How things have changed. At the time of independence, they drove progress. It was by the name of the premiers of the Regions, that citizens spelt relief. Not so anymore. Today it is from the leadership of sub-nationals that workers spell indigestion, many not having received salaries for nearly one year. What happened to subnational government in Nigeria? If it is bad at many state levels, it is simply horrendous at local Government levels.
To be sure, not all states are badly run. But there has been a big reversal of fortunes in the contribution of the subnational level of government to citizen well-being today as against the way things were in the1960’s. Where and how did things go so very wrong. In my view a number of factors can be located. Among them, the changing nature of Nigerian federalism; deterioration of both political culture and values in General in Nigeria, and the misuse or misdirection of leadership talent in the country. Also critical to this is the sense of accountability and the shift in the structure of the Nigerian economy.
Let us begin with the over flogged issue of the Nigeria’s federal system. The system of government the founding fathers of Nigeria opted for made the tier of government closer to the people, the regions, the location where their essence was defined. Both the current list and residuary powers pointed clearly to the distribution of authority. It was therefore no surprise that one of the more powerful politicians of the time, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, chose to send his deputy, Sir. Tafawa Balewa, to the Centre to be Prime Minister, while he manned the backbone, as Premier of Northern Nigeria. This bottom up Federal structure, examples of which remain available in Canada’s contemporary experience are there to look at.
In the first self-governing epoch from 1956 to 1966 the tradition of subnationals competing around who will most bring progress to their people is well establish. Robert Melson and Howard Wolpe’s book on modernization in Nigeria speak to this ‘Competitive Communalism’. My own favourite examples include the rush to industrialization in which Chief Awolowo rushed out with the Ikeja Industrial Estate and Okpara responded with Aba and Port Harcourt, as the Serdauna did in erecting Kakuri in Kaduna as the hub of Textile manufacturing in Nigeria. Same race for Television with Ibadan as first city in Africa to have TV. With education Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe having gone East tried to respond to free education in the West with the budget bursting 1957 Eastern Nigeria thrust.
Today hardly any initiatives for progress are coming from the subnational level. It’s all about FAAC account receipts and salaries payments. Some say it is because they are too small and not viable relative to the regions of the 1960s. Even though I was one of those who argued this fission of states, making the point that federations are better built by accretion, I still think small states can be viable with intelligent creative and dedicated leadership. The city state of Singapore is proof-positive of that as Luxemburg in Europe from an earlier time. Indeed the prosperity of the Low Countries in Europe defying images of viability by Economists present enduring examples.
It is pertinent to note the prudence of those who ran the larger, so called more viable subnationals of Nigeria in the 1960s compared to those who run the extant atomized structures called The Premier of Northern Nigeria make do with one or two official cars with his ministers using their own cars and claiming mileage allowances. In the last few years Governors disappeared from front row Business class seats and the hearty welcome by the Captain of His Excellency to chartered or owned Jets even when last month’s salaries had not been paid to people whose precarious existence looked so deep in water that even a ripple could drown them.
The ethics and morality of the times as well as the quality of exposure of those who run our states today, compared to those earlier times compared with failure of citizen engagement for accountability is significantly responsible for the problems. State Governors are treated and therefore act as Lords of Manor presiding over fiefdoms.
I never stop talking about how Dr. Michael Okpara never allocated a plot of Land in Enugu even though he had responsibility for the allocation, because of ethics and how those who came long after, presiding over smaller portions allocated hundreds of plots to themselves as EFCC cases suggest. The saudarna case in northern is even more amazing because he not only could not buy government lands but when he tried to buy private lands the banks told him his income was inadequate to support a mortgage. Can you imagine that happening today?
Part of the reason for this ship is the alchemy of soldiers and oil. Military rule with the command structure and limited room for questioning a superior officer, mixed with Oil revenues making taxation less of an imperative of how we govern ownership of the essence of governing slipped from the people and accountability as what people demand for use of their money was lost.
With a general collapse of culture, as the simple life left politics the subnational governments not given to wealth creation and the sourcing of future tax receipts multiple dimensions of the problem resulted in the crisis of this moment.
In my view what is needed is a radical rethinking of the way states are governed, especially in view of the abuse of the 1975/76 reforms of local government administration that brought them into the fiscal arrangements with transfers to them from the Federations Account. Access to the Distributable pool Fund has not buoyed Local Government Administration largely because of the quality of Leadership there and the advantage it provided governors who with the excuse of poor capacity prey on Local Government Funds. A comprehensive probe of this phenomenon in the last 16 years with consequences should help correct things.
We must become a learning people. It is not acceptable that in a time of forward surge around a globalized world our yesterday seems better than our today. This failure to learn is seen in the current crisis in the National Assembly where the practice of capture from the states has moved with the Governors who ran them to their favourite next step, the National Assembly. When I first reflected on the senate presidency elections and lamented that the change Nigerian people could be under threat, some thought it was alarmist. Not more than a week after it had become evident that I was prophetic and that if the people do not rally appropriately even regime legitimacy could be shaken.
It is critical that we not only rebuild our institutions but that we all take personal responsibility for how our conduct shapes history and the future of our children. The youth of our nation must seek better understanding of the signs and seasons and not just go on stereotyped abuse on matters they understand little. They must seek to make sure the pursuit of personal power does not jeopardize the promise of a nation and its generation of now.
If we can begin from the subnationals to rebuild, we may yet save the national government beset by the major challenges of economic management that has forgotten the people in favour of special intersts, creating income distribution challenges moving towards a time bomb with the levels of unemployment; systemic corruption; huge infrastructure deficit; and insecurity writ large on the land.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Prof of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
How things have changed. At the time of independence, they drove progress. It was by the name of the premiers of the Regions, that citizens spelt relief. Not so anymore. Today it is from the leadership of sub-nationals that workers spell indigestion, many not having received salaries for nearly one year. What happened to subnational government in Nigeria? If it is bad at many state levels, it is simply horrendous at local Government levels.
You do not have to look hard to find the wisdom in Winston Churchill’s definition of democracy as the worst form of government, except for the rest. In our country, one of the great pointers to what is troubling about our democracy are the kind of people who dominate it.
Many political actors are hustlers and have no obvious other sources of livelihood than the rents they scavenge off being politically active, as well as the scams they perpetrate against the commonwealth, which are clearly debilitating of the process of delivering quality public service that advance the common good and improve the quality of life of citizens.
All these add to the image of politics and politicians as something unwholesome, causing many capable people to flee the public space. The result is that policy choice is significantly latrongenic, that is to say very of many times, the policy choices we make do more damage to the patient, than the disease we are trying to cure. This is understandable, as many who dominate the arena of policy making have neither the training, leadership capacity, nor the discipline to apply themselves, responsibly, to solving society’s problems. As a person usually cannot give what they do not have, the lacuna left by poor capacity is quickly filled by a process of goal displacement is as aptly described in the book; Complex Organizations, by Charles Perrow, resulting in an obsession with corrupt enrichment of self at the expense of public purpose. Goal displacement can be the bane of the bureaucratic order. In typical analysis this is seen as greed and a manifestation of a narcissism of the bureaucratic age, whereas the problem is a feeling of a void, created by lack of capacity and purpose, with other goals more personal than organizational or public, filling the void. This underlies the problem of local governments with “tout” councilors.
A general recourse in truly to solve this problem is to call for radical change in citizenship conduct such that the better prepared for public life instead of fleeing the public space not to be contaminated by the violence, blackmail and the mischievous scandalizing of those who enter by those who live off politics and often have nothing to lose by way of pedigree and reputation but everything to gain by the power, and material benefit that come from political position.
So we urge forward quality people, who are able, to enter political life. But what do they encounter? Their businesses are quickly stigmatized. They cannot access financial instruments because they are tagged politically exposed persons. With the PEP stigma they are likely to suffer in economic life and be tempted, like the professional politicians who lives off the system, to think of ways of surviving while serving sacrificially, for the good of all.
I know a few good men who have tried politics, motivated by the noble ideal of service, got so much poorer, without being appreciated for the sacrifice they made, that they swore never again to approach the arena of political life.
Which capable and competent professional would really want so seemingly a tainted tag as, politically exposed person? It’s easier for such people to cynically refer to the arena as territory of “Dem all crazy” and retreat into striving to construct his comfort zone, a bubbled based on an economistic sense of self love. The truth, in the end is that like all bubbles, it is not sustainable. Worse still all of society is poorer for that orientation. So how do we install a regime in which the professional politician is pushed back, and the citizen politician, equipped in the Aristotlean philosopher King mode steps forward, burdened by the need to advance shared prosperity and social harmony, to offer light.
My alarm on this subject has been heightened by the amazing number of people with and without capacity, who in my recent experience I found desperate to be appointed into positions of any kind in government. For the first time I came to a full understanding of why we have bloated government.
In my thinking, one of the ways to tackle this choking of the system, with carrying unproductive load, is to create more centres of prestige in society and reduce the material attraction of political life. Where the businessman who makes a success of enterprise, a bureaucrat who builds a reputation for attaining execution premium, and the soldiers who reaches to the top with distinction is celebrated and recognized as much as the political success there will a lower incentive for crowding out the arena of politics for those with the passion to serve. When a very strict culture of accountability, compensation systems different from what the National Assembly has managed to institute, are put in place, to ensure that political pay comes into line with the civil service compensation and requires sacrifice on the part of those in government.
People have to learn to sneer at politicians with no evidence of job creating, wealth creation enterprise, behind him or her. At the same time we should learn to celebrate the simple life in public life. The status conferral function of the media needs to be developed to raise the profile to politicians who move around without a coterie of aides and security people and who live very simple lives , do society a world of good.
At the same time the abusive interpretation of the idea of PEP should be reworked so that the entrepreneurially oriented who have capacity to advance the common good in public life with transparent systems to ensure accountability, and the blockage of possibilities of abuse of public position for self-interest, should not be disadvantaged by what the PEP idea insinuates.
With this in mind we can consciously look at the paradoxes of the Democratic culture in practice and evolution so that society profits from democracy as desired.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership
It may sound naïve, especially for a person who is obviously a partisan, but my concern and alarm have little to do with the who won or lost in the National Assembly leadership election palava. Easy as this can be lost on the gladiators; we could be collectively sabotaging the poor ordinary people of Nigeria desperate for change. Could this elite which has consistently failed to find its mission and do for its people what their old classmates in schools in the US and UK and elsewhere in the West, have done for their people in Asia and Latin America, unwittingly miss this window built on a change mantra, and betray another generation. It was with this spirit of wondering how easily we chase power, unmindful of purpose that I exclaimed on seeing the political bloodletting in National Assembly leadership selection. My reaction was oh my God, not again. With the process and outcome clearly signaling disunity, lack of discipline and weak goal setting, and severe goal displacement, the least impact would be challenged implementation of what the people voted for.
Oh no. Its not happening again Not again in my life time? But it was happening. The sense of dejavu was not just troubling, and evidently palpable, it had a puzzling force that left you feeling and wondering how is this possible; the way you feel when a 747 or an A380 is tossed around by mere wind in clear air turbulence. The vote for change had run into turbulence at the inauguration of the National Assembly. It was not about who won or who the battle was against. It was about a public brawl and the change agenda.
It was about the ordinary people who had persevered so much in the face of underperforming and uncaring governments beholden to special interests and so seemingly unable, or unwilling, to go where less endowed rivals in other parts of the World have gone, and dramatically improved the lot of the people. To drive a change agenda for which the people voted in April, legislative Common purpose was a clear imperative. To go to legislative inauguration without Party discipline and with a fractions mode and the old ways, of , money and personality politics in top flight, was to betray the voters of this country, and that is what 9th June means to me. Hope has again been annulled and for the third time in my life a costly battle for change has again been hijacked. As 1993 and 1999 so seems to have gone 2015, if the people do not fight back.
I was lamenting these things when someone called my attention to and advertised full page opinion by some concerned APC members in Daily Trust Newspaper of the 9th of June. That Advert was so reminiscent of the kinds of Advertisements published in 1993/94 by the Concerned Professionals that I did exactly the same thing I did in 1993.
In that year many of us had canvassed a change agenda. The social Democratic Party and its flag bearer, Chief MKO Abiola had come to symbolize that change. Two days after that historic vote I journeyed to the United States to attend a convention. It was at that convention that a Ugandan delegate came up to me, very angry saying “you Nigerians, you Nigerians, whenever Africa is set for progress you drag us back”. I was not sure what he was talking about, but that was how I learnt of the annulment of the June 12 elections. I immediately packed my stuff and went up to my room and began writing an OPED piece that would appear under the title “We Must Say Never Again”. That piece resulted in the founding of the Concerned Professionals. That body acquitted itself well in the struggle against military. It was a principle based struggle. They may have sent policemen to beat us up as we protested and sent assassins after a few like myself but the principle was not lost on them.
When Abacha passed and they withdrew under pressure we erred in thinking our work was done. The politics of the last 16 years that followed, left Nigerians so exasperated that they jumped on the Change mantra. So uplifted were they with the outcome that they assumed their World would change dramatically come May 29. Such was the expectations that analysts worried the expectations were unrealistic and bordered on expecting miracles.
Then comes June 9. For days before the vote for National Assembly leaders I kept saying that for me it was not about a particular candidate but about a process that shows party discipline and national consensus around an agenda for change. If the process gets fractured, I had warned what will happen will include a return to the old ways of vote buying in which goals of the common Good are traded off in the old goal displacement ways, for money and self-interest. Then there is the loss of speed on consensus critical for change legislation. My song was clearly a borrowed verse from US President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammed: It is better for all to be inside the house pissing out, than for some to be outside the House pissing in.
It is easy to see it as a simple political game if you miss the cost of these simple games for why Nigeria is poor and our society is marked by much disharmony. You may then analyze New PDP vs other groups in APC, or checking certain power blocs. Even many of the actors who presume to be acting in self-interest have embraced a narcissism that has blinded them to their own long term self-interest, as they embrace short term personal gain. Because of this the ‘only business in town’, politics, manages to do continuous damage to the real sector businesses which give life to a majority of the people. But to the short sighted, it does not matter, this is politics. So my view was, sort these things out, whether in smoke filled rooms, or in a sanctuary of truth and love for the suffering poor of this endowed society. The signaling from a public brawl that will bruise egos and carve cleavages into the polity and etch animosities into the relationships even in intra party affairs may create momentary victories but they have a sad way of amounting to phyyric victories and delaying the reclaiming of the promise of Nigeria.
With mountain high challenges in the economy, trailed by an unemployment time bomb; security problems that go beyond the Boko Haram and Kidnappings, and Electrical and Petroleum sectors, in much need for reform, even as corruption, failing education and healthcare make us a tribe of refugee around the planet; now was not the time for politics as usual.
I have tired of worrying about Raw political power, quest for possessions and quick inclination to predation (The 3Ps) muzzling Purpose, to prevent progress, in Nigeria. The 9th of June brought it home again. There could be merit in the pocket wars and persons that were the target of breaching the consensus for change on that day, but the consequence will no doubt be progress deferred. The big losers, the people; the small mechanic who needs electric power for a job to earn the next meal, the farmer who remains in subsistence because poor infrastructure locks him out while public officials live like Lords off a wobby state, To the truth and prescription the citizen typically go away forlon for they swallow the lies of politics as usual. The only solution for me is people power. The people must say to a political class riding roughshod on their well being: enough is enough. People power must come to save the people recovering from the euphoria of a promise of change that seems deferred again.
What was the purpose of the vote for change? The purpose is an elite that for one generation failed a people and denied them the progress they deserve and desire, should change their way and bring progress to the greatest number of people. The patience had worn thin. Now it is the people must now take back their country anyway they see fit. They cannot watch as Singapore escapes Third World status, South korea, became one of the most knowledge-driven high income societies on earth and Brazil go from potential to a top 10 economy in the World. These countries found a patriotic elite at some point that sacrificed for progress. Since Nigeria has been repeatedly denied such by its elite the people may have no choice but to rise up and save themselves. There were enough blames for June 9 to go around, from the APC Party hierarchy whose complicit role was put forward in the Advert I referred to in morning in The Daily Trust by some concerned APC members, to PDP leadership whose business, no doubt, is to make the party in Government uncomfortable but who must know that in decent societies a government must be allowed to settle in and not for legislators to collaborate with those across the Isle in ways that can be disruptive. Fortunately, it’s never too late to begin again.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
You are right again Einstein. The old thinking that created this problem will not fix it. Nothing is more desperately needed than a new way of thinking about our problems in Nigeria, but there is ever present dangers if old ways still hold sway. In the area of the greatest urgency, saving the country from impending bankruptcy, wiping the unemployment scourge, and boosting confidence in future prospects, through inspiring our youth to recreate the future, challenges of approach remain. Has change really come?
It is common talk amongst those who know that if we do not do an extra- ordinary job of cutting our coat according to out cloth we shall be knocking on the doors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before the end of this year. Their conditionality may prove far more painful than the enjoyment of few private jet owners during the difficult to pardon recklessness of our recent history. How do we recapture the lost opportunities and rebuild the wounded lives that victims of our wrong choices have endured.
In my view, the new thinking must include a show of example at the top. That show of example has to include deep cost cutting on protocols, unnecessary aides and wasteful entertainment on the executive side, and on the side of the National Assembly. We may be constrained by the constitution from going directly to a citizen legislature, or part time Assembly, which is what we really need, but some major cuts and shifts in how that body operates is a national emergency, before the country heads for the IMF. We do not want to be in Africa, what Greece is in Europe.
We should not see that matter as fault finding because what we need the most right now, is elite consensus and rallying common cause for rebuilding the fallen walls of the fatherland. The legislators of the land, just as the big man of power in the executive, need to see this as a patriotic rallying cause. Even more importantly the bureaucrats in the system should show leadership and plug the leaks in the system as well as Dams over corruption streams that make policy implementation difficult. Everyone needs to be inside this house of reconstruction, pissing out, rather than for some to be outside in the ‘open air of their selfish interest’ pissing in.
What Nigeria is caught up in, with finances so bad, following on a period of earnings boom from which there could have been much savings, but little was done, is the moral equivalence of war. We need therefore a war cabinet of economic reconstruction with new thinking not only on how to plug the leakages but also on how to harvest the demographic dividend of our huge youth bulge. My preferred approach is a total emersion in an entrepreneurial revolution that draw the youth of Nigeria, in a change of mindset, from a rent –based consumer economy, to a creative, competitive production economy. In this model the factor endowments of different zones of development should be that basis for building globally competitive value chains that are private sector driven with impassioned public sector facilitation in contradistinction from today’s public sector with a culture of the policemen slowing things down, and often extorting from potential job and wealth creators, who are then discouraged. This process will involve converting the customs and immigration agencies into public relations vehicles competing for who will best welcome those who add value to the Nigerian experience.
In each zone the educational system needs to be deliberately focused on competitiveness on the endowments of that zone. The new industrial policy should locate Industrial Parks and incubators, with Entrepreneurship Extension Service Agents to hand hold young Entrepreneurs and guide them to global leadership on segments of the chosen value chains. I do go as far as suggesting a Central Banking strategy similar to the regional Reserve Bank system in the United States in which the Central Banks are driven by the goal of stimulating regional commercial Banks directed at the regions endowments, and global competitiveness.
It is jobs created in this way that will prove sustainable pipeline for new jobs, reviving both Agriculture, relevant manufacturing and some services in the ICT, and tourism niches, that will replace some short term new jobs from public works programmes that will provide quick infrastructure and improved environment ‘value – adds’ while the young persons are developing new skills, part time, as they work on the public works initiatives.
Critical to such a strategy will be interministerial coordination skills at the horizontal level, and state and federal coordination, at the vertical level. The spice will however lie in motivating the young persons to confidently own the future and to recognize that if they can dream it, they can make it happen.
Surely the intersection of fall in Oil prices and change in Administrators is an opportunity rather than a threat. It is an opportunity to move from angry helpless youth to confident creative, new generation, building a dream nation. It is opportunity to go from cutting corners and instant gratification, to deferred gratification that creates lasting value. It is opportunity to shift from poverty and a miserable place in the misery index, to a nation of many triumphs and prosperity. The big challenge here is that if we are to save Nigeria from the old thinking that got us where we are, being the same deployed to save us, we must admit some truths. One of them is that as a country Nigeria has been mortgaged to some special interests since the time of military rule.
For these interests, change is not about the common Good. It is a matter of reshuffling the deck, change is about new lists of surrogates. The Nigerian people may therefore just wake up to their great expectations quickly becoming rising frustration.
If the youth of the land want to save their future they must not relax in the believe change has come. They must be prepared to take extraordinary measures to prevent these special interests who finance elections from sacrificing the greater good at the altar of recouping their “investments”. No one should be shy of talking of an unfinished revolution and working towards finishing it. No generation deserves to carry the burden of narcissism of a handful of men from a generation before.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
Besides being an admirer of a Christian group, Promise Keepers, I hate it whenever I fail to keep a promise. In the heat of the run up to the gubernatorial elections my name was caught in a surreal outpouring of passions regarding remarks by the Oba of Lagos. I chose to keep from responding after a few tweets. But I promised to respond the day after season of emotions had gone past and my prayer and purpose for a tranquil atmosphere in which none was lost to rupture sprung from tensions associated with rumpus flowing from the remarks. Thankfully my prayers were answered on the peace the day after.
It should be helpful to first present a factual chronological sequence of how I came to be involved with this matter, then I will challenge on the welfare and wellbeing of Ndigbo in Lagos pull off the gloves on character, as the language of the internet seems to be uncivil conversation.
On the morning of Easter Monday I had several scheduled meeting at my home. As I chatted with some concerned Professional friends Chief Festus Odumegwu and some others arrived, complaining as they walked into the living room, of a remarks made by the Oba of Lagos. From the I -pad of one of those who arrived in his company, read the front page of a newspaper trumpeting it and collectively lamented the remarks and the prominence the newspaper had given it. We decided to call the Oba and express our displeasure indicating we would be heading to the palace to suggest how to make plans for erasing the impression.
As we got set to go to the palace, some people for the next meeting arrived. We then agreed that I stay back while the others go on to see the Oba. The next day I was at in a meeting in my office when a call came through from a friend in Abuja. The friend, Ubong, was neither, Igbo, Yoruba, or a politician. He said that he was calling to say to me that hate-laced exchanges in the social media around the remarks were getting out of hand and if not managed could result in a small spark on Election Day producing tragic outcomes.
All through the campaigns I had written, condemning hate speech, from all sides of the divide. Was my worst nightmare about to play out in the one place I did not manage to think it was likely, Lagos. My instinct was to do something to calm nerves and douse the flames. I quickly tweeted a view that the remarks were unacceptable but that familiarity with the Oba suggested it was in character to crack expensive jokes so the remarks should be ignored. I went back to work thinking I had made a modest contribution to ensuring that none may come to any harm with an escalation of barter of hate talk.
Two hours later I got a call that I was in the eye of a storm in social media. I could not imagine why. I thought which of my many foolish remarks has started this one. The last thing that crossed my mind was that something motivated strictly for what I at least thought was the common good. Could cause this I tried to read. The amount of poison was incredible. I immediately realized I had unwittingly played into the hands of those who wanted to make political capital relative to the vote of a few days ahead.
In a tradition of using hate to accuse others of hate, a few themes were evident. I had to be an Ibophobe, someone acting a surrogate for another to make light something grievous. I thought then it made no sense to provide more ammunition to those trying to make hay from polarizing the community, with little thought to how it was warming the keg of gunpowder. Surely if the Oba was wrong, I said so, why would I still attract such attacks? If the person, the Oba was wrong and going after that person so viciously could make the thing horribly feared, happen, there had to be unwisdom here. But politics and the emotion of that moment is not given to thinking things through so I decided to wait till after nerves have calmed.
Later that day I got another call from Chuma Okolo a corporate executive who is a chief of Asaba. He said he was berating some people on what he called the hypocritical quarrel with the Oba’s remark when someone said are you taking the Utomi position, and he asked what my position was. He had not seen the tweets. He said that what the Oba said would be said by the Asagba of Asaba if he was pouring libation days before voting if someone from elsewhere was contesting for local government chairmanship against his ‘son’ and that any traditional ruler in the East who did not do act similarly would be unnatural. And that those complaining were hypocrites. I told him that in truth I had not even thought about all that, and only had the safety of the same people who were abusing me in mind when I sent out the tweet.
But his remarks set me thinking about context and understanding. In traditional prayer forms we often say things which people outside the context could read differently. I recalled that just three weeks before, the President of Aka Ikenga had called me to host a meeting he was arranging for the APC team of the Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola and the now V-P elect, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and the now Governor elect Akinwunmi Ambode to meet the Igbo elite in Lagos. Even though it was not convenient for me I acquiesced, as duty, to host the meeting of nearly 200 in my home. I had the duty to break the Kola. Speaking in Igbo as was the tradition, I called on the gods; onye na chu anyi, ada. Onye anyi nachu, ada. Which translates those chasing after us will trip and fall, and those we chase after, will stumble and fall. There was rapturous applause. All it really says is may we prevail in the storms of life and in our pursuits. But it could be taken out of context to mean a prayer to dominate other peoples. I thanked Chief Okolo for his call and realized that even though my aim was quite narrow the lessons from this brouhaha for living together in peace was much broader. The great old Igbo mantra was Egbe belu, ugo ebelu. Nke si Ibe ya ebena… roughly live and let live. But I wonder if in the collapse of culture which I referred to when I introduced Prof Chinua Achebe for his Valedictory at the Ahajoku lecture. In Owerri shortly before he joined the ages.
But it did not stop my amazement at suggestions of ill-will or even Chamberlain-type appeasement on Igbo matters. Me? Could it be ignorance or mischief that anyone would dare suggest that? I would like here to pull off the garb of modesty and challenge anybody to show me six Ibos in the last thirty years in Lagos who have done more to advance the Igbo cause in Lagos than myself. I will be willing to go toe to toe in evidence based debate. Just on institutional arrangements I was in on the base year of the founding of Aka Ikenga. Could be wrong but I doubt anybody has chaired more working committees of Aka Ikenga than myself. When the challenge was media disposition to Ndigbo in the 1980’s I was requested to chair the information and culture committee. I believe men like Professor Joe Irukwu, Chief Hilary Onokogu, Dr. John Abaelu can give personal testimonies of the work we did. When the concern was educating the merchant class I was asked to chair the education committee, and when it was which way for the economic wellbeing of Ndigbo, I chaired the Economic and Finance Committee. The latter committee produced the blue print of the Niger Basin Project, a plan for private sector based development of the South East/South South Zone into the industrial hub of Africa. I believe Dr. Ken Ife who reviewed the document at the World Igbo congress in London in 1998, when coming of politics overrode the agenda, may still have words for that effort.
I served repeatedly as Vice-President of Aka Ikenga and remain till date perhaps the longest serving member of the Board of Trustees of Aka Ikenga.
Surely many of the leading Igbo merchants will recall that it was into my Living room they crowded as Chris Asoluka and I worked shuttle diplomacy when Port reforms aimed at crippling them, were being implemented. It was in that same Living room that an Ikenga General Meeting decided Ndigbo in Lagos needed to have an Apex, Umbrella platform different from Ohaneze. Someone then quickly suggested the task be mandated the ‘bridge’, as I was considered the one from this group of then 40- something year olds who was well wired into the Igbo elite in their 70s and was much accepted by the youth and at the same time the one Igbo as at home in the core South East as in his birthplace of Igbo bi nuzo, therefore able to pull together the Igbos of the South East and those in states like Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Benue etc.
On that mandate I called Odu Arthur Mbanefo, now Igwe Green Nwankwo, Admiral Ndubisi Kanu, Admiral Allison Madueke and a few others. In that same living room, with Odu Mbannefo presiding the formation of Ndigbo Lagos started.
Among the more intriguing things about the so called storm on the Oba’s remarks is that elements involved with TAN and its objectives stoked the fire. Interestingly Ifeanyi Uba of TAN is one of those who has repeatedly acknowledged, along with people like Chidi Anyaegbu of Chisco, my sacrificial giving of time, talent, financial resources and network to advance the wellbeing of Ndigbo in Lagos. To his credit Uba has on occasions sent cartons of premium alcoholic beverage and gifts, to support what he calls the non-stop traffic through my house on Igbo issues. Indeed, six years ago this month Ifeanyi Uba and others came there for a private dinner to introduce them to the newly elected President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo. Thankfully there is record of the President-Generals tribute to my efforts at the World Igbo Congress in Orlando Florida a few years ago. This is why I put the social media sentiments aside as pure politics and took no offense.
All of these people have been aware of my mantra on how to engage with host communities. It is a theme often reflected in my speeches at Igbo day celebrations as I have been consistently keynote speaker at the Lagos event, year after year. At the one of last year, my dear friend Jimi Agbaje was sitting a few places from me.
In these position I have often cited the writing of Filipino Professor at Yale, Amy Chua, whose book, World on Fire, explores how globalization is expanding the coast of “market dominant minorities” and stoking ethnic hatred against them. Her illustrations include the Jews, Chinese across Asia, Igbos in West Africa, etc. And my proposition always has been that such groups should develop strategies for building goodwill and mutually beneficial interdependence relationships with host communities.
Even though we know of some who run off to Aso Rock and other centers of power in the name of Ndigbo and get due personal reward, none can relate my service to anything but selfless giving as duty. Yet to think that the descent into incivility is so complete in our social media culture that some suggested I was bribed by Senator Bola Tinubu to make light of the Oba’s comment, is to talk of the pits.
I dare here to repeat a boast I have made before. Even in this country of systemic corruption where I have heard testimonies at a fellowship of thanksgiving for being posted to a lucrative desk, I can invite anybody who knows of any occasion where I have used position to demand of another a bribe, what is not my due, to make something happen. Not in my entire life, no matter how difficult things were at any point in time, grace, which is more than sufficient, has enabled me never ask or take a bribe.
The last time I made this claim and invited anyone who disputes it to come forward I said the person did not need to provide proof. Just indicate the transaction, even if it is a false accusation. I am pretty confident even the nature of the transaction will show up such a person.
I may be many things, naive, careless, even incompetent etc. but have never taken a bribe. My relationship with the APC leader has quite a history, but certainly one in which no material benefit has ever come to me. I first met him at an event in the National theatre in 1998 when came up to me to say that while they were in NADECO exile my writings provided them a compass from which they took positions. A few months later he was elected Governor and I was invited to chair one of the working groups of the transition. As the Tinubu cabinet got in place I was asked to lead cabinet retreats. Those services were pro bono but as Yemi Cardoso who was commissioner for Budget and Planning would know I charged the bank he was an ED at, Citizens, and clients like National Maritime Authority, between 7 and 10 million Naira for similar services in 1999. As part of my citizenship duty I was literally donating tens of millions of Naira to the Lagos State government, not getting something from Tinubu.
The one effort to show appreciation in return was an unsolicited gift that was eventually not actualized. One day, the then Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor saw me and said, ‘I have been holding something for you’. It was a letter awarding me a parcel of land on the Lekki Foreshore. In the end the government could not reclaim the land from the sea for budget reasons, and the allocations were cancelled with promise of reallocation. I have never asked what happened. Since I am not a contractor I generally have never asked for a contract in Lagos. I know I have been told I am foolish, and being used, many times, but it’s just that people think your goals and theirs match. My goals have often been around institutions that will leave tomorrow better than yesterday. When it dawned on me that Governor Tinubu was best located to make my dream of a two party democracy in Nigeria come through, I stayed close and kept the pressure on him. Seemed impossible, but it has happened, and I am pleased to walk into the sunset and beg for God’s mercy and history’s kindness. The gift of contentment, and love for my people and all of God’s children have caused action sometimes not understood, by people of different values. But in all I take to Jack Welch’s famous words: Leadership is not a popularity contest, so lead. Igbos say Ada eji mgbagbu ayologu. Will never shirk a just battle because people die in war. Besides mgbele ka eji ama dike. Ability to respond to the unexpected shows the strongman. To be of service elected appointed or even self-appointed you sometimes have to ignore what gets you claps and do what your conscience tells you is right no matter how many are ready to pour scorn in an age where abuse is considered public conversation. So I take no offense and apologize to those who truly misunderstood me. To those who choose to hold on to what they conjure up I respect it as their right but urge that they find a place for the ethos of decency in how they advance their judgmental disposition.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
In my management consultant mode, I am associated with a global strategy consulting Group, Palladium which grew out of the work of Harvard Business School Professors Kaplan and Norton, the Balanced scorecard innovators There the execution premium is buzz. In a few days the elections will be history, but if we do not now take on an execution premium mindset, no matter who wins, we may have taken the huge trouble and costs of this campaign and elections in vain.
An imperative of post-election season after these troubles, means whoever wins must be quick off the starting block prepping for an execution premium. There are many reasons to be quick off the block, and a few things that are critical to be reflecting on now to make a Usain Bolt surge forward.
Among the first considerations will be healing. No one can make progress governing a country where significant parts of the population are alienated. The 2015 campaigns were extremely divisive. I have lived through every election in post-Independence Day Nigeria. None, in my view, has been more divisive. To bring enough healing, no matter who is declared elected, will involve great skill. That skill needs to be deployed quickly.
Also quite important for effectiveness in the years that follow is financial conservation to make the short term tolerable. The election have been unbelievably costly. From my experience, I can hazard a guess that on a per capita basis it would be a runaway top spend campaign in the world. Despite the shambolic fundraisers, most know the much of the money came either from government treasuries directly, or from businessmen who will get a return on their investment in multiples from government contracts. The consequence has been empty treasuries around the land. This means the need, in the short term, to find resources to resuscitate activities in MDAs. Without such, things can deteriorate so quickly and make the implementation of any game plan
Goodwill for recently elected government, the honeymoon, is usually significant, but can run out fairly quickly. It is important therefore to move on major initiatives during the first 100 days. The need for clarifying purpose and aligning capacity to objectives while shaping culture to support the thrust of policy, should be high priority.
Had the elections focused more on issues rather than personalities, hate speech and the abuse of opponents, there would already be enough consensus to facilitate receptive grounds for execution. Much will have to come now from massive selling, drawing on the best from society to build confidence in the will to implement. Here, much can be learnt from how Henrique Fernando Cardoso, in becoming Finance Minister of Brazil, brought together Brazil’s finest young economists with the assurance he will go for the consensus they arrive at on the way forward, in spite of his life long career position as a ‘Dependista’ calling from de-linking from global capitalism. The consensus of the young economists favored globalization, and Cardoso used his credibility with the Brazilian people to urge the acceptance of that track. The policies brought the huge inflation and many challenges of the economy to a slow down, and the resumption of new growth. It was no surprise that Cardoso became president and foreshadowed Brazils ascendancy to global economic powerhouse status. Bringing the best and brightest of the land quickly into the house so all are in the house pissing out rather than many outside pissing into the house is important for both healing and charting the path forward.
One great value from the 2015 elections including even the name calling, is that they have caused awareness to be heightened. People are more likely to hold governments accountable, going forward. Many have come to be frustrated with the kind of candidates on offer and what the issues should be. It means civil society will be more active and citizenship come back alive. Are public officers better prepared to be accountable and not have the kind of thin skin we see today.
The elections also threw up the need to manage, differently, institutions that should be insulated from or supported better to hold up the system. The Umpire INEC, and the security services are good examples. The building of institutions and legitimacy of regime will be enhanced by their getting early reform attention as part of making commitment to better ways forward, transparent. Significantly a reform agenda early are important for giving hope at a time when many, particularly those who lost are despondent.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist, and Social Entrepreneur is the founder of Centre for Values in Leadership.
It seems to be here at last. The 2015 Elections. In spite of all that has been done, and is probably being done to abort it, it is likely Nigerians will vote for President and Senate seats this Saturday. The Die is cast but none has to die to cast a vote.
The lead up to these elections do not call for triumphalism of any kind but it has to lead down the path of some personal triumph and the triumph of that sphere of the human spirit that seeks to escape yesterday’s limitations, no matter the outcome of vote. I feel a great sense of gratitude for the privilege of being part of helping a country better understand and grow, albeit imperfectly, on the path of democracy and progress. This was made more meaningful by the fact that this was in the direction of both proselytizing the democratic ethos, with direct engagement of praxis in the building of stronger competing political parties, and the essennce of what democracies do.
One of the modules I teach in the Leadership sequence is Goal Setting. I make an effort to drink my own medicine; walk my talk and practice what I preach.
I began by prioritizing my goals down to two, my citizenship duty goal and my institution building hope.
As citizen I had a duty of holding power accountable for how responsibility was discharged and ensuring that the interest I represent, values I uphold and aspirations I have, are in the mix of what results from the market place of ideas as policy.
In the run up to these elections, this goal raised a major red flag and new area of hope, the need for a culture rebirth in public conversation and for major reform of the electoral process.
The flight to abuse or trading of insults which was prevalent in social media and some campaign material put up by surrogates suggest new areas for education, but outside of that, the goal of getting people more aware of the challenges of governing and the appropriate fit of candidates with the need, enjoyed a big leap forward in the 2015. And this was partly also, beyond my citizenship goal, the result of the institution building part, with the emergence of two strong parties, the second of my two goals.
To friends who asked why I bothered “to be a citizen” by pointing out what was wrong with extant order, and taking it to the point of expressing preference in response to responsible comparison of conduct, even if within boundaries of my idiosyncrasies, there being no perfect objectivity, it was too costly. This costliness was in the sense of power abusing position to harm the interest of those not considered cheer leaders.
First I think that silence, so as not to be perceived as critical of or opposed to those in power, for fear of other interests being in jeopardy, is part of the reason our democracy has failed to come of age, allowing sycophancy that has damaged decision making, and fair play, create an atmosphere of cronyism and abuse of the commonwealth. As I told a friend, better that government officials cripple my interest and my children leave in freedom than that I financially prosper and my children be in mental slavery. Like Patrick Henry I was willing to say, give me liberty or give me death. The poor political culture of the Desperados of now threaten to poison relations in our country for a generation and I am proud to pay a price for standing up against it that history may know there were other kinds in these times,
Indeed there is the fear that the disposition for violence with hate speech not only make working together after elections difficult, but also justifies the fear of speaking truth to power or supporting credible alternatives for public office. It was duty for me, therefore, to stand up and be counted even if it aggravates power that is untutored about the ways of democracy. But that citizen duty compels a post-election canvassing of effort to change culture regarding power being used against the private interest of people who do their democratic duties, no matter who wins the elections. To lead, just as to live, is to serve. If that is the purpose those who offer to serve must be prevented from making us die so they can serve.
On the goal of institution building I cannot but pay tribute to all who worked to build a strong other party. These elections show it has been one giant leap for mankind who live in Nigeria. No issues would have been canvased or records examined without it. And it must continue that way after the elections if we are to make progress. Had hoped for a broader range of issues and more stout engagement on the issues but the journey to democracy finally started.
Part of my post election agenda, no matter who wins is strong engagement on reforms that will reduce the deployment of money in the canvassing for votes and pressuring a culture of the simple life for people in public life. Our treasuries are empty, state obligations abandoned. Yes, this is part of the failure of accountability, but also a derivative of the accepted life style of politician who have to be constantly on the go, in this season, with their entourages, and who think votes are for sale.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist, and Professor of Entrepreneurship is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
As presidential elections approach with major party candidates in a war of character assassination rather than on the issues. Those policy and performance matters taking the back seat, reminds of one of the many wars Iraq has known. Saddam Hussein’s long battle with the Kurds had, at some point gone on for so long that one of the International newsmagazines labelled it “The war the World forgot”. The 2015 campaign surely advertises the issues the campaigns forgot. But the people must not forget.
Issues based elections, besides the values of fueling learning for all, making for mobilizing, public support for policies easier, through the learning that comes from public debate, and leading focus towards the bigger picture; away from the violence that follows the trading of insults; yields governments better able to lead and solve problems. But 2015 has failed to turn our radars towards these issues critical for claiming the promise of Nigeria.
Missing from the stump in 2015 is a serious engagement to an innovation led attack of the unemployment scourge; the frightening trouble of the size and cost of government, the poor security situation, whether the Army is finally making progress or not; the big question of how to deploy revenues; the challenge of declining education and deteriorating healthcare, and Empty Treasuries of Parastatals, as a result of elections. Also critical are positions on the National Conference, as well as addressing the amazing claims on road, rail and power infrastructure, and on an economy in apparent free fall. Amazingly, all of these are easier to engage on than the name calling and hate messages that have polarized the country.
As I have remarked before, the saying in the West is that Opposition do not win elections, incumbents lose them. The challenge of elections is for incumbents is to defend their record, and opposition, to show a vision superior to that record.
The record of incumbents in Nigeria have so far been offered in the breach. Where they have been put up they have come as glittering generalities, or intentions are presented as accomplishments. None have been more ridiculous and embarrassing for me, than presentations of incumbents at the centre, on infrastructure. In a normal country I cannot possibly imagine a government going up for elections to so much and so many for granted.
As one Nigerian on the road, all the time, across the country whenever I see suggestions of extraordinary performance on roads in TAN and other adverts I remember being stuck between Ikot Ekene and Umuahia, regularly travelling between Onitsha and Enugu, and between Akure and Lagos. I wonder what country they are talking about. Then we hear of trains all over and I think someone is daydreaming, but a media, too lazy, or too compromised, to question, allow these claims to confuse the uninformed. With power we face the unusual. Beside the fact the incumbent President said no one should ever vote for him if the power problem was not ancient history by the time of the next election the situation somehow manages to be so much worse than four years back and I am fortunate for 3 hours of power in my up market neighborhood for a day. I can only imagine what it is like in less favored areas.
Everywhere in the World politicians have cosmetic budgets and deliberately touched up performance as elections approach. Ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK this week. Only in this 2015 elections have I seen misery index factors like poor power supply, poor state of pockets, as government agencies fail to pay monies they are owning Nigerians for honest work done in good faith expectation of prompt payment as emblems of norm. These failures to honor such payment obligations may indeed be, as one NNPC subsidiary General Manager said to me, because politicians have bankrupted their treasuries for campaign funds. Bottom line is that the system is dry even as the exchange rate has been losing value, frustrating traders and middle class people trying to remit money to children in school abroad. Watching the state of mind and purse as they relate to human misery you almost get the impression people in power believe people do not vote for their wellbeing because of ethnicity, religion and other parochial mind blockers. Still it seems all so unusual.
Most candidates at both the centre and in gubernatorial races do not seem to bother with issues.
The only one who has presented evidence based questioning of these matters has been the APC vice – presidential candidate, Yemi Osinbajo. Strangely, his share of voice has been very low. Is it media to blame or the APC campaign organization? Maybe both.
Then comes the big elephant, the economy. In many ways Chukwumah Soludo already set up the issues for big conversation on the economy. Fayemi responded for APC but the debate and town hall meetings that should have flowed from it did not come.
If Nigeria does not cut the cost of keeping down politicians and bureaucrats with an entitlement mentality, costs will kill the economy, just as was said about corruption, that if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. Corruption is so pervasive today it makes one sick, and the cost of maintaining so many appointees, so awful; most of our spending is on recurrent expenditure.
It will take a few more instalments to get to a full review of the issues, but is good to start here and then move to the peg social sector with Education and Healthcare.
Pat Utomi, Political Economist and Entrepreneurship, is founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
MEDIA, POLITICS AND NATION BUILDING
I am honored and quite pleased to be asked to give the lecture marking the establishment of Anambra Broadcasting Service.
I am quite sure why Uche Nworah and his team targeted me for this role. I wonder if it is because I am an in-law, having been gifted with a very dear wife from Anambra, or because I was, as they say, the first non-Anambra person by birth to become a ‘member’ indeed a ‘founding member’ of the League of Anambra Professionals.
One rumor about why I was invited is that Anambra is attempting continuous extracting of bride price. I must admit it is a demand I am pleased to meet given that the wife Anambra people were gracious to allow me take has been a great blessing. If after 30years of marriage, you look 30years old, and lift the spirit like a bunch of 300 roses, paying additional bride price should be welcome. But further rumors suggest it may be related to my multidisciplinary back-ground that include a mass communication degree and discipline implicated in Nigeria’s current troubles, policy Economics, Political Science and Business Administration.
I do hope that whatever the reason, those antecedents bring some value to the conversation. Surely one thing that background brings, from the fact that my very first publication in an international academic journal of some prestige, the Dutch Journal, Gazette, in 1981, was titled “Historical-Philosophical Foundation of Government Ownership of Newspapers in Nigeria is familiarity with the turf”.
No one doubts that ownership is a critical part of the role media has played in the evolution of media impact on politics and Nation building.
I have chosen, in reflecting on the times, to speak to the role of the media in Nation Building and the effect of how it reports politics with consequence for nation-building.
It is fortuitous that as I was about to start putting down my thought on this subject, Dr. Tom Adaba, pioneer Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission published a scathing critique of how the media has handled the uncivil campaigning that has marked the 2015 elections campaigns: He was evidently quite upset that the media betrayed lack of social responsibility and poor gate keeping. The lambast came as the postponement of the elections were announced, simultaneously triggering higher levels of tension and capping the pressure in a great paradox of Nigeria on the brink.
For me even though the damage is significantly done, effort can be made to reduce the extent of damage. The amount of hate messaging in the air is enough to poison ethnic, regional and faith relations in a way that will make living together and governing difficult for generations. Why politicians who claim to lead, do such damage, puzzles me. But how media do not know some of these politicians are either too ignorant to truly realize the damage they are doing or too desperate to know better, should bend themselves to be so used calls for indictment even more damning than Tom Adaba’s trashing critic.
I wish again to point to Rwanda and the call on Radio to cut down the tall tree in the expectation that leadership would better appreciate the impact of hate speech. It is frightening therefore that incumbents seem to have done more to stoke divisive politics that can stoke hate that lasts generations and that the NBC could not act because incumbents were deeply involved. If opposition acts foolishly, incumbents should know better because the real burden of leading imposed certain responsibility, which is why incumbent US Presidents, besides the self-interest of ‘acting Presidential’ tend to deploy the so called Rose Garden Strategy.
The media has additional accountability as the fourth estate of the realm, that may surpass that of a wayfarer who stumbles into public office as a result of rigging. Besides, serious journalists are typically better informed than politicians and it should be easier for them to tell the people what similar conduct as we are currently having did to Kenya. It has taken Kenya a good six years to begin to recover from that election. Is anybody’s personal claim to power worth that much damage to the soul of a nation?
Could the media have prevented us from getting to this edge. That surely depends on what you think of media influence, what it takes to build a harmonious and prosperous nation, and how the media is oriented to playing its role in Nation Building. So how does the media exert influence?
Understanding how media influences society is an enterprise that is generations’ old, beginning largely around elections behavior surveys early in the 20th century. Back then ideas around media influence suggested a powerful media that literally determined society’s orientation. The underpinning theory, the hypodermic Needle thesis, hypothesized that like injection delivered medicine to a receptive blood system, the media administered reality to audience. But this thesis was shown the ‘lie’ card when powerful newspapers like the New York Times would endorse candidates who went on to lose the elections.
The media influence Paradigm of that moment yielded ground, in the face of evidence, to a new one which saw media influence from the perspective of opinion leaders mediating media influence, the so called two step flow of communication. This paradigm which asserted the superior place of Opinion leaders produced the hypothesis of two step flow of communication and then the multiple step mediation from media to social action. This view of media influence would increasingly give way to views that suggest media influence came from its Agenda setting function.
Since so much happens in the world, and only a few of these occurrences enter our consciousness, and a fewer still dominate our consideration, the gate keeping function of the media allow it to set the agenda. In the sense, therefore that the media help us, or decide for us what is important, media has great influence.
So if media has influence, what suggests the direction in which they deploy this influence regarding politics and nation building. As many have found economics of media survival, the nature of ownership of media, and the organizational challenges of the media enterprise including the human capital element are critical for media influence. Also valuable thesis in the evolution of media theory from which our media like Anambra Broadcasting has an accounting is the status conferral function of the media, the thesis suggests, confer status. People seen in media get a bit of hallo. The prestige, best noted in the fact of the public assuming newscasters on TV to be well-of celebrities being shocked to see them in those days when they could be level 9 civil servants scratching out an existence, means that those seen in media quickly became role models. So if the media feature crooks, celebrate corrupt people or promote 419 people, the failure of the gatekeeping function there makes such people role models. The current collapse of culture in the country, especially noted in some of the values in today’s southeast can be significantly traced to media access to people who should not make it into media for their ways without editorial commentary on what they represent. That failure of the media has affected what the young value. Part of it is heard in the clichéd saying that the gorgeousness of the man flows from his pocket (nma nwoke di na akpa ya).
For us to fully appreciate the direction of media choice and how these affect the direction of human progress in Nigeria, it should be profitable to interrogate a framework for understanding economic growth which was first offered in my 2006 book, Why Nations Are Poor. The Growth Drivers Framework crystallized from a desire to develop a more holistic framework for understanding why some countries thrive and others incline towards misery.
The growth driver’s framework was the core tool of my 2006 book, Why Nations are Poor. It grew out of two challenges. In 1998 I had published a book; Managing Uncertainty: Competition and Strategy in Emerging Economies, which essentially looked at how competitive strategies of firms were shaped by uncertainty in the environment and how institutions reduce uncertainty. Its focus was mainly on the micro levels response to choices at the macro terrain. In 2006 I sought to show how factors shape that macro arena that firms respond to.
The second influencing source was trying to better explain the frustration African leaders face in following prescriptions by multilaterals. I had gone to the Southern African summit of the World Economic Forum as contribution to the Africa Competitiveness Report. The team, led by Jeffrey Sachs wanted to make the leaders sensitive to factors affecting the Competitiveness of their Economies. One of the questions asked by one of the Southern African leaders showed me clearly how important it was to move away from analysis of change for progress that was unicausal.
The outcome was a framework of interdependent sets of variables that I thought resulted in sustainable human progress.
These are policy choices, institutions, human capital, Entrepreneurship, culture and leadership. I doubt that progress is possible where we fail on most of these counts, but quite central is culture, because values shape human progress, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Two Truths’ emphasize and the Harvard colloquium on it, illustrates. The pervasive impact of culture and institutions on progress are ultimately affected by how leaders set the tone of culture. Leadership failure, compounded by the problem of citizenship can be very easily seen as the reason the promise of Nigeria has dropped to the level of paradise deferred. Until people in power recognize that leadership is other – centered behavior and think less of self, beyond a place in history, we may continue to be challenged. Stephen R Covey does well to remind us of two dimensions that must be present for effectiveness in leadership, knowledge and a sense of service. If you look in Nigeria you generally find both knowledge and a sense of service severely in short supply in the class of typical power welders in Nigeria. Poor performance is therefore understandable. This is actually compounded by a progressively anti – intellectual disposition of the political actors.
Media and Nation Building
The Growth Drivers framework shows us that in advancing the quality of policy choice, moderating contending voices in a manner that result in boundaries that become institutions, the media advance the possibilities of progress because institutions, as Hernando De Soto persuasively argues in the mystery of capital, advance the material possibilities for man.
But where the narrative is one of impunity, as has been that of our recent history, our institution atrophy, and society’s progress remains putative, just potential.
Indeed the framework suggests to us the importance of human capital for growth and development yet if you look at how the media sets the agenda, Nigeria politics is decidedly anti-intellectual, often the extant narrative points Nigeria in a direction of uncompetitiveness.
With Entrepreneurship, you can see an increasing understanding of its importance. Yet the kinds of institutional frameworks that Rhagiram Rajan and Luigi Zingales promote in the book, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists, have not received concerted push from the media.
The big Gorilla in the room here is culture. Values shape human progress. But we have witnessed a collapse of culture in Nigeria. The dominant ethos are of an entitlement mentality and instant gratification.
Also rife in the culture is corruption and abuse of position of authority for vendetta, ethnic and nepotistic motives and cronyism. All of these shoot progress in the foot. While media remains vibrant in Nigeria it has not systematically campaigned to end such elements of the collapse of culture.
In my experience the media is handicapped in this regard by low levels of professionalism, poor economics of its business model and the nature of its ownership.
The matter of professionalism, affected by the training of journalists, the ethics of practice and quality of the people that enter the profession as well as their sense of self worth and mission. The street wisdom, with all the talk of Brown envelopes, exaggerated as they may sometimes be, indicate low levels of professionalism.
Equally challenging is the economics of media. Many newspapers and Television stations run on models that do not allow for enough income for the right levels of investment to get the job done well. Late salaries, and limitation in resourcing tools of the trade, invariably result in poor performance. I tell the story of how a major American newspaper was following up on the Halliburton scandal in Nigeria and a reporter told me he was given a budget of $100,000.00 to nail Dick Cheney, the then Vice-President. I can only imagine of who could receive such a budget to close a story here.
This is part of the reason, besides tradition, from colonial times that we have governments owning media to ostensibly disseminate development information.
Ownership also interfaces with media orientation and content. In the country of the big man this is an even more troubling factor.
The foregoing helps our reflection on how media affects development. We are convinced that a media that plays its role right will be a driver of progress by helping build strong institutions.
Patrick Okedinachi Utomi