Give Me Sunlight

First things firstly first; anything wrong with having lunch with the duly elected President and Commander-in-chief of the world’s biggest black nation? Absolutely not. At least on the part of the president (given that young Nigerians have been ready to engage since forever) was this a step in the right direction? Absolutely. In the land where politicians tend to forget those who elected them as soon as the returning officer has announced the results, it is indeed welcome that Mr Jonathan would seek to parley with young people, an important albeit fragmented voting bloc in Nigeria.

Furthermore, did our young people who were privileged to attend this event seize the opportunity to tell Mr Jonathan the unvarnished truth? This speech here by one Mr Chude Jideonwo, suggests that the President was indeed put on the spot no matter how briefly. Anecdotal evidence from those who attended the event, described it as a speech delivered not without passion.

So what was the problem? Just this once, I crave your indulgence to allow me reference myself. Last year as Nigeria was about to turn 50, I wrote this note saying the young people of Nigeria would be called up next to have a go at changing Nigeria, for the better it has to be added, in whatever way they could. If you don’t have the time to read the whole article, take this quote away from it

And what a tragedy it would be if you took the wheels and drove the car exactly the same way the former guys drove it

There’s no need to castigate Mr Jonathan or his people for their conduct before and after the event. They did nothing that was not to be expected. The Nigerian presidency has become some kind of mobile Father Christmas where the privilege of physically being in the same room with the president must be subsequently rubber stamped by the sharing of money or as it has now come to be called by those who did not bother to consult the dictionary or their conscience before collecting the money; per diem. The only slightly hilarious part of the whole thing is those who have called it ‘sad’ and ‘unfortunate’ that money was shared at the end of the event. What were they expecting? Now if a collective stand had been taken to refuse the money, that would have been truly novel. But there really isn’t any need to act at all surprised.

Much has been said about how the Nigerian ‘system’ works and therefore to get things done you have to play the system somewhat or perhaps how the time for posturing and carping from the side-lines is now over and we must now seek to engage the system. All well and dandy, but pray tell, who needs reminding of what the Nigerian system is like? Which young Nigerian, after 12 years of democracy, does not now know that engagement is a must if only to be heard? Nigeria’s democracy, flawed and wobbly as it is, provides us plenty of avenues to register our displeasure at bad leadership, not least the recently concluded elections which, regardless of what some people might think, to a very large extent reflected the will of the people. It is impossible to say that all the noise generated on the blogosphere does not register somewhere important in the Nigerian government. So how then does a lunch date suddenly become the mother of all avenues to let the President know how we feel? 

And this is where I found the behaviour of some of those who participated in the event rather very silly, said silliness further compounded by the damage control attempts otherwise known as slamming the stable doors shut after the horse has long bolted.  

The truth is that our so called ‘youth leaders’ have behaved exactly as those before us, who we rightly castigate and seek an opportunity to do differently from, would have done. I find it unconscionable that people who do not spare us even the smallest details of their lives on twitter and Facebook suddenly became publicity shy over this event. How is it that someone who lets us know that he uses a blackberry torch which has been giving him battery issues or that his new slippers are so comfortable or about his Kenneth Cole watch which, you guessed it, fits ever so nicely suddenly went quiet when it came to the small matter of anchoring an event with the President in attendance? This is not a sub by the way; I am referring to Mr Amara Nwakpa here. I engaged Chude Jideonwo on twitter asking him when exactly he knew he was going to be participating at the event and he said about a week before. So why was there no post on Ynaija? The same website that gives us a ‘twitter personality’ every month? Mr Jideonwo told me that he has a habit of not tweeting when he is at events. Really? Here’s a tweet from Mr Jideonwo on the 20th of May

Swe has got nothing on today’s all-night Obomkpa style groove. #GrannysBurial

In case you were wondering, that’s him tweeting from his dearly departed Grandmother’s burial a few weeks ago.

Mr Jideonwo did not vote for Mr Jonathan so he could not have been invited to speak because he supported the President’s election. So he must have been invited because he is perhaps seen as a voice of at least a section of Nigeria’s young people. This is not an elected position. Whatever popularity Mr Nwakpa and Mr Jideonwo might have is mostly down to them being seen in some way as a rallying point for Nigeria’s unhappy young people. 

Now I stress that in drawing the parallel I am about to do, I am in no way comparing these 2 young men to our politicians. At least not yet. But let us take a recent episode in the fast moving action film that is Nigerian politics. Recall how a few days to the Presidential election the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was apparently summoned by the President and ferried on a jet plane to Abuja. When Mr Tinubu received the summons, did he announce it to Nigerians or his constituents? No. After the meeting was there a furore with people (till today even) calling Mr Tinubu all kinds of names? You betcha. Do we know if a deal was struck or if money was shared at the meeting? Who cares? 

Nigerian politics has always been one of exclusion. Where those in power endlessly conspire to keep out the best people from governance. We are constantly fighting one battle or the other to either prevent our votes from being excluded or agitating just to be heard and contribute our quota to getting our nation back on its feet. 

Our young people who were involved in this event have perhaps unwittingly practiced that same politics of exclusion by arrogantly thinking they could go and represent the youth in front of the president and then telling the very same youth later.

Since yesterday, I have read no less than 3 different ‘damage control’ notes or articles about what happened at the event. They miss the point completely, Mr Jideonwo in particular. The simple question none of these people have woefully failed to answer is ‘why didn’t you tell us you were going to meet the President?’. It is no more complex than this at all. Why didn’t you carry along (and I don’t mean physically carry along or invite) the young people you supposedly went there to represent? Would Mr Oronto Douglas or whoever it was who organised the money sharing have been confident enough to do it so openly if there had been a lot of publicity before the event especially in light of the whole debate about reckless government spending? If the young people, all 400 odd of them, who attended the event knew they were going there as privileged representatives of the Nigerian youth, would they have been so brazenly collecting brown envelopes and then justifying with gems such as ‘I attended the event and spent 4 hours in traffic so I collected the money’? 

If Mr Tinubu was mercilessly pilloried for having a meeting with the president (granted Mr Tinubu is not exactly the paragon of transparency in such matters) even with no evidence of money changing hands, why does anyone think they won’t get some stick after having a meeting with the president where money was in fact shared?

And here is the lesson for all of us; many of us haven’t achieved anything earth shattering yet. We are young people so we do have time on our side. For anyone of my generation to get an invite to have lunch with the president is a PRIVILEGE and nothing more. It is not something that has been earned. Not by any stretch of the imagination. So people must learn to humbly carry along their peers in such matters. Before you think I am upset at not being invited, I don’t live in Nigeria. But I am a young Nigerian, frustrated at Nigeria just as you are, perfectly able to articulate myself in front of the president or my peers, so if anyone is going to represent me anywhere, they better let me know before they do so. And if you see fit to tell the world what you want to eat the day after tomorrow, then you ought to let us know if you are meeting the president especially if you are going to be the anchor of the event. And no, I don’t want to give you a proposal to pass to Mr President. Just like millions of other Nigerians, I have a job that pays just about enough to get by.

Give me sunlight….because it is the best disinfectant. If you are going to put yourself about as a representative of young people in Nigeria then you better let us know what you are doing. All of this having to explain what went on and a whole day spent debating the mundane issues of the event when we could have spent it cheering Mr Jideonwo’s candour in his speech.

Mr Jideonwo ended his admonition to Mr Jonathan with the words ‘We will be watching sir’. Well let me tell him that we too are now watching the watcher. There is a reason why Nigeria is the way it is today and we all know it. To get results that will give us some level of satisfaction, we must do differently when we get the chance to do so not act like our parents can be expected to act had they been the ones who got the invitation to lunch with the President.

Finally, I am curious, what kind of food was served and did it reflect our federal character?

FF

 

 

 

 

 

Bank of Industry: Uncrunching Nigeria’s Credit

I stumbled across this checklist of requirements  to get a loan from Nigeria’s Bank of Industry and promptly got into a debate with those who thought it was fairly standard. I found the requirements to be terribly onerous and inimical to the growth of credit in Nigeria.

Recently I had the good fortune to attend a seminar where Adebayo Ogunlesi gave a speech. Never one to pass up an opportunity at cheap, instant fame, I asked him a question about PPPs in Nigeria and his general thoughts on them as a solution to our infrastructural deficit. He answered but then used an illustration to explain how sometimes a seemingly intractable problem has a very simple solution waiting for it.

Not long after his company, Global Infrastructure Partners, bought London City Airport in 2006, they discovered that even though about 70% of the people who used their airports were business travellers who didn’t check in any luggage, they were still managing to lose so many people’s luggage. The guys running the airport in London couldn’t seem to figure out what the problem was, so head office in New York, where Mr Ogunlesi is based, decided to send in some chap to have a look at the problem. 

Now the chap who was sent down had never worked in an airport before. His entire background was in manufacturing factories. Mr Ogunlesi said when the guy got there, the CEO of London City Airport rang him and said something like ‘are you guys nuts? We want to solve a luggage problem and you are sending us a guy who’s never seen an airport before?’. His response was that since it was a problem of getting the bags from the traveller into the plane, he felt that someone with a manufacturing background was pretty much suited to finding the solution.

In a few days the chap had managed to figure out the problem. Apparently London City Airport had 14 departure gates but only 7 luggage transporters meaning one vehicle was being used to move the bags for 2 gates. A new luggage transporter cost about £3000 at the time so they promptly put in an order for 7 new ones and voila, the problem of missing luggage disappeared. Given that GIP paid around £650m to buy the airport in 2006, this is small change indeed especially considering the damage it could have done to their reputation.

 

There’s no doubt that SMEs in Nigeria have a serious funding problem. Microfinance Banks hardly do what they were setup to do and it’s almost impossible to fund any serious business, beyond trading, with a loan from one of our commercial banks at 24% interest rate. There is the perennial complaint about fraud and how people borrow with no intention to pay back the money. The complaints are now getting a bit boring to be honest seeing as people have been defaulting on loans in Nigeria since I was a kid and loan defaulting is not something unique to Nigeria.

As much as I disdain governments (especially the Nigerian variety), there’s a case to be made here for serious government intervention to fire up the economy by boosting credit availability. The Brazilian version of our Bank of Industry, BNDES, is an amazing institution that has been severally described as the ‘lifeblood of the Brazilian economy’. In January and February of this year, it lent the equivalent of $10bn to Brazilian businesses. When the credit crunch happened and Brazilian banks were squeezed, the BNDES simply ramped up it’s lending meaning that Brazilian businesses were never really denied access to credit in that time. 

Now by it’s own admission, the BoI claims to listen to applications from pretty much every size of business in Nigeria with the exception of cottage industries, so perhaps the ‘Industry’ in it’s name is a misnomer of sorts. But no matter, the point of this post is to share my ideas on how I think the requirements for accessing credit especially by small businesses in Nigeria can be made significantly less onerous thus getting the credit flowing and creating the jobs needed to take the initiative from the devil who is currently creating jobs for Nigeria’s idle hands at a record breaking rate.

 

1. First things first, #14 on the current BoI list of requirements will be scrapped. #18 will also be thrown in the bin. As an accountant, one of the first things I was taught was incomplete records. As far as I am concerned you don’t need a set of accounts to determine the credit worthiness of a business. Nigeria being what it is sadly also means that a set of accounts only really tell you what the person wants you to see which is usually nowhere near reality. There really is no point in giving people an incentive to lie by asking them to produce documents that are easily falsified. I will also be willing to grant some kind of tax ‘amnesty’ to people who haven’t paid taxes in the past. Loads of people don’t pay their taxes in Nigeria. My aim will be to get people and businesses to start paying their taxes going forward. #11 is what I find the most irritating on the list really. That too goes in the bin. Do you have landed property in an urban area? Keep it, I don’t want it. 

2. The most important thing I will ask businesses to supply is their business plan projecting a minimum of 3 years into the future. Again this plan will be simplified and everyone will get a fairly simple and straightforward template to work with. Then there will be the application form. This will ask for all your standard personal information as well details of the company. This form will be a maximum of 2 pages and you will also be asked to state how much you want to borrow. 

3. The application form will be free to submit online along with a PDF copy of the business plan you have filled. There will also be an option to make a postal application in the same way that people currently make their visa applications. You submit your forms along with your business plan at a DHL or UPS office and pay something like N5000 to make a postal application. No other method of submitting an application will be allowed. The point of this is to eliminate, as much as possible, any form of human interaction between businesses and staff of BoI. This is probably one of the easiest ways to fight corruption in a country like Nigeria. If you submit online, you get a text message with an application number sent to you with which you can then track your application later. Beyond the application form and the business plan, no other document whatsoever should be included in the submission. 

4. Stay with me, I am not mad. Again I stress, the whole point of all of the above is to as much as possible, avoid putting a Nigerian in a position where he will be tempted to lie to get his application approved. The forms will of course carry a warning that we will carry out verification checks on the information provided and if we find anything to be untrue, the entire application will be thrown in the bin and we wont tell you why especially if we’ve found that you lied somewhere. So instead of overwhelming us with your paperwork, just tell us the incorporation number of your company and we will get all the information we need from the CAC ourselves. Tell us your date of birth and address, we will run a check against what is on the INEC database. Tell us your phone number and we will run a check against what is held by the phone networks as your phone should be registered. On the form we will ask you for your passport number and then run a check with the British High Commission and US Embassy to see if you’ve ever applied for a visa. If you have, then we will crosscheck the information you supplied them with what you are telling us. If we find a lie anywhere, we will politely refuse your application and make sure a record is kept of what you did wrong without informing you….in case you want to try your luck again in future.

5. Again you don’t need to send us your bank statements thank you very much. Save your paper. Just tell us your bank account details, both personal and company, and we will contact your bank asking them to supply us with copies of your bank accounts covering however long we require. 

6. Now here’s where we will earn our money in the BoI. Say you want to borrow N100m from us, once your application has been submitted to us, we will send you a message telling you that if your application is successful, we will lend you the N100m but in tranches to be determined by us. We’ll have our team of credit analysts look over your application and determine how to release the funds to you. A maximum of 40% – 50% of the funds will be released to you in the 1st year. The timing will not follow any set pattern and will vary from company to company…completely determined by us. After the 1st year, you must prepare a set of accounts and pay taxes plus obtain tax clearance before any more funds can be released to you. If you have been paying taxes in the past, hey great! We will forward your name to Abuja for consideration in the next round of national honours. But going forward, you must pay taxes and produce accounts. It gets better, we will have a list of approved accounting firms you must use to draw up your accounts until the day you have paid us back all the money we lent you. These accounting firms will pay us an annual fee to be on the approved list and if we ever discover anything funny they have done, they get kicked off the list immediately. 

7. Once we’ve got all the information on the company and its promoters from all the different sources, a preliminary decision will be made on the application. At this point we then have a meeting to interview the directors/promoters of the company to get a feel of their understanding of the business they want to do and general demeanour. It’s important that a positive decision is reached before there is any form of physical contact between BoI staff and the borrowers. At this stage, there should only be something like a 10% chance of the decision to lend being reversed. 

8. Finally, every month a list of the names of companies, the promoters as well as the amount they have borrowed will be published in the newspapers and will also be available on the BoI website. Our people have a habit of using bank loans to buy Range Rovers and boats, so this should hopefully restrain them and let their neighbours know where their sudden wealth cometh from, if they choose to spend it thus.

That’s it. No requirement to bring ‘landed property in an urban area’. No need to overwhelm us with all sorts of documentation you might have falsified. Just tell us who you are, why you want the money and how you are going to use said money to benefit the Nigerian economy by boosting productivity and creating jobs and we will happily lend you the money.

Let me also say something controversial; for this plan to work, we must make sure that bankers do not come anywhere near it. Bankers think in a certain way and they are conditioned to be risk averse, even more so in a society like Nigeria. But the need to get credit flowing into the economy, is far greater than whatever risk of default there might be out there. BNDES in Brazil has been able to almost crowd out private lending by Brazilian commercial banks, meaning they have had to be competitive with their interest rates or find another way to make their money apart from lending. I think that if the BoI pulls its finger out and does some work, interest rates will come down from what we are currently seeing with the commercial banks. Not everyone will get a loan of course, some people don’t deserve to get N1 in funding. But what cannot be denied is that plenty of good and serious businesses are denied funding in Nigeria today because of a combination of bureaucracy and unrealistic lending requirements.

Please feel free to abuse my ideas. You can abuse me as well. But please don’t abuse my mother 🙂

FF

 

The Word On The Streets IV

We humans are creatures of habit and it is now my habit to write ‘something’ everytime I come back from Nigeria. My previous TWOTS are herehere and here. I dont imagine you will want to read them though. 

1. I hate to rant or complain about things in Nigeria and how they dont work…if I can help it. Particularly I dont think it makes any sense to complain about stuff in Nigeria by comparing them to what’s obtainable in the west.

But indulge me just this once as I have a bone to pick with MTN. You will recall that for the year ended December 31, 2010, MTN generated around $5bn in revenues from Nigeria of which about 63% of that was EBITDA. 

Maybe I am just xenophobic, but the quality of ‘service’ I got from MTN had me pulling my hair out. Oh I could make and receive calls quite alright, the problem was the internet ‘service’ I paid for. It totally did not work. As in, I couldnt get on the internet. So I would attempt to open a page and it would make like it was loading for about 3 – 5 minutes before finally breaking down in sheer exhaustion at trying to connect to a non-existent internet. 

I’ve used a Glo SIM the last few times I’ve been back home and I dont recall ever having problems like this. I somehow managed to forget my SIM card back in London so I thought I’d give MTN a try this time around. Apalling does not begin to describe what I am talking to you about.

2. Getting a new SIM card now involves going through a process that is identical to what we had in the January voters registration exercise. The only difference is that you are not issued with a laminated card for your troubles after registering your SIM.

So maybe INEC should speak to the phone networks and get them involved in the continous update of the voters register. As opposed to a situation where in 4 years time, we will go through another N80bn+inflation exercise again. As soon as you turn 18, just head to the nearest telco store and register your details which will then be verified against the national register and confirm you as a registered voter.

Those of us who have already registered will not need to go through the process again.

This is just me thinking aloud.

3. I spent a day in the Ijebu part of Ogun state and managed to speak to many different people about the presidential elections. Everyone seems to have voted for Goodluck Jonathan. My Uncle told me he was won over when Mr Jonathan campaigned there and said to them ‘vote for me, and not my party…vote for me as a person’…or something along those lines. Amazing.

Now it wont surprise you to hear that my political sympathies are with the ACN. I am also half Ijebu so the politics of Ogun state is one that I try to pay as much attention as I can to. Now I will confess that while the ACN was the party of my heart, Gboyega Nasir Isiaka or Ologini of the PPN as many are wont to call him was the candidate of my head. 

Speaking to so many people revealed the deep contempt with which the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo is held. His vindictiveness is of course legendary but his habit of cutting off his nose to spite his face would be laughable if it werent so tragic. Remember the 2007 episode he engineered in Imo state against Ararume? This time around he apparently accused the outgoing governor, Gbenga Daniel, of siting the air and sea port in the Ijebu part of Ogun state with a view to giving an Ijebu state a headstart whenever it was created. 

Now given that the brilliant Mr Isiaka (An Awori man) was Mr Daniel’s protege, Mr Obasanjo decided to split the Yewa/Awori vote (the Yewa/Awori have never produced an Ogun state governor and Mr Daniel had done the equitable thing by fielding Mr Isiaka to replace him) by springing General Tunji Olurin (also Awori). 

The rest is history. 

On the streets of Ogun state, not much is expected of the new governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun in terms of him exceeding whatever Mr Daniel achieved in office.

I hope he at least proves his doubters wrong.

4. Nigeria is full of all kinds of opportunities. I met quite a few fish farmers doing their thing and profiting from the work of their hands. It’s an interesting business and I was humbled by the knowledge these men and women had acquired simply by stumbling upon answers to their problems. 

It is somewhat tragic as a lot of trouble might be saved with proper education and exposure of the farmers, but they seemed happy to learn from their mistakes. One fish farmer told me how he couldnt figure out one time why his fishes were dying. The gentleman doubles as a pastor so he said he took it to the Lord in prayer, as you do, and one fine day he discovered that the water flowing into his pond was passing through a small gutter and then literarily poisoning the fish when it finally reached the pond. He ran a water bypass and immediately the fishes were fine. Fish farmer is now smiling.

Another chap I was told about recently bought a new car which he apparently came to dedicate in church. The man had planted carrots and water melon and so great was the harvest that he was able to fund the car purchase from the proceeds. 

So you want a new car? Get planting would be my advice.

5. Most people remember the gusto with which Governor Fashola tackled the job of Lagos governor as soon as he was elected in 2007. I sat down with someone I respect a lot and he told me a side of the story I had never really paid attention to.

The story of how Mr Obasanjo denied Asiwaju Bola Tinubu funds meant for Lagos state when Mr Tinubu was governor does not need retelling. Mr Tinubu was apparently funding the LGs in the state using IGR in this time with the proviso that the money was a loan which would be repaid to the state whenever their funds were released by the FG. 

In comes President Yar’Adua in 2007 and he promptly decides to release all the money owed to Lagos state. Now Lagos state will typically receive somewhere in the region of N8bn every month from the FG as its allocation all things being equal. So how much was the arrears that was apparently released to Mr Fashola in one go in 2007? N51bn. 

Buoyed by this, Mr Fashola was absolutely able to hit the ground running in the first couple of years of his governorship. Now this is not to belittle the man’s achievements; another governor would have awarded himself a bonus of around 60% of the money and committed the rest towards his re-election. But Mr Fashola saw it as an opportunity and used it to win over Lagosians who were still suspicious of the way he emerged as governor. 

So what’s my point? There wont be any more windfalls I imagine between now and 2015 so he will have to work much harder to ensure he finishes on a high note. I dont doubt his resolve though so there’s not too much to worry about.

6. I met up with a couple of friends one evening on the Island and as soon as I got there, one of the guys introduced me to another guy I had never met before that day thus ‘This is Feyi, he believes in Nigeria….me I am an Odua citizen’.

Tatalo Alamu, in this here piece said in the aftermath of the recently concluded elections ‘Nigeria advanced democratically, but it regressed nationally in a mutually cancelling dialectic’. I think that about sums it up.

At the great risk of misreading the public mood, I will stick out my neck and say people in southern Nigeria are in the mood for a Sovereign National Conference. Let me show my hand while I am at it; yours truly will wholeheartedly support such a dialogue if it is convened even by Mr Jonathan as President. 

The point of such a dialogue of course will be for everyone to say what they really think about Nigeria and where they think its heading. But it was perhaps to prevent the repeated patching of tyre tubes that the oyinbo man came up with the now ubiquitous tubeless tyres. I think we’ve patched enough…we need a new workable model.

Nothing has been more tragic in all of this than the senseless killing of youth corpers in parts of the north. There need not be a law against killing young men and women serving their country by their fellow countrymen. The only thing that should prevent such killings is that moral chip installed by the creator inside every human being…and the simple logic that no matter what our grievances might be, turning on your fellow countrymen can surely never be the solution.

So what makes us countrymen? I see you stroking your beard thinking of the answer. I will see you at the SNC.

7. To my mind, corruption is probably the only thing holding Nigeria together as it is. Without the centre being able to dangle that huge national cake in front of the whole country, a sizeable portion of who are hungry, one suspects that the whole thing would soon unravel. 

There is so much corruption in the land that defining it is now a problem even for the most decent men. From the private sector to the judiciary, the tentacles of the beast are everywhere. I heard too many tales to even begin to recount but its safe to say, the thing aint going nowhere anytime soon. 

One friend of mine who I have the utmost respect for as a stand up straightforward guy told me ‘Feyi, before I moved back to Nigeria I always said I would never be corrupt…now I dont know anymore’. I know that this guy definitely doesnt wake up every morning heading to work musing on how much he would steal that day. He’s a good guy…but if it comes his way…there’s a Yoruba proverb that warns not to take near your nose, any food you have no intention of eating. Right now, the thing is all up in his grill as the Americans will say.

Another lawyer friend told of how their chambers had a case in court last year and they had to deposit some money with the court pending the outcome of the trial…something like an escrow holding. When the trial ended, they made to collect their money back only to discover that the court registrar had in fact bolted with the money and was nowhere to be found. Turns out Mr Registrar was about to retire and must have seen the money as some kind of gift so he retired only slightly early. 

As a friend of mine would say; I laff pour Moet for my expensive polo shirt…..and then I realised how terribly tragic the story was. A man who worked his whole career only a heartbeat from the daily dispensation of justice and all the laws of the land, contrives to end it all in a rather fiendish finale.

We have laws alright…but they dont appear to be worth the paper they are written on.

8. Professor Pat Utomi recently enunciated ‘state capture’ for the national lexicon. The phrase now means something quite clear to me so let me explain using Yobe state as an example.

You might recall that in January 2009, the then Governor of Yobe state, Alhaji Mamman Ali died in Florida from what was suspected to be leukamia. Step in, Ibrahim Gaidam who had been Mr Ali’s deputy. Mr Gaidam had been plucked from the civil service in 2007 to be Mr Ali’s deputy and was viewed at the time perhaps as a ‘safe’ choice who wont give the governor too much trouble…the proverbial spare tyre no one ever plans to use.

2 years later, Mr Gaidam was able to ‘deliver’ every single seat contested in Yobe state to his ANPP with the exception of one House of Representative seat in the Nangere/Potiskum federal constituency. The entire 24 seats in the state house of assembly are now ANPP controlled. Senator Usman Albishir who left the ANPP for the PDP ostensibly to teach Mr Gaidam a lesson, was himself taught a lesson by the rookie. Even the Yobe South senatorial district which had been held by the PDP since 1999 fell to the ANPP under Mr Gaidam’s leadership. 

So how great has been Mr Gaidam’s performance in just 2 years in office given his relative lack of political experience before 2007? I honestly dont know. But the above example is to illustrate how state capture via incumbency is becoming more and more entrenched in Nigerian politics. Lagos is no different…all seats contested went to the ACN. Same thing in Osun State and most of the states in the South East and South South. In Ondo Dr Mimiko, barely 3 years in office, delivered 80% of the presidential vote to Mr Jonathan and kept practically everything else for his Labour Party.

What the results of the governorship elections seem to be telling us is that being incompetent is not enough to stop a governor from being re-elected for a second term. He must be so awfully bad that he must be despised by his people. This theory holds for Adebayo Alao-Akala in Oyo and Aliyu Akwe Doma in Nassarawa. Or perhaps the governor, without being fully in control of the political ‘machine’, then falls out with his godfather. This holds for Aliyu Shinkafi in Zamfara who was felled by Senator Yerima working against him.

Beyond these three, all other average governors like Jonah Jang in Plateau and the woeful Theodore Orji in Abia were duly re-elected. The day when mediocrity will be punished at the polls has not yet come to Nigeria (except maybe to the South West to an extent).

So we solved the problem of holding ‘credible’ elections and then we discover that competition was in fact dealt a mortal blow in these elections. State capture now takes no prisoners. 

Oh before we leave Yobe state, join me in congratulating Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Governor of Yobe from 1999 – 2007) and his lovely wife Honourable Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim who have both been returned to the Senate and House of Reps respectively for their second terms in the NASS.

If the jumbo salaries remain the same, then Mr and Mrs Abba Ibrahim will cost us something in the region of N1.2bn over the next 4 years to maintain. Please pay your taxes. Thank you.

9. So yours truly voted in the guber elections on the 26th in Lagos. For whatever it was worth, I am glad I participated in the process. I can confirm that I voted for Mr Fashola for a second term as governor and will have you know that I was not bribed, coerced or induced to do so in any way. 

Much has been said about how politicians induce voters with all sorts on or just before election day. But it has to be said that voters too hawk their votes by holding out and waiting to be induced. Perhaps it was down to election fatigue or the fact that most people felt the re-election of Fashola was a foregone conclusion so they might as well make it worth their time but I could clearly see it on the faces of more than a few voters. On the queue while waiting to cast my vote, I could hear people openly asking if the ACN agents had come round bearing gifts.

Very early on Monday morning as we were heading out of Lagos, we stopped to have our tyres checked at a petrol station in Gbagada and this chap sauntered over to us, clearly under the influence of something strong. He proceeded to sing some funny song in praise of Mr Fashola and then told me ‘they’ would be sharing money at a nearby sawmill on that day for people to vote for Mr Fashola. I then queried why he needed to be induced given that he was always going to vote for Mr Fashola anyway. He didnt quite answer before he broke into another song. Again I asked him if he would ever vote for Mr Dosunmu of the PDP and he started to curse the PDP and everyone in that party declaring that Mr Fashola’s re-election was a foregone conclusion. 

He pulled out his voters card, threw it on our car and began to demonstrate to us how he was going to press his hand on the broom the next day.

For his troubles, I put my hand in my pocket and gave him ‘something’. And then he sang for me too.

The connection between what a vote means and its actual value has not yet been made in the mind of the majority of Nigerian voters so it remains by and large a buyers market. A vote might sell for N500 in one part of the country and command a going rate of N5000 in another part of the country. 

As one of my Pastors in church always says, when the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is bound to occur.

 

I must thank you for reading my ramblings.

FF