CAIN IN A TROUBLED LAND – Pat Utomi

Every life counts. Surely black lives matter in the US and in Europe. The Campaigners against police use of force say so. Here they should matter even more but for some reason, Cain is on the prowl and the Leviathan seems to have swallowed sleeping pills. The cry of the blood of Abel seems to be rising to deafening levels in social media and street talk. I was even accosted by a group of Reverend Gentlemen at a wedding event in the East. What are you doing about the Massacre in Southern Kaduna, they asked. My response was; I am diminished doubly by each of those deaths. Anyone who does not feel diminished does not understand human dignity and the consequence of insecurity for every social essential. Yet it is such disregard for the lives of others that defines us today in Nigeria.

It is not by accident that philosophers of the state and government say that the purpose of man’s surrender of some of his natural freedom to an Authority, The Leviathan, is for the provision of security for his life and property. The Leviathan quickly loses legitimacy and triggers the politics of power erosion when it is not seen as compassionate on matters regarding lives of citizens. This is why approval ratings of US Presidents can crash on account of not responding quickly to humanitarian crisis in which lives are lost.

George W. Bush took an unbelievable beating for just flying over to view the Katrina disaster in New Orleans instead of landing to feel it. But ‘leadership’ in Nigeria has often suffered from not realizing how much Nigerian lives matter. Among my favourite examples is a season, years ago when in the same week a police checkpoint accident in Ibadan resulted in the roasting of nearly two hundred people from a Tanker/Trailer spraying its lethal combustible content on traffic backed up at the Police Check point as it crashed into the pile up. In Austria a Cable Car failed that week and three people, I believe it, was lost their lives. National mourning was declared there while here not even an acknowledgement of the massive loss of precious human lives from the Villa. Aides probably did not even think it important enough to bring to the notice of the incumbent, General Olusegun Obasanjo. Then as now, when the issue was raised Presidential aides queried demand of the President’s response. They miss the point today, as yesterday, that compassion is one of the most important attributes of leadership and that the disconnected state quickly descends into a crisis of legitimacy. How often President Obama has disrupted vacations to respond to a local shooting in which one or two American lives were lost. But there is more.

First, concern for human life, defines the natural dignity we feel. The less concern for another life, the less cultured we tend to be. It is not surprising therefore that you can measure the progress of a society by the quality of their commitment to human dignity. The motto of my alma matta, The University of Nigeria, is appropriately; To Restore the Dignity of man. But look at Nigeria. It’s as if the official position is that Nigerian lives don’t matter, unless the lives belong to the elite in power, their friends and family.

Then there is the pervasive nature of the impact of such respect for human life, for economic enterprise. When there is insecurity, investments tend to flow away, human capital quickly deteriorates to statistics of the dying and the dead. We do not have to look far to see why the wise Leviathan does all that is possible to keep insecurity to the barest minimum. The state of the economies of the North East is good example, just as comparing Foreign Exchange inflow into Nigeria before and after The Yar’adua’s Amnesty program and since the current dispensation. Not doing everything for stamp  out violent troubles only gives room for economic paralysis. We are penny-wise and pound foolish when we do not act right, no matter our political or power interests. Besides, localized violence has a way of becoming a festering sore that can spread like cancer.

For many years I have seen the kind of violence in the North Central through the prism of Robert Kaplan’s The Coming Anarchy. I fear the day when citizens who have lost confidence in the capacity of the state to protect them submit to a local War Lord. God forbid that we should fall to the point predicted by Robert Kaplan in The Coming Anarchy as he reviewed the cleavages that define West African countries, pointing to North Central Nigeria, with Jos as focal point, from which the West Africa region could descend into anarchy. Surely ‘thinking’ leaders who saw his extrapolation strengths in Balkan Ghosts play out in the disintegration of the Balkans after Tito should not ignore his projections from three years before the first Jos riots of our current troubles. The ethnic, religious and class cleavages accentuated by weak institutions, poor infrastructure that make the cover of darkness ever present aide, and poor policing, he suggested would make for such perilous times continue. The urgency for action should not be taken lightly.

But we have watched Indonesia even from times of apparently weak leaders like Megawati and the Bali bombing by religious terrorists manage to contain terrorism enough to make it into Jonathan Tepperman The Fix, as one of the the examples of “how nations survive and thrive in a world in decline”. Is it too much for Nigeria to learn. Nigeria is a legacy given to all. Accountability should be part of what leaders see as their responsibility. It includes that they not stand aloof from the serious troubles of individuals. Their accounting to now and to history is not at their pleasure, it is the duty of that office. Questions about the silence of leaders in such times by journalists is part of Democratic ethos and not meddlesomeness.

In starting I said I told the Pastor in Nnewi that I was doubly diminished by the North Central Killings.

Certainly as a human being the natural instinct of human solidarity makes me die a little with every death. As a citizen the gruesome nature of the unprovoked murders raise up a terrible sense of shame in me and kills me further. Then as one driven always by a duty to tomorrow I look at how these medieval ways eat away at tomorrow’s prospects and I know that I am doubly diminished.  

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

WHEN A SENSE OF SHAME IS LOST – Pat Utomi

 

 

I am not sure what to say about us, Nigerians. Should I praise the Nigerian spirit for resilience in the face of a misery index those from countries seen as the pits of hell want to get away from. Or should one castigate the people of the country for acting like zombies as their inchoate economy retrenches further, facilities collapse in such a manner that a Nigeria regional manager for south African Airways uses words that suggest our major airports are epidemics waiting to breakout. But if truth be told, what puzzles me the most about the Nigerian condition is the total loss of a sense of shame in people who hold positions of public authority in Nigeria. Their swagger in the face of south bound reality beggar’s belief.

A few years ago, I encountered the motto of a secondary school, I fell totally in love with. But now I am wondering if the last line should not be doctored a bit. The motto urges students to work hard and play hard for

“when wealth is lost, nothing is lost

When health is lost, something is lost

When character is lost, all is lost.”

But I feel that extant experience suggests that when a sense of shame is lost, all is lost. May be a fourth line should be when shame is lost nothing can be salvaged.

There is hunger and anger in the land. In some desperation and despair stands up in sharp relief. But you would not guess that when the excellencies cruise past in long motorcades that drain the public treasury. How did we get this way?

I have struggled to understand how societies fail, in human history.  This is why I have found efforts of people like Jared Diamond to offer explanation, in Collapse, for example, quite intriguing. Given, the place of my birth, it should not be a surprise that my biggest challenge has been Nigerian’s failure to make progress and the bigger tragedy of the phenomenon I have come to identify as progressive degeneration where, safe a few examples, governments have been progressively worse, suggesting that learning is a problematic idea. That grabs my attention as a teacher, especially one who has done some work on organizational learning and know that unless the rate of learning in an organization is equal to, or greater than the pace of change in the environment, Rewan’s axiom, the organization is dinosaur-status bound.

The logic suggests that with climbing the learning curve and getting a return on Experience, those that follow should do better than the ones who bore the costs of errors not foreseen. But not so in the Nigerian experience. Compare governance and governing in Nigeria before 1975, with today.

Imagine current reality. The economy is inchoate and reeling from largely self-inflicted error; the power sector is in disarray and manages to aggravate the misery index in ways difficult to describe to anyone who has never lived in Nigeria. The aviation sector is a pain merchant causing people hardships that make the fear of travel the beginning of wisdom. The roads as alternative means are not much to look to. After a recent road journey from Benin to Abuja my body was clearly calling for medical help but I was afraid that to reach a doctor may result in iatrogenic intervention where the medicine could do more damage than the disease, evidently the case with policy and problems in the country. Elections have become wars and public office holders consume resources for infrastructure and growth, in the enjoyment of the perquisites of power.

All these may bring the normal to the brink of tears but they do not trouble me as much as the fact that those on whose watch a country is crumbling walk with such swagger you feel you have just left the requiem for a sense of shame. If shame has not been buried in Nigeria, all of us should be acutely worried that the state of things is the moral equivalence of war. Nations at war mobilize all available resources, define clear strategies. Few know which direction we are travelling and even many inside privately plead they are outsiders in government.

What is holding Nigeria back from doing what is right for the next generation to know progress? After much ponder, I am convinced the problem is culture; In particular, the culture of the dominant political actors in Nigerian history. Nigeria has suffered state capture since 1966 and the group of soldiers who ceased the Nigerian state that year, retain a firm grip 50 years after, even if crisis of legitimacy forced them from time to time to install fillers like the Shagari, Yaradua, Jonathan stop-gaps.

Culture matters. Long before the Harvard Colloquium on How Values Shape Human Progress I was certain that culture had great consequence for progress. While people like the Peruvian Economist Hernando De Soto down play culture in arguing that institutions are central to how man makes progress, my own Growth Drivers Framework, draws both, and a few other variables, into explaining why some countries are poor while their peers thrive.

So the question remains why did Nigeria stall when less favored Asian counterparts surged forward in the 1980s. The so called Resource Curse study at the World Bank in the mid-90s domiciled the problem with Oil, to an extent, if you extrapolate. Then Oil boomed again in the first decade of the twenty first century and Oil producing Arabs like Quater, UAE, and others developed dramatically. Again, Nigeria stalled. In my view the class of 1966 cannot help itself. It was socialized into a view of triumph as the Hunt. The hunter mindset is kill and share, divide and rule. Nation builders on the other hand, as Farmers sow and water. They gather together those around so the pool of Labor will make harvest easy. The class of 1966 is a class of hunters so that even though part of their entitlement mindset is that they fought a Civil War to unite Nigeria, the reality is that the nature of their hunter orientation manifests in conduct that has done more to disunite Nigeria than enemies of Nigeria could do if they desired its break up. Because of their booty, war treasure, view of how they see government the class of 66 sees all who suggest a different way to make the country move forward as scavengers looking for a piece of this bush meat they have hunted down. They lack the worldview that there are people whose only motivation is to be proud of the Green passport they carry. So they seek to incorporate those who are disposed to bowing before them and despise the independent minded. They found clones who were Governors between 1999 and recently. Those proved to be accelerators of the Nigeria collapse. Nothing better shows that than my fight with them around the need for savings. They squandered oil receipts with nothing to show. But they still swager today, many still in government.

The culture of the class of 66 drove us, first hesitantly, then with deliberate speed into the cusp of a failing state. But it will be unfair to lay our downfall at the feet of the class of 66 alone. Our failure to speak truth to power, produced a generation that looked away rather than call a spade a spade. We were reduced to a generation that Bob Garratt would describe as “maliciously obedient to patently stupid instructions” from power.

The class of 1966 itself fractures roughly into 3 groups I label the Modernizer Wannabes, the Narcissistic Influencers and The Entitlement Minded Praetorian Guard. In their intragroup competition they sometimes pour out voluble, vengeful and vain glorious, vituperative vilifications they unleash a vile, venomous, vexatious volume of vicious vendetta that numbs polity and poisons the investment climate. The effect on our political culture has been the gift of a cadre of political actors who care more for protocols, charter flights, presidential fleets, and motorcades than the fact those they govern people living in conditions of great misery. They betray a failure to understand that leadership is other-centered conduc as self love defines public choice.

I have never understood how people could sleep, chartering planes with taxpayers money, when many of the taxpayers cannot afford more primitive commutes to their place of subsistence eking out of a living. But if you understand the culture of the class of 1966 you will appreciate why it is a time of insensitivity to the plight of the rest of society.  An army of occupation can rationalize things in amazing logic.

I reflected on these ideas for years but as the engaged citizen, I looked for and worked at ways we could mitigate these tendencies. In 2015 the evidence came in fully. The class of 1966 is problematic beyond the “share the Gala, share the booze” mentality. The class of 1966 has crippled the dreams of two generations because entrenched in their culture is the absence of a sense of shame. I doubt that Nigeria will make progress until the eclipse of the class of 1966 is total.

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

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.

A new way for Nigeria