Guest Post: Does It Matter If A Cat Is Black Or White?

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping became China’s pre-eminent leader at 74. Before leading China, Deng had cut his teeth in the army, helping it grow into a military machine during the Communist Revolution in the 1940’s. Though initially praised for his role by Chairman Mao, he fell out favour during the 1960’s because Mao considered him too self-centred; was stripped of all his posts and exiled to a rural province to be re-educated. Deng eventually made a political comeback after Mao’s death and started downgrading Mao’s legacies and opened China to globalization.

He was not a flawless leader; the Tiananmen Square Massacre happened under his watch and he also instituted the radical policy of limiting families to “one child per couple” to stem the rising population. However, his most important legacy is laying the foundation for China’s economic boom with forward thinking reforms.  He opened China to international trade and introduced reforms in agriculture and industry that improved the overall standard of living and triggered a period of sustained economic growth.

The similarity with the Deng story is a major reason I am supporting Muhammadu Buhari to become Nigeria’s next President despite his history of being a military ruler whose government signalled in the end of democracy in 1983, or a perception of being driven by ethnic sentiments and religious bigotry. I strongly believe he is the leader for the Nigeria of today, and that a government under his leadership will create the foundation for a sustained period of economic growth and development.

The next five points summarize why I’m batting for the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket to win the 2015 presidential election. Here goes…

Much Ado about Corruption

Nigeria has lost between $20 billion and $30 billion in the last two years to oil sector corruption alone, an amount equal to the Federal budget in 2013 ($31.7 billion). With this in mind, anti-corruption is the most important agenda for him during this election season. While it is obvious that one man cannot solve this problem, it is useful studying how Georgia managed to reduce corruption significantly when President Mikheil Saakashvili took over the government in 2004. If you read the comment below, you will understand why Muhammadu Buhari’s credibility is a great asset in the battle to minimize corruption.

This document here is a great read on how Georgia successfully fought corruption. If you can’t read the complete report, the summary is pretty simple – If a country’s leadership shows zero tolerance to corruption, the business community and citizens will fall in line. In Georgia’s example, the radical policies not only reduced corruption, they improved government’s credibility which increased tax collections. This is my biggest reason for asking voters to vote Muhammadu Buhari into office with a majority at the National Assembly.

What can others learn from Georgia’s success? Leadership and political will are all important. So too is establishing early credibility. In early 2004, the government thought it had 8 months to get quick results. Most famously, 16,000 traffic police officers received their waddling orders overnight. In an effort to sustain public support, attention grabbing symbols matter.

 

The APC Ideology

I am a member of the All Progressives Congress because its overall ideology is the right one for today’s Nigeria. A “left of centre” party will ensure social welfare programs which are badly needed in Nigeria today, protect workers and provide equal opportunities in the society. If you don’t belong to a group of Nigerians benefiting from Government patronage, this is the right party for you.

While there are legitimate concerns around the size of such governments and its impact on free markets, an APC government will provide a fine blend of grey matter to balance the impact of its policies on business and the cost of governance. Within the party, there are people like Nasir El-Rufai who led a lot of the privatization of public assets at the BPE; Ben Akabueze who has brought his banking experience to the public sector and ensures Lagos State delivers on an ambitious development plan; Olawale Edun, who led the diversification of Lagos State’s revenues between 1999 and 2007; and of course, Yemi Osinbajo, who is credited for reforming the Lagos State Judiciary during his term as the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice.

This is a stellar cast of grey matter that will thrive under a Buhari Presidency.  If there is one thing we have learnt from Buhari’s record of leadership, it is clear the man has no problem delegating responsibility where competent lieutenants are available.

It’s the Economy, Stupid!

James Carville might remain relatively unknown, but the campaign slogan he coined for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign is now one of the most iconic campaign slogans of all time. Nigeria is now facing headwinds as oil revenues, our major income earner, might experience a sustained period of suppressed prices. There is absolutely no reason to believe a government that frittered a period of boom away will manage this lean spell properly.

In a period of reduced revenues, exchange rate depreciation and  higher interest rates, voters need to be sure about the decisiveness of its leaders and the ability of government to respond intelligently to the rapid changes in the global economy.

For 16 years, Lagos State has used its share of growing oil revenues to boost non-oil collections by improving tax collections. Today, it is the only state where federal allocations contribute less than 50% of the total revenues recognized by the state.  Today, while the Federal Government and many states struggle to pay salaries, Lagos State is not only meeting its obligations to employees, it is also embarking on a large-scale infrastructure projects.  For those who will ask the inevitable questions on Lagos State’s debt, I already answered that here .

2015 is an opportunity to test if the relative successes seen in Lagos since 1999 can be replicated at a national level.  It is also the right time to test the economic policies of both parties and their presidential candidates. Since 1999, there has never been a period where the economic credentials of our leadership team are more important than now. Will you vote the government that ensured 24% of Nigerians remained unemployed despite record-breaking revenues or the one with a clear agenda to ensure at least 5 million jobs are created per year?

Yemi Osinbajo vs Namadi Sambo

This one is the clearest reasons to bat for the APC ticket. I don’t know Namadi Sambo, but the limited influence of the Vice-President suggests he doesn’t add sufficient value to Nigeria’s leadership. While the Vice-President of Nigeria might be seen as an expensive appendage, it is clear under a Buhari presidency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo will get a lot of leverage to lead policy implementation. Like thousands, I have been exposed to the “incoming” VP’s clear thoughts on Nigeria and the solution to our underdevelopment. It is therefore exciting to finally see an opportunity for one of the finest thinkers I know to put those theories to test.

I can’t remember any Vice-Presidential candidate being so important in an election, but Prof. Osinbajo brings a lot more than religious and ethnic balance to this ticket. It is an incredible opportunity to get a proper intellectual into office especially one who has spent most of his adult life proffering solutions to his country’s problems. For those in doubt, please wait for a debate between Vice-President Sambo and Professor Osinbajo. Get your white towels ready, it promises to be a remake of that epic battle between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.

Buhari 2.0 > Buhari 1.0

The Buhari running for office in 2013 is very different from the one that ruled Nigeria in 1984 or the one that ran for office in 2003. I will use two quotes from the man himself to explain.  I attended a session where he sounded very sad about the Supreme Court judgement where the result of the 2007 Presidential Elections was upheld by 4 votes to 3 despite an admission of irregularities during the election. Buhari seemed surprised the judges who dissented with the majority were Justices Oguntade, Onnoghen and Aloma Mukhtar (who later became the CJN), and not the ones who came from the same ethnic origin as he did. In that moment, I suspect the strong ethnic connection Buhari had been associated with slowly dissolved, and he realised people are aligned by interests and not where their origins lie.

The second was his admission that he submitted to democracy‘s power over autocratic leadership when the U.S.S.R. dissolved without a bullet. In both admissions, it was clear that both incidents had a huge effect on him and contributed to the renaissance we are now witnessing.

The result is very interesting. For the first time since 2003, GMB has finally built a coalition with a national outlook instead of the Northern based candidacy which was never going to deliver him the Presidency. For me, his conduct during the merger that created the APC showed a man who now understands compromise is an important word in the political landscape.  I don’t regret not voting for the 2003 version but the 2014 version surely has my vote in the bag.

Cats and Mice

Many ask which version of Muhammadu Buhari will show up. Is it the hard-line one that will truncate privatization reforms and increase government’s involvement on business or the one that will provide a platform for technocrats within his government to thrive?  My answer lies in Deng Xiaoping’s most famous quote:

It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as long as it kills mice

 

Akin Oyebode

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13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Does It Matter If A Cat Is Black Or White?

  1. I have made up on my mind to vote GMB. He is by no means a perfect candidate but just what we need in this critical period. Govt revenue is bound to decline greatly and there is need for responsible management of the economy. I have very little doubt that a GMB presidency will significantly improve the lot of Nigerians. A GMB victory and presidency has the potential to deal a final blow to politics of religion and ethnicity in Nigeria. Here is hoping for both.

  2. While I accept that corruption is one of the biggest problems Nigeria is currently facing, I can’t possibly fathom how GMB/APC advocates make it a PDP only issue. Are you saying that the APC states are free of corruption? Isn’t it the tax payers funds from Lagos state that are being used to finance other APC elections. Lagos is often cited as the poster state of APC, you mean a state with a GDP the size of Kenya, without the welfare or security responsibilities of that country has only constantly patched roads, new parks and uncompleted Transportation projects to show in 16 years? A state in which BAT micromanages every aspect of it and is the self appointed King Maker of its National Party. Is that really the party in which we want to control the fate of our great nation, I don’t think so. It’s laughable at best that one can sing the Anti-Corruption tune for Buhari who is a close ally of Atiku, BAT and Ameachi. Public Funds stolen by those three alone would make the corruption of the GEJ regime seem like child’s play. Both parties are guilty of corruption and have put our Nation in the deplorable economic state it is today.

    What APC ideology? Atiku and Tinubu’s take on the economy that more naira should be printed as a means of jumpstarting an economic revolution? I think the people of Lagos state owe Wale Edun special gratitude for making BAT richer. Lagos state revenues have been diversified but let’s ask the people in the slums of Ajegunle or the residents of Apapa Traffic City if they enjoy the benefits. The names mentioned above will be better suited serving a state like Lagos, save the Professor.

    A VP debate is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things, and it only lends strength to the fact that the Professor would have been a better candidate than GMB. GMB has not revealed his brilliant plan to overhaul the economy, so please kindly share the inside information that you have. You have only succeeded in presenting your assumptions as to what you believe will happen. The people of Ekiti showed that APC’s “method” is not necessarily the best one and maybe the nation as a whole will follow suit.

    Are we so desperate that we turn to Communist China for a reference? I side with Democracy every day of the week. Important to note that GMB’s coup also disrupted our budding democracy under Shagari, funny how he has now turned to this government system out of convenience.

    Left to me, GMB should be forgotten in our history text books and confined to the past permanently. I believe that Nigeria will not vote for him.

    P.S Your piece on the Pension Reform shows that you might not necessarily have a full grasp on social welfare and macroeconomics, as you complained that an increase in employer/employee contributions will be bad for businesses in Nigeria. There isn’t a single shred of evidence to support your theory, I think the same will apply to your take on the next elections.

    1. The point about pensions was the additional regulatory burden it would impose on businesses. Did you read the piece? There is more than sufficient evidence for this – in France, a lot of businesses stop hiring once they hit 99 workers because additional regulatory rules kick in from 100 workers.
      Obamacare is predicted to have the same effect.

      Also you said:

      “Buhari who is a close ally of Atiku, BAT and Ameachi. Public Funds stolen by those three alone would make the corruption of the GEJ regime seem like child’s play”

      Did you really type that with a straight face?

    2. If GEJ knows that Tinubu, ameachi and Atiku are corrupt what is he doing to prosecute them? He condones corruption he’s a thief himself that’s why me and my family will be voting against him.

    3. Am nt suprise if your opinion defers, bt I beg u to go to all APC rule state b4 u pass ur jugdment, ibadan 4 example never have new road until d emergence of APC and about ajegunle and others even America have a getto. Corruption is d problem we need a natural leader to kill this problem once and 4 all nt minding ATiku and co. Must we continue in sin and prace make grace abound

    4. This is what I like to see…and sadly what has been lacking in most write ups on these elections- A well written article with well mannered responses with properly marshalled thoughts. So Akin, thanks for this piece, and Alo- thanks for your response.

      I do believe Alo’s points are very valid and Akin has sadly not addressed the key ones (I am ignoring the Pensions one because a. it is not relevant to the issues raised here, b. I have not read it).

      The points raised which I agree with and which have not been addressed are-

      1. The PDP do not have a monopoly on corruption in present day Nigeria, the APC are clearly big players in that market. The PDP’s perceived mononpoly of corruption is mainly because they hold Federal power, save for Buhari’s antecedents there is no evidence that an APC government will stamp out corruption in all levels.

      2. An ‘APC ideology’ is a nebulous concept…I am yet to see any ideology that is left of centre, if anything the APC particularly in Lagos is more pro-business (LCC concession, Eko Atlantic City etc)

      3. APC members cannot run away from the fact that BAT rules the state with an iron fist and this was clearly evident in the nomination of Ambode as the flagbearer in the 2015 elections. (not to mention that his businesses are the primary beneficiaries of the diversification of the state revenue mentioned above)

      I will be supporting the Buhari/Osinbajo candidacy solely on the grounds that GEJ/Sambo have performed woefully, and if not for any other reason we need to show politicians that Nigeria is not a University…you don’t carry over a course when you fail it…you get kicked out!

      Finally, re Deng Xiaoping’s famous quote …let me leave you with another cat reference. Buhari is like Schrödinger’s cat, we do not know what we will see when the box is opened…with GEJ however, we know that the cat is definitely dead!

      I am willing to take my chances on Buhari…if only on the 50% chance that the cat is alive.

      1. Just to answer #2 – The Scandinavian countries are definitely left of centre countries. Indeed, for about 80 years, the left were in power in Sweden almost uninterrupted with the exception of the last 4 years.
        And yet no one can deny that the Scandinavian countries have some of the best businesses and business climate in the world today. I live in the UK and I am always amazed at how much construction work by the UK govt the Scandinavian guys like Skanska and Scandia win here. They are everywhere. Maersk? Volvo? Ericsson? Statoil? The list is endless.

        The point being that you really cannot be a serious left or centre left party these days without good pro-business policies. You will go bust as quick as you started – you need the taxes from business to pay for all those welfare policies. Same can be said of New Labour under Blair (not the communism being preached by Miliband these days).

        So I think the bigger issue is how do we get the APC to share the gains from being pro business as widely as possible and not just among a few which then leads us to the annoying dead end that is crony capitalism?
        That to me will be the real challenge

  3. Pingback: [Aguntasolo] Guest Post: Does It Matter If A Cat Is Black Or White? | ...change we need

  4. …honestly, at the start of this piece, when you spoke of sustained growth and agricultural reform I could have sworn you were going to liken these to Objs term (which led to in excess of 500% growth in GDP) and GEJs term (which has seen the agricultural output of the country quadruple, leading to international accolade for him and his minister of Agric).
    I’m sure anyone reading this is saying ‘boooo to this PDP guy’. I’m not. Just saying my mind.
    I shall now reread this great piece.
    Regards

  5. @Guest the position of VP is like that of a caretaker when the landlord is in the house, If GMB wins, Osibanjo will assume that same office; office of the kitten…

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