Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Promises promises

The first sentence of this article was much more promising than the actual story it relates. At least the allegations against these former ND governors have now been brought to the formal (public) attention of the President...let's hope the investigations (would these be headed by the EFCC?) are transparent and that the results actually lead to some concrete action being taken against the guilty parties.


Nigeria: FG to Probe Govs, Others -

PAST and serving governors of the Niger Delta region are now to be probed by the Presidency, over charges that they are the chief sponsors of kidnappings and violence in the area.

President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua agreed to the clamour of some Ijaw ethnic nationality leaders on the matter yesterday in Abuja, maintaining that a judicial inquiry may be raised.

Reacting to the development, Rivers State government hailed the plans and said it will support anything that would bring a permanent solution to cultism in the state.

Yar'Adua said he would order a thorough investigation of allegations by leaders of the Ijaw National Forum (INF) led by Chief Edwin Clark a former federal commissioner (minister) on the origin and causes of the recent crises in Port Harcourt and Rivers state generally.

At an audience with a delegation led by Clark, Yar'Adua said that he was also prepared to establish a judicial inquiry into the crises, if investigations indicated that there was a need to do so.

In a statement by Ojay Abuah on behalf of presidential spokesman Segun Adeniyi, President Yar'Adua was quoted as saying that the allegations must be put in writing for thorough investigation.

"You have made very grave allegations. Put the allegations in writing and we will investigate them. I assure you that our interest is for peace and stability in the Niger Delta.

"We need peace to achieve rapid development of the region. If it is clearly established that anyone is a party to causing the crises, he will be dealt with according to the law. We will act on whatever comes out of a thorough and just investigation," the statement quoted the President as saying.

Could this be the start of something, a continuation of the EFCC saga or just more promises?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Yar'Adua's First 100 days and Beyond - Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati examines the first 100 days of the Yar'Adua administration and what gaps need to be filled in the coming months...we do agree that at the centre, Yar'Adua has done a fair amount of work (and should definitely be commended), but as Abati points out, he cannot be the "President of everything"... surely Nigerians would thank him for focusing on 3/4 key issues and resolving those during his time in power. As for the governors, do you think Abati highlights their gross ineptitude enough? (for example, read about Oyo state governor's current woes). What's your take on THE FIRST 100?


In 100 days, it should be possible to know where a new government is going and gain an idea of its programmes and motivations. And so an assessment of the Yar'Adua government in 100 days should be useful. I begin by arguing that in the last 100 days we have seen at the centre, a government that has been struggling to settle down and define its focus. President Yar'Adua had come to power on the first day with a seven-point agenda and the promise to be a servant-leader.

He also promised to continue with the reform programmes of the previous administration that was led by the political party that brought him to power and his Godfather and benefactor, General Olusegun Obasanjo. In 100 days, the new government has been very busy trying to define what this means in an experimental, stream-of-consciousness fashion. Matters of governance have moved so slowly and tentatively that the President has earned for himself the moniker, Baba Go-Slow. There may be nothing wrong in being deliberate and calculating, but what has been advertised is a certain kind of slowness arising from lack of preparation which has since given birth to extreme caution.

Three major events have promoted this perception: the shoddy handling of the matter of legal powers between the office of the Attorney General and the EFCC/ICPC, with government reversing itself within 24 hours; then, the aborted flirtation with the idea of a national unity government. There is also the scandal of the Naira re-denomination policy which gave the impression of a divided government at the centre with the Presidency so out of control that it could be upstaged by the Central Bank Governor. But it is not only in the Presidency that there is so much fluidity. In the states, the various Governors are behaving as if they are in a swoon. In Imo state, the Governor has launched a state-wide environmental sanitation exercise to remind the people of the importance of hygiene; in Jigawa, the Governor is focussing on the handicapped and providing them social security, but in most other states, the Governors have been full of excuses or they are having to battle with serious crises arising from the circumstances of their election to office (this is the case in Edo, Rivers, Ekiti etc.).

Generally, there is a lull. Governors who are spending their second-term in office are also celebrating their first 100 days in office, but the people are too willing to forgive these ones for doing nothing. The assumption is that you do not need to do anything as a Governor if you are no longer seeking re-election. New Governors are excused on the grounds that they are also slow because of cases pending against them in election petition tribunals. But I do not see how this can justify inaction. The explanation is to be found in the lack of ideas about what to do, and the failure of our institutions. Even when politicians are busy with matters of political survival relating to their mandates, a state can run on the energy of its existing institutions. But here, the institutions are dependent on the whims and caprices of the man in power. If President Yar'Adua closes from work at 4 p.m everyday, the entire presidency also shuts down, whereas running Nigeria is a 24-hour/7/365 days business.

To be fair to the Yar'Adua government at the centre, it has done a good job of establishing an identity. It has managed to brand itself for public consideration. Although the President had campaigned on the platform of continuity, in 100 days, he has succeeded in showing that he is aware of the burdens of history sitting on his shoulders. He still talks about continuity but the greatest victim of his administration in the last 100 days has been the preceding government and former President Olusegun Obasanjo in particular. President Yar'Adua has already reversed some of the controversial decisions taken by that administration, with an instructive sub-text: rejection and distancing.

The first is the reversal of the increase in the pump prices of petroleum products and the sale of the Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries, following an early protest by organised Labour. The second is the suspension of import duty waivers. The third and perhaps the loudest is the refusal of the new President to offer appointments to known cronies of the former President, those ones who claimed that they helped to put Yar'Adua in power! The fourth is the radical manner in which Yar'Adua's Ministers have been criticising, albeit indirectly the performance of the previous administration. The Minister of Health, Adenike Grange and the Minister of Transportation, Diezani Alison-Madukeke have both publicly condemned the state of affairs in the respective sectors under their watch.

Fifthly, Yar'Adua has since released the outstanding revenue allocation due to the local councils in Lagos state which President Obasanjo seized in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. Sixthly, under Yar'Adua, there has been much emphasis on respect for the rule of law. He demonstrated this by refusing to interfere in the Anambra case in which the Supreme Court ruled that Peter Obi should be reinstated as Governor of that state. We can go on. Yar'Adua has also been praised for adopting a quiet, dignified style. He is also talking about electoral reforms and he has set up a committee to carry out the assignment.

He has split the NNPC into five and re-organised the leadership structure. He has stopped further arbitrary demolition of buildings in Abuja. He has been making some body movement on the Niger Delta question and the problems of the energy sector. There was some noise also about zero tolerance for corruption, and indeed some former Governors were arraigned by the EFCC but that has since died down. Obviously, Yar'adua may not offend sacred cows. One set that has found favour with him is the Council of traditional rulers whose members have suddenly become very influential. The Sultan of Sokoto is now constantly in the news!

Yar'Adua may have given enough indications in 100 days that he is not dumb at all and that he is his own man, but he is yet to provide any clues or answers to two questions: What are the ultimate goals of his government? What is the ideology propelling it? This is not yet clear. He will need more than reading and following the wind of public mood and opinion to govern Nigeria. He must engage the country at the level of ideas and immediate action. He does not need to be the President of everything. Three or four key issues are enough, let him choose out of a long list: Niger Delta, the railways and the roads, electricity and education and get the country moving.

In 100 days under a new government, Nigerians have been confronted with just how desperate their situation is. The word out there is that eight years of the peoples' life was wasted between 1999 and 2007. But the people should by now have also learnt some lessons. It must be clear to each and every one that the rains are still beating us and the roof of this falling house is leaking. All the issues that were papered over by the Obasanjo administration have returned to haunt us even more urgently. Look at Port Harcourt, the place is now a land of anomie; look at the political elite - as greedy and as mercurial as ever, look at the Constitution: we still have to tear it apart and create a new Constitution; look at the society: no jobs, no water, no electricity, a land of unhappy people! This is the broken down vehicle that has Yar'Adua has inherited. And we shall waste no time in holding him accountable.

About 100 days later, many Nigerians appear to be willing to give him a chance. The man is so different, every woman wants to protect him and every critic is studying him as a specimen. But he carries a baggage: the circumstances of his election and the unresolved conflicts over the April 2007 elections. Even if Nigerians are willing to forgive and forget, the international community as indicated in the recent damning report by the EU Observer Mission in Nigeria would not join what seems like a growing conspiracy of silence inside Nigeria. Whatever President Yar'Adua does, or even the state Governors, no one among them can sleep with both eyes closed until the election petitions have been resolved.

Let the occasion of their first 100 days in office be an occasion for sobriety and humility. Let no one spend N623 million on any jamboree and turn round later to say that only N238 million was spent. We expect this new set of leaders to act with some level of intelligence. We may not have had a hand in their election, but it hurts to see another tainted team donning the national jersey.