Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Boko Haram Question

It is not surprising that the Boko Haram question is fast gaining space in Nigeria. For a country that has almost been ruined by poor leadership in the political, cultural, economic, and religious sectors; the emergence of the Boko Haram sect is only a positive reminder that God loves Nigeria. With the pitiable depth Nigeria has sunk to in the last fifty years, many outside the shores of the country had thought that the world’s most populous black nation would have been dead and buried in the backyard of African history. Nigerians should therefore thank God before worrying about the menace of Boko Haram.

Over the last few months, many commentators have made the grave mistake of putting the Niger Delta crisis in the same basket with the Boko Haram question. Others have placed Boko Haram in the same cage with the Odua and Biafra agendas. They are not in any way birds of the same feather.

History has shown that political, social, and economic ideologies built on the foundation of religion is usually very complex and difficult to manage. This is due to the important place of God in the affairs of men and societies. It has therefore been easy for people and organizations to hide behind the banner of religion to promote their individual and collective beliefs. Even when some of these beliefs are doubtful or unpalatable, fear of the wrath of the unseen God- and not necessarily threats of violence weakens the resolve to put up open resistance. This, coupled with high quality propaganda has earned many radical Islamic organizations such as Al Qaeda the sympathy of many Muslim faithfuls.

In analyzing the Boko Haram question, one fundamental issue must be fully digested. Every religion has a unique way of responding to different issues involving God. For instance; Christians will gladly wait for God to avenge those that desecrate His name, nature, or eminence. Some Muslim sects will not. They will rather stand up to physically defend the name, nature, and eminence of Allah. This is the foundation of Islamic radicalism or fundamentalism. Unfortunately, several western countries like Britain and the United States have refused to accept this bare reality. The result is a steady increase in terrorist activities all over the world. In their own folly, Washington and London have responded with the use of extreme force against militant organisations at home and abroad.
Despite the astronomical amount of human and financial resources deployed in the last twenty years to combat religious radicalism as represented by Al Qaeda and sister organisations, very little have been achieved. This is one simple reason why I strongly endorse President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to bring the leadership of the Boko Haram sect to a round table. This should not be seen as weakness on the part of the federal government. President Jonathan should not for any reason repeat the mistakes of the two Bush presidencies in the United States. They undermined the complexities and spiritual strength of Islamic fundamentalists. We are all sad witnesses to how wrong Washington was.
With superior arguments, the Boko Haram sect will disengage. This argument will however not be done with threats, guns and tanks. In 2009, the Nigerian federal government appropriated about N400b to equip the military to extinguish militancy in the Niger Delta region but failed woefully. What the military succeeded in achieving was the demolition of several coastline communities. They also won the prize of killing thousands of innocent women and children.
With all of these in mind, the federal government will need to invest enough political will and diverse resources to make the Boko Haram leadership appreciate the truth about the mechanism of globalization. They need to be told that our failing value system- not western education is responsible for the sordid state we have found ourselves. A whole lot of intellectual capacity will be required to achieve this dream.

I am not aware that western education encourages government officials to ignore the interests of the wider society and protect their private interests alone. Western education does not teach corruption. It does not also promote sexual promiscuity. No doubt, the concerns raised by Boko Haram are tenable. The problem is how to address them. This should be a challenge to all political, economic, cultural, and religious leaders in Nigeria. We cannot sit back and allow our values to be rubbished by the greed and strength of a few heeled persons in the society.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dressing corruption in white linen

Never in the history of Nigeria has the fight against corruption been so fiercely fought like have been done in the last ten years. Despite this fact, only very little have been achieved by the two major anti-graft agencies- EFCC and ICPC. This is hugely due to the high amount of energy and craft deployed by the many apostles of corruption within and outside government. Unknown to many, corruption has almost become a national culture. Many Nigerians are also forced to see and take corruption as a source of livelihood. It is pertinent to point out that high level of unemployment has made the culture of corruption fashionable. There is therefore the important need for government to take the issue of unemployment very seriously.

To effectively tackle the problems of unemployment, government at all levels must do well to expand the economy by energizing the private sector to create many new jobs. This can be achieved through the deliberate reduction of the general cost of doing business, access to cheap business start-up capital with a friendly repayment plan, and the wooing of foreign investment among others.

There is no gainsaying that Nigeria has a robust market and variety of mineral resources that will easily attract foreign investors. Nevertheless, issues of stable power, security, effective transport infrastructure, and stable polity are critical factors in the global business community. It is recognized worldwide that only sound political leadership culture can promote a healthy business environment. This is what every investor- local or foreign look out for.

Unfortunately however, very sad realities in the nation’s polity have continued to pose a major threat to winning the confidence of foreign investors. Very few investors will be willing to risk their capital in a country where integrity and patriotism are relegated to the background of national culture. It is a very huge fact that the lack of integrity helps to blind public servants from seeing the evils of corruption. Also worthy of note is the fact that only unpatriotic leaders can afford to take undue advantage of their exalted offices to promote mainly their individual interests at the expense of the larger society choking in the cold hands of poverty.

No doubt, the business of law making is sacred. This is true to the extent that quality laws help put societies on the fast lane of socio-economic transformation. Ordinarily, legislators are treated with high level of regard in all democratic societies. This is however not so in Nigeria owing to very bitter incidents in the National Assembly in the last twelve years. Apart from the fact that many members snore through sittings, supposed honourable law makers have on several occasions engaged in physical assaults on each other right inside the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly. On one or more occasions, these contemptible incidents had resulted to injuries, hospitalization, and even death.

One of the greatest threats to Nigeria’s democracy is the several cases of corruption allegations against successive leaderships of the National Assembly since the nation returned to democratic political leadership in 1999. Allegations of corruption have always been the reason behind the frequent changes of leadership in both the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly. This is most shameful and unacceptable in modern societies. It has no doubt rubbished our collective efforts as a nation aimed at winning the confidence and respect of members of the international community. Perhaps, this will help to explain why despite Nigeria’s huge market and variety of abundant natural resources, foreign investors have been reluctant to put their capital in the economy of the world’s most populous country of black people. This is a big indictment of past and present leaderships of the National Assembly. They have not been able to lay a solid foundation for an effective national transformation agenda.

Nigerians cannot continue to feign ignorance of the fact that our legislators have fallen short of global best practices. While in many countries, law makers are spurred by patriotic zeal to serve; Nigerian legislators seem to be ruled by their individual interests. That could be the only reason why they are not in any way bothered by the urgent need to legislate towards improving on power supply, transport infrastructure, health care, education, housing, security, employment, and national economic growth. Instead, they busy themselves with padding their individual pockets with outrageous allowances. This is nothing but dressing corruption with white linen. Their aim is to mislead Nigerians. A black cloth will remain a black cloth whether won to the farm, market, office, or funeral. In the same vein, corruption is corruption whether dressed with white linen called allowances.

Instead of the executive arm being a threat to our democracy, it is the legislature that Nigerians are worried about. The reason for this is not far fetched. Graft dressed in white linen has taken a whooping 25% of national budget. To make matters worse, the National Assembly have rubbished the necessity of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Committee (RMFAC) through its in-house mechanisms. The doctrine of checks and balance has been tilted in favour of the legislature. They have unlimited powers to decide what individual members take home as allowances. This could be the only reason why members of the National Assembly take home between N60m and N100m as allowances alone every quarter. They are also at liberty to borrow at will.

From the look of things, the task is too big for the executive arm of government alone. Nigerian masses will need to join forces with the executive to clip the overbearing wings of members of the National Assembly. The nation’s present economic realities do not support the outrageous salaries and allowances our legislators take home. It is therefore surprising that despite the revelation by the CBN governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido that a whole of 25% of the nation’s budget was spent on the welfare of national law makers; efforts have never been made to correct the anomaly by the law makers themselves. The long suffering Nigerian masses had expected the law makers to show remorse and rush to “repentance” following the Sanusi “missile.”

As a nation, we do not need Prophet T.B. Joshua to prophesy that Nigerian masses are angry. If the leadership of the National Assembly is not prepared to begin the process of “unpadding” their pockets, those individual members with conscience should do the unusual by returning a minimum of 50% of their allowances to the federal treasury and earn the forgiveness of history. The “unpadded” funds should be added to the allocations of state governments. It will go a long way in helping to breach the gap that the N18,000 minimum wage law will cause many state governments.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Witches" Boo EFCC Boss

It has now become fashionable for associates of persons suspected of corruption to accuse government of “witch-hunting”. The latest was the booing of the chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri by some members of the National Assembly. This is most shameful and should be condemned by all patriotic Nigerians. It will be safe for one to argue that there is really nothing wrong in hunting “witches”- corrupt persons. This is so because corruption has destroyed the foundation of good governance in the country.

There is no doubt about the fact that the widely reported story of the booing of the EFCC boss by some members of the National Assembly is very disturbing. The nation’s legislators should not squander the patience of the Nigerian masses. The masses have not yet recovered from the revelation by the CBN governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido that a whooping 25% of the nation’s total budget was used to service the welfare of members of the National Assembly alone. Indirectly supporting corruption will therefore push the poor suffering masses to tow the path of self help which is too extreme and dangerous for our democracy.

Rather than accusing the anti-graft agency of witch-hunting opponents of government, the legislators should condemn whatever form of corrupt practices by their colleagues and go ahead to make public the names of those being shielded from prosecution. The time has past when associates of persons accused of corruption fueled narrow sentiments or simply hide behind the banner opposition to buy the sympathy of Nigerians. This is a new Nigeria.

Those who live in glass houses are not supposed to throw stones- misappropriate or steal public funds. This is one reality most public office holders have failed to accept. The long arm of the law will always be there to flog them despite any amount of booing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The high cost of law making in Nigeria

The primary aim of law is to underline the principle of equality of men. This noble principle is the foundation of justice and fair play. Without justice and fair play, society will be threatened by the problems of insecurity, crime, chaos, and underdevelopment. Owing to this valid fact, most democratic societies have tended to accord great honour to legislators. In these countries, the legislative arm of government is seen as a ladder leading to national unity, peace, and development.

As important as the business of law making is to the stability and growth of every democracy, some societies simply see and treat legislators like other citizens. It is patriotic zeal that most drive their passion. But in a very sharp contrast, legislators in Nigeria's three tiers of government shamelessly blindfold the citizenry and arrogated so much power to themselves. They are mostly insensitive to the plight of the common man. Sadly, Nigerians are beginning to see Nigerian legislators to be representing their individual pockets- not the nation. This could be the only reason why Nigeria's law makers earn outrageous salaries while over 70% of public servants are unable to rely on their income to service the feeding, housing, transport, health, education, and social needs of their families. It is also believed that Nigerian law makers are the highest paid in the world. This is ridiculous when married to the fact that as the world's ninth largest exporter of crude oil, Nigeria is still ranked as "underdeveloped" in the real sense of it.

An average Nigerian senator earns about N240m annually while their counterparts in the House of Representatives go home with about N204m. This development is very sad for a country that lacks basic social amenities such as roads, hospitals, schools, water, and electricity.

On recently, the Nigerian nation was shocked when the CBN governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi disclosed that a whooping 25% of the nation's entire budget was used to service members of the National Assembly alone. The legislative arm of government do not deserve this excessive "padding" culture. There are no visible improvements in the lives of ordinary Nigerians for legislators to merit the outrageous salaries and allowances they take home.

We do not need Prophet T.B. Joshua to prophesy that Nigerians are tired and angry. The leadership of the National Assembly should as a matter of urgency do a soul searching and voluntarily downsize their wages before the masses march on Abuja to make a physical demand for justice and fairness in the utilisation of the nation's wealth.

On the other hand, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Committee (RMFAC) should commence actions to flog the National Assembly in line with reason, justice and fair play. This is the only way the confidence of the masses will be strengthened.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bankole: The potrait of political arrogance

The decision of the immediate past speaker of Nigeria's House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole to dictate when to respond to official invitation from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)was most regrettable and should be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians. By his actions, Bankole attempted to rubbish the collective efforts by government and the citizenry to sanitise the nation's economic, social, and political landscape that is bedeviled by pandemic corruption. With this shameful act, it will take more efforts and time to convince the international community that the much talked about war against graft in Nigeria is genuine. Let us not forget the fact that as a nation, Nigeria cannot make much headway if the global business community does not have confidence in the ability of government to isolate corruption from private and public businesses in the country. It is the economic sector that sustains the socio-political framework of every nation.

With the Bankole saga very fresh in mind, this writer is compelled to suggest that the National assembly quickly create a law that will punish whoever that refuses to honour the invitation of any of the anti-graft agencies in the country. With such law, Bankole and his likes will not make the mistake of ignoring the invitation of either EFCC or ICPC in future.

Many had thought that Bankole will hurriedly use the opportunity of his invitation by EFCC to clear his name of all charges and insinuations. By his actions, he has indirectly given credence to the opinion of the EFCC and thereby raising even more suspicion. With the quality of the nation's justice system, there was no need for him to attempt to hide from the long arm of the law.

Thank God that despite all the pride and arrogance he displayed, the arm of the law was long and strong enough to catch him. At least, the whole world will know the truth. More than that, the international community will be convinced that we are serious about the war against graft. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Did Bankole throw stones? Let the courts answer this question.