ON THE INSIDE OF CORRUPTION

I have written enough columns and Op. Ed pieces on corruption in Nigeria these past 25years to make a book of decent read. But seldom have these explorations of the phenomenon dealt with cultural, psycho – social and spiritual counters to corruption. I was therefore quite excited to read a set of mantras by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shanker, founder of the Art of Living movement.

The scourge of corruption has left damage so evident, and pain so palpable, that many have come to the view that containing corruption is considered key to peace and development. To some it has found its place into the DNA of public life in Nigeria, making the country not so appealing to many investors and the rump left behind challenged with sustaining structured progress as against a recursive mode of two steps forward, three steps backward. This in spite of endowments and talent aplenty.

It is instructive that while most of the rationalizations, explanations and focus of blame, for ravaging corruption, is external; such as poverty, weak institutions that make consequence low, and competitive consequence of conspicuous  consumption of my Mercedes is bigger than yours genre, a good deal of what makes for corruption comes from within. So much of the lasting interventions or corrections have to do with the inside. The most frequently cited inside – out property that is a bulwark against the evil of corruption is contentment. So what makes two people of similar circumstances act so differently in the face of temptation for corrupt gain? A sense of contentment makes one uphold his or her dignity while the lack of contentment in the other drives what is then manifested as greed; just a little more, as Carnegie was said to have said, when asked how much is enough.

It is in the realm of these issues that Guruji, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shares some words of knowledge and wisdom. He makes the cogent point that ‘a lack of connectedness breeds corruption in the society’. He gives this as reason why corruption is lower in the villages than in the cities. Indeed this point is a fitting reinforcement of one of the more seminal pieces to come out of Nigerian political science, Peter Ekeh’s “Two Publics” which explains why a Nigerian who would not dare steal a dime from his village union purse, has no qualm carrying away as much of the federal treasury that comes his way. He lives in two contending civic cultures. One, to use the Sri Sri’s language, is more connected. In Guruji’s own words “Half a century ago, a person would feel very secure when he had a lot of friends. Friends were his constant social support system, so he was not easily corruptible. He did not depend on just a few bills to get by. He said to himself, “There are people around me who are going to help me out” Today due to lack of connectedness you fear whether your own children are going to care for you or not. Because of this sense of isolation everywhere, the only feeling of security you find is in telling yourself ‘ok, amass more wealth’ and you keep it all in your personal account. Money has become the sole source of security”

The tragedy is that as policy failure and other upheavals shake people’s security in the corruptly gained money it triggered greater corruption to consolidate. Civil servants who lost lots of money in the stock market simply stole more to recamp. Then the security goes to social perception of how much you have and more obnoxious conspicuous consumption, like Private Jets, become the craze and the huge costs of maintaining those result in even greater corruption until a point where the Army of the unemployed, impoverished further because these competing rich are not creating jobs as their money is from corruption, and is hidden from investments spark off social anomie. The anarchy predicted, then comes, with all as victims. The corrupt can flee, but few are welcoming of them and their end may just be as welcomed as the case of Mabutu Sese Seko or Nikolai Ceausescu. (more…)

THE KIDNAP OF PUBLIC CONVERSATION

It is so hard to be a Nigerian today. In few arena is this more true than in the realm of citizen duty called public conversation. In many ways the public square has been abducted and is hostage.

As Chibok abduction of young school girls began to generate civil society reaction, I was excited that revival was underway for a part of modernity that was so inadequate in the public arena. But my top priority was the safety of the young women and the anguish of their parents and other relatives and dear ones. In some ways I saw it also as an opportunity for leadership to pull together our fractured society around a common cause.

I held my breadth as I hoped a leadership lesson I teach young people at the Centre for Values in Leadership would gain play. At times like we were approaching, I had often thought them, true leaders rally people across the many divides that can plague organizations, business or political life. People like Abraham Lincoln overcame by doing that, and is celebrated in discussions of the idea of a cabinet of rivals.

Each time reporters called me for attribution on aspects of the crisis of finding the girls I tried to maintain a line that we should first of all be statesmen and focus on getting the girls home, focusing on our shared humanity. Appropriately, as is their duty to find the angle that titillates, they ask if the Government’s handling of the matter has not been inept. I had to remind myself of one view of the news report, from my undergraduate days, that sees it as the ‘scintillating titillation’ of some of the days events. It was not abnormal that they were fishing for attribution to show the government was competent. I as opposition person it should have been music to my ears. So the effort to draw me into mauling the government where it was most vulnerable was normal. But I suggest we should first, think our humanity, our country and get our girls out before apportioning blame on conduct.

But the spirit of public conversation was far too partisan, so so emotive, and sometimes so unable to focus on the key objective, get the girls home. From across the divide of those for who it was one more piece of evidence of how hopeless things were, to those who will invent anything to show that everything is in the imagination of the enemies of the regime, the lines they pursued polarized without throwing light on anything. (more…)

WHEN A STATE LEFT THE UNION

The National Assembly raved and ranted but failed to reflect, when the erroneous report that a foreign government scenario planning report suggested Nigeria would break up by 2015,made the rounds a little over 10 years ago.

Today many are saying we have worked ourselves straight to the result. Some now say Jonathan could be Nigeria’s last president as they expectArmageddon in 2015. One thing is evident though, one state has almost taken leave of Nigeria. But who is to blame? The bad but true answer is all of us. The trouble of Nigeria is a failure of citizenship.

To start with, no one said Nigeria would break up in 15years that is by 2015. A routine 5 yearly survey of trends around the world for United States strategic planning was ostensibly the source of these speculations. The report hinted 14 years ago that Nigeria’s declining influence and degrading institutions, which if unchecked, would within 15 years, place Nigeria in failed state status

There are many who look at the so called failed state index and can conclude that the prediction already came through. But, in some ways, the idea of a failed state as a definitive destination and a point of collapse, as science would for example define boiling point under standard temperature and pressure, is neither here nor there. In ways the failed state idea is an emotive point used to make those not in conformity with some parameters of modernity feel a sense of shame. That notwithstanding, the truth is, no one said Nigeria would break up in 2015

As one of the global thought leaders assembled in Stockholm by the peace research institute in Stockholm, SIPRI, a few years later to consider the successor report, I know that it is not about predicting break up, but it is an indicator of great faltering. Nigeria had faltered. Its influence had waned.

So how come we are all responsible for where we are. I recall now a number of quotes I have used to rouse people to become citizens, get involved. The most frequent goes back to World War ll and the Reverend Martin Niemoller .First they came for the Jews and I said well, those Jews are trouble makers. Then they came for the Communists and I said, thank God I am not a Communist, then they came for the Catholics and I thanked my stars I was a Protestant. When they came for me there was no one left to speak up.

I have also often turned to Dante’sInferno, reminding that the hottest part of hell is for those who in moral crisis take refuge in neutrality. Again we draw from Martin Luther King Jnr who reminds us that in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

I think Nigeria lies prostrate because of the silence of its citizens not the guns of Boko Haram, or the voice of the foreign media. And part of it is in what the state invests in trying to ensure the silence of citizens. So how can we better educate power to understand how it’s greater interest is better served by an open, critical society.

I listen in on the cacophony of now and I hear the deafening silence of the elders, those you will call elder statesmen, elsewhere. I hear the hum of the murmur of business leaders and I see the Abacha era all over again. I hear the voices of those sponsored by state actors to muffle the voices of citizens like the *BringBackOurGirls torchbearers; and those muscling all who dare ask how come the Leviathan fails in its primary duty of securing lives, property and the pursuit of happiness. The louder voices powered by state Treasury says ‘do not hold your elected representatives accountable for security’; you should instead hold accountable, it legitimizes a group of anarchist, threatening our civilization. What remarkable wisdom. It reminds me, at the level of economic analysis of how many development scholars first reacted to early writings of people like the MIT Economist Rudiger Dormbusch when they canvassed the idea of the open economy. Today those concepts are welcome. They are the reforms we all tout now. (more…)

THE DEATH OF LIFE

It seems so worthless here, life that is. There is hardly any day, these days, when the headlines do not trumpet the boldness of death unnatural. Violent death from the work of people who you have never had a quarrel with seems to define daily life now in Nigeria. How did it come to be so and what can the committed do to pull back from this brink.

Whatever may be the general thinking about why this orgy of violence is upon us the reality is that death is dancing on our graves and we are not trying hard enough to locate why our individual lives and collective being is so broken and traumatized.

It is important here to note that death is about more than the loss of life. There are very many walking deads laid waste by the culture of death which stokes us. Take the living in Jos after the bomb blast kills so many innocents.

Those who survive deal with the trauma of uncertainty, constantly looking over their shoulders waiting for where and when next. People too scared to go to market are quietly starving to death even as those who cannot transact the daily trading that is source of income, are too broke to have real life. And so we all die slowly. To fight back against, this death taking us hostage, we strongly need to die.

Die? How can dying save us from death? In Liberia the slang for give me a dash, is die small for me. True indeed it is that when you give up something you die a little, in a manner of speaking. A Nigerian priest travelling in Liberia during the civil war once gave a touching homily about policemen at a check point who said to him bossman, Oga, in Nigeria speak, die small for us.

To save us we must be willing to make sacrifice for truth. So what is the truth about why Nigerian life is worth so little that the daily news reports of so many being killed by Boko Haram bombs is now taken as one of those routines that people hardly blink when only a few people are killed.

If we are to get to the bottom of why all of this is norm we ought to talk about the fundamental problematic of the Nigerian Condition. This is the collapse of culture in which the general value system and dominant social ethos hold other things more valuable than human life. In Nigeria money and power at all costs, seem to have become prime desire. To get either, or both, people have been willing to suffer humiliation, betray trust and become numb to their shared humanity as they pursue the goal of money or power.

Politics is a classic vehicle for loss of a sense of life as the ultimate value. I first reflected deeply on this when about 20 years ago. I attended a meeting of Ohaneze Ndigbo in Enugu. As was the tradition, a selection of top of the class retired for caucusing and lunch atthe home of the then Governor of Enugu State, who at that time had just become a former Governor. At Dr. Okwesiteze Nwodo’s I was seated between some notables like a former Vice-President of Nigeria, Alex Ekwueme, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu when in the cause of lunch one noted money man and politician quietly leaned across to me and said “you see all these people puffing up as big men, just wait for the military to blow the whistle for the resumption of politics and you will see them groveling at my home. When that time comes I will bring out a casket with a corpse and get them to swear allegiance to me and jump over the casket so they can get money for their campaign” (more…)

AUTOMOTIVE POLICY AND THE REST OF US

It was a little surreal to learn of a new automotive policy that had just been proposed for Nigeria. A close mimic of the import substitution industrialization strategy made famous by Latin American Economist Raul Prebisch from his time as Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) and First Director- General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The logic is simple. To create jobs through industrialization the import list is taken up and some items deleted with substitution coming from local production. That local production may begin with CKD assembly in which on- costs may be quite high and uncompetitive. To make up, high tariffs or import bans are imposed to ‘protect’ local industry.

The trouble has been with the infant industry burden on local consumers as many infant industries fail to become competitive.

When Nigeria began industrializing the Nobel Laureate in Economics Arthur Lewis was promoting the ISI idea in his work in the Gold Coast (Now Ghana) It was natural that ISI strategy affect policy choice in Nigeria. When National planning during the Gowon era identified the automotive sector as having great potential to stimulate production in several sectors, an ISI strategy took firm root.

To get things going Nigeria signed agreements with several automakers to set up plants to begin with CKD assembly and backward integrate. The result was the setting up of plants in Kano by Fiat Iveco, Bauchi for Steyr, Lagos to host Volkswagen, Kaduna, Peugeot and Enugu, Daimler Benz. Ilorin was to host Nissan.

On account of the agreements, import bans and tariffs went up to allow market demand build up. Nissan sold lots of Datsuns as part of that advantage. About 1977 the Datsun 180k was one of the most widely sold cars in Nigeria. When it came time to implement, Nissan begged off.

Peugeot, VWN etc, watched the policy environment unable to advance the goals of sustainable motor manufacturing. The contradictions were obvious. The Productivity Prices and Incomes Board (The Price Control Agency) stipulated prices which relative to costs meant giving away shareholders funds until the end could be seen. This produced ridiculous outcomes in sales of used cars. As prices for used cars could not be fixed you generated used cars and auctioned them and people bid twice the price of a new car that was hardly available, for a used car. The reason I never remember my car number is we used cars for weeks just to generate used cars.

When I went to work for VWN I declared the ISI model for automobile manufacture an anachronism. The nature of scale economies was such that the number of automakers in the world would shrink to a few, and the entry barriers were such that Nigeria competiveness was of little hope, and more importantly backward integration, otherwise known as local content; had failed very badly. The component manufacturers that established in Nigeria like Fichtel and Sachs were closing shop, etc.

My suggestion then was that we take advantage of the partners here, VW, Peugeot SA of France, Daimler Benz etc, to become suppliers into worldwide production of the firms in which our factor endowment gave us competitive advantage to become global leaders in its production. My favorite endowment was Rubber, of which we had at a time the best yield per hectare in the world. In my view, if we became the leading supplier of one or two rubber components produced most efficiently at the highest quality for supply into global value chains.

One of those who gave my views a good listen shortly after I joined VWN was Oxford University economist Paul Collier. Ironically he was, two decades later, commissioned be UNIDO to study China’s rapid ascent in manufacturing and what Africa could learn from it. It was no surprise that what Collier learnt from the study was that the Chinese did what I was prescribing for Nigeria in the 1980s. His favorite example was one local government that produced nearly three quarters of all the buttons worn in the world. Had we become 80 percent producer of one rubber component used in motor cars world wide it would create hundreds of thousands of quality jobs and earn us more foreign exchange than crude oil.

To know this and see the same old game being played in ISI logic with the same Nissan that was a no- show a generation before is to feel deep sadness.

As we celebrate the hard work of a super salesman, Chief Michael Ade Ojo it is appropriate to make the point that sometimes you have to trade. Britain was renown, as a nation of shopkeepers. We all now go to Dubai trading. We can trade where that is strength and manufacture where we are competitive. Sony cofounder Akio Morita came to be known as the paramount salesman of the 20th century. Chief Ade Ojo is in many ways is our Akio Morita. CVL is proud to hold him up as example of hard work, entrepreneurship and salesmanship. Even more importantly he is a role model in giving back to the community.

Pat Utomi
Founder/ CEO
CVL

ON FORGIVENESS

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

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

APC AND THE MYTH OF SAMENESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BEYOND SIZE: APC AND THE NEW NIGERIA - Pat Utomi

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

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

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

ANAMBRA: AVERTING LOOMING TRAGEDY FOR A PEOPLE - Pat Utomi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE HUNTER-CONQUEROR MINDSET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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