Simon Kolawole’s Watery Cement Argument

If you think the problems we create are bad, wait for our solutions” – Government

Simon Kolawole is back pushing his argument for the justification of phasing out 32.5 grade cement in Nigeria. In his latest backpage column for ThisDay, he tells us how a part of a building site behind his house collapsed last week Friday. As is the case when these things happen, it’s always a tragedy and people are injured if they are lucky enough not to lose their lives.

However, in record time, Mr. Kolawole has managed to investigate this building collapse in 48hrs and concluded that it was caused by low-grade cement (in fairness, he admitted later in the piece that cement grade is not the only cause of buildings collapsing). He then goes to throw a few jabs at people (like myself) who were opposed to banning 32.5 grade cement [emphasis mine]:

Recently, when I added my voice to the clamour for the standardisation of cement in Nigeria from 32.5 megapascals (mpa) to 42.5 mpa – which industry experts say is far better because of its setting strength, yield and adherence capability – I was shocked at the fierce opposition by some Nigerians. Not even evidence from across the world that 32.5mpa cement was going out of fashion could convince the critics. Some even rejected the proof that India and China had decided to entirely phase out 32.5mpa from the construction industry – either for plastering or concrete work.

My shock was: how can anyone reject a proposal to improve construction standards in Nigeria, with all these gory tales around us? Does it make any form of sense at all? I was glad that the blackmail and intimidation did not work. The House of Representatives has taken a position on the need to standardise cement in the country and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has also signed on to it. Industry players are now finally shifting ground and accepting that they will now do the right thing. BUA, Ibeto Cement and Dangote Cement have all committed to upgrading cement quality. We don’t stand to lose anything

This is the typical watery stew argument that Mr Kolawole is fond of serving his readers in ThisDay. Yes, Simon, it makes sense. It’s interesting that people who opposed this move have now become ‘blackmailers’ in the book of Mr Kolawole. For having a different opinion? Wonders. Once you start hearing people say ‘there’s nothing to lose’, it’s a good sign that you are the one going to pay for the experiment, not them.

What is the ‘proof’ from China that he’s speaking about? It is true that in January of this year, the China Building Material Academy announced plans to phase out the 32.5 grade of cement this July. Why are they doing this? The answer to this question is very important because it helps to illustrate how Nigerians copy policies from one country and by the time it arrives in Nigeria, it is something completely different yielding the opposite result.

The first clue in answering that question is this recent tweet and chart from Bill Gates:

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 14.44.52

As statistics go, that’s one of the most staggering we’ve seen in recent times – in just 3 years, China used more cement than the US did in 100 years. How did this happen? A basic understanding of the Chinese economy lets us know that the Chinese have ‘over-invested’ in a lot of areas. The kind of investment that has gone on in China in recent years is unprecedented in human history. To achieve this kind of staggering cement output, they have been expanding output for years. No expensive degree in economics or business is required to understand that when a company invests $1 back into the business, that is $1 that cannot be consumed by shareholders. In other words, for the owners of the business, the more a company invests, the longer it takes for them to realise a return on their investment. The game gets longer and longer.

As at 2012, there were approximately 3,000 – yes, THREE THOUSAND – cement manufacturers in China of different sizes. This explains why the market is hyper competitive with rock bottom prices and massive output as illustrated above. No genius is required to know that the Chinese government is the biggest shareholder in the biggest Chinese manufacturers there. As an example, the table below shows the shareholders in the biggest manufacturer of cement in China, Anhui Conch [taken from their 2013 annual report here]:

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 15.04.21

The biggest shareholder is the state-owned Conch Holdings. No point going through all the other big players – the pattern will be the same. The SOE model of China invests in different companies and allows them to compete fiercely against each other.

So with all this information, here’s the actual reason why China is phasing out 32.5 grade cement:

Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 15.08.34

 

This is the answer you will find almost everywhere – in an industry with 3,000 players producing a ginormous amount of cement, the government wants to reduce competition so it can start to make returns on its huge investments in the sector. Most of the smaller players in the industry produce 32.5 grade which is of course easier to manufacture. By getting rid of the smaller guys, the big guys who have spent enormous amounts to increase their capacity can gain a larger share of the market and deliver better returns. If Mr Kolawole has any other sources that show that 32.5 grade is being phased out in China over safety concerns, he should kindly share it and educate the rest of us.

This is how we Nigerians see a medicine that was used to treat depression successfully in one country and then bring it to Nigeria to treat malaria. For Mr Kolawole, it is enough that China is phasing out 32.5 grade cement. There is no need to interrogate further, Nigeria must do the same thing. ARE YOU A BLACKMAILER AND DENIER OF PROOF?! Or do you not want Nigeria to be like China?

And yet, not only are our industries completely different, the problems being solved are two completely different things. In Nigeria we barely have 2 serious players in the cement industry and one controls over 60% of the market. We are nowhere near the kind of market that should be reducing choice and competition for any reason at all. Until prices start to come down and cement manufacturers are no longer making 50% profit margins, we should look to increase competition. We have so many houses to build and complete.

Yet it does not matter to Mr Kolawole that he probably lives in a house built with 32.5 grade cement or works in an office built with the same 32.5 grade or the reality that 99.9% of buildings in Nigeria do not collapse. Something must be banned. And of course since Aliko Dangote has said it, how can it be wrong?

No doubt about it, even one collapsed building is almost always avoidable. But this should lead us to ask serious questions as to why many many buildings built with the same cement do not collapse and some do. How can it be the cement? The proof that Mr Kolawole is ignoring is how this whole move has been an elaborate puppet master scam. I have documented in a previous blog post how this all began with one ‘Tunde Ojo’ and a faceless coalition of civil society groups in the civil construction industry in February of this year. This ‘Tunde Ojo’ has since disappeared, along with his coalition, from the face of the earth. Nigerians are being strung along and of course people like Mr Kolawole do not want buildings to collapse near them.

This banning of 32.5 grade cement is the surest way to take a problem that affects a small number of people – each one a terrible tragedy – and spread it across the whole population. In the name of keeping Nigerians safe, their pockets will now be picked even more forcefully by the same people who are already selling them cement at 3 times average global prices. The deed is of course now done and there’s almost no turning back. But it’s useful to understand that even as powerful as government and its crony capitalists friends are, it still needs journalists like Mr Kolawole to shill for them with emotional arguments containing approximately 0% logic.

This is the real tragedy. When the government, business and regulator are all in bed together, the only hope is the press. No one is asking Mr Kolawole to accept or reject the argument against 32.5 grade. But for Pete’s sake, dig a little deeper into the arguments and let your readers come away from you more educated. What we are getting is an eagerness to ‘conclude the matter’ in favour of Aliko Dangote and co.

I wonder why….

 

FF

 

The Mekunu Revolution

I sent someone to a barber shop nearby just to hear what they are saying about my governor there. He said the barber was just complaining about how the governor is not giving them money. When they now pointed to a big school opposite his shop that the governor is building, he said ‘is it the school that we will eat?

That was a friend of mine who works in one of the South West states in Nigeria in the wake of Fayemi’s loss in Ekiti.

It is hard to escape the feeling that Fayemi’s loss has left a lot of incumbents feeling uneasy because they fear that the issues which toppled him are not unique to Ekiti. There is a Mekunu Revolution afoot and it threatens to consume any politician who stands in its way. But what is it all about? The answer likely lies in the way politicians have been reacting to whatever it is.

Fayemi himself kicked things off a month to the election which removed him from office by reversing his own reforms:

Ado Ekiti — Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi yesterday went back on the decision of government to organise the controversial Teachers Development Needs Assessment (TDNA)for teachers in the state. Fayemi also announced the decision of his administration to commence payment of the 27.5 per cent Teachers’ pecuniary allowance.

Because it worked so well for Fayemi, Edo state has now decided to do the exact same thing:

Edo State Government has reversed the planned competency test for teachers in the state  and  recalled the 936 teachers whose names were deleted from the payroll over certificate discrepancies and age falsification.

This is depressing stuff. Presumably, the teacher who couldn’t read her own certificate last year when questioned by Oshiomole himself is part of the 936 teachers recalled:

Not to be left out, Governor Amosun in Ogun State has declared a ‘naira rain’ for civil servants who now have the bit between their teeth and are threatening to do him a Fayemi:

OGUN State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, has approved car and housing loans for civil servants as a way of boosting their morale and efficiency at work. Amosun also  promised to implement 27.5 per cent Peculiar Allowance for teachers, as well as payment of outstanding allowances.

As anyone knows, this is as good as a gift to the workers. To further boost the productivity of these amazing civil servants who produce so much, Ogun State went ahead to build a dedicated market for them where they can shop in peace and quiet away from the Great Unwashed Masses:

‘Oja Irorun,’ a farm produce market for public servants constructed by the Ogun State government, has been established at the state secretariat, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.

The Head of Service, Mrs Modupe Adekunle, while declaring the market open, said it was an avenue for civil servants to shop with ease.  Mrs Adekunle noted that the market would be opened every Friday and would enable workers to purchase fresh farm produce, which would improve their healthy living.

In addition to all these there are the well worn complaints from Ekiti that Fayemi gave contracts to ‘outsiders’. This is now reverberating in Osun State where Ogbeni Rauf is being accused of hiring the ‘foreign’ Sam & Sara to set up the Omoluabi Garment Factory in Oshogbo to produce school uniforms. Sam & Sara, the complaint goes further, then went on to perpetrate the dastardly crime of hiring Igbos (who are not Nigerians) to staff the factory. To make matters worse, Ogbeni’s opponent, Senator Iyiola Omisore, unencumbered by any morals, scruples or underpants, has been playing up his ‘man of the people’ credentials by making sure he is photographed riding shotgun on a motorcycle, eating roasted corn and guguru (a derivative of corn, it must be noted).

photo (2)

Does it matter that the man is wearing what looks very much like an Audemars Piguet watch on his wrist? Afterall, the watches have a starting price of a mere £12,500.

What does this all mean for our democracy? I fear things are not looking good. For starters, the electorate seem to be sharply dividing into ‘the masses’ and ‘the elitists’ who cannot drink their coke without a dash of lime in it. The whole point of running for office is quickly boiling down to the question – na who grassroots pass?

Yet, and for personal reasons, I feel this is all sadly very wrong. I am by no means a rich man today (infact if you were to offer me some money today, I will happily relive you of it) but only a few years ago, I experienced what it felt like to be desperately poor. I was raised by my mother, almost single-handedly, and anyone who grew up in the same shoes will know how difficult, and often impossible, that task is. While I was in University in Nigeria, my Mother went through a terribly difficult financial period where my ability to continue going to school was under serious threat. In the end, an Uncle came to our rescue and the evil day was averted. Perhaps you might not be reading this blog post if things had turned out differently.

Yet, what I remember vividly from that whole period was how that desperate financial situation turned my mother and I against each other. I felt she wasn’t doing enough to find the money and she of course felt I wasn’t appreciative enough of her efforts. And on and on it went until a resolution was found. This is what I know poverty does to you – it turns you against whoever is near you and stops you from thinking properly. Come with me to the book of Proverbs, the 15th verse of the 15th chapter [Amplified], the first part:

15 All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings]

The emphasis is mine because ‘foreboding’ is exactly the word to use to describe the kind of poverty I knew. If it goes on for too long, people begin to think it is permanent state of affairs and cease to think about tomorrow. I recall reading a story some years ago which tried to explain why the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed 220,000 people. One of the reasons given was that there was so much foreboding in the country long before the earthquake that people could not be bothered to put basic fortification in their homes. Something was bound to come and kill them anyway so why not spend the money on something else?

When you begin to hear people asking if they are to eat the roads and schools provided for them, you are seeing a dangerous sense of foreboding. In our case as a nation, this foreboding has been caused by years and years of mindless theft and squander of our commonwealth by people who pretend to be our leaders. What the ‘common man’ sees is a system awash with naira and dollars and he cant seem to find a way to lay his hands on any of it. The people no longer want schools; they want money in their pocket. They do not really care if a school or road is built properly – they want it to be built by a local contractor who will ensure they get some of the money. All this requires is for a politician to promise to do these things and he will get a hearing.

Predictably, where leadership is required, our politicians, who had no convictions to begin with and have spines made of chocolate, have utterly capitulated. Was there no reason in the first place why construction contracts were given to reputable (the other name for ‘outsiders’) firms? A bad contractor is a bad contractor, period. This is an opportunity for governments to crackdown on those who do terrible jobs and use that as justification for the decisions they make. Is there no cost to bad teaching? Why were the reforms instituted in the first place? Is there any more evidence required for teaching reform than looking at the shambolic state of our education which does not equip anyone to solve the problems facing us as a nation. And surely, there are people who have benefitted from these reforms – where are they to act as cheerleaders for it?

It is not that ‘the masses’ are stupid and do not know what they are doing. Far from it. I think that those who exchange their votes for money know exactly what they are doing. There is a foreboding and the people want to take their payment upfront or perhaps ‘eat their seed corn’. Why be patient with a politician who promises reform when chances are that he is lying and stealing anyway? There will be no tomorrow.

Where is this Mekunu Revolution leading us? I do not know for certain but I doubt it’s a very good place.

But the biggest message in all of this is that we now have a pretty good idea of how the vast majority of the population are against any kind of meaningful reform even if they all have different reasons for their opposition. Once upon a time, Baptists and Bootleggers in America were on the same side supporting alcohol prohibition too, as implausible as it sounds.

We can remain like this as a country for many many years to come.

FF

 

Corporate Affairs Commission – Satan’s Embassy

I am not feeling in a particularly nice mood so I am not obliged to be generous or polite – the people who run Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission are the First Born Sons of Satan (FBSS). They are the Devil’s Ambassadors in Nigeria carrying out his work for him.

The Vanguard carried a long story today about how the utter shamelessness of this organisation and how it cannot successfully run a tap let alone a bureaucracy. It is the story of how a body has chosen to be unreformable and will regress to the mean no matter how many times you try to change it. Completely smashing it is the only solution.

Make no mistake though – this is not anyhowness. That is a different phenomenon on its own. There is a bureaucracy at its worst – existing for no other reason other than to generate more bureaucracy ergo, any attempt to reduce some of this bureaucracy is resisted.

Barely two years after it was commissioned by the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, the 24 hours registration of businesses by the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, has collapsed due to technical hitches occasioned by server failure.

As a result, business registration now takes between one to three months, while business name availability search takes more than one week

No, there is no server failure anywhere. Not at all. In fact, nothing has failed. The system is working precisely how the FBSS want it to work – it is a characteristic of a bureaucracy to ‘make work’ where there is none. There is no Fermat’s Theorem to solve – simply putting a lot of these things online will cut the time to do register a company considerably and make things easier for everyone.

So why haven’t we managed to put the CAC’s processes online? It is not for lack of trying. Here’s what the World Bank said in the Doing Business Report a few years ago:

 

CAC Screen Shot

For nearly a decade, the FBSS have been resisting going online. Perhaps they have had no electricity since then. But the clue as to the reason for their behaviour is plain to see – even when they ‘experimented’ with going online, they still wanted people to come down to their office to complete the transaction ‘online’. Is this because you cannot collect a bribe online? Is it because you need physical interaction to facilitate a lot of corruption? I don’t know, you tell me.

One of the most annoying things about the Trade and Investment Minister, Olusegun Aganga, is that he has a habit of announcing things to much fanfare and newspaper headlines and then moving on to the next thing. As if, things are supposed to work by magic.

While unveiling the 24 hours business registration in November, 2012, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr. Olusegun Aganga said that, “The target is to ensure that companies are registered within two hours and to institute a vibrant and transparent companies’ registry, where services will be user-friendly.”

He had also at the time directed that a complaints register be opened for anyone who is not able to get his company registered within 24 hours. This he said was to show that, “We mean business and that we care about our customers.

If the FBSS have resisted online registration since 2005, defeating this 24 hour ‘announcement’ would have been no more than a cake walk for them. If Aganga cared about making business registration easier, he would not have left it to simply an announcement especially when the thing never worked for more than 5 minutes.

And this is the most ironic part of the piece:

This is also leading to loss of revenue on the part of CAC because any availability search initiated is paid for and if a particular name is not available, a client may have to pay again to initiate another search. The implication is that the more names they search for, the more money they make but now that availability takes like three weeks, it means they will generate less revenue from name search

We can assume that one of the main reasons why people register a business is to make money. Yet the people charged with being gatekeepers to this very business registration process are not interested in making money themselves. It’s not so difficult to conduct a name search if people are motivated to do it, yet the FBSS drag their feet and do it at their own pace (they also close to the public at 2pm everyday…no doubt after doing massive work). Their incentives are clearly elsewhere.

Why is business registration so important? The answer is in the failure rate of businesses. The benefit to society only materialises when those businesses start to make money, pay taxes and employ people. None of these is guaranteed. Instead, what is almost certainly guaranteed is failure – perhaps only 3 out of every 10 new businesses will survive past their second year maybe. Or to put it another way, to get 3,000 successful businesses, you need to register maybe 10,000 of them and be prepared for the vast majority to end up as failures.

By handing control of this process to the FBSS, we are preventing the necessary failure that leads on to success from happening. This is why making it easier to do business is such an important reform for countries. Beyond the actual reforms, it is a signal as to what kind of society a nation wants to be. Signalling that you are open for business is telling would be entrepreneurs that its ok come and fail so you can succeed. Instead what are we doing?

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 23.46.31

Almost every indicator worsened from 2013 to 2014. On Starting a Business, where the FBSS hold sway, we dropped down 8 places on the rankings. With Kenya launching mobile company registration today, it is almost certain that we will do worse next year.

People who stand in the way of doing business really are the children of the devil. They are economic Boko Haram. The thing they are preventing from happening is the greatest known antidote to poverty in the history of man. We need to wake up and resist this madness.

And we haven’t even spoken about the ridiculous costs of registering a business -charging a fortune for the privilege of having your business registered in 2 or 3 months.

Assholes

 

FF

 

Parsing The Ekiti Handwringing

A loss like Kayode Fayemi’s in Ekiti on Saturday was bound to generate plenty of commentary and analysis. Predictably, people want to nail down ‘why’ he lost given that he was quite popular on social media and in ‘elite’ circles.

I am not sure I know exactly why he lost, but some of the reasons being thrown around can be examined as a way of adding to the discourse. I am not sure some of the theories out there cut it and here’s why

Fayemi did not share money and even when he did, it was too little, too late 

This is one of the most common theories floating around and it is certainly true, give or take the odd embellishment. The people wanted ‘stomach infrastructure’ but Fayemi was too ‘tight fisted’ and didn’t cater to that need. By the time he realised and started sharing the money (that Fayose was presumably sharing liberally), it was too late and the tide had turned against him irretrievably.

The implication of this is that you cant afford to be stingy as an elected official in Nigeria. Even more worrying, it doesn’t matter how many roads you construct or projects you commission, if you don’t attend to this stomach infrastructure, the people might tell you to come and ‘carry the road’ you built for them. Also, if you have been stingy for long and you suddenly start bringing out the rice and money near the elections, the people will turn up their noses at you.

This explanation makes a lot of sense but it has one problem and that problem is Peter Obi.

You will struggle to find an Anambra man who thinks that Peter Obi didn’t perform while in office. The man generally served his state well and the people recognised that. But the ‘complaint’ you will hear from most people is that he was ‘tight fisted’ and never shared ‘money for boys’. More interestingly, if you followed the news in the final months of his governorship, you would have noticed the Naira rain he embarked upon – everywhere he went, he was donating one large sum of money or the other. My usually reliable ‘sauces’ tell me that he finally brought out the big guns, to the tune of N3bn, in the final few weeks of the campaign and shared it to get his protegé, Willy Obiano, elected. I’m told that Obiano had the mind to cancel some of the last-minute contracts Obi awarded before he thought the better of it. Obi never borrowed money and his ‘tight fistedness’ meant that he had cash to spend when he needed it.

So what gives? Why was Fayemi’s stinginess and last-minute money sharing punished so severely while Obi seemingly got away with the same ‘crime’? Aside from the obvious fact that Peter Obi is not Kayode Fayemi, I think the answer lies elsewhere in a more fundamental law of politics. I will proceed to name this F’s Law of The Opponent In Front Of You. You’re welcome. This law simply states that all electoral strategies and tactics are subject and subordinate to the opponent you are facing.

One of the most reliable tricks politicians, especially incumbents, have used to win elections since time immemorial is to label their opponents as ‘outsiders’. If you can successfully paint your opponent in an election as an outsider who is different from the majority of the electorate, you will be on solid ground. As an example, the frontrunner in the Indonesian presidential slated for July 9th, Joko Widodo, has recently been battling charges that he is a closet Christian. In the world’s largest Muslim country, this is a deadly ‘crime’ indeed and as such Jokowi has been scrambling to have his photo taken with popular Imams and releasing pictures taken when he went on the hajj.

Where Peter Obi and APGA could label Chris Ngige as an ‘outsider’ sponsored by ‘Bourdillon’, this tactic probably wont have worked with Fayose given that GEJ is not unpopular in Ekiti. If anything, the outsider tag was more likely to stick on Fayemi himself. But perhaps trying to label your opponent an outsider by tying him to GEJ might work in a state like Kano where GEJ is much more unpopular. Or perhaps not.

The point is that ‘stinginess’ is not a fatal flaw in a politician. Fayemi was not the worst governor in the world so even this sin could have been forgiven by the voters given a different opponent in different circumstances. So the message to any politician currently opening the treasury to flood voters with stomach infrastructure in a bid to win the next election – it might work, it might not work. It all depends on the opponent you will be facing and the atmosphere under which that election will be contested.

Fayose is popular with the masses

This is the one most people agree on. Fayose eats corn and banana with the ‘masses’ by the roadside. He knows his way around the streets and the people love him etcetera etcetera. One would think that popularity is all that’s needed to win elections in Nigeria these days.

In the 2007 gubernatorial elections in Ekiti, Fayose threw his ‘popularity’ behind the ANPP candidate, Yinka Akerele, who leveraged all the popularity and gallantly came third. After this, he moved to the PPA and then the Labour Party. In the next governorship election he threw his weight behind the ACN and openly campaigned against the PDP who still won the rerun election. Finally in 2011, he moved back to the Labour Party where he used his popularity to contest the senatorial election. He came a distant third. It was after this he moved back to the PDP from where he won last Saturday’s election.

The man’s a maverick, no doubt about that. But he’s also ‘anyhow’. And an anyhow candidate needs a solid structure to translate whatever talents or popularity he has into electoral victory. To put this victory down to Fayose’s ‘popularity’ is to miss a couple of important points.

First, Adamu Mu’azu’s appointment as PDP Chairman has been the political equivalent of replacing Shola Ameobi with Ruud Van Nistelrooy. I was joking with a friend earlier today that the APC should have gone to court to stop GEJ from replacing Bamanga Tukur as PDP Chairman. Not only has he stopped the PDP bleeding, he has infused it with new energy and put them back on the front foot. Observing him at the World Economic Forum in Abuja last month, he was everywhere talking to everybody. When he wasnt holding hands with someone gisting and walking briskly, he had his arms around their shoulder talking directly into their ears. Those who know him say he is full of cunning and if you spent years running succesfully from Ribadu and his EFCC, then you must have some useful political skills indeed. Putting the power of a newly invigorated PDP machine at the service of Fayose played a crucial role in converting whatever latent popularity Fayose had into victory at the polls. It doesnt happen automatically.

Secondly, political fashions are notoriously easy to misinterpret. Many politicians across the world have gotten elected purely by portraying themselves as the opposite of X, where X is a currently hated politician. Would Barack Obama have defeated George W. Bush in 2000? It is doubtful given that Bush won by being more folksy than Al Gore who people thought came across as too Professorial. 8 years later, Americans were tired of Bush’s folksiness and bad grammar and Obama the well spoken law Professor was in fashion inspite of the charges of elitism and arugula eating levelled against him. Francois Hollande campaigned against Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 by telling the French people that he was ‘Mr Normal’, in contrast to Sarkozy who often acted like he was crazy.

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat.

And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures

It’s hard to imagine that a candidate is ‘permanently popular’ anywhere. They go in and out of fashion and the smartest ones are those who take the current when it serves. The people of Ekiti had come to dislike Fayemi and his style of governance. They were tired of his ‘elitism’, real or imagined. Tomorrow they may come to desire elitism once again. It’s the nature of democracy and the way voters like to change their minds every so often.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Ice-T – Fayose didn’t choose the game, the game chose him. To take Fayose’s victory as some kind of Iron Law which repudiates elitism is an interesting conclusion if not hilarious.

The scale of Fayose’s victory

This aspect of the outcome is curiously being treated by many people as something normal. As if, incumbents always lose elections so heavily in Nigeria to the point of losing every single local government in their state. I remember during the 2011 guber elections in Nigeria. I had voted in Lagos and the results were more or less a formality for Fashola who was quickly announced as the winner. But in Oyo state, getting out Akala was never a walk in the park. I kept texting a friend in Ibadan to ask if the results had been released and in the end an Army General was drafted in to escort the final set of results to INEC’s office.

You don’t just beat an incumbent in Nigeria. No matter how bad the person was and even the most uncharitable people wont say Fayemi was the worst Governor in Nigeria’s history. It’s a big job and incumbents go down kicking and screaming. So how did this happen in Ekiti?

The one thing most people can agree on is that INEC did an excellent job on Saturday. A few changes were made which made things like ballot snatching a waste of time. Around 2pm, a friend who was in Ekiti said ‘it’s over. Fayemi has lost…he’s losing everywhere’. And that is exactly what happened – he lost everywhere.

If this was all down to INEC’s improvement, then the logical next question to ask is – how many governors have been losing elections in Nigeria in reality but manage to return to office using the power of incumbency? If Fayemi could lose in every local government, then it is safe to say many governors in the past have also lost every LGA in their state. Yet, this is the first time we have it on record as this happening.

If INEC keeps up this level of performance, then we can expect many many incumbents to lose elections spectacularly next year. Voters will vote out many politicians ‘for the fun of it’ or to test their new-found powers.

So what does this tell us? Was Fayemi uniquely bad as a governor? Or was he the pioneer of a new trend we are going to see a lot more of? If it’s the latter as I suspect it is, then in a few months time, this defeat will be overtaken by much bigger ones.

 

I don’t know exactly why he lost. I suspect it’s a number of things and not just one thing. But I know that a lot of reasons being given don’t quite cut it and many will learn the ‘wrong’ lessons from this. But what do I know.

Sorry I made you read nearly 2,000 words without giving an answer.

FF

 

Who Pays The Taxes Around Here? Not Seplat

First let me state a couple of points

1. I hate taxes. I am from the school of thought which defines taxation as the art of plucking the goose with the least amount of hissing. So you will never catch me arguing for higher taxes (except when there’s an externality that needs to be dealt with or bad behaviour corrected). Nevertheless, I think that what is worse than taxation is a system that allows different people to play by different rules. If taxes are levied at a 99% rate, I can live with them insofar as some people are not finding a way to game the system and end up paying only 10%.

2. I don’t really understand the oil and gas business. My knowledge of how things work there is perhaps no more than basic. So part of my reason for writing this post is to learn some more. I invite you to use the comments section under this post.

Industrial Development Act

Nigeria has something called the Industrial Development Act which was passed to encourage investment in the country. If you build a new plant or industry, you get exempted from paying taxes on it for a number of years. This is a good thing of course because if a company had a choice between investing in say Kenya and Nigeria and Kenya does not offer such incentives, then this law can easily swing things in Nigeria’s favour.

But rather than speculate, let’s quote from the law itself as amended in 2004:

Pioneer conditions

1Publication of list of pioneer industries and products and issuing of pioneer cer- 
tificates

(1) Where the President is satisfied that-

(a)       any industry is not being carried on in Nigeria on a scale suitable to the eco-
nomic requirements of Nigeria or at all, or there are favourable prospects of
further development in Nigeria of any industry; or

(b)       it is expedient in the public interest to encourage the development or estab-
lishment of any industry in Nigeria by declaring the industry to be a pioneer
industry and any product of the industry to be a pioneer product,

That’s from Section 1 of the act. Pretty straightforward to interpret that this is something that should apply to new industries in the country i.e. something we are not currently doing but we want to or something we are doing but not enough. So we can safely conclude that a pure water manufacturing company should not be able to get pioneer status based on the letter and spirit of that law.

So far so uncontroversial. If we move down to Section 10 of the law, we see how long the pioneer status is supposed to last for:

10. Tax relief period

(1) The tax relief period of a pioneer company shall commence on the date of the
production day of the company, and subject to sections 3 (6) and of 7 (2) of this Act, the
tax relief period shall continue for three years.

(2) The tax relief period of a pioneer company may at the end of the three years be
extended by the President-

(a)      for a period of one year and thereafter for another period of one year com-
mencing from the end of the first period of extension; or

(b)       for one period of two years.

So the maximum period for pioneer status is 5 years. Again, nothing controversial here. Let’s skip some more legal jargon and go to Section 16 to see what exactly this pioneer status does for a company:

16. Profits exempted from income tax

(1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (2) of this section and section 17 (6) of
this Act, where in the application of Parts IX and X of the principal Act, a statement is-
sued under section 14 (4) of this Act has become final and conclusive, any profits shown
by that statement shall not form part of the assessable profits or total profits of the pion-
eer company for any year of assessment and shall be exempt from tax under the principal
Act.

(2) The Board may, in relation to any statement issued under section 14 (4) of this
Act, declare that the whole or a specified part of the profits is not in dispute, and any such
undisputed profits shall be exempt from tax under the principal Act pending the statement
becoming final and conclusive.

I highlighted the section above for emphasis. Once you have been granted pioneer status, after fulfilling the necessary conditions, you don’t pay any taxes on the profits you make in the 5 year period of the pioneer status (assuming the initial 3 years is extended). The best example of a company using this pioneer tax status is perhaps Dangote Cement:

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 13.57.35

Looking at the numbers above (page 3 of the Dangote accounts) you see that rather than pay any taxes, the company actually got a tax credit as a result of the new cement plants like Obajana that it built. This is how the system works. In the case of Dangote, we know for a fact that cement production in Nigeria has increased as a result of his investments and he has built new plants that weren’t there previously.

For a quick primer on the IDA, click here (PDF).

Seplat

Which brings me to the purpose of this post. Seplat was in the news recently when it raised $500m on the London and Lagos Stock Exchanges. It’s one of, if not the most, successful beneficiaries of Nigeria’s Local Content Act which has been transferring assets in the oil industry to Nigerians to allow them participate and grow their skills.

Seplat acquired 45% of 3 oil-producing assets from Shell and Agip namely OMLs 4, 31 and 41 in July 2010 when they were producing around 18,000bpd. My rudimentary knowledge of the O&G industry tells me that the difference between an OPL (where the P is for Prospecting) and an OML (where the M is for Mining) is that an OML is one that is already producing oil i.e. all the exploration and investment has been done and the oil is already coming out of the ground. In other words, buying an OML is like buying a shoe that comes with socks inside it, if you like. An OPL on the other hand has not produced any oil but it is a given that there is oil in the asset i.e. plenty of investment is required to get the oil flowing.

I’m told, reliably, that not only did Seplat buy the OMLs, it even ‘bought’ Shell staff as part of the deal. That is to say, it was handed the keys to the working asset along with people who had experience operating it. This is not to say that Seplat has not done anything since purchasing the assets – it has increased production in the fields mainly by boosting community relations which in turn has greatly reduced the piracy challenges that Shell was finding difficult to manage in those sites.

 

Having said all that, let’s go to page 28 of the investment prospectus the company released to investors when it was preparing for its IPO:

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 14.24.28 This is very interesting to say the least. Upon acquiring these assets, Seplat somehow obtained pioneer status on them. Think back to the spirit of the act above on how a company gets pioneer status and then apply to that a company buying working assets and simply continuing a business that was already in operation. How exactly does this work? As you can see from the extract above, the company is exempted from every possible tax it would normally be liable for.

Indeed we can see the effect in the company’s 2013 accounts (page 18):

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 14.37.27

From 2012 to 2013, profits increased by 45%. In 2012, the Nigerian government collected taxes on these assets to the tune of $95m. By 2013, these same assets that generated tax for the government had somehow become ‘pioneer’ and ended up paying a big fat zero in taxes. Zilch.

Alhamdulillahi.

What is going on here? I have no idea, but maybe you do. It is indeed difficult to understand how an extant company that was previously paying taxes to the government somehow ‘transformed’ into a pioneer company that pays no taxes.

Tax To GDP Ratio

Why does all this matter? Well, one consequence of rebasing our GDP to $510bn is that it has exposed how little the government is collecting in taxes as a share of GDP. Indeed, the Finance Minister said it in April that this percentage – tax to GDP – declined from 22% to 12% following the rebasing:

But now with this recalculation, our revenue to GDP ratio is 12 per cent and our non-oil revenue ratio to GDP is four per cent, which means that we live worse than before.

“As you know, our revenue ratio to GDP before was 20 per cent, just about in the middle of the emerging market economy, not as good as the 22 per cent that we want to be.

“For tax revenue to GDP, we now have to redouble our efforts to get back to the 20 per cent ratio at least to where we were before,” she said.

What this means is that there is a lot more tax out there to be collected which is a no brainer given the amount of work that needs to be done in Nigeria in all spheres of our development. If you’ve been following the news recently, you will have noticed that every other day the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is embarking on one ‘crackdown’ or the other in the name of boosting the government’s tax collection. A random example from last week was when the FIRS carried out ‘enforcement activities‘ against NICON Hotel and NICON Insurance over the companies’ failure to pay N90m it owed in taxes. In the days and months ahead, we are going to be seeing more of such ‘crackdowns’ especially because the Nigerian government has only managed one surplus in the last 13 months – everything it earns, it spends and then borrows more. The deficit – the extra the government had to borrow on top of what it earned – for the first 4 months of the year alone stood at N430bn. The tax forgone from Seplat is at least N15bn (assuming it paid the same tax for 2013 as it did in 2013).

Conclusion

Who pays the taxes around here? Is it the little guy who gets harassed by FIRS and has his business shut down for not paying a couple of millions? I haven’t bothered to check any of the other local content guys but I am almost certain that I will find the same arrangement there. The pioneer status is now evidently meaningless and is something that can be obtained by interpreting the laws very loosely. As I said earlier, I have no problem with anyone not paying taxes as long as the option is available to everybody and not just some connected people. Can we all be pioneers and not pay any taxes? If that’s the case, sign me up!

This is just one aspect of the byzantine laws that are so easily abused in Nigeria. There are waivers and there are concessions that have been abused in the past. All these things increase the government’s desperation for revenues and that in turn contributes to the harsh business environment of Nigeria where all sorts of government agencies turn themselves to parasites on small businesses with all sorts of taxes and levies.

But maybe this is all fine and Seplat is indeed a pioneer company? So what have I missed?

FF

*P.S Thank you to the person who helped me with information in writing this post. You know yourself.

 

 Addendum

Someone sent me some interesting comments but wants to remain anonymous. They raise some very interesting points I missed out.

I wanted to fill you in on some areas that you may find interesting:

1. The IDA which you referred to, is actually a subsidiary legislation to the Companies Income Tax (CIT) Act.  It makes several references to “The Principal Act” which it then defines as the CIT Act. So technically, the tax exemptions in the IDA only relates to companies liable to CIT, rather than Petroleum Profits Tax (PPT).  Also, the powers granted to the President or Executive Council to exempt companies from tax (which is what the IDA was enacted to accomplish) is in line with Section 23(2) of the CIT Act.  No such powers are given under the PPT Act.

2. So why does a company taxed under the PPT Act enjoy Pioneer Status from the IDA (a CITA subsidiary legislation)?  Well strictly speaking, it shouldn’t, based on the above point.  And this was the FIRS’ position on the matter until sometime last year, as far as I know.  What changed?  It received a directive from the Presidency that it should honour the Pioneer Certificate issued to oil and gas companies by the NIPC.

3. I must say that there are arguments that could be made for the NIPC to grant a pioneer certificate to an O&G company (I must admit they are not water tight).  For instance:

  • The original pioneer list provided in the IDA can be expanded by the Executive Council.  The powers of the Council in the IDA has been granted to NIPC (See Sections 22 and 23 of the NIPC Act).
  • The NIPC a long time ago (nobody knows exactly when) expanded the pioneer list to include “Mineral Oil Prospecting and Production” and “Petroleum” as pioneer industry and pioneer product respectively.  You can find a full list on the NIPC website.
  • The presidential directive may have legislative backing.  Section 51(1) of the FIRS Establishment Act subjects the FIRS to the general direction of the Minister of Finance.  The provisions of this Act takes precedence over those of the PPTA (which has no provisions of tax exemption powers, like I mentioned in 1 above).
  • A Pioneer Status Incentive (PSI) Regulation was issued in January 2014 by the NIPC.  It provides that an applicant must have incurred a capital expenditure of N10million (small change abi?).

4. You missed out on something interesting, which adds to the question on how an extant company suddenly becomes a pioneer one.  The PSI Regulation also provides that an application must be submitted within one year of the applicant’s commencement of commercial production.  The IDA (Section 6(1)) also has something similar.  You would think that this should fall within a commencement years of the business.  However, the NIPC, in practice, gives a discretionary waiver of the timeline for this application.  Therefore, whenever you apply, you may get it. And the tax relief period will commence on the date of the Production Day certified by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

5. From what I know, Seplat was one of the O&G companies to obtain pioneer status only recently.  A few others have obtained same in the past. I know one that has even come out of its 5 year pioneer period. Seplat most likely needed it to make their prospectus smell a lot nicer.  So they joined the band wagon.  I guess their case is more popular because they went public.

6. Finally, there are strong rumours that the Government is reviewing its policy on granting pioneer status to indigenous O&G companies, as it is causing a serious decline in revenue from PPT.  You mentioned that Seplat’s pioneer period commenced on 1 January 2013. Isn’t it odd that it commenced last year when they only obtained the certificate this year?  As you may be aware, PPT is paid in installments in advance, so it already paid a significant amount of its 2013 tax.  Now they are requesting a refund.  They might just be the harbinger of a policy reversal.

Guest Post: The Word On The Streets XII: The Luanda Edition

A friend of mine recently spent a few weeks in Angola. He then reached out to me to do a TWOTS type guest post for the blog (previous editions here). The imitation flattered me and the education is most welcome. I have to say that my record of travel in Africa is really terrible – I have visited more of Asia even. Hopefully that changes soon.

Enjoy the piece (he wants to remain anonymous) 

So my job takes me very exotic destinations. In the past 18 months, I have been to the vacation destinations that are N’djamena (Chad), Douala (Cameroon), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) and most recently Luanda in Angola. I must admit with shame that prior to these trips, I had never gone to any African country, not even Benin Republic.

Anyways, this article is just a summary of what I noted on my recently concluded trip to Luanda in Angola.

1. If you think getting a UK, US or even Nigerian visa is difficult, then you haven’t applied for an Angolan visa. I started the process in Feb 2014, with a Letter of Introduction from my company in Angola (duly signed by the Ministries of Petroleum and Export). It took 6 weeks.

2. Application for visa is another kettle of fish. I processed visa for 3 weeks and at the point of stamping, I learnt I needed a new LOI because of some administrative reason. Cue another 2-month wait. In all, the process took 4 months. My passport was stuck in the embassy for 2 months

3. Ethiopia is doing what any sensible government should do. They have made Addis Ababa a hub for travel in Africa. Very simple concept. Make people sleep overnight. Every night, hotels, restaurants, clubs and the likes in Addis make money from transit visitors. It is a win-win situation for them. The people come in; spend money overnight, thereby boosting an economy that has no major natural resource. I guess necessity is really the mother of invention. Of course, entry into Ethiopia is probably the easiest in Africa.

4. Entry into Angola is the third part of the hydra headed monster. First time entrants are kept in a waiting room for hours, while a Letter of Guarantee by your host is processed. Grapevine states that if you know your way, you wont have to wait (more on that later). I was lucky in that my company had just had an agreement with the government for free passage for us, so no waiting room. My colleagues had spent 3 – 6 hours there on prior trips. One fellow Nigeria expat lady spent 9 hours!!!

5. Nigerians are everywhere. Word on the street is that our Igbo brothers control the spare parts market in Angola (as they do in Malabo). How do they get visas you ask? Well, the grapevine says that for a specific amount of money, you can get an original Angolan visa. All you need to learn is how to speak Portuguese. Also, if you are caught as an illegal immigrant, your freedom is available for $2,000. See evidence of our Igbo brothers in the picture below:

Luanda 1

 

6. Oh yeah. Angola is the most expensive city in the world, which is why the $2000 bribe is not ridiculous here. A minor misdemeanor like not going out with your passport on a night is usually settled for $300! I experienced Angola’s expensiveness first hand. Bought a N50 padlock (see picture below) for 500 Kwanza ($5). Also, needed to shave, it cost $7. A full haircut is $30! An average meal in a restaurant costs $100/head. A take out meal is about $40. Cars are sold at double the value you can obtain in the US. Hotels start from $700/night.

Luanda 2

 

7. Rental prices are another kettle of fish.  The high rent here suffers from two causative factors in my opinion: one: traffic and general Angolan expensiveness.

8. Luanda has a BIG traffic problem. The roads to the city are narrow; they are usually 2 lanes. Additionally, Angolan houses do not have car parks so they park on the road, meaning that the major highway is effectively one lane. A 6-mile journey from the Guest House I stayed in to the office is 1hr to and 1.5hrs fro. And that’s because we leave at 6am for work and leave work at 4pm. The ironic thing is that Luanda is surrounded by water and you would imagine that ferries will be used more than cars. However, I found out that there are less than 5 large commercial ferries to town. Typical Luanda road below:

Luanda 3

 

9. Funny enough, for a city with that much traffic, the roads are sane. No horns blaring, drivers very considerate, even zebra crossings are obeyed. I think this stems from the easygoing nature of most Angolans. They know things are not perfect but as all of them still have vivid recollections of the war, they know how to take life easy. No hurrying for Angolans, every one does stuff at their own pace. They love living life to the fullest; flashy cars, designer wares, very fitness conscious and yeah, they are very blasé about sex, single parenthood and the likes. It is not a big deal here.

10. For a country that just came out of a civil war, Angolans are very nice. I have never seen a collection of people who will go out of their way to make a foreigner comfortable. Everywhere you go, people have a smile for you! I experienced random acts of kindness and courtesy I normally would not expect from people speaking a different language.  I went for dinner one evening and Isabel dos Santos was on the table next to me, absolutely no airs. However, I was told that plain-clothes security men surrounded the place.

11. Angola can be called the most expensive slum in the world. Their favelas are extra dirty as shown in the picture below. Even the $5k flats are very dirty. The houses are very old, drainages are not cleared, people living and laughing in absolute squalor. Not unlike Nigeria. However, even in these slums, I noted that there was power every time I passed and that Angolans love air conditioning and DSTV.

 

Luanda 4 Luanda 5 Luanda 6

12. Angolans still have a close affinity to Portugal and as a result, among the working class people, you have a lot of mixed race people. Their ladies are extremely beautiful and ‘endowed’. The men; very fit and tattooed. They all have the mentality of an average European and sure know how to have fun. However, vex them and they let you know they are African. One of my mixed race friends told me that I should be careful or “she will get her voodoo doll out for me”. I backed off immediately.

13. Back to rent, if you live in Nigeria and have a spare 1.5M USD, buy a flat in Angola. My colleague bought one around the office and receives US$15k rent per month. The building in the next picture is $5k per month. Due to the traffic, there is very high demand for flats in and around the city center (which the government has mandated all companies to operate from). This high demand, coupled with the general high cost of living in Luanda, makes rent very very high.

Luanda 7

Luanda 8

14. Final word on Angola – my impression is that this is a country struggling to understand the enormity of oil resources they have, so soon after a long war. ‘Anyhowness’ is here too, not on our scale though. The people are much nicer but you need a lot of money to survive here.

P.S: What happened to the renovation works at MMIA. Came in on a rainy day. Noticed the roof was leaking, the ACs and lights they just bought do not work and the arrival hall stinks. Can we actually get anything right?

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post 2: The Case FOR Sanusi Lamido As Emir of Kano

So yesterday, you read the case AGAINST SLS as Emir of Kano. Yes, I know you read it because it is now the most popular blog post on this blog after 6 years. 

I have to thank my writers – they did this at very short notice and managed to deliver clarity on an issue that carries a lot of emotions around it. Na gode.

So here’s the case FOR SLS as Emir. Enjoy and I hope for us non-northerners, we have been educated on northern Nigeria

 

OPPOSITION TO EMIR SANUSI II: A LITANY OF IRONIES

 

On Sunday the 8th of June, former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS), was announced as the 57th Emir of Kano, succeeding the revered late Ado Bayero. Like most people, I was shocked but pleasantly surprised at his selection, as just hours earlier ‘official’ congratulatory messages had publicly been extended to the late Emir’s eldest son, thereby unofficially confirming Sanusi Ado Bayero as the new Emir. It turned out that the premature felicitations were an “error” and that deliberations were till underway to choose from a list of three nominees: Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (the Dan Maje), Sanusi Ado Bayero (Ciroma) and Abbas Sanusi (Wambai). The nominees were screened and compiled by four (4) kingmakers after a careful assessment, as has been the tradition for centuries.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi having built a successful banking professional career outside the emirate needs no introduction here other than to say he has publicly stated his desire to be emir, and is tagged as polarising due to his penchant for speaking his mind and sticking to his convictions, qualities that depending on who you ask are either virtues or vices for an Emir. But more on this later.

Sanusi Ado Bayero, a lawyer, is a career royalist and has reportedly been groomed to succeed his father. He is perceived as reserved and was known to be close to his father, the late Emir. As a result, people’s affection towards Ado Bayero is projected on him.

Abbas Sanusi, SLS’ uncle, is the oldest surviving son of the late powerful Emir Sanusi I (SLS’ grandfather). He has for decades been the strongest member of the Kano Emirate Council and was rumoured to have colluded with Abacha to depose late Ado Bayero and have himself enthroned. So his ambition is well-known.

The kingmakers certified all three eligible, having met all criteria; the most important of which being they’re all descended from Emirs. All nominees are of Abdullahi Bayero’s lineage – the father of late Ado Bayero and Emir Sanusi I. (Emir Sanusi, the eldest son and successor of Abdullahi Bayero decided not to use Bayero for reasons not known). It would then appear that no choice would be a wrong one. Far from it!

Immediately after the announcement of SLS, pockets of protest around the seat of the emirate centred within the ancient walled city of Kano, which now constitutes 4 of Kano’s 44 LGAs, erupted. Now, this is to be expected considering the late Emir was so loved and ruled for 51 years, a period in which almost 80% of present Kano population either came of age or were born. Most have either never experienced or do not have a conscious memory of the death of an emir and the succession power tussle that follows; people did not know how to react. A contributing factor to this confusion is the royal tradition of immediate succession, which doesn’t allow a lot of time for people to grieve. This makes it difficult to differentiate between grief over the loss of revered Emirs and dissatisfaction over succession issues. In reality, these are entirely different things. But the system is what it is and people have a right to be sentimental up to the point that they do not try to change facts or fabricate information.

When opposition to SLS persisted beyond certain constituencies and into what I considered saner climes, I decided to sample opinions and let myself be convinced. After all, I thought, since the choice has been made and in my eyes no rules were broken, the onus is on the “bamayis” to convince me of Sanusi’s unsuitability. I only had one condition: I will accept “I just don’t like him” but all other arguments must pass the common sense test. Easy right?

After speaking to a number of people, most of whom were quite adamant that the decision be reversed, I found an overwhelming consensus among dissenters. The kind of consensus that makes you wonder if they were indoctrinated into rejecting the new Emir, for the arguments were illogical, mostly emotional and monumentally ironic (if they were songs they would be sung by Alanis Morissette!). I address the main ones below.

1SLS’ selection is somehow a betrayal/disrespect of the memory of late Ado Bayero – The biggest irony of this argument is that it is mostly made by people who think the Emirate is still very influential, relevant and can play a vital role in society. Yet, they advocate a selection process that makes being the son of late Ado Bayero the deciding factor, disregarding all other considerations. The memory of late Ado Bayero is beyond desecration. Such is his mark on history. His family will rightly be transferred all the reverence and respect he has earned throughout his legendary reign but not subjects. Subjects aren’t transferred by fiat. Within the confines of royal tradition, subjects are only transferable through the process of succession, following the selection of a new Emir from ALL the eligible candidates. Reducing honouring late Ado Bayero to ensuring his son succeeds him when father-son succession isn’t one of the conditions minimises his legacy. This argument is more emotional than the rest and, I suspect, is rooted in an inability to separate grieving the loss of a great man from dealing with the inevitability of the change that will follow a long and remarkable reign. Considering its emotional nature, this view may be very temporary.

2. SLS’ name was ‘sneaked’ onto the listThis is perhaps the most illogical argument of all. I think it’s partly based on perceptions that SLS’ claim is not legitimate simply because most are too far removed from his grand father’s reign. They neither remember nor care that his father, a crown prince (Ciroma, ironically the same title as Sanusi Ado Bayero), was also set to succeed his father only to be bypassed for late Ado Bayero via Muhammadu Inuwa after Emir Sanusi I was deposed. To think that the grandson of an Emir, son of a crown prince, and most accomplished member of the royal family who was raised by and married to the daughter of late Ado Bayero would not make a list of contenders is just incredible. According to this story, the new Emir did not make the 1st draft but was sneaked in at the behest of Kwankwaso, who reportedly told the kingmakers to show respect for Emir Sanusi I’s lineage by including SLS on the list. Never mind that one of the kingmakers, Muhtar Adnan, the father of former finance minister and current World Bank ED, Dr Mansur Mukhtar, was involved in the selection of 3 emirs (counting SLS) and is beyond intimidation at this stage of his life. Never mind that Kwankwaso in the presence of all the kingmakers and the media said SLS was not just on the list but his name was first. Never mind that none of the kingmakers showed any sign of disagreement with the governor!

The fact is late Ado Bayero’s uncommon humility and patience has covered up a lot of the deficiencies of typical royal behaviour. It is easy to forget that royals are very proud, sometimes arrogant people who would not be coerced.

But let’s even entertain the idea that these kingmakers who come from an era where the emirate had executive and judicial powers have somehow been coerced into submission by this nobody from Madobi (Consistent with the mindset of all royals the world over, the Kano royal also thinks there are only two classes – royals and masses. And that includes the governor!). And let’s, for a moment, entertain the notion that SLS’ name made the list just to appease the Sanusi lineage and that Kwankwaso and the kingmakers lied to the world. Why were there then 2 names (out of 3) from this lineage – Abbas Sanusi and SLS? Did things suddenly change from appeasing Sanusi’s lineage to disrespecting Ado Bayero’s?

3. Kwankwaso has politicised the Emirate - This argument would have made sense if the new Emir didn’t have a legitimate claim or if any succession rules were broken. Father-son succession has never been automatic (in the last century only SLS’ grandfather, Emir Sanusi I, directly succeeded his father) and is currently not a condition. The fact that SLS made a list of suitable candidates chosen by the custodians of the process (kingmakers, who, by the way, aren’t getting any bad rap for this) is good enough for me.

Politics may have played a role in SLS’ emergence but it has done so for almost a century. It was politics that led to the dethronement of Emir Sanusi by Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello; it was politics that led to the transfer of the throne to his uncle, an already aged Muhammadu Inuwa; it was politics that led to the ascension of a young Ado Bayero who the Sardauna felt at the time shared his vision for an upcoming northern Nigeria. You could say Sardauna thought late Ado Bayero a progressive at the time. Again, the irony!

If politics played a part here it did no more than it has done in the past and it is not the only motivation. This decision is too expensive and politically unrewarding for Kwankwaso to make solely for political reasons. Consider this: if SLS’ selection is entirely political and since politicians make decisions for political gains, how can SLS repay Kwankwaso? SLS isn’t overwhelmingly popular in a way that can favour the APC, at least not in the short-term – before 2015, Kwankwaso’s time of need. Moreover, SLS’ propensity to be fiercely independent makes him a very risky political bet. It’s not like Kwankwaso can remove him or wait for his tenure as Emir to expire if his requests are denied. Why then would Kwankwaso risk it all if he did not believe SLS to be the better man?

4. SLS is elitist, capitalist and too ‘hip’ - SLS’ support for subsidy removal earned him a dan jari hujja (capitalist) tag in Kano. That the nation’s top banker responsible for economic decisions would be expected to do anything else is baffling. To point out that his support for subsidy removal was purely professional is to state the obvious. But more importantly, the Emirate is not getting SLS the economist or the CBN Governor the same way it didn’t get Ado Bayero the policeman or the diplomat. What ‘capitalism’ will manifest as in an Emir will likely be a determination to eradicate endemic laziness, support community and human development projects, etc. – a determination to not just be for the talaka but to reduce the number of talakawa. I am not sure these are bad things.

Some say he is too loud and ‘hip’ for Emirship in an attempt to stereotype him as an outsider for daring to excel outside the royal family. This might carry a bit of weight if not for this bit of irony: the late Ado Bayero was also ‘hip’ at  the  time of his ascension. He was an established professional outside the emirate in the same way we consider SLS an outsider today. He was the 11th son of Abdullahi Bayero and figured, with the odds not in his favour, he should have  a life outside the emirate. But being emir was his destiny even though at the time Ciroma (SLS’ father) and oldest son of Emir Sanusi who had just been deposed 3 months earlier was considered an ‘insider’.

5Bringing the Emirate into disrepute - This is the most baseless argument of all. The notion that the enthronement of SLS somehow risks the reputation of the emirate as a traditional institution and custodian of culture is just absurd. Simply remembering that he is by acclamation an Islamic scholar and a man of proven integrity who spent his formative years in the traditions of the institution under the tutelage of late Ado Bayero disabuses one of that notion. This is one of those arguments I simply can’t imagine anyone that considers SLS a legitimate contender and grandson of Emir Sanusi I would make. With this particular set, there is no reasoning. If SLS does not add to the prestige of Kano Emirate I can’t fathom how he will take away.

6. He’s not the people’s choice - Reports that SLS is not popular should be taken with a grain of salt. While it’s true that there have been protests, these have emanated from expected areas, specifically the 6 LGAs closest to the seat of power where the late Emirs sons are district heads. With or without the princes’ approval, their supporters can decide to protest against the new Emir’s emergence. It’s noteworthy that there are 38 other LGAs with large populations as Kano has one of the largest rural populations in Nigeria. And considering the fact that Kano’s rural and urban political dynamics usually run counter to each other, it is reasonable to expect SLS is popular outside the metropolis. This is not to say that SLS isn’t unpopular in some quarters or that he is the most popular among the contenders. But new Emirs seldom are. Reaction towards them generally tends to range from indifferent, to mixed to negative. Overwhelming popularity is earned and SLS will have every opportunity to earn it. Popularity during the selection of an Emir, in as much as the choice is not overwhelmingly rejected due to glaring deficiencies/personal failings (in which case the contender will fail other conditions anyway), is irrelevant. Prospective Emirs only need be popular enough for the Kingmakers. Competence, experience, education and lineage are the decisive conditions for selection and SLS emerged having scored better than other contenders.

 ———

There are a lot more fringe anti-SLS arguments making the rounds but the 6 outlined above make up the overwhelming majority of the ‘grievances’. Most of the arguments have nothing to do with SLS’ merits, and the very few that do are based on fabrications, misconceptions or unverified information. They are illogical, arbitrary arguments by a section of the population that has decided for itself who it wants as its Emir and would not be convinced otherwise. While a part of this rejection stems from not knowing how to react to the first succession in the lifetimes of many, some of it is due to a misplaced sense of loyalty, the feeling that support for SLS is a betrayal of the legacy and memory of late Ado Bayero. It doesn’t matter that SLS has a claim or that he is at least equally qualified. It doesn’t matter that, considering the dire challenges facing northern Nigeria, selecting a new Emir is too critical a decision to be based entirely on sentimentality.

To argue that the throne should be left with late Ado Bayero’s family just out of respect for his legacy is to diminish his sons as individuals by denying them the dignity of being assessed on their own merits; it is to diminish the throne by dismissing and undermining the important role it has the potential to play in the lives of people in an increasingly insecure and underdeveloped north that requires cultural, traditional and religious leadership now more than ever.

I am happy SLS emerged but had Ciroma been chosen I would still have supported him without hesitation realising that I’m helpless in this matter – public opinion has never swayed a royal succession. It is not a democratic process. It is rather a traditional process that selects based on criteria that at any point in time multiple individuals will satisfy. To claim that selections aren’t subjective is to be naïve. Choosing Emirs has always been ‘hit or miss’ considering the small sample size and the handful of people who get to decide. But it what it is. So, unless the rules change, if you don’t complain when you get your preferred choice, you shouldn’t when you don’t. This realisation makes me even more grateful to Kwankwaso and the kingmakers for making what is in my opinion (and I’m open to being convinced) the right decision perfectly in accordance with the rules as they stand.

My support for SLS came instinctively and the reasons are straightforward: The Emir of Kano has control and influence over a massively influential traditional network that is severely underutilised at the moment. Though ceremonial, the emir’s words can sway public opinion and have profound effects on a wide range of things, from affecting the success of projects like vaccination programs, to galvanising support for human and community development initiatives, to attracting international aid and investment. A progressive Emir like SLS can overhaul this traditional structure and unlock its potential as an effective outreach network that can be used to address some of the pressing challenges facing the state and region. Given he has been successful in everything he has tried his hands on, I have no reason to believe he will fail.

Of course SLS is not perfect. I do worry there might initially be moments of minor embarrassment, particularly regarding his proclivity to be argumentative and blunt but I believe the emirate will tame him and he will learn to control the urge to the ‘rightest’ man in the room (In most cases this wouldn’t be a problem since he will be spending a lot of time in the palace where he will be so bored he would wish someone would challenge him). On a more serious note, the emirate council has a strong precedent of taming Emirs. An emir is as likely to effect radical changes in traditional royal affairs as the POTUS is likely to alter US defence policy working with an opposition congress. It is a very conservative culture – this is why I think that “bringing the emirate into disrepute” argument is pure BS. All in all, I think he will make a great Emir; his positives by far outweigh his negatives, and, crucially, his personality and experience are just the set of qualities needed right now.

The people of Kano are very passionate and emotional. Nothing proves this better than the drastic about-turn to support SLS by a significant number of royals, religious leaders and the general public over the past 24 hours, suddenly realising that he is zabin Allah (God’s choice). It is only a matter of time; Kano will eventually come around and fully support its Emir. Sometimes, in a state of emotion, logic takes a back seat, but eventually, when passions dissipate, common sense prevails.

May His Royal Highness Emir Sanusi II have a long and prosperous reign, may he strive to attain the lofty ideals of the great late Ado Bayero and Emir Sanusi I, and may he be guided rightly.

Guest Post 1: The Case AGAINST Sanusi Lamido Sanusi As Emir of Kano

After SLS was announced as the new of Emir of Kano on Sunday (8th) evening, I noticed a couple of my friends from Kano were on different sides of the announcement i.e. one was happy about it and another wasn’t. So I reached out to them to write their opinions about it for the benefit of us non-Kano indigenes who might be missing some of the nuance and localised politics of the matter. 

I will be publishing the argument FOR SLS as Emir tomorrow but let’s start off with the argument AGAINST. As you know, I am probably SLS’ greatest living fan on the internet But gaskiya, I have not edited a single line or word from the post below. I have also chosen to keep them anonymous (they don’t mind being known) so that people can focus on the arguments and not attack the person making them as an agent of APC or PDP.

 

NIGHTMARE SUNDAY IN KANO: WHY LAMIDO BOBUWA IS NOT THE POPULAR CHOICE

“Ba ma yi! Kano Sai Dan Sarki Wallahi! Gwamma ba haka mukayi da kai ba”

Roughly translated into “We don’t support this. We want the son of the Emir (Ado Bayero). Governor, this is not what we agreed with you”.

These were the cries that spontaneously greeted the announcement of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS) as the emir of Kano. In Kano, SLS has always been a divisive figure. People in Kano admire him as SLS the thoroughbred professional, and his achievements over the course of his career speak for themselves. However, a sizeable majority of people especially those close to the Kano Emirate are not fans of SLS, the prince. If Kano royalty was as straightforward as politics, then maybe he would have been the popular choice as emir.

But it is not as straightforward. And he is not the popular choice. Not by a million miles.

This was a clear imposition by the increasingly vindictive Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. It is public knowledge that Kwankwaso never forgave the late emir, Ado Bayero who in Kwankwaso’s view, did nothing to stop his defeat during the 2003 general elections. The slogan “Sabon Gwamna, Sabon Sarki” (New Governor, New Emir) was used abundantly during Kwankwaso’s 2011 campaign actively supported by the man himself. This “beef” was exacerbated by Ado Bayero’s perceived closeness to the former governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, Kwankwaso’s arch-nemesis and sworn enemy.

It is also public knowledge that Kwankwaso had on several times tried to instigate disagreement (which could eventually lead to dethronement) with the late emir in the past few years (much akin to “Release our girls” protesters trying to deliberately provoke “Bring Back Our Girls” protesters into fisticuffs, designed to herald an eventual ban on protests.). All who know Ado Bayero know him as a mature and peace-loving person, and he always took the option of being the bigger man in the face of deliberate antagonism & provocation throughout his long reign.

Genesis of The ‘Beef’ 

There was the incident shortly after Kwankwaso’s swearing-in in 2011 where the late emir Ado Bayero wrote to him informing him of his inability to engage in the Hawan Nassarawa, part of the traditional Sallah festivities, due to his illness becoming increasingly severe. The Hawan Nassarawa (which was modified by the colonialists to include royal horseback visits to colonial authorities first in their initial headquarters at Bompai, then later moved to Nassarawa) is a grueling 6-hour horseback ride around town in the hot sun, which involves visiting the Government House and paying homage to the Governor. 

Though the letter clearly stated that the emir would not be embarking on Hawan Nassarawa ONLY (due to its length and general wahala not compatible with his deteriorating health) and would participate in other less grueling tasks, the governor took this as a slight and issued a statement in which he cancelled Sallah festivities in its entirety giving the official reason as due to the emir’s poor health. This was not what was agreed and the emir went ahead as he had planned, further creating lot of friction. Kwankwaso then made several subtle threats to the emir through intermediaries that he would be dethroned if he dares continue the festivities. It is a testament to Ado Bayero’s maturity that he instructed his entire district heads and titleholders to drive along with him in their cars along the same routes usually plied on horseback to go and pay homage to Kwankwaso. This defused the situation, but left Kwankwaso presumably bemoaning his inability to dethrone Ado Bayero.

Another incident still fresh in the memory of Kano people (and perhaps the most painful) is how shabbily Kwankwaso treated the emir in the last few days of his life. Ado Bayero had written to the governor informing him of his intention to turban a new Wazirin Kano, a position left vacant since the death of the renowned Islamic scholar, Mallam Isa Waziri. The governor allegedly wrote back to the Emirate asking it to suspend the turbanning for security reasons. The governor claimed to be acting based on unfavourable security reports of violent protests which may erupt following the turbanning,as the new Waziri was considered as an unpopular choice  (ironic now isn’t it?). In a classic display of treachery, it was alleged that the councillor who handles administrative matters in the Emirate (himself an aspirant to the Emirship) withheld the letter and gave the late Emir fabricated news of Kwankwaso’s “approval”, all in a bid to further strain their relationship. There is the unconfirmed allegation that he even forged a letter conveying approval.

The announcement of the planned turbanning of the new Waziri two weeks ago therefore presented an opportunity for Kwankwaso to exact his much sought revenge.  Kwankwaso’s deputy, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, a gentleman to the core, and a polar opposite to his boss tried to intervene by heading to the palace at 7am on the Friday the turbanning was to take place, one week before the Emir passed away. He was there to advise the Emir to postpone the event in the interest of peace. The same councilor who withheld the original letter kept the Deputy Governor of Kano waiting for more than 3 hours, without informing Ado Bayero. It was only at 10am when the emir came out for the turbanning scheduled at 11am that he saw Ganduje and was surprised and visibly displeased they had kept him waiting outside for so long. Having heard what Ganduje had to say, he apologized to him saying that the communication he got from Government House conveyed approval, and that having called people from all over Nigeria to witness it, it would be unfair to turn back now. He asked Ganduje to convey his apologies to the governor.

The turbanning went on as planned. What happened next is public knowledge, with Kwankwaso giving Ado Bayero a 24-hour ultimatum to reverse the turbanning or be dethroned. He also allegedly threatened to suspend the Emirate Council itself and freeze its bank accounts. It is worth noting that former Kano State Governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau was turbanned as Sardaunan Kano and member of council in the twilight of his administration by Ado Bayero, and this no doubt hurt the massive ego of Kwankwaso.

It was in the midst of all this turmoil that the late Ado Bayero passed away a few days later, having been forced (by the intervention of some elder statesmen) to reverse himself on the appointment of the Waziri, to avoid embarrassment to the throne. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso flew back from Rivers State upon hearing of Ado Bayero’s  death but still REFUSED to attend the funeral of the late emir. It is also worth recalling that this public display of enmity happened despite the fact that Kwankwaso’s father, Majidadin Kano, was upgraded from his Village Head status and appointed District Head of Madobi LGA by the late emir in a display of magnanimity towards Kwankwaso (during his first term), and at the request of Kwankwaso who drove to the palace at night in a single car and sought that favour from Ado Bayero. All these things happened while the common man on the street watched with keen interest. But for the Islamic faith which strictly preaches total belief in destiny, I am sure many would have concluded that the intense  antagonism displayed by Kwankwaso towards Ado Bayero finally pushed the old man with a weak heart off the cliff.

Anybody conversant with Kano knows that historically, nobody, no matter how highly paced, (from Abubakar Rimi to Muhammadu Buhari to Sani Abacha and now Rabiu Kwankwaso) moves against Ado Bayero without the common man taking his side. This is because for the half-century he ruled, he had generally sided with the cause of the downtrodden. He was a man of justice and equity, and was loved by all his subjects and commanded unparalleled respect.

This brings us back to SLS. Why are Kano people angry at his choice?

He was never popular within Kano metropolis mainly due to the fact that he was always rancorous, argumentative and disrespectful right from childhood and was never seen to be a genuine person with genuine friends or genuine intentions. He is seen as everything a Kano prince should not be. The behaviour of a Kano Prince is guided by the 16th Century treatise, “On The Obligation of Princes” written by renowned scholar Muhammad Al-Maghili at the behest of the then Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Rumfa who contracted him to draw up a code of conduct for the Emirate.

An emir of Kano should exhibit maturity, tact and bridge-building traits, which his subjects usually draw upon for inspiration. Lamido Bobuwa (as was his derisory nickname in childhood) is not believed have those traits, based on his antecedents. People from outside Kano may think SLS is popular there, but it was a common sight during the few durbars conducted in the last few years for a sizeable chunk of spectators lining the routes to be brandishing new N1,000 notes chanting “Kudin Mu ne, zaka dawo da su wallahi” roughly translating into “it is our money, you shall return it” in reference to his renowned ostentation. He was even stoned and insulted publicly on horseback during the Hawan Daushe of Sallah 2012 at Galadanci Quarters, a sight rarely associated with traditional titleholders.

Secondly, the imposition of his candidacy after the king makers had submitted a shortlist of 3 names, consisting of the first three sons of the late emir, leaves a bitter taste. The first being Ciroman Kano, Sanusi Ado Bayero, second being the Sarkin Dawakin Tsakar Gida, Aminu Ado Bayero and the third being Turakin Kano, Nasir Ado Bayero. The kingmakers in consultation with the Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Gwandu and other highly placed northern emirs settled for the eldest of them, the Ciroman Kano and communicated same to Kwankwaso on the night of Saturday, June 7, 2014. The people were generally happy with the choice, and celebrations began. So unlike the belief that it was a PDP ploy to cause public disaffection on SLS’ selection, it was actually in response to the very public knowledge within the metropolis that Sanusi Ado Bayero had been selected. That same night, Kwankwaso allegedly called the kingmakers and asked for the list to be revised and for Sanusi’s name to be included, even if Ciroma was to be the next emir, so as not to convey a feeling of disrespect to the Sanusi lineage by them not being considered entirely. The list was modified, with Sanusi Ado Bayero still as the preferred candidate, at the behest of Kwankwaso. He then allegedly refused to see the kingmakers the next day when they went to Government House to await the announcement. Allegations of financial inducement, harassment and threats to the kingmakers have been making the rounds, but cannot be taken as gospel.

The third is more sentimental than anything. The general feeling on the streets is that Ado Bayero was betrayed by both the governor and his acolytes, and do not feel SLS is mature enough to handle the throne. They feel the late emir was not treated fairly by Kwankwaso (when alive and now in death) by overlooking his sons for what seems like a vendetta against Ado Bayero coupled with political calculations. It could be seen more as an incident of Kwankwaso cutting his nose to spite his face by appointing SLS to spite his Abuja detractors. The cry of “Kano Sai Goodluck” by protesters yesterday after the announcement was made and today drives home the point. There is no place Goodluck Jonathan is more despised in Nigeria than Kano. Kwankwaso is, by this absurd appointment, certainly on the verge of displacing him in the unpopularity stakes.

 

The deed has been done but it is indeed a very bitter pill to swallow. With the politicization of the selection of an Emir by Kwankwaso, what we fear now is the demystification of the revered office of the emir and bringing it into disrepute. What happens now if the Presidency decides to move against him? What happens if the Emir of Kano is arrested by the SSS or EFCC and is made to come and testify in court? What happens to the common man now when his only ally and resort against injustice is now firmly and permanently indebted to Kwankwaso? Or worse still, what happens when the next governor in 2015 adopts “Sabon Gwamna, Sabon Sarki” as his campaign motto?

I wrote this piece to counter the absurd suggestions making rounds yesterday that opposition to SLS is was a PDP financed plot or that it is opposition to modernisation of the emirate and the North, opposition to girl-child education and all of that emotional blackmail. The simple reason why Kano Emirate remains such a big deal is because it has remained what it is: a TRADITIONAL institution warehousing a people’s collective culture and heritage, and has not gone down the “hip & cool” route.

The simple truth remains that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is not popular with the very people he was imposed to rule.

I even make bold to predict that Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will be the first person to regret this appointment. There is abundant precedence here.

May the soul of our late emir rest in perfect peace

Guest Post: Is The BridePrice App Sexist?

Remember my friend, Omo Baba Printer? Well, we were discussing the new brideprice app that just went viral and some of the negative reaction to it. So I asked for a quick post.

Below, unedited

———————————————————————————————————-

Bride Price Brouhaha
Since the infamous brideprice app went viral, many people have complained that the entire concept of Bride Price, even in a humorous or satirical form promotes the objectification of women as objects to be traded.  I understand why they think so. But I disagree, here’s why.
Dowry vs Bride Price
Many confuse the two, but a dowry is paid by the bride’s family to the groom’s family while a bride price is paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s.  The lesser known dower is made by the groom directly to the bride herself, not her family.
In countries like India, where Dowry is common, this was due to the perceived low value of women in the society.  A family gaining an additional woman was gaining a burden.  Within Nigeria, the bride price reflected the high value of a woman within her family, where her marriage was a significant loss of an economic asset.  Here, you find bride price occurs within the ethnic groups where women took an equal part in earning an income for the family, trading or farming.
There is a correlation between the prevalence of a bride price and a society valuing its women highly, (all other things being equal).

The dowry system on the other hand has created so many problems, not least of all Dowry Deaths that it was even made illegal in India.  Yet it continues there under the radar. The wiki article states:

The expected value of the dowry has risen in some cultures in recent decades. This phenomenon has led to a sharp increase in “dowry deaths” since the 1980s. A “dowry killing” occurs when a new wife is murdered by her husband or in-laws if they are unhappy with her, rather than sending her back to her parents, which would force the in-laws to return the dowry to the bride’s parents. Statistics in India show that 90% of such murdered brides were educated, 30% were graduates, and 20% were women who worked outside the home and contributed to the family financially.[Dowry killings have been described by women's rights groups as a problem that is typically among the "emergent urban middle class", who aspire to greater material prosperity, and the dowry that comes with a wife is viewed as a means of obtaining money and consumer goods.]

Even the UK historically, had a dowry system which disenfranchised so many women while they were unable to inherit their family wealth.
Yoruba traditional weddings today still symbolically have the groom’s family paying a bride price -usually in the form of baskets of farmed goods.  Even when the parents are known to be billionaires, I doubt anyone at those weddings seriously believes that a daughter is being “sold” for a few yams and bananas. In exchange, the bride’s family traditionally bears the cost of the wedding.
These acts are symbolic gestures of the merging of families or, if you like, the granting of a licence to marry.
I believe that Bride price is really a purchase of family, and no more sexist than a woman changing her surname from her father’s to her husbands. Neither is an indicator of ownership, but of kinship.  
There are many issues degrading women and girls in Nigeria, everyday sexism ruining the lives of females all over the country, but Bride Price is not one of them.
I’m glad to come from a part of the world that rejected the dowry system for bride price.
But then according to BridePrice.com.ng  I’m a “Super Premium Babe! Your bride price is going to cause a war in this Africa.” – so perhaps I should check my privilege :-)
———————————————————————————————————-
That’s it. You will not be charged to leave a comment on this post so take advantage by leaving your thoughts below.
FF

 

An Open Letter To Vice President Namadi Sambo: #BringBackOurCows

Mr. Vice-President,

I stand on existing protocol.

I was devastated this morning when I heard you recently lost up to 2,000 of your cows to marauding cattle rustlers in Kaduna. I can only imagine what you are going through at this time. I don’t have any cows myself but if I did have any and someone stole them, I’d be mad as hell.

Be that as it may, I don’t think we should spend too much time feeling sad about this issue. The incident presents us with a unique opportunity to tackle this menace. Mr Vice-President, this thing has been going on for a while now and just last month, the papers carried reports of the toll in Plateau state alone:

The Special Task Force (STF) on Jos crisis code-named ‘Operation Safe Haven’ has revealed that 260 people were killed, while 2,501 herds of cattle were rustled  in 160 attacks in the state in the last six months by unknown gunmen.

According to the STF, about 1,312 herds of cattle, 88 arms and 2,734 ammunition were recovered during the period

It is not fair that what other people took a whole 6 months to suffer, you have suffered in one day. But we need to properly identify the problem before working out a solution.

Mr. President never fails to remind us of how terrorism and other problems we are facing in Nigeria are a global phenomenon ergo, it is nothing special about Nigeria or a failing of your utterly transformative government. Mr, Vice-President, he is right. Cattle rustling is indeed a global phenomenon. Even in the UK:

Indeed, over the past few years, sheep rustling, that most ancient of crimes, has become a very modern epidemic – so much so that it has made the agenda at this week’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) annual conference. According to NFU Mutual, the insurance company linked to the union, claims by farmers for stolen livestock rose 170 per cent between 2010 and 2011 – a period of rising meat prices.

In 2012, the most recent year for which there is data, 69,000 sheep, worth an estimated £6 million, were stolen in Britain. Northern Ireland was the worst-affected area, with 28,878 sheep stolen, followed by 18,000 thefts from the ancient upland farms of Northern England. In the South West, there have been 5,901 cases.

The only minor difference is that farmers tend not to get killed there in the name of rustling, but let us not be distracted by that as it is neither here nor there.

In fact, this rustling business was such a problem that the EU has introduced passports for every cow within the European Union. The UK started this passport scheme in 1996:

Cattle born in or imported into Great Britain since 1 July 1996 must have a cattle passport. This identifies them and their movements and must remain with them throughout their lives.

Single page passports (CPP52) are issued by the BCMS. The BCMS also runs the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) database, and is responsible for:

  • maintaining a register of births, deaths and imports of cattle used for animal health and subsidy control purposes
  • issuing cattle passports
  • recording individual cattle whereabouts
  • operating a dedicated helpline
  • providing online services

The cattle passports include:

details of the animal

details of where it has been throughout its life

details of the animal’s death

Sir, in America the story is the same where drug addicts steal cattle  to fuel their addiction.

So as you can see, the story is the same everywhere and it is merely Nigeria’s turn to enjoy experience what other great countries have been experiencing.

Now that we have all this information, I believe we can launch a 5 point plan to get your cows back and defeat this menace once and for all. I will list the plans below so as not to take up too much of your time.

1. There is no point re-inventing the wheel – We live in an age of viral hashtags and as we have recently seen with the Chibok Girls, it can help in drawing the world’s attention to an issue. Just like the kidnapping of the girls in Chibok was by no means the first such incident, we can use your plight and the number of cows you lost to bring global attention to this issue.

I propose the immediate launch of a #BringBackOurCows hashtag. We need to go big on this so we should use the International Conference Centre Abuja, where your government has launched many things this year alone, as the venue.

I do not know what the musician Zaki Adzay is up to these days, but given newspaper reports of him allegedly beating his wife, I reckon he doesn’t have much going at the moment and will be available for this work. His torchlight and stick can help capture the imagination of the public as a symbolic cattle rearer. Failing that, we can draft Ice Prince Zamani to do the job.

2. We will also need international heavy hitters to do the needful in getting this hashtag to trend. Michelle Obama wouldn’t know a cow if it strolled across the White House lawn and waved to her. So I say we shouldn’t waste time with her.

George W. Bush always played up his image as a Texas cowboy and inspite of all the reputational damage he suffered on account of the Iraq war fiasco, I believe he can do a job for us. An image of he and Laura Bush wearing cowboy hats and sitting on their horses, lasso in one hand, and a #BringBackOurCows placard in the other hand is bound to reverberate across the internet.

It is also a good time to hire Matthew McConaughey given his recent Oscar award and how he likes to play up his Texas cowboy persona. After these 2 specific targets, I’m sure celebrities will be falling over themselves to #BringBackOurCows.

3. Mr Vice-President, we will also need a distraction. Again, what works is what works and no one can deny that the First Lady has done a yeo-woman’s job in the quest to sow doubt about the fate of the missing Chibok girls.

This distraction is important so that we can get the cattle rustlers to let down their guard. We need to raise doubts as to whether any cows were stolen at all and also downplay the number at the same time. Consistency is not required if we want to sow doubt – we can say one thing in the morning and say another in the evening.

The security men at your farm will be brought to Aso Rock and live on NTA, the First Lady can interrogate them with questions like How many people waka come thief a whole 2,000 cows? Na wake dem waka come abi na trailer dem bring? Sekurity, you dey sleep dat time?

It’s a bit awkward that Kaduna where this happened is controlled by your party, the PDP but this is a minor inconvenience. We can simply look for the highest ranking member of the APC from Kaduna and with heavy innuendo, blame him for it. I recommend Mallam Nasir El-Rufai as the target. He talks too much anyway so it wont be hard to get anyone to believe he was behind the dastardly plot to steal your beloved cows.

4. We will need properly targeted demonstrations to ensure they don’t backfire on the government. Thank God Oby Ezekwesili is presently occupied with the matter of the Chibok girls and in any case, it is not on record anywhere that she has a fondness for cows. Nevertheless, we cannot be too careful – any attempt by her to ‘milk’ this protest will be swiftly met with the launch of the hashtag – #EzekwesiliBringBackOurCows to focus the searchlight on her.

We can also sponsor a few people on social media to start alternative hashtags like #ElRufaiBringBackOurCows or #APCBringBackOurCows. This will complement the efforts in point 3 above by creating a distraction that lulls the rustlers into complacency.

Any attempt to pin this incident on insecurity in the country must be robustly countered by Messrs Maku and Okupe that this is a global phenomenon which just happens to be Nigeria’s turn to experience and strongly telling people to direct their protests to the rustlers who stole the cows. This is where we will need the cooperation of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN).

No effort should be spared in mobilising them for protests across the country. You will have to join in these protests and wear whatever the colour of the protest is. I suggest you lead the protests from the front. Where you will be protesting to can be decided later but I suggest a secluded part of town or any forest we can find. We don’t need to go inside the forest – we will merely stand at the entrance and chant #BringBackOurCows.

5. Once we have done the points listed above, there should be no need to send in soldiers to look for the cows. We need to forestall any charges of hypocrisy or ‘one rule for them, another rule for us’ that the opposition are bound to opportunistically jump on.

Once the global pressure has reached boiling point, the rustlers will be overwhelmed by their own conscience and return the cows to your loving embrace. Indeed, this is something that the President’s Senior Special Adviser on Strategy, Mr Oronto Douglas was recently quoted as saying in the New York Times:

I have reason to believe Boko Haram will see reason and let these girls go,” said Oronto Douglas, special adviser on strategy to Mr. Jonathan, in an interview this week. “I think they will have a conscience to let these girls go

I strongly believe this. They will #BringBackOurCows to us and there will be newspaper pictures of you being reunited tearfully with your cows. If we move quickly, we can get the cows back before the rustlers are tempted to start eating them.

This is the last straw and we must never again turn the udder cheek to these rustlers.

nigerian-cattle

FF