Thursday, December 23, 2010

How PDP Delegates May Vote

The battle for PDP’s presidential ticket between the two strongest contenders- President Goodluck Jonathan and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has reached its peak, by January 13, 2011, a winner will emerge. So far, the contest has been more exciting than a thriller. Both Goodluck and Atiku’s campaign organisations are using all the political weapons at their disposal, as if the battle is not just for a political party presidential ticket.

The ‘war’ is fiercer than that of any political game ever seen. We have been seeing some use of communication tactics & tools never before seen in a race to Aso Rock Villa. However, both groups know that the battle to win the votes of a political party’s delegates, especially delegates in Nigeria, is not fought solely using the conventional media, the new media or verbal attacks on each other, but by high-wired politicking full of manoeuvres, horse-trading and scheming.

The intense political scheming so far is a pointer to the fact that, the d-day would be hotter than the party’s February 1999 Jos convention, where former President Olusegun Obasanjo slugged it out with former Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme.

Ideally, there is no special process to win delegates’ votes, because they can vote for whoever they please. And candidates can use whatever power of persuasion they have at their disposal to win the support of the delegates. However, in the next coming PDP presidential primaries, as it were in the previous ones, five decisive factors would determine how the delegates will cast their votes.

Whichever order PDP conducts its primaries, Governors would have an overwhelming influence on how the delegates cast their votes. The delegates will gather merely to ratify the choice of the Governors. The choice of the Governors will be determined by where their political interest will be protected. Their interest lies on the second term tickets for those going for another term; the choice of their successors as well as control of the party machinery and structures.

Another set of people who will influence how PDP delegates would vote are the party’s bigwigs whose states are not controlled by a PDP government. This group have three interests which will determine how they will instruct their delegates to vote. Their interest lies on: the control of the party machinery; who gets their states’ governorship and other elective position tickets, in addition to their ‘economic’ interest.

Despite the fact that most of the delegates would be controlled by the aforementioned, a number of them would vote based on regional basis and personal affiliation with a candidate. Though, the bulk of this segment of delegates will trade their vote like a commercial commodity.

The fourth group that would influence how the delegates would cast their votes is the candidates themselves. This is where their skills on the use of the most potent political weapon would be tested. Nigerian politics is somehow ‘primitive’ in nature; any of the candidates who have a thorough grasp of its intricacies and masters delegates’ election process will use it to influence voting. The candidates’ skills in negotiation, reaching agreements as well as the talent in political manipulation within a very short time would also be a powerful ingredient.

Both Goodluck and Atiku must be at their best, come January 13, 2011, if not; they would be highly shocked. Reason being that, delegates’ election is like magic- it’s full of surprises- one’s strong allies would all of a sudden change course. This is because political interest is the first and only one thing politicians believe and worship. Thus, both Atiku and Jonathan should have it behind their minds that the current endorsements, re-endorsements and approvals of their candidature by politicians alike are merely part of the bigger game. However, both gentlemen have strong odds in their favour. For Goodluck: incumbency. Challenging and unseating a sitting President during his party’s primaries is a painstaking job, and very difficult. Incumbents traditionally win their party's nomination. The incumbent anywhere in the world is always the man to beat. In fact, the primaries are usually a walkover for him. He can always swing delegates’ votes with decisions which may appear ordinary.

For Atiku: he finds everything about politics fascinating and pays incredible attention to its details; that is why he has deep knowledge about it and this is reflected in his passion for it. Atiku’s weapons will be a well-organised political network, human resources and experience. Since 1990 convention of the defunct SDP, to 1999 and 2003 PDP convention, he has become a nightmare to his opponents in any delegates’ elections. The man has shown that he has the technology for winning delegates elections. He always saves his best tricks until the final. Bola Tinubu once described him as the only master strategist in Nigerian politics to whom he could concede superiority. It was reported that he has already infiltrated most of the delegates-the reason why Dr. Goodluck’s handlers went all-out to reverse the planned staggered presidential primaries and also attempted to change the order of the primaries, which was rejected by PDP Governors. The issue has to be settled through another public endorsement of Dr. Goodluck Presidential ambition. The seeming mistrust between the PDP Governors and the President is nothing but part of the game that compels both side not to put too much trust on each other. In politics, it is very normal.

The fifth and the most crucial factor that would determine how PDP delegates would vote is the ‘unknown’- how the night before the election day will turn out to be- the intricacies, manoeuvres , high wired politicking and indeed the ‘bucks’ that would exchange hands that night. What would happen that night would be the ‘mystery of January 13’. It would a dicey contest. Either of the two candidates will emerge the winner. After then, many things will change, but one unique thing about the PDP is that during general election time, its campaign podium will be mounted by Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Atiku Abubakar, General Aliyu Gusau, Goodluck Jonathan, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo and their foot soldiers. Politics, as the saying goes, is really fascinating and very complex. It is the only permanent thing in life that most of the times its intricacies go beyond our imagination.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It’s Time to Reduce Poverty in Nigeria


The average Nigerian is a poor man. Indeed, Nigeria is a country of riches and poverty- splendid wealth in few hands and extreme abject poverty at most people’s doorsteps. The problem of poverty is colossal and pervasive in the country and it has many causes. The number of people living in poverty has increased due to rising disparities in the distribution of resources in the country. However, the basic cause of poverty in Nigeria is the absence of an enabling environment that will free the people from the prison of poverty; uplift their living standard and provide ways to assist them turn their dreams into reality.

It is a fact that primary factors that lead to poverty, such as overpopulation, unequal distribution of resources, lack of basic education, absence of employment opportunities, as well as environmental degradation are quite intractable and not easily eradicated, but the average Nigerian can leapfrog the ladder of prosperity; once the routes to achieving basic living standards are smoothened. Who should create these conditions? - The government at all the three levels. How? By imbibing the political will that propels new thinking within the political class as well as brings sustained all-inclusive economic growth.

In most cases, government actions and inaction create a good number of the causes of poverty. Therefore, the government that contributed in making people poor must also create conditions that will bring opportunities for prosperity. For the 50 years of the Nigeria’s existence, various governments have put in place poverty eradication programmes and policies. Yet, the average Nigerian is worse-off. The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), the primary agency of government charged with the responsibility of coordinating and monitoring all poverty eradication activities has designed many programmes and policies meant to reduce poverty, one of these is The Village Economic Development Solutions Programme, a community based programme aimed at encouraging mass participation in the economic development process through the establishment of anchor economic activities at the grassroots, helping peasant farmers get ready markets for their farm produce. This is a good initiative, but it cannot in anyway reduce poverty, because, subsistence farming and unproductive manual jobs cannot remarkably improve a country’s GDP. And, a country’s level of poverty can depend greatly on its mix of population density and agricultural productivity. Bangladesh, for example, has one of the world’s highest population densities, with 1,078 persons per sq km. A large majority of the people of Bangladesh engage in low-productivity manual farming, which contributes to the country’s extremely high level of poverty. However, some of the smaller countries in Western Europe, such as The Netherlands and Belgium, have high population densities as well. But these countries practice mechanized farming and are involved in high-tech and small industrialization; therefore have high standards of living.

If we claim that such initiative by NAPEP cannot reduce the abject poverty in Nigeria. Then what needs to be done? It is embracing of holistic and reductionistic approaches in tackling developmental issues-this is the time Nigeria needs both approaches– approaches that will tackle poverty by uplifting individual and at the same time develops systems and processes, while also strengthening the structures on ground. For example, in recent decades, some nations have become fairly wealthy by developing their economies with small scale industries, simple technologies and more importantly, by creating employment opportunities for their citizens through education, training and reliable micro-finance systems. Nigerian can benchmark such ideas.

The hallmark of poverty in Nigeria is the high level of unemployment. If Nigeria can tackle the high rate of unemployment in the country; then one of the most important ways to smoothen the path for prosperity in the land has been found- thus, the goals of vision 20:2020 can be achieved easily. We must acknowledge that even in developed countries, unemployment rates may be high and availability of employment also tends to fluctuate, creating periods of high joblessness. Nigeria being a country with high population, an unemployment level of only a few percentage means that millions of working-age people will be unemployed and unable to earn an adequate income. This should be an issue of great concern to the political leaders and managers of Nigeria’s economy.

Nigeria can create productive employment for its millions of unemployed citizens and those engaged in unproductive-manual jobs through various means. The country has artisans such as shoemakers, fashion-designers, carpenters, goldsmiths, woodcrafters, welders and technicians, etc., who have the skills but lack the resources to setup productive and sustainable businesses. Offering assistance to such group of people will have huge impact on the country’s economy. For example, Turkey, Morocco and Iran are enjoying huge foreign exchange from handmade carpets made by small firms owned by individuals living in urban, semi urban and rural areas of these countries.

Equally, there are thousands of graduates in Nigeria who never dream of a pay-job either from the government or private sector, but their zeal is to be entrepreneurs. Government can assist such group of young people. The CBN’s N500bn intervention fund designed to boost the operational capacities in the manufacturing, small and medium enterprises and the power sectors as well as the recently announced Creative Industry Fund by President Goodluck Jonathan are good steps toward the empowerment of the citizens. The accessibility of such funds should be flexible and part of it should be used in developing many sector including the movie, music, I.T. sport, advertising, farming and technology-invention industries. For instance, there are hundreds of illegal solid minerals mine fields in Nigeria; government can organize the people who engage in such activities into smaller organized firms. This will create legitimate wealth and employment, in addition to more revenue for the government.

We shouldn’t forget the fact that, it is a little bit difficult to determine the poverty threshold of Nigeria because of many factors including lack of reliable data and statistics; however, there is general agreement among Nigerians that the hallmark of absolute poverty in the country is the high level of unemployment that cut across the nation. If the level of unemployment can be reduced by half of its current standing, Nigeria’s vision 20:2020 will be achieved. In fact, the country will be the fifth member of the BRICs. This thought should be close to the hearts of Nigerian leaders. They should start dreaming with the people on the streets, because it is time to reduce poverty in Nigeria.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Adamawa Politics and Its New Entrants


The crisis-ridden and complex Adamawa political environment is witnessing an influx of new entrants. The State’s political environment is already jam-packed with diverse political and social interests, in addition to lots of political gladiators, who are engaged in high-wired politics of intrigues.

These new entrants of Adamawa politics are aware that to attain relevance in the system, they must align with a particular political bloc. Apart from identifying with a particular bloc, the platform they intend to contest on must also reflect the views and aspirations of their constituencies. This is a knotty issue they have to tackle, because any slight mistake would cost them a great political fortune.

More than 95% of the new entrants to Adamawa politics are people seeking political offices. And one good thing about it is that quite are few of them are professionals and some of them are young. Notable among them are Nuhu Ribadu the former EFCC helmsman, Dr. Aliyu Idi Hong, the current Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Zira Maigadi, the former Managing Director of one of the country’s biggest oil companies, Dr. Tukur Liman an academician and a seasoned technocrat, Aisha Dahiru Ahmed, the Chief Executive of Binani Group and host of others. As professionals in their own fields, these individuals are caught between what they think politics is and what obtains in the real life situation. They will, without doubt, discover that politics is indeed as described by pundits- beyond anyone’s imaginations.

For them to succeed, they have to play it as technocrats as well as borrow from the ways of educated and non educated career politicians. That is, they have to combine their excellent leadership skills, education and charisma with Law Number 25 of the 48 laws of power; i.e. re-creating themselves through forging a new identity that commands attention from politicians.They must also be able to convince the public that they have come to the public sector with new ideology and vigour through generation of feasible ideas that would trigger development, eradicate poverty by uplifting individuals; bring dynamism into governance, as well as provide broad variety of services, ranging from healthcare, agriculture, social programs, critical infrastructure and the revitalization of the education system.

The new entrants to Adamawa politics have come at a time that the State’s political environment is highly polarised between three very strong blocs: the Nyako, Jibrin Amin and Atiku blocs, who are immersed in high-wired politics. This is of course a dicey situation and at the same time a big opportunity for the new entrants, depending on how they play their cards. It is dicey because at the end of the day there will be big losers and winners. It is also a good opportunity for them, if they can be proactive. For example, during the 1983 elections in the defunct Gongola State, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur won the governorship election by being politically smarter than his opponents. His Kontigi Movement was instrumental to his victory at the polls- Kontigi Movement was able to complement the major weaknesses of the then NPN. It is depressing that politics has so much been ‘commercialised’ to the extent that such truly political movements like the Bamanga Tukur’s Kontigi are no longer relevant in Adamawa politics. However, those seeking political offices in Adamawa, especially the governorship position, have an opportunity at hand. If any of them can endure the painstaking task of forming a political movement which will bring together interest from Kautal Pulaka, the Fulani socio-cultural-economic organization and Adamawa Minority Forum. The ride to government House, Yola will be very easy. This is because there are cracks in the system which requires honest amends. Another reason is, Kautal Pulaka, controls over 80% of Adamawa economy and constitutes 30% of Adamawa population, and Adamawa minority ethnic groups collectively constitutes nearly 70% of the state’s population. For hundreds of years these two groups have built a strong political, cultural and social relationship with each other.

For several decades, from the former Gongola State to the present Adamawa State, ‘old school’ politicians have dominated the political environment of the state. Despite the present ‘good shows’ displayed by the new entrants, the old politicians seem to have dominated the contest for the governorship position, and each one of them is out with sophisticated game plan. For example, Governor Nyako is heavily relying on incumbency and his stronghold in the PDP structures. Another of Nyako’s game plan was the drafting of his Chief of Staff and his Commissioner of Local Government into the governorship race. Senator Jibrin Amin is playing his game as professor of medicine- he is studying various options, thus Dr. Aliyu Idi Hong candidacy is part of his game. Others seeking the PDP ticket are General Buba Marwa. Marwa has all the credentials but he has been far away from local politics. Awwla Tukur will ride on his father’s back. Atiku Abubakar’s tactics is that of wait then pull from any angle; this is because he has not openly showed his preference. However, pundits are of the opinion that Adamu Mu’azu’s taking over of Labour Party structures in Adamawa State is part of Atiku’s strategy. The story is same in other political parties- in the ACN; three groups will size up one another. Despite the fact that former Governor Boni Haruna has not publicly identified with the party nor resigned from the PDP, those who served in his administration are very strong in the party, the second group is Nuhu Ribadu’s while the third is Dr. Tukur Liman’s. In the ANPP, it will be either former Minister of State Defence Abdurrahman Adamu or anyone he endorses.

As the 2011 elections approach, old times politicians will play politics as they knew it, while the new entrants to Adamawa politics will rely on the strong public endorsement of their entrance into the game. For instance, through grassroots approach, Aisha Dahiru Ahmed who is seeking to be a member in the House of Representatives has succeeded in winning the hearts of her constituency- the politically complex and conservative Yola-North, Yola-South and Girei Federal constituency. If election is to be held today, she will win with a landslide.

One interesting thing about politics is, it is full of so many intrigues, each day, one finds some new and amazing thing about it. Both the old and new politicians in Adamawa State are for sure finding mindboggling things especially at these times that politicking in the State is like walking on burbles- it may burst at any time.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Yet, Another Education Summit



Nigeria has for the several years organised so many summits, seminars and conferences. The country has formulated quite a number of education policies, collected voluminous proposals and blueprints from both local and international experts, on how to salvage the education sector. Yet the problems in the education sector persist.

Does it mean that all those past efforts were not in the right direction? And the ongoing National Stakeholders Summit on "Reclamation, Restoration and Sustenance of Quality and Ethics in Education in Nigeria" will not produce a feasible blueprint for Nigeria’s education sector? Of course not, what was missing was the leadership’s political will, and the right team to push the right button

Nigeria is witnessing systems deterioration. The most worrying and one that requires urgent, systematic and systemic attention, is the education sector. The recent mass failure at the senior secondary school examinations organized by both West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO) are signals of the continuing troubles in the education sector.

The confusion, lack of stability and misdirection in the Nigerian education sector has reached a stage that the sector needs a radical restructuring and galvanization composing of reforms similar to that of Soviet Union 1980’s Glasnost and Perestroika reforms and the 1947 European Recovery Program,- The Marshall Plan. One may sound as an alarmist; but we need such kind of reforms in order to further liberalize the sector, recreate and rebuild its hitherto strong foundation and bring new ideas and thinking to policy planning and effective management of the sector. President Goodluck Jonathan has hinted that the Federal Government would review the strict guidelines of the special intervention funds like the Universal Basic Education (UBE) and the Education Trust Funds (ETF), to attain faster delivery of education at the basic levels. Will that be enough? Certainly no. Nigeria needs massive intervention in the education sector. Though, this not a call for the usual way Nigerian government does things. We really need a shift in the way our schools are run. And we have to put up a system that will provide adequate funding and help in improving the standard and quality of both teachers and students; a system that will completely aid in shifting away from the tradition- where government is the provider, administrator, monitor and assessor of how fund are utilized. Though, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Nigeria as a nation has three options on how to breathe life into the education sector: first is outright government shouldering of the management of the sector; the second is leaving everything to the private sector; while the third option is opting for Public Private Partnership.

The first option, i.e. outright government shouldering the management of the education sector seems to have failed, largely due to corruption and mismanagement, because the system has worked before. During the 50’s 60’s and even early 70’s the Nigerian education system has clothed, fed, educated and provided readily available jobs for the teaming educated Nigerians. However, the irony is; those who had benefited from the system, are the ones who destroyed it.

The second option i.e. leaving everything to private sector hands, should not be in anybody’s mine, as it would be detrimental to the progress of Nigeria. This is because once the education sector is left to the mercy of private hands; many Nigerian children would be shut-out of school, since majority of Nigerians cannot afford the fees charged by privately owned educational institution. Thus the nation would miss the opportunity of developing the best of her human capital.

Looking at the present state of administration of our education system, it seems private sector participation in the sector is inevitable. This writer is a strong advocate of private sector greater participation in managing our public schools; but not a ‘bulldozer’ kind of participation, where government will entirely surrender these schools to private entrepreneurs- thus, students, teachers and parents would be at the mercy of private hands. What we need is, a ‘measured’ Public Private Partnership, where government should build new schools, equip old ones. Then take a benchmark from a well-run private school on what it costs per student-head in running a school; then a gradual entrusting of public schools to private sector, where government provides the funds, taking into cognizance the cost per student; as it is in private schools, while the private sector manages it especially in the area of infrastructures maintenance, provision of teaching tools, management of training programmes for teachers - hence, our educational system will be run efficiently, new sustainable jobs will be created and government will be relieved from the burden of ‘ carrying the camel and its loads’. This suggestion may appear odd. However, an honest assessment of the budgetary spending per student head by the three tiers of government will for sure show that the amount spent by the government per student head exceeds the one the best schools in Nigeria charge per student head.

In his opening remarks at the summit, President Goodluck Jonathan said: “Nigeria’s educational system needs a rebirth for better delivery of education in the basic, secondary and tertiary institutions across the country”. Most Nigerians are of the opinion that the rebirth should be systematic as well as systemic. It has to cover primary, secondary and tertiary schools, at the same give emphasis to prioritization of need. And all the three tiers of government as well as the private sector should participate effectively and efficiently with well-spelled roles to be played by each

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can Jonathan Win PDP’s primaries?

President Goodluck Jonathan

I Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by the grace of God hereby offer myself and my services to the Nigerian people as a candidate for the office of President in the forth coming 2011 elections.” It is now official. President Goodluck Jonathan will run. So politicking now begins in full glare. In politics- Nigerian politics so to speak, the basic rule is; most things are to be enshrouded in secrecy, while few in openness. Today, the streets of Nigeria are chock-full with discussions on who will clinch the presidential ticket of the ruling party- the PDP. While on the other hand, politicians are secretly involve in intensive intrigues, horse-trading and scheming. These are signs that the PDP presidential primary will be interesting; full of tricky manoeuvres, and a keenly contested party primary similar to the 1999 PDP presidential primaries and the 1992 staggered presidential primaries of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) which were in the end cancelled by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida.

Being the President of Nigeria, the circumstance that led to his emergence as the President as well as his party’s controversial in-house policy of power rotation between the North and South has put President Goodluck Jonathan in the eyes of political pundits; politicians and ordinary Nigerians. Dr. Goodluck has now formally declared his intention to contest for the 2011 presidential election. Winning the PDP primaries is the first hurdle for him to scale in his quest to return to the seat of presidential power. This is very crucial, because anyone aspiring to be the President of Nigeria must have a party platform to contest on. The big question is; will Jonathan win the PDP presidential primaries?

Dr Goodluck will slug it out with the former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Dr. Bukola Saraki and probably Gen. Aliyu Gusau and a host of others. IBB and Atiku, as they are popularly called, appear to be the strongest of Jonathan’s opponents. But can Jonathan defeat them in the PDP primaries? President Jonathan’s supporters have strong confidence in his ability to rout his two strong opponents. His Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji, in a telephone interview with The Punch newspaper of August 30, 2010, said that former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, and ex-Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, would lose the presidential primary of the PDP. Equally, both IBB’s and Atiku’s camps have shown great confidence in winning the primaries. Atiku was recently quoted to have said: “The deal I have with IBB is that when this has been resolved (their interests), we will enter into a room and then, one person would emerge.” - hmmm, Nigerian politics is exciting.

Whichever way or sequence the PDP conducts her primaries; staggered or not, any aspirant who is serious about winning the party’s presidential ticket must work painstakingly to win the support of the State Governors and the bigwig politicians, in addition to putting in place a formidable political network that is extremely proficient in the art of reaching concession, honest engagement and collective bargaining. Moreover, the talent of sheer politicking is also required. The trio of Atiku, IBB, Jonathan and other contestants have the capacity to achieve the aforementioned, but Jonathan has a very vital advantage that none of the other aspirants has- the incumbency advantage.

Challenging and unseating a sitting President during his party’s primaries is a painstaking job, indeed very difficult. Incumbents traditionally win their party's nomination. The incumbent anywhere in the world is always the man to beat. In fact, the primaries are usually a walkover for him. He can always swing delegates’ votes with decisions which may appear ordinary.

It will be a political suicide for a political party to change its flag bearer who is already occupying the office. For instance, the PDP will not just throw away the many advantages Jonathan’s candidacy will offer the party. As the President, Jonathan is privileged to preside over national events and decision making, this frequently gives him favourable publicity, more name recognition and often receive more exposure in the media than those challenging him. Jonathan will have easier access to campaign funds as well as have structural advantages over his challengers during election. In addition to other advantages he has, the timing of the primaries may be determined by the PDP officials who naturally, will support him.

Jonathan is running as a symbol of generational shift and he is ‘untainted’ by any political or economic scandal. PDP delegates will compare and contrast the candidates' qualifications, issues, positions and personal characteristics in a comparatively clear-cut way. Jonathan will get his party delegates’ endorsement because the delegates have not been provided with a compelling reason to vote for someone else. Though, there exist situations in which the incumbency factor itself leads to the downfall of the incumbent, situations of this kind occur when the incumbent has proven himself not worthy of office during his tenure and the challengers demonstrate this fact. Jonathan is very lucky to have escaped such a scenario.

The odds seem to be so much in favour of Jonathan. Why? Researchers of western democracies, the U.S. in particular, have identified several factors which make sitting incumbents hard to beat and why most incumbents who run for re-election get re-elected. The research showed that since World War II, 90% of incumbents who ran for re-election were successful. The research further showed that the most important factors that help incumbents include: the “perks” of office, time, visibility, campaign organisation and finance, a highly organized staff, the power of the presidential office and facilities, the advantage of taking actions that are carefully timed to maximize political advantage and use of policies or decisions to display leadership as Commander-in-Chief.

The PDP presidential primaries would fundamentally be like a referendum on Jonathan. The PDP delegates will evaluate whether his challengers are acceptable alternatives. Political pundits are of the view that quality challengers do not typically choose to run when there is little chance and incumbents who are vulnerable do not always choose to run for re-election. In political party primaries involving an incumbent and challengers, the deck is always somehow stacked against the challengers. As the PDP presidential primary approaches, President Goodluck Jonathan appears to be like a moving train. You can’t stop a moving train!

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A 3-Way Development for Nigeria

Olusegun Aganga
Nigeria's Minister of Finance
                                                                                       
Developed and emerging economies transited through three stages of development: agrarian, industrial and information. Their transition through these stages of development wasn’t easy, as they made painful sacrifices, undertook painstaking researches and witnessed difficult moments. Must Nigeria go through the aforementioned systematic stages of development for many years for her to attain the position of a developed or a truly an emerging economy? Certainly, no. Leaders who shaped their countries and gave their people voice and direction, did so by putting in place a plan to serve as alternative model for their nation’s economic growth. For instance, China has emerged as a manufacturing and trading powerhouse in the world because of Chairman Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ which was designed as an alternative to the Soviet model of governance.


Nigeria has for long-time been battling with political, social and institutional obstacles to her development despite the country’s huge oil wealth and human capital. Time has come for Nigeria’s political class to design for the country a new development model that will focus on promoting economic growth, structural changes and improving the potential of Nigeria’s human capital through both public and private channels.

Nigeria’s leaders, policy formulators and implementers should adopt a 3-way development model, whereby the country simultaneously develops her agricultural sector, small scale industries and human capital. That is, putting in place a process through which the country’s economy are transformed over define period, by the reinvigoration of the agricultural sector, propelling small scale industrialisation and placing the country in a position so that her citizens can take advantage of the vast opportunities the world economy offers. The 3-way development model proposes that Nigeria benchmarked China’s Chairman Mao’s model of agriculturalisation, industrialization, and collectivization. But how will a democratic and heterogeneous Nigeria achieve it?

Nigeria’s development efforts placed emphasis on urban development at the expense of rural development which leads to a substantial rise in inequality between Nigerians. For Nigeria to achieve sustainable rural development, the country has to tie its rural development strategy to agriculture. Notwithstanding the fact that most of Nigeria’s economic activities, especially in the agricultural sector are not part of the measured financial transactions, agriculture can play a role in Nigeria’s GDP per capita. This writer once advocated for a new agricultural scheme that encourages an all inclusive participatory technique- where youth, communities, local councils, states, the federal government and the private sector (financial institutions and private investors) will be major participants. Financial institutions and private investors shall be the financiers; governments at all levels will have well-defined roles, while the youths and small scale farmers shall be the primary targets. In addition, the scheme should be designed to be in four categories- ‘export oriented’, ‘large’, ‘medium’ and ‘small’ scales, along with a well-defined timeframe for government complete handoff from the scheme.

The federal government would be the guarantor of fund to be provided by financial institutions or private investors. This will be done through the issuance of federal government bonds. The scheme should work in such a way that local councils and state government would provide lands and other logistics. The private investors or financial institutions who will participate in the scheme are not to give money directly to the government in order to receive the bond-certificate, but it would be a kind of batter arrangement; where the investors; either financial institutions or private individuals would setup farms, in addition to putting in place all structures required in a standard farm. Afterwards, a bond certificate equivalent to the cost which is to be determined by both parties and NGO’s will be issued to them. This will completely eliminate corruption which is the main course of failure of most good programmes in Nigeria. To encourage investors to participate in the scheme, before the maturity of the bond, the investor would take a prescribed stake, between 5% and 10% in any of the farms they setup. They will also assist in monitoring progress on the farm. On top of being an added value to the investors, since, in addition to the interests they will get from their bond when it is redeemed, this will also give them rights to shares from the farms’ profit. However, after the maturity of the bond, their stakes in the farm would be transferred to the host communities.

Though Industrialisation entailed both technology and profound social development, Nigeria can develop a small scale industrialisation programme with systemic as well as systematic measures to steer resources into the productive process. This proposed 3-way development model strongly ties Nigeria’s small scale industrialisation to its agricultural output and to the much-talked ‘waste to wealth’ efforts, as Nigeria has a total area of 910,768 km² of arable land, 13,000 km² water; and twenty-one (21) agricultural institutions, in addition to generation millions of tons of recyclable wastes every day. This will help in sustaining and developing the agricultural sector, boost export of finished or semi-finished goods as well as reduce unnecessary importation. But what kind of small scale industrialisation Nigeria should embrace?

Looking around us we see Asian products, such as razor blades, pine needles, envelopes, keys and padlocks, cotton buds, toys, shoelaces, safety matches umbrellas, doormats, office square clips, treasury tags, table flags, carpets etc in our markets. Most of these items are produced from agricultural outputs and recyclables wastes by small industries setup with small amount of capital and powered by solar panels or small wind turbines. Most of these industries are owned and run by a family of two or three in Shanghai, Taipei, Manila or Bombay. For example, a part of the Ikorodu-Shagamu road axis of Lagos State is occupied by Indians, busy building steel mills industry, utilising raw materials sourced from steels generated by Nigerians as waste.

The Bank of Industry, the Central bank of Nigeria, NAPEP and the ministry of commerce and industry should ensure that Nigerian small-scale industries and interested individuals benefit from the recently released intervention funds. And, instead of giving money to all loan beneficiaries, government can setup small industries and handover the industries to some of them.

Factors such as considerable advancements in science and technology, establishment of broadly-based government and strengthening of institutions along with issues ranging from social to cultural, economic policies to institution development, geographic location to opportunities all led to exceptional economic development for some countries. Besides, human capital development has played a vital role that has led to significant socio-economic progress and improvement in the lives of large number of people in many countries, noteworthy is the rapid and long sustainable high growth performances of East Asian economies. Nigeria can utilise her human capital for economic development. Though, economists are of the view that, for human capital to spawn a perceptible impact on economic development, a nation needs to have a minimum of at least 70 per cent literate population. Nigerians are a very creative and dynamic people. Despite the absence of strong formal support, Nigerians have made sport, music, art and the film industries promising. Nigerian government can take advantage of this and use these industries to create jobs and generate wealth, by hunting for top quality talented Nigerians, provide them with world–class training by assisting private entrepreneurs to establish well-equipped record companies, modern film studios, sport development enterprises and remove every obstacle that hampers the flourishing of these industries. Information technology (I.T.) and software are also today major sources of foreign exchange for most emerging economies. India is leveraging from its massive investment in I.T. and software development. Nigeria’s human capital has the potentials to be major exporters of I.T. professionals.

China owes her development to Chairman Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ of agriculturalisation, industrialisation, and collectivisation. Nigeria’s can benchmark Chairman Mao’s idea through agriculturalisation, small scale industrialisation and human capital development. Though, it took China decades to start reaping the benefits of the ‘Great Leap Forward’. Nigeria can reap from the proposed model within five to ten years, because the world today is very different from the one that was, some decades ago. All that the country needs are there, except that person that would push the right button- our Chairman Mao, so to speak.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980                                 

Monday, July 12, 2010

10 Ways Jonathan Can Win the North Over


The race to 2011 presidential election is becoming hotter with high-wired politics, intrigues, manoeuvring and horse-trading at the peak. And, if push comes to shove, ‘political konfo’ may come into play. The three principal actors are: the North, President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP.

President Goodluck Jonathan had gone through a long journey via the ‘doctrine of necessity’ to be the Acting President and by the ‘doctrine of reality’ to be the President of Nigeria. The President has started another knotty political-journey on a pot-hole-riddled-road with many sharp, sloppy and hilly bends.

The President has to apply the techniques of a patient driver. He has to be alert; learn to slow down and not tailgate. This is logical, because it will give him the ample time to get around ‘rickety’ and slow moving vehicle as well as be able to observe road signs, potholes, open car doors and cars coming towards him . Dr. Goodluck has to be wary of some passengers in his vehicle, they may be obstructive; he has to also strictly observe lane ends signs; give big trucks some rooms and shouldn’t try to beat trains- they can’t stop.

If President Goodluck adheres strictly to these driving tips, he will get through the rough political road effortlessly. However, if the President chooses to be a reckless driver, his vehicle will plunge from the start.

President Goodluck has three groups to face in the north: the political elites; the Talakawas and a unique emerging group of advocates of new approach to north’s political and development direction.

President Goodluck can use ten ways to persuade these three groups to support his presidential ambition. Of these ten ways, he can use four development policies to talk into the masses, one ‘politico-developmental’ agenda to convince the unique emerging group and whopping five political games to persuade the northern political elites.

President Goodluck Jonathan has found himself in a situation that both politics and policies may determine his political future. To see him through, he has to take careful and intelligent political steps. To gain the support of the Talakawas of the north, he has to design speedy but feasible policies that will break the poverty cycle in the north through economically empowering the poor; introduce agricultural programs that will reach real farmers as well as make them feel ownership and involvement in the programs; implement an education policy that will tackle the Almajiri phenomenon through workable integration of Quranic schools with formal schools and promotion of girl child education; and above all, be a fair leader. The leadership in the north has woefully failed in these regards. If President Goodluck can show a little sign of providing practical solutions to problems in these areas, the Talakawas of the north will definitely give him their votes. On the election day; he can just sit and cross his legs, sip a steaming cup of tea prepared by madam first lady. This is because the north has never voted based on regional or ethnic sentiments; but on candidates’ personal integrity and ability to free the people from the prison of poverty. The 1979; 1983; 1992 and 1999 elections were clear examples.

There is a group of young educated people springing in the north; this group see the hullaballoo about power rotation between the north and south, as undemocratic and also an offshoot of the never-ending ploy by the Nigerian political elites to continue to hold on to power. Moreover, they are strongly advocating a paradigm shift in the north’s development and political direction in such a way that the region will only vote for a leader with a vision; someone who listens to new ideas; accept new ways of doing things, as well as has a clear, vivid picture of what success looks like and how to achieve it. Not someone who hides behind regionalism to consolidate on cronyism and ‘stockpiles’ his pocket. The old days are gone, so to speak! President Goodluck can win the heart of this group if he can move with a speed commensurate with their expectations; in bringing new thinking and synergy to the public sector through feasible ideas that would trigger development in all spheres of the Nigerian economy- putting in place systems that would eradicate poverty by uplifting individuals, fight crimes with employments and opportunities rather than guns, axes, bows and arrows; fight official corruption the ways it ought to be and bring dynamism into governance, as well as provide broad variety of services to Nigerians, ranging from health and social programs, defence, electricity, police protection, maintain a sound legal system, and the provision of physical infrastructure including the reinvigoration of the education system, build small scale industries and farms, roads construction and human capital development. These groups of young educated northerners are looking for a Nigerian that will lead Nigeria like a CEO; not someone who will bombard their ears with gobbledygook.

The biggest hurdle President Goodluck Jonathan has to cross is winning his party’s presidential ticket. And the truth is, winning the hearts of the above mentioned two groups, is just a scratch on the back when it comes to winning the PDP’s ticket. Support from the Nigerian bigwig politicians is very paramount. As earlier mentioned, for President Goodluck to win over northern political elites, he can use five ways to do so. There are five groups of political elites in the north: the 19 northern governors; those seeking elective offices; career politicians; traditional and religious class as well as those who want to be President. Let’s look at the five political-games that the President can use to persuade these groups.

The process of seeking political offices in the north was built on the principle and foundation of negotiations. Politics, they say, is all about give and take. This is the first of the five ways President Goodluck can use to persuade the northern political elites, especially the 19 northern governors.

Immediately after the death of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, political gladiators in the north became busy putting their political machinery to action by building networks and strategising for the 2011 presidential election. Strategising and building formidable political network is technique number two, which is very crucial for President Goodluck in winning over the political elites in the north, especially the traditional and religious class.

As earlier mentioned, there are career politicians among the category of the north political elites. This group have started what they know best- politicking, by forming pro and anti Jonathan groups and associations in addition to shouting their voices at any given opportunity. They are the easiest group to be won over. The President knows better than anybody on how to win over this group- political patronage is their price.

There is strong feeling within another category of the political class in the north that the region must hold on to power till 2015 based on the unwritten power rotation agreement. Even some people outside the north hold such view. Professor Tam David West in his interview with The Spectator Newspaper of Saturday, July 10-July 16, 2010, page 12-13, he said: “Jonathan should honourably obey what he signed”. The Prof. went further and said that he will not support a southern President by becoming President on the platform of a Northern President. Most observers are quick to remind the political elites from the north and those supporting them, that during the 2003 elections which was the turn of the south to complete their eight years in power, the same north fielded candidates to seek the office of the President. For President Goodluck to win the support of this group; concession, honest engagement and collective bargaining are his only keys.

The fifth technique for President Goodluck Jonathan to use to win over the political elites in the north is the most interesting one; and the most fascinating, it’s Dr. Goodluck’s only weapon in facing the most difficult and formidable group- those also aspiring to the President. The technique is nothing but sheer high-wired politics full of scheming, manoeuvres and horse-trading. In dealing with this group, President Goodluck should always put in his mind that any slight error will be a huge political suicide, because Nigerian politics is all about secrecy and openness. He shouldn’t also forget that sometimes one needs more than just good luck, because the future is not something that happens; it is something that you make happen.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Appraising Adamawa MPs in the National Assembly

                                         


The 6th National Assembly will end in 2011. Politicians have started squabbling to get elected as members of the House Representatives or as Senators; those in Adamawa State are also not left out. Almost in all the federal constituencies in the state, there are scores of individual who have indicated their interests to contest either as Honourable Members of the House of Representatives or Distinguished Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Students of politics are of the view that the political space in Adamawa is being crowded with so many candidates vying to be MPs, because the current members representing the state in both chambers of the National assembly have not performed to the expectation of Adamawa people; while political pundits are of the opinion that the combination of many factors is the reasons, whereas, on-the-street opinion on the sudden flare-up of interests by throngs of candidates in virtually all the federal constituencies in Adamawa reveals that the reasons for this is not farther from theory of the typical Nigerian politician- ‘it is my turn’.

Critics of Adamawa MPs have categorised them into various classes based on their performances: average; below average; poor and very poor. Almost all MPs at the lower chamber of the National Assembly have been under intense criticisms from many quarters, but those from Adamawa are in a class of their own. However, their supporters argue that, those criticising the MPs from Adamawa are merely hiding under the name of public censure to play politics.

Looking at the issue beyond politics, some important questions need to be answered: have Adamawa representatives in both the ‘red’ and ‘green’ chambers represented their constituencies and the nation outstandingly as they ought to have done? Will they have easy ride in their bid to return to the National Assembly? The answers are anybody’s guess.

Out of the nation’s 109 senators, Adamawa state has three: Grace Folashade Bent (PDP): Adamawa South, Jibril Aminu (PDP): Adamawa Central and Mohammed Mana (PDP): Adamawa North; while out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives, the state has 8 members: Abubakar Mahmud Wambai (PDP): representing Mubi North/Mubi South/Maiha, Aminu Hamman Ribadu (PDP): representing Fufore/Song, Anthony Madwatte (PDP): representing Demsa/Numan /Lamurde, Babale Martins (AC): representing Jada/Ganye/ Mayobelwa/Toungo federal constituency, Binta Masi Garba (PDP): Madagali/Michika, Emmanuel Bello (PDP):Gombi/ Hong, Jim Kwawo Audu(AC): Guyuk/Shelleng, and Sa’ad M.C. Tahir is representing Yola North/Yola South/Girei federal constituency

50 year old Senator Grace Folashade Bent was a beneficiary of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ‘political largesse’ in Adamawa. Her performance in the red chambers in term of contributions on national issues when compared to her colleagues’, can be said to be excellent, while her zeal in the area of alleviation of poverty and the promotion of youth and women causes in her constituency is very good. However, with the unfolding political events in Adamawa state, she will have a difficult task in her bid to make a second return to the Senate. Her senatorial district will be an epicentre of hot politics, especially with the return of Atiku to PDP, who is also from the senatorial district. Painfully, despite her exceptional performance in the Senate, Senator Grace will face one of the mundane issues in the Nigeria politics- politics of ethnicity. Grace is of Yoruba extraction, she may face stiff opposition from Adamawa Minority Forum, in addition to two strong opponents: former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), Chief Pascal Bafyau and Alhaji Salisu Barata a two-time member of the House of Representatives. Though, she will have to heavily rely on her strong connection with the youth and women in her constituency.

Sen. Mohammed Mana, former Commander Brigade of Guards and former Military Administrator of Plateau State is representing Adamawa North in the upper chamber. Despite his vast military experience, his critics say his performance in the Senate has not reflected his experience in nation building; though his supporters are of the view that his performance is average. However, he has a hard way ahead of him, in his bid to return to the Senate, because there are formidable politicians showing interest in his seat- people like the oil and gas technocrat, Zira Maigida, who was the former Managing Director of African Petroleum Plc and Sahara Energy Group, other strong contenders are, Emmanuel Valhalla Tarihri, a commissioner in the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission , who was also the former commissioner of finance in Adamawa, Senator Paul Wanpana, PDP National vice chairman, NorthEast, Bindo Umaru Jibrilla, business tycoon and Esther Wallabai.

Sen. Jibril Muhammad Aminu is the only two-term senator from Adamawa; he is the oldest, most educated and controversial among the three senators representing Adamawa State. The Professor of Medicine, cum diplomat was the greatest beneficiary of the Obasanjo-Atiku political war, his critics say his performance in the 6th National Assembly wasn’t dodged and superb as it was in the 5th Assembly; they went on to say that he always hides in the name of ‘elder’ in the senate not to perform. However, it seems that Senator Aminu will have an easy ride back to the Senate, because there seems to be no strong contender that can match the professor politically as he controls an appreciable stake in the PDP.

On the other hand, the eight members representing Adamawa at the ‘green’ chambers of the National Assembly came to house by riding on the back of political bigwigs in the state. Their critics say their performance at the House of Representative is appalling - none of them can beat his chest to get his party’s ticket, except may be one.

Hon. Abubakar Mahmud Wambai, Madawakin Mubi, who started his career as a Grade III teacher, is representing Mubi North/Mubi South/Maiha constituency, he came to the House in the late 2009, riding on the support of Adamawa state government. Though an amateur; his critics says his start was not impressive- there is already a wide disconnection between him and his constituency. He will face a thorny journey in his quest to make a return, because those likely to contest for his seat are politically further-up-the- ladder than he is; people like Shuaibu Abubakar the present commissioner of Land and Survey, John Babani Elias, Abdulrahmna Kwacham and Shehu Iya Abubakar.

Hon. Aminu Hamman Ribadu, representing Fufore/Song constituency, is not new in politics, he was the chairman of Fufore Local Government and also SSA to former Gov. Boni Haruna. He came to the House through the support of former Deputy Gov. Bello Tukur. His critics say his performance is miscellaneous. The emerging political alignment in the state may be a disadvantage or an advantage to him, depending on where the pendulum swings to.

Demsa, Numan & Lamurde constituency is represented by a former Permanent Secretary in Adamawa Govt., Hon. Anthony Madwatte. Political pundits described him as a politician that has never gone through real political stress-test. This was attributed to the Numan-axis political style that operate a kind of one-way politics- once you get the support of the bigwigs, victory is assured. Hon. Madwatte has been an MP since 2003. His critics described his performance as below average. He will also face the challenges of the emerging political alignment in Adamawa; he can scale through if he plays his cards smartly.

Hon. Babale Martins and Hon. Jim Kwawo Audu are the only two MPs from Adamawa who came to the House on the platform of the Action Congress (AC). Hon. Martins is representing Jada/Ganye/Toungo/ Mayobelwa, while Hon. Kwawo is representing Guyuk/Shelleng constituency. Political pundits believe that Hon. Martins political fate will be determined squarely by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, while for Kwawo, despite the fact that he is the only member who has only WAEC certificate, is the only one that can stand on his own.

Hon. Binta Masi Garba is so far the only federal legislator to have contested elections in two states as a member of the House of Representatives, she was elected twice in Kaduna on the platform of the ANPP; she now represents Michika/Madagali Federal Constituency in Adamawa on the platform of the PDP. Her performance is average. Despite the fact that by 2011 she would have spent twelve years in the House, she will have to heavily rely on the magnanimity of political bigwigs. Though, Adamawa state needs her legislative experience, if the speculation that the former commissioner of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Saleh Ginjir is warming-up to contest the seat, it will be a nightmare for her.

Hon. Emmanuel Bello a graduate of Harvard Business School, came to the House without any public service experience. Observers described his performance as poor. His critics always argue that he didn’t win the PDP primaries for his seat. He rode on the back of General Haldu Hannaniya. His constituency, Gombi/Hong will also be hot spot, with diverse political interest, the Minister of State for foreign Affairs, Dr Aliyu Idi Hong is from that constituency. Hon. Bello’s chance of returning to the House is very slim, except if the political bigwigs hold his hands to help him cross the bridge.

Hon. Sa’ad M.C. Tahir is representing the complex and most cosmopolitan of all the eight federal constituencies- Yola North, Yola South and Girei. No one has ever won re-election in the constituency and the cosmopolitan people of the constituency always expect first rate performance from their MPs. Hon. Awwal Bamanga Tukur despite his outstanding performance from 1999-2003, lost his bid to make a return. Political pundits described Hon. Sa’ad’s performance as the most awful among his colleagues. The odds against him are enormous. There are already strong clarion calls to young people to contest for the seat, people like Aisha Dahiru Mohammed, the Chief Executive of Binani Group. If the lady agrees, Hon. Sa’ad’s legs will definitely be wobbling, because, Aisha appears to have overwhelming grassroots support, intimidating exposure and broad connections.

In 2007, the contest for seats in the National Assembly was a one-way affair in Adamawa State, but in 2011 it will be a tough contest; with political bigwigs- Atiku Abubakar, Jibril Amin and Gov. Nyako stretching the thread. For those aspiring to be MPs, it will be a difficult and very competitive contest. It will be a rat race, so to speak. Though the trouble with a rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo. com, 08036070980.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A New Approach to Agriculture in Nigeria

Everyone in Nigeria believes that agriculture is very important for the country’s progress as well as being a vital tool for the liberation of Nigerians from the prison of poverty. However, Nigeria with a total area of 923,768 km² of which 910,768 km² is arable land, and 13,000 km² water; in addition to 140 million people, huge oil wealth and twenty-one (21) agricultural institutes- it can be interesting to mention them:

1. Arable Crops Research Institute

2. National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (AERLS)

3. Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR)

4. Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T)

5. National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI)

6. Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI)

7. National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI)

8. National Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI)

9. Forestry, Horticulture and Tree Crops Research Institutes

10. Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria

11. National Horticulture Research Institute (NIHORT)

12. Cocoa Research institute of Nigeria (CRIN)

13. Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR)

14. Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN)

15. Animal Production, Fisheries and Oceanography Research Institutes

16. National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI)

17. National Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research (NIFFR)

18. Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research

19. Animal Health Research Institutes

20. National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) – Vom

21. Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR)

With the above mentioned Nigeria’s natural resources and the 21 agricultural research institutes along with the assistance of international development agencies, the country have created and implemented projects and programmes for the development of the agricultural sector- programmes such as the National Accelerated Food Programme of 1973, National Lives Stock Production programme of 1975, the Presidential Initiatives on selected commodities- rice, cocoa, cassava, vegetable and livestock and fisheries of 1999. But it is disheartening to note that these efforts have not yielded appreciable successes. The reasons for the low successes were not because the projects and programmes were mere paper and pencil solutions, but the methodology of their implementation seems to have missed some vital links, such as effective youth and local community participation and free from politicians interference.

Nigeria should redefine the implementation strategies of her agricultural programmes and policies, in such a way that youths are made the central focus. This is because for Nigeria to remain economically viable, it is imperative that the country’s agricultural sector is developed.

How would Nigeria benefit from an agricultural Scheme that makes youth its centre of attraction? Will such scheme not end-up same as the previous ones we criticised at the beginning of this piece? Most development and poverty reduction programmes in Nigeria end-up being hijacked by politicians at the detriment of the initial motive of the programmes or schemes. How can such a scheme be make to be free from ‘politics’ – the Nigerian politics, so to speak?

This proposed ‘youth centered’ approach to agriculture should not deviate from government’s agricultural goals of alleviating poverty and hunger, promoting sustainable agricultural development, improved nutrition and food security. However, the scheme should imbibe an all inclusive participatory technique- where youth, communities, local councils, states, the federal government and the private sector (financial institutions and private investors) will be active and major participants. Financial institutions and private investors shall be the financiers; governments at all levels will have well-defined roles, while the youths and communities shall be the targets. In addition, the scheme should be designed to be in four categories- ‘export oriented’, ‘large’, ‘medium’ and ‘small’ scales, along with a well-defined timeframe for government complete handoff from the scheme. But how will this be implemented?
The federal government would be the guarantor of fund to be provided by financial institutions or private investors. This will be done through the issuance of either callable, par value or coupon rate bonds. The scheme should work in such a way that local councils and state government would provide lands and other logistics. The private investors or financial institutions who will participate in the scheme are not to give money directly to the governments in order to receive the bond-certificate, but it would be a kind of batter arrangement; where the investor; either financial institutions or private individuals would setup farms, in addition to putting in place all structures required in a standard farm. After which a bond certificate equivalent to the cost which is to be determined by both parties and NGO’s will be issued to them. This will completely eliminate corruption which is the main reason for the failure of most good programmes in Nigeria.
To encourage investors to participate in the scheme, before the maturity of the bond, the investor would take a prescribed stake, between 5% and 10% in any of the farms they setup. This will assist in monitoring progress on the farm, on top of being an added value to the investors, since, in addition to the interests they will get from their bond when it is redeemed, they will have shares in the farms’ profit. However, after maturity of the bond, their stakes in the farm would be transferred to the host communities.
Despite the seeming complexity of such a scheme; if experts in the areas of systems thinking, financing, agriculture, and development are engaged to design it workability, it can be experimented as a tool for the implementation of the numerous government’s fine programmes that have suffered failures at the implementation stages. In addition to setting up of new farms, it can be experimented in rejuvenation of old ones; provision of extension services and agric implements to small scale farmers and also in the area of commercialisation of research findings by the agricultural research institution.
Perhaps it becomes what a Diaspora- Nigerian once said Nigeria’s economic problems dearly need- a ‘platinum bullet’.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.






Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Atiku, PDP and 2011

                                                           



Politics, as the saying goes, is really fascinating and very complex. It is the only permanent thing in life and most of the times its intricacies go beyond our imagination.  Nigerian politics, for instance, is always in perpetual alignment, realignment and horse-trading, while Nigerian politicians are often easily predictable and seldom difficult to predict.

It can be said that former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar’s plans to return to his former party, the PDP, was in the process for almost three years. In late 2008, Atiku’s posters in PDP’s emblems floated many streets of some states in the country, in particular Jimeta-Yola, the capital of his home state, Adamawa. It was also rumoured, some few months ago, that Atiku smartly attempted to return to the PDP, but was blocked by some forces in the party. So, the news of his return to the PDP may not be surprising to political pundits who have been closely monitoring the body language in his political camp. However, Atiku’s plans return to the PDP has raised some important questions as well as series of political hypothesis on why he choose the current time to perfect his long thought plan. Is it a sign that that the former Vice President has received a green light from an influential factor in the PDP? Perhaps, he has already smartly got PDP‘s membership card from his ward. Only time will tell.

Political pundits are of the view that Atiku’s return to the PDP is what the strong man of Italian politics and its Prime Minister; Silvio Berlusconi called sopravvivenza politica- political survival. Nevertheless, there is no doubt; Atiku’s return to PDP would affect the political permutation in the PDP, the Action Congress, Adamawa State in particular and Nigeria as a whole.

There are three schools of thought on the reasons why Atiku choose this current political situation to return to the PDP. The first thought by students of politic holds the view that, Atiku is imprisoned by his ambition to be President of Nigeria in 2011, so he has seen a rare opportunity he can’t afford to miss. The second school of thought is that of political analysts, their view is, Atiku’s move is nothing but a display of one of the many intriguing characters of the Nigerian politicians- they are always in perpetual oscillation; they stick only to where the wave offers them satisfaction of their political interest, giving truth to the saying that politics is all about interest. The third school of thought is that of ordinary Nigerians, who see Atiku’s return to the PDP as the ‘the same old story’- the Nigerian political environment will continue to be dominated by same elements who have same interest. However, Atiku’s loyalists are quick to point out that Atiku’s move is purely for national interests, especially at this critical moment. National interest, peace and unity are key words that Nigerian politicians use all the time to achieve their political goals, so to speak.

There was a claim by a group with a name Coalition for True Democrats which is based in Jimeta-Yola, Atiku’s home state capital, that Atiku’s return to the PDP was designed to be a counterbalance to the Generals in the PDP. Though Atiku’s media aide has denied the group, calling them fifth columnists. Atiku is wise enough not to contemplate using such a sentiment as a weapon for his return to the PDP. It will be a political suicide by him; after all, he is product of late General’s Shehu Musa Yar’Adua’s political magnanimity. In addition, Atiku cannot afford any political fight this time around, because he has fought many battles and, though he won a lots of them, political-war has cost him quite a lot of political fortune- he has lost his home state and some his political allies. This brings us to the implications of Atiku’s return to PDP as regards Adamawa politics.

The Adamawa State government and the State chapter of the PDP in a statement recently, opposed Atiku’s move. It is obvious that the reasons for the fear, nervousness, leg-wobbling and rumblings among politicians in Adamawa State are because of Atiku’s plans to return to the PDP is nothing but the possibility of him dominating the political scene which is a little bit crowded with many political interests. Besides that, Atiku has strong and widespread political might, which any clever politician will look at twice. Moreover, the truth of the matter is, once Abuja is okay with Atiku’s return to the PDP, the state chapter and indeed the Adamawa state government has no option than to receive him with open hands. But, Atiku has to prepare for a fierce resistance both from his home state and other political interest, having in mind that politics is all about openness and secrecy, honesty and deception. Atiku’s failure to reconcile with the PDP at the time the party valued and dreaded him most- i.e. before the Supreme Court judgment on his case against Yar’Adua’s election, has given his adversary within the PDP the political weapon needed against him, though the odds seem to be in his favour.

Does Atiku still possess his hitherto political charisma and ‘macho-man’ power, especially the one he possessed during his ‘no shaking’ political battle with former President Obasanjo, to face the already in the waiting opposition in the PDP? Does the PDP need Atiku or is it Atiku that needs the PDP? The answers are anybody’s guess- the road to the ‘shield of the umbrella’ may not be as smooth as it seems. High-wired politicking is needed. The answer to the second question is - both Atiku and the PDP need each other, in one way or the other. Atiku was a member of the G21 and G34- the founding groups of the PDP; and he is still the Head of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), a political grouping founded by the late Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua, a movement that is still a component in the backbone of the PDP. Additionally, Nigeria being a heterogeneous society and also an ethno-religious sensitive country, Atiku is among the few politicians that many Nigerian outside his ethno-religious leanings are conformable with. So, the PDP will leverage from that. On the other hand, the PDP is stronger than any of the political party in the country, thus it seems the only platform strong enough to smoothen Atiku’s way to actual his ambition, so he needs its emblem.

From now to 2011 many interesting high-wired politics would happen. Nigerians should expect one-two-punch political battles; bubble to bubble politicking as well as merry-go-around political games, all for who becomes the President in 2011.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo. com, 08036070980.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Ministers Dr. Goodluck Jonathan Needs


Now that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has finally dissolved the Executive Council of the Federation. Hopes are high that he would bring on board his best choices as new Ministers, thus, asserting full authority and putting a strong personal stamp on the government. The last 15 months remaining for this administration is crucial, this is because Nigerians’ quests for change on how things are done are strong, and their expectations are very high, but will the Acting President make the right selection that would make a difference?

When new Ministers eventually come on board, Dr. Goodluck will have to take full responsibilities of any actions or inaction of the government; as the doors of complain of working with disloyal individuals as Ministers would be completely closed.

However, for Dr. Goodluck to make any difference, he has to move with a speed commensurate with the expectations of Nigerians. The first thing he has to make sure is that; his new set of ministers is not just a team, but a collection of great thinkers- silicon-valley-thinkers; men and women who can move the government with the speed of the imagination of most Nigerians, and their sense of judgment must be centered on the challenges of un-locking the future for ordinary Nigerians. And also bring new thinking and synergy to the public sector's role in providing the needs of all Nigerians.

Dr. Goodluck’s new team has to be a propeller for greater equality of opportunities for all Nigerians. They must be able to build a system that will swing the government away from the traditional methodology of concentrating on only 'off-the-shelves' way of improving our society- each Minister must see himself/herself not only saddled with the responsibility within his/her portfolio; but a team player that would bring new feasible ideas that would trigger development in all spheres of the Nigerian economy- putting in place systems that would eradicate poverty by uplifting individuals, fight crimes with employments and opportunities rather than guns, axes, bows and arrows and fight official corruption the ways it ought to be and bring dynamism into governance.

This is the time for Nigeria to leapfrog the ladder development. It is sad that, for the past three years, Nigeria has not had a new thinking and fresh approach to governance. The country is thirsty for men and women of innovative ideas. Dr. Goodluck’s new set of ministers must be a team that will be an engine-room to provide broad variety of services to Nigerians, ranging from health and social programs, to defence, electricity, police protection, maintaining a sound legal system, and the provision of physical infrastructure including the re-invigoration of the education system, building of small scale industries and farms, roads construction and human capital development.

However, all these mentioned cannot be achieved without true political reform- a political re-engineering that would make the leadership to all the times think with the speed of the expectations of Nigerians and gradually institutionalise political, economic and social order in the society.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

World Water Day (WWD) 2010: Africa is Thirsty

The year 2010 World Water Day (WWD) is significant to Africa’s poor population. The event will hold in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22nd March 2010, as Africa is the world’s most thirsty continent. The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World’ and its overall goal is envisaged to raise awareness about sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being through addressing the increasing water quality challenges in water management and also raise the profile of water quality by encouraging governments, organizations, communities, and individuals around the world to actively engage in proactively addressing water quality e.g. in pollution prevention, clean up and restoration.

The population of Africa is growing at a geometric rate, but public access to basic needs including water supply is not. With millions of Africans coping with scarcity of clean, portable and affordable water, African policy makers should always remember that, water scarcity and population growth are two correlating issues.

WWD campaign is very important to rural communities, especially those in Africa, as the attention of the world will turn to their plight in the area of clean water supply and sanitation, as well as ring a bell to those in authority of their responsibilities to rural areas.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/47/193 of 22 December 1992 by which 22nd March of each year was declared World Day for Water, which was first observed in 1993, in conformity with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) contained in Chapter 18 (Fresh Water Resources) of Agenda 21.

Availability of clean water is a fundamental issue for socio-economic development of every nation, as Africa’s population is swelling in a geometric rate, there must be an increased effort in developing clean water allocation strategy, because as population and development increases, the quest by the public, especially the poor for clean, portable and affordable water for domestic use, increases.

Millions of Africans have no access to clean and portable water; coping with water scarcity is a challenging responsibility that requires decision makers to bringing water related issues to the top of political agenda. It is generally believed that poor communities suffer the greatest burden from inadequate water supply, but in Africa, poor communities, rural and urban areas are facing the dilemma of coping with scarcity of clean water.

For millions of Africans, the end of one tedious day marks the beginning of another, the first thing that comes to the minds of millions of Africans in the early morning of every day is where to get clean water. From rural to urban areas, women and children have to travel long distances to quench their thirst. As a result, many cannot go to school or go to school late. African children hoped for a life free of disease, but today, millions are battling with water-borne diseases, some are blinded while many are crippled. At childhood, waking–up in the morning, picking a container, rushing to queue or search for water is an activity that millions of African children think it is their culture and tradition, but in later part of their lives they realize is not. African governments have for a longtime, not made the provision of this commodity that everybody uses every day a priority.

UN World Water Development Report revealed that, in most of the largest cities in Africa, less than 10% of their inhabitants have sewer connections; only 10 to 30% of all urban households’ solid wastes are collected, the continent houses 13% of the world’s population that is without access to improved water supplies and sanitation, Africa has large disparities in water availability, and the lowest water supply in the world, despite the fact that, Africa houses four out of the five biggest water reservoirs in the world: Owen Falls located in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, Nasser in Egypt, Kariba in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the Volta in Ghana

The United Nations General Assembly in 2003 proclaimed the years 2005 to 2015 as the international decade for action ‘Water for Life’; these commitments include the Millennium Development Goals to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015 and to stop unsustainable exploitation of water resources. At the World Summit in Johannesburg in 2002, two other goals were adopted: to aim to develop integrated water resource management and water efficiency plans by 2005 and to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation. There are no signs that Africa is on the path of achieving this, because of uncontrolled growing population, wide spread scarcity of clean and portable water, poor access to sanitation and health, limping capacity-building, inadequate financing and little or poor advocacy, poor resources management and unreliable energy.

With a population of nearly a billion people, with an average human water consumption of four litres a day, Africans need at least four billion litres of clean water a day! Although population growth projections are uncertain, but soaring rate of population growth is typical of most sub-Saharan African countries.

Political leaders who get water by a touch of a tap or squeezing of a bottle’s cap, need to know the world water day celebration has to go beyond conferences and seminars, and populations census have to be repositioned to serve only developmental purposes especially in planning for strategies in allocation of safe water. It is believed that demand for water doubles as population grows. Therefore, Africa’s strategy for provision of safe, portable and affordable water must take into reflection population growth.

For Africa’s political leaders to effectively address the increasing water quality challenges in water management and stop the increasing number of African children being decimated by water-borne diseases, a proactive and pragmatic safe water provision programme most be put in place. There is a clear need for a system that would give the poor access to clean and portable water sources that are reliable, dependable, maintainable and responsive to population growth.

As the world gathers in Africa to celebrate WWD 2010, those attending the conferences and seminars will quench their thirst by the squeeze of a bottle’s lid, while for millions of Africans to quench theirs, they have to travel hundreds of kilometers in search for water.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.