have the globe and hundreds of channels in the palm of our hands.

Among the men who managed the evolution of this technology that communicated life changing messages with interesting perspectives in the engineering, content and audience engagement are two former Directors General of NTA, Engineers Vincent Maduka and ShyngleWigwe.

As CVLhonours these pioneer icons in the Leader Without Title tribute series, our colloquium draws on people who have picked up the mantle as engineers in broadcasting, managers and entrepreneurs of the broadcast medium, and reviewers of culture trends, to light a candle on how to extend the frontiers of this medium.

The tribe include Prof. OnwuchekwaJemie, John Momoh, LemiOlalemi, Sola Omole, and KunleOgunbayo. The learning from their perspectives will further enrich the young with garnishings from the values and leadership experience.

Particularly of interest is the fact that under the leadership of both our honorees a lot of unique quality content were created, a rush of creativity that seems to have petered out but which no doubt became the seed that has sprouted into Nollywood. We hope that the conversation today will drive us towards a body of ideas that can drive Nigeria’s place in the industry.

Pat Utomi
Founder/CVL

JE SUIS PATITO

It sure is a world of paradoxes. In Paris they tried to murder free speech and the world rose in a rhythm: Je suis Charlie. But in Baga, Damaturu etc. they continue to massacre a nation and even Abuja was deaf and dumb. In response Abuja went on the campaign trial and gave us another paradox.
The known Rose garden strategy of typical of American President was turned on its head in Nigeria, with the Villa becoming the chief campaign officer for the opponent. The campaign became so comical if I had the talent I would do a magazine mimicking Charlie Hebdo and maybe the world may have had a chant Je suis Patito.
What a time to be alive, in matters sad and in matters worth the memory. Faith came to earn a bad name in the targeting of both innocents and those who see the world through a different prism.
The clash of civilizations foreseen by Samuel Huntington, as Francis Fukuyama was proclaiming the end of history that has proven itself continuing, seems to have become a season of death. From Syria, through Iraq, to Mali and the North East of Nigeria, the new fundamentalist in Islam, has left a trail of death, bitterness and questions about our humanity. As the world struggles to separate Islam, a religion of peace and justice from those who preach an ideology of death with Islam as excuse, the focus has shifted to the way of containing the terror and the pain they unleash, and how to bandage the wounds and heal the sores of a world of harmony lost. But somehow we seem to be at loss on a strategy to engage on the matter.
To be fair, I know that there is work in the office of the National Security Adviser to construct a master plan for the economic regeneration of the North East, but the Villa seems so unsure of what to do there that the national leadership appears uninterested, detached and even lacking of human feeling regarding the deaths and disrupted lives that have come with the insurgency so that while French President Francois Hollende has visited the homes of the victims of the Paris Killings ours has not gone near the region.
It Abuja wants to boost the morale of the troops giving their lives to secure Nigeria’s sovereignty showing that a President who has a whole Army to protect him is scared of making some quick unannounced visit to a place that is not even the battle line is the wrong signaling. Understandably the foreign media has savaged the President on the matter. As if this is not bad enough the Presidency has chosen to deepen resentment towards the Villas handling of the matter by the President celebrating weddings of foster children in flamboyant manner as if all was well, cap this with campaigning of r reelection, as if nothing was wrong must have pissed off foreign media who know how President act in times for national emergency, deal with matters of local politics and election campaigns.
The way the Villa has come across in the handling of Boko Haram control of vast parts of the North East and the Killing of many innocents has been captured and reported by western media in a way that diminishes us all who are Nigerians. While we struggle with the shame this image brings, I have to admit that I am more fascinated by how this has featured in the campaigning of the Villa.
A president in a nation at war typically campaigns as a statesman above the frey, playing the commander-in-chief too busy trying to do what only C-in-Cs at war know well and understand. The Americans call it the Rose Garden strategy where the incumbent stays put in the white House, Making Presidential sounding statements from the Rose Garden.
What I have observed is the incumbent sounding like an angry challenger trying to attract attention while the APC candidate, Gen Mohammadu Buhari is sounding like the man in the Rose Garden. The paradoxes just seem unending.
As if this is not enough I had hoped for an issues based campaign, especially as the issues are all over the place. It would seem evidently that the man most on top of the issues is Prof Yemi Osinbajo. Even his principal who is playing the Rose Garden strategy seems clearer on his vision of the future than the incumbent seems willing, able or desirous of defending the record of his stewardship and offering a vision of new possibilities. I found that particular peculiar for a six year incumbent and I am not sure if it is the product of his being too angry with his opponents to articulate his position or something else.
But the issues pull at us from every angle. The economy is in free fall but the President persists in talking about having built the largest economy in Africa when the Legatum report places Nigeria a top the misery index, showing that our quality of life is not more likely a preferred one to one of Africa’s Desert Republics than in “Oil rich“ Nigeria. And this was before Oil prices crashed and our budget was instantly rendered unimplementable. Does it make sense to defend the Naira in the face of disappearing reserves and end up the way we did in 1982-84 resulting in the SAP tumble of the Naira in a way that devastated the newer investors, or should we, like the Russians have just let the Markets find their level?
Could we be debating how to make the current oil-price induced crises could be turned from a threat to a real opportunity to stimulate the spirit of enterprise and diversity the base of the economy away from this disturbing dependence on oil.
It somehow seems to mean that elements in the policy elite prefer to hope that they can soon return to the old ways as this may just be part of the old volatility of the Oil market rather than a structural shift in Oil economics. I disagree with them, which is why we need fundamental debates. I was hoping these campaign discussions would help orient the central Bank towards a more wise way of looking at the exchange rate crisis of now.
Two hours after the foregoing was written Breaking News came announcing that the President Goodluck Jonathan had made a surprise visit to Maiduguri. Amazing. Why did it take so long? Was it pummeling on CNN or desperation relative to election?
But his handlers did him a grave disservice not insisting ho do this a year ago, or at least within the week of the abduction of the Chibok girls. It also raised the issue of how much a Nigerian life is worth to Nigerian Leaders. In my view until the worth of a Nigerian life becomes the central issue in public life, affecting matters of economic choice and war and peace, our democracy will not be optimal in its outcome.
Later same evening CNN reports featured soldiers who said they had to buy their own kits and were not getting proper ammunition. They all blamed corruption. Let us assume they exaggerate. My hope is the lesson about how the culture of corruption is ultimately the death of us is learnt by a political culture that makes light of the subject. Maybe now we will realize the need to see corruption as a killer.

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