Monday, 26 January 2015

My Man of the Year

Imagine if in his New Year address on January 1, President Jonathan had started by announcing an increase in taxes.
"Fellow Nigerians, we have decided to double your taxes this year. I therefore direct all of you to immediately proceed to FIRS and pay your taxes. Thank you."
Absurd, isn't it? But that was precisely what one of the leading associations did a few days ago. In its first and most important communication to its members in the year, its message read:
"I am directed to welcome you to the New Year which we believe will be a prosperous year even as the association continues to grow and achieve its objectives. Also to inform you that the Exco has reviewed the annual subscription as follows:
a. Initial Associate Membership Registration: N250,000
b. Annual Associate Membership Subscription: N150,000
"Kindly write a cheque payable to... or pay directly into our bank account at ..."
With a message like this from the leaders of this association, who by the way are new in the saddle, the ground has been prepared for a perfect storm and disconnect with very grim consequences for the future of the association.
It is the same mistake the leadership of CRFFN repeats every other year. The Council management's first communication of the year – for the past four years – dwells on payment of subscription by associations and freight forwarders. They ask their members to pay immediately or risk deregistration. I think this approach is rather iniquitous. It leaves followers with the impression that the leaders are only after what they can extract out of them.
I believe the inability of the CRFFN for instance to fulfill its mandate eight years down the line is due to this type of approach.
What is wrong with starting the year by outlining your visions for the organisation? How about first telling members how you intend to add value into their lives and businesses and better their lot? This should be at the core of the first communication by the leadership of any organisation, association or group at the beginning of the year. Many believe that a major factor in the Nigerian socio-political conundrum is the question of the moral credentials of those at the helm of our affairs. Evidence abounds that many are untutored in the art of leadership.
There is palpable suspicion that the true motives of many a leader in Nigeria are not borne out of a passion to serve the people but to take advantage of their members' economic distress for personal aggrandisement. Thus the average Nigerian leader develops an imperial air of condescension and once in power treats people with utter disrespect, sometimes bordering on disdain.
Those who are holding the reins of power believe too much in themselves, as if they know it all and they have everything in control. In their own eyes they are doing wonderfully well even when there are clear signals that they have lost bearing. Hubris!
My Man of the Year 2014 I must say is different. He is an exceptional leader. He is selfless and was successful in developing a vision that inspired the members of an association he formed about ten years ago and mobilized them for economic empowerment. I think he created something akin to a movement.
A man of few words, wisdom, foresight, and a sense of purpose, he consistently exhibited commitment to the wellbeing of the members of his primary constituency.
History throws up quite a few such outstanding leaders, true heroes of their time, who set the moral and political tones for their societies. Such leaders as George Washington of the United States of America, Mahatma Gandhi of India – whose autobiography I am currently reading, Winston Churchill of Britain, Charles De Gaulle of France, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, readily come to mind. Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe were outstanding leaders in their own rights.
Where public figures exemplify the sterling qualities of leadership, they rub off on the society at large and invest citizens with the patriotic fervour.
I have associated closely with this great man and at every opportunity, he thinks of the next action that would best serve his followers. He spent his time and money for the common good without reservation. He suffered a lot of personal inconveniences and economic losses all in the fight for the economic empowerment of his followers. Yet at the appropriate time, he stepped aside and handed over the reigns to a new set of leaders.

Chief (Dr.) Isaac Morakinyo Jolapamo by all means deserves to be celebrated as the Maritime Man of the Year 2014.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Perish the thought, Nigeria won’t break up

The 2015 general election scheduled to hold on Valentine’s Day and the aftermath of the election has become the dominant subject of discourse among Nigerians. The general apprehension lies in the belief that be it GEJ or GMB, there would be post-election violence which could engulf the country.
The mawkishness and schmaltz of the GEJ crowd was captured by Lagos State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Jimi Agbaje when he said last week that the South-South could cripple the economy, by shutting down the oil sector if his principal fails to return as President.
Agabje’s argument: "I was active in the politics of the South-West in 1999. The Afenifere of which I was a very active member, did not support Olusegun Obasanjo as President but in 2003, it was difficult for the Afenifere as an organisation to go out and tell people that they should not vote a Yoruba man into office and so what did they do? They said they would not present a candidate because they had their own son (Obasanjo) who was running for office. That is the politics of that country.
"Now, in 2015, we are saying that the South-South has presented a candidate and we are talking about equity and some are saying that he should not be given a second term. This is a very difficult thing.
"In argument, some have said ‘what will happen?’ Well, people will be upset and they have shown that they have the power to shut down the system. I am not saying it is justified but the reality is there. If the system is shut down, where are we as a country?”
I daresay I find Agbaje’s argument rather pedestrian. A man who aspires to govern a cosmopolitan state like Lagos must grow above such level of thinking.
Those ruled by the fear of a GMB loss do so on the premise that terrorism in the North Eastern part of the country could escalate if power does not return to the north.
This is the Nigerian way. The leaders threaten thecitizens into subservience. They induce fear in their own people. It happens in every sphere includingchurches where pastorsand other clergymen threaten the congregation with diverse manners of retribution and repercussion.
The fear of a post-election violence is so real that Nigerians who can have relocated their families abroad. Many have also procured visas to bolt at the slightest sign of trouble.
I also heard that expatriates and multinationals especially in the oil and gas industry are turning their backs on long term commitments due to this fear of the unknown.
Businesses naturally abhor uncertainty. The political tension in the country has induced nervousness among foreign investors and created a ‘sell pressure’. The result is that Nigeria recorded net foreign portfolio investment deficit of N101 billion between January and October last year as foreign investors sold off Nigerian stocks worth $583.6 million.
The fears are very strong but I am an incurable optimist. I do not foresee catastrophic backlash for Nigeria after the February elections. There may be some protests here and there but they won’t go out of hand.
Elections naturally have been a source of violent political, ethnic, religious and communal conflicts in Nigeria since the late 1940s when limited elections were introduced. This problem deteriorated in the elections conducted immediately after independence in the 1960s.
In the Western Region, violent political conflicts, popularly referred to as “operation wet e“were recorded from 1964 to 1965 following both federal and regional elections as well as rift between Awolowo and Akintola. There were also violent conflicts in parts of Northern Region, especially between supporters of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and supporters of other parties, mainly the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and Action Group.
The national election conducted in 1983 also witnessed massive post-election violence following the declared landslide victory of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Oyo and Ondo states considered to be stronghold of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Some persons lost their lives and large-scale destruction of property was recorded.
There is substantial similarity between the post-election violence recorded in 1983 and the post-election violence recorded after the presidential election on April 16, 2011 in which scores were reported killed and property worth billions of naira destroyed or looted. The main difference between the 1983 and 2011 election violence was the ethnic and religious dimensions that were introduced at the latter stages of the 2011 post-presidential election riots.
Based on the foregoing historical antecedents, there may be some pockets of post-election violence here and there, possibly but there won’t be a break down of law and order. There will not be war or collapse of the Nigerian state as has been feared and predicted by prophets of doom. Tops by mid-March, Nigerians will return to their routines. And life goes on again.

Abi who wan die?

Monday, 12 January 2015

May your road be rough this year

The late Dr. Tai Solarin laconically explained in his article published in Daily Times Newspaper of January 1st, 1964 that this wish not was a curse.
So like he said, I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year.
I know in this age of excessive religiousity climaxing in the ruthless binding and loosing of the devil, this may come across as unintelligible, but may your road be rough.
The son of fisherman from Otueke hinted of that which is to come when he told his kinsmen on the eve of the New Year “everywhere will be hot from January 2”.
Sometimes I do not understand the proclivity of Nigerians to invent bogeymen or call down storms and then cry when the storms soak them.
The computer language says garbage in garbage out so Nigeria will reap this year from the past actions (or inactions) of the Jonathan administration.
The sliding oil price will push government to the edge. In desperate revenue drive, they will use every trick in the book.
To be sure, Nigeria might be getting only half of the revenue it derived from oil last year this year.
Anyone who thinks oil prices will rebound deludes himself.
By the end of last week, there has been a 57 percent drop in the price of Nigeria’s grade of crude oil. The price slipped below $50 a barrel as U.S. producers and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) remain in a standoff over market share.
Meanwhile, production from Russia and Iraq last month reached the highest level in decades. There is a glut in the market and from elementary economics, we learn that the higher the supply, the lower the price.
Buyers are becoming fewer by the day. China is taking advantage of the low price to stockpile while the U.S. is cutting down on its own hydrocarbon import. That country’s output reached a record 9.14 million a day in December. Obama and his people have since stopped buying oil from Nigeria and will be exporting soon.
To make up for the increasingly declining oil income, government has fallen back on the nation’s external reserve. Consequently, the reserve has undergone an exceptional diminution. The turgidity of Okonjo Iweala’s suppositions sounds the alarm bell in my head.
The foreign reserves which grew to over $60 billion during the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Aduais today standing at $34.5 billion while the excess crude account has equally depleted to a mere $3.1 billion from a level of  $9.43 billion.
All of these can only mean one thing; pressure on the naira. Now you need N195 to buy a dollar. Nigerians consequently have lost about 15 percent of their wealth in three months. You think you’re rich? Do your calculation again brother.
For an import dependent nation like ours, pressure on the local currency auguries higher prices of goods and services.
And the general election is fast approaching. It is un-Nigerian for an incumbent to lose thus no resource will be spared in returning he who has so astonishingly transformed our lives. But after the election, how will they run this big government and sustain their grandiose lifestyle?
It is one of two options; go cap in hand to the IMF or extract as much as possible from the penurious citizenry. It is clear they will settle for the latter option.
Seriously, I am now compelled to enquire about the kind of education our leaders had that did not elevate their thinking above oil. Since 1960?
Jonathan, ettu? Since 2010?
You may have heard that a pilot is not rated by his certificates or his great looks. He is rated by how long he stays in the air. A sailor is also not judged during smooth sails. The best of sailors are determined by the storms they have overcome.
As you strive to navigate the rough terrain this year, may you always have walls for the winds; a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire; laughter to cheer you, those you love near you and all your heart might desire.
More of my favourite Irish prayers:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand,
May you always have work for your hands to do,
May your pockets hold always a coin or two,
May the sun shine bright on your windowpane,
May the hand of a friend always be near you,

And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.