THE NATION OVER A GALLON ; A CITIZENS ODYSSEY

The price of Petrol goes up and gloves go off. When gloves go off name calling and the mudslinging on motives become fair game. But in Nigeria we do not have truth-o-meters or a media with the resources to reconstruct a history of characte r, so the narrative for the common good is often at the mercy of those who can shout the most or are the most angry. What history tells me is the most profitable outcome is not the most likely sum of such public conversation. I have the tragedy of Venezuela to point to as example. How do we then encourage Thought leadership that may help provide fruitful direction to engaging on matter of strategic significance for our children. But as I am in the US watching efforts to measure who lies more, uses near truths, between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump I think it fit to begin an investigation of motives with an excursion of an autobiographical nature.
I have on occasions spoken about a visit to Nigeria from my Graduate School days in the US 36 years ago. The Iranian revolution which toppled Shah Mohammed Rheza Pahlavi had pushed up Oil prices to then fantastically high rates of 40 dollars a barrel. At JFK Airport in New York I went into a Newsstand and saw something most unusual. Both Newsweek and Time magazine had the same words on their cover. It was so rare it attracted commentary. The words were: The world over a Barrel. Today in Nigeria it is over a gallon or liter of Petrol for an apparent beneficiary of a world over a barrel. But as Fareed Zakari in his GPS commentary on Venezuela pointed out, and a World Bank study of nearly 25 years ago show, that blessing can become a curse that leaves Venezuela on Essenco queues to buy basic essentials like milk, as we did in the early 80s in Nigeria,. Then there is their power supply, a curse of darkness even though they are atop one of the biggest Oil reserves in the world. Venezuela has been there several times even with their great crude endowments.
In 1980 I took a position when I arrived Nigeria and saw the foolish behavior encouraged by high Oil p rices.
It would be many years before a World bank study, dubbed the Resource Curse study made popular the position I formed in 1980 about natural resources and how to live with them. That study which showed that Resource Poor developing countries were doing much better than the ones with the resources to run away with progress left me with a deep sense of shame about elites that cannot do the needful and make sacrifice to build a nation their children can live in and celebrate the memory of their forbears. In three decades of active citizenship there has been hardly a shift in the essence, substance or even style in how the Nigerian experience has affected me.
Every time I have faced the fantastic poverty of the land, the fantastic corruption, and even more fantastic mocking of Nigeria by those who sowed the seeds of Nigeria’s failings and continue to profit from it as receivers of stolen goods, I simply see my 1980 views, expressed repeatedly and acted out in the opportunities of my life’s journey. Those views which drove me to the streets in 2012 still define how I see the troubles of now, all of which I genuinely believe are self inflicted. We cannot forever blame the British who fantastically sowed discord in the world and hypocritically blame the victim. How did others get away from that state. They tried to dress Mahathir Mohammed in robes of corruption but he brought all into the house so they can be pissing out, rather than stay out and piss in. Today its hard to mock Malaysia.
My disposition to holding self accountable, instead of blaming others, and preference for facing the future rather than looking back have not endeared my views to die in the wool partisans who fail to see the big picture. As we once again fail to see the promise of Nigeria being eaten away by bringing yesterdays quarrels as prisms through which we view existential issues of the moment I remind myself that the truth must be spoken as a citizen and not retreat from the public space as many do to avoid mud, and imputation of motives from being hauled at them by people who have not given deep enough thought to the issues.
So, to return to the crisis of the boom of 1979/80 when foolish choice became the norm in Nigeria’s policy arena, it led me to a passionate desire to come home and be a citizen. This was
why I left to come home the very day i submitted my PhD thesis in 1982. But the roots of karthasis moment in 1980 was from the year before.
In 1979 I was enrolled in an International Business Class in Bloomington . The Professor, Richard Farmer had a scenario on the Oil crisis. One of the scenarios saw US Marine cease Nigeria’s Oilfields, pump the stuff and deposit the money in the country’s account, if the Arabs were to cut off supplies and threaten America’s strategic needs. I was determined from that day to get Nigeria to diversify away from Oil. Critical to that was Good Governance producing what is now known as a developmental state. Transparency and low level corruption, entrepreneurship and active citizenship were in my view, as a 23 year old idealist back then, the way to the goal.
It was typical, in those days that if you were young, idealistic, and educated, especially in the social sciences, you had to be a socialist. I was outside the norm. Thanks to peculiar influence of American Catholic priests in Gusau, in the Northwest of Nigeria as young as I was, the social Doctrine of the Catholic Church was more an influence on me than Karl Marx.
It is no surprise that the first set of antagonists I faced on return in 1982 were Marxist academics who used to refer to me as a Bourgeoise Apologist. Their tactics would strengthen me and prepare me for shouting matches called public conversation.
The first challenge to my idea of citizenship was the typical ’what is he looking for’. That was how I found out that what I believed and still believe about the duty of all citizens to engage in the village square is not shared by all. A few months after I returned I was casually informed that President Shagari had approved for me to replace Prof . Odenigwe. I was quite stunned and asked Why. Two of the primary actors who also conveyed the message, then VP Dr Alex Ekwueme, and Mrs Omobola Olajide are around to corroborate.
I knew two people who were actively seeking the position. But after the coup I was determined that certain conditions would mark any involvement in public life again. But I would never give up on citizenship duty. Nigeria needed to have low corruption, if any; entrepreneurship had to be encouraged and diversification needed to be pursued. Any review of my life will show that the benefit of grace for contentment has enabled faithfulness to the pursuit of those ideals of what society should be.
This citizenship path was tested many times in the 1980s but it was on return to civil rule that commitment to citizenship reminded me of why progress has been slow in Nigeria and why Nigeria remains worth fighting for, and, if necessary, dying for.
I had been invited by Candidate Olusegun Obasanjo to lead a policy advisory team that met with him over many weeks. before the 1999 elections. Just after the elections the Government was perceived as sub optimizing. As citizen I did my bit to add my view on the direction we should travel. I was approached by at least three people who said the President was being brought gossip that I was a member of AD and unfriendly to the policy thrust of the President. One friend, the late Waziri Mohammed urged that I let the president who had been told my friendship with the Lagos state Governor was compelled to explain a few things to Waiziri. I assured him I was not a member of AD and that as a citizen I respond to an invitation by the Governor -elect in Lagos to be part of working groups for the transition and was honored to contribute to development effort in Lagos. I then told him I had no interest in explaining myself to General Obasanjo as I owed him nothing. I told him of how I used my private resources to travel to world capitals, at the urging of Alhaji Ahmed Joda to reach contacts to make a case for the release of General Obasanjo from Abacha prison.. I had done that as a citizen and in weeks of meeting with General Obasanjo to work on policy positions for the elections I did not even mention the efforts on his behalf. I had done that and spent much much valuable time and resources going up to Ota to provide briefing and work on policy as duty so I owed the President nothing. My debt and loyalty were to history.
The same Citizenship obligation put me on collisiocoursen with my Lagos and other client state national government with my calling for savings at a time of income boom. Evidently those gossiping to Obasanjo did not tell him that. But the spectacular decline of economic performance because we failed to save as Dr Okonjo Iweala acknowledges today vindicate that view offered as citizen whether it pleased the incumbent or not. To be fair when criticism of economic management rose in 1999 President Obansajo invited me to Dinner with his core team including the VP, Finance Minister SGF, and others to raise the issues. Improvements that followed shielded us from the 2008 global financial crisis. So it is never late to pull back and only speaking truth to power can make that happen. Interestingly the same principle guided the friendship that the gossips tried to warm into the then President with.
As citizen leading cabinet retreats I never
sent an invoice to the Lagos state government. I would lead a retreat for the cabinet this weekend and the following week earn 12 Million Naira for similar service from a corporate client. My liaison i Lagos state, Yemi Cardoso, who was commissioner for Budget and Planning had been Executive Director at a Bank that was one such client..
As General Obasajo was never asked a four by me I also never asked one of the Lagos State Governor.
Then come the big challenge of making our democracy work along the lines of the issues that captured me in 1980. Clear goals were to help build an opposition that could defeat an incumbent, diversify the base of the economy,, build elite consensus on the way forward across partisan orientation so we could erect a developmental state and develop values that are share which define the Nigerian and drive progress.. In actual work as a business Angel and in Thought leadership I strove, with passion to give sacrificially of myself to walk down that path. Chief Olu Falae, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and the incumbent President are witnesses to the effort.
I moved away from images of General Buhari from 1984 to embrace him as a partner on that journey of building a formidable opposition from stimuli rooted in far away Indonesia. Former Indonesia Oil Minister, Professor Mohammed Sadli, who had been my host on a research visit to Jarkata in 1997 impressed me with his modest ways. This man who was part of the so called Berkeley Mafia that Suharto used to rescue Indonesia lives on a Hilltop bungalow. He talked ethics with sincerity. Then he also talked about the Young Colonel from Nigeria who was his counterpart. That was when I formed the view that General Buhari would be a good rallying point to deal corruption a sucker punch in Nigeria.. On one of my visits to his Kaduna home to advance opposition development strategy we were chatting that night when a call came through informing him of the death of President Yaradua.
Whenever I raised the Bahai possibility and got pushback on some dimensions, I used the metaphor of the Reagan Presidency. It was therefore natural that the magical play of fortunes in 2015 we should hope for bold leadership play that would unite the country and align passions for forging new pathways for solving problems like Fuel subsidy and diversification of the base of the economy.. My fear that if great leadership diid not emerge and deliver we could slip into a Robert Kaplan predicted Coming Anarchy.
My worry now is we cannot afford the bloodletting in the polity and the land. Today is not too late to begin again. The Cameron gaffe while bearing irritating and ethnocentric truths should be a wake up call to the elite of Nigeria that what is at stake is much bigger than the petty games for personal power, material gains or ethnic triumphalism. What is at stake is the dignity of a race and the regard for a continent. I said as much one Friday afternoon when President Umaru Yaradua tried to persuade me to join his cabinet.
My view was clear. I was a Patriot that was ready to provide my perspective 24/7 but could join a cabinet only if at least 7 passionate dedicated persons that saw a bigger picture than self had his assurance a certain track will be followed.
A phrase; medieval mindset has entered the lexicon of these conversation but many of those who spot it do not know how it crept in. In my reflections on how the economy can grow and accommodate the well being of all and not just a few I had come to a framework in which several sets of variable emerged as critical. That framework which I called the Growth Drivers Framework and was anchor concept for my book, Why Nations are Poor locates Leadership as central to affecting culture, which shapes human progress; building institutions, which is critical to sustaining progress and how policy choices are made, human capital built and deployed and entrepreneurship encouraged..
Talking to President Yaradua who asked me what I thought the problem of Nigeria was, I had turned to the leadership question and said, rather a Kemal Ataturk than Suleman the Magnificent.
Even though I admired the great Kaiifa from Istanbul whose conquests reached the gates of Vienna I would rather a Mustafa Kemal, the reforming Ataturk who birthed modern Turkey from the crumbling Ottoman empire. So when early in the year a prominent statesman from the North said to me,your APC Villa seems to be retreating into a medieval court alarm bells went off. Better a Kemal Ataturk than Suleman the Magnificent. But better still, better a Nigeria drawing from leadership example of Mahathir Mohammed, Lee Kuan Yew and Abraham Lincoln in the quest for modernity that can save a race from being recolonized into a thousand years of servitude.
PU

TROUBLED GHOSTS IN THE SOUL OF PROMISE

These times are times of a Patriots nightmare in Nigeria. Conduct is zero-sum. From extreme ends, the pressure is high to smother intelligent public conversation and typecast those who dare to raise their voices. As citizenship behavior retreats, you see threats to the promise of Nigeria. At the Security level, it goes from gruesome murders by herdsmen, pipelines being blown up by militants, to the Boko Haram savaging of the North East and kidnappings and armed robbery elsewhere. At the economic policy level we see a worsening of the misery index as people cannot find fuel or jobs. And on the politics level we witness gridlock and increasing polarization. A true existential crisis looms for Nigeria. Yet intervention of statesmen is scant, and disruption to the path of progress, much. Nigeria has never more needed leadership in Thought, Media that is socially responsible, Business Enterprise that creates jobs and wealth; and politicians that unite, from giving sacrificially of themselves; but reason remains embattled.

Traveling abroad at this time I was intrigued by reporting of remarks I made more than a month ago at a Fellowship and the usual social media play on it. As one trained in Journalism, I have often pointed to how strands of comments in what is nuanced conversation gets pulled out to express a view a reporter desires and should write up in a column. But my concern is not so much living with attributions reported by a journalist from an agenda but worry that players at many levels seem not to be sensitive to the importance of the need to note that these times are perilous ones in which zero-sum win-loose mindset can deepen crises already queuing up, to take away from the future we all desire for our children, Peace and Prosperity. But I am even more worried that we are in this zero-sum mindset failing to realize that progress is more likely from rational, quality conversation than from those who can raise the tone of this conversation and erect the public Sphere being maligned into silence. The outcome of such fleeing from the Public Sphere and the market place of ideas is for me more likely to be regrets on how the times of Nazi Germany crept up on Europe. Had the Public Sphere been as should have been in Germany the well-known remarks of the Rev. Martin Niemoller about keeping quiet when it came to others and there being no one to speak up when they came for him the human race could have been spared the horrors of World War II. It is not an accident that one of the great philosophers of the idea of the Public Sphere as the heart of the Democratic phenomenon and Modernity is the contemporary German Philosopher Jurgen Habermas.

In a few lectures of recent I have turned to Habermas to support the point made by the Nigeria Academic in the US, Olufemi Taiwo, who used to be a socialist, that the problem of Africa and progress, is the need for modernity. Taiwo’s book Africa Must be Modern, points to these issues which I believe Habermas analyses critically. Sadly the use of social media in which abuse and extreme views seem to be celebrated, take away from the rational conversation Habermas talks about. On some Platforms if you supported the candidacy of the incumbent you have forfeited the right to say we could do some things differently. If you opposed the incumbent it is sour grapes. You would think US Speaker Paul Ryan, from the Nigerian perspective would be crucified for declaring he was unable to support the presumptive candidate of his party, The Republican Party. It should make sense that a person who has supported a candidate has more credibility in saying things could be different. But these dispositions of intolerance take away from serious issues we must build consensus on if the future is not to be as bleak as US candidate Donald Trump is alleged to have said prescribe a recolonization of Africa.

Our commonwealth is challenge, our dignity is threatened and our peace is confronted in the rolling civil war that characterize our current conditions as Robert Kaplan predicted in The Coming Anarchy, it would seem therefore that it is in the shared interest of all to move towards talking to how we change for good rather than creating conditions that further compound a bad situation. I can speak as one all over the world at activities that the world is mocking us. So what kind of elite can be object of global caricature and not move to work together to change things. As I write, the BBC is broadcasting British PM David Cameron jesting in conversation with the Queen and The Archbishop of Canterbury that his guest at the Corruption Summit in London, our President is from a fantastically corrupt country. Yet we are not prosecuting the war on this thing that brings us such shame well because we cannot create the leadership to have shared values on the matter. Discussing such issues need to be premium matters on the Public Sphere we are undermining.

The mockery that has become the lot of Venezuela, who we seem to emulate in the policy choices we are making could worsen the work we have cut out for us. Have just read remarks of Johns Hopkins Economist reducing the Naira to Junk status. Can we, in good conscience have all of these matters to confront and allow the Public Sphere to atrophy? The stakes are high for Nigeria and the hope it holds for a generation of Africans that we cannot afford the petty power games that many around political authority positions are toying with. The work that needs to be done need to be apportioned to many.
Clearly of great importance in this hierarchy of players to pull us away from the brink and try to claim the Nigeria promise are the Political Parties. There has been much talk about the absence of internal democracies in our Parties but the even more troubling fact is that the leadership of our Parties have not done enough to build platforms for discussing choice issues, building worldview its members should subscribe to and inspiring Thought leadership. I shiver to think that with the economy the way it is our Political Parties are not having retreats, workshops and setting out position papers on different issues.
Also critical to the stature of the Public Sphere is the role of Public Intellectuals and the Moral Authority of men and women of learning. The Nigerian academic today may not quite command the Moral Authority that James MacGregor Burns ascribes to Intellectuals in his seminal book Leadership, which academics of the 1970s and 80s in Nigeria had more of, still the activist intellectual is important for progress. They must be stimulants of Civil Society which desperately needs to wake up. Then there is the media. There are too many Columnists but not enough Media influence. Returning Columnists Ray Ekpu and Dan Agbese will find that Media influence is not as it used to be when they started out in the 1970s. Back then when Gbolagbo Ogunsanwo spoke Nigeria listened. The bigger problem though is in the gatekeeping function and the training of reporters to better seek accuracy and not play on attribution as the soul of journalism to the detriment of sources in nuanced conversation but the king of them all is the enlightenment of the citizen.
I think the citizen has a duty, an obligation to be at the village square raising his voice. The mesh of those voices and the strong voices of the committed, for the voiceless, will assure that tomorrow is in the picture and the commonwealth is protected and not raped at the altar of the tragedy of the commons. PU

THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CRISIS AND NIGERIA’S KNOWING-DOING GAP

When anxieties with the state of the economy rose, as Oil prices went South in 2015, I was struck by how we went from worry to panic and how many actions failed to recognize similar experience from our recent history and more than enough knowledge on what happened before and what was trending in the global environment. That such knowledge was untapped caused me to begin to rethink many things.
How does Nigeria always manage to lose institutional memory, and what is responsible for the Knowing-Doing gap that seems to prevent us from properly handling routine problems without generating crisis of earthshaking proportions.
Surely we do not need Harvard Business School Professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I Sutton to see that there is a huge Knowing – Doing gap in the policy arena in Nigeria. Pfeffer and Sutton had in year 2000 wondered how come so many firms show significant gaps between what they know and what they actually do. You can see this applies to governments the moment you go to the many talk shops of Nigeria and from there cast a glance at the policy action arena.
When at one of these events recently someone reminded me of another one a few months before when it seemed a vow to defend the Naira was being taken. He reminded me that I had said pressure on the Naira, with a significant dollar earnings dip, was not the end of the world but that a floating “managed” exchange rate mechanism Bismark Rewane had talked about was appropriate response and also that in addition a clear game plan on how the financing from declining Oil receipts, could be bridged to tide over a temporary challenge by quick borrowing of dollars to shore up supply with other measures to block leakages could boost confidence. I suggested teams of people credible in economic and financial circles, head off to critical global capitals to show where we were going.
I was convinced that would have stimulated confidence in Nigeria at a time the gap between the nominal exchange rate and our purchasing power parity line was no more than six Naira, as Bismark Rewane pointed out. Had the teams out there telling the world about the new thrust of policy and growth potential in which decline in contribution of dollars from a sector contributing to a small portion of GDP was causing tightness, investment flows will make up for Foreign exchange supply lost, just as a little borrowing could bridge the financing gap and stave of currency speculations.
It seems to me that instead of focusing on a clear strategy of short, medium and long term perspective plan anchored diversification of the base of the economy and the tactics to hold off raiders of the currency by inspiring confidence based on plans for the future we slipped into this spurious discussion of symptom called devaluation of the Naira.
I never could understand why knowledge from 1983-85, in Nigeria, and the Asian financial crisis, failed to inform the passions spewing out or the subject from people with access to people who could better inform them. How about our national institutions that went through similar experiences with external shocks and managing access to Foreign Exchange in the before past. Why did they behave they had learnt nothing before.
One of the truly enduring explanations of how Nigeria went into de-industrialization from the 1980s, even before becoming fully industrialized is a comparison of Nominal exchange rate divergence from purchasing power parity.
A review will show that the regions of the world where nominal exchange rates and the Purchasing Power Parity line were a close fit had more growth and prosperity. Between Africa, Latin America and Asia in the 1980 and 1970s South East Asia was that zone.
What I found even more paradoxical was that those who favour state centrals to drive development and therefore should embrace some of the postulates of the South Korean Economist at Oxford Ja Joo Chang are signing off on the European Union ECOWAS Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). This is quite curious.
Lets hope enlightenment descends upon us all.
PU

NUMBED BY OVERLOAD OF THE UNSAVOURY

After 40 years of active engagement in the Public Sphere in Nigeria I have seen and heard enough to understand why someone can say Nigeria is unshockable. But the reports of EFCC findings of cash sacks in pits and Security cash for elections ATM which should ordinarily reaffirm my point of a collapse of culture have managed to leave me numb. But I fear more that the bottom has not been scratched and that we could get used to this despicable state as the new normal. Can anyone stay sane living with insanity or can insanity as the new norm make the asylum desirable
Quo Vadis. Where do we go from here? Surely the revelations, from BVN outing people who receive salaries 20 times a month makes it clear that the challenge is systemic as was indicated many years ago when Kempe Ronald Hope Snr and Bornwell Chikulo edited the book; Corruption and Development in Africa. They had pointed out in the introduction the range of the culture of corruption in Africa, from rare, in Botswana, to widespread, in Ghana, and systemic, in Nigeria. So knowledge of how deeply rooted corruption has been in Nigeria and how debilitating of prospects for progress in the country those practices are, have been around for a long time. They have become so a part of many people’s ways it is hard for them to see shame as a consequence. Indeed one of the tragedies of the Nigerian condition is both the death and the dearth of a sense of shame.
So where do we go from the current wave of hot news on who is implicated here or there if they do not feel any shame and can readily use excuses of how the campaign is being prosecuted to even attract public sympathy and accusation of those prosecuting the campaign as vindictive and venom-filled vendetta seekers blinded by desire for vengeance on old enemies? The naked truth is that there is a battle for the credibility of a war that is badly needed to uproot a cancer in metastasis which is eating away at the soul of Nigeria. What must we do to the structure of the campaign to ensure that it stays credible and that we restore to Nigeria a sense of shame.
There are many who repeat the cliché that when you fight corruption, it fights back. Some of that will surely be going on but the fight back is better overcome in a sustainable way as a result of how the war against corruption is prosecuted. The emphasis on catching yesterday’s offender who are finding ways of fighting back meant that many are still continuing in old ways with just a little less impunity. The stories I have heard of managers and Executives of Parastatals quarreling about who is cornering sources of craft and the efforts to fence off ministers from paths of ‘action’ have truly made me wonder what will truly put fear in people so they can do right with public trust.
It seems to me that putting in place systems that will ensure a reduction in discretionary courses of action relative to public resources is critical. The TSA is an example of such but it needs to be managed such that it does not reduce the effectiveness of the system. The bottom-line here is that in this age of technology enabled action there are enough applications and Enterprise systems that make it easy to remotely monitor transactions. This is made even more effective when a strong place is given to open and transparent processes and citizen stakeholder monitoring of the policy choice and implementation processes. It is indeed painful that with advances in management systems in which the Knowing-Doing Gap and an execution premium can easily be derived from a number of proprietary templates we are still grasping for sustainable proactive systems. Many of these templates which have been deployed in the Private sector have been used by government agencies in many parts of the world. These profoma methodologies made famous by such academics as Kaplan and Norton are useful tools but the ultimate tool has to be a Values Revolution and campaign examples of which we have seen in the past. They may sometimes not have been as effective but Values campaigns like War Against indiscipline, WAI, Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) are required to raise sensitivity to challenges in culture. To make them of lasting value they have to empower the institutions of socialization to raise the level of the sense of shame for failing to play at the level of the norms of conduct the campaign promotes. I have often referred to the key to South Korea’s Development ascendancy as significantly related to how the culture entrenched shame for not doing right in the people.
I find as useful example the incident from about a year ago when school pupils on excursion lost their lives when the ferry they were travelling in sank. The sequence of response would prove to be lessons in consequence management and how culture sets the tone of performance. The shame of the responsibility for deciding in favour of the trip led the Vice Principal of the school to commit suicide. Not that I will ever recommend suicide as the path of response to shame but it was instructive. This was followed by the resignation of the Transport Minister. The President had to make a humiliating apology on Television as part of the parade of shame. But in Nigeria, in a case where direct culpability could be established for dozens of graduates losing their lives in stampedes at several stadia across the country. No one resigned. None sincerely expressed remorse. And there were no consequences.
A moral rearmament campaign which is an imperative of these times has to make matter of shame firm. Here the media has a very important role to play. If the media has influence, one of the ways that influence is manifested is in what researchers call; the status conferral function of the media. Those featured in the media get a halo effect and the status this confers leads to who people look up to and how the people act. Media needs to blank out people whose source of wealth is not clear and celebrate people with a work ethic.

Pat Utomi, Political Economist and professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the CVL

BRIDGING THE FINANCING GAP AND OPTIMAL TAXE RATE

It start with south bound crude Oil prices. But it should have started much earlier. Public Authorities in Nigeria seem to have rediscovered the concept of taxation. But can the push discourage savings at some point and bring forward images of Arthur Laffer, the Laffer curve and supply side economics.

The spark for the issue to gain renewed prominence is the new tax on deposits in the banks. But the need for a proposition on optimal tax rates have been coming for years since Oil receipts oriented Government towards being less accountable to the people and less disposed to demanding taxation levels required for services the government was required to offer. With high Oil prices that strategy was easier. But rapidly declining Oil prices in the last one year has constricted revenue flows and thrown up a financing gap.

The natural outcome of the deficits on the current accounts has been scarcity of foreign exchange, especially when response to depreciating exchange rates is to retreat into controls with no recourse to the purchasing power parity as defining of where true exchange value should be. When divergence of nominal exchange rates from the purchasing power parity is so pronounced and a foreign exchange crisis is therefore evident a genuine crisis brews.

Urgency to bridge the financing gap which breeds these outcomes of discontent often pushes a rush to policy interventions. A typical intervention with such a gap is to raise taxes. In proceeding down such a track of raising taxes speed can ordain thinking. But we also know that policy rushed can produce undesired and unintended consequences.

We can debate the value of policy stance being taken by policy makers about need for strong Naira but the fact cannot be controverted that policy choices can result in iatrogenic outcomes where the prescribed medicine does more harm to the patient than the original disease being treated.

Highly regarded US Senator and Harvard Professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan made famous the idea of iatrogenic policy choice but we are the ones that seem, somehow, to make policies that deliver trouble routinely because of the of the low rigor in the policy process. Bearing this in mind It would be helpful if discussion of the need for taxes to bridge evident financial gaps through new taxes take into account two possible effects of raising taxes; impact on savings, investments and the growth consequent upon increased production. The other is the point beyond which a tax revolt results.

There are those who react to the #50 charged on deposits into accounts from an outright rejection of the idea of taxes when incomes are dropping. But that in my opinion is a throw up from many years of not paying taxes. There is also the fact that people never do cheer new taxes. When the idea of Value Added Tax was being considered, many gave the Emmanuel Ijewere committee a hard time. But that tax has been a good tax and generally a fair tax, if we take away issues of how fiscal transfers between the Centre and the states from VAT receipts have been received.

I do think we need to raise taxes but ensure that those whose consumption do less for stimulating production pay more. Same should go for those who extract more rent than create wealth. But with a tax on deposits we need to study more carefully its impact on savings.

What about the question of optimal tax rates and the rising tax incidence. Such questions bring to mind the reign of supply side economics and one of its chief disciplines, USC economist Arthur Laffer.

The Laffer curve, as template for gauging optimal tax rates and its author, who was a guru of the Ronald Reagan/ Margaret Thatcher ideological partnership of the early 1980’s, do have value. Even though I have in the past argued that Arthur Laffer tried to “elevate” supply side economics to the level of a religion, for which I did not have an article of faith, It none the less has its value when considering raising taxes.

I think that at this stage in considering financing challenges we need to find creative ways of raising taxes but be careful not to move so quickly for it is like putting an addict into a rehabilitation programme. The pacing matters .Besides, the Laffer curve held some fascination for me because Arthur Laffer, some 35 years ago gave credit to a Nigerian PhD student of his for cracking the equation that led to the thesis.

Here I have to admit a certain preference for specific-use taxes where you can more readily relate the tax money to services enjoyed. Gasoline taxes for highway construction and maintenance, as the US example, is probably one classic case of specific-use taxation.

Communicating policy purpose and projected outcomes and benefits is very essential here. But it has not been a territory of great strength for the extant order in federal government and so needs particular attention.

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

CREATIVITY AND THE POWER TO TEACH, ORIENT AND INSPIRE

As a high school student in Ibadan during the civil war years, travelling Theatre, from those led by Hubert Ogunde and Moses Olaiya came calling on campus. They made us laugh and they made us learn. Then the night died, a sector of the economy went into relapse as culture experienced collapse. Everywhere you looked the consequence stirred at you, from challenged pockets to the lost smile from faces and the sour politics of the land with the tension it breeds. I recently found a spelling for relief on this matter. And it is passionate people.

During the holiday season just passed, I got invited, with my wife, to see a production by Bolanle Austen Peters. Wakaa – the musical, by this remarkable Lawyer, who has become a guardian of culture with her initiatives at Terra Kulture. Her production was running next door, at MUSON Centre, to another musical, by another passionate lawyer which I had seen a year earlier, Kakadu, the musical spearheaded the senior Advocate of Nigeria Uche Nwokedi. In many ways this reflection is as much a tribute to people like them and the power of their talent unfolded through the medium they use to shape our future and help draw strength from salutary parts of our past, as it is a critique of the culture economy.

Wakaa, from the prism I viewed it, was a happy, playful way of saying something I say everyday about how me missed the bush path and left progress in suspended animation; the collapse of culture, the idolatry of money worship, and politics blinded to service and knowledge as the basis for public choice as the triumphalism of self-love made the arena of public life what we see unfolding in the corruption investigations rocking the country.

The story of Wakaa and Kakadu tell the story of a continent that saw modern power and forgot purpose, but more importantly forgot how purpose germinates from the seeds sown in socialization of generations through vehicles of culture like drama, music, Art and the values transmitted through them. The decline of the culture platform is not exclusive to Nigeria. Theatre was practically dead in Ghana until recently. Just like the extraordinary work of Mrs Austen – Peters and others like Nwokedi have begun a process of return, Ghana has gone further with Ebo Whyte more popularly known there as uncle Ebo, in Accra bringing Theatre back from the dead.

So what went wrong. I became an Art collector as an undergraduate, before my 20th birthday. The first Artwork I bought was by Tayo Adenaike who was a contemporary in the University, but has become globally renown today. So when CVL honoured Bruce Onobrakpeya and the theme of the colloquium was ‘Art as Bandage’ it was a reflection on how Art has healed wounds and captured our experience that may never return forever. But I look out there and wonder why this generation is ignorant of how Art can help it get real about life’s journeys.

Back in the late 1960s and 70s Theatre was a great part of culture on our campuses. At the Nsukka campus of the University of Nigeria in those days immediately after the Civil War with traditional Auditorium like the Princess Alexandera Auditorium, destroyed during the war, we still had campus life defined by Theatre Singer/Actress students like Ori Enyi, later Ori Okoroh, who tantalized us all with riveting performances at the Arts Theatre and had all of us humming “a drop…a drop.. a drop of honey” as we went about our daily chores and studies. When years later the likes of Chuck Mike invited me to the Board of Performance Studio workshop and did remarkable thing using drama to communicate the need for social change I felt the privilege of making a contribution. To host people like Taiwo Ajayi – Lycett discussing how theatre could be used to heal society in our home about 1992 was being part of Art as bandage even though I lacked the talent to act or paint.

Culture matters and we can see that in how the Theatre of my times at Loyola College when the Yoruba folk songs extolled hard work as it acknowledged farming, as the occupation of the people, and charged that the fate of those who could not work hard was damnation to stealing. Today with the lost voices chanting “ise agbe ni ise ile wa’. what they hear is ‘ise kekere Owo nla’. Small work, big money is anchor of current disposition of low integrity in culture and why transaction costs are high in today’s Nigeria and, therefore, the disposition towards uncompetitiveness in the economy. Therein lies the Bain of the development challenge.

Even more alluring for the place of culture in the pursuit of modernity in Nigeria is that it has economic value. If talk about diversification of the base of the economy is to gain traction one of the first low hanging fruits is to use culture to create employment and create a good income for young people. When I gave the keynote address at the conference marking 40 years of the National Council for Arts and culture, in Abuja last year, I pointed to the possible impact on jobs, growing tourism and polishing national reputation if every major state capital, at least beginning with every zone, had a complex in which local Arts and craft were produced and marketed, with restaurants packaging local delicacies, in contemporary attractive form; and hotels and possible convention centre as part of the complex. But our leadership elite is too lazy and hard to be weaned off dependence on cheap money minted in an enclave oil sector, usually by a few foreigners, adding little value to the economy.

These sentiments were further hit on Boxing Day last December 26th, a day I spent largely inside Ikoyi prisons, as the church took love to those often forgotten. Besides the pain of seeing that most who were there had no reason to be there, the marvel of that particular journey, as different from the one at Easter when it powed cats and dogs and we were struggling to hold up the canopy as worship went on, this trip revealed how much talent was locked up in prisons. The inmates, who in the euphemisms that colored the lexicon of that happy celebration of redemptive essence of Christmas, were called team mates, entertained us with drama, standup comedy, music and poetry, showcasing talent that was amazing. It was clear to me that day that if we are to reap this demographic dividend that our youth bulge offers we should be packaging such young talent for commercial value and not keeping them locked up for years because they cannot come up with a twenty thousand Naira bail bond or cannot afford a lawyer to represent them.

Just as this is essentially gratitude offered to the Bolanle Austen – Peters and Uche Nwokedis of this world, it is also gratitude to the Prison officials who see human beings, not animals, in those people behind high walls; often forgotten, simply because they are poor, and poorly connected, in this society of might is right.

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

THE CELEBRATION OF HELPLESSNESS

Paradoxes define life. Among them the apparent paradox of faith and reason which the good theologian can bring into unity. Like Faith and Reason there are factors arising from faith and reason; modesty and accounting for consequence management; To ensure the accounting take place with benefit the discipline called Public Relations calls people, corporate or individual, to do and show. For PR you build goodwill by doing and showing. But how do you tell about good works when Faith and breeding say you don’t.

I have always found this challenging when proselytizing citizen action. People want to know what you have done yourself either to justify your moral Authority to urge others on or in defense of their failure to make their own consciences sensitive enough to do the needful.

At a personal level I have often had a bad after taste when I, me, myself; flow out in this course, but even feel more terrible when people express pleasant shock at hearing about something you have been doing, as routine, for years. A few weeks ago Channels television ran a programme on widows from a Centre I have run for about a quarter of a century. I did not know such a programme was in production and did not watch it. Have still even not watched the video as I write. To compound the paradox I was walking back into my living room from walking to the car park a visitor who evidently did not know of the production, so we talked through his visit to my home while the film was airing. When I get a call from Olorogun Felix Ibru as I enter the room, and he is congratulating me for the work with widows, expressing pleasant surprise at the commitment. I was a bit lost on what he was talking about until he said he had just been watching the documentary on Channels television. I told him I had just seen off the Chairman of Channels Television who had come to visit me and we had talked, the period the programme was airing, on everything but widows. Was I failing in Public Relations practice in not doing enough to show what I was doing, a matter that came up when some people from my home town community came up saying what has he done for the community until they were shut up by those who told them of the hidden hand behind micro credit schemes for women, the building of the church etc. But I still run into this paradox.

At one of those inspired what-can-we-do initiatives about two years ago, by a group some two ago at the Federal Palace Hotel, a lady social entrepreneur spoke to some of the programmes of CVL she had been at and the keynote speaker, Ifueko Omoigui-Okaru, who is usually quite well informed, turned to me: You are really doing a lot but people do not know. I recently confronted the what have you done yourself pushback with headwind, with help from tailwind from sources unexpected. The question was; what have you done yourself to help shape the public sphere for good governance.

Part of the challenge of accountability I find, is the ease with which we retreat, in defense to any charge of not doing enough, into a plea of what ‘more could I do’. It is almost as if in the public sphere, in Nigeria, there is a celebration of helplessness, as alibi for the failure of citizenship. When I try to be proactive to get different groups to rise better to the occasion of the challenge of nation building, in helping assure better leadership and Governance, the most typical response I hear is “What have you done yourself”
The trouble with this line of questioning is that you are determined to do things just because they are duty and seek not to be even identified with them, which is the reason most people do not even know some of the initiatives you inspired or founded. But need for proper response leaves you seeming immodest. We may have to live with that undesired outcome in defense of self on the charge; what have you done?, you decide. Then something triggers a need for presenting evidence.
Recently, in Abuja, I made a presentation to the laureates of the Nigerian National Order of Merit on the matter of Private sector Corruption in Nigeria. And that question, anticipated, from my experience, was posed to me by the Chairman of my session. I had charged that intellectuals were not using enough their moral authority, which James McGregor Burns, in his book, Leadership, said was the benefit of the intellectual, in the quest to have Nigeria governed right. I had pointed to how lawyers in Pakistan went on the streets when their Chief Judge was removed in impunity, and how ABU professors used the New Nigerian as Guardians of public policy and the UI/Unilag/Ife counterparts shaped the public sphere with the Guardian from its founding in 1983 But academics seem now to be in retreat from the public sphere.

Twenty years ago, as the burden of the Abacha dictatorship weighed us down, a “holy” conspiracy between the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat, Rev Fr. Mathew Hassan Kukah, his Deputy Rev Fr. George Ehusani and I, with a few others, produced a “mini National Conference” under cover of the church. At it, I challenged Catholic Bishops to do more to speak up. One of the Bishops asked the same question: what have you done?
Battling between the immodesty of blowing my trumpet and laying truth bare, I was caught in a twilight zone, butI was quickly rescued when another Bishop began to reel out what I had been doing. I was saved on that occasion in what would be a touch of Irony when Pope John Paul II visited in 1998 and laid the same charge before the Bishops.

But what have I done. Perhaps I should provide some evidence of a few things I have tried to do, if only to encourage young people deeply in need of models.

When I first returned to Nigeria from graduate studies in 1982 a group of us emerging academics used to gather at the NIIA almost on a daily basis to discuss policy and challenge the system. I formed the group into a network we called the Congress of Concerned Citizens. From that same group Femi Aribisala, Olisa Agbakoba, Jimi Peters, Mohammed Garba and many others who have since “left town” as part of the brain drain in “the generation that left town” began to publish a journal called Spectrum. We engaged on public policy, went to meetings with and had workshops with policy makers. Chief Philip Asiodu still asks me about the group till today, just as the now late Deacon Gamaliel Onosode used to.
What have I done?

I was so determined to be the voice of the voiceless that at a point I wrote three different weekly columns in Newspapers. One that appeared every Tuesday in the Vanguard with the Title Thinking Aloud; On matters of the economy I wrote another column appearing every Friday in Business Concord under the banner: The Economy; and every Thursday I had an OPED piece in the Guardian on matters of Social Justice. These ran for years as part of a determination to grow a market place of ideas. I would later follow with an electronic market square, the television series PATITOS GANG. At a point Patito’s Gang aired simultaneous on several networks from NTA to Ait, Channels and Silverbird television. Back then that initiative, besides my troubles, time, and energy, cost my personal treasury close to a hundred million Naira a year because Corporate Nigeria was reluctant to sponsor a programme that spoke truth to power. Back then all the revenues from work by one of the companies I founded, which had a lucrative patch doing institutional advertising work for a multinational food and beverages company, was ‘donating’ its entire profits to keeping Patitos’s Gang on air.
What have I done?
I have matched on the streets against unjust decisions, organizing professionals to protest the annulment of the elections of June 1993 and have been beaten by policemen twice on Lagos Island on that cause. Those encounters would be like chicken contributions to breakfast, the egg, compared to the pigs contribution, when onr thinks of agents of the state actually trying to assassinate me in 1996.
What have I done
I have shown the courage to get into the arena of politics lest it be seen as arena only for scoundrels and those who have nothing to lose and I have travelled through every single state in this federation, on the most horrible of roads trying to persuade people there is a better way. Key to this is the state of the Roads. To survive them had to be pure Grace. One Governor felt so sorry he thought our cars inappropriate and gave us some government SUV’s for the rest of the journey even though he was from the ruling party we opposed.
What have I done
I have struggled to show that you can bridge the knowing-doing gap not only in the political arena but in inspiring and helping build business and social enterprises that try to solve critical problems of society. How did Nigerians get on the internet. It started in my LBS class in 1994. This story told many times can bear repeat. I was rebuking the executives in the class that small countries had email addresses but we did not in Nigeria. One of them Chima Onyekwere came to me afterward and proposed we work together on it. We developed a business plan, I invited investors to dinner and made a presentation. Weeks later the company, Linkserve, was born as Nigeria’s first ISP.

You can tell a similar story with BusinessDay one of the best Newspapers in Nigeria today.

In social Enterprise in the founding of CVL and the work it does with young people to build leadership values cannot be more thankful for Grace to endeavor.

Ndidi Nwuneli speaks with generosity about evidence of the impact from what they see in the work they have done at Leap Africa where across the breathe of Nigeria young people pick me out as emblem of authentic leadership. I seem to always feature in their perception of top leaders, Mrs Nwuneli says.

I am sure we can take testimonies for the work we have been able to do with widows and the disable these last 30 years. But those are in the social realm even if advocacy for those causes help shape the public sphere and show a unity of thought, advocacy, and action, because in each case, we raise a big idea of a social problem, pusue advocacy for them to gain public support, and actually put in place programs and action that help ameliorate the problem. The widow support Centre we founded in 1991 which is still active is evidence of that.
What have I done.
The most important work I think I have managed to do is live simply. I was recently on tour of slum based private schools as National Patron of the Association for Formidable Education Development. Everywhere we went people were struck by the fact of absence aides or security guards.

Years ago former Daily Times Managing Director Onukeba Adinoyo. Ojo observed that I was probably the hardest working public intellectual in the country. A Ghanaian Political Scientist friend even dared to suggest on the continent of Africa. It is more the commitment to the public space than celebrity or even competence that is the issue here. For the gift of energy and a sensitive conscience that fuels this passion I cannot begin to give enough thanks to the creator. If the porter can take clay that knows that of its own it can do nothing, unless the porter provides it enablement then it understands. All that should count is the gratitude of the piece of clay. Most of these claims are no doubt collaborations with many who did much more.

I can only hope not to return to this question again because even if some history has been offered, I am persuaded they come to a small fraction of what should be possible from the gift of being. The triumph of the human spirit written into our history everyday dwarf these things one chain to have done.

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

CAVEAT TO LECTURE

In the next 72 hours I will give five major lectures, two in Lagos and three in Abuja. The following underline the purpose of each of the lectures.
Mr. Chairman
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let me begin by first placing before you a caveat regarding this lecture
CAVEAT TO LECTURE
Democracies are built and sustained by elements of certain institutions. Some of these have been captured and held in myth by Patrick Henry’s battle cry in the founding days of the American Republic: Give me Liberty or Give me Death.

One of the pillars of Liberty was erected long before the American republic in Plato’s Republic. It rests on citizenship and the active engagement of that enlightened citizen in the public square. Few have better captured the nature of the village square of the city-state from Plato and Aristotle’s times in the modern era, than contemporary German Philosopher Jürgen Habermas. In many ways this lecture is a tribute to him and his voice on both the subject of the public sphere and Modernity.

Habermas reminds us that the public sphere is the domain of uncoerced conversation orientation towards a pragmatic accord that is to say, it is about building consensus through rational debate. (in the structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962). Translated by Thomas Burger. Cambridge, MIT Press 1967)

But the challenge of the triumph of reason through sober engagement on ideas and outcomes has been held back by emotional outbursts, the use and abuse of power and authority, and guidance of thought, not in the manner of paradigms in Thomas Kuhn’s structure of scientific revolutions’ but more like in the pulling of strings as Reinhardt Bendix impugned against in “Embattled Reason”.

But we must strip this conversation of all the intellectual bullfighting and reduce this to what is good for the citizen. What is good here is clearly not in the ballpark of Utopia that Habermas again offers a veritable critique of, What is good is what Nigeria’s own Olufemi Taiwo who started out sold on Marx, until he got to Toronto and did not find the slums capitalism was bound to produce, and ultimately concluded that what we need is to become modern. His book, Africa Must Be Modern I have considered essential reading for African leaders. Modernity, as Habermas writes, is the rational organization of our everyday social life. Governance fails in Africa because we are yet to find the discipline for rational organization of everyday social life. And we have been generally unable to conquer this ailment because the public sphere is atrophied. People pussyfoot around truth because they don’t want to be misunderstood or denied access to power and its goodies, or be seen as travelling a lonely road. The result is this sad bankruptcy of Hope in street talk and beer parlors. We must not allow this to continue. To speak truth to power is citizenship duty and an obligation of the rational mind. To let despair manifest before calling the concerned back is failing in a moral obligation in a manner similar to neutrality, in Dante’s Inferno, which assures domicile in the hottest part of hell.

Even though social media persists, in our context, in being the arena of emotion, uncultured abuse of people, some disagree with, scene Challenged logic, and sometimes deliberate falsehood, to tarnish or blackmail, we must take the optimistic spirit the Americans have towards freedom of expression. That orientation is that it is better to allow lies to get out there and have a preponderance of truth drown the lies as the way of protecting the innocent or those motivated by a higher truth. I proceed in a critique of extant Governance in the assurances of that tradition. If Nigeria must be governed to be modern, truth must be spoken to power.

One diplomat recently asked me if Nigeria will not disappoint again as it enjoys favour in the eyes of the world. I could not answer the question. That question recurs at a time of very obvious financing gap urgency as a damning critique of regime performance by Bloomberg follows the vote of no-confidence by foreign investment banks. We cannot play ostrich for sure.

But what I can do is my damned best to ensure that the forces making the change we fought for seem like it was not well thought through or that it has been hijacked, retreat, in the face logic and reason.

A new way for Nigeria