Posts Tagged 'underdevelopment'

Bright Eyed Monks

By

Noel Ihebuzor

 

When monks develop blurred visions,

their world also narrows,

shrinking, thoughts wrinkle

faces furrow with frowns,

consciences sorrow

at the dimming of the eyes

at the fading of sight ‪https://twitter.com/Anabagail/status/737032387863928834 …

The unasked question

By 

Noel Ihebuzor

 

We came to the chattering room. 

we asked questions. 

flashes and smiles flashed

their Switches timed to perfection

and the question not asked
spoke of us the loudest! 

 

 

That unasked question

spoke, in silence so salient, strident

shattering the chattering dribble

of hollow voices of hollowed men

revealing their charter, their complicity

with a principal with no principle.

The Uncomfortable Truth Of Elusive Economic Development

By  Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili

(Keynote address At The APC Summit, Abuja 6th March 2014)

Protocols:
Good afternoon, chieftains and members of the Action People’s Congress.
Thanks for inviting me as your Keynote Speaker at your Unveiling of Road Map Summit. I do not know how you decided to take this high risk of inviting me to your gathering, knowing full well that my zeal for candor can be generally unsettling for some people of your class and occupation.  Since you took the risk, I have assumed the liberty to speak boldly even to your discomfort especially considering that we live in a season of grim when our country is greatly troubled. In perilous times like this, Truth is the absolute freedom. I shall be spurred on by the counsel of George Orwell who in honor of truth stated that “in a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. I further assume that if you wanted someone with the skills of deceit, it would not be me that you would have invited to your gathering. I therefore speak to you today not as a politician

Context and Fact are very important for me as both a scholar and practitioner of public policy. Context is the missing link that helps us to connect the dots between the visible and the hidden, and between the general and the specific. Fact or Truth is the evidence that never takes flight nor ceases to exist even where ignored for hundred years. So my speech in content and delivery will be hinged on context and facts.For context, nothing serves a better guide than History. The philosopher and novelist George Santayana famously said that “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Winston Churchill reinforced Santayana by counselling, “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.” I am compelled even further to tread the path of history by our Centenary celebration and shall therefore use – Nigeria’s political history as the context for this speech.

The Political trajectory of Nigeria much like her entire history is checkered. In the book, This House has Fallen, “Nigeria was the focus of great optimism as a powerful emerging nation that would be a showcase for democratic government”. Sadly the optimism was frittered over the years. I shall take the excerpts from my University of Nigeria lecture in January in this regard. “If you traced the political history of our country since independence in 1960 and you will better understand the horror of our faulty political foundation.  The first democratic government ushered in an independent Nigeria but was cut short  by a coup in 1966, a counter coup in 1967, civil war from 1967 to 1970, military rule from 1970 at the end of the war until another coup in 1975, another unsuccessful coup in 1976 the then Head of State was murdered, continued rule of the military until 1979 when a successful political transition ushered in the second republic but it became a democratic process that did not leave a good mark on governance until it was cut short in 1983 by yet another military coup but the discipline instilling but draconian regime was itself sent packing in 1985 through yet another coup.

The succeeding regime ruled from 1985 until 1993. The hallmark of that regime was procrastinated conduct of a transition to democracy. When it finally, reluctantly started the transition process, it regrettably went ahead to thwart the political rights of citizens who had elected a democratic president by annulling the elections. The regime then responded to the public disturbance and agitation that followed by installing an interim national government that lasted only three months following yet another military intervention. The regime that followed was more heinous than ever imagined possible by Nigerians until 1998 when by divine providence, it was cut short. Never again!  A new season came but it was yet one with the military still in the saddle. That regime however surprised skeptics when it successfully conducted a transition that ushered in democratic governance in 1999 ending the long sixteen years of militarization of governance that materially defines the psyche of government in Nigeria. Cumulatively, from the time of our independence in 1960 to 1999- the military governed for about twenty nine years while two flashes of pseudo democracy had a little more than ten years in all. The common theme in our extremely unstable and volatile political history was that each regime truncation mirrored a Russian roulette with justification for regime change being the “necessity to rescue the country from bad governance and corruption”.

Compared to the mere six years of 1960-1966 and the even shorter four and a half years of 1979-1983, the period of 1999 to date under democratic rule has been the longest ever season of such political system in Nigeria. An objective assessment of our democratic journey since the last fifteen years by May of this year, will return the verdict that we are very much still in the nascent zone of democracy as a political system which despite all its short comings trump all other alternatives. Fifteen years has given us more of civilian rule than democracy. The quality of the military/political elite and the depth of undemocratic culture, practices and nuances have worked to produce very disappointing results of governance to citizens. Yet, we must temper our disappointment with the cautious sense of accomplishment that the subordination of the military to the constitutional will of the people of Nigeria in the 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 elections is perhaps the very tiny ray of light in what had for more than five decades been a canvass of political tragedies.

“Today is Independence Day. The first of October 1960 is a date to which for two years, Nigeria has been eagerly looking forward. At last, our great day has arrived, and Nigeria is now indeed an independent Sovereign nation.  Words cannot adequately express my joy and pride at being the Nigerian citizen privileged to accept from Her Royal Highness these Constitutional Instruments which are the symbols of Nigeria’s Independence. It is a unique privilege which I shall remember forever, and it gives me strength and courage as I dedicate my life to the service of our country. This is a wonderful day, and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience, compelled to watch one country after another overtaking us on the road when we had so nearly reached our goal. But now, we have acquired our rightful status, and I feel sure that history will show that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace: it has been thorough, and Nigeria now stands well-built upon firm foundations.”
These were the very gushing and giddy words of the first Prime Minister of Nigeria Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on October 1, 1960.

According to history books, prehistoric settlers lived in the territories that make up the area today known as Nigeria as far back as 9000 BC. According to Wikipedia, the period of the 15th century saw the emergence of several “early independent kingdoms and states” that made up the British colonialized Nigeria – Benin kingdom, Borgu kingdom, Fulani empire, Hausa kingdoms, Kanem Bornu empire, Kwararafa kingdom, Ibibio Kingdom, Nri kingdom, Nupe kingdom, Oyo Kingdom, Songhai empire and Warri Kingdom. Each Kingdom was composed of dominant ethnic nationalities with unique language, custom, culture, tradition and religion. ”
These kingdoms independently traded among themselves and with the rest of the world especially Great Britain. It was however by 1886 through expanded trade with the territories under the charter of the Royal Niger Company that the mercantilist root of that influence became established. The handover of the company’s territories to the British Government followed in 1900 leading to the areas becoming organized as protectorates that helped extend the great British Empire of that era. In 1914, Nigeria was formed by combining the Northern and Southern Protectorates and the Colony of Lagos. For administrative purposes, it was divided into four units:  the colony of Lagos, the Northern Provinces, the Eastern Provinces and the Western Provinces.”

One could say that considering the way Nigeria emerged it was no more than an artificial creation purely intended to serve the administrative convenience of the reigning colonial power. In fact, no one better conveyed this perception of Nigeria as artificiality than Chief Obafemi Awolowo who once described Nigeria as a “mere geographical expression”. It is common for Nigerians across the territory in moments of deep despair at the failings of this union of multiple diversities to loudly rue the fact that a certain Lord Lugard and his fiancée – Ms. Shaw -were the “creators” of Nigeria.

The forty six years that followed the creation of Nigeria until her independence in 1960, saw varying degrees of mutation in the relationship between Britain and the people of the territory.  The journey of governance commenced among the three dominant regions that made up the Nigerian territory- namely the North, the West and the East. There were understandably, deep mistrusts and suspicions among the ethnic groups with each one seeking to advance their own cause and interest but their leaders managed to forge a united front in the struggle to attain self-government. Their successive negotiations and constitution building processes among them and acting jointly, with colonial Britain- helped to achieve one of the most anticipated political independence of a country in Africa. It culminated in the successful agitation for self-government on a representative and ultimately federal basis.  The great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who was first the Governor General at independence in 1960 and later ceremonial President when in 1963 we became a Republic, succinctly captured that feat of the Nationalists in gaining independence.

He wrote in 1966 that, “We talked the Colonial Office into accepting our challenges for the demerits and merits of our case for self-government. After six constitutional conferences in 1953, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960, Great Britain conceded to us the right to assert our political independence as from October 1, 1960.  None of the Nigerian political parties ever adopted violent means to gain our political freedom and we are happy to claim that not a drop of British or Nigerian blood was shed in the course of our national struggle for our place in the sun. This historical fact enabled me to state publicly in Nigeria that Her Majesty’s Government has presented self-government to us on a platter of gold.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the Great Zik of Africa who had profound influence in the philosophy of life of late Chief Ben Nwazojie whose family has gathered us- had great hopes that the successful struggle for independence would bequeath to us as a people; “our place in the sun”.  And yet, even though that entity created in 1914 will become one Century years old in the next three months and had only a few days ago became a relatively old country of fifty three years, its present state is anything but sunny for majority of her citizens. For the fact is that whether of the North, South, East or West of the present day Nigerian territory we know that most Nigerians feel but a deep sense of disappointment at what has become of the dream that our founding fathers dared to imagine was possible. That deep internal threats to Nigeria’s territorial integrity remain part of core issues of our polity in 2013 menacingly brings into sharp focus the wide gulf between what it means to be a country as different from the higher order state of being a nation.

Thus, the phrase, “an independent Sovereign nation” that Sir Tafawa Balewa used in describing Nigeria in his sweet poetry of a speech at independence remains under doubtful scrutiny and is constantly under threat through various cycles of our political history. For if there is one construct that remains the sticky point in our COUNTRY today, it is whether indeed there is yet a NATION called Nigeria? Or put differently, what happened to the COUNTRY that held so much promise on that morning of October 1, 1960? After all, nothing makes the point of the failure to successfully transition from country to nation than the fact that a only week ago, the current government as a response to heightened socio-political tensions in the land announced yet another National Dialogue that is “aimed at realistically examining and genuinely resolving, longstanding impediments to our cohesion and harmonious development as a truly united Nation”.

What happened? How come a country which at independence was enthusiastically described by our first leader as an independent sovereign nation is at fifty three years hosting another “national conversation” to determine whether it is a worthy union for everyone? Was it also not only a few years ago in 2006 that the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo had hosted as similar gathering? Who were the people that discussed at that time and what did they resolve? What seems to be the intractable issue that almost every administration –military and civilian alike- have not managed to settle on whether we do indeed have a common destiny or not? How come that despite the oft expressed “sincere intent” of each cycle of ruling class (mark my choice of word as distinct from leadership); that each hosted some sort of national dialogue, conference, conversation, forum etc. (choose your pick), we are nowhere closer today to our destination of nationhood. To imagine that our founding fathers mistakenly assumed that we became a nation because the various nationalities worked collaboratively to secure independence from a common external “foe” in 1960? How could it be that this journey has thus far turned out agonizing for almost every one of us?

Even following the most traumatic civil war that ended in 1970, the reemergence as one country provided a context to rally the entire citizenry to build from country to nation. Sadly, that was a missed opportunity. Is it therefore not heartrending that the present state of our country nearly questions our status as a Country?  The pain of this truism is that we are in 2014 faced with exactly the same types of ethnic issues that dotted our union in the 60s. How was it that for over fifty three years, we never went beyond the amalgamation process to becoming a Country and subsequently transforming into a Nation? The simple answer to the lamentation and question is that elite failure happened to Nigeria! A little more political history following the events of October 1, 1960 will help clarify my answer, simple as it may sound to those who thrive in confounding complexity.

The Elite of every successful society always form the nucleus of citizens with the prerequisite education, ethics and capabilities operating in the political sphere and the public service, providing the great ideas to build the nation and possessing the moral rectitude to always act in the public interest. Access to quality Education ensures that the elite group evolves constantly in every society. For as long as nations have public education systems that function, the poorest of their citizens is guaranteed to move up the ladder and someday emerge as a member of the elite class through academic hard work, strenuous effort and ultimate success at the higher levels of education.

For every society that has succeeded therefore, it has taken such progressively evolving elite class to identify the problems, forge the political systems and processes, soundly articulate a rallying vision and use sound Policies and effective and efficient prioritisation of investments (both public and private) and requisite actions to over time build those strong institutions that outlive the best of charismatic and transformative individuals. But it always does start with quality leadership in the public space investing in a sustained manner for lasting institutions to eventually emerge over time. Institutions do not just happen. In the same manner, nations do not just happen out of multi-ethnic countries.

The globally adopted definition of a country is “ An independent State or country must meet certain metrics all of which we did on that date:
• Has space or territory which has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).
• Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.
• Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.
• Has the power of social engineering, such as education.
• Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.
• Has a government which provides public services and police power.
• Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country’s territory.
• Has external recognition. A country has been “voted into the club” by other countries.

Sadly, Nigeria came to simply equate our statehood with nationhood when our founding fathers used those terms almost interchangeably forgetting that a State is not always necessarily a Nation. True, we had becoming a self-governing political entity that negotiated a federal structure that was cognizant of the near autonomy of each of its constituting group of people, but although an independent; we were not and have never acted like a Nation!

Nations are “culturally homogeneous groups of people, larger than a single tribe or community, who shares a common language, institutions, religion, and historical experience.” Each of our then three dominant groups though having their own internal multiple sub-groups and diversities to resolve still saw themselves as stand-alone nations.  However, once it related to the territorial construct known as Nigeria that it shares with the other two groups, no group particularly acted as though the union had forged a “Nigerian nationhood” in that broader sense. Hence, although we continued to be a Country, we however did not attain to the definition of a nation which is “a tightly-knit group of people which share a common culture”. The people of a nation generally share a common national identity, and part of nation-building is the building of that common identity. There were so many fundamental issues that our country which is unlike France of Germany or even Egypt needed to resolve among its multiple divides if it wished to make that profound jump from  country to Nation in order to attain the status of a nation-state.

The Elite in those instances are required to lead the rest of the people in a deliberative process of nation building- of forging that common identity that all will defend. It is the visionary power of the elite to move a people of diversity beyond the lowest common denominator of mere citizens of one country into a nation of people that makes the United States to stand out as a model multi-cultural society.  Hence, even “with its multicultural society, the United States is also referred to as a nation-state because of the shared American “culture.” Some people may of course dismiss this crave for evolution from country into a nation and say it does not matter. For those ones, I recall the wise words of Carolyn Stephenson, a Professor of Political Science at the Univ. of Hawaii-Manoa. Her words could have been written with our country in mind. Professor Stephenson states that “ Nation-building matters to intractable conflict because of the theory that a strong state is necessary in order to provide security, that the building of an integrated national community is important in the building of a state, and that there may be social and economic prerequisites or co-requisites to the building of an integrated national community” Simply put, if a people of diversity in a country truly wish to succeed, they must forge a shared vision and values to realize their goal.

Our failure to immediately use the early days of independence to commence the nation building process is what I consider the biggest missed opportunity in the history of Nigeria. It is the reason as Professor Stephenson asserts, we find ourselves in “cyclical intractable conflict” So, it was not surprising that shortly after the novelty of our political independence wore off the troubling underbelly of our nascent democracy was revealed in the rather prescient reading of the situation at that time by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States in one of its memorandum of 1966. It wrote “Africa’s most populous country (population estimated at 48 million) is in the throes of a highly complex internal crisis rooted in its artificial origin as a British dependency containing over 250 diverse and often antagonistic tribal groups. The present crisis started” with Nigerian independence in 1960, but the federated parliament hid “serious internal strains. It has been in an acute stage since last January when a military coup d’état destroyed the constitutional regime bequeathed by the British and upset the underlying tribal and regional power relationships. At stake now are the most fundamental questions which can be raised about a country, beginning with whether it will survive as a single viable entity. The situation is uncertain, with Nigeria,……is sliding downhill faster and faster, with less and less chance unity and stability. Unless present army leaders and contending tribal elements soon reach agreement on a new basis for association and take some effective measures to halt a seriously deteriorating security situation, there will be increasing internal turmoil, possibly including civil war”.

The failure to build a nation out of the country it was bequeathed did in fact change the course of Nigeria’s history. It meant that our foundling political elite could not speedily and “sincerely act” on the lofty ideals. The nation building process could have benefitted from their nationalist campaign for independence when they had successfully united against a common “enemy” and brought us our independence. Instead, our political elite turned backward on the supposed “independent sovereign nation” and resorted to lethal ethnicity in playing a brand of politics mostly devoid of altruism. So much so was this prevalent character of the political elite across board that they collectively failed to retrace their steps from the precipitous slide.  It was within this context of elite failure that the 1966 military coup struck unleashing a canvass of governance instability that only abated in 1999 when the fourth Republic commenced with the successful democratic transition currently running for the last fourteen years.

No wonder, empirical evidence points to poor governance –especially corruption as the biggest obstacle to the development of Nigeria. Understanding the cancerous impact of  understand how come a country with the potentials hardly available to more than other one third nations of the world has remained at the bottom of socio economic ladder as a laggard. Economic growth rate and ultimate development of nations are determined by a number of factors that range from sound policies, effective and efficient public and private investments and strong institutions. Economic evidence throughout numerous researches proves that one key variable that determines how fast nations outgrow others is the speed of accumulation of human capital especially through science and technology education.  No wonder for these same countries by 2011-  South Korea of fifty million people has a GDP of $1.12trillion, Brazil of one hundred and ninety six million has $2.48 trillion; Malaysia of twenty eight million people has $278.6Billion; Chile of seventeen million people has $248.59Billion; Singapore of five million people has $318.7 Billion.  Meanwhile with our population of 165 million people we make boasts with a GDP of $235.92 Billion- completely way off the mark that we could have produced if we made a better set of development choices.

More dramatic is that this wide gap between these nations and Nigeria was not always the case as some relevant data at the time of our independence reveal.  In 1960 the GDP per capita of all these countries were not starkly different from that of Nigeria- two were below $200, two were a little above $300 and one was slightly above $500 while that of Nigeria was just about $100. For citizens, these differentials are not mere economic data. Meanwhile by 2011, the range for all five grew exponentially with Singapore at nearly $50,000, South Korea at $22,000, Malaysia at $10,000, Brazil at $13,000 and Chile at $14,000. Our own paltry $1500 income per capita helps drive home the point that we have been left behind many times over by every one of these other countries. How did these nations steer and stir their people to achieve such outstanding economic performance over the last five decades? There is hardly a basis for comparing the larger population of our citizens clustered within the poverty bracket with the majority citizens of Singapore fortunate to have upper middle income standard of living.

Again, how did this happen? What happened to Nigeria? Why did we get left behind? How did these nations become productively wealthy over the last fifty three years while Nigeria stagnated? How did majority of the citizens of these nations join the upper middle class while more Nigerians retrogressed into poverty? There are usually as many different answers to these sets of questions as there are respondents on the reasons we fell terribly behind. Some say, it is our tropical geography, yet economic research shows it has not prevented other countries like China, Australia, Chile and Brazil for example with similar conditions from breaking through economically. Others say it is size, but China and India are bigger, and yet in the last thirty and twenty years have grown double digit and continue to out- grow the rest of the world at this time of global economic crisis. Furthermore, being small has not necessarily conferred any special advantages to so many other countries with small population yet similarly battling with the development process like we are.

Some others say it is our culture but like a political economist posited “European countries with different sorts of cultures, Protestant and Catholic alike that have grown rich. Secondly, different countries within the same broad cultures have performed very differently in economic terms, such as the two Koreas in the post-war era. Moreover, individual countries have changed their economic trajectories even though “their cultures didn’t miraculously change.” How about those who plead our multiethnic nationalities as the constraint but fail to see that the United States of America happens to be one nation with even more disparate ethnic nationalities than Nigeria and yet it leads the global economy! As for those who say it is the adverse impact of colonialism, were Singapore, Malaysia and even parts of China like Hong Kong not similarly conquered and dominated by colonialists?

That Nigeria is a paradox of the kind of wealth that breeds penury is as widely known as the fact that the world considers us a poster nation for poor governance wealth from natural resources. The trend of Nigeria’s population in poverty since 1980 to 2010 for example suggests that the more we earned from oil, the larger the population of poor citizens : 17.1 million 1980, 34.5million in 1985, 39.2million in 1992, 67.1million in 1996, 68.7million in 2004 and 112.47 million in 2010! This sadly means that you are children of a nation blessed with abundance of ironies.
Resource wealth has tragically reduced your nation- my nation- to a mere parable of prodigality. Nothing undignifies nations and their citizens like self-inflicted failure.

Our abundance of oil, people and geography should have worked favorably and placed us on the top echelons of the global economic ladder by now. After all, basic economic evidence shows that abundance of natural resources can by itself increase the income levels of citizens even if it does not increase their productivity. For example, as Professor Collier a renowned economist who has focused on the sector stated in a recent academic work countries that have enormously valuable natural resources are likely to have high living standards on a sustainable basis by simply replacing some of the extracted resources with financial assets held abroad. Disappointedly, even that choice eluded our governing class who through the decades has spent more time quarreling over their share of the oil “national cake” than they have spent thinking of how to make it benefit the entire populace.

The coup of 1966 anchored its justification on the failure of the political class to provide good governance. In the exact word of the leader of the coup;  “Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.”

In effect, what we today confront as systemic corruption only metamorphosed to gigantic proportion through the over nearly fifty decades of the speech given to justify the first truncation of the will of the people for democratic governance. As a matter of fact, anyone who will find and read all the justification statements for coups and the inauguration statements for democratically elected governments in our fifty three years of being a country will assume that each group merely modified the speech of their predecessors.  Perhaps the only differences were the locations of the punctuation marks, the commas, the semi colons and the full stops in each statement that followed this excerpt from the statement of 1966.

The substance is the same – indignation at the grand corruption that has persistently undermined the effectiveness of governance since our political independence.   The instructive feature of the dramatis personae that made up the military and political elite class at various times is their uncanny national spread and the unity of purpose they managed and have continued to manage to forge among them in the ignoble business of committing grand larceny against the country. Ethnicity was hardly and still is not a constraining factor once the political elite of Nigeria- whether from the North, South, East and West gather at the altar of corruption to execute their unifying purpose of “transactions”. They are united in “extracting” from Nigeria because it does appear in the minds that the country can never move beyond  a mere artificial political construct.

Of all the obstacles to our greatness, there were two on which citizens irrespective of their affiliations seemed to have forged a consensus as the priority agenda issues for their governments to mobilize every sector, level and individual; to unite, fight and defeat. The two issues are systemic corruption and pernicious poverty. However, in the last one year with escalations in insecurity wherein we are now faced with more immediate life threatening scourge of terrorism within our land those two priorities are overtaken in ranking. That we now experience regular terrorist killing of the innocent in our land has pushed the twin issues of poverty and corruption to second and third priorities of citizens. These recent killings have joined with the civil war of the 60s to pollute Nigeria with fresh blood of our children- our daughters and sons, the blood of our women, the blood of our men, the blood of our young and the blood of our old.

Citizens who had assumed that the worst possible was the many decades of being trapped in intergenerational poverty in an ironically “oil wealthy” are now exposed to deadlier acts of terrorism.  Terrorists became emboldened by the absence of our political class across the entire spectrum of political leadership who decided to “play their normal politics” with the blood of the poor. The blood soaked land is convulsing. Do we not hear the cries especially of the young children and women killed for a cause they know nothing about? I read the fear laden articles and tweets of many young Nigerians asking “when this carnage will end?” I hear them lash out angrily that it is the cumulative failure of older generations of us all in this gathering that is bequeathing to them- a country so broken and mortally bruised that again we need divine intervention to heal the land and people.

Is it therefore not unconscionable that in the over nearly three years of rising trend of terrorist attacks against whole communities in the central and north eastern states of Nigeria where our kith and kin have regularly been slaughtered in cold blood; the milk of empathy has not yet flowed from our Elders in the Land in the entire political spectrum to suspend “transactional politicking” and build a united front against this newest common enemy? Is it not unconscionable that despite the massive public resources committed to security spending, the government has failed to inspire confidence in communities and the large public that feel excluded from the more secured lives of the political elite?

In shock, Nigerians have wondered whether our political class which carries on with politicking to “capture or retain power” is comfortable to govern dead communities. Is it not time for all of our political leaders to pay that utmost sacrifice of leadership- lay down their personal gain for the good of the people they wish to lead. Leadership is not the office, the title, the authority, the mansion one occupies. Leadership is the sacrifice offered that others may thrive. There are three grades of leadership- Transactional, Transformational and Transcendental leadership. What our nation asks all of you irrespective of the acronyms that thread together to make you a political party in this land today, is that you must immediately “transcend” and mobilize all of Nigerians  against the immediate common enemies killing our own within our territory.

Your act of transcendental leadership across your various divides in Nigerian politics of today, will not only end this fatal insecurity in our country, but will actually start the process of healing of land and the people. The healing of our land and people will in turn begin the process of rebuilding the eroded social capital that we must have for nation building process. John Jacob Gardener a professor of Leadership defines Transcendental Leadership as follows: “A new metaphor, transcendent leadership, answers a planetary call for a governance process which is more inclusive, more trusting, more sharing of information, more meaningfully involving associates or constituents, more collective decision making through dialogue and group consent processes, more nurturance and celebration of creative and divergent thinking and a willingness to serve the will of the collective consciousness as determined by the group – in essence, a leadership of service above self” Nothing in any political party manifesto in our present Nigeria realizes how fundamental it is to first accomplish this at this time in country.

Economic research has proven that there can be no development without peace. The underperformance of our country as a result of the volatility of regime changes and truncation of democracy direly cost us the opportunity to build vibrant institutions, to pursue on a sustained basis  sound macroeconomic, microeconomic and structural policies  and finally to implement quality, effective and efficient public and private investment like other nations.   Every country is fundamentally composed of three sectors- the public sector or government, the private sector or business and civil society. Worse than political instability however is the growing sense of our current reality that we are “at war”. In a season of war, ladies and gentlemen, no road map for economic development is viable- no matter how sound its articulation. I advise that 2014 offers all political actors in Nigeria, the opportunity to immediately unite and decisively take our country back from terrorists. This is my most important economic message for your gathering. As the leading opposition party in the country, your leadership must be visible in demonstrating a commitment to reaching out to the Government to commence a united fight to preserve the lives of all citizens.

Of all the obstacles to our greatness, there were two on which citizens irrespective of their affiliations seemed to have forged a consensus as the priority agenda issues for their governments to mobilize every sector, level and individual; to unite, fight and defeat. The two issues are systemic corruption and pernicious poverty. However, in the last one year with escalations in insecurity wherein we are now faced with more immediate life threatening scourge of terrorism within our land those two priorities are overtaken in ranking. That we now experience regular terrorist killing of the innocent in our land has pushed the twin issues of poverty and corruption to second and third priorities of citizens. These recent killings have joined with the civil war of the 60s to pollute Nigeria with fresh blood of our children- our daughters and sons, the blood of our women, the blood of our men, the blood of our young and the blood of our old.

Citizens who had assumed that the worst possible was the many decades of being trapped in intergenerational poverty in an ironically “oil wealthy” are now exposed to deadlier acts of terrorism.  Terrorists became emboldened by the absence of our political class across the entire spectrum of political leadership who decided to “play their normal politics” with the blood of the poor. The blood soaked land is convulsing. Do we not hear the cries especially of the young children and women killed for a cause they know nothing about? I read the fear laden articles and tweets of many young Nigerians asking “when this carnage will end?” I hear them lash out angrily that it is the cumulative failure of older generations of us all in this gathering that is bequeathing to them- a country so broken and mortally bruised that again we need divine intervention to heal the land and people.

Is it therefore not unconscionable that in the over nearly three years of rising trend of terrorist attacks against whole communities in the central and north eastern states of Nigeria where our kith and kin have regularly been slaughtered in cold blood; the milk of empathy has not yet flowed from our Elders in the Land in the entire political spectrum to suspend “transactional politicking” and build a united front against this newest common enemy? Is it not unconscionable that despite the massive public resources committed to security spending, the government has failed to inspire confidence in communities and the large public that feel excluded from the more secured lives of the political elite?  In shock, Nigerians have wondered whether our political class which carries on with politicking to “capture or retain power” is comfortable to govern dead communities. Is it not time for all of our political leaders to pay that utmost sacrifice of leadership- lay down their personal gain for the good of the people they wish to lead. Leadership is not the office, the title, the authority, the mansion one occupies. Leadership is the sacrifice offered that others may thrive. There are three grades of leadership- Transactional, Transformational and Transcendental leadership. What our nation asks all of you irrespective of the acronyms that thread together to make you a political party in this land today, is that you must immediately “transcend” and mobilize all of Nigerians  against the immediate common enemies killing our own within our territory.

Your act of transcendental leadership across your various divides in Nigerian politics of today, will not only end this fatal insecurity in our country, but will actually start the process of healing of land and the people. The healing of our land and people will in turn begin the process of rebuilding the eroded social capital that we must have for nation building process. John Jacob Gardener a professor of Leadership defines Transcendental Leadership as follows: “A new metaphor, transcendent leadership, answers a planetary call for a governance process which is more inclusive, more trusting, more sharing of information, more meaningfully involving associates or constituents, more collective decision making through dialogue and group consent processes, more nurturance and celebration of creative and divergent thinking and a willingness to serve the will of the collective consciousness as determined by the group – in essence, a leadership of service above self” Nothing in any political party manifesto in our present Nigeria realizes how fundamental it is to first accomplish this at this time in country.

Economic research has proven that there can be no development without peace. The underperformance of our country as a result of the volatility of regime changes and truncation of democracy direly cost us the opportunity to build vibrant institutions, to pursue on a sustained basis  sound macroeconomic, microeconomic and structural policies  and finally to implement quality, effective and efficient public and private investment like other nations. Worse than political instability however is the growing sense of our current reality that we are “at war”. In a season of war, ladies and gentlemen, no road map for economic development is viable- no matter how sound its articulation. I advise that 2014 offers all political actors in Nigeria, the opportunity to immediately unite and decisively take our country back from terrorists. This is my most important economic message for your gathering. As the leading opposition party in the country, your leadership must be visible in demonstrating a commitment to reaching out to the Government to commence a united fight to preserve the lives of all citizens.

On the twin enemies of corruption and poverty, those among us who still need proof to believe that indeed the two severest maladies from which Nigeria must heal are poverty and poor governance must not have seen the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer 2013. Poverty and corruption are two things that rob Nigerians of their dignity; Poverty deprives one of the basic services they need in order to preserve their self-dignity. Poor governance on the other hand is what poverty helps breed.

Thus, academic research shows that countries which have tended to poor governance end delivering not delivering the basic social services that citizens need in order to lift themselves out of poverty and where they do at all, it is too little and too poor a quality to make a difference.  It is the capacity to constantly deliver equality of opportunities for better quality of life to all citizens that distinguishes one government from another. Throughout our fifty three years of history following our independence in 1960, we sadly have not recorded one stellar record of performance in this regard by any government. Today, our 69% poor in the land which in real number is over 100 million of citizens trapped in poverty is the key scorecard of our five decades of failure.

When asked by citizens why they think they have been constantly failed by their governments, they mostly respond that the failure of the state to effectively function is corruption. This much they said to Transparency International which invests heavily in surveys around the world. The result of the most recent survey, tagged ‘Global Corruption Barometer 2013?, (the biggest-ever public opinion survey on corruption) was recently released all over the world. It showed that 75 per cent of Nigerians say the government’s effort at fighting corruption is ineffective. Only 14 per cent of those surveyed say the government’s effort is achieving results. Also, 94 per cent of Nigerians think corruption is a problem with 78 per cent saying it is a serious problem.

Over the past 12 months, the report says, 81 per cent of Nigerians say they have given a bribe to the police, 30 per cent of those surveyed say they have paid a bribe for education services, 29 per cent have given a bribe to the registry and permit services, same for utilities, and 24 per cent have given a bribe to the judiciary. The survey shows that 22 per cent of Nigerians have paid a bribe to tax revenue, 17 per cent to land services and 9 per cent has paid a bribe for medical and health services. Transparency International had last year rated Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world. Whether we choose to accept it or not, we are a country engulfed in systemic and endemic corruption with its attendant cancerous – wasting away, corrosive effect- on what is legendarily called our “huge potentials”.

Take the natural resources sector to which we have willingly and disastrously mortgaged our lives to as a result of failure of leadership to embrace hard work, effort and productivity as national values.  Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter, and the world’s 10th largest oil producer, accounting for more than 2.2 million barrels a day in 2011. Oil revenues totaled $50.3 billion in 2011 and generated more than 70 percent of government revenues. However, for a sector that sadly determines our rise and fall in the last fifty three years,  Nigeria’s Performance on the Resource Governance Index  (carried out by the global NGO- Revenue Watch Institute of the Open Society Foundations) – Nigeria received a “weak” score of 42, ranking 40th out of 58 countries.

We stood out among the 80% of countries which fail to achieve good governance in their extractive sectors. The insalubrious performance of this dominant revenue source seems to be one we have decided to wear elegantly with a mindset that refuses to embrace the kind of fundamental change that will set the nation free. A read of the now famous in the breach, PIB shows that we have refused to surrender and subordinate the huge power of discretion exercised by the President in all matters concerning oil since the last many decades. Surely, for what we know of the huge benefits of transparency and competition it does indeed stir the minds of those that have no interest in oil blocks but who care for the maximization of value for the aggregate social good of Nigeria that we walk the provisions of our NEITI law.

The pervasive hold over our economy by oil shows up in everything. In our Sovereign credit rating recently, poor governance, low per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and reserve cover were identified as Nigeria’s biggest challenge to joining other Emerging Markets (EMs) according to Richard Fox of Fitch Ratings. According to him, these areas represent Nigeria’s biggest challenge to improving its rating, as highlighted in Fitch’s previous research. Of the three, reserve cover is the most susceptible to rapid improvement, particularly at current high oil prices. This is because although at that time of his comment, Nigeria’s reserves had risen by around $2 billion they are not rising as fast as in the majority of big oil exporters”. Comparisons always help convey these kinds of information better.

During the period, 2009 to 2011 Algeria expanded her savings from current oil boom by at least 30% to build up its reserve and invest in critical infrastructure. The new comer Angola nearly doubled its reserve while simultaneously implementing a huge public investment program to build diversity of critical infrastructure. Sadly, whether it is building up reserves/saving or in building critical infrastructure and human capital our own trend is in the reverse. For even though crude price rose or has held steady at different time, the quality of governance continues to hobble our capacity to strike out onto the path of success.

WHAT PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE THEN?
In what and whom do I place my confidence that a New Nigeria will emerge? What is it that engenders my confidence that our five decades of failure is not sustainable: First is the rising crescendo of dissatisfaction with the concept of Failure by the over 50% percent of our population that are young. That daily the young people of Nigeria- educated or not are anxious to path ways with Failure is a source of optimism.

Today, more than 40% of our young people may be unemployed and requiring a major intervention that matches skills with economic structural change but they represent strength for any leadership that “transcends” in the way it allocates public resources to priorities. They insist by the words and action that they know we can do better than we have done since our independence. The Women who constituting about 50% of our population are by the records of present accomplishment, the most visible secret weapons of our economic, social and political development.   The entrepreneurial and “can do” spirit of just these two groups-  the spirit that seeks to compete even with the rest in the world by first conquering the uncertain and disabling context in which it operates is emerging as the counter cultural shock to an elite class that entrenched contemptible wealth based on ignoble ease as a national creed.

The return of the values of hard work and the reward of creativity and innovation are the New Normal that Citizens want to engage their governments on. Citizens question the things and values we reward. They question the perverse incentive that rewards abhorrent behaviour while punishing what is right. They are perplexed when they watch the elite class destroy the potency of sanctions regime in every just society by acts that fail to demand the cost of bad behaviour from big offenders . Citizens wish to unleash their talents and be facilitated by a capable and service oriented public service to identify new sources of growth forcing the diversification rhetoric into reality finally. We must think through how to expand the revenue base of the country and manage it efficiently. Nigeria’s revenue cannot cater for the size of the population that we have and we seek to exploit other creative and natural endowments of nature which primarily is our huge population of people with diverse capabilities.

The generation of human capital through education- access to quality basic, tertiary education expanded and well costed with access for the poor and entrepreneurship education relevant to the needs of the economy is priority agenda for a country that has grown over more then a decade now without significant structural change. The structural transformation that focuses on growing indigenous enterprise and deliberatively removing obstacles on the path to economic growth for the women and the young with ideas is what a results oriented government owes Citizens. According to data from the World Bank, it is clear that 74% of our revenue comes from non-oil (mainly agricultural exports) as at 1970. We have sadly reversed that suffering the pernicious effect of oil, as currently oil account for 74% of gross national revenue reversing the trend. While Nigeria exported 502 Metric tons of groundnut in 1961 which was 42% of global production as at that time, we currently export almost nothing with the pyramids now invented in stories told to our children.

Citizens are redefining what true attributes of leadership are by demanding that those who shall lead must be all possessing of – competency, character, competency and capacity. Neither of the three can substitute for the other, The political and technocratic class have no choice but to commit to redeeming our public institutions and the human resources that run them. The redemption starts with a true commitment to addressing today’s egregious cost of s the mantra of today’s citizens.

Citizens want to see real commitment to addressing the egregious cost of governance that constitutes massive opportunity cost for equitable economic development that benefits the larger number of citizens currently excluded from the benefits of the growth of the last fourteen years of return to democracy. Citizens associate our meagre revenue which pales when compared  to our prospective peers known as MINT, with wastes, gross inefficiency and corruption. Currently, we have N1.7tn paid out of salaries, N721bn for debt servicing and other recurrent items which puts our capital expenditure around N1.1tn. How then do we expand the economy, build the modern infrastructure if for every N100 that we spend in actual terms, over N80 goes to recurrent items. Those are the issues which to engage leadership on resolving.

Citizens can now better link public  resources and results in their outcry for value-for-money and in the exercise of their right to demand for accountability. They know that our power problems all these years are not merely technical- it is governance failure. Our transportation problem are not technical, it was governance failure. Our poor production and productivity in agriculture is not merely technical, it is governance failure. They know that our health and education and over all underperformance in humans development score are not merely technical, it is due to governance failure.

It cost $148bn dollars in todays value to rebuild Europe after the World War II. This is less than half of the funds that was attributed to have been stolen from Nigeria since independence. The expense of such funds transformed the manufacturing, service industry and competitive factors of Europe. It cost $2bn ($349bn in todays value) to rebuild Japan after the nuclear attack. By conservative estimate, our country has earned more than $600billion in the last five  decades and yet can only boast of a United Nations Human Development Index score of .4 out of 1 proximate to that of Chad and maternal mortality rate similar to that of Afghanistan! Nothing reveals the depth of our failures than such performance indicators considering the vastly greater possibilities that we have been bestowed.

Above all, and finally, Citizens now seek to fully participation and make demands for democratic accountability- they are not afraid to scrutinise all public institutions and to demand better results of governance. The unwillingness of any group of political elite to understand this emerging power of the Office of the Citizen can only be a loss to the former and yet another missed opportunity added to our canvass of political tragedies……. But God forbid!

Obiageli (Oby) Ezekwesili
Keynote Speaker
APC SUMMIT, Abuja- March 6th 2014

Text of speech excerpted from a blog with gratitude – NAI.

Bias and its hazards

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

Most people will swear on their mother’s left breast, the breast closest to her heart, that they are objective, even when the evidence that they are not stares them starkly in the face. Some journalists are bolder and are even willing to swear on their mother’s two breasts that they are objective. And it is not that such journalists hate or disrespect their mums by swearing falsely and invoking the name of such a significant person in their lives who deserves undying respect and veneration – it is just they have become so blind to their biases that they have ended up losing every sense of balance and self awareness – the usual endpoint for persons who allow themselves to journey and mingle with bias and who then becomes its prisoners – their minds shackled, their visions dimmed and judgments vitiated. Persons who were supposed to be the voices and the eyes of the people are now locked up in dungeons with very opaque windows and where deformed self-made panes, the only windows to the world out there, deflect and refract light and create the worst forms of illusions of vision. How did these fellows get into these dungeons? They got pulled into them by the lure of money and incentives, by unreflecting loyalty to faction, section or class and by the seduction of hatred and envy which end up dulling the senses – visual acuity, discriminatory powers and judgment – of persons  whose hearts and hearths they have entered and found quick and easy welcome. Henceforth cocooned in islands of subjectivity and irrationality, so sadly and blissfully unaware of their present afflictions, these persons who should be the fourth estate of the realm become purveyors of inaccuracies and writers of commentaries and editorials which have neither breadth nor depth but are characterized by flatness, incompleteness and cant. And the belief of these persons in their objectivity persists, fuelled by comments and adulations from a captive readership.  These delusions of objectivity are so powerful that these prisoners of bias would willing take on any mortal bold enough to point out to them what are clear inadequacies, profound shallowness and shameful aberrations in their writings and in their campaigns of misinformation and disinformation of the masses they are supposed to inform, educate and defend. To get a sense of what I am talking about, just read the new Sam Nda Isaiah, the Punch Newspaper and Leadership Newspaper and then weep for the sorry state of journalism in our dear country.

Noel Ihebuzor

Dis Na Naija!

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

 

Every age deserves a show. For some the show could come packaged as comedy, full of boom, bloom and blossom. For others, it could come served as tragedy overflowing with gloom and doom. Since we are special in Naija, we often get treated to shows in quick successions – and each one, a blend of comedy and tragedy, leaving the watcher bemused but confused.  We have had some very good shows lately, all blending the comic and the tragic, and all portending the coming of more shows.

 

SLS’s letter and its confutation by the NNPC is a tragi-comedy. How can the governor of the CBN be ignorant of these details if the NNPC’s explanation is indeed true? If the explanation is true, we have a tragedy that arises because arms of government are not talking to one another and a comedy because they choose to come to the public gallery to display such a dysfunction. I simply hope that the NNPC explanation is wrong, since I hold SLS in very high esteem. When technocrats opt to play politics, they should be kind enough to serve the public notice in bold strokes that says “Buyer, beware”.

 

Tambuwal’s recent corruption song is as comic as it is tragic.. It is comic because he was playing to the gallery and knew he was doing precisely that. It is tragic because he too is a product of that same corruption he talks about and that the House he serves as speaker is not corruption free. What has he done to address that corruption in the House? What has he done to sweep his own stables? The sad truth of life is that the beam in the other fellow’s eye is always larger than the one protrudes from our own eyes. The bathos of Dambuwal’s situation is that he comes away from the speech feeling he has barbed the presidency and forgets to notice how much he has bloodied himself in the effort. The tragedy in pyrrhic victories replays ever so often with presumed victors often overlooking how much they may have sullied themselves in their vain efforts to score cheap victories.

 

OBJ’s letter is the tragi-comedy of squandered good will and eroded credibility. I have always argued that credibility becomes a depleting asset once its use has been abused three times – the magic number 3! OBJ could be saying correct things about GEJ but nobody takes him seriously any more. I am even distancing myself from “the kettle call pot black” type of reaction that dominated the media since his missive-missile became public. I prefer to focus on the content of some of his accusations and his seeming inability to understand that assertion is not the same thing as proof. Old folks do not waste soup – agadi adighi agwo ofe – the Igbos say.  Thus when respected old men succumb to the temptation of treating with flippancy and levity that which is serious, when respected elder statesmen start making wild accusations without bothering to substantiate them, then you start to wonder what these same old men expect of our 20 million youths. Snipers under training and 1000 persons under surveillance and this said in the most cavalier of manners. In some other climes, Baba would have been invited to explain but this is Naija, a country where it is sometimes difficult to separate the venerable from the venal! How could Baba, in every seriousness, write thus? Has Baba’s mind been influenced by the propensities of one of his famous “oti mpkus” whose reckless excesses are such as even to make the extremes of lunacy look somber and sober?   Even Baba’s attack on GEJ’s second term ambitions are built essentially on claims he is unable to prove convincingly and conclusively, some even bordering on hearsay and thus bringing his entire intentions and emotional state when he wrote the piece into question.  Some of the content were in particular bad taste, his take on the interanl PDP palaver being a good example! Nigerians needed to be spared the long narration on the internal squabbles in the PDP, and it needs a sense of statesmanship and fine sense of judgment to guide OBJ not to tread that path. Not everything that one sees and knows should be inflicted on the public. Not everything an elder sees and knows is discussed in the market place, the Igbos say! Nzu rules supreme!  Statesmen do not come to the public to wash dirty linen and underwear! Knowing what and when to share is an art. It demands an awareness of the nature and needs of the target audience; It demands good judgment of what is relevant.  It demands sensitivity, tact and Nzu, qualities that statesmen are also assumed to possess in abundance. In failing to apply the right level of selectivity in the choice of what he divulged, OBJ may have betrayed a drop in his level of tact and statesmanship. It is this sad drop that explains why he could have inflicted such a narration on us and why he could also do so with the clumsiness one normally associates with a young elephant. In the democracies we aspire to, it is considered to be in extreme bad faith and taste for an ex-president or ex-prime minister to make such disparaging and destructive remarks on the rule of a sitting president or prime minister. It is considered as bad manners and hardly ever happens. But not in our Naija –  Everything goes.

 

Abati’s response is tragic and comic at the same time. “I am not to reply but yet you reply” – haba, which kine one be dat?  And his reaction was as predictable as his line of attack. Trying to dismiss grave accusations of the type that Baba Iyabo made with emotive language is not always very convincing. When confronted with accusations against my person or against my principal, my attitude has always been to kill my emotions and do a blow by blow clinical response, accepting where I am wrong and using evidence to challenge and refute assertions that derive from either spite, ignorance, greed, ambition, misplaced ideology, immaturity, vacuous knowledge base or an over-inflated ego. I should commend this modus operandi to Reuben Abati, but Dr Abati is a guru and veteran of the media and I, alas, I am nothing but a lay reader.

 

The dress rehearsal for 2015 has commenced in earnest. Generals, who wrongly believe that this country is theirs to manipulate at will, are watching which way the political wind is blowing and are doing their best to adjust their tattered sails to benefit maximally from it. Self-interest is being packaged and sold as commitment to the nation.  The over-riding intention is power grab! Any and every method is allowed. Decency, truth and common sense will be early victims. Hot air will triumph and lunatics will have their field days – unrestrained, and their unrestraint will be our constraint. Loud mouthed Achilles will visit us with their empty and rumbustious swagger and little men will act out their smallness to its fullest. God save us!

Identifying corrupting arguments on corruption

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

I shared these thoughts on corruption about a year ago. Recent events in Nigeria and reactions to them on social media prompt me to share them again.

Bad is Bad.  But to selectively focus on the “bad” committed by persons you do not like, hyping it and creating a mass hysteria around it whilst turning a convenient blind eye to the “bad” of other people you like is bad.  Blanketing out news on the “bad” glaringly perpetrated by persons whose causes you champion is bad. Bad is Bad.

Impunity is bad. But to selectively focus on impunity at one level and to remain silent when impunity is generously dished out by other levels of government is bad. It is to allow economics, religion and politics to either condition our perception or to dampen our capacity for impartial judgments and consistent demonstrations of moral outrage. It is to practice a morality based on expediency. Such expediency-driven morality eventually imposes a huge burden of dysfunction in our judgements, a dysfunction with unimaginable opportunity costs and which dysfunction indeed could then have untold deletrious effects on a polity that looks up to us as impartial watchdogs.

Discouraging Deserters and Defectors

By Noel A. Ihebuzor

 

Twitter abounds in twitfights – fights between foes as well fights between former friends who have now parted ways for one reason or the other. When fights are between former friends who now find themselves on different sides of the political divide, the clashes tend to be very mean and vicious. The acrimony betrays the persisting bitterness and hurt that one party or both feel over the parting of ways. It is as if the fighters ignore one basic fact of life which is that some good friends must part someday, and that associations do not all always last forever. In life, friends do often fall out and part ways. This basic truth appears to be lost on quite a number of persons. Such persons hold on to a position which I call the permanence of associations and immutability of views position. Parting of ways or rethinking of positions by the other party are often very strongly resisted to the point where the person who decamps or changes his/her view is often treated as a deserter, a defector and a sell-out.

Positions of the type described above abound in the thriving twitter political party activist community. (I use this term to describe a community of persons who use Twitter mostly to actively promote the cause of a particular party. Members of this group, the political party activist group, must be distinguished from political activists. The former tweet and blog more like political party agents. The latter maintain more objective positions and tweet on governance, political, and accountability issues without favouring any political party. This distinction is important as a lot of unnecessary misunderstanding is caused by a conflation of the two terms).

In this political party activist community, change of positions and perceptions is viewed as a clear indicator of defection and desertion, offenses that are seriously viewed. Such changes are viewed as some form of social “apostasy”. And apostasy is perceived as a grievous sin, a perception that is most accentuated in communities with tendencies to self-ascribed moral righteousness. “Apostates” must be condemned to “social” disgrace and demise. Apostates must be treated as social lepers. They are to be ridiculed and subjected to all forms of social pressures. And all of this because apostates are a danger to the group they left. They possess a Snowden-type risk potential and precisely because of this, their credibility must be seriously eroded and progressively destroyed.

Matters are also not helped by the attitudes of the deserters/defectors, these modern day social apostates, themselves. Like most fresh converts to new faiths and belief systems, these social apostates consistently betray excessive zeal typical of neophytes as they try to settle in to their new camp. Most exhibit a tendency to dwell on and detail the evils of the groups they have left, a tendency that irks that group and one which then further exacerbates the already seething acrimony between the deserter and his/her former associates. Soon, the leaders, gate keepers, enforcers, whips and foot soldiers of that group are up in arms, defending the honour of their group and attacking the deserter. They have recourse to a variety of strategies in doing this.

These strategies include naming, recalling of previous tweets which the attacking group believes are diametrically opposed to the deserter’s current position and shaming the deserter. The deserter’s reasons for leaving are trivialised, ridiculed and made to look pecuniary and materialistic. The tweets and comments of the “apostate” are unearthed and hurled in his/her face just to show how inconsistent and unreliable he/she is. The strategic goal here is to call attention to glaring inconsistencies between present position and previous tweets – the end game is to undermine the credibility of the defector. Taunts abound. Wicked jibes and hurting jabs fly around. A campaign of name calling is unleashed on the deserter, a campaign where no punches are pulled and which may even go as far as in one case to saying that a deserter was so poor that he “used to drink garri” in his undergraduate days. People watch from the sides, either amused or too frightened to wade in as the gladiators engage in bloody, vicious but mutually demeaning bouts and jousts.

The attack on the defector is an eye opener and dampener to those within the circle who may have been contemplating either changing camps or moving to more neutral positions. The message to such persons is clear. This is what you are likely going to get should you ever desert us. The attacks are thus not fortuitous but have a functional intent – to discourage and deter other potential deserters. Successful defection deterring strategies keep members in – once you are in, you cannot leave – a bit akin to what I call the Hotel California syndrome – you can check out anytime you want but you cannot leave!

Most deserters/defectors act as if they cannot understand the flurry and fury of the attacks on them. A little reflection should make any deserter/defector understand why those attacks are necessary and likely to come.

  • First, a defector must realise that his/her defection is a threat to his/her former associates. You know too much. Your former associates are not sure how much you will give away. They will want to put you away socially for good before you can do their group any harm. Basic survival principle, not ideology or any higher order principle, I believe, is what drives the chief whips of your former group as they come after you.
  • Secondly, a defector must also realise that he/she is also a threat to the his/her former associates in the sense that he/she is a reminder to those inside that they too could defect one day.  Now, that must be an uncomfortable feeling because it introduces some gnawing doubts in the minds of persons who cannot afford to have their present beliefs or rightness of their present positions tested/questioned. Remember what George Santanaya said about some group of persons re-doubling their efforts in situations of doubt – well a defection creates one of such a situation.
  • Thirdly, a defector should realise that his/her defection hurts the pride of his/her former associates. And when people are hurt, they hit out, and hitting out on impulse does not subject itself to the controls and norms of rational conduct.

The foregoing should enable the deserter to understand the onslaughts against his person. Desertion is not cost-free. You should expect them to come after you. But you must not fight them each time they come after you. Choose your battles! Don’t go galloping into every battle! One key aspect of successful military strategy is knowing which battles to fight and which ones to walk away from. Walk away, avoid the fight – even if they call you “Coward of the County”. Walk away, “walk on by”. If you do not respond, they are likely to get tired and find other things to spend their energies on.

This write-up would not be complete without a brief mention of what happens in the camp that receives the “decampee”. It is simple. The strategy of attack and damage is reversed:

The new “decampee” is presented as someone who has seen the truth, who has suddenly become aware of the folly and evil in his/her previous ways, one who has seen the sinfulness and greed of former associates and as one who now regrets ever associating with such evil people in such an evil party. The devil, who is a convenient scapegoat, takes a good bashing in this new dance of the converted and the redeemed.

  • The decampee’s conversion narrative is cleverly spun and elevated to achieve about the same dramatic intensity as Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. A blind eye is suddenly developed to everything that the new convert and prized acquisition ever said whilst a member of the opposite side.
  • New spins are put on any comments such a convert may have made on persons, character flaws, fat bank accounts, crimes and indiscretions of members of the group he/she is now joining. Damaging comments on how non-electable some members of the receiving group are get blacked out! An unwritten rule which places an embargo among the “faithful” on ever remembering or writing on these telling social comments, except to excuse them as either slippages or works of the devil immediately comes into effect.
  • A package of rewards and incentives, including mentions and praise, is made available to the new convert to encourage continued membership…and all is rosy and honky-dory until there is a falling out. And then the dogs of war are unleashed and we are back full cycle.

There are some lessons in all of this. And I will summarise these as bullet points

  • Be careful who you associate with on Twitter.
  • Be careful who you dine with
  • If you must dine with the devil, go with a long spoon.
  • You do not have to belong to the “in-crowd” to be relevant.
  • Do not let others be the ones to determine your relevance
  • All that glitters is not gold.
  • Shine your eyes
  • Free your mind
  • Use your mind.

It is good to belong on social media but please do not sell yourself or your soul to belong. You can use social media to grow, to learn, to engage and to share but that same social media can kill your mind and stunt your thinking if you allow yourself to be sucked into unhealthy associations. Engage wisely!


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